CliffsNotes version of the Twin Cities 10 Miler: Ah-Maze-ZING weekend.
Ok, 10- or 11-picture story:
1. The weekend started on Friday afternoon, where Sarah and I gave a talk about maximizing both race day performance and enjoyment. The best laughs always come from how to get a good race day picture, but this MSP crowd was engaged and awesome throughout. (And no, we didn't expect anything less!)
1A: The surprise hit of the expo? Our Run the Twin Cities: Many Minnesota Nice Miles Hoodie. It was so popular, we are still taking orders on it. If you want one, check it out and order here. We are placing the order at 1 pm ET TODAY (Tuesday), so if you're on the fence, jump to one side sooner than later!
2. Sarah thoughtfully took Pole Position on the AMR booth at the expo and organized a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, which gave me time so I could head to the shake-out run on Saturday morning. We had a great crowd of #motherrunners from South Carolina, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, among other states, who didn't bat an eye when I said, "Silly Toes!"
3. We ran for an easy 30 minutes (not slow enough to be a true shakeout, according to Coach MK, but it was cold and we were not all HRT'ers!). Then gathered for a pic or three, and then really gathered with warm, java beverages and laughed and chatted and did some Q + A about tomorrow's marathon, heart rate training, life.
I know it shouldn't surprise me at this point, but it still does: There is an immediate, intimate connection between #motherrunners; we all come in as strangers (as in: probably never met face to face) and leave as fast friends. I wish they sold a #motherrunner essential oil that somehow captured that vibe. Eau de badass + estrogen + sweat? I'd buy a case.
4. I had some good canine chats with my pal Finn, one of two BRD's who belong to my friend Jo, with whom I stayed. Finn was pissed he couldn't run the 10-miler with me, so he was acting indifferent.
5. Sunday morning, I got up and felt a little nauseous. I decided to cool it on my nightly beer for about two weeks prior to the race, but on Saturday night, anxiety got the best of me and I ended up eating 3 chocolate chip cookies (low sugar ones, but still) and a few handfuls of pretzel M’n’M’s after laying low on sugar for weeks. Not the best choice.
I came down to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and #BAMNR Jo had thoughtfully put this on the mirror. Time to get the focus off the belly and onto the race. I was really concerned about starting too fast, so I thought about going out in the front of Corral 2, instead of Corral 1, my assigned corral. Then, as I was doing my slow warm-up, I heard the announcer say there were only three corrals, I decided to stay put in Corral 1. I stationed myself towards the back and to the side, and chatted with another mother runner (Nancy? Sorry! I was distracted.) about swim team. I concentrated on taking deep breaths during the national anthem. I stayed calm and really was ready to finally.just.run.this.thing.
6. Then the gun went off, and so did I. I had a pretty basic plan: heart rate <160 for first few miles, <170 for the next few, and then after cresting the hill at mile 7, Go. When I saw coach MK at mile 9, GO.
Coach MK and I didn't really want to have hard and fast rules because it was shorter than a half-marathon and marathon, we didn't know how my heart rate would behave at sea level, and I really wanted to be the boss of my own effort.
I took a few miles to get used to running with people around me and, quite honestly, I was a little annoyed I couldn’t find a rhythm. But my heart rate was low—thank you cool, sea level morning!—so I couldn’t really complain.
Oh wait. I can complain about one thing: the 1:25 pacer. He needed to be running 8:30’s. My first few miles clocked in at 8:16, 8:06, 8:37, yet he and his balloon posse were way ahead of me. After about mile 3, I didn’t see him for while. (Spoiler: I will see them again!) I realize he was giving his crew a cushion for the slight incline from miles 5 to 7, but I hated that he was being so aggressive with his pace.
More than that, I hated that I cared so much that he was in front of me.
After all, I was supposed to be running my own race.
We went under the wall around mile 4—mile 20 for marathoners—and I finally found some mental space and a groove. I had my screen on my Polar M400 exclusively on heart rate and overall time, so I just glanced at it regularly. I kind of regarded it with curiousity, the way a cat watches a goldfish in a bowl. Interested to see what it was doing, but not entirely sure I could control it.
For the first half of the race, the miles mostly ticked by. The automatic lap at each mile flashed my splits: mostly in the sub 8:30's. The GPS was a little off—my M400 said the race was 10.2 miles, not 10, which I'm pretty sure it was since it was the USATF 10-mile championship.
I knew things were getting harder when I subconsciously shifted gears from looking for the next mile marker to thinking about getting through another five minutes. Running sub-9 minute miles meant a five-minute chunk got me over the halfway point of a mile, which felt like mental relief.
Another five minutes got me into the next mile, which would then be over halfway done when another five minutes was gone. With about 15 minutes left to go, five-minute chunks turned into 2:30 chunks, which turned into one minute.
7. The pavement on Summit Avenue had been repaved the week before: even though it was still black and hard, it felt fresh and smooth. Springy even. I didn’t stop for any water or gels. I high fived two people that were conveniently located close to me, but other than that, I didn't have the mental capacity to really engage. I didn’t talk to anybody. I put my arms up for a picture somewhere in the middle of the race, but immediately regretted it. Too much energy. Probably didn't get a good shot. I was in my zone.
I did, however, see my 1:25 pacer pal somewhere around mile 8ish. Gotcha! I passed him and never looked back.
Next up: Coach MK and her husband at the top of the last hill, right after mile 9. They were right in front of a tunnel, and “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen was blaring. Damn straight we do, Bruce. I again used too much energy getting excited by the combo (MK and Bruce?!); my heart rate hit 180. Still, I pushed my accelerator as far down as it could GO.
The last mile is truly downhill, but still, it was Hard. I was ready to be Done. I counted my steps. I repeated I am strong, I am l;ght. I counted my steps. I repeated I am strong, I am l;ght. I counted my steps. I repeated I am strong, I am l;ght.
I may have been a bit too ambitious because I kind of petered out a little before the true finish line, but no matter. Room for improvement. And my finish line picture, I can tell you, will not be good. I was not smiling or raising my hands in the air. I was solid, though, and ran a 1:22:54, almost two minutes faster than I ran the same course in 2012.
Since you’re still reading, here is what I’m most psyched about: A near two-minute difference between my first five miles and my second five miles. My first half was 42:17, my second was 40:38. And the passed/passed by number in the second half. 154 vs. 40. Most deliberately, smartest, most well-executed running race I've ever done. Thank you heart rate training, thank you Coach MK, thank you Twin Cities.
8. Then the true fun began. We sped back to Jo's house, I changed my clothes (no shower!), wolfed down an egg sandwich, and jumped on a bike. We rode around the marathon course, cheering on #motherrunners and runners dressed as pink tigers and Prince and everybody in between. We saw Amy Blake and Amy Blake's husband a few times.
I know it can be said more eloquently, but the whole marathon experience reaffirms my faith in humanity, especially during divisive political times. People testing their own personal limits while being cheered on by strangers who absolutely believe in—and are in awe of—them. How can you not smile and soak it all in and wonder why everybody doesn't just run?
We need an essential oil for that as well, please.
9. The bike brigade also followed another Amy, a good friend who was running the marathon solo. (Usually, there's a flock of #BAMNRs running the race together.) Amy would stop, take selfies, chat, laugh with her crew. Definitely the most enjoyable way to run a marathon. She was always smiling, looked better at mile 20 than I've ever looked in any run, and just universally rocked it.
10. We finally made it to mile 25, where we were parked with (ahem) celebratory Bloody Marys and peanut butter pretzels. Thinking about heading back to shower before getting on a plane home and then Deanna, a #motherrunner in the heart rate program, came through. I met her at the expo, and immediately loved her: she is one of those women that you know within seconds of meeting her that she is a Force.
Deanna is a leukemia survivor and easily possesses more resilience than the whole marathon field combined. MK and I were so lucky to snag a pic with her before we sent her on her way to conquer her final mile.
I didn't shower until I landed in Denver but have no complaints. (My seatmates might not say the same thing.) I couldn't ask for a better way to bookend the weekend.
I continue to be just floored by this community and all the strength, humor, spark, compassion, and love we attract and create.
Yes, I'm proud of my 10 miles and the year-long journey it took me to get to the finish line, but I'm way more proud that We Take Care of Our Own.
And that title, btw, will be the name of our #BAMR essential oil. xoxoxo