Race: Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Place: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Date: October 5, 2014
“One thing about racing is that it hurts. You better accept that from the beginning or you’re not going anywhere.” – Bob Kennedy
Pushing through the pain is not my style. Doing damage to myself is not something I strive to do. I don’t believe in pushing myself to the point of puking when it comes to running. My body is my temple and I am trying, through this blasted foot injury, to keep it moving, going, and getting strong. The last thing on my to-do list is…get hurt…more/again.
So…this was certainly on my mind when I boarded a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota last Friday. Honestly. My custom orthodics were doing more damage and causing more pain than they should have been. I had been in to see the podiatrist twice since getting them, and had them readjusted. I was still limping throughout the day…something that got worse as I moved about the Louisville airport. I’m sure part of that was the 15 pound backpack I was carrying around, but it seemed the more I stepped, the worse it got. And thanks to that fire at the air traffic control tower in Chicago, the flight leaving Louisville was delayed by 2 hours. And then…once we got to Midway, we had another delay, which wouldn’t put is in Minneapolis until past midnight. I hated to do this to my aunt, Jan, who graciously was coming out to get us…but that’s how air travel through Chicago is currently working. And it sucked.
That being said, the security line in Louisville was non-existent for a Friday. Barely any wait time. And then the delay meant we had plenty of time to kill. So, Cathy and I decided we would find something to eat for dinner. We were originally going to do that at Midway…but…now it made sense to do it here. Cathy ended up getting some soup from Chili’s and I ate an apple and a gluten-free granola bar that I brought with me. I figured it could at least hold me to Midway, right? Right. Then, I got out my Moji 360 Mini Massager and had Cathy help me roll it across the bottom of my foot, which is where most of the pain was happening at that moment. It hurt…like…a lot. It would have to do for the time being. We walked around a bit more (there is only so much to do at the Louisville airport…trust me)…until we finally got to line up to get on the plane. Guess what? I was A1. HAHA! First on the plane after the special boarding for those traveling alone or in need of assistance. Awesome. On Southwest Airlines…the closer to the front of the plane, the better. Even if I knew we were in no hurry to catch a flight at Midway. It was the fact that for the first (and probably only) time…I was A1.
The flight to Midway was dull and uninteresting, which is how I prefer flights. Even the landing was smooth and perfect. We disembarked and went to check the screen. Yes…definitely delayed. So…time to do more hiking around. As we were doing so, I started limping even more. My foot was killing me. Cathy made a suggestion…telling me to take the orthodic out of my left shoe, since it seemed to be doing more harm than good. I had no inserts for my shoe…but, I figured it couldn’t hurt any worse, and if it did, I could put the orthodic back in. It actually offered a small amount of relief. Just a little. But it was definitely more tolerable. I just want to interject that the orthodics were supposed to help me move pain-free. These particular ones fail. On the Wednesday before leaving, I had gone back in for further adjustment on the orthodic for that foot and my podiatrist ended up calling the orthodic place and telling them he had an elite marathoner and they suggested recasting the orthodic, but with some posts that will give more stability and can be adjusted. Problem…they wouldn’t be in before I left for Minneapolis. So, we went over how to tape the shit out of my foot for stability and he wished me luck. He didn’t tell me not to do it…which I appreciated it…but not being able to do it was definitely weighing heavy on my mind as I hobbled through the terminals of Midway in Chicago. To amuse ourselves, Cathy and I did spot a really cute sailor in the navy…and stalked him for a little while. He was gorgeous. But…we lost him after he ducked into a bakery place. Dang. We grabbed a small snack and settled in on the floor of our gate to wait on the plane coming in so we could then board it and fly to Minnesota.
And when it finally happened, I was tired and cranky. I took the front row of the plane, shoving my bag in the overhead compartment for the extra leg room instead. I fell in and out of consciousness…long day…having been up since 3:30 a.m. to finish packing and get to my spin class at the gym by 5:15 a.m. But…as I drifted back into consciousness…the clouds now looked like some crazy test pattern…and Cathy pointed out that it WAS SNOWING! SNOW! I don’t even like the sound of it. You guys all know that me and cold weather are like oil and water. We just don’t work well together. SNOW!! UGH!! Thankfully, it was only snow above the clouds…because as we finally began our descent into Minneapolis, it was rain. Just rain. Thank goodness. But…DAMN…it was cold. When I had packed for the race, my weather channel app still told me race morning would be in the low 40s. But now it was in the 30s. I wasn’t really prepared for weather in the 30s for running, so I said if I had to I would purchase something to wear at the expo on Saturday morning. That was the plan.
Jan found us at the baggage claim, and thankfully the bags didn’t take too long to come through. We were off to the car, then making our way to my grandpa’s house. She had the room set up, and Cathy took the air mattress. I set an alarm for 7:30 a.m. and made plans with my friend, Heather, to get together for the expo. She was going to pick Cathy and I up at my grandpa’s home in the morning and we would go and get my race packet and check out the expo. I figured we’d go from there…probably returning home. But first…sleep.
Saturday morning came and I was up with my alarm. I heard my grandpa moving about and ended up settling in on the couch. He asked if I wanted to go play Bingo with him at the grocery store. I normally would…but I was still in my pajamas and not in any way ready to go out in public. I hadn’t even had breakfast (which Jan was kind enough to hit up the Cub Foods the night before to get me some gluten-free bagels, vegan cream cheese, and some Greek yogurt)…so he went off without me. I ate some yogurt while toasting the bagels in the oven (no cross-contamination!). Cathy and I ate breakfast, got dressed, brushed teeth and made ourselves presentable. I grabbed the race packet that arrived in the mail with my Bib Number and Corral listed. And then we waited for Heather. Heather texted around the time she was going to leave and said she was running late…so we just sort of settled. Grandpa returned from Bingo, having won a $10 gift card to the grocery store. My aunt emerged from her basement living space and she and Grandpa prepared to head out to some Man Cave car show thing. They gave me a house key, in case we made it back before them, and they went off.
Heather arrived soon after and Cathy and I locked up the house and climbed into the car. Heather took us into Saint Paul and we parked in a street lot, which was supposedly $10, but due to it being the weekend, ended up being only $4. WOOHOO! Love it. We made our way from the car to the Saint Paul RiverCentre where the Health and Wellness Expo was being hosted. We ducked inside and made our way toward the back where the race packets were being handed out. I was…actually surprised. The expo was really massive. Much bigger than any of the much smaller expos I have gone through in Minnesota. This wasn’t quite Chicago size…but it was really massive with a lot of vendors. I spotted the Newton booth and knew I needed some new shoes (not to wear on Sunday…but in general)…and made a note to stop by there. The race packet was important and I stepped up near the first line as I was Bib #1306 and in the first corral to be sent off. NICE! Just wish I felt like I belonged there. Damn foot. The volunteer checked my race information packet and my ID before retrieving my bag, which contained a pair of socks…no race shirt. I was…sad. I really was. All of this and no race shirt??!! I handed the bag over to Cathy and pulled out my envelope with the chip I needed to attach to my shoe so I could go and run it over the sensor to make sure it was activated. It worked. Time to shop.
I actually didn’t go too crazy here. The three of us methodically worked our way up and down the aisles, grabbing free samples and playing a few giveaway games. That’s how I won Minute Rice. And a cowbell. LOL! Cathy actually told me to win the cowbell…and when I spun the wheel…I just happened to land on that spot. Go me. The same thing happened at the Minute Rice booth. I guess I was lucky on Saturday. We stocked up on freebies…checked out some races that were represented, and just kept moving. Since I had no race shirt, I had to duck into the merchandise area and purchase one. I wasn’t really happy with the meager selection left in my size…but found a couple that I liked. I bought one…and, being the awesome BFF that she is, Heather got me the other one as a belated birthday gift. We grabbed some free Caribou Coffee and headed out.
Heather had a really great idea…to drive as much of the course that we possibly could…depending on road closures. With my foot not feeling great, I was still not certain I’d be able to race or run…but thought this was a good way to take a look at what lay ahead of me. We quickly ducked into a record store for Cathy to check out some stuff, and then headed out to get back to Minneapolis and drive from start to finish. This was the first time I had ever done this, but it gave me a chance to get a feel for the areas I would be taking on the following morning. We started off, with the understanding that I would walk the hills and run the rest of it. This was the plan. So…off we went. And, let me tell you, there were plenty of hills that awaited me. But the tour of the course was one of the best things I ever did. And with Heather as a guide, I knew when to just really take in my surroundings, which side I needed to be on, and what points she and Cathy were going to attempt to see me along the way the next morning. This took a bit of time, but we got it done and it was really good to have all of that in mind.
My cousin, Molly, was working with Jan to get a dinner together with some of the family. We were going to check out Pizza Luce, which is one of the area’s highest rated pizza place…and yes…they have a gluten-free pizza. Naturally. After the disaster that was Pizza Ranch the last time I raced in Minneapolis…this was hopefully going to be better. We arrived early, so ducked over to Target because I needed some cheap throwaway gloves for the cold morning on Sunday. After that, we returned to Pizza Luce and joined my cousin Molly, her hubby, her three kids, my cousin Andy and his wife…and my aunt arrived last. We were seated (thanks to Molly making a reservation) very quickly and all just started talking. It had been over a year since I was last up there (I ran the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon the last time) and we had so much to talk about. Molly had just had a baby a couple months ago and Andy had just gotten married. So…yeah…lots happening. We all ordered some food (Cathy, Heather, and I hadn’t had anything since breakfast so we were hungry and it was after 5 pm now). I ended up getting the Gluten Free Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza and split it with Cathy. It was really good. We didn’t linger too long afterwards. It had been a long day, I was tired and sore, Heather needed to get home, and I still had to go see my cousin Natalie, who was coming by my grandpa’s house. So we all went our separate ways, with Molly and Co. heading to grandpa’s as well for a little while…YAY! It was good to get together with my cousins. And Natalie wore her “I Run Marathons” shirt (even though she doesn’t…but said it felt appropriate!). We sat and talked and played with the kids…until it was time to turn in. Cathy remembered to really tape the hell out of my foot, ankle, and calf that night…so I was pretty well set for the early morning that awaited us.
At 4:00 a.m. my first alarm went off. I got up and got some stuff together…did my normal first alarm routine…then went back to sleep for a little longer. In that short span of time, I had a dream about the race and being the last person across the start line. Craziness. At 5:00 a.m…the actual alarm went off. I got up to get the oven preheated and to get changed into my race clothes. As it was really flippin’ cold up outside…after I suited up, I put my yoga pants back on and went ahead and put on my hoodie. I changed that out for my fleece I brought, just in case, before we left. I realized that morning that I didn’t have my cereal with me to eat pre-race, so I decided, if this race happened, I would be run-walking it…then having something different that morning couldn’t hurt too much. So, it was Greek yogurt with a gluten-free bagel and vegan cream cheese. I ate slowly, so as not to upset my tummy and just sort of flexed my foot a little…trying to decide if I was going to do it or not. In the end…I was dressed and fed, so I grabbed a banana, my fuel belt, and we left my grandpa’s house in my aunt’s car and headed into the city.
Finding parking was actually not a problem. I was surprised. Cathy located a great parking garage that was close to the start without being one that would be hell to get out of later. Love that. We parked and headed out into the cold Minnesota air, hearing the announcer talk about the start of the 10 Mile race, or as they like to call it…the “Shortcut to the Capitol” was gearing up to leave. Runners for the 10 Miler were getting in their corrals, so we headed over that way to see them off. Got there just as the National Anthem was finishing up and soon…Corral 1 was off. Just like that. We felt a bit in the way…so after a few clangs of a cowbell and some cheering, we meandered back to where the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon was going to start. There was going to be a Marathon Maniac’s picture at the entrance of Corral 3…but I didn’t make it back that way in time. Instead, I peeled my banana…and began moving up again through the corrals. And, just as we were getting up to where the Start Line was…here comes Heather! YAY! She had texted/called my phone, which I had given to Cathy so I didn’t obsess over it, but somehow Cathy missed it. Regardless…she found us just in time. We moved through the onslaught of runners heading in the opposite direction so that she and Cathy could find a spot to stand to see me off. They found a great spot too, just past the media on the corner. We took a few pictures with the Start Line…and then I finally had to shed my warm jacket and pants…and start getting acclimated. I got hugs from both and got some photos snapped so they could post them on Facebook…and then…I was off to get situated in Corral 1.
I am not going to lie…I was freezing. I moved to the back of the corral to start…but then ended up moving up little-by-little until I found an open spot somewhere in the middle near the left side. I promised that I would stretch when I got in my corral, and I kept that promise. If there is one thing I have learned, it is how powerful and important that stretching is. As I was finishing that up, I heard a “Hi Maniac!” coming from behind me. For the record, I was wearing my Marathon Maniac’s singlet. Anyway…it was a very nice guy, also a member of the Marathon Maniacs, and he said that I looked cold. I told him I was cold and he laughed and said I must not be from Minnesota. Very observant. HA! We chatted for a bit, and then he went in search of more Maniacs. I decided I didn’t like being that far back in the corral and moved up some more…and then some more…and a little bit more. I just got settled in a new spot when the announcer came on and welcomed us to the race. The National Anthem was sung, off key, but it was there…and then…we were sent off at exactly 8:00 a.m.
It didn’t take too long for me to cross that start line and I immediately hung at the left so I could see Cathy and Heather. I did…and they were loud and cheered just as loud for me. This was the first time in over a week that I had ventured out for a run. Seriously. And I wasn’t sure what my foot would do. The anti-inflammatory I took that morning seemed to be doing its job. There was a slight bit of pain…but nothing I hadn’t run through before. I was off…and starting the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon – which is known as The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.
My strategy was simple…run when I could…walk when I had to…and if I had to crawl…I’d do that…but I committed to running this by crossing that start line, and I would do my best to see the race to the finish. I told Cathy that morning, I wasn’t sure I could finish…and not to get mad if I dropped out. She said she wouldn’t be mad, but she wanted to be sure I wouldn’t be mad at myself. I was certain I would be…but if I hurt, I wasn’t going to do further damage to myself. The goal was to treat this as training…and that was my entire goal. In fact, I started off at a very easy pace, I thought…but I realized my first mile was sub-8…so I backed off on that second mile and relaxed. I didn’t worry about pace or anything else…I just ran how I felt. That was the only thing I could do.
Prior to this race, I had managed to do one training run of 13.1 miles, on the day after my birthday. That was a good 3 weeks prior to this run. I struggled, having not run any double digit runs since July. I told myself I would go mile-by-mile and just assess how I was feeling. If anything, I could at least get halfway through. I had done it before…albeit on a foot that hurt less…but the more I was out there, the more I loosened up and the better I felt. I hit the 5K mark at 25:23…not great, but not bad for someone who has barely run. The next gauge was the 10K mark and that came just after we ran around the second lake on the course. Let me take a moment here to say that this course is stunning. Gorgeous. The leaves are changing in Minnesota…bright oranges and reds…all canopied overhead as you take to the streets of the city. People were everywhere to cheer. There wasn’t really a lull in the crowds at all throughout the entire thing. And the energy was just what I needed that morning. I hit the 10K mark at 50:02. And kept on going. I was really just loving the run. I was feeling okay…minor pain if any…and taking it all in. I just kept moving…and as I was making the turn at Mile 11…Heather and Cathy were there…and they were just screaming! That was just what I needed then, and I smiled, waved, and on I went. They were heading to Mile 17…as we previously discussed. Mile 11 was a nice surprise.
Perseverance and sheer stubbornness propelled me through to the halfway point. I hit the 13.1 mile mark at 1:46:10…which is rather good, if you’re asking me. I knew that had been the furthest I had managed to train, so my common sense kicked in, and I chose to run the second half with my head…not my heart. This meant, slow the pace, walk the hills, just keep going forward. And, I immediately did just that. I turned what had started as a beautiful and nearly perfect run into a walk-run. I walked the hills. I walked when my feet hurt. I ran in between. I just started to push myself to play this smart. The last thing I needed to do was get injured again or aggravate something even further. Yes…I am aware that running a marathon was probably not the best way to avoid this…but this one was important. And as I ran…then walked…then ran through the next few miles…the reason I was out there finally made an appearance.
It was Mile 17. I knew Heather and Cathy were going to be there. But what I saw as I headed just past the Clif Shot Energy Zone was more than this little bucket of emotions could handle. There, clapping, making some noise…and just being the epitome of awesome…was my peeps. Cathy, Heather, my friend Paul, my aunt Jan…and yes…grandpa! Finally, my grandpa was well enough to make it out to see me run. I was just thankful that at that point I was running. HAHA! I picked up the pace when I saw them. I picked it up more as I heard them. And I touched my heart and held my arms up to them as I ran past. It wasn’t sunny at that point, but I was thankful to have my sunglasses on, because when I saw my grandpa standing there, I cried. Tears. Just…gone. I took a few deep breaths and regained my composure. I had 9 more miles ahead of me until I saw my peeps again…as I knew that at least Cathy and Heather would be at the finish line. Time to dig deep, dig in, and finish what I started.
The next two miles ran parallel to the Mississippi River. At Mile 19, we crossed over the river via a bridge and started down the other side. I knew that at Mile 20.5, my friend Kristen was stationed, having run the 10 miler that morning. She said she’d watch for me, and knowing that she was waiting was what propelled me onward. I also knew that around Mile 20, the beginning of epic 200 foot climb over the next 3 miles was about to begin. I saw the water station ahead and suddenly, Kristen, clad all in green, shouted. I was thrilled and ran over to her. We hugged…and she told me I looked great and to keep going. I did. How could I not after getting a hug when I was feeling so down? It lifted my spirits and my mood. I really needed that.
But the hugging and love didn’t stop there. Nope. Another friend of mine, Julie, was a course marshal between Miles 22-23. And she somehow managed to spot me in the crowd as well. I heard her shout and looked up…and rushed over to her for more hugs. She again sent me on my way, saying that I looked good and was doing great. I love my friends. Honestly. When I was struggling…when I was beating myself up…someone…a friend or a stranger…was there to encourage me. Even those simply spectating…when I’d start to walk a hill, I would hear, “Good job 1306! One foot in front of the other. Keep going. You’re almost there. Proud of you!” I teared up a few times. This race was an emotional roller coaster for me.
But, I was close now. I was within the last 5K. I kept saying I would just run the entire way, but the run-walk intervals had taken their toll and my legs were really starting to feel it. My feet hurt…and I was just determined at this point to finish. I wasn’t doing this one for time…this one was for me. This one was for my grandpa! This one was training. It had to be! The next few miles ticked by…slow and steady…and as I came into the heart of St. Paul, the crowds lifted me up and carried me that last mile. I was getting closer. I could hear the announcer. Down a hill and straight on to the finish line. I saw Heather and Cathy on my right and they were screaming for me. I held my hands up against my chest in the shape of a heart as I started to cry again. Honestly, friends see you through so much in life. I was hoping to see my grandpa there again, but my aunt took him home. The finish was ahead, so after I passed them I focused on making it to that line. I crossed…in a miraculous 3:51:52.
How I pulled that off is beyond me…but as I walked away from the camera…the tears flowed. Yep…I cried…and hobbled through the finisher’s area. I was handed my medal, which was placed around my neck. I was given a Mylar blanket and some water. A banana. Salty snacks…and urged toward the area for the finisher photographs. From there…I got my Finisher’s t-shirt. Yes…this is brilliant. At the Twin Cities Marathon, you don’t get your finisher’s shirt until you…*gasp*…FINISH! Great incentive, yes? I got through with that and managed to find the Caribou Coffee tent. I got a cup of coffee…because it’s Caribou Coffee and I was still cold. You know I am still cold when I cross a marathon finish line still wearing my makeshift arm warmers and my toss away gloves. HA! And then, I slowly started to make my way to the Family Reunion Area. My feet hurt. My entire body hurt. But I was done. I had done it…despite having my own doubts about my abilities.
As I was making my way up the incline toward the Letter X (our standard go-to for meeting), a man handed me a plastic bag to put all the stuff that runners get in the finishing area. I thanked him and was able to make my way up a little easier now. Cathy spotted me, dropped her sign and came running my way to give me a hug. I started crying again. She said she was so proud of me and we walked up to where Heather was holding down the fort. More hugs and high praise! I was on Cloud Nine! We laid out my Mylar blanket and I sat down. Cathy went to work changing my shoes from my Newtons to my Adidas Boosts and getting me straight into compression socks.
And, for a moment, my elation…my joy…went away. A quick glance at my cell phone…where I was showered with so many words of encouragement and love and people telling me how proud they were of me…and one person made it all seem so…meaningless. I set my phone down…took a deep breath…and listened to Heather and Cathy about letting it go. I did something remarkable…and to focus only on that. Then they started bragging about me to people. Seriously, these two are awesome! Heather helped stretch me out and get my legs up after she called the restaurant we were looking at for a possible place to eat lunch. My stomach wanted nothing to do with food at the moment, but I knew in about 30 minutes I’d need something. Perfect timing…they said they were in between rushes.
We hung on the lawn for a moment more, then headed down the streets of St. Paul to meet up with…Paul…who was back from his Mile 17 appearance and ready to join us for some celebratory pub grub (which is starting to become a tradition…either that or Mexican). I went into the bathroom and changed and joined my friends for some amazing food. Recovery was happening. After we ate and split THE BEST DESSERT EVER…we went our separate ways. I went back to grandpa’s house to shower and then we headed to the Mall of America…because I needed to keep moving and what better place to get your walk on? I ended up treating myself to a new dress from the former Bettie Page store (now called Tatyana). I rock this dress! Thanks for making me try it on, Heather! After shopping, we went our separate ways. It was, honestly, worth every doubt that ever came into my mind.
My official time for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon was 3:51:52. I was 2351 out of 8852 finishers overall. I was the 712/3996 female to cross the finish line. And I was 145/703 in my age division to finish. Not too shabby at all. Is it the race I wanted? Certainly not. But it was my favorite marathon to date for so many reasons. Mostly…because despite being unable to perform up to my potential…I never gave up…and there were people who saw me through. Not just those I knew…but strangers too. And there is something so uplifting and so…amazing about that in the end. Most of all, I’m glad that the third time was the charm, and my grandpa finally had a chance to see me run. He has run the Twin Cities Marathon quite a few times, so this one was special in that aspect too!
And now…it’s all about recovery…because NYC awaits…