Twin Cities Marathon Recap
“It was a clear black night, a clear white moon.” Oh wait, that was Warren G, not me. Anyways, Twin Cities Marathon - feels like I ran that months ago now! Read more after the break because this is LONG. (Sorry if you’re using the app and breaks don’t work, this is the longest recap ever)
The day started around 5am, with a ritual pre-race shower. Heather, her husband, Nick, and LM were so gracious as to pick me up from my hotel and take me to the race. We were downtown at the Metrodome around 6:30am, and we snapped a few pre-race photos before Heather headed off to run the 10-mile event.
I sat alone in the Metrodome for awhile, eating breakfast while waiting for Susie to arrive. Susie arrived, we chatted out our nerves, washroom breaked, and finally headed out to our corral.
Unlike Chicago last year, the amount of runners in the Twin Cities Marathon is only around 12,000, meaning it was quick to cross the starting line - only about 11 minutes for me. Susie and I said our goodbyes, and the race began.
Mile 1: Feelin’ good. No hills.
Mile 2: No one told me about this hill. I am a little concerned about this hill. Scratch that. I am massively concerned about the hill at mile 21 if no one told me about the hill at mile 2.
Mile 3: Everything is beautiful. No really though, not in that rose coloured glasses sort of way, but the trees, the homes. Beautiful.
Mile 4: Still feeling good! No sign of any pesky hills recently. And I got to see my husband and company. Told them about the hill at mile 2. May have used f bombs around children. Whoops.
Miles 5-7: Feeling alright, some slight inclines, but nothing I could really call a hill. Crowd support was still going strong. I took my first Hammer gel.
Mile 8: Watch for Jordan. Jordan is planning to be at mile 8. After about a quarter of a mile, I resigned myself to the fact that I probably had missed Jordan, was sad, but kept on trucking. Little did I know, not much further up, the wonderfully amazing Becky was waiting to jump out from behind a tree and surprise me. I, in no way, had even a slight inkling that Becky would be in Minneapolis. I mean, she really set it up perfectly. She had a wedding in Indiana, she posted photos from the wedding on Instagram, She told me she was mailing me package via Heather. I truly believed she was in Indiana. Her being in Minneapolis was not even on my radar. The disbelief and shock in my voice on the video really capture the moment perfectly.
Miles 9-10: Got to chat with Becky and keep my mind off the race for awhile - it was so fantastic. I was supposed to see Andrew & company around Mile 10, but never spotted them (I later learned they didn’t make it to that spot due to company insisting on pee breaks and snacks - not cool people!)
Miles 10-13.1: During this stretch, I got passed by the 5:30 group. I was a little unnerved that they were passing me this early in the race, and vowed not to lose too much time. I ate another Hammer gel. I crossed the halfway mark at 2:46:33, which was actually slower than my half marathon time in Chicago last year. This got me really worried. I needed to finish in 6 hours, or by 2:15pm. My Chicago time was 6:03:44.
Miles 14-16: I was experiencing bad chaffing by this point under my right arm, and took the vasoline at an aid station. Although, I found it confusing that I didn’t get to keep the popsicle stick the vasoline was on, and that I had to just take it off with my hands. I had to take vasoline at a half marathon in June, and my hands were all lube-y, and wow, my hands were even worse this time. So MUCH vasoline. I rubbed it EVERYWHERE to just try and get it off my hands. I even stuck my hands up my shirt to get some in and around my sports bra. Unfortunately, I then realized that my sports bra had already betrayed me and I was cut up - nothing like the burn of vasoline on fresh wounds to help you realize that. It was also in these miles that I started seeing this hero. On the back of his shirt, he had an “80+” tag. 80+ and running a marathon. He was just sort of shuffling along, doing his own thing, I gave him a nod as I passed, but no words were exchanged. We went back and forth for many miles - I’d take a walk break, he’d pass, and then I’d pass him again once running. He was carrying a retro Twin Cities Marathon toque with him. His name is Roger Aiken, and from what I can find on him, he’s pretty much run ALL of the Twin Cities Marathons (except maybe a couple) in 32 years. Un-fricking-believable.
Miles 17-20: I picked Becky up again at Mile 16 or 17 (ha - I really should say Becky picked me up, because the wheels were coming off). My 30K split was slower than Chicago by nearly 3 minutes, meaning 6 hours was becoming a pipe dream. Becky helped keep my mind clear, I don’t remember many of our conversations, but I do remember running over the Mississippi, and thinking “this is amazing.” I might have even said that aloud. I ate a chunk of banana during this stretch, and a piece of a donut. It was the most amazing donut ever. I got to see my support crew again in this stretch, and I don’t doubt that they could see the struggle on my face.
Miles 20-26: Becky passed me off like a baton in a relay to Heather, who was left to pick up the pieces on a race that was slipping away from me. Those hills in mile 21-22 were the worst, awful, no-good thing that could have happened to me at that point, but I just kind of trucked up them with Heather, and just like that they were behind us. I thought that I might still finish in time at this stage in the game, but around mile 24, a volunteer yelled out “Beat the Bus!” OH GOD, the sweeper bus - I hadn’t even give that a thought up until that point. I wouldn’t say it lit a fire under my ass, but it definitely instilled a sense of panic. I felt like I was looking back a lot, to which Heather told me to stop looking. It was WAY back. There were a few moments in this stretch where the panic took over and I started vocalizing my fears to Heather. I remember her telling me “don’t go there, you are not going there. You are finishing this.” Heather also told me a story about this song. And in the height of my marathon haze, I saw a bag of what I decided was cocaine on the ground, and Heather and I laughed over other runners’ fueling choices. I remember conversations on Jamaica and running and losing weight. I ate part of a Trader Joe’s oat bar and some jelly beans during this stretch. Saw Sheila and Jessica, Becky and Jordan, as well as my support crew around miles 24-25!
The Finish: Finally we were at the cathedral and the descent to the Capitol buildings. I could see the finish line. Heather ducked off just before the chute, and I ran the last 0.2 miles as strong as my tired legs could muster. With a quick glance at my Garmin, I knew I was going to PR, but I also saw that I was DAMN close to sub 6 hours. I sprinted my heart out, and finished at 6:00:10. A 3 minute and 34 second PR.
11 seconds to sub 6. Sure, I really wanted sub 6 hours, I actually had anticipated finishing in 5:45, but not everything pans out. And I think it’s a victory that I PR’ed over my Chicago time, because I made up over 6 minutes of time between the 30k mark and the finish line at Twin Cities over Chicago. The hills in this race took me by surprise. I live in a city where elevation change simply does not exist naturally. I didn’t train appropriately as such. It was a lesson learned. Looking back, I also was pretty under-fueled during the race. I had gels on me, but in losing my cool over my splits, I stopped taking gels. This was a bad call, and I know my energy suffered as a result.
After I finished, I caught up with Susie, and was so glad to hear of her amazing, soak-it-all-in race.
You’ve all probably seen the “30 Amazing Ways People Crossed the Finish Line at the Twin Cities Marathon” that’s been floating around on Tumblr. The last 3-4 photos are of my people. 6 hour marathoners. The man in white (partial bib# 904) with anguish on his face crossed the finish line right after me - actually, in my finish line sprint, I ran past him steps before the finish line. The women hugging each other were maybe 30 seconds behind me. I remember their matching shirts. And finally, Roger Aiken, the 80 year old I saw through out, finishing in 6:16, just before they closed the course. It’s funny, because when I look at my finishing photos, you can actually see these people in my photos. And I love that.
Okay, so I’ve broken down how the race was for me, now let’s talk about the Twin Cities Marathon itself:
Similar in size to Chicago, maybe a bit smaller, but lots of booths and places to empty your wallets at. Only downside: it’s in downtown St. Paul, traffic was nutty, and parking cost $10. Which didn’t seem worth it for the 30 minutes I was there. Next time, public transit!
It touts itself as “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” and the organizers did not lie. Gorgeous fall colours, the lakes, running over the Mississippi and finally past the mansions on Summit Avenue, this really is a gorgeous course (no industrial wasteland on this course like Chicago marathon!) And you get to run down a hill to the finish line!!
Starting at the Metrodome was perfect - you could stay inside up until about 15 mins before race time, staying warm and toasty!
Water stations were a little sparser than I expected, despite being warned by Heather. I wish I had worn my hand bottle, just for those stretches where it was close to 3 miles between.
Crowd support was generally awesome; there were some stretches where it was pretty quiet, but for the most part, I never felt like the course was lacking spectators. There were bands, music blaring, and many people out with signs and cowbells!
The finisher medals were great. Nothing too fancy, but a solid, well designed medal. One thing I really liked about the Twin Cities Marathon is that you don’t get a shirt until you finish the marathon. And the shirt boldly proclaims “MARATHON FINISHER”, which my other marathon shirt didn’t. I felt like I actually worked for the shirt, as opposed to showing up to the Expo and getting a shirt. It’s a nice, long-sleeved Brooks shirt and violently fluorescent green.
The post race food was good - there were plenty of options in soup, chips, Clif bars, salted nut rolls, fruit cups. Yum!
I also really liked the fact that there was on-site engraving for your medal. It was $20, but well worth it in my opinion. I actually never got around to engraving my Chicago medal because I’m lazy and it was never convenient enough for me to get it done.
The cost of the marathon was a big bonus for me. $100! I really appreciated that the TCM didn’t try to make me pay extra money for being from Canada (cough, Chicago, cough). I don’t like being punished for being
awesome Canadian. Also, hotels in the Twin Cities area are a bargain compared with staying in Chicago!
Overall, I LOVED this marathon. I loved it way more than I loved Chicago. And though Chicago will always hold a special spot in my heart as my first, I would not hesitate to run another marathon in the Twin Cities and wholeheartedly recommend it to others. I’m not saying I’ll necessarily run a marathon next year, but if I do, it will be here. Hills and all.
In closing, I’d just like to take a moment to thank everyone who supported me during my training and on marathon day. Heather and Becky - you guys are my marathon saviors. Thank you for being there and thank you for keeping me sane. Sorry this was so long - almost as long as it took me to run the marathon! :)