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30th Anniversary Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Everything I have to say about running TCM has to be viewed through the lens of how difficult a marathon is whether you're Kenyan or a turtle-slow middle aged guy. I suppose the very thing that made the race great was also the most frustrating--that it very nearly could have been my best. I was coming off a hot, uphill 5:05 with less training than I like, but armed with near-perfect conditions for the start of this race. It was in the 40's, slightly breezy, lots of shade and I hit the halfway mark a full five minutes under a 5 hour pace. Heck, at Mile 17 I was still on pace for a 4:57. The start of the race is at the Metrodome and has a great atmosphere as it winds through downtown Minneapolis, quiet residential neighborhoods, past a series of lakes, and along a parkway towards St. Paul.

But somewhere around the Mississippi River, the sun came out, the temps soared into the 70's, and the course makes a series of uphill climbs towards the state capital. As we ran through St. Paul, I quickly fell off pace and "lost a mile" in there to end up with a 5:12:33.

In a few ways, it was the classic marathon mistake of going out too fast. But I knew the forecast and knew if I was feeling good I might as well go with it since it could get brutal late in the race. I ran a hot Chicago last year and even my PR in Champaign it got very warm late in the race. I'm a cool weather runner. Which makes me wonder about the 5:09:53 I ran in my first race in Chicago in 2009. That really was a much better race for me than I knew at the time. Properly trained, good weather...if not for a few rookie mistakes I'd have gotten my sub-5 hour race right there.

This race the average time was a 4:20 and I still had 1000 people...500 men, 500 women...behind me. So I won't cry over the effort too much. It was, as advertised, a beautiful course with large crowds of spectators along the way. So a fun day. The course could have used a few more water stops (or do I mean better spaced?) and toilets--typical. But a great setup (even if we had to walk pretty far) for the post-finish food, goodies, medals, shirts, foil blankets, etc..




Looking forward--race geek alert--I'm at a crossroads from a technical standpoint though, I think. One thing you'll never control is the weather. So one option is finding a race where I'm guaranteed to have temps lower than 50 the whole race...one way to go. But after a couple conversations, I think the real trick is going to be sports nutrition for me and focusing on performance.

I'm probably headed back to my hometown race here in Chicago next year. It's a flat course, no travel hassle assuming we don't sell the condo, and there's always a chance we'll get the cool weather of 2009 rather than some of the hotter weather of the last few years.

Training for a race in the spring was ok when we had a gym membership, but it's tough to get outside in Feb and nobody wants to do long runs on a treadmill. So I'll do maintenance over the winter, maybe a spring 5k, then hit fall race training hard next summer.

Basically, control the variables I have control over. Which, I think, is why I like endurance sports. They're not really called endurance because of the event. They're called that because of the preparation required. In a perfect world, I'm actually certain I can break 5 hours. I'm actually fairly certain if I put the time and effort in I could run a 4:30 or even a 4:15 if I wanted to train 5 days a week and log hundreds of miles a month. I love the sport but I also don't want to burn myself out. As I told Kelly the other day, this is a sport I hope to be doing when I'm 70 and winning my age group.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of sports drinks. I usually use Gatorade Endurance formula since that is what Chicago uses. Though TCM had Powerade which I think threw me off a little--though not a lot. And I'm a fan of Gu. But I used my last packet on the TCM course and threw away what was left of my Gatorade canister because it is expired. Moving forward, I need to find more natural and less artificial nutrition for race day.

I actually think I've got the carb loading, pre-race evening meal, and race-morning breakfast down for what works for me. But after 20 miles and a few hours, the syrupy fake flavor of what's common starts to make me feel ill. Especially on a warmer day. Kelly has long been a fan of electrolyte tablets to flavor regular water. And maybe I need to carry my own hydration, move to salt tablets instead of relying on sports drink sodium, and then find calories elsewhere.

One thing that sounded really good on the course was fresh strawberries. And a banana--when available to the back of the pack crowd--usually sits well for me. Kelly has also suggested finding a rice-sugar based gel. Or maybe I need to move towards cold chicken broth, granola, who knows.

What I do know is that my issues are related to being able to run more even splits. I ended up about 30 seconds per mile off my goal pace despite the fact that I had a great first 17-18 miles. It wasn't hitting the wall, per se. But in runner-speak, I tend to bonk at Mile 22 in more of a queasy muscle fatigue kind of way rather than an all-over exhaustion typical kind of way. Don't even get me started on the Half Marathon people who want their sport to not be called "half of anything." But, no offense, I can run 13.1 miles in my sleep after rolling out of bed. 26.2 is a different animal.

This Sunday I will be up and in Grant Park at, literally, the crack of dawn for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Not running it, mind you, but volunteering at it for the first time. I'm currently a member of the Chicago Area Runner's Association so I'm handing out maps and directing participants at the Start Line for them. Hopefully my shift will be done in time to see the lead pack at the Finish Line. I kinda wish I were signed up and am antsy to get back out there again.

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