Thursday, October 8, 2015

Better than Meth

Marathon day has arrived! Sunday morning felt like I was sleeping in late for marathon morning. But that's the joy of being on central time. Breakfast, coffee, but I couldn't make the morning constitutions. Now it's time to walk out to the staring line!

The new Vikings stadium! It looks like a pirate ship.
The starting line was only about half a mile away so that was a perfect warm up. We got to walk around the starting area for a while, and I saw Thad, a friend of mine and local (to NC) running coach! Very cool, I knew he was going to be there, but to actually find the RunnerDude himself among almost 9000 people was unexpected.

Lisa and I before getting everything lined up

the "sweat drop" bags were loaded into UPS trucks by bib number

They had a line of port-a-lets that spanned an entire city block!

Lisa, me, and Megan her running club buddy
Eventually Megan found us, they dropped off the "sweat drop" bags that would be waiting at the finish, and we made our way to Corral 2 for the start. Once in there I got recognized! Thanks Jim, it was great to meet you. That never happens to me, so very cool!

TC is billed as the most scenic urban marathon in the US, and I was seeing why. There were almost 9000 runners lining up there. Split into 4 corrals, we ended up in Corral 2. To give you an idea of how many people that is on one city block, here's the amount of people in front of me, then the amount of people behind me.

Towards the starting line

Away from the starting line
You can see in the first picture a skywalk bridge between the buildings. This is an incredibly cool feature of the city, as it gets so cold in the winters residents can still walk downtown without having to actually be outside. There are miles of these things. Beyond that is the actual starting line. Our plan was to line up in front of the 4 hour pace group, then stay in front of the 4 hour pacer. The balloons behind me are from the 4 hour pacer.

Before you know it, the race was starting! Apparently it took 6:50 for Corral 1 to clear out and then we were off on the course. It started out weaving through downtown Minneapolis before getting out to some of the lakes. There was a ton of water (lakes and river time) on the course.

The first lake

"letting" Megan and Lisa lead (they schooled me the entire time)

Still smiling!
Pretty sure these were taken around mile 3. The crowd support out there was amazing! The only noteworthy thing about these pictures are that there are no people on the side of the roads. Some of the stats said there was 300,000 spectators. Some set up impromptu aide stations, like the dixie cups of beer in mile 24. Some were just holding out boxes of Kleenex, which I thought was hilarious since runners were using them then throwing them on the side of the road. So suddenly all of these well meaning friendly people suddenly had a front yard full of snot rags.

Near the 10k mark?

I'm still smiling. Them? yea, not so much
They had live tracking with timing mats around 5k, 10k, half marathon, etc points. Near the 10k mat was a giant balloon arch, big banner hanging, and maybe 200 people hanging around with a radio playing music. Again, the crowd support was like nothing else I've ever seen.

I love that bottom picture too because Lisa and Megan are obviously talking about something but it looks like they are in agony and I'm still trying to smile. Candid shots are the best. Really, we all still felt great at that point.

Crowds are starting to thin a bit

Not smiling anymore
It was only 48* at the start, so I layered up appropriately. In mile 10, I took off the blue shirt, then took off the gloves in mile 23. Around mile 21 I let Lisa and Megan go on ahead of me, after talking smack and keeping my heart rate low for 3 hours my quads were finally too fatigued to keep going at that flat 9 minute pace. Turns out, Lisa held on until mile 22. Megan made it and finished her first marathon in 3:59, Lisa pulled a 4:02 right behind her. I went into death march mode at that point.

Actually somewhere in the second half I came up with a mantra that got on repeat in my head:

This is our gift
We have been given a gift from God of strength and endurance
When the miles get tough, we show others our gift
We can always go farther
We can always be stronger
This is our gift

Repeat that to yourself for a couple of hours and you start to believe it. You also might go crazy. But then, you'd have to be crazy to start one of these things.

Then in mile 25 I got my second wind and ran into this guy! Steve in a Speedo was totally cool and I wish I had more time to hang out with him. He finished 3rd in the loony challenge and ran the 10 miler that morning in 1:03 (that's really fast). He was out waiting on his wife who was also running the marathon. Steve was one of the first people to ever comment on my blog and I've been looking forward to meeting him for years.

The mile 26 marker was a giant American flag hung between two cranes. Quite the spectacle. Make no mistake about it, there are hills in Minnesota. it's not all lakes and rivers. The last 5 miles of this marathon are no joke. My quads fatigued around mile 20 and became unbearable on some of those hills. When I saw this, I knew it was all downhill and around one more curve to get to the finish line. You can see the Capital building back there, and that's the end of the course.

Right before the finish

and right after
I got an "in front" and "behind" pictures from the starting line, then grabbed before and after shots of the finish line too. So glad to see that finish line. Marathon #16 and state #8 is in the books. 4:08:03 was my finish time. I left the Garmin in NC so I don't have mile splits or any of the data that I love. But just going on feel, with Lisa's pacing, and coming in strong to the finish after such a tough last few miles made this one really great.

Got a nice free local recovery beer

Lisa and I with our finishers medals

Me in front of the Capital building in St Paul
The finish line area was a massive throng of people. We found the beer garden, then got our finishers shirts and made our way down to the light rail to get back across the river to Minneapolis. The finishers area is the only thing I didn't really like about this race. It was so large and unorganized. with a point to point race like that there is no way I would have been able to find my way back home without Lisa. If I was by myself and drove to the start, it would have been incredibly difficult to get back to the start where my car was.

The other thing that I didn't like was that I made plans to meet up with Carly at the finish line, another blogger I've known for years but never met in person. She was apparently there, close to the same time I was, and I couldn't find her anywhere. That's just my own disappointment and doesn't have anything to do with the race organization.

Overall this was an amazing marathon. Beautiful course, well organized, incredible crowd support, Twin Cities has it all. If you're doing the 50 state thing too, or just want a destination marathon, I can highly recommend this one.

Once we did make it back to Lisa's apartment, we got cleaned up and she gave me a ride to the airport. The flights were uneventful, thankfully, but my legs did not recover well by sitting for that long. Finally by Thursday they weren't sore anymore. Lisa and Megan are real champions of consistency - they kept those 9 minute miles coming. I usually go more with the flow of the course, hammer sometimes and walk when I need to. This recovery time is no joke. On the plane, I was talking to a West Point grad who said my addiction to marathons was "better than Meth" - hence the title. When you're in that much pain you find humor anywhere you can.

and to think, I'm only 9 days away from my first 50 mile trail ultra.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Time to get Cold

Before running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, I had to get up to MN. This was my fly to state for this year. Luckily, Lisa agreed to put me up for the weekend and show me around her city while I was there.

The tops of the clouds

I thought this was Minneapolis

This is actually the Minneapolis skyline - pretty awesome
Friday afternoon I flew into Minneapolis and it was COLD. There was a hurricane blowing through NC that did quite a bit of damage to South Carolina. We didn't see more than a lot of rain in Raleigh, but I still had some concerns about flight delays. Needless to say I was quite relieved to land in Minnesota and discover 60* and sunny skies.

Turns out, 60* is really cold when there is some kind of canadian arctic breeze behind it! Standing outside of the airport was as cold as the dead of our winters here in NC. This was the farthest north I have ever traveled.

Twins tickets!

Lisa's apartment overlooks the Mississippi River

Seriously, I couldn't get enough of this view. Amazing!

Lisa and I on the balcony enjoying the view
I picked up some tickets for the Minnesota Twins game that night. I love going to watch baseball, this was the last weekend of the regular season and the Twins were in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, they lost and it got bitterly cold at the game. But it was still a fantastic night to be at the ballpark, and I got lots of souvenirs for the kids.

Target field was walking distance from the apartment. Really cool place!

our seats sucked. notice that handrail blocking my view of the batters box.

A rare Phil sighting! He does exist!
Also notice how everyone else was so bundled up in the stands. That last pic is me, Lisa, and her boyfriend Phil. Everyone around us was making fun of me for being cold because I totally wasn't used to it like they were. Very true, I was shivering most of the weekend. But I also had one of the best bratwurst ever (locally) made at the ballpark - I love getting local finds like that when traveling. It really is the best part of the experience.

Saturday started off horribly. I woke up with a migraine like I haven't had in a decade or so. Actually, I puked twice before Lisa woke up. it was that bad. After several doses of medicine it started to clear up, so we met Phil out for brunch at a local Arepa place. If you've never tried Arepa's, it's a corn based pocket bread, like the venezualan version of pita bread that gets stuffed with all kinds of beans and delicious love. fantastic stuff.

Then Lisa and I went to the race expo to pick up our packets and all of the cold weather gear that I didn't think I was going to need.

How do you fit 8000 people into an expo?

Like I said, when it's still 80* in Raleigh I didn't expect 60* in Minneapolis to feel quite that cold. Plus I outright forgot to pack a hat and my Garmin. So at the expo, I went ahead and picked up a hat, some gloves, and a long sleeve shirt to wear on race day. Also had to pick up some gels - they only provide gels at one of the aide stations on the course so I'm really glad Lisa reminded me to pick up some of those and let me borrow a fuel belt to hold them.

After that we headed over to the University of Minnesota campus. I picked up a puppet for Ella at the Twins game with something different for Evil Genius, but then of course she had to have a puppet too. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers shop on campus didn't have anything like this, so she got a hockey puck instead. I got a few other things too, including a sweatshirt for Kelley that I promptly wore since I was missing her so much.

U of Minn Football stadium
After that outing, I had to take a quick nap to finally get rid of this headache. It really was a plague on most of the day. Once I woke up, we went out exploring a bit. First was a visit to a local theatre, because they had a balcony with an amazing view of the river.

The stone arch bridge is a well known landmark

Me in front of the stone arch bridge

it took a 3 story escalator to get us down from that balcony! This thing was intimidating.
After that we picked up some of the city's publicly available bicycles and rode around downtown for a bit. I can see why Minneapolis is consistently rated as one of the most bike friendly cities in the country! it was so nice to be able to ride around so easily. We stopped at several scenic places to take in the views.

The Mighty Mississippi

This building is the theatre we visited earlier

I look like I belong here now
After that we settled in at home for the night. Lisa made a wonderful chicken and pasta for dinner so we'd be carb loaded for the marathon and Phil came by to eat and watch some college football. The Clemson/Notre Dame game was a real nail biter! Still doesn't seem right that I went to Minneapolis to watch a Clemson football game, but we needed to have a chill night and that's what we got.

Saturday night I slept great and I was quite relieved to wake up Sunday with no migraine and ready to marathon. Make no mistake about it, Minneapolis is a cool city with lots of fun activities. I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance. I know I had a blast. And Lisa is a dear friend for putting up with me through that migraine.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Septembers Relief

I was so glad to see the summer heat finally go away last month. It seems like September flew by!

Swim: 43,700 yards, 9 swims, 1 race
Bike: 0
Run: 66.5 miles
Strength: once
Yoga: 10 days

About half of that swim volume came from the Swim Around Charleston (19.8k), and the other numbers are so low because of the taper for that race. I was expecting to see more miles running, but that's ok. There are many more miles to come.  I did enjoy a real resurgence of my yoga practice towards the end of the month.

Overall September was a really cool month. The garden is wrapping up it's very pitiful season, and cooler weather seems to be here now. College Football is back and Big Brother wrapped up for the year (Go Steve!). The month ended by kicking off my Fall Stupidity Challenge. Up next is a full marathon in Minnesota this weekend! I can't wait to get up to Minneapolis to visit with Lisa and knock out this marathon. Looking forward to a beautiful course and seeing part of the country that I've always wanted to see!

Here are some other random pictures of things from September

Those tomato plants should be 20 ft long like they were last year


at least I got a good Jalepeno

practically bare!

Evil Genius

EG with a flag!

Playing dressup with Cousin T

Human Joy Factory

Ella painted this

Have glasses, back in the office after the marathon swim