Oh, what I wouldn't give for just one second. I ran 26+ miles and just missed breaking 2 hours and 40 minutes by one second.
In all honesty, I didn't lose that one second in the finish sprint. Most likely, I lost it somewhere along the course. Perhaps, I lost it in the first mile, taking a turn too wide, or not pushing up one of the hills on the course. In fact, I could have made up that one just about anywhere, but when it comes right down to it, I just missed it and that's the breaks.
One of the reasons that I went to Twin Cities was because this race was the Masters USA Marathon Championship. To me, this meant that the very best Master's Marathoners would be coming out race and I wanted to see how I would stack up on a national level and against other Top Master's runners. Call it a man thing or a runner thing, but we all compare ourselves to others and we all want to know how we stack up. This was my chance to see how I stacked up.
So on that front I believe faired pretty well. I was seeded 120 and finished 85 overall and 80 out of 4817 males. Among all Master's runners I finished 15th. Within the 45-49 age group, I finished 10th and who could have predicted that the winning in my age group be 2:16 and the top 5 would all run under 2:35. Who says that people get slower as they older? Certainly, it doesn't look this way at Twin Cities.
Back May or June, I was running Caitlin, Mike, and Megan. They were all kicking around the idea running Twin Cities. I hadn't given it much thought but when I pulled up the web site, I noticed it was the Master's USA Marathon championship. I didn't know if I would qualify as an elite master's runner so I contacted the elite master's coordinator. She asked me for listing of my times and races that I had run. I sent back a list of my times and races. She was able to hook me up with an elite entry and so that started what was a great weekend.
Friday morning, I arrived early in St. Paul but they already had our hotel rooms ready. Then, I headed up the elite hospitality suite to pick up my race packet and grab a snack.
Hanging out the hospitality suite was simply awesome. I got to meet lots of other runners. I meant one coach of the women's Polish team. I meant some runners from Russia and I met many of the open and Master's runners.
It is really cool to set around and listen to them talk. It is really funny to listen and learn that they experience and struggle many of the same issues that all of the rest of us face: family time, injuries, fatigue, diet, etc.
Friday afternoon, I circled by the Expo. Twin Cities has a huge Expo. One best qualities of this Expo was the venders coming out to share info on their products. I learned more two hours than probably the last two years of Googling on the internet.
Friday evening, it was off to dinner with Caitlin and her parents, and Mike and his family. It is easy to see where Caitlin gets her enthusiasm for running; her parents seem to love running. Mike's baby girl is growing and hanging on to her daddy. Watching them, I think she has Mike wrapped around her little finger. LOL
Saturday morning, Caitlin parents gave us a ride out to the 22 mile where Mike, Caitlin and I ran to the finish. Seeing the end of the race course was really good because it helped knowing what the last miles were like and where the steepest sections of the course were located.
Saturday afternoon, there was the USA T&F rules meeting. All elite runners were required to attend or the runner would disqualify from the race. This is where they told us that we might be selected for a random drug testing and that we needed to have an ID with us if we were selected. In the end, I was not selected, but I did have my ID with me – just in case.
Saturday evening, I grab a quick bite and the pre race pasta dinner. It was a catered affair. Nothing really fancy, there was a couple of different kinds of pasta, salad, bread, and deserts. The veggie sauce was really spicy.
Then, it was back to the room to watch a few more hours of TV before heading off to bed.
I didn't sleep much Saturday night. There were a ton of butterflies in my stomach this time around and about 4 am, I was already up and getting ready.
About 5:40 I headed down to the lobby and to the buses that took the elite runners to the start. I sent a text to Caitlin about the buses and settled into my seat. Side note, when did they start putting seat belts on school buses, these buses had them.
For the elite runners, we had the run of a basement room at this church. There was plenty of room to spread out.
7:45 came. I had changed into all of my race stuff and had my drop back packed to drop off. 7:50 came and I made one final rest room stop. This was followed by some pre race striders.
I lost track of Caitlin at this point. And Mike was lined up with the Citizens races so I positioned myself right on the starting line. For some reason, I thought there was wave start and Mike would be starting 3 minutes after us. Where I got this idea, I don't know.
There were 2 commands – runner's ready and go.
I had setup my Garmin to show my current pace. First glance told me that I was running 5:30 pace so I started letting people go by me.
Wearing the TrySports outfit, I guess I stand out. Along the course, I got lot of comments about my Tri –Top that I wearing and my Brooks Silence shoes. Lots of people liked the McDonalds colored racing flats flats.
I heard Caitlin say something to me and when I looked around there she and Mike were – so much for getting a 3 minute head start on Mike.
I keep checking my Garmin's pace, but it was very erratic as the satellite signal jumped around/between the buildings.
At the mile, I thought I was slightly ahead of Mike. Then, somewhere during the next miles I lost him. I thought that I was ahead of him until reached the 5k point. There, the pack started string out and I caught sight of him up ahead. I wasn't sure where Caitlin was at this point.
Slowly, I tried reeling Mike closer. It was tough. Mike was exactly making it easy.
Around 5 miles, I was within about 5 meters of him and was trying to settle into a nice rhythm.
By 7 miles Mike was really laying the wood to the fire at this point. I was trying to get close enough to say "Hey, we are running to fast" but I couldn't get close enough to him. Between mile 7 and 8 we hit this hill and Mike hit the hill hard or at least harder than I wanted to take it. At this point, I decided to let him go. Dropping miles under 5:50 were not going to do me any good because I knew that I would be paying for it later.
Mike moved out to about 75 to 100 meters of ahead of me which gave me an opportunity watch him while I tried to keep him in sight. One of the things that I noticed, Mike and I run with very different styles. Mike tends to run more in the center of the road and likes to be on the front of groups. When he comes up to a group, he immediately moves to the front. Me on the other hand, I like to run the tangents and am happy to just set behind or on some ones shoulder.
Around 11 and 12 miles, Mike started to come back to more me or maybe I was just being al little more efficient running the tangents.
By the ½ half way point, we were back to gather again and running about 6 minute pace.
15 miles saw a group of runners come up to us and start to pass. They were only running a couple of seconds faster so I latched on to them. Mike and I were running side by side then out of the corner of my eye, I didn't see him anymore. I wasn't sure what was happening but there wasn't time to think about it. My focus was on staying relax and staying in this group.
Over the next 4 miles, we stayed in this tight net little group. However, around 20 miles they started break up and I just tried to stay with whoever was going the fastest.
Once we past the 20 mile mark the course heads up hill. At first, it is really steep but then, turns into a long grind up Summit Street. These miles were really tough; mile 23 had another steep section which was followed by another steep section in the 26 miles. Now understand, steep is relative but after 23 and 26 miles it doesn't take much to fall into the steep category for me. Thus miles 23 and 26 were my slowest miles: 6:26 and 6:30. Even thou, the other miles were up hill, I still managed some decent times splits: 5:53, 6:05, 6:15, 6:14, and 6:15.
With ½ mile left there is the only downhill in the last 10k. This is where I made the rookie of all mistakes. Instead of leaning forward going down the hill and letting my quads do the work, I leaned back and this caused my hamstrings to balk. They started to cramp from the breaking action so I had to ease out of it until I was down to the flatter sections. There I switched back to using the quads and was able to pick up the pace again.
I could see the clock and was digging with everything that I had left. But the seconds were agonizingly ticking by and the clock was not slowing for me. I crossed under the finish line at 2 hours and 40 minutes even. So when I say what I wouldn't give to get one second back you know what I mean.
Even thou, my goal time was around 2:45 when I saw that I was going to be close, I pushed on through the pain. I wanted that sub 2:40 really bad.
As I was heading to the post race tent, I heard the announcer calling out the elite women as they finished. One name registered – "Caitlin Chrisman".
Later in the tent, she told me she finished in 2:41 and change – along with a negative split of the course which was awesome for a first time marathon run and qualified her for the 2012 trials.
We chatted for a few minutes. Caitlin looked like she could have gone another 10 miles.
Shortly thereafter, I headed back to the hotel for an ice bath, to pack, and head back to Charlotte on an afternoon flight.
Honestly, going into this race I expected to run no faster than 2:45. After all, I lost so much time to cracked ribs in July and August. But on Sunday morning, Mike took it out hard and I tried to stay with him which probably dragged me out much faster than I would have run otherwise. So in essence, I have Mike to thank for my time. "THANKS!!!, Mike"
On the race front, the Twin Cities guys know how to put on a great race. They are well organized and their people are keen on seeing that every detail of their event is perfect. The course is decent. There are some hills during the first 19 miles but nothing is very long or very steep. There are plenty of flat sections where runners can just cruise along. The course does have a lot twists and turns so staying along the tangents is very important. I did my best to run the shortest path but my Garmin still showed that I ran 26.52 miles. The tough section of the entire race is the last 10k. It starts with a steep climb of about a 1/2 mile, then there are a few other short steep sections, but most of the last miles are spent running up Summit Street which is just a long straight up hill grind. It isn't steep but it really tugs on the quads and makes them burn. I passed lots of runners during this section. Some were walking while others were on the side of road trying to stretch out cramping hamstrings.
Here's a general break down of my splits based on the mats placed along the course.
Time of Day
Here's a splits from my Garmin. My Garmin says :05 seconds but that was because I forgot to stop it when I was sprinting for the finish line.