Monday, October 5, 2009

2:46:26. I'll take it!

For those of you who are worried about mentioning my race to me, possibly wondering whether I will crumple into an emotional ball of goo when being reminded about those 29 elusive seconds (yes, 29 since they use gun time for qualifying), rest assured, I am thrilled with my race at the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday even though I didn’t break the 2:46 barrier. I have already received numerous wonderful congratulatory messages from people, so I imagine you figured that out on your own.

Here are the reasons for my enthusiasm:

  • I ran 2:46:26, which is a 4-minute PR at the marathon distance.
  • I also ran a 30k PR in the first 30k of the race running 1:56:52 (old PR was 2:08:23).
  • My half split (1:21:45) was my 2nd fastest half marathon time ever.
  • I ran with a pack of fabulous women for most of the race.
  • I did not get passed by a single runner after the half marathon point.
  • I ran strong up the 3 or so miles of hills between miles 20-25.
  • I placed 5th overall Master runner in a National Championship Race having gone into the race seeded 16th.
  • I won a bit of prize coinage for my trouble.

So, you can see why I might be pleased. Actually, the whole weekend was a great experience from the elite athlete hospitality, to the athlete and team camaraderie, and of course sharing the experience with my Mom and The Genius. It was inspiring to have so many people wishing me well both virtually via e-mail and Facebook as well as physically on the course. Thanks to everyone for the fantastic support.

{Picture taken by the Dissin' Genius just before the finish using his iPhone. The course looks a little wobbly, but I'm liking how it makes my feet look small.}

Now for the deets:

I got a chance to preview the course on the course tour Saturday. I have never done a course tour before a race, but I think it was a good thing. I had created a very detailed, mile-by-mile pace plan for this race. This was another first since I generally just use an even pacing split chart. I adjusted the splits for a few of the miles based on what I saw on the course. I knew the course would be rolling for most of the first 20 miles and that I would be heading up a gradual hill in the last 10k. From the bus, the uphill at the end didn’t look too bad though I knew that it wouldn’t feel easy on foot at that point in the race. My pacing plan had me positive splitting the course with about a 1:22:30 first half and a 1:23:29 second half.

As usual, I created a redundant pace band system with each band laminated using packing tape and dots carefully placed next to the miles with water stops. I had one pace band on each wrist and tucked one under my race bib on my chest. I go with this redundant system because I have lost my pace bands in other marathons when removing my gloves or when they got completely soaked with water. This system worked brilliantly for me. I didn’t lose a single one.

I was able to get the nutrition I needed before the race after just a bit of panic the day before when I realized I didn’t have any bread or condiments for my race morning meal. I ended up going into a sub shop that had a pudder (PBJ) on the menu. They didn’t get at first what I was asking for when I said I wanted a deconstructed PBJ. Then, one of the employees jumped on it saying, “I can do that for you.” She came out with a half of a loaf of wheat bread and two containers of peanut butter and strawberry jam. Yay for me (and the Genius who needed fuel for his long run too)! So, after a nice pasta dinner with my Impala teammates Saturday night and a couple of hours organizing my race day goodies, I went to sleep. Well, I tried to sleep.

Generally, I have no problem sleeping the night before a marathon. For whatever reason, this one was different. I tossed and turned, got up to pee multiple times, and was generally restless most of the night. I was up like a lightening bolt when all three alarms went off simultaneously at 5:00 a.m. I showered, dressed, ate and met the bus downstairs where we were taken to the elite staging area in the basement of a building next to the starting line. It was a great set up with real bathrooms, lots of (good) nervous energy and plenty of mentholated air to breath in case your sinuses were plugged up.

The weather was ideal. I think it was in the low to mid 40s at the start with just a touch of sun breaking through the clouds. There was some wind, but I don’t believe it was a factor in the race at all. We were on well-protected stretches of road for almost the entire course, so if there was any wind, it was probably blocked by trees and buildings.

I had to utilize an alternate fuel plan for this course due to the location of the water stops. I typically take 5 Roctane (blueberry pomegranate flavor) gels during the race. I do this by taking the first one very early, like around mile 2, then one every 5-6 miles until mile 21-22. I like this plan because I get carbs early in the race and late (but not too late). I train for it by taking gels at the same interval in my training since you have to get used to the feeling of having it in your belly the whole way. Sometimes, it starts feeling like a blob in my belly that won’t digest, but it’s a feeling I’ve learned to live with in order to make sure I have enough fuel during the race. My alternate plan had me taking a gel 15 minutes before the start of the race, then one at miles 5, 11, 17, and 21.

At exactly 8:00:00, we were off, cruising down the streets of Minneapolis and headed for our first turn. I immediately started working with a pack of familiar runners and would hang with them through 20 miles. We had Hard-Coordt, Lis-bot, Em-bat and T-Meat in our group along with a couple of other runners that I didn’t have enough time to get to know to assign Rave names. I have never had the pleasure of working with a group running so consistently for this long in a marathon and was super excited to have the company.

Unlike in my training runs, 6:15 pace felt easy race day, and I was happy to have the pack pushing the pace early on. Last Tuesday, 2 miles @ 6:18 pace seemed like a struggle and my MaxHR had me close to 90% max for those 2 miles. All I can say about this is trust the magic of the taper, and well, maybe I need to recalculate my MaxHR.

The first 10 miles wound along tree-lined roads surrounding several lakes in Minneapolis. The course was just lovely there. The good weather brought out lots of cheering crowds to many parts of the course, which helped to keep us motivated. Lis-bot never passed up a chance to pump her arms at the crowds as she passed a musical venue or a really loud cheering section. Fun, fun. I made a rookie mistake at my first gel stop when I tried to release my gel packet that was pinned to my running tights with my gloves on and it shot out of my hands behind me, open and oozing gu all over the curb. I heard a couple of gasps, and an “oh, Jaymee.” I quickly recovered, grabbing another one from my tights and successfully got the gel down my gullet. I only had two left and needed three. I remembered that they were offering gu at the 20.5 mile marker which was just when I needed to take another. Crisis averted!

The challenge of running in a pack is that you are at the mercy of the pack’s pace. You can speed it up by heading to the front and hopefully having others follow, but you have to keep up lest you drop off the back and end up running by yourself. I knew that we were going faster than I had planned for the first half even before we hit the halfway clock. I felt great but I had a little tinge of worry in my brain about going out too fast on this course. Nonetheless, I decided it was more important to stay with the pack than to go off on my own in order to stick with my pacing plan. We went through the half about 45 seconds faster than I had planned.

The miles that I thought would be the fastest on the course, between miles 15-20, did not turn out to be so fast. Again, I was with the pack and not using my pacing plan. We slowed our pace through these miles and by the time we hit 20, I was pretty close to my projected time. Much to my chagrin, I got a nice little bite of a side stitch in the middle of mile 19, ala Buffalo Stampede, and started to get concerned about having to stop to walk it off. This time, I maintained my pace and was able to slowly breath through it, pushing it out of my gut by the time I got to mile 20.5 just as the ascent began in earnest.

It was at this first uphill climb that I lost the pack. Lis-bot and Hard-Coordt took off up the hill like the machines that they are. This was truly inspiring to watch. I couldn’t stay with them and others in the pack ended up falling behind me. So, I was pretty much on my own for the last 10k. I reminded myself how strong I was on hills and that I just needed to get to the top of the hill in mile 23. After that was a downhill stretch where I could pick up my pace again and get ready for some more rollers. Though I felt like I was slogging up the hills, I was right on my projected paces and felt relatively strong. I could slowly see Lisbot and Hard-Coordt in the distance getting closer and closer to their qualifying time and wondered where I was in relation to a 2:46 finish.

This wasn’t an easy thing to know even with all of my redundant inputs. I had a GPS that I knew was reading long, about .25 mile long, so I couldn’t trust the 6:17 pace it said I was on. The mile markers were off for a lot of the course, so we were getting erratic splits (up to 30 seconds off in a couple of places). That makes it particularly tough to judge how well you’re pacing. At one point when I was climbing the hills in the last 10k, my split chart showed I was right on time given my overall time at the mile marker split, but the next split showed me 30 seconds slow. I just concentrated on moving up that hill and tried to catch more runners along the way.

I was happy to see the crest of the hill at mile 26 and a nice downhill finish ahead of me for the last quarter mile. It was easy to pick up the pace at that point with gravity working for me. I saw in the distance a 2 and a 4 on the clock and was very excited. I looked at my watch and it read 2:45:15. I knew I wasn’t going under 2:46 at that point, but I couldn’t believe how close I was. This was thrilling. I wanted to believe all along that I could run that fast for a marathon and there I was doing it. Wow.

Of our original pack, Hard-Coordt and Lis-bot spanked the Olympic Trials Qualifying standard. I was absolutely in awe of them after witnessing them run this incredible race. They are two strong, focused runners. The others in our group hung right in there finishing slightly behind even though they stopped feeling the love long before the hills hit. It takes great courage to push hard when you are feeling like crap. Big props to T-Meat and Em-bat for their hard fought races.

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the National Championship races.

The Future:

I sit here hopped up on Ativan on my flight home typing this blog (it was too early for red wine on my morning flight) and am now starting to think about my running future. I have another marathon to run in 3 weeks—the Marine Corps Marathon. So, my mission right now is to recover from this race while trying to maintain the high level of fitness I achieved over this last training cycle for one more marathon race. I actually have a good track record of doing well in back-to-back marathons and typically run faster in the second one. I don’t suspect that will be the case in this double because they are very close together and MCM is a hilly monster of a course. I am excited about what I might pull off there given the fact that I escaped the Twin Cities with little soreness except a claw of a toenail that always falls off after a long race. A quick pedi, and I should be good as new.

For those of you who may be wondering whether or not TCM was the end of the line for my blog, I have decided that I will continue to blog about my running and racing at least until I meet the Olympic Trials Qualifying time. When will I try again? I want to give my body a good rest after MCM and see where I feel like going from there. I have 2+ years to get there after all and a whole slew of potential qualifying races. No doubt what I learned in this one will make me a stronger racer next time around.

I just ran a 2:46 marathon—somebody pinch me.


  1. Woohoo - way to go! I was screaming and hooting around my house at our run for the cure 5k post party - my friends thought I was a lunatic I think! Cant' wait to watch you run MCM - I'll be at the expo and cheering you in! Let me know if you need any course support -gu backup (I'm a big roctane fan myself) along the course -I've got a digital camo print skirt with your name on it! See you soon & great job - thanks for the inspiration!

  2. ROCK! I am totally impressed :) I can't wait to watch your progress, so keep blogging :)

  3. What a great attitude and perspective Jaymee! An absolutely incredible race, and I'm glad to hear you will have other opportunities to qualify. After reading your blog, I realize how little I really know about running, and I've been doing it all my life. Well, not marathon running. I'm running Long Beach on Sunday and will try pinning 6 Gu's to my shorts. I might still run with my Fuel Belt though, as I'm not sure when I'll need water. I'll have to find out what a deconstructed PBJ is...

  4. Hey great job Jaymee. I'm sure you've done back to back marathons in the past, but just want to throw in a word of caution. After my PR marathon in 2003 (2:49 when the B standard for Olympic trials was 2:48), I took a second shot at it 4 weeks later-and it ended up being a big mistake (2:58)-- 2 months after that one I tried again and had a spectacular race which would have been a PR if the 40 mile an hour head wind hadn't started at mile 17. CIM is an awesome course and would give you a decent amount of recovery time. You could rock that one and earn some decent points along the way. Recovery makes a difference- I've proven it by doing 3 weeks between and 4 weeks between. 2 months works much better.

  5. Thanks everyone, for the great comments.

    MLE, I would rather not run MCM 3 weeks from now, but a few blogs back I explained how I am running it for the Air Force in the Armed Forces Marathon Championship Race held in conjunction with MCM. The top 4 armed services finishers (men and women) get to go to the international competition held in Athens in Oct 2010. I cannot pass up an opportunity to run in Athens, so I'm competing at MCM for a spot on the team and, of course, to try to get a win for the AF! Based on how I'm feeling right now, I think I'll do pretty well there. Last year a 2:54 won it for the women's military division to give you an idea of what kind of times I'd have to run.

  6. What a great post race blog - I felt like I ran the course too. Please keep blogging as I'm addicted to following your pursuit.