Three short weeks after the World 100k, I was toeing the line in Minneapolis in my 7th running of the Twin Cities Marathon. I love to come here for this race – it has been the USATF Master’s championships for as long as I remember, and the folks on the race committee treat me extremely well. Even though I could set low expectations given my previous few weeks, I had every intention of trying to run another Olympic Marathon Trials standard. For the most part, I was easily as fit as a year ago when I ran 2:45, just with the added stress of the World 100k. No worries….right?
Coach Bob Latham was present and supportive as is his usual MO, but never taken for granted on my part. He has strengthened me into a much more consistent runner over the past three years, and I truly appreciate all he has done and continues to do for me.
In the masters division, I was ranked 5th, with Susan Empey, Wendy Terris, Sheri Piers, and Shannon McHale in the mix. Susan was looking to run anything under 2:46 to get her qualifier, and we talked about running together. My goal was to run 6:10-6:12 pace for the first 20 miles, then Hold on for Dear Life the last 10k which includes significant climbing. I actually felt pretty decent the days leading up to the race, and the weather was looking perfect – sunny and cool and no wind.
At 8:00 we were off to the cheers of the crowd lining the streets. I stayed calm and strong, checking my Garmin every few whiles to see if I was hooking into a good pace. By the first mile, Susan glided by effortlessly. My split was 6:22 – not too stellar, but keeping tabs on my HR, I was in a good zone. I needed to keep it between 170-172 in order not to blow up. I made it up the small hill in mile 2 with a 6:21, ran past the traditional tuba player into mile 3 with a 6:34. Hmmm….not going super great yet. I just kept monitoring my HR, and was glad to see it was at least maintaining the 170, but I was working fairly hard already.
Soon I hooked up running with Katie Caba from Bend, whom I had met the day before. We silently worked together, but psychically connected as runners often do. The next three miles I averaged 6:20 pace, so I was not really hitting the 6:10-6:12 pace. I was working harder than I liked to at this point of the race, yet able to keep the HR up, so there was no reason to relent.
At mile 8, Katie and I lost contact. The next few miles I was holding my own with 6:20 pace, hooking up with different runners along the way. Mile 11 I was looking desperately for my good friend Johanna Olson, who had recently had brain surgery and was staying with her sister, Marnie. Finally, Marnie burst up from the sideline, and I waved wildly at her and Johanna, feeling humbled by the gifts of health I had.
At the half marathon mark, 3 young women easily glided by. They were right on pace for a qualifier if they could maintain what looked like a cakewalk for them. I wished them well, and they returned the compliment. I knew that my 1:23 half was not likely going to be followed by a 1:22 on this course and with the way I was feeling I was thinking a sub-2:50 would be pretty awesome. At this point I stopped looking at my watch, just hitting the lap button at miles as they slowly went by.
Around mile 15, Katie caught back up, and ran by strongly. She stayed within eye shot for the next couple of miles, and I slowly caught back up. She started to fade but I said “stay with me Katie – neither of us is hitting our time goal, so we may as well suffer together.” Mile 17-19 were unreal – I started to get lightheaded and had the momentary thought of “oh my god, I’m going to be a walker!” Somehow, mind over matter, or just plain stubbornness, I made it through that rough patch. The last six miles averaged closer to 6:35, so it wasn’t a case of the wheels coming completely off, more like slow leaks in all four. Sub 2:50 wasn’t looking like it was in the cards.
Crossing the Mississippi after mile 19, a little bit of Running Goddess Ju-Ju visited me and I found a second wind. Katie had sagged back, but I found myself running on my reserve strength. Reserved from what, I don’t know, but I wasn’t about to question it. I hit mile 20 with no idea of my overall time, but ready to ‘geterdone’. I was thinking “just keep it steady, don’t slow down, but no need to go crazy” when I saw a female ahead of me. Damn. Well, I may as well try to reel her in. It was one of the three gals who had passed me about half way, and I encouraged her as I went by. Again, I mentally settled to stay steady, but not go crazy, when I saw another female within striking distance. Geez! I reeled her in as well, and so it continued for the next 3 miles until I had passed 5 women.
I had psychically connected with another runner at mile 23, and we silently worked together on the long grinding final miles. With his compact muscular body, I assumed that when we hit the last downhill and sprint to the end, he would leave me in the dust, but he had completely tanked and I out kicked him to the finish. Hoping I was under 2:55, I was pleasantly surprised at my 2:52 and change. I hit my seeded Master’s finish of fifth, and was 19th female overall. Bob was there with his bear hug in tow, proud of me as always. “I think I had a little of that 100k in my legs still” I commented to him. I think one more week of recovery would have been helpful, which is merely an observation. I wouldn’t have traded the experience – the weather was perfect, the fans were spectacular, and I persevered to have a unique experience.