Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twin Cities Marathon

You know when you get a sunburn during a marathon, you are in trouble. The marathon runner has three natural enemies: heat, hills, and humidity. All three were present on Sunday.

I woke up around 4:30 and watched the weather. The weatherman said it was the first time in the history of Minneapolis that the low temperature was in the 70s. The dew point was 69 degrees making the humidity near 100%. The sun was going to be out in full force as well. The race director said at the start that the temperature was 74 degrees. Ouch. It was like running a marathon on the 4th of July. It was a bit discouraging to train so hard for five months and then get bad weather (again!). But: the conditions are the same for all runners and I was ready to roll.

I was a little anxious about running the race. I have been busy the last few weeks and haven't had much time to train. But I had a great summer of training and a good 5K effort last week.

Overall, I loved the race. Great course, great volunteers, great organization, great finisher's shirt (long-sleeve technical), and great spectators (all 300,000 of them!). I will do this one again for sure.

I started off at a pace that I thought was very conservative -- about 6:30 per mile. The pace felt slow and I had to hold myself back a number of times. I kept that pace, or slightly faster or slightly slower for the first two-thirds of the race. This is one beautiful course. The spectators were all over the place. Rarely was there ever a time where people weren't cheering us on. At the half marathon I was sub 1:26. I was thinking 2:52 was a good possibility. Maybe a little faster or maybe a little slower.

I kept the 6:30 pace until 17 miles when all the sudden the bottom fell out. At this point I was still cooking along, passing lots of people, and running sub 6:30 miles. I took a Clif Shot at the 17 mile mark. The girl said it was strawberry. I took a big shot and discovered it was chocolate / coffee. I won't go into a ton of detail here, but I lost the Clif Shot and some blue Powerade that I had the previous mile within seconds of swallowing the Clif Shot. After that point I wasn't under 7:00 / mile the rest of the way.

At 20 miles I was so thirsty! The sun and the heat were oppressive. I stopped and drank an entire 20 ounce bottle of water. Not a good idea. It tasted better going down than it did coming back up a few moments later. At this point I don't think I ever dipped below 8:00 / mile. I was merely running to finish. The marathon got the best of me.

A friend Tracy was there at 21 miles. She ran (jogged slowly) with me for about a half mile. It was crazy. Runners were being carted off in ambulances (and these are runners in the top 100). I thought of quitting. The temperature was in the 80s and the conditions were getting dangerous. I didn't think about it for too long. A wife and two kids were at the finish line waiting for me. They have given up too much for me not to finish. People in the church were tracking me and praying for me. I didn't come to start the race, I came to finish.

I stopped at all the water stops the last few miles -- taking two bottles each time. One to drink and the other to dump on my head. I had to slow the pace down even more. The new goal was not to finish fast, only to finish.

I hooked up with this kid from Minneapolis the last few miles. He was walking when I passed him at 24.5 miles. I gave him one of my water bottles and told him, "Don't stop now. We are going to finish together." We ran (ok...jogged slowly) the rest of the way in with only one stop. I looked over at him at 25.5 miles and said, "Hey, wanna race?" He laughed so hard we had to stop.

I saw the family cheering at the end. I crossed the finish line in 3:05:58 -- my second slowest marathon. They didn't have a clergy division, so I only have overall results to post: 120th out of 10,500 runners. 7,221 runners managed to finish the race with an average time of 4:48:01. This marathon was absolutely brutal.

The volunteers at marathons continue to show me what it means to serve and love. A young woman massaged my calves and feet for about ten minutes. I didn't even want to get close to my own feet, but she did it with great joy.

I went back to my sisters and took a nap for a few hours. Her SUV was showing the temperature at 88 degrees. Ouch. I woke up and ate. It was good to have an appetite. Post race I didn't have one. Amber, the boys, and I drove back to Omaha and made it back around midnight. That 5:50 a.m. flight to Fayetteville was going to come early.

Of all the races I have run, this one is the one that means the most. That last hour was something that I won't forget. I remember taking to Brad on the cell phone post race and hearing the support of the church. Thanks so much to all of you for caring! I remember Benjamin running to hug me. I remember Amber saying she was proud of me. I can honestly say that I gave it everything I had this morning.

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