This past weekend I completed my 10th career marathon and 6th this year. It was supposed to be my goal fall marathon, but everything that could go wrong seemed to.
I drove up to Saint Paul from Chicago on Friday. I elected to stay near the expo and finish line. The course is a point to point starting in Minneapolis and ending at the capitol in Saint Paul. Even though I arrived in the early evening I elected to hold off on going to the expo and instead getting some food and taking it easy. I had been sick in the week leading up to the marathon and was feeling marginally better. I had barely run and was feeling pretty drained. I did some reading on my kindle and watched a bit of TV and called it an early night.
The next morning I got to the expo minutes before it opened and joined the crowd waiting to enter. Once it opened I was able to pick up my packet with minimal wait. The expo was pretty typical and I would compare it in size to that of the Shamrock Shuffle. I walked up and down the aisles, but didn't find anything to my liking. For lunch I headed to Surly Brewing to meet up with the R/iver R/unners aka my track night friends. I had a couple beers. This may have been a bad idea as I felt a little out of it by the time I left and fell asleep for a nap when I got back to the room. A got some Italian carry out for dinner and made it to bed at a reasonable time.
The next morning I got up with plenty of time to head to the race start. My stomach wasn't happy as has turned into routine now. I took care of business as much as I could and then took some immodium and headed out the door. I walked out of the hotel with a group of ladies and decided to follow them to the start. I had intended to catch the light rail over, but the ladies led me to a nearby hotel where there were free shuttles. After a short wait in the lobby we were on a bus and on our way to the start area. I arrived an hour ahead of the start and had time to use the facilities twice more before the race started. There were plenty of port-o-potties there. The start area was in the shadow of the future home of the Minnesota Vikings. Finally I dropped off my extra layers at gear check, a UPS truck, and went to my start corral.
Things were pretty informal at the start. I just walked into the corral and found a good spot to line up.There were some announcements, the national anthem and then we were off. We wound through the downtown area where we had some twist and turns early on. It felt a bit crowded in the early going. I know at some point I had stepped into a pothole a bit awkwardly. I shook it off and kept going. I felt the urge to pee more than anything. I finally stopped at a port-o-potty just before the 3 mile mark. Other than this brief delay I was running pretty much on track for where I wanted to be. My pacing was good.
The race winds around several lakes. The course isn't quite easy for those of us used to running around Chicago. There are several rollers of hills that can be taxing if not approached properly. The course was also scenic and featured pretty good crowd support. I saw some familiar sights at several spots on the course, including a couple of people dressed as yetis. By mile 8 my ankle started to ache. The step in the pothole earlier wasn't so innocent. At mile 10 I was starting to struggle as my form began to suffer and my energy wane. I wound up powering through the halfway mark in about 1:40 before deciding to drop off the pace. I knew this wasn't going to be my day and that I just needed to get through it in one piece.
Even as I slowed my pace after the halfway mark I continued to struggle more and more. I definitely wasn't over being sick as my lack of energy was evident. As I would find out later when I checked my Garmin stats, my heart rate had been elevated as well. I contemplated phoning it in and walking to the finish, but couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew the real challenge was yet to come from miles 20-23 where the course gained 200 feet. I finally took a short walk break at mile 18 and did so about every half mile from that point on. I was motivated by wanting to just get done and off my feet as well as the desire to continue my streak of sub 4 hour finishes.
The home stretch was mostly downhill and featured a giant American flag being held up from the ladders of two firetrucks. Barriers were erected on each side of the final half mile or so since there had been a previous threat from Black Lives Matters protesters who said they would obstruct the course and prevent the runners from finishing. The threat never materialized as the protests remained peaceful and I never even noticed by a majority of the runners. I finally crossed the finish in 3:55:29 meaning my second half split was around 2:15. All said it was only my 4th slowest marathon so still impressive given being sick and twisting my ankle. It was still deeply disappointing given all the hard work I put in this summer. I'm capable of a massive PR, but it will have to wait until another day.