Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon

Sherry Ott, photographer extrodinare, took pictures of me at the finish, which I have used in this blog post, with her permission. For more about Sherry's adventures as a world traveler, and to see more of her beautiful photography, visit Thanks Sherry!

Sunday October 3rd. My alarm was set for 5:30 but here I was, wide awake an hour before that. How cold was it outside? I’d gone from worrying about it being too warm to worrying about just how cold it was going to feel at the start of this race.
As those of you that have been reading my blog for awhile know, I’ve been running Half Marathons for almost 3 years now. When I first started training for a half marathon, while we were still living in Hong Kong, 13.1 miles seemed an incredibly long distance to run. But now here I was, getting ready to run twice that long. Was I crazy?
I had done all my training, tried to monitor my health and my nutrition. I had done everything that I could, and my coach assured me that I was ready. But a marathon is a different animal from any other long distance race. It’s at the limit of endurance for most athletes. So, I knew I was as ready as I could be, but I also knew that I was entering the unknown. I had read enough to know that strange things happen to people during a marathon. What would happen to me?
I took the Light Rail to the Metrodome, even though it was only one stop away. I wasn’t going to expend any more energy than was absolutely necessary! Before any other race I would do an elaborate warm-up routine, but before running 26.2 miles? Nothing doing; the first couple of miles of the race would be plenty of warm-up for me!
It WAS cold; probably 38 degrees. Thank goodness we could stay inside the Metrodome until the start of the race. I had an extra shirt to wear at the beginning; I also had a garbage bag. The garbage bag made a great warm-up suit; I was glad my coach suggested it. The garbage bag came off at the beginning of the race.
I started way, way back at the end of the pack of runners. I was hoping to run the marathon in around 5.5  hours. I was also hoping to finish and not be pulled off the course because my time was over 6 hours, which was the limit for this marathon.
This is a beautiful race. It winds its way through a series of lakes and along the Mississippi River, between Minneapolis and St. Paul. At mile 19 it crosses a bridge over the river and enters St. Paul. The last six miles of the race go along Summit Avenue, passing stately historic homes, grand churches and the St. Paul Cathedral, ending at the Minnesota State Capital. Most of the race is flat or even downhill, but the last few miles are on a steady incline. It’s not steep but it just goes on and on and on. Sarah and I drove this part of the race on Saturday. From a car it didn’t look too bad, but I’d heard other runners talk about it. It wasn’t going to be easy; I was sure about that.

For the first 20 miles of the race I felt great. I was able to do my run/walk method and keep on the pace I was supposed to use. I felt confident and happy. My training had worked! Unfortunately I did have to stop and pee; twice. There just doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid it; my body can’t go more than 2 or 3 hours without needing to find a bathroom! I wasn’t about to wait in line though, so I waited until the coast was clear. Both times I don’t think I lost more than 30 seconds. I think I have peeing down to a science!
Right at the beginning of the race a man asked me what I was doing. I explained about Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method and told him I planned to run 35 seconds and walk 25 seconds for most of the race. He told me that this was his 23rd Twin Cities Marathon, but his training hadn’t gone very well and he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to finish. He asked me if he could follow me and I said sure. I did warn him that I didn’t like to do a lot of talking while I ran and not to take it personally. Most of the time he stayed a little bit behind me, coming up occasionally to chat. He even seemed to take potty breaks when I did! The sad part was at the very end he passed me, saying “this is the fun part!” I think that was a little cruel.
A little before mile 23 I saw Sarah and Erik, and Erik’s mom, Suzanne! I was so happy to see them! Sarah told me later that at that point I looked good. I felt tired but still felt confident. Something happened a little after mile 23, however. My legs just didn’t want to go anymore. I was supposed to be able to speed up a little, but it just wasn’t happening. Instead I found myself barely able to move, or at least that’s how it seemed. I guess that was the infamous wall that marathon runners talk about. Jeff Galloway’s theory for avoiding the wall is to push the long run out to a full 26 miles, run very slowly. If a runner is going to hit the wall, it usually happens around mile 20, so I think his method helped me avoid it until later in the race.
It was a strange feeling. I didn’t really feel that tired, I just couldn’t make my legs move. There was pain, sure, but mostly they felt like they weighed about 400 pounds each. Part of me wanted to just give up and go really slowly, but fortunately I guess walking hurt more than running, so I continued to shuffle along and actually reduced the length of my walking segments. I also talked to myself sternly: “don’t you DARE give up. Be a grownup! You don’t have much farther to go! Lift those legs! Keep going! A little faster! Come on!” I was pretty mean to my inner whiney child!
At around mile 25 I started getting cramps in my feet. I did my toe squinching exercises and slowly they went away, but not without some vivid cussing on my part. As I was muttering and complaining to myself a young man next to me said “yeah, they’ll have to carry me off the course dead at this point before I’d quit”. I agreed and kept trudging on.
Finally, finally FINALLY I could see the capital and the last half mile, all downhill. The crowds along the finish chute screamed enthusiastically, but all I could see was FINISH in bright blue letters on a yellow field. I found out later that Sherry and Cyndi were both there screaming for me, but I didn’t hear them at all. Sherry took some great pictures of me though, so I know I was there!

Here I come, with the St. Paul Cathedral Behind Me!

At This Point All I Can See Is the Finish Line

Sherry and Cyndi are Screaming But I Never Heard Them!

The Gates of The Capital Approach and I Just Keep on Trucking!

Ow, ow, ow, ow….really, when I stopped I could hardly walk. My mind was in good shape though; was didn’t feel at all disoriented. I gobbled down a little bowl of fruit and grabbed a water. I got my medal and felt extremely happy and proud. I wrapped my heat blanket around me; at first it was too hot, but later on it felt really good; I started to get cold again.
I got my sweat bag and lay down on the grass, not worrying too much about how I was going to manage to get up again. I was able to rip off my sneakers and put on my warm-up sweats and my flip flops. I poured the water into my bottle of Endurox, which is supposed to help your muscles recover. I started to think I was going to live.
I had lots of messages on my phone. I had to call Lee and make sure he knew I was okay. He was worried about me…aw! I talked to Sarah and we made plans to meet in the family meeting area under the “N”. This was a really well organized race. I liked that they had an organized place to meet; that’s a lot better than wandering around the harbor area in Boston trying to find Lee!
I acrossed the finish line in 5:39:44, about 9 minutes off my projected time. I know I lost those 9 minutes at the very end. I’m already trying to figure out a strategy that would allow me to maintain my pace better those last few miles. It might be that I need to go a bit slower during most of the race, or maybe slightly faster, so that I have less time to make up there at the end. It will be something to contemplate over the coming year. I think I’m going to start trying to get into the New York City Marathon. It’s a lottery, and it’s huge, around 100,000 runners and over 2 million spectators. I’ll have to get a timer that vibrates, because I’ll never be able to hear my watch beep in that kind of crowd!

Sarah and I Celebrate a Successful Finish !


  1. Congratulations! Quite an accomplishment.

  2. Lynnie, Fantastic! Marvelous! I knew you could! I am so happy for you! You rock! Love, hugs, gailie

  3. You are my hero! Not because you ran the race of 26 miles (which is HUGE) but because when you were pushed to your limit you found a way to keep going against all the screams in your body and head. threw the odds and the valleys you reached the pinnacle.



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