Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Solo TCM

"It doesn't matter how slowly you go, as long as you don't stop" Confucius

Most of these posts start out with an early alarm and me rising in the dark of a morning before taking on some endurance run through the woods.
This one is a little different.  There was no alarm this morning, unless you count the alarm that went off for Ali.  I rose about 20 minutes after it went off as I usually do, and began to get lunch and coffee ready for the two of us.
We were two days away from the Twin Cities Marathon, it would be my 8th consecutive running of it and Ali’s first.  We had planned to run together, me pacing her to the finish, but as was the case much of this summer I would have to miss it due to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
Instead, feeling well trained and wanting to keep my streak alive, I would be running it on this day, self-supported.
Ali left for work, I made sure I had everything, hopped on my bike and rode the 3 miles into work with my hydration pack in my backpack, shorts, running shoes, snacks etc.
The day was fairly normal but had a strange air to it, a normal morning then after lunch I planned to run the entire Twin Cities Marathon course.  I went to a morning meeting, worked on my game prep for Sunday, covered practice and was back to the studio around noon.
There I changed into my running gear, loaded up my pack and stepped out to 7th street to begin my journey. 
The TCM course starts at the Vikings Stadium in downtown Mpls and I was luckily not too far from that.  Thought about taking the light rail but figured that would just take longer so instead started my gps watch and ran down 7th to the starting line.
When I got there a lot of the barriers and stuff they would use Sunday for the start line were there so I had an ‘officially unofficial’ start line. 

To zero fanfare, outside of a couple of strange looks from people driving by at a guy in a hydration pack
running down the street, I started my 8th consecutive running of TCM.
The first couple of miles normally so loud with the cheering spectators and chilly in the shadow of the buildings was almost the opposite on this day.  It was a beautiful sunny fall afternoon, quiet as I went block to block getting stopped at every red light until I got to Hennepin and turned left, finally stringing a few lights together as I made my way towards the sculpture garden.
Turned up the hill next to the Walker and began to make my way towards the Lakes, finding my stride and thinking of past marathons.  This time there was no Alan Page standing on Douglas St. playing his tuba as I ran past, though he would be back out there Sunday.
I thought about Ali having to run alone on Sunday, wishing there was a way I could run and do the game but with a 2pm tip-off to accommodate a National TV broadcast everything would have to go right in order for me to make it on time, and with this being my first time calling the Finals it was a risk I just couldn’t afford.
Those thoughts bounced around my head as I rounded Isles and made my way towards Calhoun.  Once there the sun bouncing off the waves of the lake transported me back to summer afternoons at the cabin when we would swim all day and then lay on the dock to warm up and watch the sun dance along the waves.
I headed up the hill to Harriett remembering a few years ago doing TCM a week after an Ultra Marathon in Patagonia when I got to that hill about 6 miles in and my legs already felt gassed.  I had a goal that year of just getting in under 4 hours but on that hill the 4 hour pace group flew past me, I felt like I got swallowed up in a wave and then they were gone.  I thought about giving chase but decided instead to just run my own race and eventually caught and passed them to finish under 4 hours. 

Made my way to the south end of Harriett and headed down Minnehaha Creek, making sure to stay on the road (or sidewalk) instead of following the bike/running paths to make it more like the official course.
The thing that always stands out about this stretch is the hills, you don’t notice them when you’re on the path next to the creek but on the road there are some hills.  Nothing crazy just they can take you by surprise if you’re not ready.  I made a mental note to be sure to remind Ali about them.
As I got back closer to the creek I heard something to my right, looked out towards the street and there was my brother Alex.  He had taken his lunch hour and driven over to find me, following the crumbs of a trail I left on Instagram. 
He had Gatorade and Cliff bars for me, a little rolling aid station.  I kept running while talking to him, accepted a Cliff bar and then he said he had to get back to work and took off.  We would meet up later that night to pick up our packets to the Marathon.
After he took off I thought about his upcoming race.  Alex has always been faster than me, we’ve run a number of marathon’s together with him always finishing first, this Sunday would be the first marathon we would not run together (well we would usually start together then I would let him go) and I was excited for his race.
Alex had committed himself in the spring to seeing what he was capable of.  He changed his diet, built a training plan, dialed in and had a really good summer of focused training.  Some of the times he sent me were eye popping.  He was getting faster as he was getting older which is not normally the case.
We didn’t get to train together very much this summer due to my schedule, and I feel I would have only slowed him down, but I was excited to see what he had on Sunday.
The journey continued over to Lake Nokomis where a group of folks in classic cars were taking advantage of the weather slowly rolling around the lake all waving to me as I passed.  Headed up the short hill to Melo Glaze doughnuts, the siren song during the race…smells so good but you must resist.  I wasn’t racing today, had some cash maybe I stop?  For my sake (good or bad I guess) I hit a green light at the corner and decided to take advantage as I had to meet up with Ali at the finish line around 430.
Rolled into Minnehaha Falls and decided to take a quick break to refill.  Luckily Sea Salt the little cafĂ© there was open and allowed me to fill my bottle with cold water, I used the rest room, took a quick look at the falls and then headed out already 16 miles in. 

The next stretch is always the worst.  West river road is a long, flat stretch with very little crowd support.  Today there was none.  I put my head down, focused on what was in front of me and staying in the moment and began to tick off the miles.
One thing I told Ali earlier in the week, when it gets tough to relax, don’t push things.  I told her think of Fred Couples and how easy and relaxed his swing is just back and forth like a metronome.  So I geared down a bit during this stretch, let my mind wander and my legs tick off the miles.  Next thing I knew I was pulling up to the Franklin Bridge and headed towards St. Paul.

Crossed over and thought about all the times I’d seen my Gramps and parents on this part.  Always with a sign, cowbells, cookies whatever I needed.  My Gramps at 90 now would be out there Sunday to cheer Ali and Alex on, while my parents hopped around between there and the finish line.  I thought about the great picture my mom got of Alex last year high fiving Gramps as he ran past, big smile on his face.
How every time I pass him he would say ‘Want me to run some miles with you?’ and how no matter if I felt rough at that point or not I always headed up to Summit Ave with a smile on my face.
This time as I turned on Summit I had to wait at a light and decided to give my legs a little break from all the sidewalk pounding and instead run down the grassy boulevard in the middle.  It was a little more challenging skipping over the roots and rocks but the dirt felt much better than the concrete.
I was gonna be pretty close to the finishing time I set with Ali that morning.  Might need to pick it up a little if I had any left.
Started getting a few cramps in my legs as I neared the Governor’s residence, slowed down to try and stretch them out.  Remember to tell Ali this stretch from Lexington to Dale is longer than you think and slightly uphill.  Man I hope Ali has a good time on Sunday.  She is so strong and has trained so smart that I really feel she can handle it and have a great race.  But so many things can go wrong on race day. 
Remembering my first marathon where things felt great for 15-18 miles before the wheels fell off and I limped to the finish, I hoped that she would not have to deal with something like that.
My mind snapped back to the present, there was the Capitol off in the distance.  The finish line was near, normally I hit an extra gear at this point and bomb down the hill but this time I just stayed steady.
Had to stop at stop light before finally hitting the bridge and pushing on towards the finish.
They had already dropped off some of the finishing line barriers so I had an ‘officially unofficial’ finish line my 8th consecutive TCM was in the books.   This one a little different as my gps said my final mile total was 27.6 miles and 4:17, must have played from the Championship Tees….

Ali was parked down the street, I changed quickly then we drove to the TCM expo, met Alex and picked up our packets. 
First time I’ve ever finished a marathon then gotten my number…Alex and Ali both had awesome days on Sunday.  I was so proud of both of them for the dedication they showed in training and the focus they showed on race day to go out and accomplish the task at hand.