It's hard to believe that after 4 months of training, the big weekend has come and gone. This past weekend was the Twin Cities Marathon and the big race I've been working towards. Here's a recap of how it all went down.
Table of Contents
Race Day Goals
I had a few race goals going into this race. The biggest one was having a fun race, and finishing strong. My other two goals were a little loftier - Goal B was to beat my PR of 4:26 (set at Grandma's Marathon back in 2014) and Goal A was to get sub-4.
All during training I was training closer to the 11-12 minute mile mark for my easy runs, so I knew these time goals were going to be tricky. As well as the TC Marathon course is super hilly compared to the flatter course at Grandma's, so I knew the PR was going to be tricky to get to. So my main focus was to trust my training and finish the race strong.
Race Day Nutrition Plan
One thing I really focused on this entire training cycle was nutrition. After lots of trial and error during my runs (and reading the New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald), I came up with the perfect combo for me. My goal is to take in 40-60g of carbs every hour so to get to that, I take a Maurten gel every 45 minutes and sips of Tailwind every mile. Along the way I have sips of water as well.
3 days before the race I also began to carb load. This meant taking in 500g of carbs a day (not going to lie, this was a dream come true! I love my carbs!) and having minimal high fiber meals. I pretty much stuck to things with basic carbs like overnight oats with berries, everything bagels, pastas, baguettes, and snacks like cheerios and goldfish. The night before the race I had my favorite pre-race meal - pizza!
Day of the race I stuck to what I did in practice. The race started at 8:06 for my corral, but I was getting a ride with a friend who was running the 10 mile so breakfast was a little earlier than normal. I had breakfast of overnight oats and coffee around 5, and then packed a Picky Bar to have before the race started. I did splurge on upgrading my package to the VIP experience (more on that in a bit!) and knew they'd have some breakfast foods at the start for me, but I didn't want to try anything new that close to the race. So I packed a Picky Bar in my bag to have at the start.
Race Day Gear
For gear, I stuck to what I trained in. I did buy a pair of fancy Nike Alphaflys, but after I learned they give me massive blisters on any runs over 10 miles, I decided to leave those at home and wear my Brooks Glycerins.
I also decided to run with my Nathan vest - this was a first for me, because normally I just rely on course water stations, but during training I learned I really liked having water whenever I wanted. I did replace my old handheld water bottle a few weeks ago but the nozzle on it ended up not being as easy to use as my old one, so I found during a race I didn't get as much water as I needed because of this. I didn't want to mess with it on race day so just brought the vest I've been training in.
Inside my vest, I packed my Maurten gels (I brought 8 just in case - I've heard stories like from Becs on accidentally dropping gels and I didn't want this to happen so brought back up!), a filled Fitly flask with Tailwind mix, and empty Fitly with powder Tailwind (just in case).
I wore the Brooks Chaser 2 in 1 shorts (these things are amazing and chafe proof!), ProCompression marathon socks, a Rabbit tank, and Goodr sunglasses. I was debating bringing arm sleeves but the weather ended up being warmer than usual so I decided to leave those home. I did plan to check a bag so brought a jacket and sweatpants for the start and that worked out really well.
I also brought my Shockz headphones to listen to music and podcasts. Originally I was planning to listen to music like I usually do during races, but then I thought about it a little more. All during training, I listened to podcasts and this helped calm me and helped me zone out more than music did. So I decided to stick to my training and do a hybrid of the two - put a few warmup songs, then switch to podcasts for a few hours, then get back to music towards the end. I was able to create a playlist like this on Spotify and could even download it in case I didn't want to stream (which I should've done...more on that later).
TC Marathon VIP Experience
One thing I did for this race was upgrade my bib to the VIP experience. In 2017 when I last ran the marathon, the day ended up being freezing cold and rainy and I knew I didn't want to be standing outside in case that happened. The race offered limited VIP ticket experiences and that provided a heated, indoor waiting area at start, catered breakfast, private porta-potties, and private gear check. Also at the end there was a private viewing area, a tent with food and drinks, and more.
The fee to upgrade was $95 with registration so I decided to do that.
When I did packet pickup, I also received an envelope with information on how to find all the VIP amenities, a VIP wristband, as well as my bib was printed with VIP on top where my corral number was.
The night before race day I decided to put on my wristband so I could get used to it. When you put on the wristband you can't take it off, so I wanted to make sure it would be comfortable to wear during the whole race. Thankfully it was and I didn't even notice it when I ran!
On race day, the VIP area was super easy to get to! They opened the VIP section for 10 milers at 6 am and 7am for marathoners. I was there a little early and was able to get into the section about 5 minutes earlier without any problem. The VIP section at the start was held in the Vikings Longhouse and it was really nice! They had tables and chairs set up, a little breakfast area with bagels, yogurt, and donuts as well as coffee and water.
In the back, they had a whole section of porta potties set up that was only accessible through VIP. This was great at first but then it actually ended up being a longer line waiting for those porta potties instead of going outside when it got closer to the race.
They also had a private bag check for VIP right outside the building that was so convenient. I was able to hang onto my stuff until pretty close to the start of the race and then quickly drop it off when I wanted to.
Overall I think the VIP upgrade was one of the best decisions I made. While the weather worked out this year, it was nice to know I had a guaranteed indoor place to hang out. It also helped me stay really relaxed at the start of the race. I remember checking my Garmin before the race and being shocked at how low my heart rate was and how low my stress score was - usually at races it's crazy high!
The only downside to the VIP experience is that if you want your friends and family to be there with you at the finish in the VIP tent, they also need to buy full-price tickets too. It's unclear though if kids need to pay the $95 as well - I had emailed the race organizers ahead of time to ask before I bought but unfortunately never heard back. That's one thing I'd like to do in the future though because at the finish line the VIP tent is right at the finish, and they have front row seating. With 2 little kids, it's tough getting through the crowds at the race for my husband so this VIP section would make it a lot easier. I'm hoping in the future they sell a finish line only or friends and family VIP ticket that's separate from runner version since they don't need access to the starting line amenities.
Also I should probably note that with this VIP section is that this is different than the Elite experience. You won't be finding Elite athletes at the starting line VIP section (they have their own space). Most of the crowd was made up of Pacers, Marathon Ambassadors, some running clubs, and other runners that purchased the VIP package. They had a limited number of tickets sold for the experience which made it not crowded at all - besides the lines for the porta potties right before the race. But overall it was well worth it!
I left the VIP section about 30 minutes before start to do a 10 minute warmup. It was getting busy at this time, so I did 10 minutes of easy running up and down a closed side street. Once I was done, I started to head to my corral.
I underestimated the time it'd take to get to my corral and ended up getting there right as the first corral was taking off. At this point I realized I kinda had to pee again, but didn't want to try to find a porta potty and leave the corral. I figured I was probably just nervous (I had already peed like 5 times at this point!) and at the first porta potty on course I could stop quickly.
6 minutes after the first corral took off it was our turn! I was assigned to corral 2 based on my goal time, which had pacers that started at 3:55 and went up to I think 5 hours. I was happy being in corral 2 because my goal for the start of the race was to not go out too fast, and I was hoping that being around people my pace the start wouldn't be too fast.
Before I knew it the race began and it was time to go! It took about 2 minutes to actually get to the start, and then I was off! One of my biggest goals was to go out slow so I kept reminding myself to slow down. Thankfully the start was actually pretty calm and I was able to keep a steady slower pace. I did find myself pushing a bit, but was able to taper back easily. The race also was crowded at this point too so that helped slow things down a bit.
Miles 1-3 (5K) - 32:02 (10:19/mile)
The first 5K I was feeling good! I still had to pee and kept looking for porta potties, but they all had long lines so I decided to just keep going. Overall felt great with my pace and my heart rate was staying steady!
Miles 4-6 (10K) - 1:03 (10:13/mile)
Still feeling great! I took a gel at 45 minutes in, which took me about a mile to take all of. I've found taking it in slower is easier on my stomach and also makes the distance go by a little quicker. At this point my podcast started playing and I was really glad - there's just something about listening to a podcast that helps me zone out much more than music, that makes me think too much and be too present. I was able to settle into my pace for the most part, still looking for a porta potty without a crazy long line. I had to pee but I also didn't want to spend 10 minutes waiting in line this early into the race.
Miles 7 - 9 (15K) 1:35 (10:04/mile)
Still feeling great and on the hunt for a porta potty! This section brought us around Harriet, and introduced some more hills into the course. Thankfully the crowd support was amazing and helped distract.
Miles 10-13.1 (Half) 2:13 (10:38/mile)
The beginning of this section felt great, but around mile 11 my right glute started to really tighten up. It wasn't painful but a definite discomfort. However, I knew I could trust my training and in training I was able to get to 17 miles running so that was my goal to do before any run/walks would happen. Also still on the hunt for a porta potty and still no luck. I started to be able to feel that I couldn't hold it much longer, so I'm starting to think I'm going to have to add time on with a stop.
Miles 13.2-15 (25K) 2:39 (10:39/mile)
My glute's still bugging me and that's distracted me from the whole porta potty situation (seriously how are there not more porta potties on this course?!!). I've slowed down a bit because of my glute. It's about this point that I've decided that I need to focus on finishing this race strong, and that means taking my pace a little easier so I don't injure myself. Unlike my other marathons in the past, I now have kids at home and they're going to expect me to be able to keep up with them after this race and an injury just isn't something I need.
Miles 16-18 (30K) 3:14 (11:16/mile)
Once I hit mile 17, I started adding in walk breaks at the water stops. I'd walk through the water or aid stop and then run the rest. My glute was still bugging me, but it was managable! I'm still listening to podcasts at this point - a mix of The Running Public and Ali on the Run - and think back to one piece of the podcast I heard. The Running Public episode I listened to was with Matt Fitzgerald, and he made a comment about how the body can't tell the difference between running and walking. This comment stuck with me and I started to realize that my glute actually hurt less while I was doing my slow run. The walk breaks were nice to regroup and lower my heart rate, but running was actually not hurting it as much and was making the time go faster.
I still need to go the bathroom and still no luck on the porta potties.
About this time I'm starting to get so sick of the flavor of my gels and Tailwind. I know I need it, but the after taste that's left in my mouth is getting to me. It's tempting to take some fuel like oranges or bananas from the spectators, but I'm also worried that it could cause a GI issue later on so decide not to. I continue to take as much of the gel and Tailwind as I can tolerate.
Miles 19-21 (35K) 3:53 (12:28/mile)
I finally found a porta potty with no line at mile 20!!!! It was just in time too so that worked out really well! My mile for mile 21 decreased due to this but I'd rather that than peeing myself LOL After a quick stop, I got back to it and this time I adjusted my strategy to walking the first 1 minute of every mile, then running since my glute was still bugging me and the water stations were getting a little too spread out.
Miles 22- 24 (40K) 4:31 (12:28/mile)
Still chugging along with my walk 1 minute at the mile markers. I've also started adding in a 30 second walk at water stations. I found a cheer section that was handing out full ice cold bottles of water and it was amazing! By this point my Nathan bladder is empty and it was starting to get really hot on the course. I was able to grab one of those to hang onto for the rest of the race.
Gels and Tailwind at this point are making me nauseous to think about, so I decide to start skipping it. I've made it this far and feel good on my fueling and have avoided any crashes so think I'm in the clear. I still have a little Tailwind left in flask just in case though, but at this point I'm also ok taking on other fueling if I need to since the finish line is so close!
Miles 24 - Finish! 4:48 (12:07/mile)
The finish line at the Twin Cities Marathon is one of the most iconic if you ask me. You come down the hill by the Cathedral with all the church bells ringing to a huge crowd and party. It's so inspirational!
I crossed the finish line feeling sore but amazing! My glute was still bugging me but I was able to still walk on it to get my medal. Since I had the VIP experience, I was directed to go to a path to get to the VIP section.
Looking back, I kind of wish I had continued on with the corral to grab a mylar blanket and some of the other post-race snacks. I asked the volunteer if all of that would be available in the tent and she said yes, but it actually wasn't. The tent did have food but they didn't have the usual chips and bananas at the finish. They had slightly heavier foods, like sandwiches (turkey or ham with cheese), cookies, and bagels. I grabbed a sandwich and bagel and put it into my keepsake bag (this was the gift you got for being VIP). I surprisingly wasn't very hungry at all at the finish, but knew I'd probably be in a while so wanted to have something for when that happened.
The VIP tent had tables and access to bleachers right on the finish line, however since my family wasn't there I didn't end up spending too much time in there. They also did have a full bar inside but at that point a drink was the last thing I felt like I needed so I skipped.
On the outside of the VIP tent, a volunteer greeted me at the bag check and already had my bag ready for me! This was such a nice touch and alone made the VIP experience worth it! There was also a huge outside area gated off for VIP so runners could stretch out at the finish line.
I tried to leave VIP towards the finish line shoot so I could grab a mylar blanket and bananas before meeting my family, but was directed to go a different way instead and ended up not being able to get one. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of everything but something I'll remember for the next time so I grab it before going to VIP.
Overall I am extremely happy with how this race went and I accomplished my goal of finishing the race strong! While I didn't get the time goal I wanted, this was by far the most fun I've had at a marathon and the strongest I've gone into a race. I definitely set a PR on the course for how much I smiled the entire time. Had it not been for that bathroom stop I would've beat my 2017 race time, but oh well! I paced this one extremely well compared to all my other marathons and for my first postpartum marathon, I'm extremely happy with how it went.
This was also the first time that I've had the miles completely fly by for me and I have to thank the amazing course support for that. When I ran in 2017 it was cold and rainy so there wasn't as many spectators out. This year it was absolutely gorgeous and spectators along the entire route! The race route was also really pretty with the leaves starting to turn colors.
So I'm beyond happy to wrap up this amazing training cycle with the perfect race. This was exactly what I needed my first race postpartum to be. Not only did I finish strong, but I also finished for the first time fueled and properly hydrated, which made a huge difference post-race. Normally after marathons, I completely crash, but I still had the energy to (kind of) keep up with my kids the rest of the day.
So..what's next on the training calendar?
The first 2 weeks are going to be complete rest weeks from running. Week 1 will be a complete rest week (with the exception of foam rolling and mobility if needed) and then week 2 I'm going to be starting back up with my core and diastasis recti exercises. It's not the most fun exercises in the world, but it's something that my body needs to fully recover.
Race season is slowly winding down as it starts to get colder here in Minnesota, so I'm going to use this time to rebuild my core and continue to work on my running base. I'm going to use the next few months to maintain my miles and work on lowering my heart rate on easy runs, and hopefully start improving on my speed for next year.
As for big races, I'm not sure just yet what that'll look like. I think this whole experience has taught me that I absolutely love marathon training, but I'm honestly not sure if I actually love the marathon race itself (or at least in the phase of life with two little kids). I might continue doing marathon style training without the race to get the best of both worlds, until my kids get older at least. I still do want to qualify and run the Boston Marathon so that's a goal I'll always be working towards, I think I'm just going to hold off on a time limit. I want to continue to build my base and then eventually start thinking about BQ plans again.
Overall this race and training cycle went extremely well and was by far the best I've ever had. I was so prepared for this race - both mentally and physically - that even though I didn't PR with a time at the race, I'm extremely proud of myself. This was the first time I've actually figured out the nutrition piece of running and feel like I'm in a really good spot mentally with it. I'm also really excited to keep improving on my running and working towards bigger goals in the future.
If you're looking for a beautiful and challenging fall race, I highly recommend signing up for the Twin Cities Marathon!
Have you run Twin Cities before? Let me know how it went in the comments!