Sunday, October 7


In marathoning, there's a lot of things you can control: your training, your effort, your pace, your diet. And there's one thing you really can't control: the weather. When I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon back in May and roped bl into doing the same, I had visions of running 26.2 on a crisp autumn Minnesota morning as the falling leaves swirled around us.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

The weather outlook got increasingly grim all week, but at least every forecast was consistent that Sunday would be cloudy. Which is, of course, why there was hardly a cloud in the sky as they told us, a few minutes before the race, that it was already 75 degrees with about 80% humidity. "It's the warmest start we've had in the 26-year history of the marathon!" And the sun hadn't even risen yet. Fantastic.

I've always struggled in the combination of heat and humidity, and I figured that my goal of 3 hours even was probably already off the table. That was adjustment number one. But I started out pretty well anyway, and cruised through the first half in 1:32 and feeling all right, with copious amounts of fluid consumption at every aid station and numerous cups of water dumped on my head. (So much so, in fact, that around mile 8 I could feel water sloshing around in my socks. I have some pretty interesting-colored toenails and blisters that I think are the byproduct of that.)

But it seems that no matter what precautions I took, the heat had the edge today. Around mile 16 the wheels came off - I had a side stitch on both sides of my torso, apparently from drinking too much water/Powerade. Yet at the same time I was getting light-headed and a little dizzy, which is a red-alert danger sign of overheating. As the sun got higher in the sky, the shade that had kept us cool early on was disappearing. It was at that point that I made the executive decision that my time no longer mattered and that priority number one was simply getting to the finish line intact. Adjustment number two.

Long story short, I death-marched through the last ten miles walking through aid stations, pausing where thoughtful Minnesotans had garden sprayers pointed into the street, and coasted across the finish line in 3:28, far slower than my two marathons earlier this year. The heat was clearly taking its toll on the course as all around me people slowed to walk or even just stopped completely and doubled over, and the last ten miles virtually every course doctor I saw was attending to someone in trouble.

I think every marathon is a learning experience, and today I definitely learned a few things. It's cliche to say "listen to your body", but had I ignored the warning signs and kept on pushing the pace, I probably would have been one of the people I saw in the finish area being carted off in wheelchairs - assuming I finished at all.

On the plus side, this marathon bills itself as "America's most beautiful urban marathon", and they definitely can make an argument for that. I was also amazed that literally every last stretch of the course was lined with cheering spectators shouting encouragement, and at some stretches towards the end it seemed like they were even two or three deep. This is a marathon that I wouldn't hesitate to run again - if I can get a written guarantee of a 50-degree fall day in advance.


Blogger Jim Evans said...

Thanks for the story.
I followed all of you.
It looked like everyone was challenged.
Pam qualified for the 2009 Boston. Maybe the weather was better in Portland.

Everyone I watched finished.
Great job!

October 07, 2007 6:03 PM  

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