What It’s Like Running a Goal Race (unsuccessfully)

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Grandma’s Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When I train for a marathon, I train in two ways. I am either training to run a race that I am interested in or excited about or I am training for a goal race. I have trained and ran five races that I was just interested in running and two that were goal races for me. This year, in April was the first one and last month, Grandma’s Marathon was the second one. Total of over six months of training for these two goal races with Grandma’s being the one where I was hoping to run a sub 4-hour marathon.

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I want to start off and talk about how iconic and special Grandma’s Marathon is. If you live in the Midwest and run marathons or have a “one day I will run a marathon” mentality, you probably have Grandma’s Marathon on your list. I have wanted to run this race for many years now. There is just a vibe that Grandma’s Marathon gives off that people fall in love with. It is remarkable how addicted people get to this race. Everything from the extremely fast course, to the views, to the partying, and of course the traditions. I was stoked to experience all of that.

I felt prepared going into marathon weekend. Almost too prepared because I was feeling a little too confident. Physically I was exactly where I wanted to be. Training went well, earlier marathon showed my potential, and I was able to make it through the Spring season without any major injuries. Mentally, well we’ll get to that. The night before I was running up and down the frontage road between my hotel and Highway 35. In my mind I was going through the list of things I need to bring with me to the starting line. Water, Nuun Hydration tablets, Bib (definitely can’t forget that), long sleeve because it is supposed to be chilly, a BibRave Buff® head band, and my shorts and jersey. I remember stretching after that and my mind was just kind of blank.

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Fighting for a cup of coffee with the rest of the runners in the hotel, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin. Walked over to the free school bus shuttle that was filling up with runners to be taken to the starting line. I sat next to a guy with his headphones on and thought that I would throw mine in as well. I don’t run with headphones so I use them as a pre-run mental clearance.

Running around brand new Chevy cars in the dealer parking lot next to the starting line corral in Two Harbors, MN, I wasn’t thinking about anything. I had my routine and I just followed it. There were no corral numbers so I figured I had plenty of time to jump in the bathroom line and do my pre-marathon ritual. Unfortunately, that was not the case. With about a minute before the starting of the race, I walked into the end of the race corral. Definitely not where I wanted to be. I look around and I see that I am next to Pacer 4:45 and boom the race starts.

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This is where I was not prepared mentally. Instead of running my own race, I ran someone else’s. I am not the best at pacing myself consistently so I chose to try to catch the Pacer 4:00 with whom I planned to run with from the beginning. That was my mistake that I believed caused me to miss my mark completely. By the time I caught up to the 4:00 hour pacer, knew that this was not going to be the race where I break 4 hours. I had to make a decision: try to keep up with the pacer and risk injury or DNF, or slow down and enjoy the race.

By mile 14 the sun was beating down hard. The temperatures where close to 70 degrees and I knew that this was not going to happen. I decided to enjoy myself. I knew that the time is not going to be something that I would be proud of but I wanted to make the last half of the race as enjoyable and memorable as possible. I did just that. I enjoyed all the sprinklers that were set up. Gave HIGH FIVES to all the spectators, tried to look good for the WeRunMPLS crew that was out there supporting the runners, played catch with a football while I ran past the college guys, and even enjoyed a beer at mile 22. After the race, I enjoyed all the free food for all the runners but unfortunately that was cut short. Feeling dehydrated, I had to get back to the hotel and recover.

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I ran my goal race at the best physical fitness that I have ever run a marathon, but I completely missed on the mental side of it. Without any mental prep days leading up to the race and before the race started, I made a crucial mistake and was unable to recover from it. Does it suck? Yeah totally. Marathon training take a ton of time and effort and it is no fun when you screw it up. Am I going to complain about it? Not one bit. By missing my mark, I have opened up the door for a 2018 redemption.

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Grandma’s Marathon 2018, registration opens up October 1st, 2017

How did your races go in the first half of 2017?

Keep The Run On

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5 Thoughts Going into Grandmas Marathon Week

We are five days away from Grandmas Marathon 2017. Runners are in the final stretch of their training, mental preparation, race day scheduling, and allowing the excitement and the nerves to begin to build more and more as we head down the week. I am no different. Here are my thoughts going into the marathon week:

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Sprint training on a closed road.

Thought One: Unable to gauge training. The reason I say that is because I have been in training mode since December, and I ran the Illinois Marathon back in April. My training miles are good, my speed seems like it is exactly where it needs to be, but mentally when I look at my spreadsheet I am not necessarily seeing a trend.

Thought Two: Excitement for running Grandmas Marathon. I am getting pretty amped up about this race. I know I have to get over some of the mental hurdles, and one physical, this week but I am getting more and more excited by the day.

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Feeling after a morning 7 miler.

Thought Three: Speaking of physical hurdles, I got a small groin issue. Last week I pulled my groin while running. I was stepping onto a curb and got distracted and had a weird stride. I don’t think it is anything major, but I did have some issues running the past few days. Hopefully my continuous stretching and icing will have already healed it.

Thought Four: Are my expectations reasonable? Last November, I ran a marathon in over 5 hours. The day after my November marathon I decided that I am going to run a marathon in 2017 under 4 hours. That would be a PR of 45min. I ran IL Marathon in 4:16:23 back in April. Are my expectations for Grandmas Marathon too high? I feel like they are not but there are doubts.

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Running in the evening means Brilliant Reflective on everything.

Thought Five: Let’s get it done! This week I want to focus on forgetting the first four thoughts and just saying, “Let’s Go! I have put a ton of training into this and now is the time to show up and get it done.” My though through the race will be, “Keep The Run On”.

I am ready to go out there and make this race a great one! There is nothing better than the feeling that a runner gets, at any level of competition, before and after finishing a race. There are no words and you cannot describe it. You must feel it for yourself.

KEEP THE RUN ON

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Bucket List Race

I am spoiled that the Midwest offers so many great races throughout the year. Even narrowing it down to Minnesota, there are a bunch of awesome races. Twin Cities Marathon is constantly on top for best urban marathons, Get In Gear is an iconic race that has been around for 40+ years, and Bemidji and Mankato both put on great races. For me though, one marathon has been on my bucket list for a while.

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Running around the lakes in MPLS

Grandmas Marathon in Duluth, MN is an iconic race that runs down the shore of Lake Superior from Two Harbors into Canal Park in Duluth. The race went from 150 participants back in 1977 to over 18,000 participants in the three races that they have every June. Here are the five reasons why this race has been on my list for so long.

  1. The Community: I was recruited to University of Minnesota Duluth for Track and Field and even though my time there was short, I could understand how much the city of Duluth loves this race. Marathon Weekend is like Christmas and 4th of July for Duluth. Every store, every restaurant, everyone supports and loves this race
  2. The Course: The race starts in Two Harbors and follows the scenic route of HWY 61. Running along the shore the entire time, the race has plenty of things to see while you run. An awesome part of the course is to be able to see Canal Park many times as you are running but that also kind of sucks. I have never run a point to point course so I am excited.
  3. Big Time Race: This race has all the feel of a small-town marathon but it comes with a big-time race atmosphere. Every single hotel is sold out (make sure to get your accommodations early), the Canal Park area is completely blocked off with stands and tents, and the course has plenty of entertainment that will allow you to keep your spirits up.
  4. Perfect PR Race: The total race elevation drops throughout the race so I am excited to have a decline. I am also used to hill runs so this should give me a little bit of an advantage. The weather is typically cooler but sunny. Even though I don’t believe that MN weather can be predictable, I will cross my fingers.
  5. BibRave Running: Ever since I started running for BibRave, I wanted the opportunity for Grandma’s Marathon to come up. I knew that they were a partner in the past and I was hoping that they would partner up again this year. Once they did, I was pumped that I had the opportunity to sign up.
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Soaking wet after a 13 mile run

The race is less than a month away and I am feeling very confident and very excited to run. This is the first year where I am doing two marathons in the first half of the year so I am nervous to see how that affects me but I am feeling optimistic that the miles that I have been running are going to pay off in a big way.

What is your Bucket List Race? Comment below!

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IL Marathon: The Redemption Story

When I signed up for the Illinois Marathon, I knew that it was going to be a redemption race and that I was going to be putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. After running a career worst 5:06:52 at the Madison Marathon in November of 2016, I was determined to shatter that and hopefully break a PR. I am very excited to say that I crushed my PR and ran an amazing Illinois Marathon on April 22nd. Breaking my PR by over 20 minutes felt awesome and running a 4:16:23 (Garmin time) 4:17:32 (Course time) was a great feel of relief and excitement. Here is what I did not kill my PR and have a great race.

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Step One: Training is the key to a successful marathon. Not a revelation, I know that. This was my 7th marathon and out of 7 marathons this was the only one where my training was above 80% successful. I measure success by the number of scheduled workouts that I completed. I have always taken training as an inconvenient chore that I did not want to do. This time was different. Everything from the training season to the type of training was changed. Mentally, I was ready and wanting to train hard. Physically, I followed the routine and avoided disruptive activity. Training plan was new and different. Shorter so that I wouldn’t get burnt out, but more intense causing my workouts to be more difficult. I also focused on the time I was running per day or week rather than the number of miles. This allowed me to continue to be interested in my training, avoiding injury, and ultimately feeling ready and great during the race. From a cardio stand point, I had some gas left in the tank, from leg feel/strength I was ready to be done. I hope that the 20% that was left on the table will allow for an even better performance.

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Step Two: Nutrition is one of those tricky necessities that typically take the back of the priority list. I chose and worked hard on keeping that towards the front of my list. I reduced a lot of unhealthy habits and increased monitoring what I ate and drank so that it would positively impact my training. Healthy foods, smaller portions, smarter snacking and reduction of alcohol intake all played a role in a more successful marathon.

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Step Three: Mental preparedness was a crucial factor in my training and racing. Very often, I would image different scenarios during the run. What would I do if I felt dehydrated, what to do if I have an injury, how do I substitute a workout if my muscles are hurting? I thought about these things before the race which ultimately helped during. I remember during mile 9-14 my knee was not feeling the best. I could assess whether I thought it was pain that was injury driven or if it was a temporary pain. I decided it was temporary and it paid off.

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Step Four: Knowing your course and race is extremely important. I used BibRave.com to read about reviews of the race and what others have thought about the course. Also, the Illinois Marathon had an amazing website, app and expo. I could get a ton of information from their website and app before the race. They communication was also on point. I got emails updating me on all things race weekend. Going into the race, I felt like I have already been on the course and knew where the turns were, the aid station locations and even when I needed to get on my toes for the “hills” (I run in Minnesota so the hills that the course had do not qualify as hills).

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Step Five: Running smart will ultimately get you where you want to get to. Running smart means you run what you’ve trained for. Your pace stays at what you planned for. You eat, drink, carry and wear what you have already planned for. I did exactly that. I knew where I wanted to be with time. I knew what pace I needed to reach that time. I knew that this was a fast course and that I would want to take off but I didn’t. I stayed true to what I wanted to accomplish. And damn am I proud of that. For once in my running career I felt like I did exactly everything the way that I wanted to do it.

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It is unreal how something can come together if you follow what you have planned for yourself. I planned my training to run between 4:10:00 and 4:20:00, I planned to run at a weight of 195, I planned to lose the headphones and extra gear, and I planned to run a smart race. When I was able to accomplish all of those, I succeeded in accomplishing a huge PR and getting the redemption race that I wanted.

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Grandmas Marathon, you are on the clock. I am coming for you!

Keep The Run On

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Dropping Out of a Running Race

Back in November of 2016, I had one of my worst races I have ever run. I was running the Madison Marathon under trained and injured. Within a few miles, I went from feeling fine to not even able to jog. At mile 20 I had to decide whether I was going to continue with the pain and do some sort of jog/walk through the last six miles or drop out of the race. Mentally drained, I wanted to drop out so bad but ended up hobbling through the finish. Even though I finished a marathon, I was feeling an extreme sense of defeat and failure.

I knew that I was a better runner than that, and I wanted to prove that to myself. In late November, I got the opportunity to register for the Illinois Marathon, which is coming up on April 22nd. I did a month of rehab to get my injuries taken care of and I signed up for the Twin Cities 10 Mile Hot Dash race that happened on March 18th. It perfectly fell into my training schedule for Illinois Marathon and it was going to provide a nice gauge of how well my training was going. I even got one of my buddies to sign up so that we could run together.

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When I was beginning my training, I was very determined to power through the elements of winter in Minnesota. I was excited for the Illinois Marathon for a lot of reasons one of them being my “redemption” race. I needed something to put the Madison Marathon performance behind me. Also, I have never done a Spring race. Sometimes you need the extra push to get through the winter hibernation in the Midwest. I was very excited for the race from all angles.

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My training has been going well throughout the winter and It was getting close to my 10-mile Hot Dash race. I was feeling confident and I was excited to run the race with my friend Paul. We talked and encouraged each other all winter long. The week of the race started. I have been going on runs more than 10 miles already for me training so I wasn’t worried about the distance but I did have some nervous thoughts just because it was going to be my bench mark for Illinois Marathon. The week was going well and then Wednesday evening came.

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On Wednesday, March 15th, I came home after work, went on a quick recovery run and went to meet my buddy for Happy Hour drinks. Felt fine through the process until later that evening I got hit by a metaphorical train that had “Stomach Flu” written all over it. For the next 48 hours all I did was constantly get sick. There was no food or water intake without immediate feeling of sickness. It wasn’t until the day of my race that I was able to actually eat some food without seeing it twice. I had no other choice but to drop out of the race.

This marked the first time of me dropping out of a race. It was a crappy feeling for so many reasons but the main ones being that this was going to be my gauge for Illinois Marathon, I asked a friend to run the race with me and was planning on running it together, and this was the first race since my failed attempt at Madison Marathon. IT SUCKED! Hating the fact that I was dropping out on a friend, I went and supported him through the race and Paul did an awesome job.

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The training road to a marathon is never a straight shot. There are always twists and turns that slow you down, situations that try to break you, runs that are mentally draining, and obstacles that tend to look higher than they are. The truth is, it is never easy and it is impossible to predict how your training will go or what the outcome of a race will be. The drive and the desire for the athlete to compete and to succeed, no matter what the level of success is, is what drives us to take the road of training. Even with my set backs in training for the Illinois Marathon, I am so focused and extremely excited to run the race on April 22nd. My 2017 race schedule started out pretty crappy but the next race is always what I have my eye on. I am so pumped to make the trip down to Champagne, IL to run this historical marathon.

How do you stay mentally tough throughout your training?

#KeepTheRunOn

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