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?

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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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Need a PR Race? Run Illinois Marathon!

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Illinois 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!

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I had the privilege of running the Illinois Marathon on April 22nd. This was an important race for me for two reasons. One, I have never run a Spring race and training in the winter in Minnesota is one hell of a challenge. Two, this was my redemption race. With a disappointing finish in my marathon in November, I was eager to make this race count. I accomplished what I set out to do and that is to PR the Illinois Marathon! Training is the typical reason why you PR, but it is all about the race in the end. There is a reason why some of the fastest marathon times are done on a super flat fast course in Berlin. I owe a lot to Illinois Marathon and here is why.

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Pre-Race Weekend: Everything prior to the race weekend was done by the book. I was receiving valuable information regarding the race, partners, medals, lodging and occasional runners humor. Right as I signed up, I looked through the entire site and could find easy and helpful links for getting my lodging sorted out, figuring out race details, and learning the course. The team behind the marathon did an awesome job with their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts to keep them updated and answer any questions that anyone asked. Week before the race I received a digital packet that had absolutely everything you can think of in there.

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Race Weekend Events: The first thing I did when I got into Champaign, IL is go to the expo. There were a billion volunteers there. Well not a billion, but they were everywhere. They had lines on the floor directing you where you needed to go and the volunteers had awesome foam fingers that pointed in the direction where the expo was. Everyone I talked to was fell informed and had an answer to all my questions. I was running the I-Challenge so I had to pick up two bib, get two string bags, and get two shirts. It was painless. Afterwards, I walked around the expo, bought some last-minute things and took a picture with Abe Lincoln. Once again, everything was well laid out and easy to navigate.

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Race One: On Friday night, I ran the night time 5K. It was my nice warmup to the marathon which was happening the next morning. The course went through the University of Illinois and finished by running into their football stadium. Once again, there were a ton of volunteers there and everyone was super helpful.

 

Race Two: On Saturday morning, I ran the Illinois Marathon. The morning started out great. There was plenty of space to warm up. Volunteers were giving out coffee and bagels, every runners dream. There were plenty of portable bathrooms, and there was a truck that took your gear to the finish line. At the starting line, I found the pacer that I wanted to run with and at the gun we were out for the run. This course is EXTREMELY flat! It is a very fast course to run. It was easy to stay with the pace group, but there was a bit of congestion when we came into the park area in the first 13.1 miles. The race really opened up after the half way point when we dropped off the half marathoners. Along the entire route there were awesome volunteers, drink and food stations, aid stations, and bathrooms. It was an awesome run through the University of Illinois and the surrounding areas and it was pretty freaking awesome running out of the tunnel of the stadium and seeing yourself on the big screen.

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After The Race: After the race I was given an awesome medal, a water, a blanket and shook hands with one of the race directors. I got a sweet picture and was off to the stadium concourse where I got all the food I can ever want. Bananas, chips, pasta, pizza, granola, fruit, water, and sports drink. It was a great way to hold down the extreme hunger that I had after my race. Once you exit the stadium you are greeted with a block party. There is a band, tons of food and most importantly BEER. Every runner got a nice cold one from a local brewery.

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Final Thoughts: This is a race that I will be back to run. Every marathoner’s dream when it comes to the quality of the race and the speed of the course. This has to be one of the fastest courses in the Midwest, maybe right behind Chicago. If you are looking for a Spring race where you know the race director and their team of volunteers is going to kill it and you are going to be able to run straight and flat, the Illinois Marathon is for you.

 

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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!

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New Running Gear In Your Mailbox

Disclaimer: I received The RunnerBox 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!

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How awesome is it to get new running gear in the mail? It is great to get something that you know will help or enhance your training and running. Whether it’s equipment, food or clothing, it is always exciting to get something new to try and use. Well I found a way to have that feeling happen at least every other month. The RunnerBox has taken the best part of getting new running gear and packaged it in a neat box that shows up at your door every other month.

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The RunnerBox partners with a bunch of companies that focus on improving your training and running and boxes up their samples. Bi-monthly they send out a box filled with samples of food, drinks, training equipment and accessories to their subscribers. I received mine at the beginning of January and immediately put that little box to work. I got everything from protein bars and powders, to a natural energy drink, to hand warmers. Lucky for me, winter in Minnesota is cold, so that night when I went for a run I could use the hand warmers. Then when I got home, I was able to try the new tea that I got to warm up. I also got some protein bars which were delicious and I was able to bring them with on my travel day when I had to go down to New Orleans for work. I also received some interesting items, like a chickpea mac & cheese pasta and shots an all natural energy drink. I won’t say that I loved everything I received, but that’s the beauty of this subscription.

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The coolest part about The RunnersBox is that they are sending you samples. Meaning, I can try them out before having to spend money on committing to the product or the brand. With so many products out there that can help your running, it becomes very hard trying to decide which ones are best for you. This is a simple way to try a bunch of stuff. For under $25, I am trying 5 – 10 new products when otherwise I would spend over $100 on everything in that box.

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Other than being able to try a variety of different products for runners, The RunnerBox has options for cyclists and tri-athletes with The CycleBox and The TriBox. Most runners aren’t just runners so this is an opportunity for them to try some other gear too. These boxes are great for yourself and for gifts. Kind of a simple no brainier.

Watch out all my runner friends, I think you all know what is coming for your birthdays!

For more information, check out www.TheRunnerBox.com

#KeepTheRunOn

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