Friday, November 16, 2007

Stephen's Twin Cities Report

Having Jon, Dan and I all doing the Boston Marathon this year apparently inspired Robert to take up marathoning himself. He called me and asked if he had time to train for a fall marathon and if he did, would I come do the race with him. The answer was obviously yes and so the question was which marathon to shoot for. A quick survey of the marathons in the Boston region came up with a number of perfectly fine marathons but casting a wider net came up with the gem of the collection: Twin Cities in Minneapolis- St. Paul. Robert had lived in the Minneapolis area and the Twin Cities Marathon is Dan’s home marathon. So the decision was easy and it was quickly decided that Twin Cities would be the second Team Kimmel race.

For a while it looked like there would be five of us as Dan’s daughter Elizabeth was also going to do the race. But late in the run down to the race, Elizabeth got the chance to take a part in a travelling stage show and the opportunity was simply too good to pass up. Ultimately we settled on four.

We selected a training program for Robert and the three of us had no end of “helpful” advice for him. The biggest problem he had was crashing at about 15 miles. At first we thought it was a classic “wall” problem but he was consuming plenty of food so we tended to discount that. Ultimately the problem was that he sweats profusely. Once we worked through the dehydration issues, his training went much better,

The day of the race was warm though not as warm as some training days I’ve done in Houston and not quite as warm as the disappointing race I had done in New Orleans. The original forecast was for rain but that never happened and I have never been as disappointed at not getting caught out in the rain. Fortunately it did get cloudy toward the last half and that was greatly appreciated.

Perhaps saying that Team Kimmel does a race together is over stating the case. We do the same race at the same time. Dan and Jon are so much faster than I am that they start in an earlier corral and I never see them until the finish. Unlike Boston, however, we did do our warm-ups and set off for the race together and that was good. It was warm enough though that all of us went to pre-race staging area ready to race which was a first for me. When the time came, Robert and I went to the second corral with the slower racers and Dan and Jon went to the first corral.

The people standing around waiting for a marathon to start are universally friendly… at least at the back of the pack with me. One lady who started with Robert and I comes to mind. The most distinguishing thing about her was her Pipi Longstocking hair and I don’t even want to think about how long her hair would be if it weren’t bundled up in those enormous pigtails. Robert, Pipi Longstocking and I were all trying to stay with the five hour pace guy. One of the things you always have to be cautious about is starting out too fast and it was abundantly clear that I was too fast going with Robert at the start. So early on, I warned him against going too fast but sent him on his way.

After a couple of miles, I was doing better so I stepped up the tempo. About the ten mile point, Dan’s hasher friend Dog spotted me and told me that Robert was about a quarter mile ahead of me. Just before the half way mark, I caught up with him and the five hour pacer. I was doing well and Robert was beginning to fade and I was confronted with the problem I had pondered before. Should I hold back to stay with Robert or should I do my own race? Right, wrong or indifferent, I decided to do my own race so after a mile or so with Robert I left him and continued on the pace I had settled on. Shortly after that I caught and passed Pipi Longstocking and the five hour pacer. I overheard her complaining that a walker had passed them. I loved his response, “More power to him.”

In part because of Robert’s dehydration problems, I adopted a strategy of double drinking. I took a cup of gatorade and a cup of water at every aid station. That strategy held me in good stead as the race went on. I have never seen as many racers in distress on the side of the road before. I’ve never seen marathon racers move aside so an ambulance could get through before. Clearly many of the racers weren’t ready for that kind of heat.

The last six miles or so of Twin Cities is a generally uphill section of Summit Avenue in Saint Paul. And it did start to slow me down. The five hour pacer, who at this point had no racers with him, passed me again and a few minutes later so did Pipi Longstocking. She gradually pulled away from me and I never saw her again. About mile 22, though, a walker stepped out of the crowd and walked with me for a half mile or so. Very friendly fellow from the area and I regret that I’ve forgotten his name. I did have other things on my mind. Twin Cities seemed to have more of these interesting characters along the road than most races. Besides my walker, there were a pair of ladies dressed as nuns holding vaguely obscene signs. And of course early on there was a huge black man playing the tuba to the racers. Turns out that was former all pro defensive lineman Alan Paige.

While I generally only beat about 20% of the field, I finished ahead of more than a third at Twin Cities. The extra drinking held me in good stead and while my time wasn’t my best overall, it was my best in those conditions.

Twin Cities likes to claim that it is the most beautiful urban marathon in America. They are probably right.

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