Twin Cities Marathon 2022 (Third Time's a Charm)

I love reading back on these posts, and know about 2 other people that will enjoy all of the nitty gritty details of my third marathon experience. Avert your eyes if you don't care at all (the masses agree)!

After Chicago 2021, my second marathon ever and the first since having kids, I didn't really know what to do next. I was real tired and pretty defeated by the Chicago race. I really wanted to beat my pre-kid marathon time in Chicago and I really did not do that. 

I ran a half marathon in May 2022 to test the waters a little bit. It went well, I came close to a PR for my 11th half, but I still couldn't quite pull the trigger on tackling another full marathon. But I also couldn't quiet the voice in the back of my head telling me I had unfinished business with 26.2. This annoying voice got louder and louder in my now 41-year-old mind. And because I know myself, I knew that if I signed up for another full I'd want to go ALL IN, which requires a mega-time commitment from myself and my family. Sigh.

I talked to Nate over our anniversary trip to Napa Valley, and told him I really wanted to run the Lakefront Marathon for a bit of redemption from Chicago. I knew I could get a better time and I *still* wanted to beat my 2008 Lakefront time. Younger, carefree Julia was becoming this evil character for me to compete with---I wanted so badly to prove I'm a better runner now, faster, more efficient. I also wanted to hire a running coach for the first time ever, because I wanted a customized training plan for my very specific goals. We talked it over for a few days and he gave me his blessing, saying that 'at least one of us should hit our goals'. His hip has been acting a fool for about a year now and it's a real bummer. 

In early June, signed up for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, set to happen 10/2/22. I wanted to sleep in my own bed, miss as little soccer that weekend as possible, and have my kids and friends/family THERE at the race. Plus, Lakefront was where I ran my first marathon back in 2008 so I could just taste the redemption. I knew the course had to change this year because of construction, so it was no longer straight downhill the entire time. Darn!

I used a training plan from the internet starting June 6th, and by June 27th I had hired Tristen at HAT House to be my running coach. This is when things got real for me. I trained for a total of 17 weeks, 13 with Tristen, which boasted a total of 567 miles all together. I ran 5-6 days every single week. My longest run was a 20 mile run, which I did twice, both of which had a 'fun' 10 miler tacked on the day before or after. I did speed work at the track which involved running 800s at a 7:00-7:20 pace....something I never thought possible, but I did it and shockingly loved it. I ran hills and didn't totally hate them. I ran mostly alone but sometimes with friends, but the relaxed social time I was accustomed to getting 2-3 times per week morphed into more intense, fast solitude. 

I trained my butt off, made sleep a priority over several social events, woke up at 5:00 or earlier to get my runs finished before starting the day with the kids. It was a lot. But it was awesome and it definitely gave me a boost of confidence to know I could hold FAST paces when I needed to, and I ran my fastest half marathon ever during training with a 1:52 time (8:26 min pace). I felt amazing after that 13.1 and knew my training was working.

I tell you all of this to say that I was ready. My training was successful, I didn't get injured even though my peak mileage was 47 miles in a week and I typically run about 15-20. Completing a training cycle like this was absolutely worth celebrating, regardless of what happened on race day! 

But it also put my head in a place where I was (really) amped up to see what I could do on 10/2/22. I had four time goals: 
1. Beat Chicago 2021's 4:40, 
2. Beat Lakefront 2008's 4:19, 
3. Beat Nate's Chicago 2009's 4:15, and 
4. Get sub-four hours. 

I told myself I'd be happy with any of those check marks and tried not to get TOO focused on my time goals, but oh it's so hard as a runner to be a free spirit and to 'have fun' and 'be chill' as they say. Or maybe it's just hard for me because I always seems to put pressure on myself to achieve goals, and may be a little tough on myself at times. :) 

Regardless! The Lakefront Marathon was cancelled just three weeks before race day, which was a small crisis averted only because Nate and I decided traveling to the Twin Cities Marathon on the same day would be totally doable. We pivoted and decided to make it a semi-family event, pulling Truman and Cece from school and sports and Nate took off work so we could make the 5 hour drive to Minnesota. I am not a flexible person (shocker) but once I wrapped my head around the location change, I was all in for the experience. 

The week before the race, I got a bit of the kids' cold and tried to sleep as much as possible and lay very low during my taper. I focused on mentally prepping for the race while still running almost daily but less mileage, blowing snot rockets and feeling like a garbage can for a few days. Then I talked to Tristen on the phone about race day. I was kind of freaking out as you can imagine, but this pep talk got me all fired up.

She wanted me to break the marathon into three chunks of time: miles 0-14, miles 15-19, and then finally miles 20-26. She wanted me to shoot for a pace of 8:35-8:43 min/miles depending on how I was feeling and depending on the millions of other variables that go into race day. She said to avoid getting TOO SET on my pace, to be flexible and willing to roll with whatever came my way (ahem, SO HARD). Tristen told me I'm so much stronger now, a faster runner, and that I am 100% capable of running these paces as proven in my very consistent training. She cautioned me to stay away from falling back into old routines of running 9 minute miles because I'm capable of more now. I decided to trust my training, trust Tristen, and trust my own body in this race. I knew I'd leave it all on the course and give it my best. AND I REALLY WANTED TO MEET ALL OF MY TIME GOALS.

The four of us made it to Minneapolis the Friday night before the race. We stayed in a hotel downtown 1 mile away from the start line, hit the expo, ate lunch with friends, and welcomed my sister-in-law Brittany from Oregon. We ate a big Italian dinner out that night and I was feeling pretty wiped out/tired/nervous afterwards. All day long I felt like my chest was crampy/tight/spasming and didn't know if it was my lingering cold or plain old anxiety. I went to bed around 9:30 and woke up at 1:00 and then at 3:30 am I was up for good, unable to fall back asleep. I know this is normal before a race but I also think I require more zzz's at my old age than ever before, and my energy was already pretty zapped.

I got out of bed around 5:30 and started getting ready in the tiny bathroom with the door shut to avoid waking the children. Nate got up with me, and after my coffee and choking down my breakfast of cold/untoasted English muffin with PB, I said I was ready. We let the kids sleep, although Cece did wake and give me a hug goodbye, and walked to the start line together. It was dark and pretty chilly at about 50 degrees, and there was hardly anyone else walking down (very much the opposite of Chicago's start line experience). I hit the porta potty, we found Katelyn and talked with her a bit, and then I hugged Nate goodbye as he went back to the hotel to get the kids moving. 

One more portapotty stop with Katelyn and her friend, who are both at least 10 years younger than me and shooting for 3:30s as their finishing times (!!!!), and it was time to line up in my corral. I was wearing a long sleeved t-shirt that I could toss in the donation bin at the start line, but noticed I was shivering/shaking and my jaw was chattering as I waited for my 8:06am gun time. I tried to relax and calm down because I was super excited and just wanted to RUN already. But I realize that killed a lot of my energy along with sleeping like dog crap the night before this race. I took a gel at the start line beacause it had been awhile since I ate breakfast, and sipped on the disposable water bottle I wanted to use for the first few miles to avoid the water station bottle necks.

No time to overthink when I cross the start line, because I was getting the show on the freaking road! The first two miles went quick but I also had to keep finding 5 sights, 4 sounds, 3 feels, 2 smells, 1 taste to keep my mind focused. I did find my 8:40 pace pretty quickly. I was right by the 3:55 pace group from the start and felt really strong and consistently hit 8:36-8:43 for the first six miles. I took my second gel at mile 3.5 and continued to focus on being present and really looking around at every spectator, sign**, and beautiful fall tree.

At mile 7, I remember celebrating the halfway point of my first "chunk" of this race. AND I saw my family with signs and happy smiles, which energized me greatly. I took gel number three and continued to sip my water. Oh, how I wish we had pictures or a video* of me here because it might have been the best I looked all race day! Here's the race photo I did purchase because I love it, and it's probably from around miles 5-9. 

At mile 8, I started saying, "8 and feeling great." Over and over again, in my head, and reminded myself to stay in this mile and think of nothing ahead of me. Let the mental workout begin.
At mile 9, I repeated, "9 and feeling fine." For these two miles my watch was beeping that I was behind, because I crept up to an 8:50 pace. I tried not to worry too much about it and noticed an awesome drum line under bridge here. 

"Mile 10, and gonna win". I don't know what that means but it rhymed. I took my pace back to a 8:33, which pushed it a little, and in hindsight this was probably WAY TOO FAST. I think the 3:55 pace group was right behind here, and heard them chatting about pace and felt annoyed because they were supposed to be doing 9:00-and I felt like I was going WAY faster. 

Also, looking back my heart rate was INSANELY HIGH (for me) at this point. It registered as 177 bpm at mile 10 and I usually never get above 145 bpm even with my longest, hottest runs or with speed work. I know this is very weird, to have such a low HR during training runs but it's my norm---so having a rate that's over 20 bpm higher is real stressful for my body (I think!). Here's where I say my heart rate was high from the beginning of this run, even at rest BEFORE the run, and remained too high throughout. More overanalysis on this later.

At 11, Nate had planned to see me again but he texted a few minutes after I passed the mile marker saying they just missed me. I know my water bottle was empty and I was concocting an elaborate plan to have Nate refill it and hand it to me again at 14, but when they weren't there I think I stopped at my first water stop because I needed to take gel number four. I walked super quick through and sloshed it all back, replying to Nate I'd see them at 14 instead.

Mile 13: I saw my family unexpectedly at a turn and felt SO happy about that, and also being at the halfway point. Possibly around now a spectator said “all of you are finishing under 4 hours, you got that?” And I believed it. I briefly dreamed of how it would feel to be finished with a half marathon right now but also felt strong, and knew the 3:55 pacers were still behind me. 

With mile 14 came Erin's crew, and they were so pumped to see me! I loved that because they totally didn't understand WHY anyone would run a marathon and I think they sort of get it now:) I told myself I’d start my music after seeing them, so I did, and popped in both AirPods but kept them pretty quiet. I remembered to celebrate my first chunk of the race being done. Whoo hoo! I hit a 9:00 min/mile average here and started to feel tired, but I was super happy that my quads were okay. In Chicago, they started shutting down at mile 14 for some reason and I've pondered that issue ever since. I had my tiny water bottle handed to me from a random spectator, which I may have grabbed around 13 and kept til maybe 15 but it's a little blurry. 

Next came the second chunk of this race, miles 15-19. And as per Tristen, I really needed to focus on these because they were the most important miles. I took my fifth gel at 15, and told myself only 2 more god awful gels! I probably drank from the water stop, too, because I had the tiny water bottle but was feeling so thirsty. I noticed my diaphragm was cranky like I couldn’t take a deep breath, or felt water logged. With my music in my ears, I lost focus on the spectators/other runners/my pace and form a bit here. I knew I wouldn’t see my family during this chunk and needed to prepare for my hills, but looking back I probably should have skipped the music as a distraction. 

From miles 11-16 I hovered right around a 9 min mile. Watch kept beeping at me but with music on I could block it out, (don't nag me about my pace, GARMIN). I knew I was slightly slowing down but also felt secure in keeping right under a 4 hour pace. 

At mile 17, I officially started feeling like a slug. My friend Ali called and I figured out how to answer it with my air pods. I was struggling, and couldn't even lie to her when she asked if I felt awesome (no). There were hills now and my legs didn’t want to go up them. I remember my watch said 9:30 pace which isn't horrible but I knew I was slipping. I indulged in my first water stop where I walked more than 3 steps and tried to regroup. The 3:55 pacers hadn't passed me yet. I wasn't panicking just yet.

Then mile 18 happened: a 10 min mile. I tried so hard to push harder, thinking, "Well, this is a classic wall point." I told myself I would NOT run a 10 min mile, knowing Tristan said even a 9:00 isn’t my full potential anymore. I just literally could not get my legs to go. I started bargaining with myself to not care as much and just keep moving. I wanted to walk, as my brain told me I’d feel instant relief. But I didn’t walk because I knew it would feel impossible to start back up again (the lesson learned in Chicago). I did feel myself getting passed a ton though, and I didn't even notice when the 3:55 pace group pulled away. Notable: there was a big screen of fans sending videos to runners, which was super cute. I think I had one AirPod in here and started hearing a few random text messages from friends come in. I knew so many people were tracking me and thinking of me and I didn't want to let them down, but by God I was tired. Why are marathons so hard?

At mile 19, I took in water and my sixth gel. I had to choke it down, and my stomach was feeling super gross. I definitely walked a few extra steps to recollect myself, then tried to find a few people in front of me and pretend to pull them in with a rope. Somewhere around here saw another Strider with Team Rehab shirt and let that feel like a good sign. I knew this was the final leg of my second chunk and I'd be crossing the Mississippi River next, ready to enter the last phase. 

Mile 20 was the start of my final leg and the start of the hills. Tristen had prepared me for the hills and they didn't scare me, and honestly they didn't affect my pace all that much. I was still hovering around a 10 minute mile and then I (finally) saw my family. I wanted to show them a big thumbs down and cry a little, but instead I just blew a big raspberry with my lips, and gave them high fives with a half of a grin. I was so tired but didn’t want the kids to be worried. 

Nate jumped in and jogged with me thankfully. He asked how I felt and I said not good, tired, wanted to walk, thirsty but might puke. He said I was doing great and the 4:00 pacers were in sight. I looked up and did see their little sign about 5 people in front of me. He said 'just a little faster and you'll still get under 4.' I found that hard to believe but it was slightly exciting. He said my estimated finish was at 12:04pm and I started at 8:06. "Ok I can do this, I want to get up there so badly but I'm also giving it my best right now and can't dig any deeper." He said I just needed to get over the hills then push and I'd be there. "I’ll see you at the finish. I love you," and he went back to the kids. I wish he could have run with me the rest of the way to pump me up but it wasn't in the cards this time! 

Miles 21-23 were (as promised) one big long gradual hill. They weren’t killer because I was already in the pain cave and I did expect them. I think I stopped for water both at 21 and 23. Saw a woman really struggling and crying and being very negative. I didn’t have it in me to pump her up. I was solely focused on moving forward and not walking. I saw many many people walking. I saw a mom stop running to get a group family pic and she looked so happy, which made me smile and feel slightly envious that she was enjoying this race while I was hating it. People were calling me out by name and I would muster up a thumbs up in return, but no eye contact because TIRED.

I remember at 20, 21, and 22 staying IN that mile, flashing my fingers at my side to remind myself where I was. (2, 1, 2, 1, 2....2, 2, 2, 2, 2). I would say goodbye to each past mile by slightly waving my hand at the ground, like BYE MILE 21, NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN. These hills did completely kill my pace though, as I registered 10:39-11:08 here. I'm a broken record at this point, but I definitely wanted to pick up the pace but my legs said otherwise. I will never stop overanalyzing why this happened. :)

At mile 23, I told myself 'just 3 miles. Let’s go.' Some down hills now appeared and I knew the uphill was done. I was getting tons of texts here that I loved hearing. I decided that I may be slowing down like CRAZY but I will not walk! Did stop for my final water stop at 23 but didn’t take the final gel here. Felt thirsty but water logged. I took a small sip and dumped the rest down my back as I was getting pretty hot. I also felt like I was passing a lot of people who were walking, and I would not allow myself to walk no matter how slowly I was running. Forward is a pace and all of that. 

Okay, let's go! Mile 24-saw Erin's family again!! And I told myself this was my old basketball number, I must have done hard things in high school and pulled through so I could do it again now. Pulled out both AirPods here right before seeing Erin cause I noticed the crowds were awesome and many cheer sections. Possibly some good music too, I think I remember half-dancing to Ed Sheeran.

Mile 25--I dug out my phone and took pic of the mile marker flag. It was so beautiful. I knew I could do one freaking mile. I wasn’t looking at pace at all (it was a 10:30), and just told myself to keep moving. Saw the Capitol and whimpered got a pic. I think I was grunting and mumbling here. I was almost finished.

My family was on my right side by the finish, just as Nate had texted me. I was looking for them and staring at the finish line at the same time. It was all downhill at the end, and I tried to push it but also didn’t want to fall on my face because my quads were now toast. I think I said, 'Aw man!' when I saw the clock time of 4:14, because until this point I didn't do any math in my head to know what my finish time would be. I also didn't feel *that* bummed because I WAS ALMOST FINISHED! PRAISE BE. 

I saw my family cheering for me, remembered to raise my arms up, and felt the sweet relief of stopping when I crossed the finish line. Official time? 4:07:38.

I saw my friend Ali to my left as she works the entire finish line, she asked how it was and I didn’t know how to respond, kinda stunned. Legs felt like actual jello and I wasn't walking in a straight line, which felt a little concerning. A guy said to keep walking, don't stop. I got my precious medal, Ali said to walk slowly and she’d get my people from their VIP spots she had secured. I grabbed a fruit cup and took a selfie, then chugged some water. I kept walking and went all the way out but should have waited cause the fam was inside the gauntlet too, but I didn't really know what was happening at this point. I found a curb by the big screen, Nate called me, I sat and removed my shoes (SWEET RELIEF). 

My family appeared and I got my hugs, a picture with them, and we chatted with Katelyn (who finished in 3:32 like a boss). We couldn't find Brittany, my amazing sister-in-law, who had watched the finish line from the other side. Nate called her and he was going to have her meet us inside the family meeting area, but I quickly decided we just needed to meet her at our car and get the heck out of the sun. 

I started to return 78 text messages from friends and family because I have a helluva support system that I don't take for granted. I texted Tristen, my coach, and felt nervous she might be disappointed in me for slipping away from my ultimate goal of a sub-4 hour race. Turns out coaches don't get upset with you for giving it your all, and she was super proud of me (just like everyone else). 

Well, they are all *proud* of me but Truman did admit that he's a little disappointed I didn't get under 4 hours. He's our first born rule follower who likes to follow a plan (Ahem, like his mama) so he doesn't quite understand why I didn't 'just run fast every mile.' He wanted it badly for me, and now that I've had a few days to decompress, I'm also feeling a little disappointed.

I know that smashing three out of four time goals is amazing. A 12 minute PR over my pre-kid self is truly everything I wanted out of a marathon....except that I wanted a little more. A 33 minute improvement over my Chicago marathon last year is also pretty impressive. But I feel like sub-four is also very attainable for me. I had perfect weather, amazing training, no injuries, did great with hydration and nutrition, tapered well, carb loaded, and my stomach was rock solid during race day. ALL SO GREAT. But still...

Other runners understand the mixed bag of emotions after a marathon. Non-runners absolutely do NOT get why I'd be even slightly bummed right now, so I'm not complaining to anyone (besides Nate) unless they specifically ask how I'm doing and I can tell they really mean it. I think I need more time to process and figure out why I couldn't hold my race pace. Maybe I needed a few miles to warm up? Maybe I just went out too fast and should have tried for more of a negative split despite the looming hills? Maybe my heart rate was high because I was more anxious than I thought I was? Maybe I was dehydrated even though I felt like I was good? My heart rate average was 157 for this race (usually 130s/140), and even my resting heart rate before the race was up near 75-80 and it's usually 60. 

Maybe I just cannot run less than a 9 minute mile average for a marathon. Maybe I should stick to halves and get faster and faster with 13.1. Maybe I was just overreaching with my goals I set for myself and I should cut myself some slack for once. Maybe 4:07 is good enough.

One thing I know for certain is that I'm taking time to rest, recover, and NOT run. I'm about to lose 1-2 toenails, my foot is killing me in a 'stabbing, something is NOT right' way, and I have absolutely zero desire to run right now. I am LOVING sleeping in until 6:40 and not working out at all, but it's only day 4 after the marathon so who knows how long this vibe will last. 

I might sign up for another marathon next year (cringe, breath hold, cringe). I don't do well when I can't check a box that is important to me. The question is, how important is it for me to run a sub-four hour marathon? The jury is still out on that one, my friends. 

*many more pictures found in Instagram, I don't feel like adding the same ones here!

** My Favorite Signs: 
"Why?” With a dog picture
Giant heads of people. One giant dog like 10 feet tall
You run better than our government 
You are really good at exercising
Where’s everyone going?
If it were easy, I’d be doing it
Run like your mom used your full name
Vikings score is…
Run like you got the last beer from Wisconsin 
Power up, punch here 
Giant Dino guy 
I’ll run with you tomorrow at 6am, meet here!
Tomorrow is a rest day
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