It’s the evening before my marathon, I’m all alone in my hotel room, legs stretched out on my “Heavenly Bed” (and it is) at the Westin in downtown Minneapolis, and I’m pleasantly nervous. What’s a girl to do? Brian knows the answer to this one: Write! Warning: lots of minutia ahead.
Paulette, Art and I arrived Thursday evening after a blissfully uneventful flight. They dropped me off downtown and went out to her brother’s place in Minnetonka, a ritzy suburb. I had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant of house-made papardelle, asparagus, fava beans and peas, all farmer’s market fresh. The gracious staffperson at registration upgraded me to the best hotel room I’ve ever been in the night before a race: waaaaay down the end of a hallway, where no late-night yahoos could wake me up. At least, not inside-the-hotel-yahoos. More on that in a minute.
I finally bought Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running, and it kept me absorbed until I grew sleepy. I don’t sleep well in hotel rooms. I have to create almost complete darkness, which means a ritual: towels over the door crack and mini-bar fridge light, running shirt over the electronic thermostat, pillow over the clock. Usually lamps and chairs pushed up against the blackout curtains to corral any stray light from the street, but this hotel has it covered. OK, all set. Drowse, and finally, sleep.
Yelling woke me up at 2:30 a.m. I tried to ignore it, to no avail. Gang fight! Nine floors below me, several thugs were beating the crap out of a guy. Not knowing the street name, I called the front desk and they alerted the cops, who apparently arrived in seconds, because next time I had the courage to look, the street was empty. Heebie jeebies kept me up for a while.
Next morning I slept in a little and went for an easy run with strides down to the start area near the Metrodome. My hammie has been bugging me lately, and I’m not happy to report it was barking a little on the first 2 miles. After a stretch, I ran my strides, and the discomfort disappeared. Cross fingers.
The expo and host hotel are in St. Paul. I’m registered as an elite masters (note to others in my running group: many of you are close to qualifying or already do; check out the times here), and this is a USATF National Masters Marathon Championship race. Lots of nice perqs involved, not the least of which is a warmup area next to the start line, and a separate porta potty. Most of the elites stay in St. Paul, and I was offered a rate discount (I’m not elite enough to get room and board covered, just my race entry fee), but nothing can beat a FREE room with Starpoints! I like being close to the start, anyway. Sleep is a good thing at my age.
Paulette, Art and I drove the uphill portion of the course at miles 21-24 just to refresh our muscle memory, and we convinced ourselves it wasn’t bad at all. It’s actually very similar to the grade up Shoreline or Las Positas. But because it comes late in the race, the mental battle starts here.
The fall leaves are turning, and Minnesota is spectacular.
After touring the expo with Art and Paulette, I went to the elite hospitality suite to pick up my race number, and chatted with Carol Zazubek, the elite masters recruiter. Very nice woman, gracious and supportive. She helped me scope out my competition on the Championship entry lists, and it looks like I have some formidable challenges if I want to win or place in my age group. A 50-year old from Amherst comes with a few recent 3:10 marathons in her repertoire. Yikes, that’s fast. Our race numbers are assigned according to qualifying times, and she’s two ahead of me. Another woman in her early 50’s, whose name I recognize, has won several age-group awards in marathons around the country. Here’s to motivation!
Massage is offered on a sign-up basis (another nice perq), was just what my poor hamstring and IT band needed. The man on the table next to me has been runner-up twice in the mens’ masters division, and his mom told him to stop being a bridesmaid and go get it! Thanks, mom. I tried to talk him into running SBIM next year.
Art (retired former owner of White’s Pet Hospital) had a veterinary meeting to attend, so Paulette and I met up and took the city bus back into Minneapolis. We had to run to catch it, and it was a fun adventure. When was the last time you ran to catch a bus?
The massage, a nice pasta dinner with old friends, and a good night’s sleep refreshed me, and I woke up feeling optimistic. My morning run—just a loosen-up 2.5 miles—felt good. I attended a mandatory technical meeting for elites, where we were instructed on all manner of logistics concerning buses, start areas, water, drop stations (ssssss!!!) drug testing, finish area, etc. Round two of the expo, I scored on a pair of Mizuno’s and some sharp sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. I hitched a ride back to Minneapolis on a bus tour of the course, and they were kind enough to drop me at my hotel.
Tim Noakes and I had a quiet dinner together at the hotel restaurant, where he brought me up to speed on carb loading, eating before the race, and quieting the voice in your head that wants to quit when it gets tough. Lore of Running is a fascinating book, and I recommend it to any runner as obsessive as I am. I know you’re out there. In fact, if you’ve read this far, chances are you qualify.
My training went well, I feel rested and ready, I didn’t catch a cold, and the weather looks ideal. Here goes!