After a meager yet sufficient 3 hours of sleep, I popped out of bed, turned on the weather channel, and saw an ominous bright yellow blob moving toward Minneapolis. "This should be interesting," I said to myself. And thus it had begun...
Breakfast of Champions, 6:00am: 2 glasses of diet coke, 2 blueberry muffins, banana, 2 Advil, Glucosamine, and one packet of Gu. Gu, yes, it's called Gu.
Pre Game: Outside the dome there are 40 port-o-potties. Each has 15 people in line. We ritualistically take our turn in the pre-race purge. Next, we open up our mobile medicine cabinet, and lube up with Vaseline and Icy Hot. Band-aids for the nipples: check.
A last minute decision is made that it's warm enough that we can get by without our long sleeve shirts. A fortunate decision as it would turn out.
Starting Line: Corralled in the starting pen, I notice we're surrounded by a disproportionate number of 5o year old men. One joker on the sidelines hoists a sign that says, "Almost Done!" I noted his facial features so that I could track him down and end him later in the day.
Mile 1: It took about 7 minutes for us to cross the starting line after the gun went off. Within 10 minutes, the three of us are strung out along the streets of downtown Minneapolis. I realize that after 6 months of training, we had failed to discuss a race day strategy. Was I supposed to be running with my 2 buddies? Did they prefer to run alone? Brandon pulls up along me within a minute, but Josh stayed back. I figured he was taking it slow and would pull even before we hit mile 1. I figured.
Brandon notes: "I guess this is the only time I get to run with abandon through the middle of the street in a major American City."
Mile 2: "What the hell happened to Josh?"
Mile 3: Hitting a pretty solid pace, I note that I'm slightly ahead of my pace from last year. Feeling strong.
Mile 4: "I think I just felt a rain drop." Brandon and I make eye contact, and a collective 'gulp' rumbles through the field.
Mile 6: The majority of the field is around Lake Harriet, and we are in a full-on downpour. This is the kind of downpour that you'd sit in your car and let it 'blow over' before you got out to run into the mall. Not us, we were sprinting down the narrow streets, hurdling puddle after puddle. Once I feel a small lake has reached equilibrium in my shoes, I figure there's no point in dodging puddles anymore. At one point, the rain flooding the streets is so bad that the spectators jumped in and diverted people to a shortcut around one particularly flooded part of the street. My memories of these 6 or so miles are pretty cloudy, as my eyes were barely open.
Mile 10: The rain has tapered to a light sprinkle, and my shoes seem to dry out quickly. I am pleasantly surprised.
Half Marathon: I note to Brandon that this is the fastest half marathon I've ever run, beating my previous training best by a good 15 minutes. For the first time I realize we could be onto something special...
Mile 15: The spectators are starting to flood back onto the course, and we are offered a constant buffet along the course. Bananas, oranges, licorice, vaseline, beer. Brandon and I are still cruising along, no sign of Josh. We wonder aloud if he's dead. I call dibs on his TV.
Mile 18: For the first time I do the math and realize we are on pace to finish under 5 hours. I'd never even considered finishing that fast, but the cool weather and a running partner are helping things greatly.
Mile 19: We cross the bridge to St. Paul, and we are caught by the 5 hour pace group. I am momentarily disheartened, as I figure there's no way we can keep pace with that group...and we'd maybe not be able to finish under 5 hours.
Mile 20: I'm still shocked at how well we are running, even 20 miles in. We've only slowed our pace maybe 20 seconds from mile 1. Surprisingly, the 5 hour pace group is still right in front of us, and we're easily keeping pace. I say to B, "We're finishing under 5 hours. I'm telling you right now." B has the look of death on his face, but agrees.
Mile 21-24: Probably our hardest miles of the race. These miles are straight down Summit Avenue, but it's all slightly uphill. My quads are screaming and are one darting movement away from cramping up. We keep going though. We're still pushing pretty hard to keep up with the 5 hour pace group, only about 100 yards in front of us. At one point B fell back about 10 feet - I thought maybe he was gonna have to slow it down. He managed to pull back even.
Mile 25: The sides of the course are littered with people stretching out their sore legs. Cramps and charlie horses are everywhere. We also see a girl dry heaving. We seem to be the fastest people on the course at this point, and since we're still going strong - we cruise into our last mile.
Mile 26:We see our first glimpse of the finish line by the State Capitol, and kick it up a notch. We zip by my parents who give us a cheer, and head down the final chute to the finish.
Mile 26.1:I momentarily consider sprinting ahead of B, just to finish 2 seconds ahead of him and hold that over him for the next year. Our whole friendship is based on spite, why stop now? We come to an agreement to cross the finish line at the same time, and we zip across the finish.
Finish: There are 2 emotions that went through my head when I finished: "Unbelievable!" and "I finally get to stop."
I was completely in shock that we finished under 5 hours. I'd estimated that if everything went really well, maybe I could finish in 5:15. Our final time was 4:57. I'd shaved nearly an hour of my personal best. I had a huge grin on my face, and actually got a little emotional before I snapped myself out of it.
The only thing I said to B at the finish was, "I can't believe we did that." Good stuff.
It turns out Josh wasn't dead, just had some leg issues that forced him to slow his pace.
We all finished, and then spent the next 2 days limping around like a flock of 80 year old men. When you finish, you don't even want to think about running or anything relating to running. However, now a few days later I'm already thinking about what marathon I might run next.