"Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don't have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reflections from TCM 2011

With weeks leading up to TCM, I had a plan in place. I had studied the map as if it was my job. I knew the inclines, I knew the turns, I knew I wanted to PR, and re-qualify for Boston. I had done months of training, post-stress fracture, and logged 60-65 mile weeks for two months straight! I was ready for my hard work to pay off. As I studied the map, I developed my strategy. I didn’t think it was possible to negative split TCM. The hills are at the end. Pair that with the fatigue that comes with running a marathon, and increasing temperatures, and it’s a recipe for disaster-for me, at least. I determined I could run between 7:30-7:45 for the first 16-18 miles. If I held that pace, I knew it would create a buffer of time, to struggle at the end. That is exactly what I did, and that is exactly what happened. I ran faster at the beginning, and I struggled at the end. A co-worker, training buddy, and truly, a friend, Jon Webster, decided the Thursday before the marathon to run and pace me! Jon is not your average runner. An average runner doesn’t jump into a marathon the Thursday before. He is an incredibly talented athlete, and I am truly honored that he chose to help me reach my goal. A longtime friend, Dan Bare, decided that since he was not in BQ-shape himself (due to an earlier injury), he would help me reach my goal. In the words of Dan, “I could run faster, miss Boston by a decent gap, and be by myself the whole race. Or, I could help you reach your goal, and run the race with a friend. The second option is more appealing.” And that is what he did. With the help of Jon and Dan, I reached my goal of another BQ, under the more stringent qualifying standards. For that, I am so grateful and still humbled by how they helped me. This document is a work in progress, and I will probably add to it as I continue to process. For those willing to read the entire thing, thank you. Here is my story.

Miles 1-3: Dan and I were waiting patiently in corral 1, ready to begin our race. It was a beautiful day. Cool temps, and not much wind. It truly couldn’t have gotten much better. Jon was in corral 2, as he ran in place of Jeremy, who bowed out due to injury. We hoped to find each other between miles 3-4. Where did these miles go? I felt my taper, and am so thankful I listened to the recipe for success. First mile was slow, due to so many people. Second and third miles were 7:15s-I was feeling good, but knew I needed to slow down so I didn’t burn out later. Seeing my XC runners after mile 2 definitely added a pep in my step! Maybe too much pep! I couldn’t help but move when I saw and heard them cheering! I started wondering where Jon was after we passed mile 3. I knew we had started faster than expected, but thought the first mile had slowed us down enough to compensate. I was concerned Jon was going to pass us without even realizing it!

Miles 4-7: Jon caught up with us and I was relieved to have Dan, Jon, and myself all together. Jon and Dan hit it off really well, discussing races, ability, and PRs. We found my new friend, Gary, from Lifetime Fitness during this time, but he passed us, and stayed ahead the entire course to eventually pull off an amazing PR of 3:25:19! Minus the little incline in between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, this portion of the race was flat. I had been concerned about the incline after mile 6 (between the lakes) because I remember what a beast it was climbing it multiple times during COL25K. The incline really didn’t even affect me at all. I didn’t feel psyched out, and I didn’t feel my heart rate elevate much. I used this stretch of miles to really pray for my fellow friends running TCM-many of them for the first time.

Miles 8-13: These miles also seemed to breeze by. I remember the incline on the Parkway around mile 8. The parkway is hillier than the running trail that runs by the creek. Even with that incline, I wasn’t concerned, and charged up the hill, to be greeted with flat terrain the next few miles. At some point during this stretch, I saw some of my XC team, and felt another surge of energy as we passed them. I knew my parents were going to be somewhere around Lake Nokomis and Cedar Ave, however, I wasn’t sure what mile I would actually see them at. The bridge at Lake Nokomis ended up being surprisingly windy! Nothing too scary but definitely noticeable. They ended up being at the end of the Cedar Ave bridge around Lake Nokomis. Up to this point, I was still feeling strong, and care-free. I was so excited to see my Dad, Mom, Grandma, and Mike! It gave me a burst of energy! The three of us yelled happy birthday at my Mom, and I was pleased we all had the energy/ambition to do so! My dad lifted up his shirt, to show me the St. John’s shirt that Jeff Winkleman won and gave to him while he was in the hospital. Soon enough we had passed the half marathon mark, and were closer to the finish line than the start line!

Miles 14-19: At this point, I was still feeling good, and was reminded to pray for my friends that were running. These miles felt relatively easy as well. I trained along this road all winter and summer. I knew the slight ups and downs of this curvy road. We tried to keep the tangents as best we could. There were some sunny patches along the road, but nothing that concerned me too much. The incline up to the Franklin Bridge was short, but I felt it. We got up the hill, and my heart didn’t feel too overwhelmed. After the bridge, I knew we were approaching the hills of the river parkway. At mile 18, my stellar personal training client Kent and his beautiful new bride, Sue, were waiting and cheering me on! I had trained for so long on these hills, and I knew they were coming. I was still feeling decent, and so I was trying to prepare mentally. And by decent, I mean, I felt like I had run 19 miles, but knew I could keep going. I know I saw more of my team, and more friends along the course, however, I can’t remember who all I saw, and at what point.

Miles 20-21: These miles were extremely challenging. My parents appeared around mile 20, and I was so encouraged to see their faces! Shortly after mile 20, I saw my co-worker, and girlfriend, Kara. She was on one of the hills along the river parkway, just as we had planned. Ready with a sign, loud cheering, and an encouraging smile. I made eye contact for only a moment, and I hope she saw how much she had encouraged me in my eyes, because I’m not sure I gave her much more. A spectator will never fully understand the importance of that brief moment, and how much encouragement it brings a runner. The effect of the moment outlives the moment itself. This is where the wheels started to fall off for me. We came to the first hill, under the Lake Street Bridge. I tried to stay calm and take on the hill. At this point, it felt like work, it felt hard, but I knew I had it in me. My quads were feeling the pain, but I knew this was only a baby hill compared to what was to come. The second hill is the hill right before the dreaded St. Thomas hill. I steadied myself, and kept trucking. I was hurting, but I wasn’t going to stop. Jon kept reminding me to think about my form, to stay light, and to stay loose. I remember at one point saying, “I’m so tired,” and Dan said, “We’re all tired at this point, we gotta keep going.” That was so encouraging! To hear that I wasn’t the only tired person at this pace helped me continue to put one foot in front of the other. And then we got to the St. Thomas hill….I had run this hill so many times, I knew it so well. I had climbed it so many times. Prior to the St. Thomas hill, I had not stopped to walk-not even at water/Powerade stations. I knew the pain of starting and stopping, and didn’t want to go there. Also, once you walk, it gets stuck in your head that “I’ve walked already, so….” But at mile 21.5, I cracked-and I walked. Looking back, I am disappointed that I stopped to walk at a place that was not a water/Powerade station. I wish I could have held out until the next station at mile 22. My quads felt as if they were going to bust out of my legs-right through my skin! Obviously this was not going to happen, but that was the pain I was experiencing. On this hill, the 3:30 pace group passed us. Up to this point, my understanding had been that we were on pace for 3:25, so seeing the 3:30 pacer caught me off guard-they were clearly ahead of their target, and Jon confirmed that! The pacer tried to encourage me to stick with him, get up the hill, and tough it out. But my legs needed reprieve! So I walked for a few seconds, and started back up again. Jon reminded me to start up slowly, and not jump back into the same pace. At the top of the hill, I saw my buddy Trey-he put his coaching hat on and encouraged me and reminded me of the work I had already done. Both Jon and Dan reminded me how little we had left. We turned onto Cretin Ave, and then onto Summit Ave. The first person I saw on Summit Ave was Meghan Smith, my girl, running and yelling “Go Bree! That’s my coach! That’s my coach!” That’s all I heard and all I remember. But I remember that it meant something, and I was filled with emotion. Then I saw my client, Pam, jumping up and down, cheering for me. I’ve cheered her on in her running journey, and her weight loss journey, and now she was cheering for me. I had to keep going. I had made it to St. Thomas! Another one of my clients, Brittany, was at St. Thomas with a sign, rooting for me, and so I kept going. This was also the first place I saw my best friend, biggest fan, and the love of my life, my husband. Jeremy is the person who puts up with the months of training leading up to the marathon. He is the one who reminds me what I’m capable of when I forget. At this point, I knew I had to keep going. But it the struggle wasn’t over…..

Miles 22-23: Summit Ave climbs. I knew I only had about another mile of climbing, and it would get better. I kept breaking the mile down in my head-Summit Ave to Prior Ave, and Prior Ave to Snelling Ave, and then I’m done with hills (for the most part). Jon kept saying, “Just take it one mile at a time, we’ll walk through the water stops, and then start back up again.” I needed that. Dan kept saying, “Just one foot in front of the other. Each step is putting you closer to the finish.” I needed to break the last few miles into small, incremental, yet attainable steps. So we climbed the hill, and made it to mile 23, walked, got some water/powerade, and we were off again. At this point, my body didn’t NEED the water and the Powerade, but I kept saying that I did because I needed the walking break-and truthfully, the mental break.

Miles 24-26: And so we continued. One water/Powerade station at a time. We’d run until we got to the station, we got fluids, and started back up again. At this point, the worst was over! We were truly on our way to the capital, and I was on my way to a PR. With all the stops, I knew I had lost my opportunity to run a 3:30 or better; however, I knew I was going to run a big fatty PR that I could be proud of! I was breathing heaving, I think I was groaning, and I was most certainly hurting. Most people forget there is a hill during mile 25, because they’re so close to being done, but I didn’t forget. I saw it, and I felt it, but I kept going. As we got to the top of the hill, I could see the down hill, and I could see the finish. And that was all I needed.

Mile 26-26.2: I was at the end, and I was going to finish strong. I wasn’t sure I had any kick left, as my quads felt shot, but according to my trusty Garmin, I pumped out a 6:45 sprint to the end! With the support and encouragement of my friends Jon and Dan, and all my friends and family along the course, I had done it! 3:31:30!!! (Prior to TCM, my PR was 3:39:07, held at the Chicago Marathon-which is a completely FLAT course-not one hill). I had shaved almost 8 minutes off my marathon time-ON A MORE DIFFICULT COURSE! That was something I could be proud of.

I am still reflecting on what this marathon meant to me. I don’t know that I have had enough time to process everything I learned through this race, but know that it’s coming. There are a few things I have processed: Running a marathon is not pretty, or easy-for anyone! People care deeply about me, and demonstrated that by supporting me in this process. I feel God’s presence as I run. I want my running to change me, and change others, and if I ever get to a point where it’s not doing that, I will retire. Until then, I want my running to reflect the beauty of Christ, and what He has done in my life, and I want others to realize that there is always more to life-and to pursue that lifestyle. “I RUN in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart FREE “ (Psalm 119:32)


  1. Bree this is so beautiful! I seriously cried as I read this remembering the pain and mental discouragement I went through just to finish. You are a beast and I am so proud of you! I'm so thankful that you were my coach, and that I got to run my first marathon when you PR'd!

    Keep it up girl!

  2. Great job, Bree! That is wonderful! Go you!!