Twin Cities Marathon and Global Hero Alumni weekend



When I got the email about the 10 year global hero alumni event in twin cities for the marathon.  I didn’t hesitate to sign up.   I had such a great time the prior year.  Although this year would be without the black car service at the airport and I was responsible for hotel and flight this year.  It was a chance to see my fellow global heroes from 2014 who I had stayed connected with throughout the year following our epic weekend.  We had a choice of doing the marathon or the 10 miler.  Of course I chose the marathon.

The twin cities marathon is beautiful.  I may go as far as to say that it is one of my favorites.  The route is lined with people the entire way and winds through some beautiful lakeview neighborhoods.

The weekend was not the best, from a schedule stand point.  My work schedule was crazy during that time but I decided just to bring my laptop and work from the hotel.  That way I could still attend the great events that Medtronic had planned for us.  Additionally, I had just finished the Wisconsin Ironman 3 weeks prior and had not exercised once during that time. I felt heavy and sluggish.  Everyone says but you just did an ironman a marathon should be easy.  What they don’t get is that training for an ironman marathon is not at all the same as training for a stand alone marathon.  Prior to ironman I had probably ran approximately 40-45 miles in the 4 weeks prior with 1 16 mile run and 1 13 mile run.  When you train for a marathon people will run 40 miles in 1 week with 5 or 6 days or running.

But it wasn’t really about the time or the marathon.  It was about being together with global hero’s from around the world spreading the message that a diagnosis did not end the run.  Despite various medical conditions we were still able to do what we love.

What I loved about this weekend was getting to know better the handful of returning 2014 global heroes  in a way that I never thought possible.  We ate and drank and shared our diagnosis stories.  We got to know each other on a whole different level and it felt like I had known them for years.  And FUN!  I haven’t laughed so much in a long long time. It was an amazing weekend.  Medtronic of course did it up in style with an alumni mixer gathering and a wonderful dinner.  I even got to see one of my riding on insulin teammates from the IM – Robb who was a global hero in 2009.  Also seeing familiar faces from the prior year of Medtronic’s Ranita and Cory as well as Warren and Debbie was icing on the cake.





Saturday night before the race we finished up at the dinner at the Science museum and headed back to the hotel of course to have a night cap.  I realized that I had spilled some water on my dexcom and my tester and both went on the fritz.  Normally I would have an extra tester but this time of course I didn’t bring one.  I have never needed a spare in the past.  Lynn offered to drive me to get a new one but I always hate to burden people.  We ran into a 2015 global hero Tomas from Ireland and he offered to give me his extra tester so I was set….he had to show me how to use it because it had some neat features that I had never seen before and I had to multiply by 18 to get to the “American” standard number.  More evidence of how European “FDA” approve things more quickly than here.  He even had a 640g Medtronic pump which was totally cool.  I have been holding off on replacing my pump in anticipation of the new updated insulin pump being approved here.

After we said goodnight to Tomas we all decided we would go for a drive anyway.  I’m not really sure why as I think back but it seemed to be a good idea at a time.  Five of us squeezed into Lynn’s tiny rental car which we nicknamed sparkle… I think the actual name was a Spark?  We drove about 20 minutes and found a Walgreens.  The others bought cheap throw away sweatshirts for the morning and I picked up an “American” tester that I was used to.  Regardless, we had a ton of laughs at the ‘roos expense.  I got back to my room a little late but I really didn’t feel any pressure or worry about the marathon.  We also bought some duct tape at walgreens 🙂



The next morning, I got on the shuttle to the start in Minneapolis at 6:30 am with my layers of clothing to keep me warm.  It was a beautiful fall day, with beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds.  I arrived at the start and felt a bit alone the others were doing the 10 miler.



I decided not to carry much with me.  I had my spybelt with my tester and a sleeve of marguerita cliff blocks.  I reduced my basal to 40% about half an hour prior.  I had eaten a peanut butter and banana sandwich for breakfast.

The gun went off and I shed by big hoodie that I had bought for 7.99 at Walgreens the day before.  Hills are relative to what you are used to.  For instance the gals from near Calgary Alberta Emily and Debbie scoffed at the hills as Debbie clarified that they live in the “foothills”  of the “mountains” .  For me Twin Cities is hilly.  Not huge hills but just rollers and coming from Chicago it’s enough to feel it in the legs early.

A few miles in an older man started to chat with me.  His name was Rick. Rick is 75 years old.  He had coached track in the area for 49 years.  He chatted about the course having done it every year up to 2010 when he took a break.  This was his “return”  although he said probably his last.  He told me about the wind direction, the uneven roads and the x-NFL football player ahead who was going to be playing the tuba.  Rick seemed to know everyone.  Rick was running a 4 mile run/ 1 minute walk pattern.  So at some point I ran ahead not one for liking to stop.  However at one point I did stop do use the porta potty where I had to wait to get in.  Sure enough when I got out there was Rick.  This happened once again.  I had stopped to wait for a port-a-potty again and getting impatient I took off.  Then finally I really just had to wait.  I was a little bummed and losing the minutes.  I ran with Rick until about half way.  He was figuring he would come in around 4:15 or so. We passed the half way mark at 2:06. I tested at 126 – perfect.  I had eaten 2 blocks and had mixed Gatorade and water at the aid station.  I didn’t see Rick after the halfway mark but he ended up finishing in 4:25.  Amazing at 75!

In the meantime I was hurting quite a bit.  My legs felt tight and sore and I could feel them burning with lactic acid.  This started around mile 7 or 8.  I felt like I had run the first half fairly cautiously but  I did not feel good going into the last half.  Knowing there would still be more hills.

Instead of focusing on the negative and letting the pain get into my head I did several things to get me through:

  • I focused on the crowds and enjoyed the cheers and the partying.
  • I focused on my cadence and the sound of my steps hitting the pavement.
  • I adopted Rick’s 4 mile / 1 minute walk program.
  • I thought of things to look forward to – Medtronic cheer station, seeing Mari on the course.
  • I thought of Lynn who had just finished a 106 mile ultra.  After hearing what she went through and how she battled through some dire circumstances as well as finishing despite an over 50% DNF rate for the race (see her story that inspired me here  On Not Quitting )  .  She was a huge inspiration and motivator for me.
  • I tried to remember my ironman mantra – with every step of this day i will get stronger in every way.

Using these methods I managed to gain some traction.  I passed the Medtronic cheering station and heard my name being called.  Which gave me a nice little boost.  I still had 7 miles to go and I was hurtin’.    I tested my blood sugar again during one of my walks at 134 – awesome!  In total I had eaten 4 blocks then at mile 19 ish I ate a GU with caffeine to get me home.  I was very happy with my blood sugars that day!

Finally I reached the point where I could see the capital building in St. Paul I knew I was home.  I didn’t do a sub-four which is usually my “benchmark” marathon time but I was pretty close at 4:06.  I approached the finisher chute and drank in the cheers and the crowd, passing the Medtronic VIP area I waved to the crowd so excited to be done.


After crossing the finish line I limped through the long finishers area to get my medal, my shirt and my clothing bag.  I had to stop several times to gather some strength.  I was so spent, I had truly given it my all.  I got my bag and went to the changing area and changed into warm dry clothes.  It felt so good.  It was nice that they had this option.  I finally made it to the Medtronic tent where I was greeted by Jonathan who had also ran it last year and who is the Team 2 End Aids endurance even manager and Lynn my global hero sister.  She was so amazing.  She got me whatever I needed including a much needed chair and food.  I sat for quite a long time as runners still filtered in.  We wanted to wait for Debbie and Emily to finish.  This was Debbie’s first marathon in a while and also has diabetes.  I was very excited for her and excited that she will be training for her first ironman next year!

The first words out of her mouth when I saw her… was “that was so far”. I gave her a big understanding hug.  I know the feeling of being overwhelmed by what you just “did”.  It can be very emotional.    But she finished and after you let it sink in it feels pretty damn good!!!






Back at the hotel we all sat around … drank more, ate and laughed a ton.  I was so happy.  Finally we had to say good bye.  I had had a 3:30 am wake up to get a 4:30 am  shuttle reality of getting back to work hit hard.

As I was packing I finally said good-bye to my beloved Hoka’s that has seen me through over 600 miles of running.  I had tried a new pair on at the expo and was amazed at how good they felt.  I had not realized how dead the old pair were.  You can see here how worn they were on the bottom too.



FullSizeRender (1)

I headed straight into work with some great memories of a wonderful weekend.  Thanks again Medtronic for what you do.

To my hero brothers and sisters who attended this weekend – Carrie, Brad, Kimi, Kristen, Lynn, and Rachel and to all of those who virtually ran with us.  Thank you so much for being a constant inspiration to me and to many others. Until next time.




About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
This entry was posted in Race Day Tips, Race nutrition, Race Reports, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s