Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grandma's Marathon 2017




Have you ever done a repeat marathon?

I have done many repeat half marathons (as well as 10-milers, 10K's and 5K's)...but to return to the course of a marathon, and run those same 26.2 miles a second time? Well, can you just see all the (implied)(assumed)(self-initiated) stress that could erupt?  (let me give you a hint.....pretending I had NO interest WHATSOEVER in PR'ing the course was part of my plan)




Anyways, I hate "finish time" goals; even more, I hate having multiples goals. But, I made an exception to all of my race day annoyances and had several goals in place when I showed up to the start line in Two Harbors on Saturday morning:

1-run a sub-4:30! (after all, the course was relatively flat with only minor rolling hills)
2- set a new 26.2 PR (current PR is 4:33:32). If I couldn't nail a sub-4:30, maybe I could at least PR)
3-at least run a sub-5:00 (nothing wrong with a 5-hour finish, but I'd prefer to be an itsy bit faster)
4-if all else failed, desperately (as a last resort) attempt to finish faster than last time (5:03)
5- Above all else, though, I wanted to enjoy the race. When I ran it in 2015 (recap HERE), we had rain for most of the first 13.1 miles. I also had some nasty (ahem) GI distress cramping (no pun intended) my stride.

My friend, Barb, and I pulled the trigger and registered for Grandma's Marathon back on October 31...about two hours before the registration price hiked even higher. We even received bonus training jackets (see pic below) for registering early. SIDE BAR...remember what was happening in my (running) life back at the end of October? I was entering Taper...for Route 66 (in Tulsa, OK on Nov. 20).

Barb and I hit the road around 9:00 a.m. on Friday. We had a 6+ hour trek ahead of us, and would also need to stop for gas and lunch at some point. Our hope was to arrive at the expo before 4:00 p.m.
On the road...with my special early bird training jacket!
We didn't arrive in Duluth until closer to 4:30 (thank you very much, construction!). We promptly got our race packets, looked around, made a few purchases, and  met Gina ( from Running Around the Boyz) at the spaghetti dinner. Gina is a crazy gal I have known for awhile via social media, and we met briefly last October at the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. It actually worked for the three of us to stay at the same bed and breakfast place, so after a big pasta-filled dinner, we headed to our place for the night.

You all know me. I'm not just a runner, but also a total art geek. This special occasion called for some chalk art (that's right, I brought my chalk along...#havechalk #willcreate).




Race day began with a 4:00 a.m.wake-up. Our plan was to catch the train to the start line. The train started boarding at 5:00 and was scheduled to depart Canal Park at 5:45...arriving at the start line in Two Harbors around 7:00.

The train ride was amazing! It was relaxing, and I even managed a quick 10-minute nap. The tracks ran parallel to the marathon route for most of the journey.
On the train.....
Upon arrival in Two Harbors, we immediately made our way to the porta pots. Even though there were -plentiful porta-pots everywhere, the lines were crazy long. Also, we were looking for Rachel (from Running on Happy)...she was our fourth person in our little Grandma's "group." It didn't take long before we found each other and we chatted while we waited (for almost an eternity) in line.

When we finished, it was a mad dash to get back to the bag-drop and then get in line for the race. Barb was hoping to hang with the 4:15 pace group, so we gave each other a final "good luck" hug and she was gone. Gina, Rachel, and I made our way through the thick crowd of runners and lined up near the 4:30 pacer.
With Rachel and Gina...ready for the start line
All of us had mixed ideas on what the day would bring. Gina had been dealing with some knee issues, and had not done much running in recent weeks. Rachel had also battled some recent sporadic injuries. Myself...well, remember that little knee bursitis scare (like four days prior)? Although I was feeling healed, rehabbed, and recovered, I knew running 26.2 miles would be tricky. Let's also not forget that, due to my crazy racing schedule, my longest training run was only 16 miles (instead of that 20-mile benchmark). I knew my endurance would be fine, I just didn't know if my knee would hold out for the entire race.  

Before we knew it, the race was underway and we were slowly making our way toward the mat at the start line. We decided to start out together and see what happened. We all had our phones with us, so we'd be able to hook up after the race if we got separated.

 I think we lost Gina in the first mile...she was really hoping to snag a PR (she had run Grandma's last year). Rachel said she really had no specific goals (other than to finish and have fun). My plan of action was to play it by ear and see what the day brought.

The temps were pleasant (almost near perfect) when we started. The air was a bit humid, but we had a lot of cloud cover and a nice breeze coming at us along the route.  The route for Grandma's is simply beautiful! We were running west on Highway 61, along the northern coast of Lake Superior. We're talking nonstop evergreen trees everywhere!

Rachel and I had a great time chatting as we made our way across the miles. The amazing thing about meeting up with blogger friends is that you already feel like you've been "real" friends forever. We discussed different training strategies, favorite races, blogging annoyances, and running in general. I think it was near mile 3 when, just out of the blue, Rachel made the comment, "Marathons are dumb." Little did I know, that would become our mantra for the day!

Amazingly, my knee felt like nothing had ever happened to it. No pain, no swelling, no distress. The usual aches in the hamstrings were absent. The intermittent hip strain (that had been a part of my life since Route 66) was MIA. Everything seemed to be in working order!

We made it to the halfway point, and I decided to make a quick potty stop. A unique thing about Grandma's Marathon is that the 13.1 mile mark is where the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon starts. I other words...there's a lot of loud music (like you'd hear at the start line of a race) and there are a lot of porta-pots (again, like you'd see near the start of a race).  I'm not afraid of porta-pots, but I know where there's a selection of 100+ available porta-pots to choose from, the odds are pretty good they won't be as icky as when you only see 3-4 alongside the route at the various aid stations.
Rachel and I near the halfway point...can you see the beautiful lake behind us?

 So, onward! 

Although the temps felt pleasant at the start of the race, they kept getting warmer as the miles continued. I was careful to stay ahead of the game with my hydration (grabbing water at each aid station) and with my fuel (Honey Stinger gels at mile 3 and then again at mile 8), but I could tell I was starting to feel a little "off." My energy seemed to be alright, but around mile 14 or so, I could tell my body was starting to feel a little tired. 

Rachel's hubby met us at mile 15 and had a bag of snacks. I grabbed a few pretzels but had a tough time chewing them because of the lack of saliva in my mouth. I could tell my head was feeling a little strange as well...not really faint-like, but kind of light-headed or something. We had been walking through most of the water stations, but started walking a tiny bit more. I think it finally dawned on us why there were so many runners on the left side of the road (instead of on the right side, with us)....the left side of the road had a lot more shade (#duhhh). We laughed at the genius of our revelation as we agreed (again) that marathons are dumb.

I think it was near mile 18 when I started to feel like I had tanked. I never had the desire to quit, but I certainly no longer cared about my finish time. Rachel mentioned that her feet were starting to hurt, and so were mine. I could feel my arches hurting and my toes were feeling slightly numb. 

Funny thing, when I ran this race in 2015, I remembered it as being petty flat. It is not a hilly route (hello, that was Route 66 LOL), but there were a lot more gentle rolling hills than I remembered. The inclines were a welcome change, though, and not too painful or forbidding. 

Another fabulous feature of this race is the tremendous crowd support. From the start line all the way to the finish line, there are constant spectators alongside the course.

It was somewhere near the 20th mile that I realized I had gone four miles farther than my longest training run. Wow. Although I wasn't really in any kind of pain, I was feeling pretty tired. And I was definitely feeling pretty sweaty. 

As we were approaching the one and only "major" hill of the race, Lemon Drop Hill (near mile 22), I noticed my watch was flashing the "low battery" signal. WHAT??? In a moment of panic, I decided to save what was there and restart the watch. I wasn't too keen on messing with the starting/stopping thing, but I didn't want to risk losing everything that had happened thus far.

I also noticed my shins had started to hurt (what was up with that?), and also my calves. If it had been a hilly course, it would have made sense, but this course was not what I would consider hilly. I had already pulled over a couple times to adjust my compression sleeves because the bottom band felt especially tight (that had never happened before either). 

Somewhere going up Lemon Drop Hill, after I had stopped briefly to fix my sleeves (again), I saw Rachel start to break away from me...and I just didn't have the energy to catch her. I also didn't want to hold her back, so I let her go. Even though I was exhausted, it was impossible to not enjoy the here and now (seriously, the crowd support and entertainment was amazing!). I realized that I had not used my music all morning (because Rachel and I had been entertaining each other), so I popped in my ear buds and started the music for the home stretch.

I don't remember how many more times I walked (and I didn't care). Around mile 25, I noticed my watch had officially died. I was frustrated to realize that I had no idea where I was, time-wise....but I was grateful I had the forethought to save the first 22+ miles. Glass half full, right?

I don't know how it happens, but I always seem to get a little kick of energy as I approach the final mile of a race...no matter the distance. Somehow, despite the fact that I felt like I was on the verge of sleep-running (if there is even such a thing), I finished the final mile with just over a 10-minute pace. I felt my heart sink (figuratively) noticing the 5:03:xx on the clock over the finish line, but I was happy to be done and thankful for having the endurance to keep going when I felt (almost) like giving up at mile 18. 
Don't I look like I'm about to fall asleep?
It took me a few minutes to get my race shirt (you don't receive your Grandma's Marathon race shirt until AFTER the finish line), get my drop bag, and sat down to change out of my shoes to my Oofoos. I texted Barb to let her know I had (finally) finished. Just out of the blue, it started to rain...so I found a spot under the Chocolate Milk tent and waited for for the gals to find me. 
the PR gals...post-race
A few minutes later, I saw Gina and Rachel walk by. Gina finished in 4:37...and got a major PR! Rachel finished in 4:55, also spanking a big PR! I later learned that my official finish time was 5:00:27....definitely not a 26.2 PR, but a Grandma's PR! That totally made my day! Maybe marathons aren't so dumb after all.
Post race with Barb
Not long after that, Barb found me. She finished in 4:21...not quite a PR, but oh-so-close! 

I won't bore you with my mile-by-mile stats (after all, the final couple miles are missing LOL), but I'll suffice it to say that my splits were all over the place. I had some splits in the 9:40 range, but the majority were in the 10's. There were numerous mile splits in the 11,12, and 13-minute range in the final half of the race. Ugh.

My splits (via the timing mats):
10K--1:02:29
13.1 mile -- 2:20:09
20 mile --3:43:30
25 mile -- 4:48:06

overall pace 11:29
90th out of 174 (age group)
1884 out of 2932 (females)
4616 out of 6441 (overall) 
A preview of some of my race day pics...what do you think?

So yeah. That was my reality of race day. Although all of my splits were slower than usual, I'm totally fine and at peace with everything. Despite my whining about the exhaustion and occasional hot sun, I still had a fabulous time. I'm not one of those runners who feels an overwhelming need to prove myself to anyone...I take whatever the race day gives me and I go with it. I'm thankful for this gift of running, and I refuse to take any run (fast or slow) for granted.

To give you some perspective on the weather...this is what happened over the course of the morning...almost a 20-degree climb in temps!
Displaying IMG_1653.JPG
18-degree temperature climb...
Some final thoughts:
There were numerous things that went right on race day...the weather (though hot) was far better than what had been predicted (rain, scattered showers AND thunderstorms had been in the forecast since Wednesday). I think I had my hydration down to a near-perfect strategy of water/fuel/Powerade. And no knee problems the entire morning! Of course, running a race of this magnitude is pretty amazing, no matter how fast or slow you finish...and having a fun running friend along with you for most of that adventure was the creme de la creme (thanks, Rachel!). 

There also were a few things that could have been better, like my over-all state of exhaustion. The prescription meds (anti-inflammatory medication for the bursitis in my knee), listed exhaustion as one of their numerous side-effects. Although I can't blame the entire morning on those meds, I can't help but wonder if they were a factor?   Even though we had a decent amount of shade cover, there were several intermittent moments of direct sun. I also had some light-headed "stuff" going on for awhile in the second half of the marathon. And, at mile 18, when I felt totally wiped out...could that have been the proverbial "Wall?" (I seriously don't know what the "Wall" feels like on a 26.2 course).
By the famous Aerial Lift  Bridge near the finish line
Over all, Grandma's Marathon is a top-notch event. This was the 41st year, and it's pretty obvious the race director (and the entire staff, team, and volunteers) have this down to a perfect science. There's already talk (believe it or not) about a bunch of us returning next year. Yeah, this event is THAT awesome. 

The swag is pretty sweet, too! As mentioned, all registrants who beat the November 1st deadline, received the navy 1/4 zip jacket as a bonus item (it actually arrived in the mail in January!). The race shirts are a nice tech fabric with great artwork on the front. And, the medal.....it's not only beautiful, it's heavy!
In addition to the training jacket, event shirt, and awesome medal, I also grabbed a car sticker and patch
Sidenote - Just to show how badass we can be, after dinner Barb, Rachel, and myself assumed the position and did a plank...alongside the race course that we'd run across approximately 12 hours prior. Yes, that DID happen!

So that's a wrap on Grandma's Marathon for 2017. Have you run Grandma's before? What's the farthest you have traveled for a race? Have you ever received a bonus item for early-bird registration? Have you ever hit the "Wall" during a race?




** I'm linking up with Suzie and Rachel and Debbie and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner


**And with Nicole and Annmarie and Jen for the Wild Wednesday Workout



46 comments:

  1. Congrats on your race! Thats awesome that you got to run so much of it with Rachel and see so many bloggers. I love that your mantra was "marathons are dumb"! Ha! Such a true thought we often have mid race.

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    1. Thanks ;-) We had a blast. Grandma's is such a great event!

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  2. I love your attitude and the way you always find the best out of everything. How fun to get to meet up w some of your favorite bloggers in person. Makes me almost want to train for one so I can play along too (almost). Nice job on your course PR especially w the wonky knee thing

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    1. Thankfully, the wonky knee was a non-issue on race day ;-) Whew!

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  3. This race really does look great! A race PR is still good--congrats!!! And a marathon finish is always a victory itself!

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    1. Although a distance PR would have been much sweeter, the course PR will do just nicely ;-)

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  4. I love your recap! I felt like I was running with you again 😄

    I definitely think those meds had a lot to do with it, along with the temps. My coach told me it was in the 80s during our last hour of running which would also contribute to our slog.

    I had so much fun running with you!

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    1. I wonder if our constant chatter (and laughter) played a part in my exhaustion (?) ;-) No complaints!! Marathons are dumb...but I kind of already am eager to do another...

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    2. It's funny you say that -- I was just working on my recap and I mentioned that I was out of breath because we kept talking. But whatever. Totally worth it. :)

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    3. Well, you kept reminding me that marathons are dumb.... #justsaying ;-)

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  5. Aww, Kim, sounds like it was a tough race. For sure, finishing is winning!!

    I hit the wall big time at my first Chicago (and yes, I've run Chicago 3 times and would do it again in a heartbeat!). That was at mile 18 where I fell apart. I even called my husband to come and get me. To which he said no. Those final 8.2 miles were the longest ever.

    Marathons are dumb! But what a great feeling to cross that finish line!

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    1. I have hit the wall before in half marathons, but I've been pretty lucky to avoid it in the bigger races. I was just so tired!I never wanted to quit, but a 20-minute nap around mile 18 would have felt SO good LOL

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  6. This is SUCH a fun race recap! Loved seeing you and YES - I'M CRAZY!!!!! Dontcha - know! :) LOL Meet up again for sure! and yes... RACHEL..... marathons ARE dumb! :)

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    1. It was great seeing you, just a bummer we didn't see much of you on the race course (because you were kicking asphalt en route to that PR) LOL...so, yes, another race is a must-do!

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  7. Congratulations on the course PR! So fun that you and Rachel ran the majority of it together...I"m sure that helped the miles tick away more quickly.

    While I've never run a full, I always hit a wall ...no matter the distance. In a half, it's usually around mile 10. Even in 10ks, I kind of hit one around 4.5 miles because I'm pushing my pace faster than usual. I think the wall may feel different for everyone, but everyone feels it at some point and in some form or fashion. Great job of pushing through it and finishing strong!

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    1. Even though I was in a bit of a "fit" with my exhaustion (and frustration because of it), the miles did actually go pretty quickly (I say that NOW, looking back HA!).

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  8. Wow, sounds like a great race and that you all had a lot of fun! I love the chalk art :) And congrats on the course PR.

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    1. Despite the exhaustion, etc., it was still a MAJOR fun race. ;-)

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  9. Love the mantra! Congrats on crossing another marathon finish line. And special huge props for running such a strong marathon in JUNE (yikes!). For me, that would have been suicide. Great job, girl.

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    1. I'm grateful for my endurance...it got me through to another finish line. The mantra kept us laughing...every 3-4 miles, one of us would say it out loud LOL

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  10. I love your attitude about this race! I too am one of those runners who don't feel like I have to prove something. As long as I finish, I never have a bad race.

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    1. Oh, I have had some bad races, but all of them have happened when I tried to focus on my finish time and NOT actually enjoy the process of running the race itself. I have said it before...I am NOT a racer ;-)

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  11. Loved reading your recap! Congratulations on your marathon! It must have been fun to have so many friends there with you along the way and spending so much time running with Rachel! I love seeing the chalk art and the medal is so nice, well-earned!

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    1. Rachel was a hoot! We had a lot of fun despite the aches and pains that tried to dampen our day.

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  12. I can't imagine the mental game a repeat marathon would be. You have a great attitude! Way to go!!

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    1. The repeat marathon thing was a bit of a freaky thing. Although we never, ever, run the same "race" twice, it's still tough to separate the two events from each other.

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  13. Super congrats on your marathon finish!! It's great that you were able to meet up with so many other bloggers. I had serious FOMO seeing all the photos this weekend!

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    1. Well, we need to get YOU out to the Midwest sometime! I'm looking at some events out east/northeast...but none of them fall on opportune weekends for me ;-(

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  14. Huge congrats! You totally rocked it - not sure how I would have dealt with that type of temp increase during a race!

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    1. Thankfully, we had a nice breeze...but it did disappear intermittently among all the trees on the course.

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  15. It's so nice you got to meet up with blogger/runner friends. Having a buddy makes all the difference for me during races. Congrats on the course PR! Also... marathons are dumb. haha!

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    1. The whole "marathons are dumb" was too funny when Rachel said it for the first time. Then she said it again...and again... ;-)

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  16. Haha! You and your planks!

    Congratulations! I think you did great, especially considering the lack of long run training. I feel like I may need to do Grandma's next year!

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    1. I knew I was a bit under-trained going in, but I think that's a better alternative than being over-trained. The knee bursitis totally blind-sided me...then it was a no-show on race day WHEW!

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  17. Congrats on that finish and a course PR is even better! I love how you always manage to throw the planks in! It looks like overall a fun weekend with blogger runner friends! YAY!

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    1. It was an epic weekend with blogger friends! As you know...blogger friends are the BEST friends ;-)

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  18. Amazing! You did so well, in spite of the challenges, and I love all the wonderful things you took away from this experience.

    I think the farthest I have traveled for a race (thus far) is Philadelphia (from NE Florida). Second to that was Virginia Beach. I hope to be adding Las Vegas this year, but we will see.

    Congratulations on a great race! Enjoy your time off!

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    1. My time off currently has me scratching my head...wondering why the knee is wonky (again). Of course, those 26.2 miles didn't do it any favors, but it felt fine the entire time I was running. UGH.

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  19. I think you did a fabulous job, considering what has been going on in your life! A course PR is a great thing. I actually like to have multiple goals.

    Heat, for me, will always be a factor -- and that's just for 13.1. I did hit the "wall" -- well, sort of, in my first half -- similar to you, feeling rather light headed -- a combination of being undertrained (no GPS watch) and it being a night half, no doubt.

    That's so wonderful that you & Rachel were able to run together for so many miles!

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    1. OMG, Running with Rachel was a total blast!

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  20. Great recap... this one is definitely on my radar!

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  21. I've actually never traveled farther than ~1 hour for a race - but everyone makes Grandma's sound so fun.

    Sounds like the heat made things tough - congrats on the course PR!

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    1. The heat usually doesn't bother me, but it did get a little challenging at the race...and I think my exhaustion was a huge factor as well. Still a fun time, though!

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  22. I just loved reading your race recap. I felt like I was running right along side of you! Congrats!

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    1. Thanks!!!It got tough in the second half,but it was an epic experience ;-)

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