Disclaimer: I ran Grandma's Marathon as a BibRave Pro, which means my entry fee was covered for me. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
How do I even start to write about Grandma's Marathon?!
Let me first tell you how it ends. I ran a 2:59:50.
Dream goal of 2018...achieved.
Ok. Now that that is out of the way, I'll tell you the long story. Well, what I remember of it anyways because quite honestly, I don't remember a lot about the last 3-4 miles of the race.
We left for Duluth Thursday after work so that we could break up the driving a bit. My husband and two kids were coming with me and if anyone has taken car trips with young kids, you know they can be brutal. Duluth is about six hours away from our house. We stopped for dinner at Buffalo Phil's train restaurant in Wisconsin Dells and I had a philly cheesesteak that did not agree with my stomach. We stopped for the night in Chippewa Falls, WI which was our goal. We promised the kids a swim when we got there and we were in bed by 10 PM, which is way later than my usual bedtime and I was little freaking out about that.
We were awake by 7 AM on Friday and slept well. We headed down for breakfast where I stuffed more carbs in my face and then went to do my 3 mile shakeout run while my husband took the kids swimming. We were truly in the middle of nowhere so I ran around the parking lot and on two small roads along cornfields in loops until I got 3 miles in. My legs felt good and springy.
I got back to the hotel and we showered, packed up and resumed driving. We arrived in Duluth around noon on Friday and went to our hotel. The hotel staff were all wearing green Grandma's Marathon t-shirts which made me very excited. They clearly had worked the marathon before and had organized everything around the marathon. Extra snacks, earlier breakfast, shuttles to the the start, allowing you to say when housekeeping could clean your room...these were all some of the benefits. Our room was not ready yet but they said they would call so we made the decision to go to the Expo.
The Expo was crowded, but my kids got plenty of free samples and I got my packet. I really wanted to be at the talk with Carrie Tollefson and Kara Goucher but I also did not want to deal with taking my family back to the expo with me later in the day. My husband said we had to eat at Grandma's restaurant so we went there for lunch. I had a chicken pot pie that was yummy.
After lunch we opted to go to the Duluth Children's Museum which was great because it was pouring rain (it rained most of Friday), the kids could run around and I didn't have to be on my feet.
We went to the Oiselle-organized dinner at 5 PM at Va Benne Cafe. Oiselle did a great job having a bunch of activities for runners during marathon weekend. I probably would have gone to many more of the activities if I hadn't had my family with me so I was glad we were able to go to the dinner. They had yummy pasta. I spent most of dinner trying to keep my kids entertained but chatted a bit with some other Volee. We ditched out early though because the kids were super antsy by the time dinner came. There was a cute ice cream shoppe near the restaurant that we went to afterwards and then we did a walk along the lake, even climbing down to test the waters of Lake Superior.
Everyone was good and tired by then so we headed back to our hotel. I organized my stuff for the next morning (race morning). The weather forecast all week was showing thunderstorms during the race and it was unchanged as of Friday night. I had brought a throw-away pair of shoes and socks as well as a jacket, tights and long-sleeve from my throwaway clothes pile at home. I had grabbed a poncho from the stash at the hotel and my plan was to wear all of that and keep my race clothes dry and change into my race shoes and socks at the last minute. I got my watch ready and it was blinking showing me there was an updated. I shrugged and clicked accept and the watch began updating.
I prepped my food as well. I brought my picky oats for race morning but didn't bring milk for them so I made them into overnight oats using chocolate milk that we were given at the race expo. I prepped my Gen UCan and some nuun in my handheld for on the course. I also had another throwaway water bottle with Beachbody energize - which was what i was using in the mornings before many of my workouts. I had gotten some Gatorade Endurance the week of the race in the mail that I was using a lot because I liked it but I was a little nervous to use it during the race since I hadn't had the opportunity to test it during a long run. (I'll be reviewing Gatorade Endurance soon on the blog!). I did drink a lot of Gatorade Endurance all day on Friday.
I was in bed by 8:30 PM on Friday night. My legs did not feel good. I was a little panicked that we had done too much on Friday (even though I felt like I was good about not using my legs much). My calves in particular felt really crampy and tight. I rolled them out before bed and prayed for the best.
Saturday - Race Day
I slept beautifully - until about 4:45 when I could hear others in the hotel moving around. I was fine with this because my alarm was set for 5 AM. I checked the weather and it was like a gift from God. All of the rain had disappeared from the forecast. WHAT?! Like when does that ever happen?!
I got dressed. I was wearing my Oiselle distance shorts (these are always my race day shorts) and crop. I had to wear my BibRave singlet as a condition for getting my marathon fee covered by them. Honestly, I was a little sad that I couldn't just wear my Oiselle crop but the singlet is a Rabbit tank, of which I have several and like so I knew it wasn't going to be an issue. I brought along both my Balega blister resist and Balega silver socks for the race in my gear check bag. I slapped on a temporary Oiselle tattoo on my bicep and started to braid my hair. It took me three tries to braid my hair because my arms were shaking so much.
I realized that my spray deodorant sample was actually NOT a deodorant - just an antiperspirant so I grabbed my husband's deodorant to wear for the race. I then ate my picky oats. I was not hungry so eating the oatmeal was a challenge but I ate it all. I grabbed my three hydration bottles and my pre-packed gear bag....and then my son woke up.
I laid with him a bit and then went to the bathroom. In that time, he had crawled in bed with my husband. I prayed that he would fall back asleep so that my husband wouldn't have to get up so early, gave everyone kisses and then left my hotel room.
The lobby was jumping with all the runners and then the shuttles came. I boarded the first one and we were off to the start!
It seemed to take forever to get to the start. Of course, all the while, you are thinking, "Oh wow. I have to run all of this back." We approached the starting area and then....kept going! All of us on the bus were looking at each other like, "What is going on?" Finally the bus driver stopped and said, "I think I missed the drop off so I'm just going to let you off here." Um...yes. Just what a bunch of marathoners want to do - walk extra before the race! The extra walk did let us see two deer though, which I took as a good omen since I was constantly running into deer during my training runs!
We got to the start and I got into the porta potty line when I see Jana from MN. I met Jana at the Icebreaker relays. She came over to say hi, and told me to run fast. After I used the bathroom, I saw some Oiselle singlets by the med tent and it turned out to be Kelly and Carrie from WI, whom I follow in Instagram. So I went over there and gave them big hugs. Carrie also used Hanson's and all of us were going for PRs. (Spoiler - all of us got PRs!). Carrie also told me to go for the sub-3. I changed into my race shoes and got my gear bag situated. It was 7:30 and I was getting nervous so I just headed for the corrals.
Once I got in the corral, I saw Amy from BibRave which was exciting as we had been following each other's training on Instagram as well. We took a pic and she also told me to go for the sub-3.
I ended up lining up at the 3:05 pace sign. I was surrounded by smelly guys. I mean, I just do not understand why guys have to be smelly BEFORE THEY EVEN RUN. I ditched my sweatshirt with a few minutes left. The air was cool. It was a great day to run a marathon. I got my watch ready to go, made sure my shoes were ready, and did my Kristina Power Pose.
The horn went off.
Here we go!!!
I started running in the big 3:05 pace herd, and immediately got boxed in by the smelly guys. I was not running my pace - it felt slow - so I looked down at my watch. Why the hell is the pace in the 4s?! I kept going with the guys and then my watch beeped. "Why is my watch beeping??"
OMG. It is showing me kilometers. It must have reset to defaults in the updates. NOW WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!
After a brief panic, I decided to just stay with the 3:05 pace group for the first few miles.
At the mile mark, the pacer yelled out the split. 7:02. I didn't feel great...I definitely was still all nerves so I decided to stay with the group even though I felt like I was adjusting my stride to run where I was running. It was very crowded.
At the second mile mark, the pacer yelled out the split: 6:56. At this point, I decided that I could not run any more with this group. The stride adjustment was driving me bonkers so I went around them to the far outside. I saw a group of two women and one guy shortly up ahead. I caught up to them and could run comfortably.
[From here out, I am going to give you mile splits but I didn't know these during the race. These are my splits from my watch which I was able to see after I uploaded the run into Strava.]
The women were chatting up a storm. I liked them because they were discussing their pace splits at every mile so during the race, I could kind of realize where I was. I was doing math in my head by 7:00 miles - so I knew roughly where I was at every mile based on the overall time elapsed. As we were approaching mile 3, I knew that I wanted to be under 21 minutes. Mile 3 was another 6:56.
The next miles were easy. Just rolling along. The course and weather were beautiful. I took a cup of water at every aid station I came upon and just stayed with my pack of 3.
Mile 4: 6:55
Mile 5: 6:50
Mile 6: 6:51
At some point, we went under the train overpass. I don't know what mile this was at but the image is burned in my brain because it was like something in a movie. SO PRETTY. I was waving wildly at the spectators yelling at us from the train.
I still felt very calm and comfortable at the pace we were going. This was all going great with my plan to flow through the first half. I was still running with the 2 women and the guy. We had other people kind of come in and out of the group but I don't remember anyone else but the main 3 because I just stayed right behind them. At one point, I think it was around mile 8, I yelled out, "Oh my god you can smell pine trees." It was the freshest, cleanest scent ever. Nobody said anything. They just looked at me like I was insane, likely because up until that point, I did zero talking.
All along these miles, the road was tree lined and so very green. It was very foggy...there were sporadic views of the lake that were starting to occur and you could feel them before you could see them. The air temperature would drop and a very cold breeze from the lake would blow.
Mile 7: 6:56
Mile 8: 6:50
Mile 9: 6:52
I started to realize that I wanted to be around 4:16/km on my pace watch. I continued doing math using 7:00/mile as a guide and comparing my watch elapsed time to that benchmark. The overall time was under the benchmark so I knew I was running sub-7 miles, but I didn't know how far under I was. We had caught up to Erin, wearing a black Oiselle crop. She said, "This looks like a strong group" when we came upon her and she joined us for a while. I could not believe how easily she was talking.
Mile 10: 6:42
Mile 11: 6:52
Mile 12: 6:45
I remember getting to the halfway point and thinking, "That wasn't too bad." At this point, I was running with Oiselle Erin and one of the original women I was with in the pack. The two of them were chatting it up and I was just behind them, mute. I learned that the other woman was 26 and ran for South Dakota State. Erin was 43 and ran for Ohio State. She was talking so much....it was fun to listen to but I was still mute.
Mile 13: 6:35.
[My half marathon time was 1:30:14. When I got to the half point, I saw the clock by the mile marker at 1:30 and thought, "Looks like I am not breaking three today...but I am good with where I am at...try to stay ahead of the 3:05 pace group."]
Erin and I ended up by ourselves for a bit and she was still talking. She asked me what my PR was and I responded, "3:11" and she said, "Woah! You are definitely ahead of that right now, but as we know, anything can happen in a marathon." I was responding to her talking in one word phrases but not really talking, because I was starting to feel like I was working. She was running so effortlessly - it seriously helped to have her and I am grateful for the miles that I ran with her. At some point, she picked up the pace and I didn't trust myself to stay with her.
Mile 14: 6:33
Mile 15: 6:45
Mile 16: 6:40
At this point, I was on my own. South Dakota woman was with me for part of it but I saw her duck into a porta potty and then didn't see her again. I started thinking that I was going to pass Glensheen Mansion soon....but that came later than I was expecting. When I did pass it, I managed to mumble, "Stay Sexy, Don't Get Murdered" like I wanted to but I was hurting. Somewhere in this block I also threw my handheld water bottle away because it felt so heavy. I drank about half of it along the first half along with the waters I was grabbing. I think I ended up throwing a gel away as well. I was taking gels every 5 miles, beginning at mile 5. At mile 20, the thought of taking a gel made me nauseous so I skipped that one.
Mile 17: 6:43
Mile 18: 6:48
Mile 19: 6:43
Mile 20: 6:54
I don't remember a lot of this section. I remember passing the trolls lined up and thinking of my WI teammate Ali who told me about them and smiling. I remember passing the Oiselle cowbell corner who cheered for me (you could see some of my crop under my singlet). I remember a lot of people cheering for me yelling "Go Oiselle". I remember slapping two kids high fives after a water station. I remember inhaling more than one cup of water through my nose. I remember wanting to stop running. I remember some lady saying, "You're almost to the top of Lemon Drop Hill." At this point the arch of my left foot was throbbing with every step. I remember thinking that I was giving myself a foot injury.
Mile 21: 6:52
Mile 22: 6:52
Mile 23: 6:55
Mile 24: 6:51
Around Mile 24, I looked at the elapsed time on my watch (my KM paces were so varied that they weren't that helpful to me. Some kms were 4:06; some were 4:22) and realizing that I could maybe sub3 if I just kept going. I was hurting so so bad, my left foot was throbbing with every step, and I knew I looked terrible because everyone on the crowd was making comments about "Yeah girl - keep digging keep digging"...."that is grit"...."yeah - dig deep - you got this". I truly felt like everyone was cheering for me. I was mostly by myself, but still would pass people. One of the hallmarks of the Hanson plan that people talk about on the Facebook group is the craziness of passing people at the end and it's true. [I also have a bunch of the official race photos and I look TERRIBLE. I could be on a "Be Brave Get Ugly" shirt any day.] I saw the elapsed time at mile 25 and still thought I could do the sub 3 so I kept pushing. As I made my way around the corner to the finish, I could hear the announcer saying, "Can these people get a sub-3? Come on! You can do it - the sub-3 is yours" and then I saw the finish clock turn 3:00. I was sprinting as fast as I could and my bottom left foot was on fire. I crossed the finish and shut off my watch. My watch said 2:59:51 but I didn't really know what my official time was. I immediately felt woozy and crashed into some scaffolding when I felt a bear hug behind me, holding me up and then saw a wheelchair to my left. I said, "I really do not need a wheelchair" and they trusted me but told the person holding me to keep walking with me. She walk/held me through the finish chute and by the time I got to the t-shirts, I felt like I was ok. I started balling and turned around and gave her a huge hug to say thanks and she was so kind and said, "Oh you're welcome sweetie."
I continued going through the finish area in a daze, sobbing, but I did stop and let them take my photo because one of the things I am sad about from Boston 2016 is not letting anyone take my finish photo.
Then I heard "MAMA!!!!!". I knew it was my daughter's voice but couldn't see her. She kept yelling and finally I spotted them. My husband pointed me in a direction to meet them and I collected all my food, gear and sad down on a statue of a propeller and trying to stop crying. My family caught up to me and my husband said, "You did it!!!! Sub 3!!!!!" I looked up and said, "OMG I DID?!" and he had his phone out to the tracker which had my official chip time at 2:59:50. I immediately started crying again, which of course freaked my kids out. I still did not quite believe it though.
I was freezing so my husband created a changing area with the post-run blanket so I could change out of my shorts and into my tights from my gear bag. I changed into my flip flops. Then he took pics of me and made me ring the PR bell because he's awesome like that.
I said that I wanted to check my results in the "official results" tent because part of me still didn't believe that I got the sub-3. We headed over there and I got the official print out that I indeed had gotten it. More crying.
I turned on my phone, which was buried in my gear bag, and oh my goodness the text messages were awesome. My friend Bettina watched it online and posted this screen shot of the finish.
I checked Facebook and the Birdmachine CHI relay team had a whole thread tracking me. More crying.
Mile 24: 6:51
Mile 25: 6:47
Mile 26: 6:56
0.35 miles: 6:40
Second Half Marathon: 1:29:36. NEGATIVE SPLIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, I can't even.
I was legit in a daze during the last miles. Later on in the day, we drove past the course and my husband mentioned something about me running here and I said, "I don't think we ran here" and he looked at me like I was crazy. He showed me the whole route of the last miles and none of it looked familiar. Usually I also see/hear my family near the finish and I didn't see them at all. My husband showed me a video he took of me finishing and they were really loud. I also had to laugh at this video because in my head, I was sprinting and watching myself finish on video it looked more like a wandering drunken crawl to the finish. I know that I left it all out there though - which was my goal!!
Thank you Duluth.
Thank you to every single person who told me to go for it. Thank you to everyone for your support. Thank you to my husband and kids who cheer me on every day. It takes a village!
Next goal - OTQ baby.
I posted a race review on bibrave.com - check it out here. Click here to see my UNOFFICIAL results posted on Athlinks! I can't wait for Athlinks to update my PR!