This was my second Grandma’s Marathon. Other than Twin Cities, this is the only marathon I have done more than once.
I’m going to start with the bad news…I did not achieve my goal at this race; I had hoped to go under 3:40 by enough to be able to register for Boston 2017 with Dustin. But Mother Nature had other plans. I ran a 3:49:20. Basically, I ran the exact same time that I ran eight weeks ago at the London Marathon.
…but don’t worry! I still had a blast and my love of the marathon is still just as strong. I am thankful to the volunteers at the race and to all the support of my friends and family. The marathon is HUNDREDS of miles; the finish line is 26.2 miles. My finish line didn’t go quite as I had hoped, but the marathon (i.e. the training, etc) were amazing.
With marathons, there are some things you can control. You can control your training, your diet, your rest, your strength training, but you can’t control the weather, and unfortunately, the weather was not on my side on Saturday.
Leading up to the race, I tried not to obsess about the forecast because I knew that it could easily change in Duluth. On Friday at the expo, I was still expecting overcast skies and potential rain on race day. I wasn’t expecting sunshine and highs near the 80’s (and a whole lot of humidity.)
Throughout the race, the “weather warning” flags went from yellow (moderate risk) to red (high risk) to BLACK by the time I finished (extreme). It was a rough day out there for most everyone.
This was the Grandma’s Marathon experience that everyone had warned me about. Last year’s magic was gone and replaced by a bit of a death march to the finish.
After a shower and breakfast, Dustin and I packed up the car and hit the road around 9:30 am. Traffic getting to Duluth was pretty terrible, but we were at the expo by 12:30 pm. It was a quick in-and-out at the expo.
We grabbed lunch at Subway and then headed to the University of Minnesota- Duluth apartments where we stayed for the weekend.
The apartment worked out well as it had a kitchen for us to cook our pre-race meal. It wasn’t air-conditioned though, which was a little sticky on a hot weekend.
Later that evening, we cooked up some orzo with tomatoes, basil, and feta for our pre-race meal with some baked bread. It was a low-key evening of catching up on some Netflix shows (we finished Peaky Blinders and the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)
Another plus of the university apartments was the ease of catching a shuttle bus to the starting line. Grandma’s is a point-to-point course from Two Harbors, MN to Duluth. The shuttles started running at 5:45 am; our alarm went off around 5 am.
Fuel: I ate a bagel with peanut butter and extra salt, a Gen-U-Can mixed with Nuun, as well as more water and some Gatorade. I put extra effort into hydration, since by that time I knew it was going to be warm.
Start Line: There were plenty of porta-potties at the start, but I did get a little stressed out because I hopped in the line too close to the start time of 7:45. I was still waiting in line during the National Anthem and finally joined the starting corrals around 7:40…so stressful! Fortunately, I was still able to make my way up to the 3:35 pacer.
Promptly at 7:45 am, the starting gun went off. It took me about 2-3 minutes to cross the actual start mat.
The first half of the race is pretty quiet. There aren’t a lot of spectators. But you’re surrounded by a great group of runners and beautiful Northwoods scenery.
Mile 1: 8:11
Mile 2: 8:21
Mile 3: 8:21
I ran into my friend Monica at this point and we ran together for a mile or so. (Here’s a picture of us from the finish)
We had similar goals and were both hopeful at this time that the weather wouldn’t become a factor. We chatted for awhile and it was great to see her, but we both agreed that we were running our own races and eventually we drifted apart.
Mile 4: 8:12
Mile 5: 8:17
At this point, I ended up chatting with a few people who knew me from this blog, which was AWESOME. I also met a runner who is coached by my coach, Antonio Vega. This woman, Jen, and I had similar goals for the day, and I did find out afterwards that she set a big PR with a 3:45! (Congrats!)
I met a friendly Oiselle runner who reads the blog. She was in town from Iowa for the race. I don’t remember her name, but I hope she hit her goal!
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 8:22
At random spots along the way, there would be large groups of spectators, whose energy really revived me. The spectators might not have been able to line the whole course, but when they were able to be there, they were super enthusiastic.
Mile 8: 8:26
There was a moment around mile 8 that I took the time to notice how beautiful Lake Superior looked. Gorgeous. I also tried to breathe in that fresh air. It really is a beautiful part of Minnesota. Only problem is that there is no shade. Since the forecast had still called for overcast rainy skies, I didn’t use sunblock and man, oh, man was I sunburned after this race! It will take awhile to get rid of these sports bra tan lines.
My friend Christie had an awesome tan from her Rock Tape- impressive!
Mile 9: 8:19
Mile 10: 8:18
I came up upon two of my run club friends. I hung behind them for awhile, hoping that they would ‘hold me back’, as I knew I didn’t want to go too fast on such a hot day. They kept me honest, so to speak, for a few miles. We clocked off a few more conservative miles.
Mile 11: 8:32
Mile 12: 8:27
Eventually I passed them during a water stop (though they ended up finishing very close to me).
Mile 14: 8:21
Mile 15: 8:13
And then the wheels fell off, so to speak; the heat was too much for this girl.
Mile 16: 8:36
Mile 17: 9:12
Mile 18: 8:48
Mile 19: 8:28
I had hit the halfway point at 1:49 and thought I might still have a chance at a PR if I could hold things together. But the heat…it was really getting to me. I could not cool down.
The race organizers did a phenomenal job trying to counteract the heat though. There were PLENTY of support stops and they all had ice, cold sponges, water, Gatorade, etc. There was plenty of water for pouring on your head as well as drinking. I would put ice cubes down my bra and in my hat at every stop. I did my best to try to stay cool, but it was too hot for me. I held it together better than I expected, but it wasn’t my day.
After I realized that my BQ goal was not going to happen, I focused on enjoying the race. Sure, my pace had slowed quite a bit and yes, it was so, so hot, but it was still fun! It was still a LOVELY marathon and I LOVE the marathon. I smiled at all the spectators and thanked them when they cheered for me by name.
By that time, I had poured so much water over myself that my name stickers had started to fall off. Apparently whatever was left looked like JESSEF? Or JOSEF? People started looking at me and cheering for Joseph and I was confused. I took off the messed up E and turned it in to JESSI the best I could. That seemed to work.
Mile 20: 9:52 (I was walking through water stops)
Mile 21: 9:30
Once you came into the town of Duluth, the streets were lined with awesome spectators. I just love this part of the race. It was a blast.
Mile 22: 9:47
Mile 23: 9:22
Mile 24: 9:33
Mile 25: 9:34
Mile 26: 8:31
Final 0.2: 7:51
Total time: 3:49: 20
Eight weeks ago, I ran a 3:49:19 at the London Marathon. How easy that race felt..and how much harder this race felt! The heat and humidity are a beast.
No chafing at all with this running kit, which is pretty remarkable considering the heat. I wore this Athleta Chi tank, Oiselle Mac Roga shorts, the Bitty Bracer bra from lululemon, Fitsox, this lole hat, Brooks Ravennas, and a Spi-belt for my GU’s.
At the finish line, there was chocolate milk (so good!), cold orange juice (I downed a couple of cups!) more water, Gatorade, peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt, oranges, salted nut rolls, apples, and so much more. It was quite the spread.
Additionally, all runners received a free beverage for the ‘party’ tent. Most people used that ticket for a beer, but I went with an ice-cold Coke (I don’t drink soda, but after a hot marathon, it tasted fantastic!)
It took me a while to be ready for a celebratory drink of the alcoholic variety. We took the shuttle bus back to the campus, showered, lounged for a bit, and then eventually made our way to At Sarah’s Table right by the U of M where I had a glass of wine and a big sandwich.
After lunch, we went back to the apartment for awhile to nap a bit before eventually making it to the Canal Park Brewery for dinner with our run club friends.
The weather was not great for a marathon, but it was great for the post-race celebration! Funny how that works…
The Canal Park Brewery had this sign, which definitely hit home. I can’t get too bummed about this marathon. There will be more.
By the way, look at the size of these medals! This was the 40th running of Grandma’s, so they went all out with the lift-bridge themed medals.
The joke this weekend was that Dustin was a bad-luck charm for Grandma’s. He last ran this marathon in 2005 and the weather was terrible. It had been better for quite a few years, but then this year it was crap again. Thanks a lot Dustin!
I’m not sure. My coach is sending me a list of “Last-Chance BQ” races in early September. There is one that is close to my parent’s house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so I am considering it. It sounds kind of hilarious- 6 loops of an approximately 4 mile loop.
But then there’s a part of me that thinks that chasing this goal is crazy; I need to remember why I run marathons, which isn’t just for a certain time. I don’t run for this ONE goal of Boston, I run marathons because of the travel, for the chance to experience a city in this special way, I run them because I LOVE them; I love running. I have already run a marathon in Michigan. Why would I run this one- just for the goal of joining Dustin at Boston next April? Would this race- and this goal- take away the positive reasons that I run? Do I want to be so focused on one goal that it loses its joy? These are some of things I am thinking about.
I am confident that I was physically trained to run a 3:37. But I couldn’t do it in that heat. It wasn’t that long ago that I was still struggling to break four hours and now I can run 3:49 on a black flag kind of tough day. I am proud of how far I have come.
Over the past five months, I ran a 3:39, 3:49, and 3:49; three marathons in a very short time. I’m grateful that my body (and mind) held up to the challenge. Boston will always be there. It’s not the end goal but rather just another chapter in this runner’s story, a chapter I’ll add to my story at some point. I look forward to many other chapters…and sharing them with you!