Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 Grandma's Marathon Race Report

We made the five hour drive north to Duluth, Minnesota for Grandma's Marathon this past weekend.  We drove up on Friday and stayed through Sunday.  We registered last fall and had a difficult time finding a hotel already at that time.  And did I mention that the rates were through the roof?!  We paid close to $200/night to stay at a decent hotel in Superior, WI, just across the bridge and state line.  It worked out well, as all of the local hotels had shuttles to the start line on Saturday.  This hotel was also dog-friendly, so we were able to bring along our new pup.  The hotel was the Bestwestern Bridgeview Motor Inn and it turned out to be much nicer accommodations than I had expected.  The lobby was all decorated for the marathon and the hotel staff were dressed in Grandma's Marathon gear and super helpful and accommodating.
After checking in at the hotel, we drove to packet pick up at the expo - just a few miles away.  Parking was $5 and traffic was backing up because the 5K was being run on Friday evening.  We went inside and the sea of runners coming out of the expo was amazing.  We made our way back to packet pick up.  We didn't receive shirts, because we would be receiving our finishers shirts at the finish line of the race.  We walked around the modest size expo, but didn't purchase anything.  I could have easily blown hundreds of dollars on Friday, but I am currently in penny-pinching mode.
On our way out, we were discussing where to grab some pasta.  The expo's pasta dinner was $12 and unlimited.  We decided to stay and participate.  The photo below doesn't grasp just how many tables were full of runners and their families and friends enjoying this carb-loading experience.  It was really amazing and fun.  We had our dog bag at the hotel and didn't want to waste time driving around town looking for somewhere to find some pasta.  So, this worked out great.  We received unlimited spaghetti, bread, Caesar salad, wafers, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, popsicles, bottled water and white or chocolate milk.  I thought it was a great deal.  It was also fun to sit around with other runners that we didn't know and chat running, racing, strategies, goals and ... weather (ugh!).
We got our running gear out and headed to bed around 9:00 and watched tv until 10:00.  Unfortunately, I was obsessing so much about the race that I couldn't turn my mind off - typical.  I tossed and turned until midnight.  The forecast had been for rain on Saturday morning - just Saturday morning.  The rest of the weekend in Duluth looked great.  From 7:00-11:00 am thunderstorms were predicted from 80-100%.  I must have slept at some point, because I do remember dreaming.  But then I kept waking up worrying that my alarm wouldn't go off at 4:45 am.  I ended up getting up again before the alarm went off and started to get ready.
Hubby took the dog for a quick walk.  Breakfast was served at the hotel starting for runners at 4:30 am on race day.  We were able to stop by shortly after 5:00 am.  I enjoyed oatmeal, mini donuts and yogurt, and apple juice.  I have trouble chewing before a big race.  Later during the race, I wished I had tried some protein (sausage, peanut butter, something) to help keep me full.  This would also be my first race without any caffeine, as I was twelve weeks pregnant.
We quickly boarded a bus to head north to the startline.  Buses were coming into our hotel parking lot as soon as one was full.  It was super convenient and very well orchestrated.  The bus was full and dark from the cloudy skies.  Soon it started misting and as we got to the startline, the rain got heavier.  Our bus had to wait in a long line to park.  The lines at the port-o-potty lines were already looking lengthy and the crowds were in mass.  Many of the runners had garbage bags or ponchos - something we failed to bring with us.
 And then we headed to the dreaded bathroom lines.  There were so many bathrooms, however it was extremely disorganized as lines were overlapping and not moving.  Our line seemed to be the slowest of course, as we stood line for 45 mins.  The rain started and got heavier and then it just downpoured.  There was now where to go and nothing you could do about it.  We were standing on soggy ground, our shoes and socks were soaked, our clothes were drenched, my hair looked like I just got out of (or was in) the shower.  It was miserable.  And it was cold.  Temperatures were in the mid-50's - and it was wet.  Body temperatures cooled down quickly.  I chewed my sleeve of Shot Blox while my clothing got wetter and wetter.  We opted to get out our long sleeves from our sweat bags and put those on - I was so relieved we brought these along.  Mine was a zip-up, his was not.  Hubby then dropped our sweat bags in the designated areas - again very well organized. We had a few folks in front of us as the National Anthem was sung. And then I ran into the port o potty for relief and cover.  I quickly ran back out and hubby and I discussed the possibility of not running and heading back to the hotel.  However, all of the buses seemed to be gone.  There was a passenger train adjacent to the startline, but you needed tickets to ride it back and forth.  I asked in the medical tent where our first option would be to drop out, if we decided we could not continue.  She didn't know.  OK, one mile at a time.
We headed to the startline. My teeth were chattering.  The girl next to me had blue lips, her tank top looked miserable and her teeth were chattering uncontrollably.  Soon the race started and five minutes later, we were to the startline.  Here we go.  Oh lord, help me.
The route was considered pretty flat, except for a small incline that was talked about at mile 22.  The route is pretty much one straight shot, minus the twists and turns through downtown Duluth during the last few miles.  We ran along much of the same highway the entire time - with the lake to our left and the forest to our right.
We were thinking that we may stick together, but then again maybe not.  Hubby was worried about me being pregnant and said that he thought he would stay by my side.  I kind of wanted to run solo, however I felt safer with him by my side.  My fastest marathon time is 4:02 with my first marathon time being 4:37.  Typically, I am able to run a 4:10 for 26.2 miles.  This would be my tenth marathon and my husband's fifth.  He is a lot faster than me in the half marathon, but I have more endurance in the marathon and am able to keep my pace pretty consistent until the end.  Since I was planning on running this race really slowly, we were hoping that our paces would coincide.  I was aiming for about an 11 minute mile for this race, assuming I may slow down to a 12 min + mile with some walk and potty breaks.
I was clocking in the first couple of miles at 10:30-sub 11:00 min miles.  Faster than expected.  At mile four, hubby and I were still running together.  We both said we had to use the bathroom.  There were 2-3 port o potties at approximately every mile marker.  However, the lines were 5-8 people deep and I wasn't interested in waiting in line.  He ducked into the woods along with all of the other men doing so.  I kept trucking on, knowing that he would catch up with me.  And he did.
Finally at mile 7, I found a stop with bathrooms and only a couple ladies in line.  We used up 2:30 while I made this stop - and then we were off.  My clothes were still soggy and it was difficult to reassemble myself.  Luckily, my shoes were drying out as well as my socks.  They were still wet, but not soaked.  It was still raining on and off for the next several miles.  The drizzle felt good and at mile 13 it stopped - completely.  The sun came out and it got humid.  At mile 13 there was a sea of dozens upon dozens of port o potties.  I couldn't figure out why there were so many, but took advantage of one.  Later, my runner-brain realized that this was where the half marathon runners started a couple of hours ago (they got a very early start to the morning).  The lack of lines was welcomed! 
I then hit a wall. I already felt like my legs were buckling and like I was barely moving.  I expressed my disgust to my husband and told him to go on ahead.  He had a ton in the tank and I had nothing.  I was running with tunes and he was not - which made me feel like we were running separately even though he was alongside me.  But I needed the motivation from the music to keep propelling forward.  He seemed to almost be running in place to keep up with me.  I was mad at myself and not in a good place.  I was reflecting on my awesome training earlier this spring, and then the light mileage I'd been completing the past month since the pregnancy became a reality, I was thinking about the baby, the weather - my attitude stunk.  And I was HOT.  The humidity and the cold ground were causing a fog and mist to come from the ground.  I could see the same with my breath.  And I had to get this long-sleeve zip-up OFF.  I ran while taking off my race bib and eventually handed my water bottle over to my husband, while I replaced my bib number on my short sleeve shirt underneath.  I tried tying my jacket around my waste - but it must have weighed 4-5 pounds.  It was so heavy and this just wasn't going to work.  My husband tried tying it around his waist, but he agreed that it was just too much - it was falling down and would eventually be around our ankles.  I insisted that he throw it to the side of the road, with all of the other jackets, shirts, ponchos and garbage bags.  So we did - one of my favorite (cheap) running jackets.  But I felt so much lighter and dryer without it. 
I grabbed a wet sponge at the next water station and a cup of ice.  It was just what I needed.  I told my husband that I wasn't going to talk for awhile (not that we were anyway) and I cranked up my tunes.  I opted to find some slower, motivational songs instead of the upbeat Top 40 and rap that I typically use to push me.  That was just what I needed.  I got into a rhythm and into a comfortable pace.  But more importantly - my mindset was great and was going to do this.
The water stations were coming up one after another after another.  They were every other mile, but they seemed to be flying by quickly, as each mile passed.  At each water station I was grabbing some blue wild berry Powerade and at several towards the end, I would also grab a cup of water to refill my handheld water bottle.  I consumed four Honey Stinger energy gels during the race - taking them at miles 5, 10, 15 and 20 - just as planned.  I tend to sip on them for an entire mile and then down some water.  My plan always works well for me.  At one station I enjoyed some orange slices.  They also offered fresh strawberries later on. 
I made another quick potty break around mile 17.  There were no lines at the later bathrooms after the half marathon point.  I had never used a restroom during a race ever - and today my plan was just to stay comfortable and enjoy the experience as much as I could and keep baby comfortable as well.
At mile 19, I knew that mile 20 was right ahead.  Mumford and Sons, "Below my Feet" came on my ipod and I played it twice consecutively.  This song always is just what I need at the right time.  It moves me - sometimes uncontrollably.  I started crying.  The words, the music, the movement.  It all gets me.  Hubby asked what was wrong. I couldn't talk.  He asked if they were good tears, bad tears, what was happening.  I was just moved and couldn't believe that I was approaching mile 20 of my tenth marathon - pregnant, with my husband alongside me.  I was doing this.  Looking back ten years ago, I never imagined that I would run a 5K, let alone 26.2 miles.  I was doing this and no one was doing it for me.  I was so grateful that I changed who I once was - shy, intimidated, inactive.  Now I was going to be a ten time marathoner.  This was me.  The new me.
Hubby grabbed a beer from some spectators that were having fun along side the road.  He also had the energy to toss a football back and forth with another group around mile 22.  I was happy he was feeling so good as we headed into downtown Duluth.  There were spectators along the entire course, however the downtown area brought out the most of them.  At mile 22, the 5:00 pacer passed us andI picked up some speed.  I kept looking back the last few miles and told my husband that my goal was to stay in front of her.  Around mile 24, he started complain about his legs buckling and hitting some sort of a wall.  We kept moving one foot in front of the other. I looked back and couldn't see the balloons from the 5:00 pacer.  We were really picking up pace.  We headed down towards Lake Superior to do all of the final twists and turns of the race.
Race photographers were snagging photos of  us coming into the final stretch.  As we were in our final half mile, the song "Timber" came on my ipod and a dog that looked just like our dog, Timber, was standing with spectator to our right.  I pointed the pooch out to my husband and thought that it was a sign of some sort - either he has destroyed our hotel room, or that was the motivation I needed to move forward in these final moments. 
We could hear the finish line and then soon we could see it.  We grabbed each others' hands and propelled forward to the finish line, even passing a few people.


And there it was, the finish line.  We had made it.  26.2 miles - together the entire time.  My pace had been exactly what I was hoping and I finished in less than five hours, as I was secretly hoping.  I was so proud of my husband and always appreciate his commitment to me and to this sport.
Finish time:  4:52:58
11:11 min/mile pace


I stopped my watch and walked towards the volunteers. I cried as the man placed my finisher's medal around my neck.  A woman then handed me a flower and we then grabbed our finisher's shirts - which is now one of my favorites.
The results that Grandma's Marathon provides you with are incredible.  I have never seen such detailed information.  Usually I place in the top half of the race.  This was a different race - but I was just as proud.  Overall, my pace was pretty consistent - even with four potty breaks.  We figured we used up about ten minutes in the bathrooms and lines.

We hobbled on over to get our sweat bags.  Ouch.  I hate nothing more than the 5-10 minutes post marathon.  It hurts - terribly.  But the trick is to stretch and then keep moving.  Hubby wanted to get going, because he was cramping up and it was getting cold, cloudy and raining again.  And we had nothing warm to put on in our sweat bags now that we ran in our long-sleeves.  We ran over to the refreshments - they had several tents.  I enjoyed some chocolate milk and greek yogurt.  It really hit the spot.  They also offered the usual bagels, fruit, fresh strawberries and much more - oh yeah, and beer.  We also both received beer tickets but didn't use them.  We headed back to find the shuttles/buses for the hotels.  They weren't well marked, as we wandered back to find them.  We eventually got on a bus to Superior and headed back to the hotel. 
After I took my shoes off, I realized that my feet weren't as dry ad I thought they were.  Our feet were puffy and white and the existing blisters on our feet were white and water-logged.  I also received a new badge of honor, another blister under and around my left foot.   I will also thank the rain for that.
We grabbed the dog and headed to Little Caesars for a cheap pizza, breadsticks and some wings which we enjoyed in the hotel room.  We didn't end up eating much actually.  After a big race like that, one would think you'd have this huge appetite, but you don't always.  I showered up - which felt amazing - minus some minor chaffing.  And soon, we passed out and the dog and I both slept the entire afternoon away.
After our nap, we cleaned up and headed back down to the finish line area.  I took some photos of the area we ran through the last mile.  I enjoyed it much more and observed more this time around.  There was also a concert going on that night and a lot of post-race partying going on.  It was a really fun, hip area.  We walked with the dog around the boardwalk area and after awhile my legs were feeling great again.  It was just what we needed.


Proudly sporting my Grandma's Marathon finisher's shirt - approaching 13 weeks pregnant and the second trimester.



  1. Loved reading your recap! I've been following you for years, and it's so fun to see you so happy...fantastic job on a race well run. I'm super happy that you ran the whole thing with your husband by your side. Congrats!

  2. Loved this recap!!!!
    loved the pic of you and your husband crossing the line together!

  3. Congratulations on No. 10! The races during which I've run with Christopher are some of my favorite. I'm so glad you got to experience that. This is a different kind of PR for you and a marathon you both should be proud of!

  4. Grandma's was a grand adventure! The course was beautiful!!!!! My finish time was a lot slower than I'd prefer,but my training was a joke (and I had to make several porta pot stops in the final 8 miles)...glad my endurance carried me :-) Congrats!!