My Grandma’s Marathon weekend started by heading up to Duluth on Thursday evening. We figured it was best to get settled in the condo Thursday evening, so we could hit the Expo early Friday morning and rest and relax for most of the day. We stayed in a two room condo at Beacon Pointe, which was gorgeous. Our condo had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, full kitchen, Jacuzzi tubs, and was right on Lake Superior. From our windows, we could see the lift bridge and watch the large ships coming and going.
Thursday evening was spent primarily sitting outside by the water, taking group pics, getting ourselves settled in, and lounging around while chatting excitedly about the race. What else would we talk about?
On Friday morning, we headed to the DECC for the race expo right after 10:00am. The expo opened at 10:00, so it was pretty quiet when we arrived. We were able to walk right up to packet pickup, browse the vendors, take pictures, and eat the spaghetti lunch without lines.
I had purchased tickets for Nate and I to participate in the spaghetti feed because I wanted the full race experience. We decided to eat it for lunch, just in case something didn’t settle right. We ended up eating just after 11:00, when it opened, so there were no lines. The food was good and it was one less thing I had to think about.
After the Expo, we headed up to Castle Danger Brewing. Yes, I realize that drinking alcohol the day before a long race isn’t recommended, but I’m a rebel. I ordered a Summer Crush.
“Summer Crush is a beer brewed just for summer. It has a pleasant lemon flavor and aroma from using Sorachi Ace hops, which is a defining characteristic of this Japanese hop variety. The malted barley lends a slightly sweet, biscuity backbone. Summer Crush is a seasonable beer, and our take on a Shandy without being one. Like a Summer Crush back in the day, or Minnesota’s short summer season, this beer won’t beer around for very long. Enjoy it while you can!”
It was good, just a tad too hoppy for my liking. I’ve had some of their darker winter beers before and enjoyed those. We sat on the patio while we sipped our beers, enjoying the sunshine.
Friday evening, we went to Blackwoods for dinner. I had the Prime Rib Dip, waffle fries, one of Nate’s pub pretzels, and a Blue Moon. It was all delicious. Yes, I realize it may seem like a strange pre-race meal, but I figured I’d stick with my normal diet because that’s what my body was used to before long runs. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to make race day preparations, visit, relax, and get to bed early.
I woke at 4am on Saturday morning, mostly from the light coming through the large windows that face the lake. It was a beautiful, cool morning. I ended up staying in bed, awake, until 4:30. Then, I got up to prepare for the race. To my surprise, I wasn’t nervous at all, just ready to get moving.
Our hotel had pre-race goodies available in the lobby, which included the full continental breakfast choices, Clif bars, apples, bananas, coffee, and bottled water. From the lobby, we were also able to catch the shuttle the hotel provided to take us to the official race shuttle at Edgewater Hotel, saving us the walk of just under a mile.
When we arrived at Edgewater, we were able to hop right on the shuttle and were headed toward the start line within minutes. It was an uneventful ride. At the start area, we were one of the first busses to arrive, which meant we were able to grab a meeting spot and use the porta potties right away without standing in line. We had over an hour before race time, so we chatted with friends, took pictures, and stretched. The wait time went pretty quickly and before I knew it, they were calling runners into the starting chute!
I lined up a little ways behind the 5:30 pacer, with my training partner. We started the race together, sticking at about a 12:54 pace, which was slightly faster than most of our long runs. I felt really good and we were chatting and enjoying the scenery.
At the 10K split, my running partner said she needed to slow down, so we split. I was feeling good and needed to continue at our current pace. The next four miles flew by, as the first 10k had. In fact, I felt really good coming into mile 12, but told myself I’d make a restroom stop if I found a porta-potty without a line. Just after having that thought, I found one and dashed into it. Prior to my restroom stop, I’d had the 5:30 pacer in my eyesight, but lost them after my stop. I never quite had them in my sights again. I never expected to hit the 5:30 mark, but it was fun knowing I wasn’t far behind them, at least for a while.
After passing through the half marathon mark, the course got pretty boring and quiet for a while. I debated about whether to pull out my iPod, but by the time I decided I should, we were back into an area with spectators. I ended up keeping the iPod tucked away for the entire race, never using it; though I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, considering I never listened to music on any of my training runs. In fact, I don’t use it during races very much anymore, either.
Things got a bit more exciting just before we crossed over from Old 61 to London Road. There was a group cheering, playing music, and handing out Jolly Ranchers. Then, we crossed over to London Road and headed toward Lemon Drop Hill. The next several miles had spectators and the energy among runners was up. The number of sprinklers on the road increase, too, for which I was grateful. Somewhere along the course, it had become a goal of mine to run through every one.
As we approached the dreaded Lemon Drop Hill, spectators were offering shots of booze, beers, ibuprofen, and Vaseline. These people knew what runners needed! I told myself that it was too early in the race to enjoy the alcoholic offerings, but if beer was offered after Lemon Drop, I was in. After all, anyone can walk three miles, right?
Finally, I was at the water stop at the foot of Lemon Drop Hill. I took an extra long walk break and told myself I would run up. This hill is all about where it’s positioned on the race course, not the size of the hill. Lemon Drop is nothing compared to the hills I’ve conquered at Ragnar Great River, so I gave it a go. Unfortunately, I only made it about 80% of way up because my muscles were tight and tired, but at least it wasn’t a mental defeat.
At the top of Lemon Drop, I spotted Nate and my friend Patrice. I stopped for a brief moment to say hello and take a breath, then continued on my way. But, it was a nice boost seeing friendly faces at that point in the race. I’ll note here that I also saw friends, who were spectating, a few others times earlier in the race and it made me smile to see them.
I was able to stick with my intervals for the next mile, but then lost some steam. I did a lot of walking in the last three miles of the race. As I approached downtown, there was a brief rain shower and some thunder, but it quickly moved past. The rain was a nice relief from the sun and heat.
Coming into the last mile of the race, I made sure to run and look strong as I crossed the portion of road that was painted blue for race photos. Right after that, I rounded a corner and saw some of my Moms on the Run friends, who were cheering for me and shouting encouraging words. Tears sprang to my eyes because I was touched by their enthusiasm and support. I told myself I couldn’t cry, though, because I needed good finisher photos!
After that, I took what I knew would be my last walk break. I was nearing the final stretch through Canal Park and needed to finish strong. I continued to walk until I made the final turn. Then, I broke into a run (though it was probably more like a shuffle) to bring it home. About halfway down the final stretch, I spotted some more Moms on the Run friends and coaches. Again, there was cheering and encouraging words. I was excited to see them, but again fighting back tears. Stop trying to make me cry in my finisher photos, people!! Seriously, though, I love all of those ladies.
For the last burst, I attempted a sprint, though I’m sure it didn’t look like it. But, I had my sunglasses off, arms in the air, and a smile on my face. Thankfully, the finish line photos turned out like I wanted them to. Victory! My official finishing time was 5:52:13.
After collecting my medal, shirt, and bottled water, I found my friends who had finished ahead of me. We shared sweaty hugs and took pictures. At that same time, Nate and Patrice were able to find me. I quickly swapped my running shoes for my Oofos sandals and ditched my handheld water bottle and fuel belt; I was tired of those things! Nate took all of my stuff and he and Patrice headed to the other side of the finisher corral, where I could meet up with them. I grabbed a chocolate milk, which was about the only thing left for food and beverage, and headed to a grassy spot near the Maritime Museum to stretch.
Once I had stretched out, we headed over to collect my free beer and wait for the rest of our friends to finish. That Alaskan White really hit the spot! I sat with Patrice and rehashed my race. Soon, I sent Nate for a second beer; once I was halfway through that, my muscles felt great and had no soreness.
When the last of our friends finished, we took more pictures and headed back to our hotel. Once there, we showered, and had our dinner of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, Caesar salad, and fruit. I’ll admit I had a few more beers, Watermelon Shandy this time. The evening was spent talking about the race and relaxing, with lots of laughter. It was a beautiful time with friends.
Overall, it was an awesome time. I loved everything about the race and the weekend. I’m so lucky to have had such a fabulous group of women to train with and couldn’t have done it without them. In fact, I wouldn’t have even attempted without a support group like this.
Obviously, my biggest supporter was Nate, who agreed to this crazy adventure while knowing that it would mean I would be spending a lot of time away from him and that there would be things I couldn’t/wouldn’t do during training (trying downhill skiing, hiking off-road, weekends away). Thanks, honey! I love you!
I’m still on a bit of a high from checking this off my bucket list and still a bit emotional about. I don’t know if I’ll do another marathon, but I’m leaving it open as a possibility. As for Grandma’s Weekend next year, I hope to do the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon.