Grandma’s Marathon Recap

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!

selfie

Pre-race selfie

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.

with becky

My awesome friend and training partner

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.

lemon drop

At the top of Lemon Drop Hill. I’m in the lime green tank top.

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.

midway

About a mile after Lemon Drop Hill

post rain

Just a few miles to go, after a brief rain shower.

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!

blue strip

Have to make it look good for the photographer!

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.

finish stretch

Nate snapped this one of me coming down the final stretch.

finish butt

And, then he snapped a pic of my butt!

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.

finish1

Victory!

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!

with Nate

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.

 

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I’m a Marathoner!

As you probably know, I ran Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 17th. I am officially a marathoner!

I haven’t posted my race recap yet for two reasons: there were a lot of feelings to process and I am gathering up photos. I still don’t have everything I’d like to include, but it will be coming soon.

What I will say, though, is that it was FUN! I never in my life imagined that the words marathon and fun could go in the same sentence, at least for me, but it’s completely true. I am SO happy that I chose Grandma’s as my marathon and I am SO blessed by the group of ladies I trained with. The entire weekend was amazing and I can’t wait to re-live it all here soon.

 

 

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City of Trails 5k

This weekend, my family ran the City of Trails 5k as our June family race. We ran this race last year and enjoyed it. This year, the race was even better!

The City of Trails races, located in St. Croix Falls, WI, offer  5k, 10k, and half marathon options. The 10k and half marathon are run on a combination of paved bicycle path and the Ice Age Trail. The 5k is run on paved bicycle path and residential sidewalks and roads. My family chose to run the 5k. I’d love to do the 10k sometime, but refuse to run off-road until after the marathon, to decrease the chances of injury.

This year, the course had more downhills and more paved bicycle trail than last year, because construction in the area has been completed. It was a beautiful course that I enjoyed more than last year and I hope they keep this one for future events.

The morning started out warm, in the 70’s, and very windy. I wasn’t feeling like I could pull a fast pace, so I started toward the back of the pack and started slowly. I figured it would be one of those days to just enjoy the scenery and get the miles in. However, as I neared the end of the first mile, my legs started to loosen up and I was feeling better. I glanced down at my watch and saw that my pace was sitting around 10:54, without feeling too hard.

As I reached the end of mile two, I felt really good and felt like I just might have a PR in me. I started pushing even harder, until I was breathing like a freight train. A glance at my pace showed a 9:30 pace on the final downhill drop toward the river and the finish line.

From last year, I knew that this course tends to be a tad long, so I stopped my watch when it hit 3.1 miles. I wanted to know what my actual 5k time was, and since the race was chip timed, I knew I’d still get an official time for the course.

I kept pushing even harder when I hit the last quarter-mile stretch, building momentum for the final little uphill at the finish line. My watch showed a 5k PR of 31:45! Later, when I checked my official results for the race, it showed 32:12. The course was 3.2 miles, so just a tad over this time; it was almost a 1/4 mile long last year.

Unlike last year, there was water and food at the finish line. Last year, everything was located in the race tent at the top of the hill, with no signage or volunteers to tell us where to go. I appreciated having water immediately at the finish line.

The only complaint I have about this race is that the only water stop on the 5k course is at approximately 0.65 miles. It is a water stop that is shared by the 5k and 10k, but faces the 10k trail, so many of the 5k runners didn’t realize it was available to them. Unfortunately, it is also too early in the race; it would be better if they had one closer to the halfway point.

As friends and I were discussing the water stops on the course, we were standing in front of the timing tent; the woman from the timing company wrote down our suggestions. She told us that they wanted feedback about the race in order to make it better, which I appreciate.

I should also mention that the course is a point-to-point course. Because the course drops downhill toward the river, the walk back to the start and parking is all uphill; thankfully, they offer a shuttle to return runners to their vehicles. For this reason, I recommend that runners carry cash for the food concessions and an ID for beer!

City of Trails remains one of my favorite races. The course is beautiful, the race has a small-town feel, the shirt is a nice tech material, volunteers and other participants are friendly, and there are food concessions at the end of the race in addition to the food provided by race organizers. The race is part of Wannigan Days, the town festival, which is why there are food vendors at the finish. I plan on being back next year!

What are your favorite races?

 

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Girls on the Run – Spring 5k

Back in August, I became a coach for Girls on the Run Twin Cities. I instantly fell in love with all things Girls on the Run (GOTR) related. While participants train for a 5k, they learn important life lessons such as conflict resolution, making and maintaining friendships, confidence, and healthy choices. Because of my own marathon training and other commitments, I wasn’t able to coach during this spring session. However, I signed up as a member of Team Adelaide, which is a support team that helps train coaches, give support to teams, visits GOTR sites, and helps with events. I had a blast being able to visit a few different teams and stay in touch with the GOTR staff and coaches.

The spring season-end 5k was on Saturday, June 3rd. I started my day by helping out at the coach check-in table, where coaches received all of the goodies needed for their team – race bibs, safety pins, face paint crayons, and Dream Team passports. They also receive a portable team sign so that the girls can find them in the crowd.

WHAT IS THE DREAM TEAM?

Our Spring 2017 race will once again include a Dream Team hall of inspirational leaders from the community who have unique careers. Girls will have the opportunity to meet local women in occupations that are uncommon for their gender. Past participants included: professional athlete, fire captain, fighter pilot and more! Girls will receive a passport to get stamped at each stop as they see how other women boldly pursue their dreams.

The above is from the Girls on the Run website. The girls receive Dream Team passports, in which they collect stamps from each Dream Team member; once a girl has all of the stamps, she gets entered for a special prize. Girls are encouraged to ask questions of these amazing women.

Once all teams had picked up their goodies, my role turned to Sparkle Runner. A Sparkle Runner is a woman who is at least 18 years old and has submitted a background check; she then runs the 5k, encouraging girls as she goes. Some Sparkle Runners are assigned to a specific team to help motivate the girls and others are in “the pool,” meaning they motivate anyone along the course. I was in the pool, so I ran at my own speed, chatting and shouting encouragement along the way. I took it easy with my pace so that I could soak it up and enjoy more of it.

Once I finished the 5k, I walked back along the course to jump in with girls who looked like they needed some extra motivation and encouragement. I did this a few times and had a blast doing it. At the fall 5k I was a coach, so I spent most of the time popping onto different parts of the course to grab pictures; being a Sparkle Runner gave me another viewpoint of what the day entails and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After most runners were in, I spent some time visiting with friends who were kind enough to run as Sparkle Runners. Just as we were making lunch plans and thinking about leaving, it was announced that the very last runner was making her way toward the final stretch. The announcement that followed was, “if you can hear this, please drop everything you are doing and make your way to the finish line to cheer on our final runner.” Suddenly, activity ceased and people were swarming toward the finish line, clapping and cheering. We all lined the course, watching as one last adorable runner made her way to the finish line. There were lots of happy tears, high fives, shouts of encouragement, and clapping hands. It was a BEAUTIFUL moment that perfectly summed up what Girls on the Run is all about; inclusion, teamwork, fun, encouragement, and forward motion. What a wonderful finale to a fantastic day!

Unfortunately, I was too busy soaking up every moment to take pictures. Next time!

I hope to return to coaching in the fall, but even if that isn’t the case, I will definitely continue to be involved in Girls on the Run. To learn more about this amazing program, please visit their website.

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Wear Blue: Run to Remember

Yesterday, my family and I participated in the Wear Blue: Run to Remember event in Blaine, MN. From their website:

wear blue: run to remember’s Memorial Day of Remembrance is our signature national event.  Partnering with local non-profits, we invite runners and walkers across the nation to join our mission by pledging to commit the miles that they run or walk in honor of each service member killed in the Global War on Terror. By the close of Memorial Day, runners and walkers across the nation will have shared in a national effort to honor every member of the American military who laid down his or her life for this country.

Prior to the event, participants can log into the Wear Blue website to pledge their miles. Participants can run in honor of a service member of their choosing, or they can choose to have one assigned. I ran in honor of Army 1st Lt. Joshua C. Hurley, who died on November 1, 2003 from a roadside bombing in Iraq. You can read more about him here.

Runners and walkers who did not pledge their miles on the Wear Blue website were given a local (Minnesota) service member to honor. Each participant wore a race bib with their service member’s name on it.

A short program started the morning, in which each participant shared the name of the service member they were running or walking for, a non-denominational prayer, and the national anthem. Along the course, there were flags with a fallen Minnesota service member’s name chalked on the path. The event was not timed, because the focus was on honoring those who sacrificed for our freedoms. It was a beautiful way to remember what Memorial Day is truly about. Because this wasn’t a race, I’m going to skip the details about my run. I will encourage you, though, to participate in a Wear Blue: Run to Remember event next Memorial Day.

While we can never thank our military and their families enough for their sacrifices, we can remember those sacrifices and let them know they are appreciated.

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Miles and Margaritas

My marathon training plan called for 23 miles this past weekend, which was scheduled for Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the weather has been rainy almost every day over the past week, so it was decided that we would run on Friday night instead.

I’ll be honest and admit that I was not looking forward to running on Friday night after work. We would be starting at 5:00 pm, meaning we wouldn’t be done running until sometime between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Having not done this type of distance at any time other than a weekend morning, there was the question about how I’d be affected by food throughout the day, and energy levels. But, it was that, run in the rain the entire time, or risk having to run by myself.

On Thursday night, I packed up everything I would need for a Friday night run, including my reflective vest and headlamp. I had my gels ready, along with empty water bottles that I would fill at work before meeting my training group. I had everything I needed, but was still nervous about committing to such a long run on a Friday night.

I arrived at our meeting spot a few minutes before 5:00 and we were able to get started right away. Three ladies started an hour earlier, getting in just under four miles. They met us back at the parking lot, to do the bulk of the miles together. We started with an out-and-back that was just under 7 miles each way. Our group split up at the half way point, because of differing paces.

After that, we refilled our water in the parking lot and headed back out for a 4 mile loop. Unfortunately, my training partner and I went out a bit fast and could feel it as we headed out for our four mile loop. It was decided that we would go to 20 miles instead of 23, which saved us about a half hour in complete darkness.

Once we returned to the parking lot again, we did some stretching, though I did very minimal. We decided to head to a local restaurant for a margarita to celebrate the start of our taper. Truth be told, I also had a burrito, but the margarita was the important part.

margarita

Cheers to the taper!

When I got home, I showered and went straight to bed. I knew the morning would be difficult since I didn’t stretch properly, but I was TIRED! Running that far after a full day of work is extra exhausting.

As predicted, I hobbled around like a zombie for much of Saturday morning, but it was worth it for the pleasure of sleeping in both days of the weekend. I feel like I caught up on some much-needed sleep. After a bit of stretching and foam rolling, though, I felt pretty good. I had just a little bit of residual stiffness, which was gone by Sunday afternoon.

Even though I didn’t go all the way to 23 miles, I’m feeling very confident. Friday’s 20 mile run was 15 minutes faster than my previous 20 mile run and I felt good throughout. I’m going to enjoy this taper period and focus on keeping myself properly hydrated between now and the marathon in four short weeks.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I cannot believe how good I have felt throughout this entire training cycle. I have had very little soreness and only one of my short runs was miserable; but only because it was the first day of running in heat and humidity. I’ve enjoyed the company of my training partners and would never have attempted, let alone completed this, without them. I can’t wait to celebrate with them after we’ve all crossed the finish line!

 

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Run Like a Mother 5k

On Saturday, I ran the Run Like a Mother 5k at Phalen Regional Park. This race is considered the season kick-off race for Moms on the Run, though it is open to anyone to participate.

For this race, there was no early packet pickup, so I arrived early to make sure I could find parking and get my packet back to my car well before the race. I ended up arriving much earlier than needed; packet pickup only took a few seconds and parking wasn’t a problem at all. This race had just under 300 participants, so there weren’t any logistical problems. I had more than enough time to chat with friends, use the restroom, participate in the group photos, etc.

The race was scheduled to start at 9:00, and started just a few minutes late. The large group photo took a little longer than expected, so the kid’s race started a few minutes late, followed by the 5k. It was a gorgeous morning, though, so it didn’t seem like anyone minded.

The course consisted of a single loop around Lake Phalen. I grew up going to this park with my grandparents, but can’t recall going there as an adult, so I had forgotten that the area is hilly. There were two larger hills on the course, with several other small rollers. The view of the lake was gorgeous, which definitely didn’t hurt!

I wasn’t pushing for time, so I just enjoyed the views and the weather. It really was an uneventful race in that it felt like it went by quickly, I never felt like I was pushing very hard, and I got to see so many of my running friends from Moms on the Run.

My finishing time was 33:53. At the finish line, medals and carnations were given out. Post-race water, chips, and salted nut rolls were available in the picnic pavilion.

I would consider doing this race again, but only if I wasn’t intending to try for a PR because the course was a bit crowded for the first 1/3 of the race. I heard a few runners were disappointed that bananas weren’t offered post-race, but I personally did not hear any other complaints.

Thanks to Moms on the Run and Anderson Race Management for a beautiful race!

 

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