Grandma’s Marathon 2015: Race Recap

Grandma’s Marathon 2015: Race Recap

Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota is a fantastic marathon every June. It’s a gorgeous course along Lake Superior with world class elite runners and great spectators. Grandma’s now has a special place in my heart and is hands-down my favorite marathon. Interested? Here’s a Race Guide with all the details about the race. For my personal race recap, read on!

Build Up to Race Day

Up until about a month and a half before the race, I was having an okay training cycle. As we thawed out from winter, I was mostly just excited to be running in beautiful spring weather. I was getting in decent (for me) weekly mileage (mid-4os each week) and consistent long runs, but I wasn’t doing any speed work. The lack of speed work was fully my choice; I enjoy having some marathon builds that are very intentional, and others where I run simply to enjoy the miles. It’s not an ideal plan for getting your fastest race times, but it helps me keep a steady love of running. And I do believe that consistent running day after day, year after year is the best way to improve as a runner, and is even more important than inconsistently applied speed work. So, I had a 16 week marathon build full of easy, fun miles with little pressure.

The main issue in my training happened  a few weeks before the marathon. I was on a long run and decided to do a few miles on a wooded trail near my house, when out of nowhere I tripped. I landed with my knee hitting the corner of a tree stump, which resulted in a bruised kneecap. Don’t be fooled by the nice sounding injury: it hurt! I kept trying to run on it but wasn’t able to for about a week. My last few long runs got cut, and I shortened my taper to be able to fit in one more long run. Because of this, I really didn’t know what to expect on race day. My plan was to run on feel, not worry about paces, and just see what happened. I was definitely planning to race (run hard), I just wasn’t sure what pace that would be.

Let's do this!
Let’s do this!

Race Day

I woke up race day morning to an absolute downpour. I was able to get a big garbage bag from the front desk of the dorm, and this saved me. Note to self: always pack a big garbage bag, just in case! The course is point-to-point, so buses take you to the start which is about 26 miles  (of course!) outside of town. After the 40 minute bus ride, the rain was still going strong, and it was chilly out too. I had all my throw away layers on and the garbage bag on top and was still shivering pretty intensely. I knew I was wasting precious energy shivering, but I just couldn’t stop. My shoes were soaked through, and I was starting to get concerned about blisters. I was having some pretty major worries about the race at this point. The good part of this is I was so ready to run! Running in cold rain is much better than sitting in cold rain!

The rain slowed down (and eventually stopped) about the time the race started; I was able to thaw out, and a glorious tailwind picked up. Woohoo!! I was pretty much perfect in shorts and a long sleeve for the first 15 miles of the race; I eventually ditched my long sleeve and was able to toss it to Kyle at mile 20. By the end, the sun had came out and I was hot! Ahhhh, June weather.

Like I said in the race review, the first 19 miles are pretty quiet. My legs felt heavy, and every time I looked at my watch I was expecting my paces to be slow, but they were always where I wanted them to be (about 9:50 a mile). The main problem I had was that I needed to pee! In previous races I’ve gotten dehydrated and hit the wall hard around mile 18; this time around, I was careful to drink, drink, drink the week leading up to the race, the night before, and the morning of. I must have over done it a bit, because I had to take 2 pit stops in the first 12 miles; the first was around mile 4. It’s never good when you need to pee at mile 4 of a race. Another perk of Grandma’s marathon is that you are running along a pretty remote road with lots of trees. All the porta potties had lines, so I (and many other people) picked an empty patch of trees and had a 20 second pit stop. Much quicker that standing in line for a few minutes at the porta pottie.

Ahem. That’s enough talk about my bathroom habits. Moving right along…

For the first part of the marathon, I was primarily excited about hitting mile 19 because you hit Duluth and the crowds really pick up. It was nice to have mile 19 to count down to, and it kept me focused on something more immediate instead of just counting down to mile 26. As I mentioned above, I have always fallen apart somewhere between mile 15 and 18. It gave me an extra boost to see mile 18 and 19 go by with me still feeling good and my pace not falling apart. Through mile 20, my paces were between 9:40 and 10:00. My legs felt heavy and slow, so I was always pleasantly surprised to see my paces were staying pretty steady. At mile 19 (or maybe 20), I saw Kyle for the first time. I was so excited to see him and to show him that I STILL FELT GOOD! That, coupled with the surge in the crowds cheering, caused my pace to start to drop. The next 5 miles I averaged 9:17 a mile, with each mile progressively faster than the last. Man, it’s fun to have an extra kick at the end of a marathon! Every time I saw a speedier mile, I had more energy and excitement for the next mile. From miles 20 – 25, I passed 416 people and was only passed by 4 people. In the last 1.2 miles, I averaged 8:59 a mile, passed 71 people, and was passed by just 7 people.

At the finish of Grandma's Marathon
At the finish of Grandma’s Marathon

That, my friends, is how you finish a marathon. It felt fantastic. I finished with a PR of 4:13 and a huge smile on my face…and some tears of joy. I have this thing at the end of races where I get really emotional, start to cry, and then start to hyperventilate. It’s not ideal. But I was just so proud of myself for finally finishing a marathon feeling strong (for the first time ever) that I about lost it when I saw Kyle for the first time. I eventually pulled it together, hobbled to get my medal, food, and water. And then slowly made my way up the steepest hill ever to get to our car. Actually I didn’t make it to the car; eventually, I sat down on the curb and waited for Kyle to bring the car to me. And apparently I sat at the wrong curb, because it took him 20 minutes to find me. But that is a story for another day…

Thank you, Grandma’s Marathon, for a great race. And if you’re considering running Grandma’s Marathon, do it. Sign up now. You won’t regret it. Except don’t actually sign up now, because it’s sold out for 2016. So, sign up this fall for 2017. You won’t regret it.

Rocking my Grandma's Marathon sweatshirt at July 4th (sweatshirt is extra, but completely worth it)
Rocking my Grandma’s Marathon sweatshirt at July 4th (sweatshirt is extra, but completely worth it)

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