Grandma’s was an awesome marathon and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to run a scenic, fast marathon. I might be a little biased on my first grandmas because the conditions were optimal for running with 49 degree temperatures, a 13 mph NE wind, and overcast. The white flags, which are my favorite to see at a running event, were out that day. White flags mean there is a risk of hypothermia but for me it basically means that I won’t completely drowned in my own sweat. Grandmas marathon was the second marathon that I’ve done in my life time and second of the season. The Fargo Marathon is the only other marathon I personally, can compare Grandma’s to.
Ten days prior to Grandmas, I anxiously booted up my computer and checked the 10 day forecast on weather.com. The weekend prior I ran the Athletic Republic Half Marathon where temperatures climbed into the mid to upper 60’s, humidity was heavy, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Most people may think that it would be a great day for a run, but I’ve been spoiled and had only acclimated to training in temperatures in the low to mid 50’s. I was going to run with Wade during this run and was planning on running around a 1:40 half; boy, things went south fast. By mile 5 I just got the last little taste of the dust that lingered in the air from Wade’s trail. The sun was beating down on me and my body about had enough; I needed to slow my pace. In between mile 8 and 9, near the state hospital, I got to the point where I needed to walk a few paces after going through the water station and I had to walk another time near the high school. From there I pushed myself to the finish in 1:43. After crossing the finish line, my brother came over to me to congratulate me. I remember feeling terrible and thinking that I needed to keep walking and try to catch my breath and cool down but I don’t remember talking gibberish. He told me later that I was not making any sense when I was talking to him. Athletic Republic was a very tough half marathon, by far the toughest of the year and slowest as well. I finally gathered myself after the race and thought to myself, “How could I exert myself the hardest I had all season and run my slowest race of all”? I knew that higher humidity and higher temperatures affect running performance, but I had no idea of how a 10 degree temperature hike could affect me. I learned a valuable lesson from this race which was to not go out so fast when temperatures are higher than I am used to training in. I really started to think hard about the lesson that I had learned and my head started playing mind games with me about how prepared I really was to run Grandma’s two weeks down the road. As I pulled up the 10 day forecast a few days after this race, I saw that temperatures were going to be in the low 50’s for Grandmas with ENE winds. I was pretty excited to see this forecast and reconfirmed myself that I was going to go at the pace that I had trained for since February (8:24/mile).
Marathon weekend was finally here and Erin and I took off for Duluth at about 9:00 AM on Friday. We wanted to walk around the expo for a bit and listen to a couple guest speakers. Frank Shorter and Dick Beardsley were speaking that afternoon and I was excited to listen to them. We got to the DECC where the expo was taking place down in Canal Park and we stepped outside to really cool temperatures. What a difference a 3.5 hour drive can do to the temperature! The expo was very well organized and had everything a runner could dream of for equipment inside the array of booths. I was suckered into purchasing a couple more shirts that had deals pretty hard to pass up to add to my overfilled closet at home. The spaghetti feed area inside the expo, which we didn’t eat at, looked awesome. I would recommend eating there for lunch, afternoon snack, or dinner the evening before the marathon. I loved listening to Dick Beardsley that afternoon. He is such a great and humorous speaker and is also very motivational. He talked for about an hour and showed his video of the Duel in the Sun which he raced to the Finish against Alberto Salazar. That race was the closest race in Boston history and it was very exciting to watch.
We had to stay at Black Bear because we didn’t try to make reservations until this February and most of the hotels had booked up by then. The ones that weren’t booked were overpriced with rates between $250-$350/night I believe. If you want to run this marathon next year, I would suggest booking a hotel close to Canal Park such as the Holiday Inn, or Radisson as soon as you can this year. Dinner that night consisted of going back to the hotel at Black Bear Casino and eating at the pasta buffet where the mashed potatoes were abundant and delicious. Erin and I went back up to the room and got all my stuff ready for the run the next morning. I placed my gu’s, breakfast bagel, PowerAde, and banana in my bag I was brining with to the race, got all my clothes in line, and went to bed at about 10:00 pm.
Marathon morning came and I was feeling hydrated and energized. Erin dropped me off at a shuttle pick up area in Duluth and I was on my way up to Two Harbors. Man was I excited! The shuttle dropped us off next to the starting line and I found my 3:40 pace group. Moments later the gun shot off and I was starting my marathon. The pace leader was very talkative and started talking about all the other marathons he did during the run which I found very interesting. Miles were flying by and on mile six I was feeling as if I hadn’t even started to run yet. I made a decision that I was going to speed up the pace a bit. At mile 7 my right contact popped out. Bummer, huge bummer, I have to wear hard contacts and they are close to $200/each so this marathon all of a sudden got more expensive. On top of losing the contact, I was basically blind. I have terrible astigmatism to the point that the eye surgeon told me that I am not a qualified candidate for laser surgery because the diopters of my eyes are too great. I was also concerned that I was going to come down with a splitting headache due to the eye strain I was going to have to endure for the next 2.5 hours or so. I kept running and the legs and heart kept feeling strong. I passed the halfway point and saw Erin cheering me on and she handed me GU for some quick energy. I was still feeling great and started talking to a gentleman around my age that I had been running next to since I left the pace group. His name was Brian and he was part of an extreme running group called the marathon maniacs. Most of the people in this group are trying to achieve tasks like double digit marathons in a year, run at least 1 marathon in all 50 states, and even complete 100 mile ultra-marathons. He talked to me about his journey and some of his struggles along the way but he also talked about how much fun he had been having with the whole thing and how it has made him feel free. He was from Missouri and since jumping on a plane was not always the most economical, he made the drive to Duluth. Miles kept passing by and we were running a lot of our miles at a sub/8:00 pace. Erin met me again at mile 19-20 and asked if she could run with me for a bit. I thought I was still feeling pretty good but must have told her that she had run long enough with me because she tailed off not too long after she started running with me. Soon after that I noticed that my legs were starting to feel really heavy but I kept running. I was now in Duluth running past cheering groups. One of the groups was serving bacon to the runners and they had a big sign up that said “Bacon Station”. It was pretty cool to see. Duluth had an incredible amount of cheering and spectator support. It was awesome, except for the fact that I was beginning to hit a wall. I got on the long straightaway where I could see lemon drop hill way in the distance and the closer I got to it, the more my mind was telling me “boy that hill is looking difficult, I think you should walk”. It’s amazing what your mind can tell your body when you start fatiguing. I got to the water station just before the hill and I had to walk for a bit. As I hear a famous expression the other IRR (Ice Road Runners) talk about, “There was nothing really left in the tank.” I told myself that I would walk for about .2 miles and then I would run to the next water stop before I would walk again. This made it easier to run because I was now able to section the race into different segments and it took away some of the mind games that I was too tired to finish out the last 4 miles. Somewhere towards the end I heard a pitter patter of multiple feet creeping up behind me; I looked back and saw that it was the 3:40 group that had caught up with me again. I knew I had to stay with them to meet my goal but between mile 24 and 25 they separated from me. They sure were a strong consistent group and I give them props for their hard work. Mile 25 came and I saw that there was still a chance if I ran the last mile hard I could still achieve my goal of a 3:40 marathon. I felt that I gave it everything I had at the time and ran to a 3:39:52 finish. Boy I cut that close and man was I happy. Grandmas had awesome post-race drinks and food at the finish line and they were very organized with all kinds of different booths having different drinks and food. What a great Marathon and I will definitely sign up for it again next year. Hopefully the weather cooperates as I have heard that it is very unpredictable during that time of year in that area. I am now starting my training for the Philadelphia Marathon coming up November 20th and the training program starts already on Monday, July 4th. I have had such an awesome experience running this year and am very blessed to have met the IRR crew. It sure makes running more enjoyable to do it with a group. I am also so thankful that my wife Erin not only puts up with, but also supports all the time I have devoted towards my training. I’ll keep you posted on how the training season goes. My mile splits for Grandmas are below.