Marathon bonanza continued this past weekend at Grandma’s Marathon. This was one heck of a race and weekend! Glad I got to share it with great company, between my friends Ariana and her husband Matt, Caitlin C., and Meagan N.. Between them and the ‘awesome’ people who help with Grandma’s marathon (including race director, Scott Keenan, who recruited me to the race back in January at the Trials), thank you everyone for making my first Grandma’s marathon highly memorable! I’m pretty sure we’ll be talking and laughing about this race weekend for a lifetime. Now I look forward to coming back year after year!
I finished 7th in 2:40:18, 2nd American. The time/place doesn’t even come close to describing the crazy journey of getting to the finish (and the whole weekend).
I don’t have much luck with travel to Minnesota. Much like my trip to Twin Cities in ’09, my flight got delayed…. by a lot. Apparently there were monsoons in Minneapolis, where my flight was coming from and then going back to (direct flight from OKC, fortunately). It’s all good though— airport food is great for marathoning! Enjoyed a Sonic burger, fries, and a Coke. I tried to eat reasonably– making sure I got a greater percentage of carbohydrates, salt, and drinking fluids. I kept myself pre-occupied at the airport by having a duct tape party with my fluid bottles.
Once I finally made it to Minneapolis, I road-tripped up to Duluth with Ariana, Matt, Caitlin, and Meagan. This worked out great—thanks Ariana and Matt for arranging this! My sense of adventure kicked in, thinking it would be fun to road trip with people I know. We made it to Duluth, went to the Elite Hospitality suite at Canal Park Lodge, and then grabbed a footlong at Subway (with Dill Pickle chips, mmm!). The race also gave us a goodie bag at the hotel (sweeet!), filled with some cool treats like a chocolate running shoe.
On Friday, our ditziness was at an all-time high. We attempted to drive the race course. Ariana had run the full last year, and I’d run the half before. While driving the point-to-point course, Ariana and I kept saying, “This doesn’t look familiar! Where’s the Lake? Which side of the highway do we run on? Man, there’s some big climbs!” Matt was driving, and Ariana and I assumed we were on the course and never thought to look up a map. Well, it turns out we accidentally drove the neighboring highway, and NOT the race course by the lake, lol! We didn’t even realize our mistake until that evening!
Fortunately, Matt dropped us off the last ~6 mi. of the race course, so Ariana and I got to run ‘part of’ the correct course. On top of our ditziness, I had handmade us matching t-shirts (see pic), as we both have an affinity for donuts. We ran in our matching pink shirts, totally oblivious to the fact that what we just drove was NOT the race course. It was perfect.
We made it to the athlete luncheon (albeit a little late, because Ariana got lost trying to run the last bit of the course!). Had chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll with butter, and a tasty desert bar.
Next came the press conference. This was a crackup! It was 5-7 foreign athletes (most of who didn’t know English and needed interpreters)….and then Ariana and I. It was pretty boring at first, as the foreign runners and their interpreters didn’t have much to say, besides Yes and No. Then came Ariana and I…. I think we made the press conference more entertaining?! My sponsor, John, asked me how I recover from marathons. I talked about my Thesis, brewing beer during my down time, playing the piano, and doing things I enjoy. Then we started talking about favorite beers, growing up playing basketball, getting into running, and how I plan my marathons. I think they may have been shocked we were talking more about beer than running at the press conference?! Ariana talked about going from running 4+ hours to 2:37 in the marathon… and even better…. Becoming the poster child for Grandma’s Marathon this year! She’s so famous, she was on a billboard going to Duluth…. and they even have her on the stamp on our tax form!
We had to walk to Fitgers to get on an elite athlete shuttle bus. We get there, and USATF liason, Leann M. (who’s a total crackup– I love you Leann!), directs me onto a big yellow school bus. I get on, while Ariana ran to the restroom. The bus takes off, without Ariana, and it dawns on me (looking around at the people), “Wait a minute, I don’t think this is the right bus!” Ahahaa, of course this would happen…. I was on the wrong bus. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, as the same thing happened at Twin Cities ’08. Fortunately, this time I didn’t get lost or backed up in traffic.
Note to self for future Grandma’s—there is no elite athlete tent at the start, which means to bring more clothes in case it could be cold…. Or wet (not sure what we’d do in a downpour?!). There’s also nowhere to sit, except the hard pavement or the dewy grass. I got there at 6am with a 7:45am start. I had to bring my breakfast food and coffee (which I eat 90 min. before the race start). There were only 4 porta-johns for roughly 50-100 elites. I have never seen so many people scatter for the trees– comical! Normally it would hit me to go and get everything out in one swoop. However, I felt like I had to force myself to go and was somewhat rushed going to the porta-john. I wanted to go one more time, but we were very rushed. I’ll have to plan this better next time!
It was fairly warm and humid at the start (62-63 with 95% humidity?), so we tried to ‘preserve our sweat’ by shedding the layers and not warming up as long. Mind you, it was nearly 20 degrees warmer at the start of Boston this year, and certainly cooler than Oklahoma right now. However, I would say it was still a tad too warm for ideal marathoning—it felt “stuffy”. I didn’t get to go through my full drills and strides, but that’s not really a concern since you can use the first few miles to get warmed up. In hindsight, I should have ‘limbered up’ more (or earlier).
The gun went off…. And POP…. Behind my knee. Ouch! I felt like a sprinter pulling up lame! I was hoping to take off with Ariana, as we knew the Africans would go out hard and we’d likely be pacing together for sub 2:35. However, she had 100m on me in the first mile, as I was limping and trying to get my body going. I didn’t know what was wrong and whether to drop out, but I was like, “I’ll be darned if I don’t stick this out!”
Feeling more labored trying to run what should have been an easy pace, I was gritting my teeth to catch up to Ariana, the Ukrainian woman, and a few men. I was trying to be patient, as they had at least 20 seconds on me (mostly from me getting gapped in the first mile). I was <5 seconds behind (5-10 miles in?)… and suddenly Ariana runs off to the side to go to the restroom!
[What follows is why there's no race pictures in this post.]
Meanwhile, I was dealing with my own GI distress. It felt like after taking my first fluid bottle at mile 3, it “moved my bowels”. It would never cross my mind to stop for the restroom! What’s the worst that can happen with diarrhea…. Beside the embarrassment of having **** yourself (if it shows!). So far, my body fluids felt ‘contained’ in my bunhuggers. Things became increasingly more uncomfortable as the race went on….
[note: This is my second time having diarrhea in a marathon.... first time was at the PanAm Games last fall, wearing shorts. If you're going to have diarrhea, you're much better off wearing shorts than bunhuggers! Rest in peace, bunhuggers.]
Ariana managed to catch back up. For a few brief miles, we had somewhat of a “pack” running together, which was a big relief to me, but it felt like I was having to push extra hard to keep up. The back of my knee was popping—gait not fluid at all. My metronomic sense of pace went out the window. The last time I hurt this knee was when I slipped backwards on the ice before the Houston Half in ’09, and limped my way to barely under 1:19 (when I was in shape to run 1:15-16). I could hardly bend my knee before and after that race (~hurt the hamstring, where it wraps on the medial side of the knee). My knee was feeling the same—took a lot more effort to run.
Somewhere between 10-15 miles, Ariana ran off the road, again, to a porta-john. Ugh! Thereafter, I was all alone, as the Ukrainian woman developed a gap and seemed to accelerate on the second half. With each passing fluid bottle (two of which I almost missed and had to turnaround to go back for), my bowels kept “moving”. I felt something “splash” on my leg—is that water?! I looked down, and it wasn’t a pretty sight! I secretly hoped no one saw the “mess”, but then I passed a kid and he made a farting noice!!!! You know you’ve got a problem when….
Between 15-20 miles, we started to feel a breeze off the lake, got cooler, and I suddenly felt like I could breath better. I felt like I got my second wind (but I don’t know if I actually picked up the pace, as I wasn’t paying attention to splits). I caught an Ethiopian and a few men. From 20 miles to the finish, the number of spectators increased. You could feel the energy! I felt pretty good, in terms of energy/hydration/concentration—never felt like I bonked. At one point, I thought about how nice it would be to jump in the lake to clean off my mess!
With ~mile to go, I saw the photographer on the bridge, and made a “T” with my hands for Thunder. However, I soon thought, “I don’t know if I want to see that picture!” Then, I rounded a corner, looked over my shoulder…. And there’s Ariana! Holy cow, she’s still in it! Ariana = the Tooncinator (~SNL Skit, which I’m not kidding played through my head)! I started to drive as hard as I could. With ½ mile to go, she passes me– I couldn’t go any harder. Sometimes you have it…. And sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you tense up and actually slow down instead of picking it up. Judging by the finishing video, my noticeable limp likely didn’t help. I also likely won’t be the poster child for next year!
We came across in 6th and 7th in just over 2:40 (10 seconds apart), missing the sub 2:40 time bonuses (d’oh!). It’s frustrating to look at the results and know we could have been in the mix if everything (or most everything) had gone right. Regardless, 2:40 is still very solid. I really believe it was our stubbornness and level-headedness that kept us going…. Plus, being aerobically strong. I had worked too hard to have the race go to waste in the first step/first mile. This is the fastest I’ve ever hobbled a marathon (I ran 2:47+ at the ’08 Olympic Trials with a fractured fibula).
After the race, I spent a good while in the medical tent getting cleaned off (or trying to = burned!) and changing clothes. Thereafter, I walked/limped, bowlegged, around the post-race festivities. I couldn’t decide which was worse—the diaper rash or the sore/stiff knee (and hip, from compensating). On top of it was my disgusting shoes and socks (I wore gray socks, fortunately!), which I had to wear and walk in for a few hours.
The race had the best post-race beer on tap I’ve ever had (or maybe any beer tastes extra good after a marathon?!)– Michelob Amber Bock. Then I met up with my sponsor, and we went to the famed Grandma’s restaurant. Got my pic with Captain Morgan. This place has a lot of stairs, which isn’t good if you’ve just run a marathon AND have alcohol in your system! The party was upstairs…. While the bathrooms were two flights below, ugh.
I ended up walking back to our hotel (mile+), which was a good thing because my knee got stiff sitting down. Ohhh, then the shower…. Yikes! Soooo wanted to clean off…. But next to impossible to do! Stomach wasn’t doing good either, but this always happens (Irritable bowel syndrome?). All I brought was tight jeans and shorts too…. Not good for diaper rash! In a world of hurt.
I walked to the awards ceremony (another mile+). Then, expecting a party like 3 years ago, it wasn’t happening, and we wondered where the HMers were! Apparently they had a separate party/dinner. This was the only disappointment of the whole weekend– wish we had been together so I could see people! However, we went to Fitgers afterwards and had beer and burgers with Ariana’s parents. I later went to the “mass party” and met up with my sponsor…. Still wondering where everyone was?!! It was an early-to-bed post-race evening (and I even got to sleep in)!
I gotta say…. Duluth is soooo quirky…. and I’d sooooo live there. It reminded me of ~Boulder and Newport, OR on the coast, put together. Odd shops, bars, buildings, people, and I even had two homeless guys hit on me! Love their sense of humour and accents.
Oh yeah, Ariana got me a donut ‘after’ the race on Sunday– thank you Ariana, loved it!
Overall, this was one heck of a weekend! Of course…. Wouldn’t expect any less! Thank you to everyone involved with Grandma’s for the hospitality, support, and hard work. Thank you to my sponsors for the continued support. I sooooo want to come back next year for a do-over!
Time to heal up and crank it at the next marathon (TBD). I’m scheduled to run the Correcaminos Half Marathon in San Jose, Costa Rica on July 8th. I want to get my whole body healthy though, so I’ll likely be more in recovery/healing mode the next 3 weeks. I have yet to plan my fall race schedule.