When I signed up for Grandma’s Marathon this year, I did it for sentimental reasons. I wanted to go back to where I started this endurance journey and toed the line of my first marathon as a sprite 20-year-old over a decade ago. I had this idyllic image of breezing from Two Harbors to Duluth like I did in 2002 (perhaps a bit faster than my maiden voyage of 3:36:02), blowing a kiss to my mom at mile 21 on London road like I did 10 years ago and reliving that euphoric feeling I had at my first marathon finish on 6/22/2002 when I knew very little about training and racing.
This was never meant to be an “A” race or even really a “B” or “C” race, just a long training day with a really long, catered run. Still, I had higher hopes than slogging 18 miles and ultimately calling it a day before the finish line and recording my very first DNF. I cruised through the 10k at a typical marathon pace, trying to take it out conservatively and even dialed it back quite a bit before I made it through the 1/2 (7:30 pace, which is usually pretty easy for me). But miles 15, 16, and 17 were much tougher than they should have been. I tried to think of it like an Ironman run, when the fatigue really sets in and you begin to lose the pep in your stride. But as frustration set in, so did logic and I realized struggling through the last 8 miles wouldn’t help my cause and I didn’t need a marathon finish (it would have been #51) to prove anything to myself. So I called it a day and ended up getting a ride back to Canal Park near the finish line.
I’ll admit that I was bummed about the result and even cried (twice) when I told my mom I couldn’t finish, not because I’d disappoint her, but because sometimes I’m extra sentimental around my parents. But I’m not dwelling on this. I realize that I may not be quite as recovered as I thought I was from an exceptionally tough day at Ironman St. George. Just because I made a quick turnaround from Kona to the NYC marathon last fall, doesn't mean all recovery is created equal. If I struggle through 7:30 miles, I’m not ready to hit Ironman training hard, and I shouldn’t be running 20+ miles at a time just yet. So now I’m focusing on a couple more weeks of rest and easier workouts before Ironman training picks up again in July and I can focus on bigger races.
But the race trip wasn’t a total bust by any means. I got to see my parents, hang out with friends on Lake Superior, play golf with my dad on Father’s Day weekend, and catch up with one of my best friends from elementary school at the Mora pool (where we spent nearly every summer day as little kids). I sometimes don't realize how much I get caught up in race results and how training is going and I start to forget there are other important things in life. These other things in life certainly helped me forget about my sub-par day and for that, I am grateful.
Besides that, Grandma’s Marathon is awesome and I’d recommend it to any runner. The Duluth community is one of the friendliest, especially on race weekend. The race is well organized, it’s a great course, and the field is capped to a manageable size to allow for less congestion if you’re gunning for it. And, one of my favorite parts of the race: they have the best finish line food I’ve ever seen at the end of a marathon. Even though I didn’t finish the race, I still made my way to the recovery area to drown my sorrows in the all you can eat buffet of runners’ favorites – strawberries, orange juice, ice cream sandwiches, bagels and peanut butter, potato chips, cookies, bananas, oranges, and I’m sure there was more. As best friend Sydnie likes to call it, it’s my “No Food Left Behind” initiative. I really cannot resist free food at athletic events, even the ones I don't finish apparently.
Looking back, I know I made the right decision. I was thankful my legs weren't pounded for 26.2 miles and the following week included some good workouts. Not every race has a happy ending. Ten years ago I fell in love with the marathon, but over the years it has taught me to keep setting goals and keep moving forward. I'm thankful for all the lessons I've learned through this sport over the past decade and I'm looking forward to many, many more.
|Half the weekend at Grandma's, half the weekend at home|