Grandma’s Marathon Recap

Here’s the short version:

Goals met.  I wanted to break my old record of 3:38:34 and I did that, finishing in 3:37:47.    Steph wanted to break 4 hours and came in at 3:58:11.  We’re both extremely pleased, happy, and sore.  Don’t make us move today, please.

You want the long version?  Click below.

Grandma’s Marathon is one of the best organized races out there.  It’s famous for it and it showed.  The Expo was well run, the pasta dinner delicious, and we had no trouble getting our race packets.  This year was the 35th Anniversary of the race so we got a few extra goodies for that as well.

Race day was equally awesome.  Buses picked up runners at their hotels (and returned us after the race) and delivered us to the start line.  I’ve never seen so many port-o-potties in one place (believe me, when you’ve got 6,000+ nervous and over-hydrated runners in one location, you need ’em).  The volunteers were everywhere – high school students and grade school students, parents and family.  They stood out in the cold and rain for hours to hand out water, Powerade, or just cheer us on.  You can’t thank them enough.

The entire town comes out for the marathon.  Even our hotel, across the border in Superior, Wisconsin got into the act. They offered breakfast starting at 4:30am on race day for runners and shut down the pool area early Friday night so folks could get a good sleep.  On Saturday, they gave away prizes to finishers (Steph won a gift card to Walmart) and provided free copies of the Sunday paper with all the results.  Awesome.

As for the race itself …

via Keri Geller on Facebook, Duluth News Tribune
Best Sign on the Course

When you’re running 26.2 miles, you obsess about what you can’t control – namely, the weather.  The forecast was not promising.  When we woke up to catch the buses to the start, it was a torrential downpour.  Then as soon as we stepped off the buses, the rain let up.  When the gun went off an hour later, it was about 52 degrees with a strong (10+mph) tailwind and partly cloudy.  Near perfect conditions.

My strategy was to stick with the 3:30 pace group until at least mile 18.  If I did that, I had no doubts of hitting my goal (and if luck was with me, possibly break 3:30).  For the first 16 miles, I did just that and felt great.

Then came Mile 17 and the Wall.

The Wall (or Bonking), in race terms, is the physical limit when the body runs out of glycogen (energy reserves).  Running out of energy in a marathon = bad.  I’ll also venture to say there is a substantial mental aspect to it and this is more what I hit than anything else.  My mind just fell to pieces and I couldn’t hold the pace.  I slowed from 8:00/mile to 8:30/mile and started talking walking breaks.  I’ve never hit the Wall in either of my two previous marathons so this was a bit shocking.

Fortunately, mile 19 is right about when you enter the city limits and the thin crowds along the coastline grow into huge throngs. Bands are everywhere including belly dancers, running Elvis’s, and a string quartet in a barn.  Frat houses showed up with kegs and cups of beer (at least one runner did a keg stand).  Crowds help, they kept me going.  Once I got downtown, I was able to push the pace.

Still, it wasn’t until I rounded the final corner and spotted the finish line that I thought “Son of a … I can still do this” and took off at a sprint.  The result can be seen below …

I’m in blue shirt, black shorts, & black hat.  Steph’s got blue shirt, black shorts, white hat.

(If you want high quality videos of us finishing, click these links- Matt & Steph and choose between Angle 1 or 2 at the top to switch views.)

In case you were wondering, those officials are pointing in my direction.   I didn’t pass out but I was pretty much spent at that point.  A kind volunteer grabbed me and didn’t leave my side until I had water and was feeling better.  Pretty nice of him.

A little under 20 minutes later, Steph crossed the line.  Her knee started hurting around mile 10 but she was able to keep up the pace and finish in under 4 hours, meeting her goal.  Exceptionally proud of her to pull that off.  On top of it, it was the first marathon we’ve run together so we’ve got that experience to share.


So after the race …

Weather that is perfect for running is not necessarily good for cooling down.  In fact, it was colder in Duluth than at the start (4+ degrees cooler).  Being sweaty, wet, and cold meant that a number of runners were taken away for hypothermia.   I wasn’t among them but I certainly showed the signs of it.  I didn’t really warm up until we were back at the hotel.  Unfortunately, I think that led to my only injury – a possible strain of the Achilles tendon.  Time will tell how serious it is but it feels better today so I’m feeling positive.

Best thing about after a marathon?  You have license to eat whatever the heck you want.

So Hungry

Okay … maybe not anything.  But you still gotta refuel.  I burned around 3,100 calories during the race, more than most people eat in a day.

After returning to the hotel and showering, we headed back downtown to eat at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill, longtime sponsors of the race.  Great food.  The place was filled with other runners, all wearing their medals and congratulating random strangers on finishing.  All the servers were wearing shirts that read ‘26.2 is the new 35’.  We hit a nearby Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory afterwards for dessert.  After that, it was back to the hotel and an early night.

Grandma's Saloon and Grill

Back home now and it’s recovery time.  No running for at least a week.  I’d like to say that would drive me insane but to be honest, my muscles right now would probably leap out of my legs and strangle me if I attempted to run.  So I won’t tempt fate.  Time to put my feet up.

Feet Up & Not on the Pavement

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