I drove over solo from Lincoln to Des Moines on Thursday night (3 hours). Then Friday morning I hopped in one of 3 minivans full of Des Moines runners heading north. The vans included some of my Des Moines running friends such as Ryan Kramer, Greg Bell, Martin Popp, Tony Cendana, Paxton Bennett, and Ben Jaskowiak.
The drive up to Duluth was another 6 hours or so. And it went very smoothly.
The weather at Grandma's is always unpredictable (and the forecast had been changing daily) so we were excited when we approached Duluth and the temperature dropped from the 70's to down around 45 or 50 very quickly! It was about 2:30pm Friday when we arrived at the Expo/Packet Pickup at the convention center in downtown Duluth. The place was busy but it was very well-organized and we were able to get in and out pretty easily.
|Packet Pickup in Duluth.|
We then headed about 10 minutes away to the dorms at University of Wisconsin-Superior where we would be staying. The dorms are nothing fancy but they are very affordable and there is shuttle service to the starting line for both the half and full marathon from right outside the dorms. The dorms also provided sheets, pillows, towels, and soap which was great. The less details to think about on race weekend, the better.
About 4pm I did a 3 mile shakeout run with Ben Jaskowiak, Ryan Kramer, Martin Popp. It was cool and windy. Great running weather! I felt a bit sluggish, but I usually do when I only run 3 or 4 miles per day those last couple days before a long race. (I had cut down to 80 miles the week before the race and ended up logging only about 30 miles between Monday and Friday on race week).
Then around 6pm we headed to dinner at a local restaurant called Clyde's. This was a really cool atmosphere compared to hitting the pasta dinner that was basically set up in the middle of the Marathon Expo. Clyde's is also apparently a good music venue, so it's on my list to go back next time I'm in Duluth.
Then it was back to the dorms and to bed around 9:30 or 10.
My alarm was set for 5am because the shuttles came at 5:45 for a 7:45 race time. My roommate Ryan Kramer didn't snore and I actually slept well on the dorm bed. When we woke up to foggy, misty, cool conditions, I was excited. With temps in the 40's and very little chance of the sun coming out, I was no longer worried about heavy rain or heat slowing me down.
I ate my normal breakfast of one banana, a cup of dry cheerios, and an energy drink. The shuttle ride up to the start line was about 45 minutes and went smoothly. I got off the bus and walked immediately to the Porta-Potties. Unfortunately, there were already rather long lines. I had time to burn so I waited 5 or 10 minutes to use one. But more bathrooms is my number one recommendation to the Grandma's race directors because the lines grew to ridiculous lengths as it came closer to race time. I simply had to go in the woods for my last pit stop just a few minutes before the race started.
I warmed up with Des Moines runner Ben Jaskowiak. We did an easy 10 minute jog (around the parking lot of the car dealership next to the starting line) and then a few stride-outs and drills. We then walked our drop bags over to the dropbag area and made our way to the start line. Although I wasn't entered as an elite athlete this year, allowing elites to drop their bags right at the start line would be a nice touch. I know it would have saved us all some time and some fighting through the crowds.
I got to the starting area and found my Lincoln Running Company teammate Jason Zakaras. We both were shooting to run 2:35 and we planned to run together. We lined up probably 25 yards from the front of the pack because you don't want to get pulled out too fast by the truly elite runners who get out in 5 minute mile pace.
I just went with my normal race singlet, shorts, hat and PRO Compression socks. My only modification for the cool weather was a light pair of gloves. I had 3 Clif Shot Gels stuffed inside my gloves. I like the Double Espresso flavor with 100mg of caffeine for a nice boost. I also had about 8 Salt Stick brand salt pills in my little zippered back pocket of my running shorts.
|The old "use your gloves to carry fuel" trick. 2:24 marathoner Eric Noel gave me this tip.|
The weather felt great as we started. Upper 40's, heavy fog, light winds which blew from the east--right off the lake. (Grandma's Marathon runs north to south on a 2-lane highway that skirts the western edge of Lake Superior). With all the fog I didn't see much lake on Saturday, but I hear it's pretty. It was misting off and on so the humidity had to be near 100%. The road was wet but there really were not many puddles so the damp weather didn't seem to slow you down or cause any slippage at all.
Zakaras and I got off the start line comfortably and slowly worked our way past some packs of elite women and others in the first mile. We hit mile 1 in 6:01. It was comfortable and while we had wanted to be more like 6:05 or 6:10, it was a good start. We were ready to dial in on our 5:50 to 5:55 race pace goal.
I like to chat my way through the race so I was asking folks where they are from, how fast they plan to run, etc. Somewhere around that mile 1 mark, Zakaras and I met the two elite women that we would run with for the next 20 miles or so. Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison, pro runners for Adidas and Asics, respectively.
Brianne spoke up and said she was planning to run the Olympic Trials "A" Standard of sub 2:37.
Without even thinking about it I told her to just run with myself and Zakaras and we would take her there. Sometimes (ok, most times) I'm really full of crap---but I'm so glad that I opened my big mouth and offered to help these ladies stay on pace.
It was a win-win situation. Sure, I was leading the pack most of the race and taking the brunt of the light wind that was hitting us from the front-left. But I would have set my own pace anyway. My long legs don't make it easy to tuck in behind shorter runners.
Mentally my race became much easier when I switched from thinking about running for myself to helping these women qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon. I was instantly accountable in a way I couldn't have been otherwise.
So we settled in and hit 5:49, 5:45, 5:51, 5:48 and then 5:52 for mile 6. We were right on pace. Even a bit ahead of pace. I was calling out the mile splits for everyone and trying to cut the best tangents I could in the fog on this curvy highway. Our little pack of 4 runners would swell to 7 or 8 briefly as we passed runners who had gotten out too hard, but it never lasted long. It always ended up coming back to just the 4 of us working together. Fans were few and far between out on the course, but probably every mile or so there would be a group at the end of someone's driveway.
Around mile 7 I took my first gel and then unzipped my back pocket to grab a salt pill. I imagined my thumb and index finger neatly plucking one pill out of my pocket. But I had visualized it wrong. When I pulled my hand out, I turned the pocket inside out. I turned around to see all my salt pills hit the pavement. And I started to curse my luck out loud.
Zakaras quickly told me to stop freaking out. This was a big help.
I mourned my mistake for about half a mile and then made a new plan to drink Powerade at each water stop and skip the plain water entirely because Powerade does have some salt content. I was even able to grab two cups of Powerade at some aid stations and I guzzled it down.
It turned out that I still felt low on salt between miles 13 and 18, but I never fully lost my vision/saw spots everywhere as I had in my previous marathon.
We continued to grind out miles in that 5:50 zone as we moved through the fog on the gently rolling hills of the highway (all splits listed below). We hit the half marathon in 1:17:07, which was right where we wanted to be.
Around this time we spotted 2 African men pacing 2 African women probably 100 yards ahead of us in the fog. We knew that we had to reel them in and then blow by them quickly so they didn't try to latch onto our group. Brianne and I discussed this out loud. It took us about 2 more miles to catch them and we passed them around mile 15. They didn't put up much of a fight.
We hit mile 20 in 1:57:49 and this was where it became every man (and woman) for himself. Zakaras started to pull away first. He wasn't speeding up much but he was holding that 5:50's pace where I had started to fade to between 6 minutes and 6:05 per mile. The two women also ended up pulling away from me the last few miles.
Brianne Nelson had a very gutsy finish to end up as the 2nd place woman. Brianne and Zakaras ran 2:34 and Lauren Jimison and myself ran 2:35. I gutted out the last 6 miles and passed several men who were hitting the wall. I was slowing slightly, but I wasn't dead. The last 6 miles is when you enter the city of Duluth. I passed many more runners than passed me during that last 6 miles. And I ended up knowing most of the runners who did pass me late. Iowa runners Jake Stanton and Martin Popp and Illinois runner Daniel Kittaka were among them.
The crowd support is very good once you get to town and that really helped to carry me through. You do wind around in town quite a bit and I started to wonder where the finish line actually was.
I finally found it and finished in 2:35:31. That's a huge PR for me!
Post-race I was impressed with how organized the drop bags were. With about 6200 runners in the full marathon and 7300 in the half marathon, that is no small task. And there were plenty of snacks to be had. I heard there was a long wait for post-race massage, so I just skipped that area.
Here's a few pics from finish line area:
I have to say that I was happy with my choice of shoes this time around. I went with the Scott Eride AF Trainer. It's a light trainer with great tread and I had no blisters or any sort of issues at all. I didn't think about the shoes at all during the run, which is exactly how it should be.
A huge congratulations to Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison who both made the U.S. Olympic Trials "A" Standard, which means they will have a chance to compete in Los Angeles in early 2016 and hopefully make the Olympic Team!
Thanks to all who made Grandma's Marathon 2014 such a special weekend. And we will see you further down the road!
3 Clif Shot Gels--Double Espresso
Powerade--Approx 30 oz?
See my complete results here.
See my finish line video here.
See my Marathonfoto.com pics here. (4199 is my Bib #)
MY SPLITS (I don't race with GPS and I missed hitting my watch a few times)
Mile 1 -- 6:01
Mile 2 -- 5:49
Mile 3 -- 5:45
Mile 4 -- 5:51
Mile 5 -- 5:48
Mile 6 -- 5:52
10k -- 36:19
Mile 7 and 8 -- 11:49 (5:54.5 avg)
Mile 9 -- 5:58
Mile 10 -- 5:41
Mile 11 and 12 -- 11:52 (5:56 avg)
Mile 13 -- 6:00
Half Marathon -- 1:17:07
Mile 14 -- 5:41
Mile 15 -- 5:52
Mile 16 -- 5:51
Mile 17 -- 5:58
Mile 18 -- 5:56
Miles 19 and 20 -- 11:58 (5:59 avg)
20 Mile Split -- 1:57:49
Mile 21 -- 6:03
Miles 22,23,24,25 -- 24:13 (6:03 avg)
Mile 26.2 -- 7:25
Total Time 2:35:31