Grandma’s Marathon 2014 Recap

I ran Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 21st! I was 8 months postpartum and ran 2:53:28. I was 40th female (talk about a stacked field) and am mostly happy with my race! I was about 5 minutes slower than the time I thought I would run, but I did what I could with what I was dealt on race day.

My little guy!

My little guy!

I will start by saying a few words about my training leading up to the race. I think it can be summed up by telling you about a conversation I had with my broach (brother-coach) before the final few workouts of the cycle. He said something like, “well, I’m not going to yell at you but it would be nice if you would finish a workout.” Ah, good point, broach. Looking back, I only finished 2 workouts as prescribed. The rest were either shorter or slower than the plan. I could insert a bunch of excuses here: lack of sleep, getting used to life with 2 kids, husband traveling constantly, me traveling (and driving a lot), lots of stress, breastfeeding, shall I go on? Or I can say I’m just doing the best I can every day with what life throws at me and I am proud of getting to the start line healthy! I didn’t beat myself up about missing workouts, completely throwing in the towel some days or running less mileage than planned. (I did have a 5 minute sob-fest in my basement when my back/hip started bothering me, but I got over it quickly.) I ended up running an average of 47.25 miles/week this training cycle.


I went into taper feeling like I didn’t need a taper. It felt more like I was just gaining momentum and I should be starting a training cycle, not finishing one. Even without perfect training, I was (and still am) sure I could run sub 2:50.

Here’s the RUNdown of race weekend:

I arrived in Duluth about 1.5 hours later than scheduled on Thursday night (for Saturday morning race) thanks to flight delays. I got to the hotel and ran into a few awesome runners I know then headed out to get some food. I took a nice soak in the tub, read a bit and went to bed. Boy, did I miss my kids but it felt heavenly to sleep for 8.5 hours straight! Ok, I still woke up 4 times because that’s the schedule Wells has me on, but I fell right back asleep each time and woke feeling rested!

On Friday I did a nice little shakeout of maybe 3.7ish miles with my super stud buds (and both 2016 OTQs) Heidi and Aubrey. Heidi ended up running a 1:17 and Aubrey ran a 1:13 half this weekend! Rocked it! We went to the expo, met another Oiselle teammate (Kristine) had some lunch and went back to the hotel to chill.

Kristine, Heidi, me, Aubrey!

Kristine, Heidi, me, Aubrey!

That night I joined Aubrey and Melissa for the pasta dinner located at the race expo. On the way out we quickly cheered for the 5k, then retired to our rooms for the night.

Aubrey, me, Melissa!

Aubrey, me, Melissa!

I woke on race morning feeling rested! No kids, no roommate, and a good 10 hours of total silence was just what I needed. I probably slept 8.5 hours straight for the second night in a row! My alarm went off 3 hours before race start and I devoured my 2 Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bars, half a cup of hotel coffee, 20oz water, plus 16 oz of water mixed with Lemonade Generation UCAN. I went to catch the bus to the start line (it’s a point to point course) and found my friend Heather who I know from my Rochester running days. We chatted the whole bus ride as I sipped on another coffee.

Pre-race hotel selfie!

Pre-race hotel selfie!

It was a foggy morning with misty rain and around 50 degrees at the start. I did about 1/2 mile warmup, broken up with a bathroom break and we got to chat with one of my running heroes, Carrie Tollefson! I took a Vanilla GU around 15 minutes before the race start, did a few dynamic stretches and the race was off!

Pre-race with Kristine and Heather!

Pre-race with Kristine (who had a PR and broke 3 hours!) and Heather (who had a tough day and still ran 2:49!)!

Miles 1-10

In the first mile I spotted a girl decked out in Oiselle and running with another girl and I tucked in behind them. It turns out the ladies were twin sisters, running their 2nd and 4th marathons, but first time racing together. (They finished in 2:48, together! How cool! Great job Lucinda and Claudin!) We ended up talking a good portion of the first 20 miles.

The first 10 miles went exactly as planned as far as pace was concerned. I was running 6:20-6:30 for each mile and feeling good. Well, feeling good except I had a crazy side ache along my left ribcage that I just couldn’t shake. I tried different types of breathing, pushing on it, trying to ignore it, drinking water, nothing was helping. I took an espresso GU around mile 7. The side ache was nagging, but I could still run through it. I took a few sips of water at every water stop and one sip of powerade.

Miles 11-20

I was happy to feel so strong and have ladies to run with. We had a little pack of 4 women and a few guys and we were just chatting every so often and clicking through the miles. I took a vanilla GU around mile 14. Around 15, I felt some rumbles in my stomach and was immediately taken back to Cleveland Marathon 2011, when I had stomach issues that had me stopped on the side of the road, pooping my guts out at mile 16, not able to replenish all I lost, and finishing much slower than expected. I told myself I would be fine and wouldn’t be stopping to use the restroom. I would make it to the finish without stopping! I was still taking a few sips of water at each water stop.

Unfortunately, my stomach was getting angrier and angrier with each passing mile. By 20.4, there was no choice. I had to stop, or finish with a load in my pants. Seriously, let’s just say it was on its way out, and I was freaking out. No porta potty in sight! Gotta find one this time! (At Cleveland in 2011, I dropped my pants right on the side of the road, and have told the story to many runners friends. Most people responded “find a restroom next time!”) I drastically slowed, and finally, at 20.92 according to Garmin, I found one! I was in the restroom for about 2.5 minutes, trying to calm my stomach. It was squeezing and churning out of control but I knew I had to get back out on the course. At the time I didn’t know how much time I lost (checked Garmin later), I just knew I wanted to get passing a lot of the women who went by while I was in the restroom.

Miles 21-26.2

I didn’t feel great when I started back up. It’s hard for me to gain momentum when I’ve stopped very suddenly, especially since I was stationary for a few minutes, and my stomach still wasn’t feeling right. My next mile was about 6:50 and then my Garmin went dead. I was hoping my Garmin would motivate me and get me back on track, but now that plan wasn’t going to work. I think I was passed by the most people during mile 22. I was feeling rough, I had no idea how much time I’d lost and I was a little defeated for a moment. I had 2 more GUs with me but was afraid to take in any more fuel or hydration.

Luckily, I remembered some positive self talk! I told myself “you are strong, you are courageous, have faith”. I remembered my Erica Sara Designs “run” and “one mile at a time” charms and just told myself to make it to the next mile. I realized I wasn’t being passed by any ladies and in fact, even though I felt like a snail, I was passing a few!

At mile 23, some little kid made a comment about my belly button looking strange. He was yelling it to his parents and I was reminded of my umbilical hernia. I took a moment to feel weak. Then I squashed that thought and told myself I’m actually really strong!

Shortly after that, I was thrilled to hear a group of young, cute guys yell “number 51! (My number) you are beautiful!” I assumed I was looking pretty haggard so this comment immediately lifted my spirits. Then I saw the PITCHERS of beer they were all individually holding, 2/3 of the way empty, and thought “argh, beer goggles!” Either way, it gave me something to think about.

By mile 24 my stomach was calmed down and I just wanted to be done. The crowds picked up at that point and I was getting back on pace. At mile 25, I heard and saw some running friends cheering and I gave them a big smile and realized I only had a mile left! I started picking people off there and didn’t get passed by anyone that last mile. I passed 5-6 women and a few guys and wished I picked up the pace earlier!

Thank you, Kristine, for this photo!

Thank you, Kristine, for this photo from the finish!

I was pretty happy when I crossed the finish line. I didn’t give up and I stayed mentally strong. My time was about 5 minutes slower than I expected, but I now know half of that time was spent in the restroom and at least another minute was spent trying to feel normal again after abruptly stopping.

I’m taking this week off, but already getting excited about my next training cycle. I’m considering a handful of fall marathon options right now and once I plan that I will start to fill in some other races.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement!



27 thoughts on “Grandma’s Marathon 2014 Recap

  1. I’m glad you were able to run the first 20 with those woman.

    You are going to come back this Fall and go under 2:50. I’m sorry you didn’t feel the greatest. You are truly amazing Jen and I cannot wait to see how your running continues.

  2. It stinks that the shit stop derailed you a bit, but good lord, you are awesome! Thanks for being so authentic and so inspiring to the rest of us out here, especially those of us mothers!

  3. Wells has the most beautiful eyes! What a cutie :) You are so amazing. Seriously. 2:53 only 8 months after having a baby AND having GI issues?! Whatever fall marathon you decide on, you will nail it! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you really are an inspiration! Keep up the hard work and great results!

  4. Awesome job! I am 5 months post-partum and am gearing up for a couple marathons this fall where I’m hoping to be close to or under 3 hours. My current PR is 3:07, so I know it’s a pretty ambitious goal, but I’ve been running pretty well so far and reading your amazing race reports has been so encouraging and inspiring. Congrats, and keep up the great work!

    • Thanks, Dana! Yes, you can get that! I PR’d by around 23 minutes just 8 months after having my daughter so I believe in you!!

  5. Great race!! I am thinking no, but are you still breast feeding? Have you had to pump or nurse before/after a race?? I have one coming up and not sure how I will go about it… Thanks

    • Thanks, Denae! Yes, I’m still breastfeeding like crazy. My son hasn’t ever had formula and he’s a big milk drinker. He started solids about 2 months ago but only takes a few ounces of purees a day and does mostly milk.

      I’m glad you mentioned pumping! I totally forgot to add that detail that my boobs were KILLING ME after the race because they were full of milk! I pump before and after a race if I’m out of town. If I’m in town I breastfeed before and after. In March when I raced in Florida, I brought my pump to the race site and pumped just minutes before racing then checked it with my gear check. This time, I pumped at 5am for the 7:45am race and didn’t get to pump again until noon so I had a lot of milk in me. It’s kind of trial and error! I didn’t want to bring my pump to the starting area this time because they were doing the clear bags for security and I wasn’t sure how big of a deal it would be to have the pump. It probably would have been fine, but I like as little stress as possible race morning! I’m a huge milk producer so I try to manipulate my supply in the days leading up, pumping as much as I can in the early morning hours then waiting to pump again until many hours later. It sort of works to slow my mid-morning production. (In the meantime my baby gets bottles of the pumped milk on his regular schedule.)
      Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions about that kind of stuff! I’m happy to share whatever I’ve found to work and not work!

      • Thanks!!
        So do you pump in a porta potty? Do you use your nice pump or do you have an electric mini one for races? Do you pump before long runs? My next marathon is NYC so I won’t do bag check and just toss an old electric one… I have a three month old and my training plan starts July 14… So trying to figure it all out:) a post on pumping would be awesome!

  6. You are such an inspiration! Despite it not being your best race you put out a seriously amazing performance – 8 months postpartum or not (but especially amazing considering!). And I’m sure those drunk guys were telling the truth!

  7. Great race!! I love how real you are with your training recap! So happy you could find a bathroom!! Can’t wait to hear where you are going in the fall! (I’ll be in Columbus)

    • Thanks Steffany! Yes! they had tons of restrooms along the course, but then I desperately needed one and it seemed like FOREVER until I found one! :)

  8. you’re awesome, mama. i couldn’t have imagined running as fast as you did eight months postpartum. that sub 2:50 is right there, i’m sure you’ll get it CIM. looking forward to seeing you there and hopefully we’ll do it together again!

  9. I knew those twins back in college! They both ran the steeple, I can’t remember what school they went to (somewhere in PA, I think?) and I remember staying in touch with them for a little while over email.
    I’m sorry your race didn’t go as planned, but I think you showed a lot of grit for finishing as well as you did. I’m really excited for your fall marathon, Jen!

    • How cool! They are so nice and great to hang onto during a race! I’m excited about my fall marathon too. Now I just need to choose where it will be!

  10. First off, congrats again on your race, lady! All things considered, you ran your best for that day (and that is no easy feat with all the hurdles you delth with!). 26 miles is a long way to carry deamons with you and that is probably what’s most impressive about your performance. I had almost identical training going into this marathon (it really is uncanny! – i didnt finish any of my last three workouts. and life with two littles under 4 really makes it hard for me to get more than 50 miles a week in). That being said, I am POSITIVE that had it not been for the stomach issues, we totally would have finished the race together. That sub 2:50 is easily within you! Now with a few more months of training under your belt, where will that put you in the fall?!?! It’s exciting to think, huh?! All my best to ya! So thrilled that we met and got to share a couple hours racing together :)

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