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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!