Thursday June 16. A bumpy road through Iowa eventually leads us to Zumbrota, Minnesota, and Cathy and JA's farm. Cathy is Lee's sister. She and her husband bought this farm in Minnesota with their son and daughter-in-law several years ago and moved here from Missouri. Her son Andrew has a great blog about all things concerning the running of a small family farm in the upper midwest - Green Machine Farm.
Its still hot but a little cooler, and we enjoy the country breezes. We have dinner outside overlooking the farm and later a few people and small dogs take a walk to look at the chickens. The Westie's reaction to the chickens is predictable, but these free range birds are not easily ruffled. One of my niece's, Cathy's daughter Kate, is also running Grandma's tomorrow. This is her first marathon. She just had a baby only 6 month's ago so I'm totally in awe of her. Once I had kids I didn't run again for at least 10 years!
Cathy has four grandchildren, two 3, almost 4 year olds, and 2 babies. The 3 year olds play with our dogs and the dogs think it's great. The 3 year olds treat the dogs like live dolls. They are used to the big farm dogs, but don't have as much experience with little dogs. Our dogs like children, but can't be bossed around as well as dolls. It makes for some funny interactions, as the 3 year olds decide to "put on a show", but our dogs don't act their parts properly.
Friday June 17. The 2.5 hour drive to Duluth takes 4 because of construction but we make it. We set up the RV at Buffalo House campground 10 miles outside Duluth. Grandma's Marathon is a big event for this small city and it wasn't easy to find an RV campground close to town. We go into town to get my bib and go to the race expo. The expo is warm and crowded and I don't really need anything so I'm done quickly. Lee fixes me spaghetti for dinner, I lay out my stuff for the marathon and fall asleep quickly.
Saturday June 18. Grandmas Marathon. I had a hard time writing anything about this race at first. I was completely undone by the heat and had a miserable finish, but most of the race was beautiful and fun. I do my usual early morning pre-race routine, or so I think. Lee drives me to the place where I can pick up one of the buses to the starting line. The only way to get to the starting line of Grandma's is by bus, or train. On the bus I suddenly realize that I've forgotten my GPS watch! At first I'm horrified. How will I know what pace I'm running? How will I keep myself from going out too fast? Then I tell myself sternly, "Okay, you're supposed to run this race by feel so do it!" I've been training by feel for the past 4 months and have started getting a good idea of how fast I'm going without looking at my watch. I like having the watch so I can verify my time but there's nothing I can do about it.
The weather at the start is mild, 62F. I have another niece, Nicole, running Grandma's as her first marathon. We text each other and realize that we are in the same porta potty line! What are the chances with 7,500 runners getting ready to toe the starting line! We stand at the start together, nervous but excited.
The race starts and I wave goodbye to Nicole. I start with a pace that's a "5" on a scale of one to ten, using a 60/30 run/walk ratio, feeling good. The first 10 miles go well. Somewhere in here the informational flags that Grandma's uses to warn of dangerous conditions change to yellow. By mile 13 the flags have changed to black, warning us of extreme conditions, and I'm feeling the heat.
Grandma's marathon is a scenic, rural community course, along the north shore of Lake Superior. There are not a lot of spectators but the ones there are yell "thanks runners!" As we pass by. No thank YOU, I say! My fellow runners are happy, confident and friendly. Every water station has not only water, but ice. Soon I am taking every cup of ice I can get and putting it down both the front and back of my shirt, and sometimes down my pants too, which feels really odd. You'd think I'd be screaming and jumping up and down with ice in my sports bra, wouldnt you? Nope. It feels great, and it melts way too soon.
Many, many people have set up sprinklers on their lawns and we runners go through them every chance we get. They help too, but only for a little bit. Somewhere around mile 15 I change to a 30/30 run/walk ratio and begin to slow down significantly. I'm now concerned mainly about finishing in the heat. The temps are climbing into the upper 70's, which is very very hot for a marathon especially if you're not acclimated.
At Mile 22 I find Lee at the top of Lemon Drop Hill. It's the only significant hill on the course, and it's not very big, but it comes late in the race, which makes it harder than it would normally be for a hill its size. By now I'm really suffering. He hands me some Gatorade, which tastes close to heaven. The sun is beating down and there is hardly any shade. I run the rest of the race on pure guts. I walk a lot more toward the end than in any of my previous marathons, even St. Louis. I can remember only a little bit from the last few miles. I remember worrying about the mile of cobblestones that turned out to be brick pavers and no big deal. I remember going through the turns that make up the final mile and cursing as each turn revealed more course and not the finish line. My final time was 6:18, 30 minutes worse than St. Louis, my worst marathon to date.
There were medical volunteers at the end of the course asking everyone as they crossed the finish line if they were okay. At first I say yes and then after a couple more steps I say no, and turn into the medical tent. My throat seems to be closing and I can't breathe. After a few minutes in the tent I feel much better. I'm a little embarrassed by my moment of weakness but they want to check me out. They are worried that I might be having a heart attack, being an old lady and all, but all my vitals are fine. To this day I don't know what it was. After promising to go straight to an emergency room if my symptoms return or get worse they finally let me go. I get my finisher shirt and my awesome medal, but none of the other goodies that they usually have for you at the end of a big race. I missed all of that by going into the medical tent.
I find Lee and we head back to the RV so I can shower and change and get a little something to eat. At first I'm so sad and confused about what happened. I'm having trouble processing it. What should I have done differently? How could I have handled things better? The answers come slowly at first, but there are answers there for me to learn from. Did I start out too fast? Probably. If its going to be that hot I would have been better off if I had gone more slowly from the very start. Beyond that not forgetting my GPS watch would have been nice. The takeaway from that is to have a checklist and make SURE you check everything on it off! Beyond that however, the main thing I learned from this race is something I already knew, really. I don't perform well in temperatures above 70F, and my ability to run in the heat is getting worse as I get older. If I ever run into a situation like this again I will slow way down from the start and just try to finish and not worry about my time. Strangely, once I get over my initial disappointment I'm not at all put off by this experience. I'm already looking forward to The Dopey Challenge in January, and beyond.
That evening Nicole comes out to Buffalo House for dinner. She is elated, her first marathon was great in spite of the heat. She is doing well, having fun, finishing up nursing school. She and Tom might stay in Duluth for awhile, it's a nice town, just so far north there is no spring, just 9 months of winter, a month of mud and then it's summer. Two days before Grandma's the highs were in the 40's in Duluth. Dang!
Sunday June 19. The next morning we head down to Minny to visit with Sarah and Erik for a few days. Mika, their sweet little Westie, is at first a little shy and then completely thrilled to have three dogs that look and act just like her at her house. She quickly becomes one of the pack. I even take all four for a walk by myself one night, which is no problem except every time someone stops to do their business we get all tangled and have to fix things.
Sarah makes a delicious meal Sunday night. Hanger steak, taters, salad. My daughter has definitely inherited her father's abilities in the kitchen!
Monday June 20. We move slowly in the morning. I'm still very sore and stiff. My belated Mother's Day present of a massage later really feels wonderful. We go shopping for a baby shower present for a friend of Sarah's. We decide on swaddling blankets, a onesie, and Goodnight Moon.
That evening we go to dinner at Birch restaurant in Uptown. Although it's a steakhouse no one wants steak again so we have a bunch of sides, fried chicken, and grilled octopus. All very good!