2019 Grandma's Marathon Race Recap

Well that was a disappointing race, no? While I didn’t hit my goal of going sub-3, I’m surprisingly ok with it. I haven’t figured out if my body really just didn’t cooperate or if my mind just gave in too early. I went into this race so tired. 6.5 months is a long time to be training hard. While my body was tapered, my mind was more than ready for rest and that was challenging going into race weekend feeling mentally fatigued, but I was here and it was time to fight one last time for what I wanted so I could finally rest.

Race Week

I always make sure to see my massage therapist, chiropractor, and ART doc in the week leading up to a race. In the few weeks prior to my taper, my quads had been fatiguing pretty quickly in workouts and I was nervous about that. Tuesday before the race, I asked my massage therapist to work through this area for me to ensure they felt loose and ready, and he confirmed that would be enough time to recover from stripping the muscles. It was painful, but I knew it would do good work. The following day, I saw my ART doc and he worked on my IT band a bit. We flew from LAX to Minneapolis on Thursday - its a 4 hour flight + a 2.5 hour car drive to Duluth after you land, so a very long day of sitting. This obviously wasn’t that great for the work I just had done on my legs, but to add a little cherry on top, I got my period that morning! The first day is the worst with me for cramping and it’s hard for me to have much of an appetite which isn’t great for carb loading. A rough start to the race weekend for sure!

 
Picking up the bib at the expo

Picking up the bib at the expo

 

I tried to stay positive and knew that I would feel better on Friday. We booked the Holiday Inn across from the DECC center where the expo is. Super convenient and very close to the finish - our hotel was really nice and they greeted us with water bottles and some snacks. Once we settled into our room, we headed to the expo to get some walking in and shake out my legs. The expo is great - for such a small marathon and a tiny town, it’s a decent sized expo. On our walk back to our hotel, my IT band really started to flare and felt like it was pulling away from my bone. The strangest, most unsettling feeling. I spent the rest of the evening laying down, rubbing deep blue oil all over my legs, and trying not to freak out. We did get out once more before bed to drive the marathon course. I was surprised at the hills on course. They weren’t massive, but more rolling than I anticipated. There are basically no turns in the point-to-point course until you get to mile 23, but there were plenty of bends in the course to break it up so that was reassuring.

The following day, I met up with my athlete, Marissa, who was also running the marathon. She was my first athlete when I started Sugar Runs Coaching and I’ve been dying to meet her! It was awesome - we headed to the Oiselle shakeout run together on the lakefront and spent the morning chatting over coffee. It was pretty awesome. We both planned to relax for the afternoon, before meeting up for dinner at Va Bene, a local Italian spot for the traditional pre-race pasta. The entire day, I felt like I wasn’t eating enough, but I also didn’t feel hungry which is a rough place to be. It was probably again because of my period, but I felt like I was forcing everything down. I ate all my pasta and as much bread as I could, but I was a bit worried about this. I checked the weather one more time before going to bed and it looked like complete cloud cover throughout the day with a high if 55. Basically perfect.

 
Oiselle Shakeout

Oiselle Shakeout

Meeting Marissa!

Meeting Marissa!

 

Race Day

Marissa and I planned to ride the buses together. The marathon organizes tons of spots throughout the city to catch buses up to the marathon start. There was a pickup spot right outside the dorms where Marissa was staying, so I met up with her there at 5:30. The sun was already out without a cloud in sight. It wasn’t very cold at all when I walked outside, so I just took a light pullover to throw away and a medicine blanket to sit on. The buses drop you off in a car dealership parking lot filled with porto potties. Marissa and I sat on the grass and relaxed for about 45 minutes before getting up to get in line for one last porto potty visit. We made our way to the corrals and I initially thought they had bathrooms in the corrals, but they didn’t (I think the half marathon does and I must’ve read that), so I parted ways with Marissa to hit the porto potties one more time. I was having a bit more GI distress this morning, so wanted to make sure I was good before the start. I rushed back with 2 mins to spare before the gun and found the 3:00 pacer. They then made us wait another 5 minutes or so and didn’t really update us on what was going on.

 
Grandma's Marathon
 

Miles 1-6 (6:51, 6:42, 6:41, 7:09, 6:50, 6:54)

Finally we were off. My initial race plan was to hold 7:00 pace through the first 10-15 miles. Clearly that’s not what I did. I chose not to run with the pacer because the hardest thing in a race is to see a pacer slip away from you, so my intent was to negative split and catch them at the end to slide in just under 3 hours. The race starts on a bit of a climb, so I focus on keeping it slow on the uphill. My legs felt fresh, obviously, so it was hard to slow down. Then you head into a downhill and that’s where the 6:4x’s came from. I saw Ricky at the 3 mile mark and that got me pumped. I also needed to pee again and needed to do it asap. If I kept fighting it and had to stop later on, it would be harder for me to pick it up again. I veered off at mile 4 to a finally open porto potty on the side of the road. And then of course, I felt like I couldn’t pee, so I took a little longer than the 3 seconds I hoped for.

 
Grandma's Marathon
 

Miles 7-13 (6:50, 6:54, 6:55, 6:47, 6:59, 6:52)

The 10K has quite a bit of an incline after you go under the train bridge, but then I found a really good groove. I saw Ricky at mile 9 again which got me pumped, but also made me realize I wasn’t going to get a ton of support until the finish. The towns that do show up in between are great, but so spread out so you spend a lot of time alone. I ran next to a guy who asked me what I was going for, and I told him sub 3. He said he was going for the same. YAH! Someone to run with! I asked him how he was feeling and he said he didn’t want to talk… mmmmmk. Bye.

Miles 14-20 (6:53, 6:55, 7:02, 7:21, 7:22, 7:16)

And then it all fell apart. I was hoping Ricky would try to make another attempt to see me at mile 18 or 19 before heading to the finish, because at mile 15 I could tell I was going to need the support. There’s some decent rollers from miles 16-20 and on the steady climb into the 16 mile mark, I could feel my left quad start to cringe a bit. NO. THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING. They had water and powerade stops every 2 miles on course, so I made sure to take a swig alternating between the two at each stop. This early cramping left me wondering if I’d overdone it or hadn’t done enough. I slowly started to lose steam, but then forced myself to smile as much as I could every time we came up on a crowd. I could see people starting to fall off. Girls who looked strong, taking walk breaks.

Miles 21-26 (7:42, 7:41, 7:56, 8:08, 8:17, 7:53, 8:01)

DEATH MARCH. That’s what this felt like and that’s what it looks like on paper. I was struggling to keep going at many points. I talked to anyone who ran next to me, asking them what their goal was, how they were doing, trying to encourage them while also taking some of their energy. My spririt continued to drop and I thought about everyone tracking me, watching me fall off pace. There’s a hill at mile 21 that isn’t even that large, but if you’re already fighting hard, it will break you. I focused on taking advantage of the downhills and picking up my pace, but that led to a side cramp that opened up with each step. Every few minutes I tried to just muster all the energy I had to pick it up even just a little bit. I couldn’t even cry because I was so appalled at my complete loss of control over race day. There was nothing I could do. I looked at each drop out point and thought about walking off, but I wasn’t risking injury and I clearly had a lot to learn about what was happening to me. Once we got into downtown Duluth, the roars of the crowd that carried me through the finish at Boston did nothing for me here. I focused on not letting the 3:10 pace come up on me. I knew there were 5 turns into the finish and started counting them as they came. Just before the last turn, I looked down and was at a 3:07:5x. I heard cheers for the 3:10 pacer behind me. He ran up next to me as we made the final turn into the finish. I knew I was going to come in under 3:10, so I just pushed with all I had and stopped my watch at 3:09:53.

 
Headed into the finish

Headed into the finish

 

Once I crossed, I bent over and a volunteer came right up to me to help me walk. My legs wouldn’t stop cramping everywhere now. My feet, my calves, my hamstrings and quads were torn to shreds. He asked if I wanted a wheelchair, but I knew it would make my legs seize up. He walked me through and then I saw Ricky and burst into tears. I was so happy to be done. I went over through the finish shoot to the grass meeting area and kept walking around to keep my blood flowing. I got a text from Marissa once she crossed. She PR’d by 6.5 minutes with a 3:18!!! I was so happy, I stopped crying and made my way to her. She said the course was tough - not what she expected and she worked hard for it. It almost obliterated what didn’t happen for me and helped me so much.

 
IMG_1266.JPG
 

Reflections

I cried a lot throughout the day following the race, mostly because I received so many uplifting and kind texts and messages from people saying they still believed in me and were proud of me. I did a death march for 10 miles and ran just 2 minutes and 53 seconds slower than my PF that I got on a perfect day in Eugene. I was ready to run sub 3, and I have a lot to figure out for this next training cycle to make sure that race day doesn’t end up the way it did at Grandma’s. Some things are just out of our control. I’ve had so many great training cycles and races with 2 huge PRs in my last 2 marathons. You’d think a blow like this would demolish me, but it hasn’t. It solidified that I’m very capable of getting a sub 3. I’ve shared a video for how to get over a disappointing race on my YouTube and shared it here:

 
 

Thank you to everyone who cheered for, tracked, and messaged me. I am excited to continue this journey to sub 3 at CIM in December and can’t tell you how much I appreciate the continued support.

J