I had one hell of a race in Duluth, but I’m going to start with my stories from earlier in the week.
Thursday night was a TU work evening out on Rolling Hills Road. The project for the evening involved cutting down a willow tree that was hanging over the water, interrupting the current, and shading the bank, so no grass was growing. It’s important to have grass growing there, so when the banks flood, the water just flows over the grass instead of washing the bank away. I have some really neat photos that I’ll post later. When we first arrived, Wyatt gave me a special fly. It’s a stimulator, and it’s the fly that I caught my first fish on! 🙂 I put this fly on the visor in my car. I’m not sure what this means about me, but I’m pretty sure I’m turning into a fisherwoman for real.
I met with Nancy this week, too. She’s my sole sister and the closest thing I have to a running coach, and she’s incredible. She’s a Boston marathoner, a grandma to an adorable little guy, a professional spectator for Ironman events, and an all-around inspirational Christian woman.
We went over my plan for Grandma’s, and she set me up with some Rock Tape for my hamstrings. That stuff works miracles! She also suggested that I switch to a new pair of shoes. My “old” pair is only at about 400 miles, but with my aggravated hamstrings, it’s probably a good idea.
I also made another batch of jam. It was actually a double batch, since I had so many berries.
Yes, I was also watching Drop Dead Diva. I love that show.
It was time for another dental appointment this week, too. I love my dentist. I’ve been going to the same place since I was 1 3/4 years old. No cavities for this girl! 🙂 Once I was done with my cleaning, I headed across the street to the orthodontist. I’m going in to have them look at my teeth- they’re starting to move back to where they used to be. I’m hoping that I don’t need braces again. My initial appointment is next week.
After that whole morning of focusing on my mouth, I stopped home to visit my mom and grandparents. I’m very blessed to have grown up right next door to my grandparents, and I love them a lot. My mom and I ran a few errands in Wausau, including a stop at Eastbay for much-needed new shoes! I always have two pairs of “working” running shoes- one for indoor use and one for outdoor use.
I cleaned the house and packed up all my gear on Friday morning. We headed out at noon, since the drive is 4.5 hours!
I carb loaded with fruit and granola bars in the car.
Even my blueberries think I’m a star. I love the star on the bottom of those berries!
One of the interesting places that we drove past on the trip north was the Jack Link’s headquarters, with a field of cows in front. I wondered if those cows are next week’s jerky?
We had a beautiful drive- I love looking out our windshield at kayaks with a backdrop of nature. Like trees and Lake Superior.
The traffic getting into Duluth was horrible. It took a long time to get a parking spot, and we had to pay for parking. I’m spoiled with parking in Point. We had a good time at the expo- there were a lot of people, as usual. We looked through the booths and stopped at our favorites. I got a new 26.2 charm for my necklace, since my last one broke.
We also found out that the cows in front of Jack Link’s are actually Jack’s personal cows. They’re safe. 🙂 Jack Link’s had a booth at the expo and gave out samples.
On our way out of the expo, Brian saw Jeff Galloway’s booth with Jeff Galloway standing in it! He was a featured speaker at 2 pm, so I knew I was going to miss him, and I didn’t think he was going to stick around for the expo. In any event, he’s so nice! He gave me a hug and said that he was so happy that he helped me through my first marathon and that I’m still running.
Holy humid, huh? Curl much? After the expo, we headed to our hotel. All of the hotels in Duluth and the surrounding area were full, and mostly with runners. Ours had a cute sign and little goody bags with bottled water, granola bars, bananas, little bottles of sunscreen, and helpful tips about navigating Duluth with marathon traffic.
We ran to the grocery store next door for dinner ingredients… Pasta! I usually fuel with Chinese food, but I wasn’t feeling it.
I had a pretty early wake up at 4:15 on race day. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast- yogurt, chia, bananas, walnuts, and coconut. I also threw in blueberries and honey.
I had to be up so early to catch a shuttle to the start line. I really wanted to take the train, but it was pretty far from our hotel, so I took a bus.
Brian’s role as spectator-of-the-year started early, as he poured me my iced coffee and drove me to the shuttle pick-up. I waited in line for the shuttle for about a half hour, then boarded the bus with a few new friends.
That trip took almost 45 minutes, and as soon as I got off the bus, I got in line for the porta potties. There are a lot of them, but there were almost 6,000 marathoners!
I struck up a conversation with an older man who was running his 70-something-th marathon. He was looking for his friend who was out there, running his 310th marathon! I hope to be as awesome as those guys someday. Our conversation was interrupted by the singing of the National Anthem. There is something so powerful and great about all those runners standing, focused, singing and listening. I always get teary-eyed during that part… And THEN, there was a jet fly-over. I’ve never been at a race with jets before. I was standing there by myself, crying full-blown tears, and the race hadn’t even started yet.
That might have been my bad sign #1.
I started with a clean slate.
We all lined up at the start and waited for the gun to go off.
The race started right on time, at 7:45. I was wearing my Running for Rachael jacket because it was awfully chilly in the morning, but I ended up taking it off around mile three and tied it around my waist. I kept looking at my shadow and thinking I looked like a superhero with a cape.
Around mile 6, I saw a fun sign. I appreciate that it’s informative, but I’m pretty sure that we all knew what was going on! The road was closed to all traffic, so I wonder who the sign is for? 🙂
Around mile 7.5:
The course was beautiful. There were a few hills, but most of the race was pretty flat. I felt like I was always going just slightly uphill or downhill, which was a nice change.
The first half was wonderful. I was right on track with my pace, and Brian met me with cool sponges and his handsome smile both times we caught each other.
There wasn’t anything too notable about the first half- the course was right along the lake and there was just a little bit of a sweet breeze that felt heavenly.
Around mile 15, I saw a couple guys tethered together. As I got closer, I read on the back of one’s shirt that he was guiding a blind runner. The emotional runner in me thought that was amazing, and I shed a tear for those guys, silently wishing them a safe race.
Around mile 16, I started to feel some cramping in my quads. I thought maybe it was just a temporary thing, and I really hoped it would go away. I prayed that the cramps would leave my body. I tried to reason with my body- why would I start getting cramps in a new place? I haven’t had quad cramps in any of my long runs. I shed another tear.
I kept running, though my pace was slowing.
Around mile 17, I had to walk for a while. I was in some serious cramping-kind of pain. I shed a lot of tears. I tried to run again, and couldn’t. Some spectators were enjoying brunch on their front yard and offered me a slew of things they thought would help. I politely turned them down. I took out my phone and called Brian, sobbing, “I don’t want to do this anymore! I don’t know how this happened.” I feel bad, in hindsight- I never prepped Brian for what to do if something like this happened. He handled the situation perfectly, asking where I was, if there was anything he could do for me, and if I was okay. He didn’t know Kim’s number, but tried to call Nancy for advice. I kept power walking. I ran for a couple hundred yards at a time.
Around mile 18, Brian appeared like an angel. I cried so hard that my body was shaking. I don’t know what was happening in my body, and I didn’t want to admit that I was not going to set a PR and I was not going to feel good afterwards. He gave me a pep talk, a fresh cold sponge, and a kiss. I kept running, but I was going slowly enough that he was able to walk to keep up. Yikes.
I headed out back on my own, mostly walking, sometimes trying to run. I passed a home where they had put out about 50 trolls on the curb, about a foot apart. It was a colorful, belly-button-jeweled cheering section!
I must have started looking horrible around this point. I wish Brian had taken a video of me. I know there are those of you who’ve never seen this happen to someone, and you really have to see it to believe it: what happens when our bodies can’t run anymore. I looked like a cross between a 90 year old with arthritis and a penguin. I know that I was in rough shape, because I didn’t hear the normal cheers from strangers. I’m used to the typical, “Looking good!” or “Keep it up! You look strong!” or “Love the skirt! Love the smile, too!”
This time, three people said, “I’m proud of you.” I cried every time. The well-meaning spectators looked at me with pity, or something like that. I couldn’t take it, so I made a joke to several groups of people who looked particularly concerned, “There’s no need to be jealous- this isn’t as much fun as I make it look.” Then we all laughed. 🙂 Even though I was in pain and in some sort of emotional chaos, I still had a sense of humor, and I knew I’d rather fall over on the side of the scenic highway than not finish.
Around mile 22, I saw this sign.
Only 4.1 miles to go! At this point, I was with a group I’ve kindly named the Pained Powerwalkers. We were all struggling together. Strength in numbers, baby! My good feelings were disrupted when the 4:30 pace group passed me. So much for a PR.
Around mile 23, I took a small glass of beer from some spectators. Hey, if I’m not going to set a PR, why not try and enjoy myself through the pain, right? Thanks, excited college-age kids.
Around mile 24, Brian popped up again, to my delight. Another kiss (sorry about the salt, honey!) and a big smile. Right around this time, the roads changed from paved to brick. It was uneven, and I wobbled quite a bit. When my legs are fatigued like that, it makes it hard for me to keep my balance! I’m happy that I didn’t faceplant. I kept trucking on. I saw these photos and immediately thought of my Sole Sisters saying, “It isn’t about pretty.” NOW I get it.
Around mile 25, I noticed that every medical staffer was asking me if I needed help. Are they nuts? If I’ve made it 25 miles, I will drag myself over that finish line by my fingernails if I have to. I must have been looking pretty rough. I know my gait was completely unrecognizable at that point.
Around mile 26, it seemed like every spectator was cheering for me. I looked up to see the clock was reading over 5 hours. Sigh. I pushed ahead.
Mile 26.2. More tears. A sweet medical staffer.
AND an escort to the massage tent.
My massage therapist was wonderful.
I talked to the man on the table next to me who’d just finished his first marathon. I remember that excitement 🙂
I made it, friends. Sometimes, races are hard. They can be humbling! I am always learning to respect the distance. 26.2 miles can be a great run, but it’s still a long way.
We hobbled back to the car and headed to the hotel to get cleaned up.
I forgot to turn off my Garmin right away, but here’s the final shot.
I’m pretty sure that every part of my body hurt. I think that as my muscles started cramping during the race, they became less effective, and other parts of my body tried to compensate. Even my teeth hurt. No joke. I skipped the ice bath because I already had a chill, and I sat in a warm tub with a big bowl of frozen yogurt, and contemplated what the heck happened out there.
Possible reasons for the race being so rough:
1) I knowingly made a bad choice to wear new shoes on a race day. It doesn’t matter that they’re the same model as my old ones, they were new. I also ate a different kind of meal the night before. Don’t do anything new on race day!
2) I sat around waiting for the shuttle, riding it, then sat on the ground for two and a half hours before the race started. I might have gotten a little stiff from sitting that whole time.
3) Even though my hamstrings felt fine, they may have been a little out of whack, making the rest of my body work harder to compensate.
4) Fill-in-the-blank. I’ve run enough races to know that even though I can control my rest, nutrition, and other factors, sometimes our bodies just can’t do what we ask. Mine was just not able to pull off a marathon with 10:00 splits. Maybe next time 🙂
I rested in bed for an hour, then we headed out to a fly shop that had caught our attention on the way in to town.
We stopped at the grocery store, picked up some delicious looking (and okay tasting) sushi and soup, and headed back for an early night. I was sound asleep by 8.
We spent this morning paddling on Pokegama Bay. The drive out of the hills was beautiful.
It was pretty windy- 15 mph winds but it felt worse on the water. We saw an eagle, a blue heron, a turtle, and a million seagulls.
We had fun playing in the waves and white caps, then headed back to shower and check out of the hotel. I’d highly recommend our hotel- the Residence Inn in Duluth. It is a newer hotel with a very friendly staff and very nice rooms. Also, by some act of premonition, they put us in a handicap-accessible room, and after a rough race, those handrails by the shower and toilet came in handy!
Sitting down and standing up is awful after hard marathons. Try it!
It’s mayfly season. They’re everywhere!
After we said goodbye to our wonderful hotel room, we went to the Rose Garden. The roses aren’t quite ready, but I found one bud that is almost ready to pop open!
The garden was beautiful, and I loved reading about how they take care of the roses. Those roses can be finicky!
The peony garden was in full bloom! I picked out a few favorites.
That garden has a beautiful view and was a great place to walk around and shake out my sore body.
Special thanks to Gretchen, who suggested it! After the garden, we went to Canal Park, where the finish line was yesterday. I was so focused in the end of the race that I barely remember anything except trying not to trip! We got to see their famous bridge (that is featured on our medal).
They have a lot of great sculptures and fountains downtown. This was one of my favorites- you can walk though it!
They also had a sculpture that was scraped out of a brick wall. Amazing.
We made a quick stop at Red Mug for lunch and coffee at Bill and Beth’s suggestion.
I’m writing this blog in the car, to help pass the time. 🙂 If you’re reading this, I made it home and have probably fallen sound asleep in my own bed.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you wonderful father-figures out there!
Mom, if you’re reading this- I love you and I’m proud of you. You are a great student! Good luck on your test. Don’t worry about me, I’m already feeling better. I’m young and resilient! 🙂
Miles this year: 360
PS who wants to do a Ragnar relay in November?