Saturday, June 25, 2011

Highway 61 Revisited

 The Thursday before Grandma's Marathon my daughter decorated one of my running tanks as I posted previously. I was hoping to wear it for the marathon, but it was going to be chilly last Saturday, but I'll get to that in a minute.

On the way up to Two Harbors MN, along the shore of Lake Superior, where the beginning of Grandma's marathon starts my friend Ryan said, "you know what you should title your post about Grandma's?, Highway 61 revisited". I told him that if I meet my "A" race goal I'd name my next post "Suck It Grandma!", but things being what they were on Saturday, Ryan had a great post title. Thanks dude.

Oh, and if you didn't know, "Highway 61 Revisited" is the name of Bob Dylan's best known albums and also the highway that Grandma's Marathon is run on. Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, MN and lived there until the age of 6 when his family moved to Hibbing MN where he lived until he finished high school.

That's enough of the history lesson already and out of my love/hate relationship with Grandma's Marathon, I decided not to name my post "Suck It Grandma" and rather the aforementioned. Besides, Q on the move said it best, "respect the marathon".

I had several race goals in mind for Grandma's and they were as follows;

A race: sub 3:40
B race: sub 3:45
C race: sub 4:00

But before we get to finish, we have to start at the beginning. This is a marathon race report for crying out loud!

Friday started with a drive up to Monticello MN to meet my friend Ryan where we would take off for Duluth. I was a little early, so his little dude had drawn me a couple pics to take home. Very impressive artwork I must say.
On the way north to Duluth, we stopped in Cloquet at Ryan's brother and sister-in-laws. This is where we would be staying for the night. Ryan's sister-in-law Christina is a runner and hung signs up all over the house for motivation. Below are a few of the ones I liked the best, but all of them were awesome and it was cool to have them everywhere you looked...even the bathroom.

After stopping in Cloquet and dropping off our bags, we went up to Duluth to eat and then go to the expo to pick up our race packets.

Carbing up!

The William A. Irvin ship in front of where we parked at the expo.

Expo crowd. This is also home of the University of MN Duluth Bulldogs,  2011 Division 1 National Champs.
So after getting our race packets and dropping off some used shoes for Soles 4 Souls, we headed back to Cloquet to get a good nights sleep.

Smiles at 5AM? 
The alarm went off 4:30am and we were on the road by 5am. It pretty much rained all night and all the way to Two Harbors.

Apparently the women behind us is not a morning person.
About the time we got off the bus in Two Harbors it had stopped raining...for the most part. We ran into an ex-coworker as we walked to the starting line and it was her first time running Grandma's. It was nice to see her again and we chatted for awhile then wished each other good luck.  We dropped off our sweat bags, got in line for the potta-pots, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get to our starting spots.  Ryan lined up with the 4:15 pace group and I set my sights on the 3:40 group. I actually was just ahead of the 3:40 pacer and only had to wait about 10 minutes before the start. I was chilly at the start, but still ditched the "throw-way" shirt before the starting horn of the train went off. Soon after the start, I was happy that I took off the "throw-away" shirt and warmed up quickly. The wind was at our backs and it sprinkled a little during the first few miles, but never rained very hard.  The wind however did blow off the lake pretty steady.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I tend to start out too fast and this was no exception. I was hoping to "bank" a few minutes over the course of the first 20 miles and this plan a degree.
I started off really good and actually passed the 3:30 pacer. I didn't think much about it at the time, but was really going waaaayyyy to fast. I got to the half way mark in 1:44:51 (8:00/mile pace) and was running along with the 3:30 pace group at this point. I was already about 5 minutes ahead of schedule and was thinking I could just slowly lessen my pace and still get done in under 3:40.
At mile 16 I started to feel my first signs of trouble. My legs were starting to fatigue and doubt started to creep into my mind. I started to try and not think about it and just slow my pace a bit. I also noticed that more and more people were starting to pass me. Now I knew this would happen, but it's not very good on the psyche regardless. I hadn't planned on being that far ahead of schedule and didn't have a plan B to try and cope with this.
By the time I got to the 20 mile mark I was actually getting cold. I was still ahead of schedule (2:45, 8:15/mile) , but I knew the next 6.2 miles was going to hurt. I was hoping that once I got into the city of Duluth I would warm up. My thinking was that the buildings and trees along the boulevard would  block the wind, but I really think the wind was "swirling" in town and at times I was running into it. My shirt was wet with sweat and now I was starting to get colder. Now is the time the wheels started coming off.
The last split I recall taking was at mile 22, 3:03+ (8:19/mile), and was still on track to get in under 3:40, but I was hurting real bad and was so cold that I would have given one of my children for a warm dry sweatshirt at this point. Shortly before this, a women came up next to me and chatted a bit. I told her that if the 3:40 pace group passed me I'd start to cry. I was kidding (sort of) and was ready to be done. Somewhere around mile 23, the 3:40 pace group passed me and I was dejected (and still cold). I passed the last few water stops and made the left turn towards Canal Park. This went down hill and I made my last effort to get in under 3:45. There a few turns in Canal Park  and now we are right on Lake Superior. On a few short straight-aways we were running straight into the wind and I actually walked. I made the right turn by the William A. Irvin (see pic above), looped around and ran (it felt like I was running anyway) to the finish line.  3:47:56.
Duluth Lift Bridge. Grandma's Saloon is just to the right.
I got done, got my medal, shirt, and mylar blanket and sat on the curb. I was soooo cold. I was actually shaking. I went and got my sweat bag and headed to the changing tent. I sat inside and tried to warm up, but my hands were shaking so much I could barely text my wife. I changed into a dry t-shirt and put on a hooded sweatshirt and thought I should get something more to eat and drink. I grabbed a bagel and chocolate milk and found a spot to sit and watch for my friend Ryan to come in (see pic above).  I must have missed him come it, but found him in the family meet up area a few minutes later. We went to get his sweat bag and while waiting in line Ryan gave me the gloves he got from his sister-in-law as my finger tip was bluish purple in color. We caught the bus back to the hotel we parked at that morning and then went back to Cloquet to clean up for the ride home. We got the stink of 26.2 miles off of us and then went to get lunch before we drove 3.5 hours home. We each ate a pizza the size of a steering wheel and drove home.
It was nice have some time to talk to an old friend for 3+ hours in the car. Outside of a few emails and an occasional phone call, we don't get uninterrupted time together to just talk about any and everything and that really means a lot to me.

When I got home, I found the following signs hung up around the house and it reminded me that race results don't mean anything compared to the love of my family.

The following day was Fathers Day and we went to the Childrens Museum in St. Paul. It was a nice way to end the weekend.  

I didn't reach my "A" race goal or even my "B" race goal, but I learned a lot and can't wait to do another marathon. 3:47:56 is a marathon PR and I'll take it!


  1. Great RR, and also no matter what you did an amazing job. I wish to be that fast some day.

  2. Congrats on the PR buddy! I'm a firm believer that every race is special and teaches us another lesson in life and sports. Glad you walked away with another positive experience to store away in the vault of life. We only get so many of these so enjoy it and get ready for the next one. I'll definitely be running Grandma's in the future. Hope to see you at a race soon.

  3. That is a great time!! I run that fast in my dreams and no where else! Or, mile 1 of a 5k! :) I admire that determination at the end where the tough get going!

  4. Great race report! You're very fortunate to have such a supportive family.... The girls are adorable.

  5. great race report !!! excellent photos and solid run effort. marathon PR! Congrats