Saturday, June 16, 2012

Grandma's Marathon 2012!

Well it was a pretty great race. 3:06:02 was my official time. So that means no PR today, but I was about 5 ½ minutes faster than at Illinois Marathon (time of 3:11:26), 7 weeks ago. My PR from the Indy Monumental last November still stands; today was about roughly 1 ½ minutes slower than my PR of 3:04:25. So am I disappointed? Not really. It was my second fastest marathon and I actually had an awesome first half of the race, coming in at 1:31:36 for the 13.1 mile time. I would have liked to PR today and I think I could have, but I think a few factors played into my time today. First was the fast-changing weather. It started out feeling fine, but felt like it was going to really warm up. It was a very humid day and did get warm in the second half. The second were the rolling hills. Being a flatlander Chicago city boy, I don’t see hills much at all. This course has many “gentle” rolling hills, and one big one around mile 22 or so, that went up, then slightly down, then up again. And the last big factor in this race was my lower back (gluteus medius, perhaps), which really got soar around mile 17 or 18. (Maybe that was made worse by the hills? Or the grade on the roads? Or weak core. Not sure.) The latter slowed me down big time in the last 10 miles and I knew at mile 18 that a PR was no longer in the cards for me today, but I was going to try and still have a strong finish, and enjoy the run anyway.

I really did just want to have a fun run today, so that was my biggest goal. With 13 marathon or longer distance races now, a PR would always certainly be nice (heck yeah!), but I find you often can’t control that one. I think the planets must align for a PR, or something.  But so what, I run these things because I like them.  I love the marathon.

Anyway, it started out at a fairly ideal temperature of about 60 degrees, but humidity was high. Average humidity for the day was 81%. And, it warmed up in the sun fairly quickly, but fortunately never got really “hot”. The wind was at our backs nearly the whole way, so that was great. It was a blessing. But I was sweating bucket loads from mile 1, and my stomach was not emptying the liquids I was drinking. So I knew this could be an issue. By about mile 10, I felt the sloshing in my belly, and that lasted through about mile 20. It was pretty obvious because I could feel it, and hear it sloshing around. So even though I felt like drinking at each water stop, I cut back and drank every other stop to allow my belly to empty out. I was also getting stomach cramps which is never fun, but I was able to deal with them. As a friend, Jim S., suggested, I tried exhaling in cadence with the side that was bothering me and it seemed to help. (Thanks, Jim!) I took salt pills at miles 7, 14, and 19. Other than that it was water and Powerade Ion4, which is what was stocked for this race. For those aid stations that I didn’t drink, I made sure to douse my head and back with cold water, plus they had plenty of icy cold sponges that were very nice.  (The aid stations for this race ROCKED by the way! Great volunteers, and plenty of them.) Midway through the race I felt pretty warm; it felt like it was warming up. Throughout the race, I was watching the sweat bead on my arms. I was pretty soaked. The humidity wasn't helping to cool me off.  The temperature only hit 72 or 73 degrees by around 10 a.m., but it was feeling warm with the sun and humidity. By the last 5 miles or so, the temperature then started dropping which was felt nice and very welcome. The winds were coming off the lake, cooling us. Unfortunately I was pretty much zapped by the time I summited “Lemon Drop hill” at mile 22. I had to slow down for this one (not my decision); I just tried to keep going up the deceiving hill (up, then leveled off, then up again). After that it was all downhill from about mile 23 to the finish; but my lower back was shot – screaming at me since mile 20. I tried to pick up the pace, but it was pretty painful. Fortunately, I was able to muster some mojo for the last 1.2 miles and picked it back up. I passed a number of people in that last mile, and that felt good. Running down that last 400 yards I could feel the wheels shimmying and I was barely holding the boat together. But thank you, Oh Great One in the Sky, my body held in there for the finish and I didn’t let anyone pass me in that last 1.2.  Yeah!!

Overall, I held my desired pace through mile 16; after that my back forced me to slow. Cooling weather certainly helped at the end.  I think I’m close to a PR again, but now that it’s summertime, the weather’s not going to get any cooler.  Will Chicago be cool for once??  :) 

Truly, this was one darn well-organized race. I give it a solid A+ for organization.  Everything went like a breeze from packet pickup, to expo, to race start transportation, to start line toilets, to aid stations, to traffic closures, to volunteers, to the finish which included awesome massages, finisher’s shirts, beer tickets, etc. Awesome!

And the spectators were great. I give them an A. There were certainly quiet stretches along this course, but that was balanced by the very warm, welcoming, encouraging people along the way.  There were some very thick roaring sections to this that made it very different and motivating (like some parts of Chicago Marathon). They were out there with their own aid stations, misters, and music. They cheered us on, calling out our bib numbers; it was a good time. Thank you spectators!

I give the racecourse an A. The scenic views along the run were amazing. Lake Superior is one special lake. The landscape around here is serene, calming, amazing. Even having been here before, I was blown away. Green trees, blue water, blue skies, fluffy clouds, rolling hills, curving road. Yes, the rolling hills were constant but not ever bad (except maybe that one at mile 22, but really it wasn’t terrible). Then as you enter the city limits of Duluth, things really change, but it pushes you along with the increasing people and the tangible excitement growing.

I am trying to decide if this is my favorite race. I think it is. Yes. I could probably PR on this course someday, but nevertheless it was pretty well put together and very fun to run. PR or no PR, it put a smile on my face, and that’s what this guy is all about. (Getting one of the 26.2-ounce souvenir beer cups at the finish didn’t hurt either.)  Now to get my lower back back into working condition.

It was a very cool race though. I would highly recommend making Grandma’s Marathon part of any runner’s bucket list. They know how to do it here.

And the Finisher's Medal

8 comments:

  1. Nice recap Ken! You ran a fantastic race, even with your stomach and back issues. Very well done!

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  2. Excellent report Ken!! I guess Grandmas Marathon is now on my bucket list!! Congrats on an excellent race!! I hope your back feels better :)

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    1. :) Thanks, it's getting better each day. I recommend the race! :)

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  3. What a fabulous race you had! Congrats. It's my favorite marathon, also...

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    1. Thanks, yeah I will definitely run this one again in the future. :)

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  4. Great race and nice write-up! Way to handle some tricky weather. It's my favorite marathon too! (of course, it's the only one I've run).

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    1. Thank you! Yeah I've decided since writing this that it was the humidity that really got to me that day. Otherwise it was a pretty good day for running. :)

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