Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., a race with a great reputation in the running community, fully lived up to my expectations on Saturday. If only I could say the same thing about myself!
The race seemed to be very well executed, and the course was beautiful. The first 19 miles were along a road leading from Two Harbors to Duluth. Normally, I get bored with long stretches of the same scenery, but this road, which was lined with a ton of pine trees, also ran right along the edge of Lake Superior. There were also a sporadic buildings, homes and businesses with a small-town feel. Heck, I saw my first highway sign pointing the direction to a Yarn Store! The final seven miles were into Duluth, first the outskirts, then through downtown, and finally into the finish area which was near the water. It was a great, great race and I definitely recommend it.
Anyways, within the past month or so, I targeted this race as a potential big day. I had what was essentially a week off last week, running only one 6-mile training run during the week to give my strained IT band a chance to heal, then pacing the 3:40 group at the Utah Valley Marathon.
I had a lot of inspiration for this race. I thought of Jack, who had a tough morning on Friday, but was a little angel on the drive to school. I kept picturing his cute little face. I was thinking about my son Benjamin, who’s had some tough things going on lately that just break my heart. I was thinking about a running friend of mine named Terry, who is injured and just snapped a running streak of several thousand days last week. He’s always proud of how I run and I wanted to turn in a good performance. And then I have a running friend named John who lost his dad two years ago. It ‘s Father’s Day weekend, so I was hoping to make him proud with a good run.
The Grandma’s course is a downhill net, and on paper, it looks like a fairly quick track. So I looked at this one as a potential big day. I always go as hard as I can, but I thought I had a legitimate chance at sub-3 in this one. Last week’s race was a big downhill course, so even though I ran it slow, my quads were thrashed all week. I didn’t have any quick runs in training and I really haven’t turned the wheels in a good two weeks.
I figured that would work itself into being a taper, and I’d be ready move pretty well. I moved pretty well early, turning my first three miles in 6:50, 6:49 and 6:51 while keeping my heart rate in the mid-160s. My marathon heart rate is 170, but I was mentally prepared to push it as high as 174 if that’s what it took.
I never got there, though. I slowed down to the 7:10 range for the next few miles and I could tell by about mile 6 that I didn’t have it. I hit the 5K in low 21, but I was mid-44 by 10K and I knew I had no chance at sub-3. For the first time this year, it really seemed like work out there. The course was beautiful, but I wasn’t enjoying it. It seemed like a job.
By mile 10, I felt like I was totally out of gas. I didn’t take my carb loading very seriously this week, and I think I paid the price. The 3:10 group passed me before the half. Normally, I start looking forward to race ending when I hit 22 or 23, but today, I reached that point by about mile 12. I hit 13.1 in 1:37, a time I was not at all pleased with.
While I was slow, I didn’t continue to get worse. I stayed in the 7:45 – 8:00 range and I was able to maintain that. Also, I didn’t have any significant problems with the IT band in my right leg, which was good. I could feel it a little bit, but none of the pain that had been making me limp lately.
The 3:20 group came up on me and passed me with about four or five miles to go. I kept on going as hard as I could, which wasn’t very hard, and could tell that I was in line for about a 3:22-3:25 kind of day. I tried to hang on, because while I can kind of live with a time in the low 3:20s (barely), when it starts creeping up towards 3:25, I really get disappointed in myself.
I stayed steady in miles 23, 24 and 25, knowing I was only going to have enough to turn in on for a mile. When I reached one mile to go, I needed about a 7:50 or so to make sure I came in at 3:22. All-in-all, I could live with that. I didn’t have a lot of giddy-up, but I was able to move at some points during that final mile, even though the sun had come out and was beating down on me.
I don’t know what my official time is, but my Garmin told me 3:22:53. I can live with that — good thing, because I have no choice. I’m not pleased from an individual standpoint, but in the grand scheme of things, I ran my 30th marathon of the year in June, and felt like I had absolutely nothing, and I went 3:22. So I guess it could be worse. I just feel a little embarrassed, because I know I’m capable of so much more.
I’m going to take my carb-loading a lot more seriously in the future. It’s easy for me to look past certain aspects of race preparation, because I have races every weekend, but that’s a recipe for disaster. I also think I might really buckle down with my fitness. I need to improve my body composition and lose a little weight. I want to run well so I need to work for it. If I want to perform like an athlete, I need to act like one.
And that, I guess, is my experience at Grandma’s Marathon in a nutshell. It’s a great race. I just had a bad day. Oh well — I’ll give it another go in Seattle next week.
30 down, 30 to go!
This is what I look like after a bad race.