Little did I know that much like last year, I would not run at all in the week leading up to the race (except this year it wasn't because I was so overtrained that I physically was not able to get myself to run at all). A terrible 2-day migraine + stomach flu not only kept me from running for 3 days, it kept me from eating and drinking. While I wanted to try and sneak in a couple of short runs the Wed and Thurs before the race, I knew my body would be more prepared for the race if I concentrated on re-fueling, replenishing my glycogen stores and hydrating. Attempting to shove in short runs while I was under-fueled and dehydrated could have been far more damaging than not running at all - and that was not a risk I was willing to take. Not this year. Not this time. I didn't beat myself up about it. My only goal was to finish and
So let's get to it already! Again this year, we spent the weekend at a BFF's parents' farm, about a 45 minute drive from the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center) - which was the location for both the Expo and runner drop off. Half marathoners were bused to their Start. Marathoners could either take the train (Yes we did!) or be bused to their Start. Unlike last year, I felt excited about the race from the minute I woke up. I actually ate food before heading to the DECC and I didn't fall asleep on the train ride to the Start. Despite 2 or 3 emails in the days leading up to the race that warned all runners about Red and possibly Black flag conditions due to the heat and humidity, race day morning conditions were good. We could see the Green flags posted along the course from the train. What a relief! We could see some of the elites warming up as we moved along the train track. All I can remember thinking is "look at those legs"! :-)
The Start was just like I remember. A gazillion porta potties, masses of people sort of in line but with so many bodies trying to make it into a stall with just 20-25 minutes before the gun, it seemed to be more like a free-for-all. I managed to find a short line and was in and out of there by 7:20. As Grandma's Marathon was host to the US Half Marathon Championships this year, both the Half Marathon and Marathon times were delayed 15 minutes so the Elites could get a head start. Kara Goucher, a Duluth native, not only won the Women's title, she came in 70 seconds faster than the 2nd place finisher with an official time of 1:09:46 AND set a course record. To break things up a little, here are a couple of pictures our BFFs snapped of Kara coming down the Finisher's chute. She is AMAZING!
As exciting as all this was, the marathoners, in my opinion, paid a little bit of a price when it came to the delayed start: 7:45am. If it had been a really hot and humid day, the last 6-8 miles could have been absolutely brutal.
I felt so different standing in the Start chute this year. I was excited. I wanted to be there. I didn't feel any performance pressure. I knew I would finish - and that was my only goal. Not only did I have the mental hurdle to jump in Mile 22, it was critical that I not push myself too hard since my Ultra training will continue through mid-July. My plan was to use 2:30run/1:00walk intervals and maintain an 11:15-11:30 min/mile pace the whole way through. For the most part, the first 16 miles felt great. I used Hammer Endurolytes to ward off any potential electrolyte issues from the humidity. I had Gu, Roctane, Honey Stinger Waffles and Sports Beans with me in my Nathan hydrapack. I had one fuel serving every hour with 1 Endurolyte capsule - regardless of whether I felt like I needed it or not. I wasn't willing to take any chances.
The first 10 miles flew by. Last year, I didn't even feel like I was "in it" until Mile 7 (and I hadn't eaten anything all morning). I remembered the exact place on the course where I ingested my first fuel source at mile 7 last year. I can't believe I went that long without having anything by this point in 2011 - and I was running about 30-45 sec/mile faster last year too!! I planned on stopping at the Half Marathon Start to use the porta potties there instead of waiting to see if I would need to go later in the race. You can see in Mile 14 where my overall pace drops just a little. I was in and out in a flash.
For the most part, I held my pace well through mile 18 where I suddenly picked it up for no reason what-so-ever that I can think of. Maybe it was nervous anticipation of the approaching "2011 DNF spot", maybe it had to do with the weather. By mile 10, I was so hot, I considered taking off my shirt. It was already soaked with sweat, ice and cold water from sponges that were being offered by volunteers at the water stops. That all changed by about mile 16 or 17 (I think) when storm clouds started rolling in and the breeze off Lake Superior got stronger. Brrrrr.
All was good going into mile 20. There wasn't nearly the party going on here that there was last year. The residents who were out to cheer us on were fabulous. I press on. Mile 21 passes. My calves are cramping now. A thought flashes through me "oh no, not again". No way Vera. Think about something else. It wasn't easy. I thought of all my friends and family who had been so supportive and encouraging in the months and weeks leading up to this day. Believe in yourself. You can do it. My pace is starting to slip, but I'm not fighting it (too much). I know Mile 22 is coming up quick. A very wise friend from Dailymile gave me great advice beforehand. "You're running 2 races. The first is to get the DNF spot and the second is to get to the finish". I relied on her voice in my head several times. Thank you Charlene!!
I make a turn and see the big LED sign with the same message ("You've only got 4 miles to go!!") I couldn't get to last year, but nothing around me looks familiar. Nothing. It occurred to me later that I must have really been out of it in 2011. How could I not remember this?? As I approached the LED sign, I felt a huge sigh of relief. Now onto the 2nd part of this race - getting my ass to the Finish line. I decide to have one last Hammer Gel to get me through those last 3.7 miles. My pace continued to slip and my calves once again are complaining. I bailed on my run/walk intervals and just ran and walked for however long I wanted. Since running wasn't stretching my calves out as much as walking was, I ran more and walked less (albeit a much much slower running pace). Just as I pass Mile 24, I have to use the porta potty - NOW. I look to my left as we start to run into Downtown. Out of nowhere, 3 porta-potties suddenly appear. I make a break for it. Sitting down felt gooooooooooooooood. I decide to give myself a little extra time to collect my thoughts and relax. I feel like I've already run 35 miles mentally and I know it's affecting me physically in these last miles. After about a minute, I find I'm convincing myself it's time to get up and out of here so I can FINISH!
After a couple of turns in the road (which is back to asphalt now), I can finally see the Finish. I know my BFFs are somewhere in that crowd. It doesn't take long before I can hear them yelling for me over everyone else cheering for the Finishers, and I spot them immediately. Fighting tears, I use their energy to pick up my pace just a little. Finish strong, I tell myself! They were able to grab this shot as I passed by:
|That's me in the green sleeveless shirt with a pack on.|
Hubby ran again this year too. His 2nd finish at Grandma's! Unfortunately, it started raining pretty hard when he came in, but as you can see, his spirits weren't dampened in the slightest. Way to go baby!
Now that I've conquered this demon, time to turn my focus to the 51K Ultra. 40 days and counting.....