So here we go - another year, another Grandma's, another crappy marathon!!
Okay, that's not completely true. Lots of things went right this year and I managed to run my fastest Grandma's so far so clearly things could be a lot worse. I just still haven't figured things out on this course, I guess.
My original plans of staying in Two Harbors were scraped the night before and I ended up staying at home. It was the right move, though because I slept like a rock and didn't wake up tired at all, even though staying in Duluth meant being to the DECC before I have to get up in Two Harbors. I caved to Shane's pressure and took the train to the start and I have to admit - it was quite nice and I definitely recommend it to others. Even though there were lots of people, we had still had room. You could stretch out some, I stood up and used their bathroom right before we got there. And best of all . . . the rain was done by the time we pulled in! So I abandoned my short lived membership in the cult of the garbage bag and left my hat in the starting line bag.
I rode the train with Marcus and we stuck together until it was time to take the warm-ups off. It was probably good we lost track of each other during the bag drop off, though, since running together was probably not a stellar idea - we can't seem to run next to each other on pavement without one-stepping. Luckily, we're fine on trails! So I took off along the outside of the corrals to get up to the right spot and got settled smuck between the 3:30 and 3:40 pace groups.
There were a couple false starting moments as the crowd suddenly surged forward only to not have it be the start of the race . . . strange. But soon enough, off we went!
What a beautiful day for running! Nice temperatures, partly cloudy and just a tad too humid. This is definitely my day! I ran what felt super slow and made sure to keep my pace comfortable and held back and ran some beautiful splits - aiming for 8:12s: 8:21 (okay, a little slow, pick it up a tich), 8:01 (slow it a bit), 8:07 (perfect!), 8:07 (beautiful!), 8:02 (okay, a little excited there), 8:14 (perfect!).
And then I missed mile 7. Actually, the problem was that a lot of balloons were missing. Grandma's has this lovely set up where there's these HUGE yellow balloons floating way up at every mile so you can see them coming and you can see the mile points even when the road chalking is covered. Say by a massive water station. As was the case at mile 7 where there were no balloons and thus no way to know when you passed mile 7. So that mile and the next together were 16:19 which is about right but boy I hated not having accurate splits for two miles!
The next two were 8:18 and 8:11 and then suddenly a 8:25. And it was hard. And it was mile 11. So I knew there that 3:35 was probably not going to happen. Now, I make this sound like a knee jerk reaction to one bad split, but I assure you it wasn't that. I love taking mile splits (I just hit the lap button so that I'm keeping a running time as well) and I'm pretty good at staying positive no matter what I see there. Too fast? That's okay, just slow it down a little and it's perfect. Too slow? No problem, just pick it up a bit and it's perfect. Besides, it's really cool to see things like two splits in a row with exactly the same time :) Anyway, I don't necessarily panic when I don't see the number I expect.
However, somewhere after mile 11, it became clear that 3:35 was not in the books so I decided to just relax and enjoy. I had plenty of time banked so I could definitely still cruise under 3:40 and I had a great few miles. There was a girl who seemed to also be going for 3:35 since we were running the same pace that I was waiting to cruise by me but I never saw her. Did I make the right decision? I think so. I think I could have toughed it up a little more later on but I think it was smart to back off here.
Eventually, though, I realized I had done too many long, slow trail runs and probably not enough dedicated pace runs on roads. My legs pooped out too early and my ITBand starting making noise. It's been irritated for a while and I've been
So I was plugging along as my friends Tonya and Kelly both passed me looking good. I was glad I wasn't miserable and I was happy to see Kelly looking great but I didn't like not feeling capable of running with them and I didn't like looking okay as they went by. Almost as though if I can't run what I should then I should damn well be feeling absolutely terrible. Which is silly but how I felt at the time.
Nothing went particularly slow this year, though. I was always (except for one mile, apparently) moving forward at an okay pace even when walking was involved so that none of the miles really dragged by. Watching Lemon-drop hill approach, I swore to myself I could walk every step up it if I ran the whole way there (you can see it for over a mile away). I ran the whole way up anyway, though :)
With around three miles left, I looked at my watch and didn't think it'd be feasible to break 4 hours with the pace I was moving. This was frustrating since I'd be close. At two miles left, though, it suddenly looked maybe, possibly doable. Maybe. Depending on how much time that .2 would take. About that time, my friend from earlier suddenly showed up - we had both crashed! So it was time to dig down and keep running no matter what and I rather hoped she'd be able to, too. Even though we didn't speak at all during the race, I felt close to her since we were doing exactly the same pacing good and bad.
I was able to bring it in strong with a 3:57 - 30 minutes slower than what I wanted but my first time under 4 hours at Grandma's and I definitely picked it way up the last few miles. To which I say now - if I was able to do so well and bring it in stronger the last 3 miles, what the heck was going on for the 5 miles previously? I was able to find my 'friend' afterward, too - we were putting our clothes back on in the same spot, even! So I went up and asked how it went for her and sadly, she wasn't able to pick it up enough and came in at 4:something.
So - I'm annoyed that I wasted such a perfect day! When are we going to get such gorgeous weather for Grandma's again? What did I end up learning? Something I should have already known - doing enough specific pace work is necessary for a good marathon for me and perhaps I need to focus ONLY on a road marathon and not split myself too many ways. Of course, I'm also ready to swear off road marathons for a while but we'll see how long that really lasts.