It Was The Best Of Times-It Was The Worst Of Times

Where do I start?  First of all, congrats to anyone who ran Grandma’s Marathon 2016. To put it lightly, it was brutal!

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Kim and I arrived Friday evening in Duluth and headed directly to the Expo.  Packet pickup was so quick and efficient.   We took a quick stroll through the rest of the vendors, but as we noted, if you’ve seen one expo, you’ve seen them all.

We then headed to the Residence Inn to check-in.  Originally, we had planned on having Rock and the baby here with us.  So we booked a one bedroom suite.  But with only the two of us there, we were pleasantly surprised to see just how spacious and awesome our room was.  Full kitchen, working fireplace, huge living area, great bathroom set up, and a nice big separate bedroom with a king sized bed.

After dinner, we spent the evening looking at various weather reports.  Many called for a strong chance of heavy thunderstorms and others said we would have a slight chance of rain and cloudy skies.  We figured we would wait and see what the morning brought.

We were up bright and early, ate some breakfast, and drove down the road to the Miller Hill Mall.  We boarded a yellow school bus and made the trek out to the start of the race.  We arrived with almost an hour to spare and after dropping our bags at gear check, we headed directly for the porta potta line.

Let me be real honest and say that this was the biggest disappointment about the race.  The set up was horrific and there were clearly not nearly enough facilities.  We waited in a slow moving line for 45 minutes.  We heard the National Anthem playing and I popped out of the porta potty with minutes to spare before the race began.  This left me unable to get to the correct starting pace group.  A race of this size should not have that huge of a lack of facilities.

This wasn’t a one time problem either.  Rock told me that last year he made it out just as the National Anthem was playing and had to dash to the start.  Waiting in a line for 45 minutes in the pouring rain in 2015 blew.  Waiting in line for 45 minutes in 2016 and wondering if you should skip going to the bathroom or miss the start is a major flaw.

Getting in the wrong start time didn’t seem to matter.  Grandma’s start is based on the honor system.  If you know me, I think runners are stellar people.  They are some of the greatest people around.  But there were some pretty dishonest start paces.  For three miles I wove around walkers.  I witnessed a girl in a Prince costume shoving and elbowing people as she ran in her purple spandex get up and wig (I have never seen that happen and was pretty appalled by her behavior).

Once I got into a groove I felt pretty good…..until Mile 5.  That was when I started seeing my paces slow down with every mile.  It was then that I noticed a pain in my toe that I had been sensing off and on for the past few weeks.  It started to sing and then wavered between bouts of severe pain and numbness.

The temperature before the race was 68°F.  By the time the race started it was 72°F and I heard that by 9:00am it was in the 80’s.

I struggled.  I struggled a lot both mentally and physically.  It was clear that I was not going to have a good race and it was clear that I was not going to get another BQ.  By mile 14, I called Rock and announced that I was going to drop out by mile 19 at the latest.  I was so upset with myself.  But he reminded me that it was better to be safe and do what my body needed.

I jogged to mile 16 and started walking towards the drop busses.  I called Rock and it didn’t go through.  Annoyed, I decided to stay the course and run to mile 19 where Kim’s dad was and hitch a ride back with him.

I ran and walked.  I struggled some more and made it to mile 19.  I couldn’t find Kim’s dad.  I called Rock and told him I was going to ride the bus back to the start.  He told me he was proud of me and I left feeling okay with my decision.  I felt there was no way I had 7 miles left in me.  But when I stood near the bus and reassessed, I decided to go as slow as possible to the next chance to drop and decide from there.

I watched as the alert levels on the course went from Moderate Risk, to High Risk, and then to Extremely High Risk.  Black flags were raised.  I have never been on a course where this has happened.

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I knew then that I was going to finish.  It was going to be slow.  It was going to be ugly.  But I was going to do it.  I knew that I wasn’t sick and my health wasn’t at risk.  But I also knew that we drove 7+ hours to get to Duluth and paid a lot of money to stay there.  I didn’t want to get home or wake up the next day and question, “What if?”

For the next 7 miles, I jogged when I could and walked when my calves cramped up.  I had no control over my legs and the cramping was so terrible, I nearly fell over several times.  I did what I could when my body allowed and was okay with walking when I needed.  The cramping only allowed me to run for a tenth of a mile at a time by the end.  I gave in and just followed my body’s lead.

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As Rock said, it was a humbling experience.  I ran this race an hour longer than my PR five weeks ago.  But it was a great reminder that the marathon truly never can be tamed.  It will always own you, regardless of how hard or how smart you train.  And running coaches are most definitely not invincible.

It was a disappointing experience and finish.  But in many ways, I am more proud of this finish than my PR and BQ last month.  It took everything in me to finish.  I struggled many times to finish and considered quitting a lot.  But I am so glad I pushed through and finished.  Mommy still doesn’t quit!

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Congrats to everyone who ran, finished, and those who might not have quite been able to get there.  If you run, you are a winner.  Thank you to the volunteers for helping aid us along the way!

And We’re Off!

Holy smokes, tomorrow is race day!  Like it or not, I am running a marathon tomorrow.  Today my friend Kim and I are taking off on a 7 hour long road trip to Duluth, MN.

I might not be as prepared as last time but I am excited for race weekend.

When we planned this trip out back in December, we  assumed our schedules were the same as last year.  However, we failed to realize that we still had classes going in NYC.  That meant Rock had to stay in NYC and I headed back to the Midwest with the baby and dog.

The race had already been paid for, the room had already been booked and was non-refundable, and I had agreed to a weekend with Kim anyway.

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Quick shakeout run this morning with my favorite little girl!

My amazing parents came to Chicago and are watching Mary and Louie, the dog, for the weekend.

I am having major mom guilt.  Being away from Mary for 48 hours for the first time, might prove to be more difficult than running 26.2 miles.  I feel a bit awful about leaving her to go run a race.  I was really looking forward to our family being up in Duluth together.

But we are going to make the best of our girls weekend and I am already excited about finishing and having that margarita that Kim promises!

I am of course taking advantage of road trip snacks.  Somehow Cool Ranch Doritos have been my go-t0 snack during marathon training.  I’m totally rolling with it and not looking back.  I also made sure to stock up on my hydration for the trip.

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Sort of kidding.  I picked up a few bottles of my favorite Prosecco to share with my mom, a bottle for us to celebrate with and one to share with Rock for Father’s Day.  If you like Prosecco, I highly recommend Cielo.  At only $9.99 a bottle, it is incredibly crisp and refreshing.  Add a squeeze of lime and it feels almost like a sparkling margarita.

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Send your good running vibes.  Let me know how to handle missing my girl.  And a Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.  A very special Father’s Day to Rock, who is absolutely the most wonderful father.  Mary and I are both so incredibly lucky.  Thanks, babe!

Holiday Weekends, Lazy Blogging and Giveaway Winner!

Happy day after Global Running Day!  I obviously went for a run, but didn’t take a pic because I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus this week.

Last week was super hot and muggy here in NYC.  For any runner, this is discouraging.  For a runner coming off of one marathon and trying to get back into training for another, it was disastrous.  I didn’t get a single planned run in last week.  I will touch upon this topic a bit more next week.

We decided to escape the city on Saturday morning for a little afternoon up in Fishkill.  This is one of our favorite spots to go to when we need a quick escape from the city.  In the past, we might have gotten a room for a night or two and dined out and strolled around.  But with a baby and dog in tow, we decided to make it a little day trip.

We had originally planned on hitting one of our favorite rail trails and take turns getting our six mile runs in.  But when we woke up and it was already sizzling out, Rock went for a quick run and picked up our car.  We loaded and up decided to go walk the rail trail for a bit.

It was so hot on the trail that we made it about a half mile into our trek when we were drenched in sweat and decided that was far enough.  I pulled out a water bottle for the baby and the dog and as they were slurping, I noticed a perfect shaded grassy area along the path.

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We ditched our plans and held up there for a nice long while.  Several cyclists came by and commented on how we had found the perfect spot.  It really was.  The dog loves to roll in the grass and sunbathe.  Mary is almost 10 months old and loves to walk with her favorite toy that I refer to as the lawn mower.  She was walking all over and just hanging out in the green grass.  It was seriously the perfect arrangement.

From there, we grabbed some sandwiches, dined in the car and then hit the road back to the city.  We were home by 3:00pm.  Oh how life changes!

Sunday was Rock’s birthday!  We celebrated with an early breakfast at the diner (thanks to Mary who thinks 6:00am is the perfect wake up).  Then we went over and tried out the splash pad at the park across the street from us.

It was a total win!  Mary loves swimming and all things that involve water.  She crawled, walked, and sat in every water feature she could find.  She also just loves waving at anyone who looks her way and is very taken by other children.  We had a blast in the park.

While the weather has cooled a touch, we are still trying to adjust to the heat.  Runs are starting to get back to normal and splash pads and pools are becoming the norm around here.

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We switched up the traditional Memorial Day fare for sushi (hey it was hot!).  Mary tried her first veggie roll, and loved it!

A big shoutout to everyone who made it through hot marathons last weekend, especially the Bayshore and Vermont City Marathons.  I know it was rough and many of you were unable to finish.  But let me say that anyone who survives marathon training is a finisher and winner in my book!

And now for the giveaway winner from last week’s blog post on The Benefits of Hiring A Running Coach.  A huge congrats to Katie@AdultingDaily.  Please get in touch at the e-mail address from my website.  We can set up a time to chat, get your consultation, and together we will create the perfect custom plan for your upcoming training!

Grandma’s Marathon Recap

What a weekend!  After a long car ride north, we arrived in Duluth, Minnesota for Rock’s much anticipated marathon.  Some of you may remember that he ran Chicago this past fall.  Chicago started out really well for him and half way through, as I was coaching, he called to tell me that something happened to his hip flexor.  It was so painful he considered a DNF and dropping out, but instead decided to walk to the end because he had worked too hard all summer not to cross that finish line.  It was a gut wrenching way to end a training cycle and he has been wanting revenge ever since.

This past winter we were playing around with races online and ended up deciding on Grandma’s Marathon.  A few of our friends had done it in the past and had a great time and one of my favorite bloggers Mother Racer did it last year (as an elite!).  There were a few things that were alluring about this race.  First, the time of year is perfect for us.  We have a sports program we run in NYC that keeps us busy all spring and into mid-June.  This race fell right after we would return home.  We both love late spring races too for the perfect temps and the fact that you can avoid most of the terrible winter running during training.

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On top of all of this the race is a perfect size with a field of about 7,800 runners; not so big that you have to weave your way through runners for the first few miles, but not terribly small.  Our first marathon we ever did had a field of less than 800 runners.  By the end of the race I was near the front and didn’t see another woman for the last three miles, let alone very many runners in general.  This can be excrutiating mentally.

Even better, this course is rather flat or at least gently rolling.  It also follows Lake Superior for a majority of the course so you can bet on some cool breezes off of the water.

Let me tell you, this race did not disappoint in any way.  Duluth is a city of about 82,000 people and every single person knows there is a marathon in town and welcomes runners with open arms.  How many times have you gone to a race somewhere and when you mention it to a local they cock their head in surprise and say, “Oh there’s a race going on?”  Not here!

When we checked into our (very, very expensive) hotel we were greeted by front desk staff all wearing Grandma’s Marathon shirts.  The major downside to a big race going on in a smaller town is that hotels are at a premium.  Rock registered the day the race opened and we immediately booked a hotel at the Residence Inn because we are Marriott rewards members.  The rooms were almost all booked then and we cringed at the hotel rates but sucked it up just in case.  (Side note, there is a local college that offers dorm rooms at a much cheaper price point but you have to wait til March to get in on those).

The hotel staff gave Rock a gift bag with fruit, water, and energy bars inside.  They also were very knowledgeable about the race itself and pointed us in the right direction to get Rock on a shuttle bus to the start the next morning.

My biggest gold star goes to the hotel for having an early breakfast at 5:00am for runners.  Typically they offer waffles, pancakes, eggs and sausage.  But they had yogurt, granola, cereal, fruit, bagels, and energy bars set up.  How many times do you wish the darn hotel breakfast was early enough to at least get a coffee before you go?  Later in the day I noted that they still had fruit and energy bars out for guests well after the race had finished.  Major thumbs up for this!

The weather didn’t cooperate and poured during the wait for the start and for the first half of Rock’s race.  But he said that he had a really nice bus ride out with the other athletes.  I opted to stay back and get my run in that morning too but I could have hopped on a local train that goes out to the start and then follows the lead pack back into town.

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Baby and I got in a nice, dry 8 miles, while Rock was waiting in the rain.

Despite the rain, Rock had a ton of really positive things to say about this race.  There wasn’t a ton of fan support along most of the course but he said there was plenty enough to keep you going.  He loved the course and in general thought the weather (minus the rain) was fantastic.  His biggest take away from this race was that it was what he called a “runner’s race.”  Just about everyone he saw on the course was a “runner” in some fashion.  He didn’t see a lot of walkers on the course and although you saw athletes of all paces, everyone clearly looked like they had trained and were putting their full effort into this event.  This makes Grandma’s a great spot to go for a PR or try to BQ, and there were a lot of BQ’s going on there Saturday.  I also noted that several people were also there trying to make the Olympic Marathon Trials as well.

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I found Rock still running strong at mile 25.5!

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This train takes spectators out to the start and follows the lead pack back in for 26.2 miles. As you can see I was too lazy to step out into the rain to take a decent picture. But this is pretty cool!

In the end, his hip flexor started to give him a bit of frustration near the finish.  But he was able to hold out and run a very solid race.  He didn’t quite hit his goal of a new PR but he still ran a solid marathon.  I was super proud of him and got tears as I saw him at mile 25.  Admittedly they were mostly tears of pride but there was a tad of marathon envy in there.  It is nearly impossible as a runner to go watch any kind of race and not get worked up just a little bit!

Congrats Rock on a great finish.  Congrats to everyone who raced this past weekend.