4 DAYS! Eeek!

*As I started writing this, I wasn’t sure where it was going… now that I finished, I apologize in advance for the length!  It should really be re-named “my long relationship history with Grandma’s Marathon” but thanks for reading, anyway!

With pre-race jitters in full swing, I’m like an extremely well-hydrated, hypochondriac, bipolar, irrational maniac who can’t stop cleaning my house.  I’m 4 days out from my first full marathon in 2 years, my 6th Grandma’s marathon (6th Grandma’s full, I’ve done the half once…) and my 14th marathon overall and I can’t remember being this nervous for any of them!

To keep myself busy (with a sick kid home from school to boot), I dug out my old memorabilia from Grandma’s marathons past and find myself reminiscing about each race I’ve endured throughout the last 8 years… After all, Grandma’s is where it all started.

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In 2007, I helped volunteer at the finish line with my sister handing out medals to the finishers.  I was a new mom (Landon was only 2 months old!) and about to finish up a messy divorce.  Prior to 2007, like many Duluthians, I had avoided Duluth like the plague on Grandma’s Marathon weekend.  The race, at the time, was listed as the 12th largest marathon in the country… a favorite of many elite runners for the scenery, the usually-cooler temps, and the net downhill.  As I hung medals around hundreds, if not thousands of runners necks that morning, I was bitten by the bug.  Knowing nothing about running, having maybe one 5k under my belt, I thought “wow… I want to do this!”

Fast forward to March, 2008 and I had nearly forgotten about my contagion…when it hit me!  I had just started working for an amazing new gym in my hometown (Anytime Fitness, if you must know… and I still bleed purple) and someone mentioned their training for the half.  Crap!  I was going to try that marathon thing this year!  I signed up for what would be my first full marathon… my first long distance race… and the beginning of a severe relationship with endurance sports.

Well, training for my first marathon was kind of a joke.  I was inexperienced, I didn’t take it seriously and I think my longest run prior to the actual race was 5 miles. On an elliptical.  Yea… don’t do that.  I had stress fractures in both of my feet – the 5th metatarsal – and left immediately following the race to go hike and camp in South Dakota while carrying my barely 1 year old in a backpack with broken feet.  I finished in a whopping 5 hours and 42 minutes! Blahhhhhhh. My sister and bestie were at the finish line to hand me my medal… Pre-facebook days, but I found this sweet oldie!  Thanks Jana’ and Stef!

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2009 was a different story.  I wanted to train, I had changed my lifestyle, I had a couple of runs under my belt including a couple of half marathons and some longer runs.  I even peer pressured my little brother into running the full as well!  As it would happen, 2009 was a different story, but not all that different of a finish.  The heat that year took it’s toll, by mile 8 I had thrown out my pace and was already praying just to finish. And I did… in 5 hours and 39 minutes.  Ughhhhh.

But recovery was much more smooth, no broken bones, no stress fractures.  And again, I left almost immediately afterward to go hiking and camping, this time in Yellowstone, and this time with a 2 year old to carry.

I also decided to branch out and I ran the 2009 Des Moines marathon, shaving 35 minutes off my time! 5:04 finish, and I remember coming in strong with the last few songs screaming in my iPod (Beyonce hit “Single Ladies”, Katy Perry “Hot n Cold” and Miley Cyrus “Party in the USA” were my running anthems, I still have the playlist!)

2010 Grandma’s would be my year!  And then 2010 was not going to be my year… torn meniscus from training would lay me out of running until October, in which I ran the Twin Cities full for the first time in 6:01 – not bad for elliptical training. DO NOT DO THAT EITHER.

2011!  Fresh new year, fresh training plan… also, fresh distractions.  I started skydiving and my priorities the last month of training went into jumping.  However, I did pull in my still-standing PR of 4:49:40 and felt amazing at the finish! (I do remember getting to mile 24-ish and seeing finishers wearing their medals and thinking “ugh, another green ribbon?” HashtagRunnerProblems)

2012 – sidelined with yet another injury.  This year was looking like my best shot. I had been training with Jeff and Lewie, who were willing to run slow with me on their long runs to get more time on their feet as they trained for an IronMan Triathlon.  The big man upstairs had different plans and I ended up with my worst injury to date.  Stress reaction in the head of my femur.  It would be 9 months before I could even run a mile.

2013 enter the distraction of a new boyfriend (who would end up being my husband, so I guess that turned out alright!)… Training went well, but I admittedly was focused on other things and just went for the finish.  It was the first time I would have a drunken cheerleading squad thanks to the non-jumpable-weather and some amazing friends who were unable to skydive and thus decided to start drinking at 8am.  By the time I crossed the finish line 5 hours and 3 minutes later it was like herding stray cats, or toddlers.  Ahhhh, memories!

2014, again my training was amazing and this time I had convinced my future sister in law to run!  Hooray for gullible relatives!  We trained quite a bit together, put in a number of long runs… I got severely burnt out that year, but stuck with it and only missed one long run.  However, don’t let anyone tell you that just because you have a bunch of marathons under your belt that you can’t make rookie mistakes.  With the cooler air temps, I sped through a couple water stops feeling on top of the world, only to end up dry heaving and cramping up at the half-way point.  My dearest friend, Stef – who always has kind words and makes me laugh during my races via text – happened to be on her way into a PT appointment for a recent knee surgery.  She basically said “keep crawling if you have to, send me your symptoms and I’ll get back to you when I get in there.”  The verdict came back that I had severely dehydrated myself and needed fluids asap. The next aid station was mile 15, I pounded anything I could and took a few for the road.  It wasn’t until mile 17 that I could pick up the pace again, but the damage had already been done.  A 5:08 finish was the best I could do, after a 2:15 first half. (And really, another freaking green finisher medal? Really original. HashtagRunnerProblemsPartTwo)

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2015 I stuck to the half, and found that to be such a paradigm experience!  Having never ran the half before, usually by the time I was hitting these mile markers I was starting to feel the effects… you know, the effects of running 19, 22, 25 miles.  This time around, every mile marker I hit inspired me to run faster, as I couldn’t believe how great I felt! (2:02 finish)

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So what does 2016 have in store for me?  The weather looks amazing… a little too amazing actually, we need that to cool down a little bit.  Training has been the best it’s ever been, even with a bum foot (yes, still running on that stupid stress fracture).  And my nerves keep me right about on the edge of vomiting, so there’s that!

I fly back to Minnesota Thursday morning, hit the expo and bib pickup on Friday, and set out on my journey at 7:45am CST on Saturday.  I’m looking forward to the 40th anniversary of the race that started it all for me, the race that gave me a different passion, a different therapy, and a ton of amazing friendships.  Keep an eye on my IG account for updates: @thefermentedsole, and be sure to check my race recap after the weekend!

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Photo from Grandma’s Marathon Facebook page

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support! ❤

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