Yea, about 2 months late. NBD.
I run Grandma’s Marathon, my hometown race in my own backyard every single year. It’s my favorite race, I love it, I love the course, I love the crowd, I love the swag, and I love the people. But, I signed myself and my hubby up for Grandma’s half this year because I gave birth to our daughter in January, and I didn’t want the pressure of running and training for a full so soon after that. Good thinking, Ame…
Training went pretty standardly. I recovered from childbirth, and started running with doctor’s clearance pretty soon after. Being a nursing mom, finding the right cadence of nursing and pumping before runs, fueling the right way, and finding the right “support” for runs took a bit of practice. It was often nurse, pump, run, nurse for my long runs especially and that definitely took it’s toll on my energy levels.
I didn’t set too many goals, just to run well without injury and enjoy myself. Chad did a decent amount of training but he’s much better at “on the whim” training than I am. Even when I’m not coming back from having a baby, I need consistency to maintain my fitness level. There was a brief minute where I thought I might be able to come out of the gate strong and perhaps shoot for a PR, but the more realistically I thought about it, the more I knew that just wasn’t going to play out well for me if I tried.
At the end of April, I was offered my dream job working for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and would be relocating my family to Western North Carolina. The stress of selling and moving definitely disrupted my plans, but I did my best to keep moving forward, as we do in training and long distance anything. Every step forward is a step toward the goal.
At the beginning of June, we packed up our car and headed north. We had an extended vacation planned prior to finding out that I got the job, and Sierra Nevada was kind enough to let me work around that existing vacation before my official start date. The plan was to spend a few days in Milwaukee with Chad’s brother and sister-in-law, who hadn’t met Clara yet, before we moved our way up to Duluth, Minnesota for the race and to visit my family.
It was certainly refreshing to get my last few runs in in that northern climate. Running next to Lake Michigan in MKE was cool and crisp, with a fresh lake breeze and new scenery to boot. Our diet, on the other hand, probably didn’t help our training and stress levels. Meat, cheese, beer… repeat.
The night before the race, we were joined for a family-style spaghetti dinner at my mom and dad’s house. I had friends from Maryland running and spectating, and my bestie from southern Minnesota was running the half with her hubby as well. It made for such a fun evening, catching up and welcoming my friends to my hometown that I’d basically been bragging about for 4 years. I was honored!
Clara really didn’t allow me a lot of sleep in the days leading up to the race, and I caught a cold during that time as well. Without being able to breathe, I just settled back into my “finish strong and without injury” goal and thought it would be nice to run with my husband and some friends along the way.
The last few years since coming back to Minnesota to run Grandma’s, I always meet up with my old skydiver friend, Nate. He runs it every year and we always shuttle to the start together. Good timing on the half this year, he was also doing the half with his wife instead of the full like we normally do! What a coincidence! Me, Chad, Stef, Erik, Nate, and Cassie shuttled to the start together and the weather was shaping up to do us a solid.
The weather along Lake Superior is always unpredictable so I never worried when the forecast said it would be cold and rainy all day. Fast-forward to race day and you couldn’t freaking ask for better weather or a better sunrise at the start! It was cool, crisp, and refreshing, with a little breeze to welcome us. We took some pre-race selfies, hit the porto’s, and found our places in line.
Stef and Erik pace quite a bit faster than I am able to so Chad and I hung back together. I could tell right away that he had an itch to go faster, but he neither acted on it, nor said anything one way or another so I just let it be. We hustled along, grabbing water and powerade at the aid stations, and nibbled on our Clif Shot Blocks in intervals.
The first part of the course is pretty rural, but they’re some of my favorite miles. Around half way, the course brings you into downtown Lakeside Duluth, and that’s really where you get the amazing crowd support to balance out those early quiet miles.
The course heated up enough that I took my light long sleeve running shirt off and was comfortable in my tank top. I pointed out mock-aid stations for Chad to grab bacon, pickles and pickle juice, and beer along the way. I had to use the porto and had been waiting for several miles to find one that didn’t have a blasted long line and finally came across one with what looked like no wait around mile 9.
PSYCH! While there wasn’t a line, there certainly was a wait. That darn break cost us like 6 minutes on our time! The bonus to the wait was Nate caught up to us and paced for a few miles. He wasn’t having the race he wanted this year so we ended up pulling a little ahead of him and continued toward the finish.
I kept thinking about my Maryland friends and hoped they were enjoying the downtown spectator festivities. I especially thought of April along the course, hoping she loved the full marathon as much as I talked it up over the years. It was really the perfect day to run.
Chad and I turned the last few corners and finished together in stride. He mentioned that he was glad he held back in the early race, because he didn’t have as much gas in the tank at the end of the race. Props to long distance pacing and not going out too quickly! I don’t always get it right, but I think I nailed it this time. We both finished strong at 2:14:47, 10:13 pace.
I divert your attention back to that opening point about being a nursing mom… Well, race day had me being away from Clara for most of the morning and into the afternoon – far too long for these boobies to handle, especially with the increased hydration of running and post-run fueling. I packed my pump in my check bag, along with a Milk Snob shawl to cover up. When the woman threw my bag up to me she said “Jesus what did ya pack in there!” and I laughed a little, “my breast pump” I said quietly. “Hell yea! Rock on mama!” she replied, and that basically made me feel like a BAMF. I set up shop in a grassy spot and did my thang…
I’ve only ever run Grandma’s Half one other time. In 2015, when we knew we were moving to Maryland and I didn’t want the pressure of training for a full on my plate. I’ve done the full almost every other year since 2008 and it’s absolutely a course I love. Those rolling hills right along the lake, the rallying crowd to bring you home to the finish, and the perfect post-race party in the park next to Lake Superior all do truly add up to a world class event.
Finishing strong and with a decent pace, I felt confident to start my marathon training for Chicago. Since moving to Asheville, I have myself wondering if Grandma’s is in my future next year… I think it’s the first time I’ve contemplated not running or participating in over 11 years! I guess time will tell… there are a lot of races out there, so we’ll see!