Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The 2012 Grandma's Marathon; How not to run a Marathon

June 16, 2012 7:45 AM
Duluth, MN

Time Pace Division Division
Bib #
Owen 3:49:48 8:46 M35-39 170/446 1144/3425 1508/5788 2156

Written by Owen:

Wow, I made a lot of mistakes on this marathon.  I had trained harder than ever, with the hope of qualifying for Boston.  I was 100% healthy, a much more improved runner than I was on my previous marathons.  That can all be tossed out the window with some bad decisions.  In regards to qualifying for Boston, I had gone back and forth over and over.  Should I just enjoy the race?  Should I just try to PR?  Should I try to beat BQ time by 5 minutes in order to for sure secure a Boston registration?  AHHHHH!  I thought about those questions every hour of every day leading up to this race.

We started our trip on Thursday when we drove up to my mom's house in Stafford, Virginia.  The kids would be staying there while Malissa and I flew to Minnesota.  Friday morning I got up and did my two mile run, then Malissa and I drove to Washington, DC for our two hour flight to Minneapolis.  We rented a car and drove to our cabin.

We rented a cabin about a half-hour south of Duluth, as all the hotels in Duluth were taken by the time I registered for this race.  This is a huge marathon in a pretty small city.

The view from our cabin, looking down at the lake.

We unpacked our things, then headed into Duluth for the expo.  We made sure to take in Dick Beardsley's talk.  He is my all-time favorite runner, and has amazing stories to tell.  After his talk he treated us to a song!

Then we ate a ton of spaghetti, by far the best spaghetti dinner before a marathon.

The spaghetti dinner was great, all you can eat deliciousness.

We went back to the cabin and went to bed early since I had to get up so early the next morning.  Race morning we got to the parking lot at 4:45 AM.  My train didn't leave until 5:45 AM, but I didn't want to fight the crowds for parking.

In the car at 4:45 AM.

Malissa was really excited because another of our favorite runners, Kara Goucher, was running the USA Half-Marathon Championships, which started at the half-way point of the course and finished at the same finish line.  So she planned on spending all morning at the finish line so she could watch Kara finish, then watch me finish (hours later).

Kara breaks the tape in a course record time of 1:09 and change,  winning the championship.
I boarded the train which parallels the entire course so I got to see what I would be running.  The train travels pretty slowly, so it took us about an hour to get up there.  What an amazingly beautiful course it is, overlooking Lake Superior.  I chatted with other marathon runners, one of them asked what my goal was for the day, and I honestly told them I still hadn't decided if I was going to go for a BQ, or just take it easy.  It was very humid and sunny and the angel on one shoulder was telling me to go slow, while the competitive devil on the other shoulder kept reminding me how cool it would be to run Boston next year.

The organization of this race is second to none.  I didn't think a race could be run better than Big Sur was, but Grandma's is.  At the start line, they had what seemed like an endless row of porta potties.  The line only took a minute or two.

I got to the starting line and saw the pace team for 3:05.  3:10 was my BQ time standard.  I don't think a 3:10 would actually get me in the race though, because of the way they do registration and how many people get turned away every year.  If you beat your BQ time by 5 minutes, you get to register before the people that didn't, virtually guaranteeing your spot in the race.

Miles 1 thru 7

I knew I couldn't run a 3:05, however.  I decided to try and run the 3:10, which works out to a pace of 7:15 per mile.  They sang the national anthem, had an amazing F?? flyover, then the gun sounded.  I took off and ran a 7:02 first mile, then a 7:09 second mile.  I told myself if I ever ran anything slower than a 7:15 mile to go ahead and slow down to 8 something because if I'm not going to qualify, I want to enjoy the race.

Stupid me, marathons don't work that way.  If you go out too fast you are SCREWED.  The first hour of the race it was very hot, very humid, and very sunny.  I maintained a pace below 7:15 every mile until mile 8.  During that mile I was so hot.  I was feeling OK, but was really worried about the heat.  How can I expect to beat my PR by 12 minutes in these conditions?

Miles 8 thru 14

I consciously decided to slow down.  It just wasn't going to happen.  Can I salvage an enjoyable marathon?  Should I still try to PR?  The cloud cover came and we had a nice tiny cool tailwind.  I decided to slow down to a pace that combined with my fast start would combine for a PR.  I felt good running at about a 7:40 pace.  But then, mile after mile, I started slowing down without trying to.

Miles 15 - 22

I knew I was in trouble at this point.  My miles were slowing down every single time. My pace went from 8:30 on mile 15, to somewhere in the 11 minute range by mile 22.  I was hurting.  I was so mad at myself.  Why would you do that, you idiot.  You've enjoyed every marathon, I want to enjoy this one.  While running these miles I promised myself I would just enjoy running future marathons, train hard in between, and not even consider Boston until I naturally came within 5 minutes of it by enjoying a marathon.

Miles 23 - 26.2

Gut check time.  I was in so much pain.  Indescribable.  The miles took forever to pass.  All I could think about was just finishing this thing.  I had to keep running, I want to finish all 50 states without ever running one in over 4 hours.

I finished the race, grabbed my medal and then found Malissa.  We crashed on the grass while I recovered enough to walk.

On the way back to the car, we passed Famous Dave's and had a great post-race meal.  I was feeling fine by this point and could laugh about all the mistakes I had made.

I had no injuries, no abnormal soreness, my only problem was that, because I had decided to run without a belt, I carried my gu packets in my shorts pocket that was on my back.  The packets had worn my skin out and I had multiple sores just above my butt crack.  Nice!

Another mistake I made was taking off the auto-lap feature of my garmin.  I wanted the lap locations to be exact, so I thought I'd just hit lap as I passed each of them.  Well, I forgot over and over, so my lap locations are messed up.

Another regret was running without my phone to take pictures.  It's such a beautiful course and I would have loved to take pictures, at least on the ride up there on the train.

A couple of stats:  At the 10k mark I was in 482nd place. I finished in 1,508th place.  So over 1,000 people passed me!  Wow.

My next marathon is in less than three weeks.  I can not wait to redeem myself.  Not in time, but in enjoyment level.

Here's my finish line video (talk about finishing slow), and here's my Garmin data for the race:


  1. Sorry to hear you had a rough go of it @ Grandma's but at least you got to eat at Famous Dave's!!!

    I had a similar experience, weather-wise, as you, I thought it was hot & going to get hotter at the beginning and went into full-fledged cooling mode and ended up getting chilly later on.

    Good luck with you redemption race in a few weeks!! (ps love your pacing tool)

  2. i’m so sorry it wasn’t what you had hoped-but i love your positive attitude on just enjoying your next one! hope recovery is going well.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I wouldn't have wished that on myself (obviously), but I am glad it happened. I was getting pretty cocky and that was a nice reality check.