On Saturday June, 20 I completed my 4th marathon. Below is a long-winded recap of my training, issues, goal, and pre/during/post-marathon experience. Enjoy!
Grandma’s Marathon. Duluth, MN. June 20, 2015. 4:12:50. Happy.
I followed the training schedule outlined by the Calhoun Beach Run Club; however, I did very little runs with the club. Most of the people I typically run with had running coaches and weren’t following the same plan, plus everyone is faster than me. So I did a lot of the runs on my own, a couple with the club, and others with various running friends.
Don’t get my wrong, I love running with the Calhoun Beach Running Club – it’s full of amazing, inspiring, and super fun people – but it’s also been a pretty busy spring, so I had to fit the runs in whenever my schedule allowed.
In the early month of training (February & March) I only ran about 3 days a week, concentrating on the workouts and long runs. Since I had taken all of January off to fully recover from an injury during my Philly Marathon training, I was making sure to slowly increase my weekly mileage to help prevent another injury. Then in April I started adding in more easy runs, so I was running closer to 5 or 6 times per week.
There were easy runs and hill workouts and speed sessions and intervals and, of course, long runs. It was four months full of miles and miles and miles and smiles along with a mix of snow, sweat, wind, rain, and sunshine.
Besides running, I also made sure to do a lot of cross training. When I signed up for Grandma’s Marathon I made a promise to myself that I would do strength training and yoga at least once per week and stretch after every single run. I stayed true to this promise approximately 95% of the time. I think this helped me stay strong, loose, and injury-free. This needs to happen during all my (potential) future marathon training!
During a lot of my longer, harder runs I began to notice a weird heartbeat. There was no chest pain, it just felt like an irregular beat that then made me feel super light-headed and faint. I finally went to get it checked out (after a lot of persistence from my mom and run club friends) and am glad that I did!
I went and got an EKG, which came back with abnormal results. Then I got an echocardiogram and spoke with a Cardiologist. He explained why my EKG results came back abnormal and why I shouldn’t be worried about it. I would explain why, but I wouldn’t be able to explain it correctly.
He also let me know that I have a sort of arrhythmia and that every so often I have a premature heart beat. Since he was taking a look at my results while I was sitting in a doctor’s office when my heart rate was a mere 40-50 bpm, he suggested that I wear a heart monitor patch for the next two weeks so that he could see what it looks like when I exercise. He also mentioned that I could run the marathon and go along with my normal schedule.
Overall, I’m glad it’s nothing serious (as of yet). Also, I really felt like I should have been able to run faster and feel better than I had been during my runs. I’m kind of glad to know there is a legit reason why my body wasn’t allowing me to do this. I love running, so I’m hoping I can continue to do it, but if there is no fix I’ll just have to readjust my expectations and keep on keepin’ on.
I will send the monitor in later today and will get the results back in about 5 days (while I’m in Peru), so finger’s crossed that everything looks ok!
I originally went into Grandma’s Marathon training with the goal of finishing in 4:00 or below; however, with everything said above I readjusted my goal to finish below 4:15 and not have any palpitation episodes.
The Day Before.
On Friday afternoon I drove up to Duluth with four other girls who were also running the marathon. We talked about our goals, race strategies, playlist music, hydrating, fuel, and stories from training runs. We checked the weather forecast about a billion times. It did not look promising, so we also talked a lot about rain prep, race delays, and how everything would (hopefully) be ok.
We got into Duluth, checked into our hotel, and headed straight to the Expo. It was pretty small and pretty crowded, but was a breeze to go through packet pick up. The highlight was definitely getting our picture taken with a grandma.
There were 3 Calhoun Beach Run Club members who were running the William A. Irving 5K on Friday night, so we met up with some other run clubbers and went to cheer them on. We got there right at the start of the race, which was necessary, because the people running it were fast. They all finished in under 19 minutes, which is incredibly unfathomable to me. They are amazing.
After the 5K we headed back to the hotel. The majority of us (we/us = the Calhoun Beach Run Club members) were staying at The Suites Hotel in Canal Park. There were about 13 members that had a larger suite with a kitchen, so we met there to make a big pasta dinner. The guys cooked for everyone and did a great job. We had salad, pasta, and far too much bread.
Then it was time to go back and get all of the race gear prepped and laid out. We all had 4:45am alarms set, so we needed to get to bed early and try to get some sleep despite nervous anticipation of the marathon. Fortunately I slept super well!
The Morning Of.
My alarm clock went off at 4:45am. I got dressed, met some girls down in the hotel for breakfast (oatmeal, banana, peanut butter, and coffee), then finished getting everything together, and met the rest of the club in the hotel lobby at 5:45 am to head to the bus. Don’t we look so excited?!
The bus was full of excitement and nervousness and talking about the weather (Will it rain? Will it storm? Will it get delayed?!). A few minutes after we got dropped off at the start line it started to rain… then it started to pour. Thank goodness we were equipped with garbage bags (thanks Christie!).
After going through the bathroom line and dropping things off at the gear check it was time to line up! I spent the next 10 minutes pumping myself up, deciding when to ditch my throw-away shirt and garbage bag, chanting positive thoughts, getting my music ready, hoping I wouldn’t get sick in the rain, and reminding myself about the reason I love running and marathons.
The National Anthem played, then gun went off, and I started to run.
Since my goal was to finish under 4:15 I needed to average a 9:45 min/mile pace. My plan was to start at this pace and then pick it up at 10 miles and then pick it up a little bit more at 20 miles, but that’s not what I did at all.
I started too far forward, just before the 4:00 runners, and averaged 9:14 min/mile pace for the first 6 miles. Oops. I knew that I needed to back off if I didn’t want to have any heart issues during the run, so I did. My body was happy with that.
Mentally I tried to break up the marathon into shorter runs. I planned to take a GU at miles 5, 11, 17, and 21. Every time I took one I told myself, “Ok, just starting out for a new run, only X miles until I’m done.” (AKA, the next GU stop). Also, I knew my family would be at mile 16, so the idea of seeing them cheering me on definitely kept me going!
At about mile 11 I sensed the need to use the bathroom (dang). I figured they would have a bunch of porta-potties at the halfway point, since that is where the half marathon started earlier than morning. I ran mile 12 fairly quickly so that I could stop for the bathroom without loosing much time. Luckily, I only needed to wait in line for about 20 seconds. I definitely felt better afterwards.
As I was approaching the little town around mile 16 I was starting to get really excited, because that’s where my family was going to be. They were all there – my parents, my 3 siblings, and my sister-in-law – cheering me on, holding signs, and taking pictures. It was amazing and made me so, so, so happy!
To all the family and friends (and even strangers!) out on the course cheering, you have no idea how helpful and meaningful it is to the runners!
The next few miles were the hardest mentally. Once I get past 20 miles I feel “almost done”, but miles 16-20 (with 6-10 miles remaining) seems really far from the finish line still. I tried to focus on my surroundings and my breathing.
I knew that mile 22 was the mile with the infamous “lemon drop hill”. I decided that I would power walk up it rather than trying to run. Running up hills during my longer runs (or just in general) really spikes my heart rate and I didn’t want to risk palpitations and feeling faint. Instead I ran 21 at a quicker pace, walked up the hill, then cruised back down it. Overall I think it averaged out.
The next 4 miles were spent focusing on getting to that the finish line. My legs were pretty sore and heavy by this point in time. I ran into a fellow CBRC friend at mile 24, which gave me a giant surge of energy. After running 24 miles, 2.2 miles seems to take a really long time. Plus, on this course you can see the finish line, so it just feels like you are winding around and around until you finally get there.
But I eventually did get there! I crossed the finish line in 4:12:50, met my goals, and finished my 4th marathon!
I was so happy to be done. I was sore and it was hard to walk, but I successfully finished my 4th marathon – such a great feeling.
Then it was time to hobble through the long line of things – medal, water, t-shirt, chocolate milk, baggage drop, nut goodie, banana, more water, bagels, etc. I quickly (not so quickly) changed, chugged my chocolate milk, and headed towards the beer tent to meet my family.
Along the way I ran into a bunch of other CBRC runners and found out how amazing they all did – so many PRs & BQs! I couldn’t have been prouder of my friends! They all worked so hard and did some amazing things out along that course.
I finally found my family in the beer tent (good thing my younger brother is quite tall). We had a celebratory beer and they told me their silly stories from the morning. I was so extremely happy that they were there… and they seemed happy to be there, which made me even happier. Just happiness all around, I guess!
The rest of the afternoon was spent eating and drinking and recapping the marathon. I met my family for lunch at Fitger’s, then later had dinner with the CBRC at Little Angie’s, followed by beers at Canal Park Brewery, followed by dancing people watching at Grandma’s Sports Garden. It was just too much fun.
My friends and I left Duluth the next morning to head back to Minneapolis.
Overall, Grandma’s Marathon was an unforgettable experience – from the beginning of training all the way to after the finish line. It wasn’t my best time (3:49 at Grandma’s Marathon in 2013) nor was it my worst (4:38 at Philadelphia Marathon in 2014), but I still crossed that finished line and met my goals!
Marathon training takes hard work, time, and dedication, but it is also super rewarding. I definitely had some struggles along the way (and maybe a couple of tears), but I still take away all good things. A huge thanks to the CBRC, my family, and my friends for their ridiculous amount of support and encouragement along the way!
I hope (hope, hope, hope, hope) that my heart monitor data comes back with positive results and with the go ahead from the cardiologist to keep running, because I don’t want this to be my last marathon!
Eeks. That recap was not brief. I’m impressed you made it down this far.