Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grandma's marathon race report: a sentimental journey

The First Half
The day began chaotically. It started with waking up late, with a longer than expected bathroom wait for the port-a-potties and with an on-the-go breakfast of a banana, protein bar, plus two chocolate biscotti cookies and ultimately a push to find my place in the start-up line. It was 5 hours to 5:30 hour mark according to the McMillan calculator based on my current race times. My plan for most things was not well executed that morning. Though despite all the last minute upsets, Grandma's marathon had been lively start with pop music and the American Anthem followed by two military airplanes soaring above us and more importantly, I was able to cross the start line.
In contrast to the start, the first half of the marathon course was fairly quiet. It reminded me of the year my parents moved to Eagle River, WI (the middle of nowhere). I found it difficult to get reception with my blackberry internet/data. The heated, humid and hilly conditions in the Two Harbors area coupled with the monotony of the landscape was challenging.
Luckily there were those "things" which kept me going...including: 1) the 5 hour pace group leader, her stories, dedications to miles and cheers. If it wasn't for my new eat & drink policy at every water station, I may have been able to keep up. 2)The balloon mile markers. Every mile was marked with a yellow balloon and the half marathon was marked with blue ones. 3)Some music and bands at the side of the road. 4)Water station stops and just more frequent walk breaks. It may have hurt me with time, but my recovery has been quicker as a result of it.
Air conditioning finally kicks in!
It's amazing how much cold air Lake Superior can bring to shore, especially during the colder season as I remember it back in the day. Actually, the contrast in weather had been so chilly that Mom had me hold onto--keep wrapped around my waist--my long-sleeved t-shirt.

Picturesque views of the North Shore, Duluth, Minnesota

Second Half! Thank You Galloway!
My final 13+, with already very sore legs/quads were indeed more interesting to see, but incredibly tough! The roads became lively as we continued to trek toward the "metro area" of Duluth. There was a pretend Elvis and band, stereo music, lots of signs with cute, and sometimes not so cute, motivational quotes/humor on the road. Some children actually wore animal costumes. Others had a breakfast/brunch going and gave out free strips of bacon (no thanks!). Generosity was plenty in terms of support and cheers and one can really not expect much less from this area.
There was the feeling at this point of already wanting to be done and all the signs which said 'medical tent and drop out point here' were alluring. It made me think, but didn't prompt me enough to stop! As I got further into the last miles my walk/run ratio decreased from 2:1 to 1:1 and I just decided to add more walking for the importance of being able to run and walk after this event. Luckily, others on the course assured me that I'd be just fine, even if I'd walk the rest of the way.
Adrenaline is a funny thing!
Towards the final two miles I began to see how much time had accrued and the possibility to run some more. Seeing the city streets, the familiar store fronts, city life and with all the the marathon finishers/half marathon finishers walking by, I had enough adrenaline to run for a full 2/3rds of a mile and then walk and then run again! This was a big deal considering how sore my legs felt.
The Rainy End
It was 5 hours 35 minutes and 39 seconds, according to chip time, when I crossed the finish line. It was literally seconds later as I collected my finisher's medal/t-shirt when it began to rain. I felt relieved to have completed the marathon as I hobbled to meet my Mom, but pissed that I had to walk another quarter of a mile more to find her.
I met my fund-raising goal for Dana-Farber this year, wiped a good 6 minutes off my PR marathon time, spent a good weekend with my Mom and family friends. More importantly, I learned the value of time---not for running or completing a marathon---but in spending more of it with my mother, family and friends. I have sworn off the marathon distance and though hope to return shortly to Red Wing, MN if not for a 5K, then just for a simple Mom-daughter visit.