Race Day: Saturday, June 21, 2014 – 7:45am

Grandma’s Marathon… what a race! This was the sixth year in a row I had raced on this day, but my first marathon. The Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon is really where this all started, and it was only a matter of time before I jumped into a 26.2 mile race. Why I registered in the first place, I don’t really know, but it was definitely well in advance. That means a I had a long winter and spring to train.

Training for a marathon is definitely different than anything, even long course triathlon. The sheer volume and consistency of running was made possible in large part to Diamond, my running partner. As if having a terrible race isn’t the worst prospect in the world, shrill barking in my ear is literally the best motivator to run in sub zero weather.

Anyways, the weather looked good all week and training leading up to the race was spot on. I felt confident going into the race and wanted to nail a 6:45 minute mile every single mile. The only mystery is how my body would react to working at the race expo from 5-9pm on Thursday night and then 9-9 on Friday. In the past, working the long days and trying to race 13.1 has been really tough, so I was pretty nervous how the ol’ bod would hold up to a much longer and more strenuous race.

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I enjoy racing in cool weather, and definitely don’t mind a little mist! The race day brought 50s and foggy, light rain and mist. The pre-race nerves were there, but I felt like I had a really solid race plan and felt confident. This section will be brief, because as I write this, it is October and I don’t exactly remember how I felt during the race…. Note to self: do race recaps as soon as possible.

I began the race right on schedule. Every mile was a few seconds within my goal pace, and if I ever fell off, it felt easy to crank it up a bit to even my time out. I ran with some people for a bit and then either passed them or lost them in the mist. I remember talking to one guy who had to take a dump and lost his friend. He latched onto me in an attempt to make up time and catch his buddy, but I think he burnt himself out.

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I knew that getting into town was going to hurt. I had been dealing with some plantar faciitis and was anxiously waiting for it to flare up. Even though the crowd support is really big in town, that is where I’ve always started to feel the burn in the half marathon. Sure enough, I felt my pace drop off bit by bit going past the Glensheen Mansion into Lemondrop Hill. My legs and muscles were starting to feel super fatigued, but I gathered the mental fortitude to put these thoughts of pain aside. Also, I knew my friends and supporters were coming up quickly.

I got a second wind as I came into the London Road business district. I think that this is always where you can pull through and have a good race, or crumble. I saw a group of friends on the side of the road and my form all the sudden was fantastic and I didn’t hurt so bad anymore. Andy snapped a few pics.

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I also knew that Duluth Running Co. was right around the corner. That was going to be a huge boost because they always have a ton of spectators and a lot of familiar faces. And a free keg, so everyone cheers loudly. I ditched two gels at DRC, which means I only had two gels and sporadic water and Powerade at aid stations.

DRC was great. It felt like I was running a 5 minute mile and I high fived everyone on the curb and then disappeared into the mist. Once I was hidden, I could feel my back slump and my hips collapse. I was really fatigued, but at this point, you just keep running the final two or three miles. I tried to keep my pace but know I dropped off a bit. I knew I had to get around a 2:57 flat to hit my goal pace, and I really wanted to go under that, so I tried to kick it up in the finishing chute. My sister Emily snapped a few pics from the stands, where my parents and sister were spectating.

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When I finished, I felt my calves cramp up immediately. I dropped down to grab them in pain. A volunteer came up to me and said that I better walk. He was right… I got up and my calves felt much better. Then, I waited at the massage tent with some snacks. Boy, that was uncomfortable. Walking felt good. The pain subsided until I sat down or just stood there. After 15 minutes with no line movement, I opted for self massage instead. I saw my parents and friends on my way to the drop bag area. The race went well and the only low moment of the day was when my running friend Stacie missed her BQ by a few minutes. If she kept her pace through the halfway mark, she would have met her goal by, like, 15 minutes. But that is price you pay for starting off too hot!

Overall, I was very pleased with the race. It went perfectly according to plan. Although I was slightly off my goal, the time was still really good in my eyes, and I had a new viewpoint on the marathon distance.

To avoid piercing barks, I was back running that week!

Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3
Time: 2:57:38
Pace: 6:47
Place: 265/6212

For those who are not familiar with Duluth, or for those who are familiar with Duluth but have been deprived, I will enlighten you about Park Point. This long and beautiful beach is said to be the world’s largest natural sandbar. In the summer, it is the perfect place to lounge and relax and catch some rays. That is a different post for a different time, or season, though.

Park Point looks drastically different in the winter. I had never visited the beach in the winter, as I figured it was just cold, sandy and desolate–much unlike the summer where it is a cold, sandy and popular place to hang out. I suppose not as different as it sounds! Well, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, it is a warm, sandy and popular place to hang out.

Thanks to Destination Duluth, I stumbled across some pictures from local photographers who were capturing some amazing winter scenery at Park Point, and I became intrigued. The next Sunday, I wrangled Diamond up and we headed to the beach.

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The first excursion was a nice sunny Sunday. Nice is kind of a misnomer, because it was really cold. The wind was very brisk right off of the lake and there wasn’t much we could do to seek shelter from the biting breeze. As we walked up to the beach, I was instantly amazed with the features. There were huge hills of ice all along the shoreline as far as the eye could see on either side. I noticed a hole in the ice.

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I realized that the hole led to an ice cave. I crawled through the hole and it was so cool! How does something like this form??

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Once inside, the icicles hanging from the ceiling were incredible. It looked like a real cave…the icicles resembled stalactites and there was a chamber. I’ve seen Park Point in the summer and I knew that this feature was made out of entirely ice. That really blew my mind.

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I went a bit further down the beach and found another cave. It wasn’t as low and deep as the first cave, but was really tall, which made for a cool picture.

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After my hands became numb, Diamond and I decided to pack up and go home. Of course, we stopped at the Smokehaus on the way home. When in Rome, as they say. We both had so much fun that I decided that going to Park Point would be the perfect Sunday routine. So next Sunday we went again!

The next Sunday, we had another really incredible time. It was sunny and a bit warmer this week, and the wind was coming out of the south, so being on the lake side in the caves was sheltered. This time, we found two really, really cool caves. The first one was massive–the ice formation was the biggest one I have seen.

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There was a little dropoff, then the ice opened up into a chamber with all sorts of smaller pockets. Also, the ice must have been a little thinner than in some of the other caves, because the light shining through made some really cool colors. It was like a stained glass window. Below is a snowy picture from inside of the biggest chamber looking outside. Diamond is near the entrance.

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I snapped a quick video on one of our later trips. Where the ceiling melted through was were the ice was thinnest on our previous trips. You can get an idea of the contours of the icy cave floor and how many little chambers were there.

The second cave we found that day was almost by accident. The entrance was a really small hole, likely created by the drifting snow. I had to crawl on my stomach down a chute, and I could see that after 10 feet or so, there was a larger chamber. Once I slid all the way down, the ice opened up into a huge chamber. Unlike the first cave, this one was a big room… there weren’t any offshoots or anything. The icicles were really amazing in this cave. This one was dark on the inside and it took a minute for my eyes to adjust.

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Below is a picture of Diamond trying to maneuver through the cave. She was just smashing the icicles off of the ceiling without a second thought, and I am over here trying to be as careful as possible to preserve nature.

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The cave looked something like a lollipop–a narrow passageway that opens up into a big circular chamber. So cool!

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Every week except twice removed, Park Point has been a fun Sunday ritual. I’m hoping to keep it up into the summer!

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