Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grandma's Marathon Race Report

Minnesota was very kind to me - I guess that's why they call it Minnesota Nice. I flew in early to Minneapolis and drove my rented car about two and a half hours north to Duluth. The road was scenic, even the large stretches of road that was under construction. The view of the city on Lake Superior as you enter was breathtaking - the way the bridges and the water meet as you come down the road - it was all very picturesque. The packet pick up was easy and well organized. Since I got there around lunchtime, I decided after I picked up my packet that I would grab lunch at their pasta dinner. It was there that I received the call from my mother saying my Uncle Evan, who had been battling lung cancer for months, wasn't doing too well. She told me that I should run tomorrow as best as I can and to think of him. I sat at lunch contemplating.

I stayed in Moose Lake, Minnesota, which is a solid forty-five minute drive south of Duluth. I really didn't want to stay for two nights, the minimum of most hotels in the area, and the price here was reasonable. When I pulled into the parking lot around 2PM, it was completely empty of cars. I had visions of the Shining... Inside, I was able to check in to my room, where I grabbed a nap, then a dip in the pool and jacuzzi. I like to soak before my marathons - it keeps me loose. After, I found a tiny place to grab my pasta dinner, went back to my hotel room, and watched Oceans 13 while soaking in the tub in my room. It was a suite - sweet!

Race morning started like most race mornings. I drove into town, parked, and hopped on the train that took runners to the starting line. The train was packed, and I had nice conversations with the people around me when I wasn't trying to sleep. The only trouble with the train was that it arrived a little too close to the start of the race for my comfort. I wanted to go to the bathroom one more time, but the lines were too long. Also, there were state police officers manning the area near the bushes to prevent runners from going there. I'm guessing they drew the short end of the straw that morning when assignments were doled out!

I seeded myself based on my expected finishing time and started chatting with the guys near me. I really did not know what I was capable of that day since the starting temperatures were warm and in the 70s, but it was the humidity that worried me. I was sweating in the first few miles which is never good. After starting off a little faster than I should have, I found a groove around 7:30 pace. Lake Superior was on my left for most of the race, so I enjoyed staring off into it. The crowd support was decent as we ran toward Duluth, and I joked with a few spectators, "Which was to Duluth?" "That guy stole my wallet!" and "Are they still chasing me?" I knew early on with the heat that this was not going to be a personal best day, so my plan was to just to have fun and run the race I was capable of and get the bad memory of the heat and struggle of the Boston Marathon out of my mind. I needed to remind myself that Boston was a fluke and that I am a good marathon runner. That was a goal I was determined to accomplish.

In mile 15, I passed a guy who started walking, so I made it my goal to try to motivate him to stay with me. He told me he was a triathlete and this was his first marathon. I encouraged him and gave him some good mental imagery, but he faded after a few miles. I did this with a few runners, and some stayed as long as they could and others said thanks but they were fine.

Heading into mile 19, I noticed that my last few miles had crept in 8:00 minute per mile pace. The temperatures had dropped a bit as clouds came in, and it was then I decided I was going to try to lay down the hammer for the final 10K. As I neared the 20 mile mark, I picked up my pace, sharpened my form, and turned over my legs with better efficiency. Plus, I kept in mind what my mother had told me, so I said to myself, "Okay, Uncle Evan, you're running with me the final 10K!" And, it worked. I dropped nearly a minute per mile off my pace the next mile. I started to feel good and my legs felt capable of holding this pace, so I tried to maintain it as best as I could, all the time repeating in my head, "Stay with me, Uncle Evan!" I passed people and the crowd saw me surge and cheered louder, which only fueled my mental game. At one point in the 22nd mile, I became so overcome emotionally thinking about my uncle, I started to cry! I had to tell myself to stop crying because I needed to breath calmly and normally. The thrill of passing people late in the race was exciting and I was on my mental game. As I passed the 23 and 24 mile markers, the end game was in sight. All I had to do was hold this pace. There were a few small hills remaining, but it was nothing that was going to deter or slow me. The 26th mile was when I started to fade again, but by then I had come too far and was too close to the end to passively back off. I went into my "sprint" for my finishing kick and held off a few runners I was pretending I was competing with, and I crossed the finish line a few seconds over 3:20.

7:04/13/18/22/27/29/23/32/36/18/27/32/38/53/37/34/41/8:02/8:08/8:24/7:27/45/48/46/47/59/1:59 (.2) - 10K 45:32/ Half 1:37:22/ 16.2mi 2:01:22 / 19.3mi 2:26:35 / 23.1mi 2:56:04 / 25mi 3:10:46 - 487th out of 5785 finishers

For the temperatures that day, I was impressed with my effort. I had erased the scar of Boston, and reminded myself I can run a marathon without walking and feel strong.  It was the 19th marathon I completed in my 11th different state.  I am well on my way to finishing the 50 state club by the time I am 50.  I did experience a weird situation with my eye after the race. I couldn't get them to both focus for about ten minutes. I almost went to the medical tent, but it cleared up, so I grabbed a snack for the road and water and Gatorade. Then I took off for Minneapolis where I caught the Twins v Brewers game.

It started at 1:05, but I managed to scalp a club level ticket for half the ticket price since the game was already in the third inning. Inside, a fellow Sox fan bought me a beer, impressed that I ran the marathon then made it down to the game. In addition to running a marathon in every state, I also want to catch a game at every active ballpark. This trip I was able to do both. At night, I went to a sports bar called Sneaky Pete's which was pretty decent. I sat next to a farmer in from North Dakota to visit his girlfriend who was in the hospital after cancer surgery. When the bar turned into a nightclub, I met two girls that are cousins. But, that's a different story for a different type of blog. ;-)

In the morning, I grabbed breakfast at the airport and was texting Keith while trying to find the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom stall when my Dad called to tell me Uncle Evan had passed away just minutes earlier. I paused, reflected, and said a prayer, then called my brother who booked me a flight from Baltimore to Providence. I would like to remember the words of wisdom he gave to me the night before Boston and his confidence in me that I'd finish as well as the thoughts I had during my race. Life is funny sometimes as there are no guarantees, and each race and every run I pause to appreciate what I have and how fortunate I am.

1 comment:

  1. A marathon, a train ride, a ball park visit and the two cousins at the bar. Life doesn't get better than that!
    Your uncle would have been proud and honored not just of your run but that you thought of him during it and that he inspired you.