Or: Grandma: 2, Nic and Ellie: ZERO
Last year Ellie came up close and personal, and eventually through the wall known as Grandma. This year dear old Grandma allowed Ellie to finish the Half Marathon in 2:05 and with a huge smile on her face (and a beer in her hand before 10 AM) and decided to beat me down with her walker. It sucked.
The short story is that I tend to have one decided goal for a race and no back-up plan. When my goal of a sub-3 marathon on Saturday fell apart around mile 14 due to the heat, I had nothing else to run for. This led me to end up more disappointed in myself than I've ever been before. I totally mentally checked out on this event, and despite the fact that I had so much support out there (more on that later), I mentally quit, and I hate that. Physically, I finished. I have the finisher's tshirt and the medal, but mentally, I didn't participate past mile 14. And that sucks.
Grandma's marathon is a TOP NOTCH event. Every aspect of the event was a breeze...from the expo to the bus to the start line. I enjoyed every minute of it, and as I left the school bus that took me to Two Harbors on Saturday morning at about 6:40 AM, I was pumped. It was gonna be a good day.
I relaxed at the start line, dropped off my warm-up clothes, and waited in line for one more potty break. After that it was off to the start area, where I made my way up to the 3:00 area. On my way I paused for the national anthem, then a jet fighter fly over with "Danger Zone" (from Top Gun) blasting in the background. I vocally cheered and had goosebumps, despite the mounting humidity. What a great event!
As soon as I reached the 3:00 area, Helen came over to say hello. (I apologize to her for already smelling. I noticed about 5 minutes later that I was already sweating) It was great to see her again, and I was beaming with confidence at that point that my sub-3 goal would be reached, despite her warning's of "It's hot and it's early." I was sure I would be waiting for Helen to arrive at the finish line, just like at the Chippewa 50K. Unfortunately (for me) she greeted me at the finish of Grandma's. And now I owe an Irish woman beer. Not good.
Soon enough Adam came over to say hello, noting it was easy to find me in my NF running shirt. Adam quickly took me under his wing and introduced me to several runners also aiming for a sub-3. These guys looked like real runners, and I was excited to be a part of such a fun group. (To my knowledge, only John Maas actually crossed under 3 hours.) Kurt was especially helpful and it was amazing to hear him know every damn runner at Grandma's!)
Soon enough the horn sounded and we were off. It felt SO GOOD to finally be running this event that I had planned for so long! The first mile went by easy at 6:59. I wanted to average 6:50's for the first 20 miles and hopefully be able to finish in 6:40's in the home stretch. The first 4 miles went by like clockwork, with me tucked in with my sub-3 friends, clicking off 6:48's right behind Kurt.
At mile 5, I was talking to Adam as we approached my family. I knew my parents and sister/brother-in-law would be at mile 5 (they had called earlier that morning asking what I would need at that point in course, hoping to offer any assistance at all). At about mile 4.75 I could see the "NF MARATHON TEAM" flag flying back and forth and I began to wave. Adam, who had met my parents at Chippewa, mentioned how great it was to have the support I did. I completely agree and was reminded again to thank God for the support. As I passed them I mentioned it was a "wee bit hotter" than I'd like, but I was smiling nonetheless. My target Heart Rate is always under 160 beats per minute, and through 5 miles I was right around 163. I figured this was okay. Oops.
I next saw my parents at mile 7, and by then the pace group I was with had fallen apart completely. Adam was still around, as was John Maas, but Kurt was far ahead, along with a Wartburg College runner, and Adam's friend Tom had already begun to fall back. Tom ended up in a medical tent with an IV, but recovered enough to put down a couple beers later that afternoon. I call that day a push :) I passed the Wartburg runner at about Mile 25, and he looked about as terrible as I did and didn't respond to any encouragement (not that I could muster much).
As I passed my family at Mile 10, my mom informed me that Ellie and my bro-in-law Doug's girlfriend Kelly had finished the half marathon with huge smiles in 2:05. This brought a HUGE smile to my face, as Ellie was nervous about her training, and Kelly had never run further than a 10K. All was well with them!
I told my family that I was doubting that sub-3 was going to happen, but that I was keeping the pace thus far. My Heart Rate was now averaging in the high 160's per mile. Not good.
I came through the half way point in 1:30 and change. The "and change" part is what did me in. I knew I wasn't going to negative split on a day like that, so I pretty much mentally gave up. Not long after the half way point, Adam told me that he figured one would need to be in 2:50 shape to run sub-3. Not a good boost to my goals. Very soon after that, he told me he was dropping back. Very bad for my goals :)
Miles 14 and 15 went okay. My heart rate was now over 170 and I was sweating like crazy. I was trying to take in the SCaps I had along with the sugars, but there simply aren't that many water stops in the first half of the course, and I was already wayyyy behind on fluids. I ran miles 14 and 15 in the 6:40 area (what the F was I thinking??) and eventually reeled back in Kurt. Being an idiot, I just kept going, right past him and continued on my own, seemingly hurrying up into my own demise.
Mile 16 is when it really hit. I fell apart. I called Ellie and told her I was slowing down. I started walking through the aid stations, keeping an eye on my HR. I figured if I could get it back down under 160 I could bring it in. Unforturnately the only way to get my heart rate anywhere under 165 was to flat out WALK. Being an idiot, I continued to run, albeit slowly, and really started to check out mentally. I've never been closer to a DNF--to quitting--than I was in this race at this point.
Luckily, at that exact moment, I heard "Brett Favre wouldn't be walking." I was surprised this topic hadn't been brought up more from the MN natives. Adam had announced his presence with this joke and was closing in from behind me and his smile helped me keep going. Soon enough we saw my parents again at mile 17...and I'll be honest--if Adam wasn't running with me at that point, I feel like I would have told them I'm done. Take me to the finish line, my wife, and the beer.
As I passed them, I told them I couldn't stop. If I did, I'd probably quit, and I couldn't quit in front of Adam. I already taken enough grief from Patten...and a DNF would make the time from now 'till next year's Chippewa unbearable.
Not long after mile 18 the wheels continued to come off. Adam motored on and I slumped into more and more self-pity. Right around Mile 20 I actually stopped and took a potty break. Big mistake. This simply added some groin chafing to the serious damage that the aid station self-sponge-showers were doing to my nipples. From mile 21 to Mile 26 I carried my NF jersey and HR strap in my hand to aid the bleeding going on from my nips. Can't wait for the race pictures to become available...should be a real treat. I've never been so close to floating the 'bird' over at a camera before. Man, I was in rough shape.
I have to interject that the crowd at Grandma's is UNBELIEVABLE. As you've probably become aware of, I was done. I was cussing every human being's existence at this point. If I didn't KNOW that a drop of alcohol would make me vomit, I would have joined in the course-side keg stands taking place at mile 22. There were more unbelievable cheering sections, garden hoses, and bands than I can list. Truly an amazing event.
The final part of the course makes its way straight through downtown Duluth, along Superior street. At this part of the course, Kurt caught me once again, during one of my many walk breaks. His enthusiasm really picked me up physically, but mentally I was gone. I ran with him for a while, absorbing every ounce of motivation he was providing. What a great guy...yet, as much as it sucks to admit, I quit one more time and started walking. Just about that time Helen came by. I yelled "Helen!" as she passed, and she muttered a sentence which I didn't catch...outside of the F bomb she dropped in the middle of it :)
Helen and Kurt continued on and I continued to get pissed at myself :)
Finally I made the turn off of Superior and into the final 1.5 miles of the course. I'll be honest...I don't remember much. At mile 26 Ellie and Kelly were waiting for me. They didn't even see me until I had already run past them. Ellie later shared that she was looking for my yellow shirt (which was in my hand) and looking for my personal running gait (which was also, apparently, non-existent). She cheered like crazy after I was about 10 yards past her, and I stopped, handed her my shirt and HR strap, gave her a look which I'm sure spoke volumes about my current mental status, and continued shuffling along. Immediately after Kelly asked Ellie if I was going to be in a completely horrible mood the rest of the weekend. Ellie answered, "I don't think so. But be sure to get him a couple beers." Damn, I love that woman :)
I eventually crossed in 3:21 and change, stopping my run ASAP upon hearing the first beep from my timing chip. I'm not sure how she made it there so quickly (or was I THAT SLOW?), but Ellie was waiting for me at the finish with a huge smile and open arms . I gave her A HUGE hug and would have probably cried had I not been SO DAMN HOT at the moment. She told me she was very proud of me and that she was expecting a 3:40 time based on how miserable I sounded over the phone.
Not long after finishing Helen came over to say congrats. She looked remarkably well recovered from her 3:17 (I think that's what she finished in) and I hate her for that. While I caught her at the end of the Chippewa 50K and finished one spot ahead, she returned the favor at Grandma's. What's your race schedule look like in the fall, Helen? :)
I also got to introduce Ellie to Adam, who was sitting on a curb in the shade, and Kurt, who was still walking around, seemingly checking on everyone else. They all came through ahead of me, but I was thankful for them, as I would've still been out there (or worse yet, in a car after quitting) if they hadn't been running.
After the run, I simply couldn't cool down. I really, really enjoy beer post-marathon, but that was NOT an option. Instead I was pouring water bottles down my legs trying to cool them off. I was not in good shape. Adam mentioned a dip in Lake Superior, which I really should have done in hindsight. Lake Superior was 180 degrees and probably a 1/4 mile from our hotel room unfortunately, so I skipped it in favor of a cold shower.
I eventually recovered enough to understand a story my dad told me about meeting another spectator who knew of an NF Endurance Team runner who was also a Chiropractor and would be wearing Plaid shorts during the run. My dad was familiar with the NF and Chiropractor stuff but (not a frequent visitor of this website :) ) knew nothing about the plaid shorts.
The plaid shorts didn't make an appearance, but I hope Glaven will be content with the shirt I wore the rest of the day Saturday (I wasn't in the mood for the "Grandma's Finisher" shirt handed out upon completion), which not only sports a bull, but also a prominent N#TS@CK :)
Duluth is absolutely gorgeous and I'm not sure how I can pass up Grandma's next year. I mean, it can't be this hot this many years in a row...right?
It's gonna take me a couple days to completely digest this sucktastic run...but in the meantime I can't complain. It's an amazing weekend, I saw some great people...and...
SUB THREE WILL HAPPEN!