I promised myself two summers ago after running the only other marathon I have dropped out of that I would never run another summer marathon.
My hotel was at Mile 22. When I woke up this morning at 5:00am, the temperature read 68 degrees. Skies were crystal clear. I knew right then that Plan B was a very likely result. So much for the predicted morning fog and mid 50s temperature.
At the starting line, the Red Flag was up which indicates the highest level of a heat advisory. Nice. Temp at the 7:30 start was already 70 degrees with humidity in the 80% range and the wind was a quartering headwind. As we watched the wheelchair racers take off, I was sweating just standing there.
For the first mile there must have been a pack of 50-60 people...mostly Kenyans. It was a nice wind shield. Everyone was going out conservativley. First mile was in 5:22. The front guys were maybe 2 or 3 seconds ahead of that. So very conservative. It was at this point I threw off my 2:19 wristband. Yep. Plan B which was basically, run a respectable 5:25 pace or so and see how I felt halfway. My dad was there to cheer me on.
Mile 2 -- 5:26 -- Felt fine but was already very thirsty. Lips and mouth were dry. I was actually excited to get to Mile 3 and get my water bottle. Still a pretty large pack of as at this point but the lead pack had put about a 10 second gap on us.
Mile 3 -- 5:24 -- Still feeling OK but very uncertain about what lie ahead. Grandma's has learned a few things over the years. They actually put the mile markers either well before or well after the water stations so that people can get their splits and their water. Grabbed my special concoction of Nuun Water and gulped down all 8 ounces. This was big.
Mile 4 -- 5:28 -- Dropped a little bit of pace but at this point I was not bothered. There was a pack of about 5-6 of us that had settled in to this 5:25ish pace and were happy to see that through to as far as we could. The lead pack of about 20-25 was well ahead of us now, probably 30-45 seconds. There was a group of three guys between us and the lead pack which included MN native Chris Lundstrom a 2:17 guy.
Mile 5 -- 5:24 -- Another much anticipated water station. Threw down 8 ounces of Gatorade. Felt good. Tasted strong. I was replacing fluids quite well.
Mile 6 -- 5:23 -- This was the first point I seriously considered dropping out. My head was not cooling off. the humidity, heat and wind were weakening me quickly. I'm simply not used to this kind of weather and there really isn't a way for me to prepare for it which is why I try to avoid it in the first place. My feet were sloshing in sweat-soaked shoes already. But I carried on. Our pack was now four guys.
Mile 7 -- 5:25 -- While I was still on Plan B pace, each mile was taking more effort just to maintain 5:25s. Got another bottle of Nuun Water and downed all of it.
Mile 8 -- 5:20 -- Not sure where this mile came from. Must have been a last ditch effort to try and stick with it. Saw my dad again and this was the first time I told him I may be dropping.
Mile 9 -- 5:33 -- Fading. Downed another 8 ounces of Gatorade but fading. Our pack was now 3 and it didn't look like it would last much longer. I was going to drop here, but saw that several Kenyans had just dropped and so I pressed on thinking there was an outside chance to get in the top 10 and win some money. I would have had I been able to hold on to even 5:30 pace.
Mile 10 -- 5:23 -- A few more Kenyans drop.
Mile 11 -- 5:40 -- Wheels start coming off but more people are dropping. I hang in. Probably a mistake.
Mile 12-14 -- 16:54 an average of 5:38 -- Forgot to stop my watch for three miles. A signal my head was now leaving me. Would have been the ideal time to drop. But I was told I was in the top 15 still and 10th gets $1,000. So I pressed on.
Mile 15 -- 5:45 -- Wheel #2 is now off.
Mile 16 -- 5:49 -- There goes wheel number 3.
Mile 17 -- 6:01 -- All wheels now off. Should have dropped here because i wasn't going to see my dad again until Mile 19.
Mile 18 -- 6:15 -- I knew I was dropping at this point so I just jogged it in trying to keep lose but limit my marathon recovery.
Mile 19 -- 6:35 -- Still jogging and happy to see my dad. I was done. Showered and bolted for the airport to catch an earlier flight and see my family.
A few thoughts:
- Was I frustrated? Yes and no. MN is a long way to go to DNF. But I did all I could both in training and during the race. The frustration is less with this race and more with the distance itself. As everyone on this blog knows the marathon is tricky. You train for months and months for one race and then on race day, so many things can go wrong: weather, illness, injury, etc. And it's not like you can have a bad race and then go run another one a week or two later like you can in the case of a 5k, 10k or even a half marathon. It's a lot of eggs in one basket.
- The great news is I drank very successfully. I had 8 ounces of fluid every two miles which is something I've never been able to do before. So the trip to Duluth may have been worth it just to discover this.
- Grandma's Marathon is a beautiful course better organized than any race I have run of any distance. The elite perks were simple but awesome. The crowd support was phenomenal and I missed the best parts...through downtown and the finish. It's great to see a town get behind an event like this. It reminded me of St. George in that way. It's just too bad the timing of this race is when it is. Late June in the upper midwest is increasingly not conducive to ideal running weather. This is the 4th or 5th year in a row that warm weather has been a major factor.
- While the course is a net downhill of about 150 feet, I would not consider it aided. It's got several uphills and lots of rollers. It's a very fair course but I wouldn't consider it crazy fast.
- The winner, Chris Rabbe, had a huge PR (2:15) and won by more than 3 minutes. He is a native Minnesotan which may explain why he was the only one in the Top 25 who PR'd.
- I learned later on that race officials briefly, but seriously considered canceling the race due to weather. I think they made the right call to carry on.
- 2:19 is likely not attainable which may shape my plans moving forward. I'm going to spend the next few weeks easing back into things. I'm going to focus on getting my iron levels up to where they should be and do all of the extra exercise and core stregthening things I need to do to be in absolute tip top shape. Then I may give it one more shot in Baltimore or Hartford or even Nashville in December. I missed quite a few local races this year training for Grandma's and I don't want to do that again chasing a goal that is not attainable. But before completely giving up on OTQ, I'm going to go through one more cycle, focus on my nutrition, namely iron levels, and give it maybe one more shot.
- One more thought...why DNF? Everyone has different goals entering a race: BQ, OTQ, hit a certain time, land in a certain place, win prize money or simply finish. I'm not at a point where finishing a marathon is all that exciting to me. I didn't fly 1400 miles across the country to finish a marathon. I could do that much closer to home. I went, first, to OTQ. Second was to get a high place and possibly win some money. When both of those goals went out the window due to conditions beyond my control, I had a decision to make. By dropping I cut my losses and allowed myself a much shorter recovery period which will allow me to do some other races in the next couple of weeks that I want to do...maybe even the Seattle RNR this coming Saturday.