Grandma’s Marathon 2015 Recap

by Joanne on June 21, 2015

Duluth, Minnesota has a lot going on during Grandma’s Marathon.  If the weather is good, it’s a nice place to spend a few days before and after the marathon.  Since I was on my own during this trip and didn’t have a rental car, my explorations took me only within 3 miles of the hotel, Radisson Harbor View.  A nice place to stay, logistically, for marathon goings on.  The expo at DECC is within 1 mile as is the finish line.  Buses to the start pick athletes up right from the hotel between 5:45 and 6:15.  More details on the expo found HERE: Friday Going into Grandma’s.

There is parking around DECC and the finish area but not much parking at the starting area on race day. There are many, and I do mean MANY bus options to get to the start so it’s best to park at the finish or DECC. The train even offers a ride to the start, loading at 5:20 am, also by the Radisson.

The day before the marathon, a bus tour of the course is offered at 1 and 3 pm. HIGHLY recommended since it’s only $5.00 and very informative. Plus, you can see how rolling the route actually is.  Get tickets from “INFO” right upon entering the expo.

Marathon Recap.

The weather was looking terrible, threatening heavy rain and thunderstorms.  Temperatures were going to start in the 50’s and by later in the day, reach into the high 60’s. 

My alarm went off at 4:20 am and a Clif Bar began my day.  My stomach still seemed off (it had been unsettled this entire trip) and when I took the 5 Hour Energy (which ALWAYS gets things “going”), the rest of my time in the room was spent in the bathroom.  Initially I thought this was a good thing before the race but then it turned into upset tummy troubles and THAT made me nervous.  Still, it wasn’t a race stopper.

At 5:45, I went downstairs to catch the bus.  The coach buses were parked and picking up elite athletes. There seemed to be some confusion as school buses were itching to come in to pick up the rest of us.  I think we finally left around 6:10.  More confusion. The bus driver went around the lake park and had to stop and ask “which way am I supposed to go?!” as roads were blocked off.   We did make it to the start but it wasn’t until 6:50 am. I ate a banana on the bus at 6:40.

Starting Area.

If it’s raining and cold, there is not cover for athletes.  When we exited the buses, it began raining and while in the porto potty line, it down poured.  I had a sweat shirt on and a garbage bag.  It was COLD! Lines were long so there was only enough time for one porto trip before dropping off my bag.  Runners were huddled underneath the bag drop buses to get out of the rain.  I kept my garbage bag and couldn’t stop the whole body shakes during the 15 minutes waiting for gun time.

Let the Race Begin 7:45 am.

The rain stopped just as we started running. Athletes blanketed the road as far as the eye could see.  The train followed us along for a while, blowing the horn, which got annoying. I was positioned just so I could see the 3:45 pacer on my right. I wanted to hold on to that pace. Still in that garbage bag since my body couldn’t shake the cold.

My legs felt fine during the run but my mind was in a bad place. Right from mile 1 I wanted it to be over, even going so far as hoping for a lightening storm so they would cancel the race. Bad place. Even though there were many moments I wanted to drop out, I kept plugging on.  At mile 6, I tossed the garbage bag. At mile 8 I had to stop at a porto but got right in so it put me behind about 2 minutes. At mile 10 we could see the draw bridge at the finish line across Lake Superior.  How cruel is that?!  I threw my arm warmers at this point.

around 10

My point to point goals were:  1. Make it to the half way point where the half marathoners had started at 6:15 that morning.  2. Focus on getting to the 18 mile split onto London Road where the race enters into town. 3. Set my sights on mile 22 when we run up Lemon Drop hill.  4. Get up and over mile 23 1/2 which is a very short, steepish incline onto Superior Ave.  and finally, 5. Run towards the cobblestones and the Radisson where the course zips right down hill to the lake front and there is only 1 mile to go, weaving around the parking lots and finally to the finish line.

Miles 1 – 18:  Very tough for me. I never wanted to drop out so bad. I wasn’t running that fast just my head was all negative.  By mile 16, I began taking walking breaks. Reaching the 18 mile split was uplifting and gave me some positive thoughts.  Took 1/2 a gel at mile 3, another 3/4 gel at mile 12, a full Clif gel at 17 (handed out by volunteers and too thick in texture for me…BLAH!).

Mile 18 split

Miles 19 – 22:  The crowds grew and lined the road, cheering, yelling, and motivating as spectators do best.  There were bananas, salt water toffee, oranges, ice, water, Powerade, along the route, even before entering town.  There was even a table with “Free Coffee”.  Sports Beans, about 4 eaten at 21.

Mile 22- 24:  Walked part of Lemon Drop which is not a big hill and easily handled if the mind and body is having a good race. I wasn’t so I walked a little.  When I hit the sharp turn towards Superior, expecting mile 24, it was 23 1/2, not a big deal but again, something negative to use as an excuse. 

Lemon drop hill

Mile 24 – 26.2:  Still tons of crowd support.  The temperatures had warmed and the sun was coming out.  When I hit the cobblestones, initially I was thrilled, “Almost There!” but then they bothered my feet so I had to focus on tuning them out and look straight ahead towards the tubular shaped Radisson.  We turned and I enjoyed that short down hill, then up and over the ramp (another excuse to walk).  My legs were starting to give in and that last mile seemed so long.  It weaved through crowds, around roads, up ramps and round tight corners.  The guy beside me was grunting and cursing himself.  I wasn’t that bad but had a tough time holding on to cross that finish line.

Grandmas’ Marathon:   18th Marathon Finish for me.   3:50:46 Net time (8:49 pace).  Over all finishers 6075. I finished 2189.  Over all women finishers 2639.  I finished 627.  Age group finish was 32 out of 206. Age graded 71%


The bling:

finish bling

After the marathon.

I was standing in line to get a massage but once I finally got to the tent, there were still a lot of folk sitting and waiting plus it was hot in there I felt sick just feeling the heat from the outside of the tent. Decided to take my drink ticket and get a beer.  Summer Ale sounded good. It wasn’t and after 2 sips, it went into the trash.  Then I waited for results to be posted on the boards.  Somewhat disappointed, was hoping my net time was under a 3:49 but still, 3:50:46 is my 3rd BQ this year AND the worst so I’ll use my best time of 3:46 from Phoenix to run Boston in 2016.

Trudged back to the hotel via the Skywalk, stopping in Starbucks for coffee and to watch the 5 hour runners tackle the last couple of miles.


Once back in the room, I took a bath in epsom salts then ventured back to the finish area for something to eat at Bellisio’s, an Italian restaurant noticed during my walk around the previous day.  It was 3pm and there was only a limited menu.

Bellisagios menu

The wine was very good! Cambria Katherine Valley Chardonnay. “Zesty citrus, white peach, juicy pineapple, fill the palate with mouth watering layers of fruit.”

Cambria Katherine Vineyard Chardonnay

Didn’t really have much that I wanted to eat but settled on a Mixed Salad with Pine nuts and shaved Parmesan plus the Tradition Bruschetta.  Service was slow and prices unreasonable but I was in no mood to get up and try to find something else. The area was pretty crowded.

Brucshetta and mixed green salad

Three marathons within 6 months is too much.  I did it twice before but ran with Ted so I knew I could run slow and enjoy the course. These last 3, I ran at race pace and it was too much.  I’ll stick to 2 marathons per race seasons, Spring and Fall, from now on, or until that gets too much.   Next marathon recap will be Marine Corp in October. If you’re running it, let me know.  I’ll see you there.

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  • At 2015.06.21 17:46, 2015 Race Schedule said:

    […] Grandma’s Marathon:  6/20/2015 Duluth MN:  Recap HERE.  3:50:46, pace=8:49 and 32 of 206 in age […]

    • At 2015.06.21 21:04, Tina@GottaRunNow said:

      Cobblestones at the end would make the finish even tougher, but cheering spectators always helps. Congrats on yet another BQ!
      Tina@GottaRunNow´s last blog post ..Black Hills of South DakotaMy Profile

      • At 2015.06.21 21:30, Joanne said:

        Thanks Tina.

        • At 2015.06.22 23:49, Mary said:

          Such perseverance! The threatening bad weather/upset stomach combo was a lot to deal with, congratulations on getting through it.
          Mary´s last blog post ..Maple Candied Pecans, the Oven MethodMy Profile

          • At 2015.06.23 10:31, Joanne said:

            Thanks Mary. I’m not sure what put me off my game but I certainly had more mental perseverance in my
            last two marathons this year. Hope it comes back to get me thru Marine Corp with a time to be proud of.

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