GRANDMA’S MARATHON 2017
Duluth,Minnesota June 16 -June 18, 2017
I love Grandmas Marathon. It was my comeback to running race back in 2014 after 3 years of treatment for an autoimmune disease. I had a fantastic time in 2014 and since I needed to regain fitness and confidence in my body and the timing of the race fit in with our planned return to the PCT hike, a return to Grandma’s was meant to be.
After 5 months of gradual buildup in training I arrived in Duluth on late Thursday night fit as I’ve ever been. I realised after I made my flight booking from Sydney that the race was on Saturday not the traditional Sunday. A total of 4 flights in 25 hours to arrive at 10pm Thursday did not leave me much time to aclimitise and get over jetlag.
Friday before the race was a glorious day with perfume of blossoming lilacs ever-present in the warm breeze coming off the lake. Race day was predicted to be overcast with some rain, perfect racing conditions. I had expectations for this race: I trained well and was in sub4hr marathon shape; I was aiming for another Boston Marathon qualifier (4:10 for my age group); and conditions were predicted to be perfect. I was tired by late afternoon Friday but forced myself to stay awake till it got dark, about 8.30pm. I promptly fell asleep only to wake after 9.00pm and was then unable to get back to sleep till sometime after 2.00am. At this stage I was worried about falling asleep and possibly missing the alarm in 3 hours time. So less then ideal rest, the night before the race. But I was comforted by the fact that I slept for 10hours the night before.
Race day dawned overcast as predicted, it rained a little before the race started. And so it stayed pretty perfect conditions for the first 5km of the race. My plan was to run 5.35 -5.45min/km pace till 30k and then it’s a kilometre by kilometre adjustment. At around 5k the clouds lifted and the sun came out. It started to get hot, there was little breeze and hardly any shade. I was on target till about 14k when I started to feel beginning of calf cramps. I adjusted my stride and eased off the pace. The building cramps moved into my quads and hips. My ankle was feeling tender at the fracture spot, I did not want to jeopardise the hike. I thought I was imagining the pain, my mind playing tricks to get me to stop. By 27k I was I seriously considering pulling out and then the 4 hour pacer went by.
So I let go of Goal A and settled on finishing in 4.05 or less in order to still have a reasonable chance at a Boston Qualifier. At each aid station were icy cold sponges. These felt amazingly good, so I just settled on running from one aid station to the next, conscious of seconds lost could make the difference. Cramps were on edge but not debilitation. I was never sure with each step if I would be brought to a crippling stop. So I just kept moving. The last 10k were through town with lots of spectators and music. Normally I love this but not today, I just wanted to cross that finish line. I stopped looking at my watch and just went as hard as I could. I felt that 4.05 was still possible but did not want to look at my watch. After a few frustrating turns the finish line was in sight and my agony would soon be over. I crossed the line disappointed to see the clock register 4.07. So Goal B had slipped away as well. I was further disappointed later to see that my finish time of 4:07:46, while meeting the Boston Qualifying time, will most likely not be enough. The cut last year was 2min28sec inside the qualifier. So I am 14 seconds short of last years entry times.
But these were not my first thoughts as I crossed the line. As soon as I stopped running my legs cramped so badly I couldn’t move. I resisted the offer of a wheelchair after the finishline and walked until the cramping subsided. I got some food and regrouped. There was nothing more I could have done on the day, I gave it my all. And the months of training have been the most rewarding of times. Learning to appreciate the small moments of equisite beauty in my so familar neighbourhood. And I know that my body is ready for the return to the PCT.