Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Race Report: Grandma's Marathon 2018

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Grandma's Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

After taking a baby break from marathons for 2017, I returned to the distance this past weekend for #10. Grandma's Marathon is one that graces many bucket lists, mine included, and though I'm officially checking it off now, I can't wait to go back!

Here's how the marathon weekend went down:

Friday, June 15: Travel Day

My mom came to our house around 10 am to bring our older boys, 3 & 5 years old, to swimming lessons and watch them for the weekend. After saying our goodbyes, my husband, our 7-month-old baby, and I took off at 11:00 am for the 5 hour drive to Carlton, MN.

I opted to have my race packet mailed to our house to save some traveling stress. The $25 was well worth it. Whether we had three kids with or only one, this made our travels more leisurely and we would be able to go directly to the hotel.

After a road construction detour, a food stop and then one more stop to nurse the baby, our road trip took 6 hours total. Baby C is not our best carseat traveler but he did pretty well on the way down, provided I sat in the back to keep him company.

To Grandma's Marathon we go!

After arriving at our hotel, we made sandwiches with groceries we had picked up along the way and had a quiet evening. In all the busyness of the day I forgot to do a shakeout run when we got there. We travelled all the way there for the race... and I forgot to shakeout run? Apparently bouncing the baby to sleep was enough of a "shake out" for me.

Baby fell asleep around 7:30 pm and we just chilled that evening. 8:30 bedtime was a goal to make up for the early rise the next morning. Of course that didn't happen though. I must have finally been sleeping around 10 pm and then baby was up to nurse at 2 am. And 3 am. Our children have special sensors that alert them when mom is about to run a marathon. This isn't the first time I've gotten 4 hours of sleep before a race! ;)


Saturday, June 16: Race Day

3:45 AM - My alarm went off and the mix of adrenaline and nerves made me fly out of bed. The lack of sleep didn't seem to bother me much at the moment. I feel like your body gets used to the irregular sleep of baby years.

While my husband and baby were still sleeping, I got dressed and grabbed some continental breakfast - a bagel with pb and banana. I don't feel like eating much on a race morning but I force it down because I'll need it later. The breakfast area was very quiet as the half marathoners were already gone and maybe the marathoners were just waking up? The quiet made me a little nervous. Missing the shuttle was one of my main worries that day.

Back in the room, I pumped a bottle for baby and only got 4 oz! (Thanks to the last feeding at 3 am?) Hopefully that would be a enough for him until I was back around noon. Now that he can eat oatmeal I'm not as worried about him getting hungry while I'm gone.

5:00 AM - We stayed in Carlton because the hotel was much more $$ friendly, with two nights being the same price as ONE night in the Proctor hotel. The only downside was that my husband and our little one had to be out the door to drop me off at the shuttle. We loaded into the van and drove the 17 miles to Proctor in the fog. The day was forecasted to be a stormy one.

While in the van, I scribbled wrote 1 Timothy 6:17b on my hand to keep focused in this race: "Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment." Marathons are (mostly) fun and, sure I did sign myself up for this, but the unknowns still make me nervous. This verse reassured me that, no matter what the case, God would meet all of my needs. May I run for His glory!


5:40 AM - After hugs and goodbye kisses, I went into the AmericInn and the buses pulled up shortly after. I hopped on a "fancy" bus with cushiony, nice seats and chatted for the 20-30 minute drive to the starting line with a high school cross country coach from Iowa. The visiting was great, made the time fly by and somewhat relaxed the nerves.

6:45 AM - We pulled up to the car dealership where all of the marathon starting line business was taking place. There was a huge amount of porta potties (or so I thought), loads of buses and runners, and balloons marking the starting corral. After unloading I walked with a runner named Kelcey, mom of 3 kiddos from the Twin Cities, and then checked my extra gear bag. That's where my biggest mistake of the day happened...

I had one Razz CLIF SHOT Energy Gel in my sports bra and the rest of them were in my (already checked) gear bag. I got so carried away in conversation that I forgot to grab two more from my bag. There were 26.2 miles to cover and I was only carrying 100 calories on me! Yep, that's a problem. Of course I didn't realize this until I was waiting in the porta potty line and there wasn't any time to try to find my bag. My stomach turned into one huge knot. 

Meanwhile, amongst my gel drama, I ran into fellow runner/mom of 3 boys/homeschooling mom Danielle. I love being able to meet IG friends in person! (By the way, she ran a smoking fast 2:53 that day. WOW!)


7:15 AM - The porta potty line was pretty lengthy and we were getting antsy to line up in the corrals. Finally I made my way through the line and hurried to my pace group while keeping an eye out for my fellow BibRave Pros. I wasn't able to find Jenn and Angie but Amy S and I did run into each other while lining up! (And she ran a 2:59 for the day! So many speedy runners.)

Jenn & Angie | Amy S & me

Being 7 months postpartum, I wasn't sure what to expect in this race and decided to start conservatively. The 3:35 pace group would keep me from going out too fast and blowing up halfway through.


7:45 AM - Actually, a couple minutes after, the train sounded the start of the race! I took off just ahead of the 3:35 group and ran at whatever felt comfortable.

Physically I felt really good but mentally I was unfocused. I kept thinking, "When am I going to blow up in this race?" With it being marathon #10, the pattern seems to be that I do well in the first 20 miles but eventually blow up and need to take a walk break. (Basically, I'm struggling with negative splits.)

After mentally wrestling that negative outlook, I decided it's just best to brainwash myself: "I'm NOT going to blow up. I'm NOT going to blow up!"

Mile 1 - 8:02
Mile 2 - 7:49
Mile 3 - 7:48
Mile 4 - 7:52
Mile 5 - 7:47
Mile 6 - 7:47 - Took my one and only gel
Mile 7 - 7:48
Mile 8 - 7:51
Mile 9 - 7:59
Mile 10 - 7:38

Aside from a slight side stitch at mile 3 (maybe nerves?), the first 10 miles went by smoothly. I stuck with a pack of runners and enjoyed our strides being in rhythm. Training alone makes running in a herd feel like a special occasion. I miss the magic of a running group!

I zoned out for those early miles and enjoyed running through the cool mist coming off the lake. This part of the run was lined with trees and occasionally a peek at Lake Superior, though it was hard to see much in all the fog. This morning was absolutely perfect for a run. A nice, super long run.

Finding fuel before bonking was a concern so I prayed rather than wasting more time worrying. I know there are more important things going on in this world than a marathon, but I figured at worst, God could simply ignore my prayer. I would rather err on the side of praying too much. So I prayed. Lord, I have a whole lot of miles to cover and I need calories. Please allow something to pop up before I crash! Then I ran some more.

Mile 11 - 7:54
Mile 12 - 7:47
Mile 13 - 7:44
Mile 15 - 7:54 - BANANA!

Does God answer even our silliest prayers? Sure He does. Sometimes He even sends bananas. I was SO thankful to see a lady holding a tray full of banana chunks by the aid stations. As I ran by, I yelled, "You're a lifesaver!" before shoving the piece in my mouth and running on. Maybe I was a little dramatic but she did save me from a miserable run.

Mile 17 - 8:05
Mile 18 - 7:58
Mile 19 - 7:56
Mile 20 - 8:18
Mile 21 - 8:30

By now we were running through parts of Duluth and I loved to see all the spectators! Grandma's has a perfect mix of quiet, breathtaking scenery and then loud, fan-filled city running. I ran the entire time up to this point and my hips and legs were cramping. To get my mind off of the discomfort, I decided to walk at aid stations and up any hills if need be. That gave me a little recovery time, as my cramping muscles were relieved by the downhills.

Mile 22 - 9:31
Mile 23 - 9:38 - Just a 5k left, come on!
Mile 24 - 8:50
Mile 25 - 8:29
Mile 26 - 7:45

The gradual decline in the last couple miles of the course seemed to revive my legs and I was wobbly but feeling ready to kick it. It's funny how long the last 1.2 miles of a marathon can feel! The final "chute" seemed to last forever and turn too many times as I was trying to finish strong.

For the last sprint to the finish line's balloon arches, I ran as fast as I could while hoping I wouldn't trip over my own legs. Wouldn't that be embarrassing in front of all those people?!



3:32:17 was my official crossing time and it felt great. Honestly I felt a little emotional and held back tears while a woman put my medal on. It was a mix of gratefulness, hormones, pure joy and exhaustion. All of it.

This wasn't my best or my worst finish time but it was definitely the best I could do that day. And technically was a new "7 months postpartum PR" ;)


I hobbled around the finish area long enough to pick up some potato chips, a CLIF bar and orange juice. They had a nice variety of foods including strawberries and some other things I can't remember, but my appetite isn't the greatest immediately after a marathon.


After grabbing my bag and stretching while calling my husband, I was on the search for the return shuttle. It took a little maneuvering to figure out where the shuttle pick up was located so I followed the herd and visited with a runner from Madison, Wisconsin as we made our way. The shuttles and volunteers at Grandma's were very helpful! They made race day logistics so smooth. Finding parking in all the craziness of that day would have been rough.


My shuttle went to the Proctor AmericInn where my husband and our baby were waiting for me. Last year's race was ridiculously hot, so I heard, but this year I actually felt cold after the race. I didn't complain - I'll take racing the cold any day over the heat and humidity.

After getting back to the room, I took a hot shower and we had some time to relax while baby napped. Then we headed to the Streetcar Kitchen & Pub to celebrate an early Father's Day. I highly recommend their fish tacos and cheesecake.


So about the 3:32:17. Along with running somewhere between 3:30-4:00, my "secret other goal" was to beat my 7 months postpartum time from 2013. Marathon #6 (2013) was 7 months 9 days after the birth of our first son and marathon #10 (this one) was exactly 7 months 9 days after the birth of our third son!. How's that for crazy!

Five years older, two more kids, could I still run faster? I beat the 3:37:37 finish time by five minutes and that felt awesome. Maybe my 30's will be even faster than my 20's! In this blessed yet exhausting rollercoaster of pregnancy and babies, I feel like I have stalled out in the 3:30's - 3:20's range. Eventually I hope to break through that rut into the 3:15-ish range. Some day! As for now, I'm thankful and treasuring these times with my little, little ones :)

2013 & 2018, 7 months 9 days postpartum

That's the end of my race weekend ramblings. Thank you to my husband and our littlest for joining me on this "race-cation" and helping with race day transportation. Thank you to my parents for watching our older boys and for our neighbors who even watched our kids for my last long run. Thank you, BibRave, for making it possible for me to run Grandma's. Most importantly, thank You, Lord, allowing all of the details to fall into place!

It's been an amazing journey that I am so thankful for! Grandma's Marathon. Seriously. You need to get there. This race may rise to #1 on my favorites list!

Check out my official Grandma's Marathon review on BibRave.com and my results on Athlinks. Make sure to add your recent race results to Athlinks, too!



Let's Connect!



Linking up with Holly and Wendy's Weekly Wrap Up.

29 comments:

  1. Congratulations!! What an interesting coincidence that you did two races seven months and nine days postpartum!

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    1. I know that was crazy - couldn't have even planned that one out :) Thanks, Vanessa!

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  2. Congratulations on your 7 month 9 day post partum PR!!! And girl, you WILL be able to break through to the 3:15 zone. Maybe after the pregnancy and babies season has ended (or not-some women can bounce back faster after the 4th or 5th baby!) but regardless, your fastest days are still ahead of you!! Just keep at it!!!

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    1. Thank you, Melissa! Women like you inspire me so much. 4 babies and you're still smoking fast!

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  3. WELL DONE! i'm amazed, and i love hearing how God carried you through the race. you're an inspiration!

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  4. Excellent job!! Grandma's is such an awesome course and the crowd support is amazing. And, BTW, I know Angie in your pic LOL She's also from Iowa ;-)

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    1. It was such an amazing experience - thank you, Kimberly! I was hoping to be able to meet up with Angie that day, such a bummer it didn't work out.

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  5. You did fantastic! Sounds like the logistics worked out for you too. I agree on getting the bib mailed - that takes so much stress away when you have to travel on expo day. Were there any gels on course? The halves I've done recently have had gels 1/2 way through -- of course, the brand/flavor has to work for you.

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    1. The shuttles were key to race logistics that day - I'm SO thankful for them. There were gels at mile 17, I just wasn't sure if I would be able to make it that far! It feels like my body is burning through calories like crazy when I'm nursing!

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  6. Congrats on a great race! I loved that you were able to shake off the negative thoughts and run a great race! I think you have a lot of time to get faster. I didn't even PR a marathon until my 50s. LOL

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    1. Thank you, Wendy - you are an inspiration!

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  7. Congrats on a great race! I hope to do Grandma's one day. I went to school at UMD! But I guess I have to start liking marathons again to register for it, huh? ;)

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    1. Perfect - you really should run Grandma's and head over to your old stomping grounds!

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  8. Well done, Mama! Congrats on that speedy finish! I don't know how you juggle the kids, train for marathons, and all while breast feeding too. I've forgotten all my gels at a race because I was running my mouth with my sister. LOL. I'm so glad the banana was on course! Thanks for linking.

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    1. Thank you so much, Holly! Honestly I feel like running keeps me sane. As much as I adore my children... a good run sure an destress mommy ;) That was the best tasting banana I've ever had! haha

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  9. That's a great time for your first race back and for forgetting your gels! Speedy!

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    1. Thank you, Becca! Thank God for that one gel, the banana and a gel at mile 17 from the aid station!

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  10. Not at all making light of the prayer being answered by a banana, but have you seen any of the Minions movies? That's exactly the place I went to with your Banana! line item. Congrats on a great race

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    1. Okay, Minions is right up there for my #1 favorite movie ;) Is that weird being an adult and all?! I love that you mentioned that!

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    2. Minions are the best, at any age. And they encourage healthy eating with their banana antics so... Win win!
      There's a fruit vendor outside my subway stop and he's not familiar with the franchise, and he's learning it. So much fun

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  11. I hope you do realize that this is already a really fast time? Congrats on your race! I keep hearing such good things about it! I have forgotten important items in my checked in bag as well! It's a panic at first but always seems to work out - also was the case for you :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Renee! I was very thankful for this time - and especially for that surprise banana :)

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  12. Great job on your race! That is an awesome time so soon after having a baby. You are quite dedicated! Training for a marathon with two little ones. You go girl!

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  13. An amazing achievement and thank goodness for Banana Woman! I ran about 5 miles of my first marathon clutching a third of a banana I'd taken but didn't think I needed. Then O I WANTED IT and I had kept it. Phew.

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    1. Banana woman to the rescue! I never eat bananas on the run and I'm thankful there weren't any GI "surprises" that came up after devouring that one :) Good thing you carried your banana with!!!

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  14. Congratulations on your marathon and your 7 months postpartum PR! I have heard such great things about Grandma's Marathon. I'm glad that your prayers were answered and you didn't blow up during the race!

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    1. Yes I'm so thankful! Grandma's is definitely one I want to go back to. Dare I say it was even more fun than Boston?!

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