This is a blog post I’ve been waiting a long time to write — my first full marathon recap! I ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN on Saturday, June 22. A lot can happen over the course of 26.2 miles, so I’ve got plenty to share. Let’s dive in:
The week leading up to the race
About 10 days before the marathon, I started having pain in the same spot as my stress fracture from last fall (my right tibia). I made the decision to skip my final week of runs and rest my leg for the race. I did my best to manage the anxiety that developed along with the leg pain. Re-reading Deena Kastor’s “Let Your Mind Run” helped quite a bit and helped keep my spirits and excitement high. Since I couldn’t really control my knee pain, I tried to focus on things I could control: icing/resting my leg, getting lots of sleep, hydrating and fueling well, and packing/making sure I had everything I needed for race day (spoiler alert: I still forgot some pretty important stuff).
The day before the race
My family few into Minneapolis the day before the race, which was so exciting and wonderful. We went out to breakfast and played a few games of Bananagrams (a family favorite) before I headed up to Duluth around 12:30 pm. Duluth is about 2.5 hours away from the Twin Cities but I got stuck in terrible traffic on my way up, so it took me closer to 3.5 hours. When I finally pulled up to our hotel (The Edgewater), I was feeling super exhausted from being in the car for so long, plus getting up really early to finish cleaning my casa before my family arrived. I checked into our room and then headed straight to the Expo, which was held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.
A few weeks ago, when I ran the Get in Gear half marathon, the weather forecast was looking pretty rough for race day — rain, snow, wind, cold temps, the whole sha-bang. I wasn’t looking forward to racing in those conditions, but at the same time, I knew it would be good to experience a long run in that kind of weather before Grandma’s. So I did my best to put on a smile and went out to buy a poncho. Turns out, I wouldn’t end up needing it — it was chilly and cloudy, but no rain or snow. I was relieved but still thought to myself, “I hope I can experience running in wet conditions before the marathon.”
Well friends, the universe listened. And boy did she deliver.
Fast forward to yesterday, the day of my first 20-miler and the Women Run the Cities 10-mile race. Once again, the forecast was looking grim: 100% chance of rain, high of 45 degrees, 25 mph winds. But this time, the storm didn’t blow over — it was here to stay. And I would finally get my super wet racing experience.
I decided to run Women Run the Cities even though I had a 20-miler scheduled for that weekend because it’s, quite simply, my favorite race of the year and I couldn’t imagine missing it. There’s just something about being in a huge crowd of women, cheering each other on, celebrating every step. It’s magical. So I decided to include the race in my 20-miler. I planned to run 10 on my own early in the morning before the race started and then 10 later in the morning.
I knew the weather was going to be rough, so I planned ahead Saturday night to help make things smoother on Sunday. I laid out two different complete running outfits, one for the first 10 and one for the race, since I knew I’d want to change into dry clothes in between. I also had everything packed for the race, so I could dash out the door quickly after changing.
I woke up at 4 am on Sunday — the earliest I’ve ever gotten up for a long run! I drank a big glass of water with a UCan Berry Hydrate Electrolyte Packet mixed in, ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and piled on my rain/cold weather gear — my normal running clothes, plus a waterproof jacket, brimmed hat and gloves. By 5 am, I was out the door.
It was still dark out when I started and I don’t really ever run in the dark, so part of me was a bit on edge for the first few miles. But once the sun started to come up, I really relaxed and enjoyed listening to all the birds waking up around me. I ran past the set-up for Women Run the Cities — it was super cool to see it early in the morning when they were just putting everything together, and then again later on when set-up was all complete. Those staff and volunteers work HARD to get the whole race set up in just a few hours!
It was pouring rain and I was totally soaked, but it really didn’t bother me too much. My feet got cold towards the end because of all the puddles I ran through, but other than that, I wasn’t that uncomfortable. I brought a pack of Honey Stinger energy chews and ate half at mile 3 and the other half at mile 6.
I finished my first 10-miles with an average pace of 12:06, which is pretty good for me on a long run. I was home for about 30 minutes to change into dry clothes, re-hydrate with some Gatorade and feed my pets breakfast. Before I knew it, I was heading back out, this time with a poncho and some throw-away waterproof pants.
It was really pouring by the time I got to the race (which is luckily about 5 minutes from my house, so I didn’t have to drive far). I checked my bag and then took refuge under a pavilion with all the other runners while we waited for the start time (8:30 am). I was feeling really stiff and cold at this point — my legs were starting to ache from the earlier run and I wasn’t feeling super excited to do it all over again.
I stayed in this negative head space for the first two miles or so of the race. I was running with the 12-minute-per-mile pace group and had a goal of sticking with them the whole time. But the pace felt super fast early on and I had doubts that I could hang with them for the remainder of the race. Luckily, once my muscles warmed back up and my body relaxed, the pace started to feel much easier and I was comfortably running with the pack. It also definitely helped that the rain let up a bit around mile 4 of 5; instead of pouring, it was now more of a heavy mist.
I brought another pack of Honey Stinger chews for the race; this time I took one-third at mile 2, one-third at mile 5 and one-third at mile 7. I really felt great for the last 7 or 8 miles of the race — the pace felt easy, my breathing was relaxed and even the two big hills we covered weren’t too difficult. Before I knew it, the finish line was there. I honestly felt like I could have kept going, which is something I *rarely* experience after a long run.
I finished the second 10 miles faster than the first, with an average mile pace of 11:58. My combined 20-mile run time clocked in at 4 hours, 44 seconds, for an average overall mile time of 12 min/mile even. I was super happy with my time!
I got my medal and some finish line snacks (half a banana, a bag of chips, a bottle of water and a small bottle of chocolate milk). I then grabbed my bag from back-check and changed into the warm rain jacket that I had packed for after the race (I was super happy that I thought to do that!). But even with the warm jacket, I still got cold really fast. I headed over to the post-race brunch (yep, you read that right) to re-fuel. They had mini quiches, fruit cups, bagels and donuts. I grabbed two huge (and delicious) glazed donuts, mostly because they were easy to carry and I already had a lot of stuff in my arms.
Then I grabbed a mimosa (yep, you read that right again), which was so delicious and totally hit the spot. I also got a sample of the 26.2 Brew beer (and a free koozie!) but they were making runners finish the whole drink in the brunch area and my teeth were starting to seriously chatter at this point, so I only had a few sips before I threw it out. I felt really guilty for not drinking more of it, but I was just so cold, I knew I needed to get out of those wet clothes (this is also why I don’t have any post-race pics — sorry!). I happily ate my donuts on the short walk back to my car and was a bit alarmed when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that my lips were turning blue. Again, I luckily live right around the corner, so I was home and in a hot shower in just 5 minutes.
After getting into my PJs and compression calf sleeves, I had an avocado sandwich and the chips from the race, plus the chocolate milk and another Gatorade. I happily climbed into bed for a 2-hour nap with my dogs. When I woke up, I felt a bit stiff, but overall really great — I definitely did not feel like I had run 20 miles earlier in the day! I did a lot of meal prep for the upcoming week, watched A Star Is Born (again) and was back in bed at 8 pm for a good night’s sleep.
Despite the wet conditions, Sunday was a great experience and it gave me a lot of confidence for the last 5 weeks of training. I know running 20 miles with a break in between will feel different (and probably easier) than running that distance consecutively. My second 20-miler (which I’ll run in one go) will be in two weeks and I’m legitimately excited to see how I do.
It wasn’t lost on me yesterday that the next time I put a bib on, it will be for my first marathon. I’m so excited for Grandma’s and feeling so grateful that so far (knock on wood) my body is healthy and ready for 26.2!
Welcome to the inaugural post of the Tryna Run blog! What better way to kick off this whole shebang then with a good, old-fashioned race recap? Let’s dive into my most recent race, the 2019 Get In Gear Half Marathon.
The race was held on April 27 at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, MN — conveniently located about five minutes from my house. I registered just about a month before the event. I wasn’t planning on running another half before Grandma’s because I had just run one in February (the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando. It was *literally* magical, but that’s for another post). But I was super sick the week before the Princess Half and humidity that day was at 90%, so my best friend and I walk-ran most of the race. I knew our final time of 3:32:35 was not at all a reflection of how fast I could race, so I wanted to get another half — one where I was actually racing — under my belt before Grandma’s. Here’s how it went:
The day before: I worked a full, busy day the Friday before the race and then went out to dinner, where I filled up on a delicious turkey burger and fries. I headed over to Minnehaha Park around 7 pm for packet pick-up, which was open until 8. (Side note to any race directors who may be reading: Having a late packet pick-up is so helpful and very appreciated!) The pick-up process was super smooth and quick. The bibs and t-shirts were located in different areas of the park and I didn’t totally understand why, but it worked out fine. I then headed home and pretty much went straight to bed; I was pretty emotionally exhausted from an intense week at work and wanted to get as much rest as possible before the race.
The morning of: Like I mentioned earlier, the course was located super close to my house so I slept in a bit longer than I usually would the morning of a race. I got up at 6:45 am, with the race starting at 9. I ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and drank a glass of water/small cup of coffee. I had been going back-and-forth all week on what I was going to wear for the race. The forecast a few days out said it was going to be in the 30s with 100% chance of rain and even some snow mixed in. But by morning-of, it had changed to a temp of about 45 with only a 30% change of rain. Ultimately, I decided to wear my Saucony spandex shorts, Under Armour v-neck tee, New Balance lightweight rain jacket (can’t find the exact link, but this is close), and a free running hat I got at a race last summer. I also wore some cheap waterproof Nike warm-up pants that I got at GoodWill as throw-away gear when it was looking like it would rain a ton. After applying lots of Body Glide and getting dressed, I drank a big glass of water mixed with UCAN Performance Energy Powder (orange flavor) and then headed out around 8:15 am.
Bag Check + OMG I GOTTA PEE: I parked about a quarter of a mile away from the start line, so I arrived at the pre-race area by 8:30. It was pretty chilly out and I was regretting that I hadn’t brought gloves. I also sent my husband some nervous texts when I realized that very few people were wearing shorts and most had on a lot more layers than I did — he assured me that I had run in every type of Minnesota weather and he was confident I made the right decision in my gear (#ThanksRich). He ended up being right — tons of people took off outer layers once the race was about to start. I waited in line for a bit to use the indoor bathrooms, which gave me the chance to stay out of the cold and keep warm. Afterwards, I reluctantly took off my warm-up pants and checked my bag. This was at about 8:50 am. I was starting to walk to the corral when my bladder urgently informed me it had magically re-filled in the 10 minutes since I last went. Super fun. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had so much liquid in such a short amount of time before the race. Next time, I’ll wake up earlier so I have more time to pee at home.
Anyways — back to the race. I jogged over to the Port-o-Potties and got in a long line. I finally got into one at about 8:58 and then ran over to the corrals. I usually like to get to my corral 10-15 minutes before the race starts, so this was cutting it super close for me and my anxiety was high. I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm myself. Within 30 seconds of arriving to the corral, the start gun went off and we were officially off!
The Course – Part 1: The first third of the course was either flat or downhill. I was feeling great during these early miles. Coming down the huge hills, I started feeling anxious about the fact that I was going to have to go back *up* them in just a short while. But instead of focusing on that worry, I tried to instead just cheer on the super fast runners who had already passed the turnaround point. Seriously, the other runners near me must have been so annoyed by my constant shouts of “WAY TO GO” and “LOOKIN’ GOOD” every time someone passed me in the opposite direction. But I couldn’t help it, I was in cheerleader mode.
Splits for miles 1-4: 11:03, 11:18, 11:27, 11:29
The Course – Part 2: This is where things got rough, just like I knew it would. Tackling these big hills was not fun, but I thought a lot about what my Insta friend Katherine (@katherun26.2) had posted about the day before: “Prepare for the race to hurt. Visualize your race ending how you have been training for it to with your goal time on the clock, but also visualize the hurt that comes with racing and yourself working out of a rough patch (like how you have in a workout before and ended up still hitting your splits!).” Such great advice, right? Going up those hills, I just kept saying to myself “you knew it was going to be hard, this is where it counts.” Katherine also recommended coming up with a mantra to help you get through those hard miles. My mantra for this race, and particularly for those hills, was “head up, heart up, keep moving.” This helped me keep my form in check and, before I knew it, the worst of the hills were behind me. During this part of the race, I also fueled a good bit — I ate half of my Honey Stinger fruit smoothie energy chews at mile 6 and the other half at mile 9.
Splits for miles 5-9: 11:11, 11:33, 11:39, 12:00, 11:26
The Course – Part 3: Part two of the course was hard physically. Part three was hard mentally. By mile 11, I just felt ready to be done. I found myself taking a few small walk breaks. I could feel my mental energy draining. So I decided to focus on picking off the runners in front of me. One at a time, I focused on reeling them in and passing them by. With one mile left, I really started pushing, just wanting to get to that finish so badly. I was super happy to see that my last mile was my fastest of the whole race. I crossed the finish line in 2:31:36 with an average mile time of 11:34 and a huge smile.
Splits for miles 10-13.1: 11:24, 11:35, 11:15, 10:57
Recovery: The smile, unfortunately, didn’t last long. Very shortly after I stopped running (like before I had even collected my medal), it felt like all the muscles in both legs started seizing up and cramping. I limp-walked to a grassy area and tried to stretch out a bit. I managed to smile for some post-race pictures but was still hurting pretty bad. After grabbing my bag from gear check, I headed to the refreshment tent and grabbed two chocolate milks, two bananas and some Great Harvest Bakery rolls (always a favorite post-race treat). Then came the hardest part of the day: the walk back to my car. I hobbled the quarter mile, trying to hold back tears from the pain in my legs. I seriously considered calling my husband and asking him to come get me. But just like with the end of the race, I tried to focus on keeping myself moving. A few times, I felt really nauseous and thought I was going to throw up, so I’d crouch down in preparation. Luckily, nothing came up and I made it to my car, albeit slowly and painfully. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I should have gone to the medical tent and gotten some help?
As soon as I got home, I got in the hottest bath of my life (with some Epson salts and bubble bath) and my leg muscles almost immediately started relaxing and the pain decreased greatly. Once out of the tub, I rubbed some muscle rub all over my legs, pulled on my leg compression sleeves and got in my PJs. I finished my chocolate milks and ate one of the bananas while some white rice cooked in the rice cooker. After eating a big bowl of white rice with soy sauce (one of my favorite post-race meals), I posted my race time on Instagram and took a 2-hour nap with a heating pad. When I woke up, my legs were tired but I felt pretty good in general and started to get ready for a work party at my boss’ house.
Overall, this was a great race and I had a blast. I had hoped to break 2:30 and even though I was 90 seconds late, I’m really proud of how hard I pushed. I’m feeling much more confident in my fitness and readiness for Grandma’s, which is really what this experience was all about. I would definitely run this race again and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good spring half in Minnesota!