I recently ran the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN, placing 16th overall with a time of 2:42:02 (a PR!). My training for this first post-baby marathon has been very consistent. Following a freak hamstring tweak that knocked me out from running for 2-3 weeks in April, I have seen my body steadily become stronger over the past 8-9 weeks. I have worked closely with my coach of several years to come to a formula that allows for sufficient quality and recovery mileage without pushing my injury-prone body into the danger zone. We seem to have found the post-baby sweet spot for me!
The lead up to my race was great: I was healthy, fresh out of the end of the semester, and feeling strong. My taper went well: although I had some energy-charged sleepless nights full of buzzing energy, to be honest, the load of grad school work plus motherhood plus training (at any level!) precluded any taper-induced neuroses and obsessions over preparation. I went into this race knowing I had prepared well and if I could put the final capstone on this process, my results would reflect that work; last-minute “cramming” was not going to get me anywhere!
Race weekend was exciting, in every sense of the word. Travel delays, flight cancelations, creative transportation decisions, and baggage fiascos all contributed to the most comically convoluted day of travel of my life. Luckily, I had my racing gear with me, although my other gate-checked baggage was stranded on the tarmac in a lightning storm and flooding as the Minneapolis airport was closed for weather concerns.
Confident that eventually, one way or another, my baggage would find its way to me, or I would find my way to a Target and buy some extra sweats and clothes, I arrived in Duluth via shuttle.
My husband, champion of patience that he is, traveled all day Friday amidst his own delays with our toddler daughter. He arrived Friday evening, and planned to ride the scenic North Shore Railroad Saturday morning, which had a marathon special where spectators on the train shadow the racers as the race course paralleled much of the rail road. As exciting as a marathon may be for the participants, we thought this was a good option for spectators – especially of the toddler age group.
As soon as I woke up on race morning, the chaos of the previous days was absent from my mind. I knew that I had absolutely nothing to lose in this race: any finish would be a win, whether or not I reached my goal of the Olympic Trials B standard time; in fact, just completing the training for this marathon cycle was a win! This knowledge left me calm, confident, and happy to be able to explore racing as a mother.
The race started on a chilly, foggy morning with us runners surrounded on all sides by towering pine trees dripping moisture in the early light. The dense fog dampened the sounds of the thousands of runners I knew were behind me, and left me largely racing alone or in and out of small groups of women as I kept to my pace. I had planned on running a conservative pace through 16 or even 20 miles, and then racing the last 10km as I felt my body would handle. At halfway, I felt fresh, and at 16 miles, I was still telling myself to hold back. At 20 miles, I decided that I was now close enough to push the pace a little and the miles from 20-25 were the fastest of my entire race. I felt smooth, although I was starting to become more aware of the effort my legs were making as my left calf was tightening up. As I ran into downtown Duluth I was filled with giddy happiness as I saw some fellow NM runners cheering their heads off for me, and when I passed the clock at mile 25 and realized that I had nearly 8 minutes to run the last mile in to make the Trials mark, I let out a giggle of relief and excitement (ok, perhaps I was getting a little delirious!). The last mile, with its many twists and turns was the longest of the race; I crossed the finish line grinning, and was moved to tears of happiness when I saw my husband and daughter bundled up and cheering for me at the finish line.
We spent a few days as a family in Minnesota, exploring new landscapes and reveling in the actualization of this big goal. This marathon success was truly achieved only by a true family effort. We were all exhausted: travel is hard on a toddler, and even harder on the primary caregiver, which on this trip was my husband. Marathoning + travel had exhausted me, so truthfully, John had two toddlers to care for on this trip! We turned to eating copious amounts of pie to refuel from this fatigue.
We are now back in NM, recovered, back in our routines and back in the 100 degree temperatures. I am on a rest from running, after the longest block of training I have had in three eventful years. Reflecting on this marathon, how flawless and effortless the execution of this goal seemed, I am excitedly planning my fall and winter racing schedule, to build on my current fitness and momentum. At the moment, however, I am enjoying the flip side of successful training: rest. Sleeping in as late as the baby will let me, stretching gently and working out race and travel kinks, I can feel my body recovering and my mind refreshing itself as I look forward to the mental and physical efforts of the next training block with excitement and anticipation of great running ahead.