Grandma’s Marathon race recap – part 2

4:30am came pretty quickly – although I felt reasonably awake and ready.  The weather was pretty ideal – the temps would be in the 50s for the whole race, overcast, some fog and mist.  There ended up being a slight headwind in parts of the race – but nothing serious.

Derek drove me to the bus stop, I hopped on a bus and was off to the start.  I had a great time talking with the guy next to me on the bus – I think this was his 45th marathon!  Wow.  At the starting area, I just milled about until it was time to get into the corral.  They didn’t have formal corrals or waves – but they had signs showing expected finish times.  I planted myself halfway between the 3:35 and 3:45 signs.

I felt surprisingly calm that morning – perhaps all of the distraction and stress from the day before actually helped me not worry too much about the race.  I had a plan – go out at 8:20s (no faster than 8:15s) and see where it goes from there.

The race started and we were off.  I actually started out a bit fast – my watch was telling me I was running 8:06/8:10 for those first few miles – but I felt great, my heart rate was low – so I didn’t worry about it too much, just tried to keep it controlled.  I did think – man, if Derek and Beth see my 5k split they are going to be worried that I’ve gone out too fast.  But luckily for me – there was no 5k split and they didn’t get the 10k split until after they got my half split – so all good!

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It is a great course – pretty much one road all the way from Two Harbors to Duluth, MN.  On the shore of Lake Superior.  Tree-lined, quiet road.  It was really foggy – so we couldn’t see much of the lake (nor could we see the bridge which indicates the finish line – lots of people mention how a characteristic of Grandma’s is that you see the finish line bridge with at least 13 miles to go).  The road is undulating more than rolling – the uphills weren’t so noticeable except that your pace was a little slower, some of the downhills were a little noticeable.

The road got a little monotonous – so that left a lot of time for thinking, and fractions, and convincing yourself that nothing hurts that bad yet.  I felt strong pretty much the whole way – which isn’t to say that it was easy – I definitely wanted to stop running and had to bear down and concentrate to finish it out.  But I was running well – pretty easy, good pace, I could tell I had about a minute on my goal time of 3:40 (based on my pace tat) – so I told myself when I had 12 miles to go, that if I needed to, I could ease up the pace by 5 sec/mile and I would still hit my goal.

Derek and my friend Mary (who graciously hosted us for the weekend) did an amazing job spectating.  They saw me at miles 6, 12, 19, 24.5, and then the overpass right by the finish.  Frank (Mary’s beau) and Patti (another curling friend) joined them at mile 19.  It was so great to have them cheering for me at each spot.  I really tried hard to smile and wave each time so that they would know I was doing fine.

My feet started hurting pretty early on – so I got worried that I might develop some blisters.  But I kept telling myself – that’s another mile down that didn’t hurt that bad and I tried hard not to project how I might feel down the road (which is just wasted worry).  Different parts of my body hurt on and off – my right achilles, my right hip, my left knee.  But luckily – they each would go away.

I got something to drink at every water stop – generally alternating between water and powerade.  And I had my gels every 5 miles.  We entered Duluth around mile 19 – so the crowds started getting steadier.  I concentrated really hard during mile 19 (as that’s where I fell last time) and after I passed the “spot” – I kept telling myself that every mile now was a moral victory.

By mile 20 – I was pretty sure that I would finish and that I would qualify.  I had enough time built up and I was still running well.  Lemon Drop hill at mile 22 really wasn’t a bad hill – not that steep or long.  I took it strongly and was starting to get excited and emotional.  It was still mental to finish – I had some looks of concentration and determination (and perhaps a few grimaces) during those last few miles.

The “this is so easy, I’m sleep-walking through it” photo:766356-1112-0010s

The “Look at me smiling for the photographer” photo, followed by the “ok, this is hard and I need to gut it out” photo and the “must concentrate to finish” photo

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When I saw Derek and my friends at 24.5 – I really started getting choked up.  Because I knew I would do it, Derek knew I would do it, and we both knew that the other person knew now too.  I had to yell at myself to stop getting emotional – because I couldn’t breathe.  Time for tears later!

As we turned the corner to head to the DECC, came down a hill and saw the mile 25 marker – I started speeding up.  I was feeling strong and determined.  I knew I was going to do it.  I knew it was just a little bit longer.

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Derek and my friends were on the overpass and I was psyched because Derek saw me finishing strong.  I saw balloons up ahead and asked the guy next to me – is that the finish?  He said yes – I started sprinting (well, what a sprint looks like for me after 26 miles) – but then realized that it was just the 26 mile marker – drat!

But the finish was visible soon and I took it home.  As I crossed I was overcome with emotion.  I started crying – ugly face crying – and a volunteer asked me if I was ok.  Yes – I’m just happy.  Really, really happy.  I got my medal, a carnation, my finisher’s shirt, some pictures and went to find Derek.  When we found each other – he gave me a big, big hug.

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Finally – after all these miles, all these days of doubt, the injuries from last year, the uncertainty, the dedication and discipline, all the obstacles – I had had the race of my life.  I laughed as I neared the finish – because last year, in preparation for the Lehigh Valley marathon, I had been writing down 3:39 as a motivator in my journal.  And the clock, as I was nearing the finish line, read 3:38:56 (I think my final gun time was 3:39:10).

3:37:31 was my final net time.

I PR’d.  I qualified for Boston by over 17 minutes.  I beat the qualifying time I needed last year (in the 40-44 age group) by over 7 minutes.  I even beat the qualifying time for the 35-39 age group by 2.5 minutes.  I beat my goal of 3:40.  Incredible.

I am going to Boston!

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Grandma’s Marathon Race Recap Part 1

Well – the weekend had finally arrived.  I had to fly to New York for a business meeting on Wednesday before the marathon – so I checked the race-day weather forecast for Duluth about a week out.  And it looked great – really great – temps in the 60s, slight tailwind – some potential for rain.  I started getting really excited – finally, a race with good weather conditions!

My flight to New York and the business meeting went relatively smoothly.  Then on Friday – I had an 8:30am flight from LaGuardia to Minneapolis.  Derek was flying from Albuquerque to Minneapolis and we were meeting there then driving to Duluth (2.5 hours away).  Everything was going smoothly – we both got to the airport with plenty of time.  He took off.  My plane was at the gate, we boarded ontime, and we taxiied to the runway.  4th in line for takeoff, a few minutes pass – then we move…past the runway.

Apparently some light had gone off (or not gone off) for the air conditioner.  It’s not something that would make the plane unflyable – but they had to call maintenance anyway.  So we sat on the taxi-way for say 15 minutes – at which point they said, maintenance says they have to go in for tests.  So we taxiied to a gate.  30-45 minutes they say.  Then an hour.  Then it turns out the plane failed one of the tests – we all have to get off – they need to get a part and fix the plane.

People with connections are frantic – luckily my flight is direct.  But it seems unclear whether our flight will actually ever take off.  I talk to someone and try to get on another flight – nothing available.  Then they say that our flight will be delayed until 5pm!  And I spend a long day at LaGuardia – trying to stay well hydrated and fueled and hoping that my plane will actually take off and not be cancelled.

It was a stressful day – I couldn’t believe it – everything was lining up beautifully – great weather, my body was in good shape, a good course – and now, I might not make it to the start line?  Unbelievable.  Long story short – my plane finally did take off around 6:30pm.  And arrived in Minneapolis at 8pm CT.  Derek, who had waited at the Minneapolis airport all day, met me and we quickly got on the road.  We pulled into Duluth at 10:30pm – and I went to bed by 11pm (wake up call at 4:30am).

It was a crazy day – but I was and am ever so grateful that it turned out ok in the end.  I slept as much as I could in the car (couldn’t fall asleep on the plane) and became really determined to run a great race if I made it to the start line.  I felt for Derek who was as stressed out as me, if not more so.

The end of the Sochi Olympics

Derek was gone less than 12 hours after the gold medal match finished.  I don’t really know why they were in such a hurry to get him out of here – but the game ended at like 8:30pm on Friday night and he was picked up at the hotel at 3:30am for a 5:30am flight on Saturday.  I stayed through Monday.  The remaining days were very mellow – just six-hour shifts, and even then, Mark wasn’t super strict about needing me there. Continue reading

Men’s Curling Playoffs

The matches didn’t go the way I ideally wanted – I was really rooting for China to win a medal.  I like Edin’s team from Sweden (who defeated China for the bronze) – but I just thought China played so amazingly well all week, played with such class and balance, and I just got pulled into rooting for them.  Plus – I loved David Murdoch’s story – so even though he and the Great Britain team were clearly underdogs in the gold medal match – I really wanted them to win.  Sadly – both games went the other way; and, even more sadly, each team kind of defeated themselves. Continue reading

Women’s curling playoffs

Great Britain v Switzerland for the bronze medal (Eve Muirhead and Mirjam Ott in this picture):

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A shot of jubilation:

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Jennifer Jones making her gold medal winning shot:IMG_0652

And exulting afterwards:

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The photographer scrum for the flower ceremony (I just thought this was funny):IMG_0667 IMG_0670

Yes – apparently Elvis roots for Canada:IMG_0681

Derek’s assigned desk:

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The flower ceremony:

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Fun around the Olympics

Derek took a walk about (I think on my birthday) and went to the Bosco Olympic superstore.  This store was barely built in time for the Opening Ceremony – but then had really long lines throughout the Olympics.  The outside of it was super-shiny – here, you can see the reflection of the Iceberg (skating venue) in the side of the superstore:

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Round-robin play

Once we got the confusion straightened out – everything ran really smoothly.  My job kept me busy, but not overwhelmed.  I was there for the morning and afternoon draws, and left right as the evening draw was starting.  I enjoyed it – I really thrive in these kinds of environments – intense, focused efforts with a lot of energy.  One thing that was a little hard was that I often felt like my stuff was being sent into a black hole.   Everyone gets so busy – it’s not like they’ll say thank you all the time (or even send any reply) and you don’t often know if your stuff is being used or not (sometimes I’ll hear it in the broadcast feed, but as the curling was done both here in Sochi and in Stamford – I never heard what Stamford did because I couldn’t hear their broadcast feed).  I didn’t expect thank-yous or responses – but it did make it weird to be working in a backroom, sending a bunch of stuff out, and not really knowing whether it’s useful.  My best feedback was that people kept asking me to add others to my email lists and that no one asked to be taken off. Continue reading