Monday, June 20, 2011

Grandma's Marathon - A Thief's Story

The goal of this Grandma's Marathon was to hit a sub 3 hour marathon for the 8th year out of 8.  2010 saw me steal one at Milwaukee Lakefront with a perfect weather day and a tailwind.

2011 Grandma's Marathon had me becoming a habitual offender, I am starting to become a Master Thief.  It rained the previous 12 hours, including the whole bus ride up to Two Harbors.  As we climbed off the bus the rained stopped, and other than a few sprinkles, it did not return.  The temps at the start were @ 54F and 48F at the finish with a 10-13 MPH tailwind for 25 miles - Headwind for the last mile.

Although humid, it was another perfect weather day for this big horse.  I started out easy as usually - if it feels really easy the 1st mile it is actually right on target.  I was a little surprised to see a 7:05 gun time (6:59 chip) mile # 1, but much better to be 20 seconds slow than fast.

I just got into a grove and ran - Since I am a Big Horse (217#) - I would pull away from people on the downhills and they would leave me behind on uphills, but the plan was for an even effort, not pace.  Although my pace looks very even, my mile spilts or group of splits were all over the place with the topography of the course.  I saw as high as 6:53 and 6:59 and as low as 6:32 and 6:33.

Mile # 6 = 40:10 (6:42 pace)
Mile # 10 = 1:06:58 (6:42 pace)

Mile # 10 I hooked up with a group of 4 guys that I had been running ahead or behind - depending on the hills.  At this point I put a little more effort into the uphills and coasted a bit more on the downhills as I decided this would be my wrecking crew today.

1/2 = 1:28:00 (6:43)

There were 3 or 4 times that my impromptu crew would gap me either because I was hurting a little or a bigger uphill.  Each time I had to decide if I was going to push really hard to make up the 20-50 feet or let them go.  This is why a solid crew is great - They pull you through any roughish spots.  So I would push hard and snuggle up behind the crew.

17 miles = 1:54:09 (6:43)

Many of the miles I missed the splits - We were just rolling.  I ate gels 7-11-13-15-21-23 miles ... Hey this big horse needs a lot of fuel!

Around mile # 20 - 2 of the guys started to pull away as they picked up the pace.  The 2 I had been behind were still running an even pace, so I stuck with them.

Mile # 20 = 2:14:09 (6:42)

Mile # 21 the 2 guys seemed content to settle in behind a guy wearing a St Luke's racing singlet and slowed by 4-5 seconds per mile.  It was time to try break off and work alone.

The rest of the race I ran well - keeping a fairly even pace and hit close to maximum pain level.  Usually at this time I can take it to a different plateau of S&M enjoyment and ride the line between oxygen debt - Getting dizzy and tunnel visioned.  To me this is one of the most glorious reasons to run a marathon.  Today I could only get 98% to this Nirvanic plane of pain - So a good ending, but not complete bliss.

Mile 22 6:39
Mile 23 6:40
Mile 24 6:47
Mile 25-26 13:29

Final time 2:55:45 (6:43)
1st 1/2 1:28:00
2nd 1/2 1:27:45

So on a day when I was 50/50 at best to break 3 hours - I was blessed with the opportunity to run in near ideal conditions (For Grandma's).  I am happy to have run a very solid race and I feel it was really close to my current ability level.

It also re-affirmed that I love the marathon distance - No matter what shape I am in, I love the experience of mental and physical challenge. The pure joy of the masochistic challenge of the last 3-6 miles.

Now ... Back to Leadville training!

Good running to all!


  1. Thank you - I was happy with my execution

    If I could focus on the marathon I think I have new PRs in me, but I will be messing around with ultras for awhile.


  2. Glad you got away with it.... one of these times its going to bite you!

  3. The evenness of those splits is impressive! My best (official) marathon, I ran the first half in 1:14, only to finish in 2:42... your way probably hurts less.

  4. Thanks Steve - Definately different kind of pain - Each one is satisfying in its own way. The only pain I do not like is the mental pain of knowing you are wimping out of a full measure of physcial pain (Race pain that is)


  5. nice run
    you're going to do well at Leadville if you can keep eating

    Joe J