2010-07-03

Pre-Race Report: 2010 Grandma's Marathon

This race report is long overdue, but I wanted to write it down while it was still relatively fresh in my mind.

Despite a known issue with ITB Syndrom in my left knee, I decided to make the attempt to complete the 2010 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN.  Being an eternal optimist, I envisioned finishing in my goal time of 3:45.  Being a realist, I knew that I was going to have problems, I really just wanted to finish.

On suggestion from a few friends, I visited the Tria Orthopedics in Edina and met with Dr. Robert Jones.  He tested my knee, its stability, and pain threshold; he gave me the "All Clear" and an order for four PT appointments.  "You're going to be in pain," he said frankly, "but maybe we can help you a bit before you try."

I didn't manage to get an appointment until late Wednesday.  After a quick strength check, my physical therapist Eric stated, "You're strong, but not strong enough for twenty-plus miles."  He did ultrasound treatment of the ITB near the knee, gave me a few exercises to strength my glutes and muscles involved with the ITB, and wished me luck.  He did also offer a Cortizone treatment, not the shot but some sort of patch.  I passed, thinking it was a bit premature for me to go down that route.

The clinic and PT were both very well run, and the Doc and PT were receptive and knowledgable.  I would definitely recommend them to anyone.

It is a well known fact that Duluth goes through mini-inflation during large tourist events, such as the marathon.  I figured correctly that for a couple of days, I would easily spend $450-600 on lodging alone. Rather than dump that money into the tourist economy, we rented a friend's house for a week!  Yes, it was a perfect time to incorporate a vacation, something we haven't had much of in the last two or three years at this house.  (Thank you, Bakers!)  How can you beat a three bedroom house on the beach a mere block away from Canal Park?

We arrived in Duluth in the mid-afternoon on Thursday the 17th, well ahead of any traffic issues due  to the construction.  My sister-in-law Katie, her husband Izac, and their one year old Maizie joined us for dinner at Little Angies Cantina and stayed through Sunday.  Dinner was pretty good, but I wouldn't say stellar.  Meghan enjoyed her fajitas, but the rest of us had a mediocre experience.  Connor and Ryan did enjoy their Kidoritas!  I had asked for a tall beer, and man was it
tall!

Meghan and family left me alone to finish my beer and go pick up my race packet.  Rather than sit alone at the table, I went up to to the bar, where all the other lonely people go to drink their time away. There I met a couple in their 50's who were in town to cheer on their daughter who was running the marathon as well.  It was a time for parents, apparently, since my own dad call at that time to iron out plans for meeting up on Friday night.  I was going to have a rather large cheering section for the marathon on Sunday!  Angie, Chris and their children would be up as well!  My entire immediate family would be there to cheer me on.  I wouldn't realize how important that was to me until Saturday.

Race packet pickup was rather uneventful.  I "test drove" a pair of Newtons in the convention center  and received a few pointers on mid-foot strike running. I found I was still heal striking, big surprise.  Packet in hand, it was back to the house and then off to the grocery story for food, diapers, pull-ups, and assorted essentials.  I could deal with a few chores with vacation.  The day was long, so when I turned in for the night, I slept like a log.

Friday was a day for the beach, swimming, and simply lounging about. I ran barefoot up and down the beach with Peter, our Boston Terrier, partly to feel out my knee as well as wear the dog down; he gets a little high strung at times.  My knee felt good, with no recognizable pain.  Maybe things would work out!  Connor, Meghan, and Ryan looked for beach glass and played in the surf.

When Ryan took his nap at 3:00, I went in to the kitchen and prepped for a baked, stuffed chicken dinner.  Yes, I was cooking on the night before the marathon -- which I thought was fitting.  I'm told not to change things up drastically before a big race, and since I'm the cook in the house, why not keep things as normal as possible.

At 3:45, I strapped on the shoes and headed out to the DECC to meet up with some of my friends at Daily Mile.  It was great to finally meet up with people I knew only through a social website.  After a few pictures, we walked over to Grandma's Sports Garden for a beer and conversation. Jeni managed to get everyone's names and profiles linked in a note on the site here.  Everyone was pretty psyched for the race to come!  If you can't get excited under these conditions, you need to check your pulse and make sure you're still alive.

I headed back over to the DECC to do a little shopping.  I needed some new racing socks and a pair of sunglasses.  There were plenty of vendors to choose from, and the place was a lot busier than Thursday night.  Mission accomplished, it was time to head back to the house to resume duties as cook.

My parents had come in to town and set up the 5th-wheeler at the boat marina down the street from our rented house.  They arrived at the house just before I made it back from the DECC and took the boys back out on the beach while I prepped dinner.  It was a bit of a challenge finding all of the supplies I needed for dinner, but I managed to pull off a stuffed chicken dinner with salad, mashed potatos, and asparagus.  I didn't fill up, just topped off.  No need for a huge dinner before a bit race.

I didn't get much sleep that night.  Although I turned in early, I couldn't seem to calm my mind enough to drift to sleep.  I woke up multiple times, and generally tossed and turned all night.  At 5:00 am, it was time to get up, get dressed, and make my way to the bus that would take me and the other runners to the starting line just South of Two Harbors.

The bus trip up, I met a veteran marathon runner about my age by the name of Bob (I didn't catch his last name).  One of the most enjoyable part of these races is talking to new people.  What wasn't so wonderful was the school bus.  They really don't place the seats far enough apart for people over five feet tall.  My 6'2" frame didn't quite "fit" in the seat, and I was reminded of all the uncomftable rides to and from games or track meets during high school.  If I never ride in a school bus again, it'll be too soon.

We arrived at least a half hour before race start, and although I saw Clem walk past the bus I was in, I didn't run in to him until we lined up in the chute.  I did run in to Dave Mari, yes the famous Marathon Maniac.  He's hard to miss in his monkey T-shirt.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, he's been making quite a name for himself. What I did recongize immediately was his propensity to take a lot of pictures using the same pose.  A double peace sign and a big smile or pursed lips.  Look for him at your next marathon, and you just might see him.

Dave and I met up with Clem again just behind the 3'50" pace runner, Jack, snapped a few more pictures, and waited in excitement for the race to start.  Clem cautioned me to be careful and listen to my body. I agreed and said I would stay on pace as long as I could, but would let him know when to simply take off.  The National Anthem was sung, sans flag, and at its completion a pair of  Thunderbirds, the acrobatic jets, flew overhead.  What a way to start the race!