So, remember my high hopes for a shiny new marathon PR? Well, that probably would require running longer 16 miles… 7 weeks before the race :-\ I trained horribly for this marathon and I really really really don’t recommend doing it that way!.. but I ran it anyway and frankly had an incredible experience!
We flew into Minneapolis on Friday night and then drove about 2.5 hours north to Moose Lake, MN. The drive was gorgeous! Surrounded my forests and blue skies, Northern Minnesota is just so pretty! We arrived at like 9pm and checked into our sold-out hotel. Yep, we were still an hour away from Duluth and the hotel was still sold out!
Grandma’s (realizing what a B it is to get a hotel in Duluth) is really nice and offers to mail your race packet. So we received our packets on Monday, but then had to miss the expo and any race goodies.
We stayed at the AmericInn Lodge in Moose Lake and surprisingly had the most comfortable sleep. This place was in the middle of nowhere and decorated like a camping lodge, but it was cute and comfortable.
The next morning we woke up at 3:30 am and hit the road at 4:15 am. The buses for the half started at 4:45 am and buses for the full start at 5:20 am. We are SO thankful we left early. As we approached Duluth, we got in line to basically sit on the highway and inch our way to the exit to get off to the convention center. This set-up was such a cluster and so poorly organized. There was no one directing traffic, so as each car got off the exit, it had to stop at a stop sign to make a left to get to the parking lot (buses and people of course walking in front of the cars the whole time). Then once you got to the parking lot, there was ONE person collecting $5 from every car. What a nightmare. I can’t believe that they couldn’t shell out for someone to direct traffic and couldn’t just throw some money at the DECC to provide free parking to runners. It took us almost an hour to get parked and we had left early enough to arrive at 5:15 for buses that were supposed to run until 6.
Anyway, once that nightmare was over, the race of the day was awesome! We opted to skip the buses and boarded the train! Yep! A real train to take us the 26(.2) miles to the starting line. The train was packed, but we got seats and it still had bathrooms. The ride took almost an hour as the train was pretty slow, but we arrived with plenty of time to use the bathroom and stand around in the mist.
The starting line was fairly well organized. Lines were long for potties, but moved quickly. It was super foggy and slightly misty, however, so I’m glad we brought trash bags with to wear. It’s just nice not having to start the race already soaked.
The start of the race was entirely uneventful, but the weather was absolutely perfect the entire race. Towards the end, the sun started to come out, but the majority of the miles were cool breeze, cloudy skies, but still gorgeous scenery: dense green forests, blue skies and awesome views of Lake Superior nearly the entire way! There were also basically NO hills. For being completely undertrained, I still knocked out a marathon faster than my first!
The aid stations were well-staffed and everything was labeled. They had plenty of them as well with port-o-potties at each one. The mile markers were giant yellow balloons that you could spot from a good distance.
I kept good pace for the first 10 miles and then started to slow up. I ran the first half in 2:20-ish, but I knew it would only get slower from here. The best part of the race is that Paul decided to run with me. We rarely run together and never have for a full, so I was really glad to have him to keep my going. I would have definitely walked a TON if it wasn’t for him… but I managed to only walk the aid stations (or when it was a 5 mile marker, so I could take a Gu).
Speaking of fuel, I did take a Gu at the start and then every 5 miles (except 25). I tried the new Salted Watermelon and it was AMAZING. I also tried the new Chocolate Peanut Butter, but wasn’t as impressed. I like it better than the Chocolate Outrage, but not as much as just plain ol’ Peanut Butter. I think the Salted Caramel, followed by Salted Watermelon are my current favorites.
Anyway, Paul definitely pushed me to keep going, but I was definitely HURTING towards the end. We ran past the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Paul grabbed a beer, but I knew I couldn’t stomach one myself! Towards the end we also ran past the downtown area of Duluth where I got SUPER jealous that we weren’t staying in town. I think we ran past no less than 10 different bars, Irish pubs, and other cute restaurants that I really wanted to try. Totally wish we had been able to stay in town.
The finish line was right in the downtown next to the Lake. The finish wasn’t especially memorable, but Paul and I did hold hands. I had been BOOKING it to try and just under 5 hours, which we did! 4:58:37! Woof.
I really liked the medal. Simple and not overly gaudy like some recently. They were out of shirt sizes for Paul, but I got one and the shirt was really cute and actually wearable. I also got a flower for finishing 😀
The finish line area was packed! There really wasn’t any food for free for finishers (or it was all picked over by the half marathoners and faster athletes) and we didn’t have any cash on us, so we just went back to the car. They did have a merchandise tent at the finish line, but we didn’t stop and we gave our beer tickets away.
I really would have liked to stay in Duluth, but I’m glad I didn’t get the opportunity to give them any of my money. My beef is with the City of Duluth. Rumor has it that this race used to sell out year after year (and the half still does), but the City of Duluth has shot itself in the foot. The problem is lodging. We came up with the idea to run Grandma’s back in April… so fairly last minute, but not really. We almost scrapped the idea because we couldn’t find anywhere to stay! The problem isn’t that places were booked. There were plenty of places with openings, but even the Super 8 was charging close to $200. The Holiday Inn was closer to $300.. and not only are they charging up the wazoo, they are slapping 3 or 4 night minimums! Sorry, not sorry, but I’m not staying in Duluth for 4 days. I want to come, run, drink beer and then peace out 8am Sunday morning.
I asked on Facebook and someone suggested the local colleges that open up their dorms for the weekend. We looked in that… $120 WITH A TWO NIGHT MINIMUM! Seriously??? For a dorm room with no A/C, no TV and shared public bathrooms? LOL, no. I don’t mean to sound like a total snob, but we aren’t doing the marathon for punishment. I want to take a nice hot shower after the race and then get a good night’s sleep after going out celebrating.. not gonna happen in a dorm. Now, you can argue supply and demand, but the hotels aren’t even sold out. And the race isn’t sold out. So, Moose Lake is was and then after the race we drove the 3 hours back to Minneapolis (stopping at White Castle [holla] on the way) and spent the night at a hotel and met us with some friends there.
Minneapolis was actually a ton of fun as well. We bar-crawled our way though a few spots getting drinks and food with another couple and then we ran into a bachelorette party of people we knew from college. Small world 😀 If Minnesota didn’t get so DANG cold in the winter, I would love Minneapolis a whole lot more!
So, overall, it was a great weekend! I would definitely run Grandma’s again (but book my hotel stupid early, or stay in Moose Lake again). This is a fantastic course for a PR especially this year as the weather was PERFECT. I might return if I am gunning for a BQ, so I hope Duluth can figure out a way to be less of a greedy ho before then.
Medal: A. Simple and not gaudy like a lot of races are getting
T-Shirt: C (Out of Men’s sizes at the finish), but women’s are cute
Race Management: C (F for logistics, A+ for communication and mailing race packets so we can avoid packet pick-up)