|Courtesy of Grandma's Marathon- The Aerial Lift Bridge on the horizon marks the finish|
Mid June is also a bad time to try to run a fast marathon in the US. But, Alaska aside, Duluth may be the coolest option.
This marathon is a huge deal for the city of Duluth. In fact, two years ago when we were staying at a bed and breakfast there (when I had my miscarriage), the owner said Grandma's Marathon was the biggest event of the year in the city.
And just to give you an idea of how big and competitive it is, the women's marathon was won by Everlyne Lagat of Kenya in 2:33:14 and the half marathon by Kara Goucher in 1:09:46 (It should be noted that Duluth is Kara's hometown). In order for me to have placed in the top 10 in my age group, I would have had to run in under 2:52.
Truth be told, the running conditions were nearly perfect. Slight tail wind, predicted high of 69 F. The humidity was nearly 100%, but the runners wouldn't realize until the end how important this was, when many were vomiting due to dehydration (it was quite lovely, actually).
I was not exactly feeling perfect to begin with. I fell asleep at about 2am and had to wake up at 4am to take the train with Divesh, Alicia Hudelson's husband, to the start. The train took 1 hour and 15 minutes to go the approximately 24 miles. Granted, it is a beautiful 24 miles along Lake Superior. There was no driving to the start allowed. The other thing that was not allowed at the start was urination. The lines were eternal for the port-a-pottys, which is expected, but there were also men on ATV's patrolling the bushes! So I started the race having to pee (good thing my shorts were black, as usual).
I lined up with Divesh, Alicia Hudelson's husband, and another friend Tom, just behind the 3:15 pacing group. The last time I started out at a sub 3:20 pace was The Copenhagen Marathon 2 years ago. At that time, I had trained exactly according to the book (intervals, tempos and long runs with rest days in between for over 6 months). But I "hit the wall" at mile 16 of that race. Now in 2012, all of my training had been "wrong". I was taking a big chance starting out this fast. Yet I suspected it wasn't too fast. And I knew something this time that I didn't know then: EAT AND DRINK CONSTANTLY WHILE RUNNING A FAST MARATHON. And this is what I did. I never felt great, but I felt okay. The whole thing felt a little too much like a productive day at the office (with gorgeous views).
I ran the first half marathon in 1:38:46.
|Nearing the finish. Both feet off the ground and no belly!|
So, why, desipte just being injured for 16 weeks, was I able to run a sub 3:20 marathon yesterday when I couldn't two years ago when I had trained exactly "right"?? (I should also note, I only had a two day taper this time, but didn't run for 8 days prior to the Copenhagen Marathon)
I have three theories:
1. Fuel: again, I ate constantly during the race yesterday, well, 2 gels and 6 large pieces of chocolate. Every time I ate, my energy returned almost fully. I also stopped at every single aid station to drink and they were every two miles. Finally, I ate a ton the two days leading up to the race, and healthy food.
2. Knowledge of The Marathon: I simply am more familiar with what it is like to run a marathon (this can't be the only explanation considering lots of people slow down despite running many).
3. The Doping Effect of Pregnancy:
Most of you are probably already thinking it's too late for this, but let me explain. In the small amount of literature written about the doping effect of pregnancy, young women athletes in Eastern Germany during the 1970's are mentioned ("abortion doping"). Supposedly these women got pregnant simply to induce red blood cell production and then would abort the baby and get a boost in their training similar to what one would get with epo (imagine training in an environment like this!). This effect should not last more than 3 months, given the life of a red blood cell.
But time and again, I have witnessed and heard of women who have gone on to set personal records in running of all sorts of distances after (an entire) pregnancy, though not within the first three months post-partum. So there must be a more long-lasting form of "doping" and I think the answer must lie in muscle memory. The body simply adjusts to all of that extra weight and when that weight is suddenly gone, the mother's body is much more efficient at running. I do not know how long this lasts, but suspect it is between 1 and 2 years and is likely more pronounced the more you run while pregnant. And of course, if you continue to train, you can extend the benefits out for many years.
Or, 4. as Danni mentioned to me earlier today, maybe I ran a PR because I gave up diet soda :).
I am glad I got the PR out of the way so I can enjoy the fun trail races, bike races and triathlons of the summer.
Four days later and the city of Duluth is under water: the worst flood it has exerienced in 40 years.
|This is the corner SR, Christian and Mattias cheered me on from during the race. Now you need a Sundolphin to access it.|
|I don't mean to make light of this: but does this guy think he's going shopping?|