Finally after months and months of waiting, Grandma’s Marathon weekend was upon us! Kathleen and I had been planning for this race weekend since last October! When we decided to do this race (aka, Kathleen basically told me I was doing this race), we signed up for the Great Grandmas’s challenge which consisted of the William A. Irvin 5k on Friday night and the marathon on Saturday. We figured if we’re doing this, we might as well do it all.
The weekend started for me on Thursday as I headed out to MN. It’s funny that when I travel out for races, I would rather go out the night before, even if it’s late, versus waking up super early for a morning flight. Just my preference. Well, by midnight on Thursday I was safe and sound in MN and waiting for Kathleen to arrive the next morning. Poor Kathleen had major flight drama Thursday night as well. She ended up changing airports (thank goodness Chicago has options like that) and flight times. Luckily she was able to get a flight and was in MN by 8:30am! We reunited at the airport, quickly picked up our rental car and hit the road for our drive up I-35 to Duluth.
The drive up to Duluth was super easy and picturesque in a way too. Minnesota is definitely pretty. As you actually come into the Duluth area, you head down a hill and all you see is the city and the lake. Talk about one amazing view. I almost wanted to pull over to just enjoy it, but we had a task at hand to get to the expo and pick up our bibs.
We easily made our way to the convention center where the race expo was being held. Parking was $5 for that area, but what was nice is that you could leave, come back later and not pay again which we took advantage of when we came back for the 5k race. Kathleen’s sister had run this race 2 years ago as her first marathon, so in many ways we had the inside scope on what to expect for the expo, race, etc.
As an expo lover, I would rate this one a solid B. There was a good amount of vendors, it was easy to get your bibs and they had a spaghetti dinner available for folks at a great price and it was endless. Since we were doing the Challenge, our bibs were separate from just the half and full bibs. I didn’t realize this and almost freaked because they didn’t have my bib number in the regular line. Thank goodness Kathleen noticed the challenge pick up and was more on top of that than I was. Luckily we got our bibs with no issues. We also got a great pair of socks, our Great Grandma’s 1/4 Zip long sleeve shirt & our 5k shirt as well.
The next stop of the expo was the official merchandise tent. They had some great stuff! I think I wanted all of the jackets.. I mean ALL of the jackets!! We kept looking a the hoodies and as badly as we both wanted to snag one, we were good and stuck with some small goodies. Normally I don’t get anything, but I think my choices were solid.
Since we were getting hungry, we headed over to the spaghetti dinner. It was $12 and all you can eat. Best part actually was that you could leave, come back at any time and still get more. I’ll admit, I am not a huge pasta person. Weird, right? I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of eating it twice in one day either. We had it for lunch and I have to admit, for a bulk cafeteria type set up, the food was not that bad. You got salad, bread, spaghetti (with or without meatballs), water, cookies and ice cream too. For $12, even if you ate just once, you got a great deal. Once we had our fill, we headed back into the expo to check out the rest of the vendors.
We still had sometime before the 5k, so Kathleen let me find a brewery to enjoy a beer! After some recommendations from someone at the expo, I decided on Lake Superior Brewing. It is Minnesota’s oldest microbrewery. I figured that was a good choice. Well, the hours were a little confusing on the website, but we showed up anyway. Problem was that they weren’t necessarily opened. We saw some people and I think they felt bad for us so they ended up letting me have a pint! I went with the North Shore Wheat and really enjoyed it! Nothing like a good beer the day before a marathon. You have to carb load, right?
Once the beer was done, we headed over to the dorm to check in for the night. Yes, the dorm. I will give this word of advice if you ever decide to run Grandma’s: If you want to save money, book at one of the local dorms. If you don’t care, then be prepared to spend almost $300+ a night and have a 2 night minimum at hotels. Since we’re both cheap and would rather spend money on race registrations, we booked a room at the University of Wisconsin – Superior. It was $100 for the night and it brought me back to my college days. We got to experience the real feel of dorm life again. They provided linens, towels and even a shuttle to the start line. Since bus is the only way to get to this start line on Saturday this was clutch and one less thing to worry about.
Even though the 5k that evening was not until 6pm, based on what we were reading in the official race guide, we thought it would be best to get there early. We left the dorm at 4pm and was back to the convention center area by 4:15pm. We were both glad to have left early as traffic was getting bad and parking even worse. Luckily we snagged a spot in a lot just outside the convention center. We hung out in the car for about an hour and then walked over the start line area. The 5k both started and finished on Harbor Drive, right in front of the William A. Irvin freighter.
The goal for the 5k was to go super easy and slow. I wanted to go at least under 40 minutes, but was going to let Kathleen dictate pace. She decided we were going to do a 3:30/1:30 for the race. Again, we both were just doing this for the extra swag and not for a PR. As we were heading to the start line, we spotted THE Grandma! I guess as Kathleen explained, there is a woman who dresses up like an old time Grandma and we found her! She is super adorable! I am glad we saw her then because I never saw her on Saturday after the marathon.
We were in the start corral by 5:40pm and just hung out chatting until it was go time. Just prior to the start gun going off, we had a very interesting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. I definitely think there were some missed words in there. They had the start area set up in about 4 corrals based on estimated finish time. We were in the 3rd group. Since the race was mainly on a small pathway, they also had about 2 minutes between each corral start. Finally it was out turn to go.
I was letting Kathleen do all the work for this one. I tried to just stay a step behind her and follow her pace and she kept time. Those are the best races, when you just show up and literally run. Even though the course was largely on a small pathway, I never felt too squished except maybe once or twice in the last mile. If we were on a walk break, I was very cognizant to walk behind or in front and not go 2 across. There just wasn’t room for that.
Apparently it was a new course this year and it was certainly an interesting layout. We ran through a couple parking lots along with running on a local path. The last half of the race was definitely my favorite. After running through the 2nd parking lot (the first one we ran through was also a dirt/rock surface) we came to the only hill of the race. I just kinda went up like normal, but flat lander Kathleen kept yelling me about how she doesn’t eat hills for breakfast like I do in Pittsburgh. If she only knew how much I actually hated hills.
As soon as you crested the hill, the most gorgeous views of the lake came into sight. Again, I wanted to just stop and take it all in! This was by far the best part of the course. After a bit on the path, you headed down a small hill and hooked up another path that ran right long the lake. Since a lot of the hotels backed up to this path, there were a fair amount of spectators out cheering for us all.
The course continued along the same path basically to the finish area. We got to run under the famous Lift Bridge toward the end. Eventually we came to the end of the path and back to the road which we took for the last quarter mile into the finish line. Our finish time was a bit fast for what I thought we would do, but it felt great. I was happy to have that shake out run and loved the medal and shirt we got for it. The race even posted video of your finish. After the 5k we headed back into the convention center for our second round of the spaghetti dinner. I wasn’t too thrilled about two helpings of pasta that day, but it made things easy and didn’t cost us anymore. Even though it was packed, it was easy to get seats & our second helping. I even ran into some other 50 State ladies that I ran CT & RI with.
Once we were done stuffing our faces, we headed back to the dorms for the night. To really relive my college experience, I turned on some music and we enjoyed a little dance party. Okay, well maybe I did. Hey when in Rome, do what Romans do, right? So when in a dorm.. Have dance parties like you did in college. Everyone did that, right? Hopefully so.
Since we had a 5am alarm set, we didn’t stay up too late. We got all of our gear ready for the next day and called it a night. We both had some serious running to do in the morning and wanted to get all the sleep we could. We were only halfway done with the Great Grandma’s Challenge.
Official Finish Time:
188/322, F 19-34