Grandma’s Marathon Race Recap 2019
“Disclaimer: I received entry into Grandma’s Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Grandma’s Marathon!
For those who may not know, this is one of my favorite races ever. This is my 6th year in Duluth and in addition to running it, I would be helping Aftershokz at the expo.
I headed north on Wednesday, June 19. It’s a short little drive about 7-8 hours. I made a stop just south of Duluth to log a run on the Munger Trail. I have a run streak to keep in tact.
From there I kept the car headed north and ended up in Two Harbors. This is where the marathon starts. For years I have said I need to take more time to explore the area. I stopped at Castle Danger Brewing and enjoyed a Summer Crush. I mistakenly thought they had food.
I decided to head a little further north to Betty’s Pies. I wasn’t ready to dine, so I got a strawberry rhubarb slice to go.
I then headed back to Duluth, but drove the race course. It felt really long. I was having some doubts about running it on race day. It has been a long time since I have run this long. It was a beautiful day though.
I was back in Duluth and decided this was the year I would eat at Grandma’s Saloon, the restaurant near the finish. When the race started in 1977, this was the only business that would sponsor the event. Inside you can find a wall dedicated to the Grandma’s Marathon hall of fame.
I took a seat outdoors, with a view of the famous aerial lift bridge. Lots of sail boats were coming in off the lake. I was informed I missed out on the races. After a wild rice salad and fries, I decided I should probably check into my hotel.
I trekked across the bridge into Superior, WI where Barkers Island Inn had a room for me. We have stayed at this place every time, it’s a nice place that doesn’t require a 2 night stay. There is also an early morning race breakfast and a shuttle to the start.
Thursday, June 20
It was time to go set up at the expo with Aftershokz. I met Evan in the hotel lobby and learned the third person was having issues with his flight and would meet us later.
We arrived at the DECC to get our 2 booths ready for the expo, that would start at 4pm that night. Ok, sooooo Evan started unpacking the stuff and getting things set up, and I followed suit with his instructions.
We were in and out by 11:30. I went back to the hotel to grab my car, I knew where I wanted to go – the beach!
I was back to Duluth and across the lift bridge to Park Point Beach. I first got in a mile run. I originally thought I might be able to run on the beach, but it wasn’t optimal. Then I walked the beach collecting drift wood and rocks. It was a beautiful day.
I didn’t want to leave the beach, but I needed to attend to my duties. After rolling through a sandwich shop for lunch, I was ready to go sell some headphones.
The first day of the expo was good. We informed people about Aftershokz as we sold them for the running store. However, in other news the third person that would be showing up to help us, could not get a flight. So it was just going to be the 2 of us and help from the running store.
I managed to sneak away and grab my bib in the back of the expo space. I didn’t have my bib number off hand, so the nice volunteer helped me look it up.
We packed up things around 8pm and needed some food and a cold beer. Even and I decided to try out Canal Park Brewing. It was the place to be!!! While we waited for a table we saw some of the wheelchair athletes.
I ended up with a bowl full of mac and cheese and a strawberry beer. We also had some chips and salsa. Then it was time to hit the hay, Friday would be a long day at the expo.
Friday, June 21.
I woke up in time to get my mile run in and redeem my $5 breakfast voucher. A decent 2 egg, bacon and toast offering, and of course coffee.
I met Evan back in the lobby, but this day I would drive separately. My friend Kate was hitching a ride with BibRave Pro Tia. Kate and Tia would stop at the expo, and then Kate would take my car to the hotel. Anyway…..
The expo was off and rolling at 10am. We were back in our sales pitch mode. The Air has an upgraded microphone and the base is enhanced and weighs 20% less…yadda yadda…. all day long. I also think it’s funny the things people will tell you at a expo too… but hey I will listen.
Lunch time rolled around and my stomach grumbled…. The Duluth Running Co offered to buy some pizza. Around 2-3pm I had time to eat a couple slices. It was bananas!! I also started to get a headache, so had to grab some red Powerade. I am pretty sure it was the lack of food, and all the time just being crazy busy.
Then my friend Dan stopped by to say hi! Ok, I had seen him a few times during the expo, but this time we snapped a picture.
Around 5PM I met up with the BibRave pros – Mai, Tia and Juan. We snapped a quick picture before Tia had to get to the 5k, and I went back to selling headphones.
BAM – Just like that the expo was over…at 9 PM. I was exhausted, but we had to tear down everything and pack it all up into boxes. Near 10:30 ish we were done and loading up the car.
At 11 PM, I met up with Kate at the hotel and she had saved me some of her dinner, thank you!! I also had that slice of pie in the fridge. So, working the expo and eating a slice of pie would be how I prepared to run my 30th marathon.
Gear: Sparkle Athletic skirt, 2xu socks, Brooks Gylcerin, Garmin Forerunner 935, Rudy Sunglasses, Aftershokz Air, Hawkeye hat, Bibrave tank, Adidas boy shorts, Zensah bra, Orange Mud pack.
Saturday, June 22 – Race day!!
The alarm was set for 4:13 AM. I made my way down to the lobby to have some fruit, coffee, and a bagel with peanut butter. There were a few others shuffling around too. I was ready to board the shuttle bus around 5:50 AM.
It was your average bumpy school bus ride to the race start. I enjoyed the peace and quiet for about 2 minutes. Then there was a very loud, chatty guy sharing all his stories as a former CO at a prison. The lady sitting next to me said something, and I made the comment that is was nice to not be talking after a busy expo. Then we made some small talk, mostly about the weather. It was the most beautiful day, with a gorgeous sunrise. The temps were near 50 degrees.
I departed the bus at Two Harbors and instead of just standing in the starting corral, I thought I would just stand in line at a port-o-potty. There are a lot of them, but never enough.
On my way, I spotted the bright orange and Tia!!!
Then I said hi to local Iowa runner Jen and I met up with Nicole from the 100 miles group.
Finally, waiting in line to use the bathroom. I wasn’t nervous or the usual basket-case I can be, when I am not familiar with race day logistics. In fact, I heard the last verse of the National Anthem inside the “biffy.”
I made my way to the back fed corral. Meaning you enter in the back and if you want to line up with a faster pace, you have to snake your way through all the people to get there. Me? I just joined the back and waited for things to get going – which felt like forever. (One reason I don’t care for HUGE races is the standing in a corral for a ridiculous amount of time.)
Ok, Ok, Ok let’s do this! I was on my way to Duluth on the scenic north shore. I hit start on the Garmin and set out to enjoy the day.
At mile one I could see the back of Tia’s singlet in the distance. I made my way to catch up with her. We chatted for a bit and I believe around the mile 5 water stop, I kept going as she grabbed a drink.
I was going along and feeling good, I met up with the 5 hour pace group. I really need to stick with a pacer in the beginning of a race. My strategy of just going until I can’t go any further only really works on a perfect day, with perfect conditions, including a perfect training cycle. Bottom line, even though I thought I needed to be running faster than 5 hour pace, they eventually passed me.
I did develop a weird foot problem around mile 6. It was like this hot spot under my big toe on the foot pad. By the end of the race it was like the bottom of my feet were asleep. All I wanted to do is get my shoes and socks off.
However, no worries. I then encountered Bobby and Jan. They were both running their first marathons!! I chatted with them and we continued going back and forth with each other, they would pass me as I used a bathroom or I would pass as they stopped for water.
Grandma’s remains one of my favorite marathons, mostly because how you feel and are able to enjoy the distance. The views of the lake are gorgeous. From what the runners see, the local support the race – coming out to cheer in their driveways, offer coffee, high fives, polka bands, string quartets, bacon, beer, troll dolls, pickles. There are what feels like 5000 volunteers available at all times. The aid stations are well stocked for all paces.
All of the above reasons is how I got to the finish line, especially from mile 20 on. I had the slice of bacon, and a lady I met at the expo told me to say hi at mile 21 where I had some pickles. Then I listed to the polka music and had a slice of watermelon. A volunteer cheered me up Lemon Drop hill. Then I saw twitter friend Ed, who I met at the expo, he had run the half marathon. I also made a quick call to Josh on my Aftershokz to check in.
I think this year the only thing I was sad about is I missed the grapes on the course as they were all out when I got there. Oh and MarathonFoto was the race photographer.
The last stretch again this year was not down the cobblestones of the main street, which is fine, but there is a short little downhill out of nowhere. Hello quads!
It seems like this part of the race takes forever, mostly because it has so many turns. One of the more iconic fixtures in Canal Park was not there this year, the William A. Irvin freighter was out of the harbor, so it looked a little different. It’s also the area where Kate always takes an epic photo. Never fear, there was a walkway set up and there she was cheering me into the end!! Kate’s the best!
Just before this point, Jan had passed me. I was worried about Bobby as they weren’t together. After I saw Kate, I looked behind me to see Bobby approaching. I slowed down and waited up for him… he was doing great and I chatted with him around the last turns to the finish line.
I cross the finish line, stopped my watch and gave Grandma a high five! Grandma is the cutest!!
A volunteer then placed a medal around my neck and another one handed me a bottle of water.
I caught up fellow Iowa City runners Dan and Nisha.
From here you claim your finisher shirt. This year I was hoping it was going to be purple as they introduced it into the 2019 logo, and it was purple!!!
I finished with a time near 5:15. I was happy with that!!
A volunteer approached me and wanted me to wear the mylar blanket, and I wasn’t ready for it yet, it was so nice out. I was also handed my beer ticket. So, I skipped the post race photo opp and went to find the strawberries in the post race food area. I was disappointed to not find them this year. I did grab a chocolate milk, orange slice, a bag of chips for later, and I saw the everything bagels – except I picked a bottom piece with minimal topping… oh well, where is the beer?
I rounded the corner after a quick phone call to Kate. I was in the beer tent area…and bonus there was a person with a strawberry on their head. They had some fruit truck, you played a game, received a coin and redeemed it for berries!! YAY!!
I made my way to the beer tapper trailer, and what did I see – A SOUR BEER!!! I stepped right up and redeemed my ticket!! I found Kate and we found some seats. There were many beer choices, sodas or coffee. The live music was pumping through this area. There was also a live feed of the finish line, we witnessed many awesome finishes.
I took the time to take off my shoes and socks and slip into my OOFOS. There was nothing physically wrong with my feet, maybe just in need of a pedicure? I had also run my last 20 in the same shoe/sock combo.
I did appreciate the awareness of race day waste. The beer tent area disposal area was guarded with volunteers making sure all items were recycled and taken care of properly. I hope in the future maybe compostable cups could be used at the aid stations.
Then we met up with Tia and enjoyed some people watching.
We moved the party to Little Angie’s – a post race tradition like no other. Tacos, fried ice cream and more sour beer!!
It was time to part ways, I said see ya later to Tia, and Kate took us back to MPLS. I was sooo tired. Then after a night’s rest, I would make the trek back to Iowa.
I am not sure I recommend working a busy expo all day and running a marathon the next day, but I will always recommend Grandma’s Marathon. They do race day right!
See ya next year!