Grandma’s or Bust!

Grandma’s or BUST

“Disclaimer: I received entry into Grandma’s Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!”

That’s right, I am headed back to Duluth! If we are getting technical it’s my sixth time to Duluth. I took a family vacation as a kid in 1993, I ran the half marathon in 2014, and then the first Great Grandma’s challenge in 2015, the black flagged 2016 marathon, and the almost as hot 2017 marathon.

2018 is the year for perfect weather, you heard it here first!

Why am I returning?

  1. I want to eat at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. In all these years I have not done that, and it’s located at the finish line.
  2. I am going to run the 5k on Friday night too. I will be in town for packet pickup, might as well do the Great Grandma’s challenge again.
  3. The lake – Lake Superior! I have never jumped in post marathon – GASP! My first half was cold, the 2015 marathon was rain, the 2016 marathon I had to find my husband in the medical tent, and in 2017 I met my friends at the beer tent.
  4. It’s a great event. I feel this needs no blurb, great events keep people coming back.
  5. The medal! GM Medal Reveal FB 2018

I feel those are my top 5 reasons to get back. I hope to cross all those things off the list.

What has you returning to a race? Why would you travel to something year after year?


Grandma’s 2017

Grandma’s 2017 – RACE RECAP

“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 to review find and write race reviews!”

I LOVE GRANDMA’S MARATHON!!! I was so happy when Bibrave partnered with this race, I couldn’t wait to get back to Duluth. In fact, my group of friends already had a hotel reservation. I would be returning for a 4th year at the event…. in fact I think my first Bibrave race was the Garry Bjorklund half marathon in 2014.

Duluth is about 7-8 hours from Iowa City, and as per usual, this is a road trip for me. Josh and I got a head start by staying in Rochester, MN on Thursday evening. We woke early, to pick up Miguel at the French Meadow in MPLS – hello delicious breakfast!

From MPLS we made good time to Duluth. That drive on I-35 can be tough as there always seems to be construction and everyone is leaving the city to get to their lake cottages.

We called ahead to our hotel in Superior, WI (just across the canal) and we were able to check in early. This allowed for some down time, even a nap before we would go to the expo, packet pick up and pasta dinner. The hotel had a welcome bag with Clif Bars and bottled water in our rooms.

At the expo, Kara Goucher would be speaking at 3pm, followed by Dick Beardsley. The 3 of us left our hotel around 2pm so we would be able to hear Kara speak, and meet up with the Bibrave gang that was also running the race.

Once we got near the DECC, where the expo and festivities were being held, traffic was backed up due to parking limitations. There was parking available for $5 near the area, but everyone was arriving at the same time. We should have left earlier or parked across the way and walked over. After some cussing, we talked our way into a bar’s parking area – they begged us to have a beer, but instead we gave them $5 and were given a parking pass.

It was a short walk to the expo building, but we were able to make it before 3pm. We met up with the gang and listened to Kara speak.

It was time to get our packets and then check out the expo. The vendors are set up until about 8pm, while packet pick up stays open late – 11pm. When we were there, around 4 ish, it seemed very busy.

There were the typical vendors, and a few free samples including pork, beer and wine. Grabbing our packets was easy, just needed the bib number, and didn’t have to show an ID, when you left this area they double checked that your timing chip scanned.

It was time to eat! I had won a Grandma’s prize pack on facebook which included 2 shirts, a hat and 2 pasta tickets.

Gina (Bibrave pro) had an extra pasta ticket which she shared with Miguel. You might have heard me boast about this dinner. It’s my fave because I can get a plate of plain noodles… um I might have have 3 plates of noodles…in addition to some bread, wafer cookies and a tiny Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We took our time here and conversed with Gina’s friends, who happened to be from Iowa.

Before we left to get back to our hotel, we stopped to check out of the finishers of the 5k. (you could run this as part of the Great Grandma’s Challenge, 5k Friday and half or full Saturday) Even saw a joggler amongst the many people.

Back at the hotel, after laying out all the race day essentials, we called it a night at 9pm, it was going to be an early wake up call.

Gear: Bibrave tank, Sparkle Athletic Galaxy skirt, Zensah USA compression socks, adidas boy shorts, moving comfort bra, Hawkeye hat, Orange Mud Endurance Pack, aftershokz Trekz Titanium, Welch’s fruit snacks, Brooks Ghost 9, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID. *planned on a Half Buff & my XX2i France 2 shades


4:00 am – Rise and shine!  The half marathon started at 6:15 am and the full marathon started at 7:45. The race starts at Two Harbors and ends in Duluth,  we had to take a shuttle to the start. The hotel offers a bus for the marathon, but there was no option for Miguel (running his first half marathon,) except to catch a shuttle in Duluth.

This hotel caters to the runners and put out a breakfast starting at 4 am. Coffee, toast, bagels, fruit, juice, yogurt; all the simple basic foods that are perfect before a race. I toasted some bread and slathered some peanut butter on it, and grabbed a granola bar for the shuttle to the race.

We all piled into the giant rental truck, and barreled down the highway… ok not really, but we left around 4:30 for the boarding that was happening between 4:45 and 5:15 for the half.

UGH! Traffic was backed up onto I-35 from the exit ramp, as they could’t move cars fast enough into the parking lots. We pulled an “audible” and took some other random exit, with some twists and turns, we had cut the line from the interstate, and were close to getting a parking spot. *Ok, so I don’t do well in these situations, in fact I think this is the only thing I worried about on race day. I wanted to make sure we all got to the starting line. This caused major anxiety, as I am spoiled by Hawkeye events with parking passes and traffic control.

Whew! We were able to get close enough to have Miguel get in the line for his shuttle. We had options to get to the start line, and had time to then park the truck. We paid the attendant $5 and went to go find Miguel in line for some final good lucks and a picture.

Josh and I now had time to get to our shuttle… ok so the marathon buses started loading after the half and did so until 6:15am. However, Grandma’s is the only marathon that has a train that will take you to the start. I really wanted to do this, but it was first come first serve to 1000 people. With the timing, it worked out, we made the train!!!

The train goes up the shore, following some of the course. It is also sold as having bathrooms. I did not use a train bathroom, but Josh who had to wait a long time to use one, said they were “well used.” That aside, I really thought the train was a unique way to get to the start. There is also a spectator’s train.

We arrived to the start with plenty of time to check our bags, and wait in the super long port-o-potty lines. There has to be about 200 or so bathrooms, but never seem like enough. It was cloudy and there were some rain sprinkles falling.

We ran into Gina in the bathroom lines… just like last year, lol. I wanted to snap a pre-race pic with her. I took off my hat to put on my BUFF, in this process, my sunglasses which were resting on top of the brim of my hat, snapped in 2. GASP! *update XX2i has a lifetime warranty*

I wear a visor/hat and glasses to run in, as it’s great and easy way to protect me from the elements. So there I was, about to run my 23rd marathon, and I had no sunglasses… however I got my picture with Gina.

Josh and I walked to the starting corrals, we slapped high fives and wished each other luck. He went to the faster area, and I pushed towards the back. There really weren’t corrals, but there were pace signs and pacers to line up with.

The National Anthem was sung live and the race was underway. I knew it would be a few minutes before I would cross the start line, so I finally went to push the buttons on my Garmin to get it ready to use. That is when I discovered it was at 35% charge. UM? I had it plugged in all night…. oh wait, did I? Obviously not. Then I realized my error, I plugged in my headphones, and was like, they don’t take long.. I’ll just unplug after a bit and plug my watch in….that never happened.

Here I was, ready to start another marathon, no sunglasses and a watch with minimal charge… but you know what… I was not worried, not anxious…. nothing – I was ready to tackle the trek to Duluth.

I didn’t have a race goal… I blogged about my training for this race, including the crappy 16 miler that was my one and only long run. I knew I would be able to finish, and I knew I would do my best. It was also my third time at the event.

I don’t have too much to say about the marathon this year that’s any different in years past. The event is very well organized and any ability is welcome, course is open for 7 hours. Great spectators, great volunteers. The sun eventually came out, and it warmed to 77 degrees – according to the marquee when I was near mile 23. This is also when I switched my phone off airplane mode and called Josh just to tell him where I was.. and he was with Miguel and they were tracking me *blushing* This is is when I noticed my watch had officially died – so it lasted 22 miles, and like 4 ish hours? Guess I need to run faster.

I felt great this race, I walked the aid stations, like every 2 miles….and never wanted to walk – until mile 25. I never felt defeated. I did feel hungry at mile 15, and I had been eating my fruit snacks, I took bananas and oranges from the official aid stations. I had also been drinking the blue Powerade on course, but had to stop as it was way too sweet. (I was ready for a toothbrush.) I am thankful to the bacon stop and the people who had strawberries.

When I got to the last .2 miles the sky had clouded up and there was a downpour, the sound system even went out, and my name was not announced when I crossed the finish line at 5:26.  I didn’t have any clue how far I was back from the official time, so when I first saw my finishing time, I was a little disappointed. Oh well, I am slow and most importantly I felt good, not tired or sore.

I am not sure there is anything I dislike about this event, maybe they could add some food choices in the beer/music area AND consider something other than marathonfoto for pictures.

This is a race where you get your shirt at the finish line, so after collecting that, my medal, heat sheet, and bottle of water…the sun was already back out. I met up with Josh and Miguel, then saw Gina in the runners only food area. I made sure to grab some more strawberries.

CONGRATS MIGUEL!! Finished his first half marathon!!!

We then all met up with the Bibrave gang and enjoyed the post race music and beer.

(this area is open forever too, so everyone gets a chance at beer and music.) There were soda choices in addition to Odell brews.

Everyone then departed, and that is when Josh ran into a guy he knew from Iowa, and I saw Darin (hope I spelled that right) I keep running into this guy at races. So we chit chatted some more. If you see me say hi!

Then it was time for the traditional post race Little Angie’s. Tacos for the win! It was tough to eat all my food… I wasn’t super hungry then and I was tired!

Some how it was nearing 4:30… we trucked back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap. However, I thought if I napped at this hour I wouldn’t get up, or I wouldn’t sleep the night.

Around 7:15 pm, I convinced Josh to drive some where so I could put my legs in Lake Superior. We found a pull out along the course, just north of Duluth. The air temp was in the 50’s and the lake was sooo cold but it felt sooo good! We skipped some rocks too.

Of course I was now hungry, so we drove a little further to a restaurant you pass along the course. We both got the walleye and tried the wild rice – which is a “thing” in the area. After dinner, it was finally time to close the chapter on the day…. I was ready to crash… and I did that.


Time for breakfast, and the trek back to the Hawkeye State. We did some googling and thought we would try this cafe that served the famous Betty’s Pies. When we arrived the line was out the door, so we found this other place in downtown Duluth, the Lark. Welp, while the food was tasty, the service was slower than my marathon time.  We were happy to leave and go get some more coffee at the Duluth Coffee Co.

The trip back to MPLS to drop Miguel was uneventful, no traffic back ups. We were back in the cities around noon time, said good bye to Miguel… and crawled back into the truck.

After a traffic back up in southern MN (seriously that area has been under construction for years.) We made it all the way back to the Clear Lake exit before we needed to eat again. Luckily we did not need any gas, all the pumps were full. We discovered that Casey’s would put their chicken strips into a wrap, that was a delicious discovery!

Then really… it was a boring road trip, the radio was boring, the scenery..boring… maybe because we have traveled it a lot. Oh well, we made it home.

As stated at the beginning of this super long post, I love Grandma’s and Duluth, can’t wait to get back… of course we have the hotel reserved already.

You can follow Grandma’s on twitter, Facebook, Instagram or their website to keep up to date with the 2018 event, and you can check out my bare boned review at 

To answer the question, when my watch was recharged, I could see it had worked for 21.2 miles and 4 hours 15 minutes. 

Am I ready for Grandma’s?

It’s time for Grandma’s Marathon, am I ready?

“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 to review find and write race reviews!”

To say I am ready to get back to Duluth is an understatement, you might have caught the post about all the reasons Grandma’s is the best. However, looking back – am I ready to run a marathon?

I rarely talk about the training for races, it’s all posted on Strava, Instagram or facebook…. it’s available if you really must know. I am just not sure I did enough this cycle.

If you remember, I ran the Illinois Marathon in April, it was my 22nd marathon on the 22nd of the month. Then, there were some smaller races in between including a few half marathons… then I was supposed to be training for Grandma’s. Here is the problem…. was I training?

I was really lazy, instead of picking a plan for this race and just counting the weeks backwards, I resorted to my husband, who is also training for Grandma’s. It first started out as, “Hey Josh, how many miles are you running today?” I would then attempt to run that workout or mileage.

Then I realized he was using some super advanced Brooks-Hansen method of training, and it was really tough! I admitted to him that I was trying to run what he was doing, and he was like, nah just cut it down.

I mean, I shouldn’t be worried, right? I ran 14 marathons last year, I know I can complete this race, but at no point do I, or will I ever take running a marathon as a joke. I need to feel like I trained.

I think the most confusing thing to the plan is that you never run longer than 16 miles, but you are always running longer mileage on tired legs. During the week there are 8 milers, 6 milers, nothing shorter really. I have done a version of this training plan before and I know it works, so why do I continue to doubt myself?

Well, my longest run I had to split into 2 runs, it was a crappy run. Thankfully my 2 best running friends talked me back down, and encouraged me to continue my training. They made me realize everyone has these thoughts, and you just do your best, and I know they have my back!

So, now the race is in 5 days (thank you Garmin countdown watch face.)

I am feeling some what confident. However, it’s mostly because I really do love this race, it will be my third time. I also get to meet up with many BibRave Pros, hope they keep the beer cold at the finish.

Why Run Grandma’s

Top Reasons to Run Grandma’s Marathon

“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 to review find and write race reviews!”

I am no stranger to Grandma’s Marathon. I was introduced to the weekend of events, 3 years ago as I was fortunate enough to take part in the Garry Bjorklund half marathon as a Bibrave Pro. Since then I have run the marathon twice, once was part of the inaugural Great Grandma’s Challenge.

I’m ready to get back to Duluth to run my third Grandma’s, and here are my top reasons why:

Bacon – Yes, bacon! There is an unofficial aid station that cooks up bacon. Alright, maybe this reason should be the excellent crowd support and spectators. Sure, it’s no Chicago, and there are parts that don’t allow for easy access to spectators, but the sections of the course where people can get to are awesome. Signs, high fives, cheering for random strangers…. and of course bacon!


Quirk! What is this you say? This is what makes the race unique, there are things you wont see at other races. There is a house that lines up troll dolls along the curb. Last year a guy with a banjo was making up a fun song about runners. A guy standing in costume handing out candy. You might even see Grandma too! These things are also placed just when you need a boost in your race. Oh, did I mention bacon? There is even a guy who runs to the start, and then runs the race, for a total of 50 plus miles of running.

Here is a video of my 2015 race.

The Train! This race is point to point, meaning you need to get to the start. While there are many free shuttle buses, some even from the hotel you might be staying at; you can take the train to the start. Also this train has bathrooms!!! Believe me, the bathroom thing is awesome, because while there are what seems like 100 at the start, it’s never enough. Plus the train is also open to spectators to ride.

The Course. The course runs along Lake Superior from Two Harbors to Duluth. While you may not always have a visual of the lake, it seems to appear just when you need it. It’s also flat, well it is for me, ok so there is “Lemon Drop” hill, but no rolling hills or steep climbs, just enough to keep the muscles working. It showcases the best of northern Minnesota, without getting lost in the backwoods.


The Community. While Duluth is home for this event, the entire surrounding community opens it’s doors on race weekend. From the nearby casino to the south, the University campus, or nearby Superior, WI – you can find hotels with early morning breakfasts, shuttles to the race start, dorm rooms, and the friendliest people.

The Spaghetti Dinner. If you know me, you know I do not care for marinara sauce. I love me some fresh tomatoes, but put some gooey paste on my pasta, and you have ruined it. Enter, the Grandma’s Spaghetti dinner. First, it only costs $12 per adult, which is the most reasonable I have seen. Second, you can get a gluten free option. Third, you can go back for seconds. Fourth, you can get PLAIN NOODLES!!! Fifth, there is ice cream. Ok, so you don’t want to over do it before a big race, but there are options and you get your money’s worth. Oh, there is also all the bread you care to eat too.


Late Packet Pick Up Hours. Packet pick up remains open until 11 pm the Friday before the race. This makes it possible to actually pick up your packet! (note there is no race day pickup) There is one major road to Duluth, you head north out of MPLS on I-35, it can get congested… so while you should allow enough time, the late packet pick up time makes it possible to actually get your things. Also if for some reason you still can’t grab your stuff, you can have it mailed (submit info by May 31, costs $25) or make arrangements for someone to get it for you.

Things to See. Just to name a few – you can tour an iron ore freighter – the William A. Irvin (this is what the 5k is named after), say hi to Pierre the Pantsless Voyager in Two Harbors (rumor has it he broke his arm), or just relax on the shores of Lake Superior… or maybe get that confused with Lake Shore Brewing 🙂

Well Organized. In 2015, there was a downpour at the start, in 2016 the race was “black flagged.” Weather is the one thing you can’t control on race day, yet I never felt unsafe or scared at anytime during these situations. The race takes care of the people. There are numerous aid stations on course as well as medical help.

This race still has all the standards too… an excellent medal, great post race beer, live music, and a shirt you have to EARN. However, the reasons I mention are why I keep coming back. The race and the community goes above and beyond to make you feel at home in Duluth.


Registration is open! I hope to see you in Two Harbors, June 17th at 7:45 am!


Grandma’s 2016

On the road again…

Grandma’s Marathon is a great race, throw in their 40th year, and as a midwest runner, it’s a race you can’t miss.

Check out my official review at

This year, Josh was going to run the full, and a group of friends from high school would be along (Laura, Kate and Laura) for the fun.

We left the Friday before the race, and picked up the rest of the gang in MPLS. The 7 hour ish drive was some what eventful as we detoured around a portion of I-35 that was under construction. With so many people heading north for the weekend, it backs up traffic. However the detour was fun, even saw this giant fish!


We arrived in Duluth in time for the pre race pasta party. It closes at 9pm, an hour after the expo closes. However packet pick up remains open until 11 pm – BONUS!!  Anyway back to the pasta, for only $12 you can get a ton of food. Pasta how you want it, salad, milk, all the bread, and ice cream.

The race has no registration options at the expo, it actually sold out in December. They offered a track jacket with the 40th year logo, that was sent in the mail months ahead.

We grabbed all our things, ate all the food and headed to our hotel in Superior, WI. This hotel is great, it has a bus come pick us up at the front door to get to the start of the race. They also offer a runners breakfast starting at 4:45 am. Fruit, breads, yogurts, and COFFEE!!


Saturday June 18, 2016. warm! 7:45 am. race start temp of 72, 80s at the end.

Josh and I made it to the start on the bus, while the others caught up on their sleep. We met up with Gina, who was running her first ever marathon. We also managed to snag a port-o-potty, even though all the lines were crazy long.


The announcer kept telling everyone – how long before the start and the temperature. It seemed like it was 68 degrees forever, and then right before the race started it was 72.


Josh and I parted ways as he found his pace in the starting corals, and I moved my way back.

Race/ course: Starts in Two Harbors, MN and ends in Duluth, running along old Hwy 61, following Lake Superior. The half marathon starts at the halfway point 45 minutes before the full.

I didn’t have a goal going into the race, just finish and have a good time. This was my second time running this course, and I knew what to expect, so I was just going to take it in.

GEAR: OM pack, Brooks ghost, Nathan race belt, pink Sparkle Athletic skirt, Pro Compression socks, Adidas 7″ boy short, Garmin Fenix, BibRave tech hat, xx2i usa1 sunglasses, lathered in 2 Toms.


-FLAT! Elevation change is just under 200 feet – ok so there are some hills, but nothing crazy
-paved surface
-each mile was marked with a sign and a yellow balloon
-lots of hydration stops. Water and Powerade in separate paper cups, and at tables with signs.
-Ice, sponges, gels, oranges and bananas, jolly ranchers at mile 18
-Spectators! All access points to the course had people with signs, ready to slap high fives. The areas in town had bacon stops, donuts, beer (non supported food) Lots of energetic younger people.
-MarathonFoto on course, mostly near the end
-Port-o-potties on the course, lots of them at the halfway point
-Views of Lake Superior
-clocks on the course, timing splits for the online tracking
-Volunteers / law enforcement, they were at every intersection and very energetic.
-Road closed to traffic, entire width of road to run on. Open for 7 hours
-Medical stations manned by the military (not sure what level or branch, assuming National Guard.

I made sure to hit all the water stops, it was going to get warm. I didn’t think it to be that humid, but some disagreed. I think my favorite thing to do was to get a cup of ice and then fill it with the blue Powerade, it was very good. The wet sponges were great too. I also ran with my OM hydraquiver vest pack one, and kept it full of water, either to drink or splash on my head.

Enough can’t be said about the spectators on this course, they are out at every intersection they have access too. Singing silly songs, fun signs and all the high fives.


By mile 15 the race had issued their red flag warning, meaning due to the heat, the conditions were not great. Then by mile 17, they black flagged the race, meaning there was extreme risk for dehydration and things. I’ll be honest I wasn’t feeling any effects of the heat at mile 15, the breeze off the lake felt great! I did take warning and walked a lot and just kept on drinking. From about mile 18 to the finish there was no shade, the sun was hot and I wish I had some sunscreen.

It would have also been nice to see my friends somewhere on the course, I was expecting to see them near the “boat” (freighter) by the finish. However nothing… I figured they would meet me at the finish line…nothing…plus Josh was also running…then I was like ok what’s up?

However I took my moment across the finish line as the song “One Shining Moment” played, with a time of 5:32. I grabbed a bottle of water, the snazzy, heavy finisher’s medal, my finisher’s shirt and a mylar blanket. I proceeded to get some post race strawberries and chocolate milk. I turned my phone off of airplane mode.


I then got a call…”where are you?” Then it was the fun of reuniting with Josh, who was with Kate, because he had spent some time in the medical tent for dehydration. He was better, and some how managed to leave the med tent with a different hat. I sat with them while I ate my strawberries and drank more liquids, it was hot!


We got up, and were eventually headed to Little Angie’s Cantina, where the Lauras had secured a table outside in the shade. I was going to make a stop at the beer first, I earned that post race brew!!!  It was a good one too, an O’dell’s IPA. We also hit up the race result printouts.

We all reunited at the restaurant, which was just by the finish line. We ate all the mexican food (pass the salt) and enjoyed the cheering. We topped it off with fried ice cream.

Overall: This was the second year I ran the full, 3rd year at this event. I still love it, and have already made my hotel reservation for next year. Grandma’s is a great marathon!

The gang stayed an additional night in the area. Which was a great idea, we could check out the sights, which we did sans Josh as he needed some rest and still wasn’t 100%.


There is a little candy store on the course at about mile 5, so we piled into the car and headed north. MMM I can still smell the chocolate…we all bought a variety of treats. We also made it up to Two Harbors.


After some time skipping rocks at a road side park, it was getting time to eat again…duh!

So we picked up Josh and found this supper club in Superior. It was like stepping back into 1985. The restaurant was above the liquor store and bar on the first floor.

Josh and I enjoyed some fish from the lake and topped off the evening with a Golden Cadillac. It’s an ice cream drink with alcohol, we were surprised the waitress (also someone’s grandma) knew what it was.


Ok I am rambling on here…but we had a great time in Duluth, we couldn’t leave without eating breakfast at a “greasy spoon”

There was still some traffic backups on the way back to MPLS, so we took some adventurous roads back. Note to self, google maps is not always right, hello dead end gravel roads.

On to the next adventure…



Grandma’s Marathon 2015

Ever since I completed the Garry Bjorklund half marathon in 2014, I have been itching to do the full marathon in Duluth.  My friend Kate, mentioned she wanted to run her first half marathon, so once we were assured she was into the lottery entry half marathon, I had registered for my 8th marathon.

Video Recap

Saturday June 20, 2015. RAIN! 7:45 am. 60 degrees

Registration: This was available online, starting at $90 and increasing until the end of may, a cap of 8,500 participants. Included with registration was a bib (name if registered early) chip timing, finisher’s shirt, finisher’s medal, post race beer and festivities.

I also joined the Minneapolis running group via twitter. It was free to join and the more people to register in the group the more perks we would get. The registered participants had us getting an extra post race beer and a ticket to be in the official bleacher cheer zone. I understood there was to be a fancy bus to the start as well, but I did not take it or hear if that bust was a charter?

Expo / Packet Pick-up: The expo was held at the Duluth Convention Center, with a ramp for parking at $5. It was held the Thursday and Friday before the race, up until 11pm to get your packet. You could also have it mailed to you for $25. Someone else could grab your packet with a signed wavier. The packet pick up was in the back of the convention hall, once you had it, the chip on your bib was checked. The bib was in a clear bag that doubled for gear check, also had some paper flyers and a beet juice sample. We also received a virtual bag via email.


While I enjoy the virtual email bag, and the reduction of paper, I can never use anything in them. Races need to consider people travel to races and can’t use the coupons for the area. Also the deals they are giving the race are usually nothing any more special than your every day internet deal.

The expo included many of the same exhibitors you would see at most larger events. Shoes, head bands, apparel, nearby races. It was a decent size.

Pasta party: For only $12 (tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate) you could choose plain noodles, marinara sauce, meatballs, or gluten free noodles. Then you could have some lettuce, bread, ice cream, milk, or popsicle. It was all you could eat.


This was the best deal! Duluth is crazy, all restaurants and hotels are super busy, the pasta party could accommodate many people, you could get right in and eat with no hassle. You were not stressed with finding a place or walking extra.  Also pro tip: book your hotel a year in advance, you could end up paying prices near $300/night.

Pre-race: Early wake up to board a bus by 6:15 am. The starting point had a lot of portapotties. Bag drop was available, use the bag you got your packet in the night before.  There were no pre-assigned corrals, but encouraged to line up by estimated finishing times. There was music over a PA. The National Anthem was performed live.

There could have been more toilets, I waited in line for 10 minutes and moved 2 feet, so I was unable to use. It was also a down pour, we were soaking wet and there wasn’t any shelter except for what I believe was a medical tent or information station. It was also hard to get to the starting line if you were a fast runner and arrived late, runners were dropped off at the back of the starting line. Also could someone tell me if there is a benefit to putting plastic sacks over your running shoes?

staying dry

Race: This was the 39th year of the race.It is a point to point race. It starts in Two Harbors, MN and ends in Duluth. The half marathon starts at the halfway point 45 minutes before the full. You are encouraged to take a bus or the train to the start of either race. Many buses depart from Duluth and Superior, WI hotels.


We stayed in Superior where there was a bus for the full but not the half. The hotel also had an early morning race specific breakfast.

Course: Run on old Highway 61 along Lake Superior.

  • FLAT! Elevation change is just under 200 feet
  • paved surface
  • each mile was marked with a sign and a yellow balloon
  • lots of hydration stops. Water and Powerade in separate paper cups, and at tables with signs.
  • Ice, sponges, gels, oranges and bananas
  • Spectators! All access points to the course had people with signs, ready to slap high fives. The areas in town had bacon stops, donuts, beer (non supported food) Lots of energy.
  • MarathonFoto on course, more photographers near the end
  • Port-o-potties on the course
  • Views of Lake Superior
  • 3 clocks on the course
  • Volunteers, they were at every intersection and very energetic.
  • Road closed to traffic, entire width of road to run on. Open for 7 hours


Finish: This was marked with an arch and timing clock. The announcer was catching names as people finished. Each side was lined with spectators. Once you cross the finish line there was a volunteer with a medal and a bottle of water. Then you went to get your gender specific finisher’s shirt and a beverage ticket. From here you had to continue walking to get a heat sheet, then grab your gear bag. Then you could proceed to the finisher’s food: strawberries, yogurt, peanut butter, chocolate milk, apples, bananas, oranges, bagels, nut rolls. Once through this area there was an alphabetized reunion area, or you could go to the beer tent to redeem your drink ticket. The beer tent area also had live music and a video set up to view finishers. There was a results tent, merchandise tent and coffee tent.medal


I finished with a decent time around 5 hours and I think some of the food was already gone, please take what you can eat.

Overall: I love this race, the views, the spectators, the flat course. It would be a great first marathon.

Personal: While I have inserted personal snipets above, I will now go on with how I raced. I didn’t have a big goal as I went into this race. I have been having some issues with my shin / tendonitis, so training wasn’t on point. I orginally wanted to shoot for a super PR, but threw that idea out the window. I also told Laura, who I was running with that I was just going to run and see what happened.

As I mentioned it was raining. Now running in the rain isn’t so bad, but standing around  in the rain with no shelter, well yeah, not fun. I did decide to bring my rain jacket, but that was a lost cause. Everything was wet before we started, oh and my Garmin hates the rain, but I managed to hit start when it was time.

I also mentioned there were lots of toilets at the start, but there were not enough. I really needed to pee. Well when I finally gave in, I waited at a port-o-potty for 6 minutes. Laura went in the woods, which was a common occurrence in the first few miles, but with the rain and things, I just didn’t want to wrestle my clothes and moon everyone in the process. So I waited and I told Laura to move along, maybe walk ahead and I would catch up, she said she would move along slowly.

Well that was the last I saw of her until the finish. I don’t mind running alone, I had some tunes and the rain, some chaffing, and a view of the lake.

Then I came upon a runner with some “flatties” Ok, I live on social media, I was recently added to a fun group, the Sub 30 Club. I was no stranger as I had done a virtual 5k with them a few years back. Anyway, I was also running with flatties, these were pictures of other runners in the group that wanted to run with me. So there I was about mile 9 and I spotted Joy. We had never met in real life, but I was excited to see someone I recognized. We struck up a conversation and she put a spark in my step. She said she needed to walk when we hit mile 10, so I motored on.


I came to the halfway point feeling great, and the sun was starting to make an appearance. This was also where the half marathon started, so there were port-o-pots for days, I took advantage of no lines. I carried on enjoying everything, even hit the sides of the roads for a softer surface.


I high fived kids and adults. I took candy, donuts, and bacon from strangers. I enjoyed the sponges on the course to wipe the sweat from by brows. There was free beer, curbs lined with troll dolls. The community embraces this event.

trolls hghfive hawkeye donutbacno

I was also running in an Iowa Hawkeye tank top, there were so many cheers. I also passed a Hawkeye flag staked into the ground, I high fived the woman and she offered me some strawberries.


As I came to the one and only hill, with 4 miles left to go, I checked my watch. I was on pace to PR this race. However I knew I had that port-o-potty stop wait. I got to the top of the hill and I sped up a little. There were more spectator lined streets, and I knew I would be able to finish with a great time. I really enjoyed every minute.

smile jedi duluth course coffee bubbles

Then I hit mile 25. There are not many turns on this race course, it’s mostly a straight shot, however the last mile seems to take forever as you twist and turn to the finish. I spotted Kate, she had survived her first half marathon!!  I muttered some words, and then I came upon another familiar..ahem back side…it was Pam! She had rescued my 5k packet the night before, and another Sub 30 member.


I said, Hey Pam! She wasn’t doing so well. She told me she had issues with cramping. I didn’t like the sound of that, plus I was excited to once again see someone I knew, right near the finish too. I could have probably left her, but I wanted to make sure she was able to cross the finish line of her first marathon.

We chatted a little bit, I assured her the finish was right after the turn by the clock, and it was, we could see the archway. She did it, she finished her first marathon. She said it was the hardest thing she had ever done. True inspiration, to persevere through the pain and finish what she set out to do. Congrats PAM!!! (also check out the Sub 30 club, they’re pretty cool, a stranger sent me a gift too)


I also finished with a Garmin time of 4:52, hello PR!!! However the official chip time was a 4:58, but I will take it with my lack of training. Here is a sweet finisher’s video

I said my congrats to Pam and her friend Colleen who smashed her first marathon too. Then I reunited with Kate and Laura. Congrats to Kate on finishing her first half marathon, she is more disappointed her finisher’s shirt was too big.

Laura said she was just feeling it, so she never slowed down or looked back and set a crazy new PR. Laura was on the start of a great weekend, she became engaged the next day.


IMG_0769 beer

Shout out to Kristin, another 100 miles participant, she also completed the marathon, Congrats!. I was able to grab a picture with her post race.


This race just brings out the pure enjoyment of running. Yes there are hassles, but you can’t change the weather, and due to the popularity you can’t change the hotel prices.

Hope to see you next year! You can check out more reviews at



Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

Grandma’s Marathon Weekend, Duluth, MN. June 21, 2014. 6:15 am. Foggy, mist, 46 degrees.

I was taking part in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon as a runner for BibRave, meaning my entry to this lottery only race was paid for.


Registration: Online. The half marathon was a lottery system, but the full was open to all, and I believe in the $100 range. Included was a bib (still trying to figure out if having your name was an extra cost), timing chip, race brochure, finisher’s shirt, & post race beer.

*I did not secure a hotel early enough, and was not going to spend the money to stay at the dorms. I spent the night before in MPLS, and woke up at 1:30 (Disney had me prepared) and drove to Duluth. Therefore I did not attend the expo. I was able to get my packet sent to my house a week before the race for $15.


Pre-Race: Each race is a point to point, meaning you would not be starting where you finish. The school bus shuttle started at 4:45 am and continued to 5:15 at various locations near the finish. These pick up spots were also close to parking areas. I parked at the Duluth Convention Center for a $5 all day fee. There was plenty of parking when I pulled into the ramp at 4:20 am.  There were also numerous port-o-potties at this location.

Once each bus was packed with runners, it left for the start, north of Duluth.  We were dropped near the starting corrals. There were port-o-potties as far as the eye could see. A water station was set up with paper cups. A sign was placed that all runners should be in the corral by 6 am. A gear check bag drop was available, the clear bag and number sticker was provided by the race.


*I actually forgot my bag in MPLS, which I could have used to stuff a jacket in as I waited for the race to start, it was cool and damp.

Once in the corral area, we were instructed to line up by pace, however it was a tad confusing. There were signs that displayed per mile paces, but near the back it went from 8:30 per mile to walkers and slow runners. This is where I was, and it was crowded. Then the pacers showed up, the 2:30 pacer was standing near me, so at the last minute I made my way closer to the front, found the 2:15 pacer near the 7 something per mile.


The elite corral was off first at 6:00 am, after a live rendition of the National Anthem.

Race / Course: The course was run on paved roads, cement or asphalt. There were no potholes or hazards, but because of the dampness the painted lines or repair spots were slippery. Each mile was marked with a blue balloon in the air. There was a clock near the halfway point and the 10 mile mark. The course is flat and runs along Lake Superior, due to the fog the Lake wasn’t too visible. There were hills, which were highway overpasses. There were many hydration stops with water & blue Powerade, each in paper cups and marked with a sign. There were ice stops, a wet sponge stop & bananas, oranges & strawberries. Lots of volunteers, many law enforcement officials at the busy intersections. MarathonFoto was on the course taking pictures.


Spectators: The course north of Duluth is remote, however there are still many spectators with great signs. There was a person in a Lion costume jumping on a trampoline, there was a troll doll display, and let’s not forget the free bacon stand. There were more spectators as we neared the city, lots of cheering.

The last mile had a lot of twists and turns, but the finish was in sight marked with a clock and arch of red balloons.

Post Race: A medal was placed around your neck, then after a few more feet a bottle of water was handed to you, then you had to wait in line to get your finisher’s t-shirt – yes you earned the shirt! Different shirts & medals for the half & full. Then you could get a mylar blanket & your refreshment ticket and proceed to the food. There were sliced bagels, peanut butter on a spoon, yogurt, strawberries, orange juice, chocolate milk, & ice cream sandwiches. The food was not set up linear, you just went from booth to booth. There were also volunteers near the trash, recycle & compost bins to get the correct items in the right containers.

Once a racer went through the runners only food area, there were stakes with letters to meet up with friends and family. From there if you wanted to redeem your refreshment ticket you had to go to the big white tent in a separate area. You could redeem your ticket for one of 3 variety craft brews, an aluminum bottle bud light, or coffee. In the tent area was a large screen showing the finishers and a stage for the live music. There was a merchandise tent too.


The gear check area was nearby, but it looked like a disaster. Didn’t seem like there was a plan or organization.

Overall: I would definitely run this race again. The biggest problem is the starting corral, but it’s manageable. The flat course and great town has me considering the full.

Personal: This was the first half marathon where I was going to race, I was chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon. I DID IT! I finished with 1:58:27. When you are racing instead of running the race, you are focused. I only stopped at one water stop, I didn’t take the free bacon. Every time I slowed I kept telling myself, this could be the difference between 1:59:59 and 2:00, keep going. It took a lot of talking to myself. It also helped that it was probably 50 degrees and I had been training in 70 & 90% humidity. Everything came together for me to run my race, and now I am not sure if I will ever run that fast again.


I was also fortunate to have a good friend, Kate, join me on the trip. Even though it was a lot of waiting around for her, it means a lot ot have support.

After my race, we grabbed a bite to eat at Little Angie’s, and watched many finishers. We saw a guy crawl to the finish, a guy helped as his legs wouldn’t function, and smiles as big as Lake Superior.


Also maybe we stayed and cheered for those at the end because of the blog post about back of the pack runners. Or maybe we were just caught up in the atmosphere, but the people at the end are on the course the longest, they deserve the same treatment. MarathonFoto was packed up near the finish when the clock was at 6:41 ( there was still a photographer at the finish) The clock was packed away at 7:17 ( I think the course closed at 7 hours) However there were still racers out there and the street was still set up to cheer, and we were not kicked out. Or maybe it was because the sun finally came out, and we finally warmed up.


Once the racers were done, we went and explored Duluth. It’s a great place!