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A Blogger Comes Out of Retirement for a Race Recap: Grandma’s 2018

July 22, 2018

In looking back at the blog, I suddenly realized I haven’t posted since Boston ’17, well over a year ago. Wow, my apologies. So please bear with me as my writing chops are clearly rusty. But I couldn’t let this marathon fall on the junk heap of history without a race recap. So without further adieu…

Grandma’s Marathon 2018

As I walked through the starting corral, I was eerily calm. After all, when you’re running a marathon with no real time goal, pressure is at a minimum. I did have a few modest goals: 1) Survive (I mean this quite literally. Don’t die today. At my current fitness level, this was not a given.) 2) Finish the race. 3) Do not wind up in the medical tent (perhaps the loftiest goal of all).

The corrals were marked with time signs – I lined up between 3:45 and 3:50, guessing that’s about where I should be.

Then I waited.

Pre-Race

Paula had put this race on our radar months earlier. After she sniffed an Olympic Trials qualifying time upon running a 2:48 in Chicago in October, she signed up for Grandma’s to make a serious attempt at the B-standard. Laura was pretty fit at the time and we were both starting to look for another race for our next shot at a Boston qualifier. It wasn’t a very hard sell – we registered (a ‘free’ jacket for signing up early didn’t hurt).

And soon I learned that other Charlotte friends were going up, too – Brian Morris and Darren Steinhilber. Chad was FIT and looking for a marathon so he joined in. Then one of Charlotte’s young guns, Reed Payne,  registered as well. Before it was all said and done, we had a nice little crew from the Queen City heading up to the land of a thousand lakes.

Fast forward a few months later and I found myself fat and out of shape (not average American out-of-shape – I was, after all, still running some 30-40 miles a week. But while that might get you across the finish line, it’s not going to do it in a very fast manner) as we walked through the Minneapolis airport. I’m not gonna lie – I was quite trepidatious about the next day – the weather forecast was calling for temps in the high sixties and thunderstorms. Running a marathon when you’re not particularly fit can be a pretty bad idea. Running a marathon when you’re not particularly fit and the weather is hot and humid can be a very bad idea. I was prepared to take a DNS (Did Not Start) if things went down as predicted.

Laura, complete with stress fracture (the running gods will not allow both of us to be uninjured at the same time. I don’t think we’ve had more than maybe two weeks since 2015 where both of us were injury-free), Chad, Reed, and I grabbed our rental mini-van and set out in search of food while we awaited Brian and Darren’s later flight. Reed quickly found The Tiny Diner on his phone and instantly became a hero when we arrived – that place rocked (enough so that we’d make a return trip before flying home). Full of delicious food, we headed back to the airport and picked up our fellow Charlotteans.

We headed straight to the expo and made the obligatory rounds from booth to booth. I bought some gels because despite the fact that I hate taking them, I’ve run enough marathons to know that the annoying, sticky Gu is a necessary evil. After a few more standard marathon-eve logistical headaches – “Do we have time to check in? Should we just grab our luggage and leave the van here? Can we make it to dinner in time if we listen to Kara Goucher speak?” – we rushed to Bellisio’s for our 5:15 reservation, only to discover there was no parking to be found. Chad dropped us off and parked the van at the hotel before joining us. We ate like kings and queens – Franklin ordered the biggest piece of carrot cake I’ve ever seen – before retiring to the hotel for the night.

Franklin, an elite athlete who sat this race out, chows down on an enormous piece of carrot cake.

By the time we made it to the hotel, I was exhausted and loopy. I struggled to get everything together for the race in the morning. Thank God this wasn’t my first rodeo or I would’ve almost certainly forgotten something essential. Luckily this was my fifteenth go – by this point, I’m pretty familiar with what I’ll need on race day. It was miraculous that we were in bed by 10:00. I set my alarm for 5:00 – we needed to leave our hotel by 5:45 to make it to the bus that would ferry us to the start.

Despite the fact that I felt like I could’ve slept soundly on a gravel driveway next to a busy train track, I tossed and turned. During a few short segments of sleep, I dreamed fitful dreams of race-morning preparation. In one of these, I was running around outside trying to find my way to the start. I stopped to lean against a fence and catch my breath, freaking out that I was winded before my marathon, when Gucci approached to wish me good luck. As he did, he scuffed a fire ant hill and all the ants poured out and sprinted towards me – I scrambled up the fence as they climbed after me. “Gucci, Gucci! Help, stop them!” I screamed as Gucci frantically tried to stomp the ants. Yeah, my limited sleep was like that.

The Race

I finally fell fast asleep at some ungodly hour so that when my alarm went off at 5:00, I desperately wanted to continue sleeping. I hit snooze and caught a few more priceless minutes of shuteye until the alarm sounded again. Now I had to get up – it was go time.

I applied my nip-aids, lubed all the crucial areas, threw on my shorts, singlet, and Checkers hat, and started nibbling on a Cliff bar. By 5:25, I got a little panicky that Chad was still asleep in the front room. I awakened him while I fidgeted with the room’s Keurig in an attempt to make coffee. After assistance from both Laura and Chad, I eventually mastered the Keurig. Coffee in hand, I followed Chad out of the room to meet Brian and Darren downstairs.

On the Lyric level (don’t ask me why the name – this was the street level), Brian and Darren chatted with Paula who was officially entered as an elite. It was very cool to see our buddy Paula surrounded by the fastest of the fast, including some of America’s, and Kenya’s, best. We said “Hi” and “Bye” in the same breath and hoofed it toward the buses.

We hopped on the first bus in line and moments later we were headed toward Two Harbors, the site of the start. It’s always a bit daunting to ride the bus to the start in a point-to-point race – it feels like you’re riding forever and one thought constantly plays through your mind, “Jesus, we have to run this far?!?”

What seemed like hours later, we pulled into an area that resembled Boston’s athlete’s village, the one big difference being this place had a giant statue that looked like Paul Bunyan in chaps.

Paul Bunyan in chaps? No, according to Google, this guy is Pierre the Voyageur, you know, because French lumber jacks wear chaps.

We made a few jokes about Pierre (I think Darren deserves credit for the Paul Bunyan in chaps line) as we walked towards the starting corral. There were multiple pre-race water stations and I drank freely, knowing I’d be dehydrated soon enough. Hundreds of port-a-johns seemed insufficient for the thousands of folks in line. Okay, maybe it was more like fifty port-a-johns and 500 people in line, I wasn’t actually counting. But I do know that your best bet for a short line is always to head for the port-a-john that’s farthest away. I learned this lesson five minutes earlier from Chad who for some unknown reason was now standing in the back of a long line at one of the nearest banks of portable potties. I meandered through the crowds to a faraway toilet where the line was half as long.

A miracle was in the making. Despite the prediction of warm temps and thunderstorms, the weather was exceedingly cool and slightly overcast – it was a marathoner’s dream weather. And while it was great running weather, it was slightly uncomfortable/chilly standing-around weather. So when my turn at the toilet came, I lingered longer than necessary inside. It was so cozy in there – I relaxed and took my sweet time and fantasized about hiding out until the race was over.

I made my way into the starting corral and wandered around, doing a few pre-race dynamic stretches and warm-up maneuvers. I sat down and stretched when who should happen to mosey by but one Chad Crockford. I called him over and we chatted for a sec and then walked toward the front of the corral. I watched as the distance between predicted-time signs got smaller and smaller until we reached the last one, 2:30. Chad and I joked that if you can run faster than 2:30 you’re welcome to get as close to the front as you’d like. Although I’d probably feel differently if I was a 2:10 guy.

When Chad left to warm up, I headed back towards a time section that resembled something I’d actually run, eventually settling in the 3:45-3:50 section. And then I waited.

Brian walked up and after a brief conversation, we decided to go it together. As the start time rapidly approached, I fiddled with my Garmin, trying to get LiveTrack going so Laura could track my progress throughout the race. But the Garmin app stubbornly refused to oblige until with mere seconds before the start, I conceded that it was not going to happen and shoved my iPhone into my FlipBelt.

Then suddenly the horn sounded and we were running. I started my watch and quickly switched the view to heart rate. Time was basically irrelevant on this day – survival was paramount. Brian and I ran side by side and started enjoying the beautiful countryside.

Like so many marathons before this one, I felt exceedingly good in the race’s early stages. Luckily, by now I’m a cagey old veteran so I didn’t take the bait to speed up. That great feeling early on is a mirage, fool’s gold – if you fall for it and speed up too much, too early (especially when you’re not fit), you will pay dearly for it later on. So I just settled in, casually chatting with Brian and occasionally glancing at the heart rate which hovered around the high 120’s, low 130’s. Brian and I periodically compared heart rates and more often than not, we were within a couple of heart beats of each other. So far so good, piece of cake, insert your favorite cliche for super easy here.

We were running parallel to Lake Superior but initially the fog was thick enough that we couldn’t make the lake out at all. But as we soldiered on, the mist burned off a bit so that eventually we could make out the shoreline and it was rather majestic. I was torn between wanting clear skies/an incredible view or enjoying the marathon-friendly overcast skies. I decided to enjoy the clouds – if I only wanted a great view, I’d go hiking.

Despite the announcer’s pre-race admonitions, runners kept darting off the course to pee in the woods, and sometimes right next to the road, for god and country to behold. I told Brian we should count them so that at the beginning I counted out loud every time a guy stopped to relieve himself. “One! Two! Three, four, five!” I quickly lost count.

All my earlier imbibing followed by scores of dudes peeing planted the urge squarely in my head. Or bladder. One of those two. But every time we neared a port-a-john, it was either too far to the opposite side of the road from where we were, or there was a line. And with each passing of the port-a-john, the need to stop intensified until by mile four, I was forced to stop. Brian had to go too so we dropped off the course but as fate would have it, a couple of runners beat us to the punch. Luckily, they were quick – I clocked the entire episode at 51 seconds as we rushed back into the race.

The miles were clicking off effortlessly: 8:24, 8:12, 8:10, and a fourth, pee-slowed, mile of 9:01. I was ecstatic at this stage of the race. For the past few months, cracking an 8:30 mile seemed excruciatingly difficult. On this day, I was throttling back and yet easily staying under 8:30, pee mile notwithstanding. I felt so good that I shared a secret with Brian: if I continued to feel this good and if I was able to hang onto this pace deep into the race, I had outside shot  of running a Chicago Marathon-qualifying time of sub-3:40. Again, I wasn’t fit, but I felt soooo good that I started to believe it might actually be possible.

I felt so good that on several occasions, Brian had to pull on the reins. “We’re getting a little fast, probably should back off some,” or something along those lines, he said. Like at mile 10 when we ran an 8:00. But I knew he was right so I agreed and throttled back. I was not in 8:00-mile shape – many more of those and I’d be ‘running’ some 20-minute miles on the back end. I was very fortunate to have a seasoned, smart runner by my side, keeping me honest.

Around mile 5, I felt a blister forming on my left pinkie toe, and I thought, “Uh-oh. This could get bad.” But then, despite a little twinge of occasional pain in the area, I mostly forgot about it.

One thing about this race that I absolutely adored was that each mile was marked by two giant yellow balloons tethered on either side of the road. Those two balloons became such a welcomed site that I vowed to put exact replicas on both sides of my driveway at home. Each time I saw those balloons, they triggered a downright Pavlovian response. Okay, maybe not quite Pavlovian – I didn’t drool – but I’ll be damned if my heart didn’t leap for joy every time I spotted them. And speaking with the gang afterward – everybody agreed. We will forever love those yellow balloons!

The Minnesota crowd support was incredible. Brian likened it to a mini-Boston and I concurred. Bands and fans lined the course. When a lounge-singer-esque, Dean-Martin-soundalike sang Are You Smiling, replacing smiling with running, we both agreed we loved that guy.

When we ran through fans lining both sides of the road, I had to be very careful, because often under such circumstances I tend to run too fast through such gauntlets of supporters. But they were all so great that I wanted to stop and hug each and every one of them.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My training coming into this race was sub-par and I knew it, my longest run being 16 miles and I barely had a handful of long runs in the teens. I don’t think I’d run longer than 8 miles in the month preceding the race. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “respect the distance,” this is why – you can’t fake/half-ass your way through a marathon. The lack of training will catch up to you. Luckily, I was well aware of this. As we neared the 13-mile mark, I could feel fatigue beginning to rear its ugly head.

I turned to Brian, who appeared fresh as a daisy, and said, “Hey, I’m feeling a bit of fatigue. Any time you want to take off, go for it. Please don’t wait on me.” Brian was magnanimous and said we should stick together until mile 20 or so, but my legs were starting to feel lead-like and Brian clearly felt much better than I did.

I managed to stay in the 8:20’s for a few more miles, but the ol’ proverbial monkey was starting to climb up my back, and he was carrying a piano. When some jackass cut me off at the water stop at mile 16 and stopped on a dime, I stopped with him. Brian was free from obstruction and instantly gained some 20 or 30 meters on me. I knew at that instant there was no catching up. For the second marathon in a row, I watched Brian run off into the distance.

For a few more miles, I struggled to maintain pace. Mile 16 had been an 8:27 and mile 17 was an 8:36. If I could just fight my way back into the 8:20’s, I could still run a Chicago qualifier. But try as you might, when you don’t have the training mileage, and therefore the fitness. your body’s not going to be able to cooperate. I managed only 8:30s and 8:40s until mile 20. Suddenly, I found myself chin deep in the bonk. “Oh well, you know how this goes,” I told myself. Nothing to do but gut it out as fast as my frail, fat, out-of-shape body would let me, which turned out to be in the 9:30-9:45 range.

I shuffled along in quiet agony. I passed a few poor walking souls and thought to myself, “It could be worse – you could be him.” I tried to distract myself from the pain by soaking in the atmosphere – the last 6 miles were really incredible, with some of the best crowd support and entertainment I’ve ever seen in a race. I joined the chorus of a bunch of guys singing Sweet Caroline and pumped my fist as we sang “Bop, bop, bop!” in unison.

Multiple fans offered alcoholic beverages and I really wanted to grab one but decided against it because a) I only saw crappy beer being offered b) I was pretty sure I’d puke if I drank alcohol at this point and c) Any stoppage meant it would take me that much longer before finishing. So I trudged on past.

I kept getting passed by people who looked like they’d just stepped off the curb and started running like 100 meters ago. One such guy, shirtless, and his buddy, zipped by, calmly having a conversation you might overhear on the train or in a coffee shop, just completely comfortable while I shuffled along in agony, huffing and puffing, feeling like I’d hyperventilate any second. Once they were by, I noticed a tattoo on shirtless guy’s back that read “II V MMV”. Again, trying to do anything to keep my mind off the torture of the last few miles, I called out, “Hey! What’s two-five-two-thousand-five?” and he turned back, grinning, and replied, “Wedding anniversary!” to which I gave him the thumbs up (I didn’t have enough oxygen to continue a conversation). I thought to myself, “What will he do if he ever gets divorced?”

Around mile 22, we approached a hill over a bridge. Franklin had mentioned this hill to me the day before, telling me that it was the last significant hill of the course, dubbed Lemon Drop Hill, and that the course was all downhill from there. I was surprised no fan was holding up the ubiquitous sign, “It’s a hill. Get over it.” A group of entertainers twirled a bunch of long batons whose ends were in flames – that caught my attention and helped me forget the agonizing pain for about two seconds.

I passed a couple of ladies and eavesdropped on their conversation as one asked the other, “Why is this called Lemon Drop hill?” I interrupted with, “I don’t know. Feels more like Tear Drop hill to me.” No laughs – tough crowd. Please tip your wait staff.

I crested the hill and kept trying to trick myself into making this bit easier. “Four miles left. Four. You’ve run longer warm-ups. Finish this up and go take a shower and a nap.” But I felt like time had stopped.

I entertained the notion of quitting but then my inner drill sergeant screamed at me, “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re gonna quit at mile 23?!?! Are you stupid? Shut the fuck up and run, pussy.”

It was about this time that Laura rolled up on the hybrid bike she’d rented. Oh thank god, I wanted to cry and hug her, I was so grateful to see her smiling, supportive face. She yelled, “You’re looking good, Allen! Great job!” and the guy in front of me turned to her and yelled, “Thanks!” and Laura and I shared a laugh as I held out my hands as if to ask, “What  the hell? Is his name Allen, too?” She told me that she’d seen Paula at about this same point and she had said, “My legs are toast!” I told Laura, “Paula doesn’t know what toasted legs are! She was probably rolling six-minute-pace through here – try shuffling 9:45’s!” Paula and I would later debate this point post-race.

Sometimes it’s good to be a spectator. Look how much fun Franklin and Laura are having while Paula, with legs of toast, fights in the background. This pic was snapped after pre-race Bloody Marys, complete with a beer back (a midwestern special – look it up).

I think I sped up for the minute or two that Laura rode beside me, but I couldn’t maintain it and fell back into my slog. Somewhere approaching mile 25, I ran past our hotel and I oh-so-very-nearly just popped into it, but my inner drill sergeant lost his shit over that thought and ordered me to carry on.

Just past 25, I felt a shot of pain as the blister on my left toe burst. This scared the bejeezus out of me, and hurt like hell, enough that I limped. A split second after this happened, Laura showed back up and cheered me on. I wondered if she had seen my face contort in pain seconds earlier.

The blister pain was mercifully brief, virtually instantaneous, so I was able to lock back into my blazing pace of 9:45 or so. We were winding around all over the place – there were more turns in the last 1.2 miles than in the rest of the race combined – and I prayed to see those God-sent yellow balloons. But every time we rounded a corner, I looked up, and still there were no yellow balloons in sight. I would say this was the longest mile of my life, but that’d be a lie (see 2012 Boston for one example). Relatively speaking, it was okay. By that, I mean I wasn’t puking, cramping, walking, or staggering, all things I’ve done in marathons past. But I wasn’t exactly dancing either.

Only a mile and change to go, running next to an Edmund-Fitzgerald-esque boat. I can’t figure out how somebody could park that monstrosity into this tiny channel – it’s the equivalent of parking a full-on tractor trailer truck in your narrow driveway.

Finally, I turned a corner and saw the 26-mile yellow balloons and I nearly wept for joy. Then I ran down the final stretch and crossed the finish line where Grandma herself, all 4-foot-2 of her, gave me a high five and congratulated me. I wondered if she’d been standing there since the winner came through at 2:10. I was ecstatic to be done. Little did I know, the toughest part of the day lie ahead.

I grabbed my finisher’s medal and a bottle of water and headed to bag check to grab my bag. I saw Laura who congratulated me and pointed me towards the exit of the finish area – I felt panicky and claustrophobic as thousands of people milled about. The bag check folks quickly and efficiently retrieved my bag, and I headed in the direction of the exit, but couldn’t see it. I felt trapped.

Brian spotted me and came over and lead us towards the exit. He told me, “You’ve got to have some chicken broth – it’s incredible!” so I grabbed a shot-glass sample cup and downed it. I instantly regretted it – while it tasted good, my stomach was not prepared to handle such things. I had flashbacks to ’12 Boston where they gave me bouillon broth in the medical tent and I promptly puked my guts out. Now surrounded by thousands of folks, many of whom were mere inches away, I told myself, “Don’t puke. Don’t puke.”

I know from experience that I had to keep moving. Every time I stop and/or sit down shortly upon finishing a marathon, bad things happen, things like vomit, cramps, etc. Keep moving, Allen, just keep moving. I told Brian, “I have to find Laura,” and I made my way towards where she had been standing moments earlier, but I couldn’t find her. And with the hordes of folks crammed into this tiny area, we were forced to stop walking periodically. And every time we stopped, I got nauseous and felt like I’d pass out. I wanted to scream, “Get out of my way! I’ve got to get out of here!”

Brian directed me on how to get through the crowd to exit, and pointed to a nearby pedestrian bridge. We slowly but steadily made our way to it, and then past Bellisio’s, and towards the drawbridge that traversed the little waterway we’d just run parallel to as we neared the finish.

I was still feeling quite rough while slowly shuffling across the bridge. And then suddenly the crowd stopped as the drawbridge slowly started rising to let pass a tiny fishing boat, aptly named ‘The Hooker’ (stupid, unoriginal pun – just check any surf shop in Myrtle Beach and you’ll see some variation of this on a thousand lame, tourist-trap, items). I cursed the Hooker captain under my breath. Why did this jackass have to fish right now?!? When we halted, I got super light-headed, dizzy, pukey, crampy and passy-outy. We were packed in like the old seafaring cliche, sardines, and I was desperately fighting back the urge to projectile vomit blue Powerade on everybody within thirty feet of me. Maybe some Lake Superior fishing expert can convince me why this guy had to leave to fish at this exact moment. But unless/until that happens, I reserve the right to hate this mother fucker. I prayed for God to send that dude a little Edmund Fitzgerald-style tragedy. 

I had to sit down to avoid passing out or puking. As I sat there, struggling not to puke and desperately attempting to fight off cramps, a tiny little girl with long brown hair and glasses, stood beside me and decided that now was a perfectly good time to strike up a conversation with a random stranger. “Hi”, she said. I turned to my right to see her, then closed my eyes because somehow the blackness of closed eyes prevented me from vomiting all over the sweet little child. “Hi”, I responded in kind. “I don’t know your name,” she declared. “I’m Allen. What’s your name?”

“I’m Maxine.”

“Hi Maxine. I don’t feel very well, Maxine.”

“I saw a lot of runners today.”

“Oh, that’s very cool.”

A very wise woman, who I assumed was Maxine’s mom, said, “Maxine, you leave that man alone.” In all honesty, I think Maxine was actually doing me a favor – her conversation was keeping my mind off the agony and the cursing of the captain of the Hooker. But Maxine was quite obedient and abruptly ended our conversation.

In addition to my standard post-race woes, the cold was starting to set in – I was, after all, sitting around in 50-degree weather, wearing a sopping wet kit of tiny running shorts and a singlet. My arms and hands had this crazy tingling feeling which I told Brian about and he explained that it had to be due to the cold. Some official type guy in the obligatory race-day yellow vest yelled at me, “Sir, you can’t stop here. This bridge has to be clear for pedestrian traffic.” I considered standing up and abruptly puking on him, but I couldn’t move that fast. So instead, I just said, “Sorry, I can’t move.” and Brian ran interference for me as well, saying something like, “He’s nauseous after the marathon.” I added, “I’ll move in a second”, which seemed good enough for the official who moved on to find other weary runners to yell at.

While I sat and chatted with Maxine, the Hooker had passed and the drawbridge closed and people were moving again. I knew I had to stand because the longer I stayed the worse things would get and I couldn’t risk getting stuck behind the next asshole fisherman. I had to seize upon this opportunity to move. I told Brian l was ready to go and he helped pull me up. I felt really bad for Brian – he hadn’t signed up for Allen nurse duty – and at the same time, I was eternally grateful. I somehow managed to avoid puking or passing out. Brian and I even chatted to a fellow runner from home whose singlet bore a map of North Carolina with a star marking Charlotte.

And soon we were in the skywalk (a must-have in a city like Duluth. You can’t have folks trying to walk around downtown in sub-zero temps during the winter.) The warmth of the Skywalk helped me feel a little better, but now the cramps got me – my calves and feet locked up a couple of times so that I had to stop while Brian pushed on my foot and helped me get to a point where I could walk again. Brian’s theory was that I was short on electrolytes so once we reached the hotel, he stopped and bought me a Powerade (not blue, thank God, as I’d drank many, many of those during the race and the very sight of one might induce a pukefest). I walked around in little circles, like a caged tiger, while we waited for the elevator. Stopping meant bad, bad things.

Finally, thanks to Brian, I made it to my room. But I was still in bad enough shape that I couldn’t get my room key out of my belt to open the door. Luckily for me, Chad showed up at this point having just emerged from the hot tub, and he opened the door.

Laura was worried sick and asked me where I’d been – we couldn’t figure out how we’d missed each other. I tried to sip on my Powerade and then hopped in the shower. The warm water felt glorious, but I still had to move around in there to avoid passing out. Before getting in, I told Chad and Laura to listen and if they heard a large thump, please come in and make sure I didn’t drown.

After the shower, I laid down and chatted with Laura about the race. I nibbled on pretzels and drank sports drink. Various members of our party texted – the gang was heading to the Dubh Linn pub for lunch. I told them I’d need a little more recovery time first and then Laura and I would join.

After maybe an hour of lying there nibbling pretzels and drinking sports drinks, I felt good enough to meet the gang. Laura ran her rental bike back to the bike shop while I walked over to the pub. I plopped down in a booth with Brian and Darren and ordered my first beer of the day and after a sip or two of delicious, brewed-on-site beer, I was back to normal. Chad walked over and declared, “Man, you look better. Back from the dead in an hour!” Yep, pretty much a typical post-race for me. I had my standard post-race fare, a giant, greasy burger, and the Dubh Linn did not disappoint.

Afterward, the gang all headed to the Canal Park Brewery which we’d spotted near the finish. This is where I really shined. Everyone around me were better/faster runners, but they could not compete with my post-race drinking prowess. I look forward to racing Reed in a beer mile.

These people can’t compete when it comes to drinking (with the possible exception of Franklin). From left to right, me, Reed, Brian, Franklin, Chad. 

In between drinks at Canal Park, I tried to recruit fast runners for Blue Ridge. Sarah Crouch had just run a 1:11 half, good enough for second overall. I messaged her and tried to get her to come hang out, which she said she’d like to but had some post-race elite event (pretty sure she was just being nice which Chad likes to incessantly point out to me). Then we casually chatted with a crew of runners from Boulder, Colorado, including one Clint Wells who seemed like a normal human being until he told us, humbly/casually, that he was the second master in the half. He ran a 1:06, one spot shy of top master which belonged to Kevin Castille. I found out later that Clint was the top finishing master at Boston in 2016. Boston! Stud of the highest order.

The Charlotte elite crew, sans myself, had all run extraordinarily well. Paula PR’d and qualified for the Olympic trials, running a 2:43. Chad ran a 4-minute PR with a 2:33. Reed crushed his PR by double figures, running an astonishingly fast 2:31. The rest of the weekend, Chad dropped a lot of “I liked you a lot better when your PR was 2:43.” quotes to Reed. Brian dropped me by some 16 minutes in the last 10 miles which told me he was running with me for fun – he could’ve run much faster if he’d wanted. And Darren just ran the race for fun – stopping along the course for brats, bacon, and of course, beer.

3 very fast Charlotteans all leave Minnesota with PRs.

 

Darren’s race sounded imminently more fun than mine.

Epilogue

And that’s my story of the 2018 Grandma’s marathon. This is a great race, definitely a bucket-lister. And now, about a month later, I’m sitting here icing my swollen knee, clearly because Laura has started running again and therefore it’s my turn to be injured. Oh well, until we meet again (hopefully I’ll post before another year passes), au revoir mon amies (forgive any misspellings, please). Jog it out!

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