Nicole and I had an incredible weekend in Duluth Minnesota! There really is no other way to start this blog than to say that!
We left Akron pretty early on Thursday morning, with PR shaped numbers dancing in our heads! After meeting up with Heidi in Chicago we were on our way to Duluth. The plane was full of thin remainders of people who had endured long miles and wore there latest racing t-shirt proudly. Mesh and EVA foam covered the floors in place of what would usually be a barrage of leather. People smiled friendly knowing the common goal we all had. One hour later we were on the ground in Duluth. The Grandma's Marathon volunteers were there to meet us with beautiful accents and a incredible swell of pride for their city and race. A short drive, and near death experience later we were at the hotel and getting ready to run. The path behind the hotel wrapped around the city hugging the shore line of Lake Superior. It was foggy and 50 degrees with a few sprinkles. We tried to figure out the course as we ran but, none of we're doing a great job. In fact we convinced ourselves we were right and man were we wrong! It was funny when we looked at the course map. We had heard of "Lemon Drop" a hill around 9 miles for us and 22 for the marathon. Well, the city is built up a m-f 'er of a hill so...we assumed it was part of things. We were in for a treat at mile 9.
We spent the rest of the day talking about eating I am pretty certain. After some Mexican and a trip to Whole Foods with Aunt Nancy, Nicole and I settled on a little pizza place across the street from the hotel. It was scrumptious! The quaintness of this little place was refreshing. The pride the people here had for their city was uplifting. And the air I was breathing felt fresher than I've remembered ever breathing. I liked Duluth regardless of the outcome of the race.
Friday was a fun day getting to catch up with some old friends and meet a few new. We went for a run with Ricky and Finan in the morning. It was the sort of run that went by all too quickly. The weather was incredible, and the banter made me giggle. By afternoon my nerves were settling in a bit so I tried to just rest up. The day went by quickly.
Saturday morning we were on the bus by 4:20 to head to the start. Warming up calmed my nerves as we went through our typical and comforting ritual of preparing for a hard effort. My legs felt good and like I mentioned before the air was incredible, so my lungs were happy. A few final "good luck" wishes between friends and we were chasing after the guys who had started 15 minutes prior to us. Nicole and I quickly became the chase pack as the race went out fast. The miles were passing by around 5:35-5:45 pace and I knew we were ready to run fast. I settled in a bit too much on the 4th mile but was able to get right back on pace after. Nicole was pulling away and I was excited for her! Around 12k my hamstring began to really tighten up. I panicked for a minute. "This hasn't been a problem in months!" I thought. I convinced myself it was just fatigue setting in and tried to push to get back where I knew I should be. Unfortunately I was wrong. My glute still is not strong enough for the 1/2 distance and it was becoming quite obvious by 10 miles. Despite my pain I still nearly laughed out loud when we finally reached the infamous "Lemon Drop", it was a lemon alright...a sad representation of a hill. At best it was 120 meters long and moderately steep...in the eyes of a 3 year old. I did what I could and finished disappointed and frustrated in 1:17:38. My best half in 3 years, but so far from a reflection of the fitness I have. Nicole had run incredible 1:14:41 and I was a proud little, well I guess next to her, BIG teammate! Heidi ran the race of her life and crushed her PR by 2 minutes!!! What a good morning in Duluth. Even my sub par finish wasn't going to be able to get me down after those 2 ran so incredible!
After showers we went for some brunch and met up with Ricky, Finan, and Scott. We had a fun morning goofing off and taking in a little more of what Duluth had to offer. We finally met up with Nick, a guy we were confident had "cat fished" Ricky and Finan for a few years via their running log. Turns out he was an incredibly hilarious and kind hearted guy who just has a thing for Ricky and Finan. But who could blame him? Right Nicole? I got to see Jenna and Chris for a bit and that always makes my heart happy. Jenna ran a great race in the full, running 2:40:38 and finishing 8th. After too many laughs to count, a few sleeper holds, Finan feeling violated, port o' jog photos, some awkward yet hilarious dancing, and great conversation, it was time to rest before heading out for the airport at 4:20 am.
We had an incredible weekend racing and catching up with runners we miss all too much. Duluth you did not disappoint. You made it hard to want to leave. I hope to be back next year!