Grandma's Marathon 2010 Race Report (i.e. saypay goes to Duluth i.e. my $500 marathon)

Blog entry posted by saypay45, Jun 21, 2010.

I had several firsts this last weekend. First marathon. First minimalist marathon. First time in Duluth since Iwas in 6th grade. First time Itook a shot of whiskey during a run.

Myweekend started early on Thursday, when I left work at 4pm to travel up to Duluth. Now normally Iwouldn't take an extra day off to go to an out of town race. Iowe my extra day in Duluth to my misreading my race card, thinking that it said pick-up of race packets was from "10 a.m. to 11 a.m." on Friday. With the warning that "all packets must be picked up in person", Ithought it would be a good idea to stay an extra night to avoid missing the one hour window. Well, it turns out packet pick-up was from 10a.m. to 11 PEE-EMM on Friday, and they could have cared less who picked up my packet. They didn't even ask for ID.

Well, despite feeling like a dumbass for not being able to read, I'm glad that Iwent a day early. It made the trip into something almost like vacation.

Our drive up was pretty unevenful. By “our”, I mean my wife, my 2-year old daughter, my sister-in-law, and my mom. Even though there were reports of tornados in Wadena, MN, we didn't see much in the way of bad weather.We stopped at our favorite half-way point to Duluth, Tobie's Restaurant. If you ever have a chance to stop, I highly recommend it. The food sucks, but they make caramel rolls the size of Popeye's fist.

Here's a picture:


Just so you can grasp the size, this box holds six caramel rolls, 14 donuts, or about30 muffins. The cinnamon rolls look like soccer balls.

That night we stayed at the BlackBear Casino Hotel in Carlton, MN. It's about a half hour's drive away from Duluth. One thing I think is funny about Minnesota is that gambling in most every form is illegal here. But you can't drive for more than 30 minutes in any direction without running into a casino. We have as many Indian reservations here as lakes, and every one of them hasits own casino. And gambling is legal on every reservation. State law might as well outlaw gambling on days ending in "Y".

One theme of the trip for me was the inflated prices. After our stay here, everything from our hotel to our meals seemed twice as expensive as normal. In contrast, our room here was a $50 double-bed suite. That's the least I've ever paid for a hotel, and that was one of the nicest rooms I've ever stayed in. I guess they figure if you stay at the hotel, you'll dump at least another couple hundred at the casino.

Casinos in Minnesota are a unique breed. Most of them are out in the country. But they all try to imitate the big casinos in Las Vegas. The result is a combination of The Strip and The Lodge, which usually manifests itself in the use of modern materials and furniture with big statues of moose and other wildlife. I didn't see any of that here, but I did see a nightclub that unsuccessfully tried to combine a laser light show with square dancing.

Apparently it was also someone's birthday at the nightclubthat day. .


I don't have a joke for a 6 foot tall, inflatible birthday cake. Ifeel like the cake itself is the joke.

Speaking of things that are jokes in themselves...


Apparently Duluth is a rough town. Note to the owner...I don't think anyone is going to jack your 1998 Toyota Camry.

On Friday, we drove to Palucci Hall in downtown Duluth to pick up my race packet. For those of you who have never been to Duluth, I highly suggest that you go.Almost theentire town is built intotheside of Spirit Mountain, which isthe Minnesota attempt at a mountain. We half-ass most everything, so the mountainis reallyjust a giant hill.But because of the mountainyou have an awesome view of Lake Superior from just about anywhere. Here's one of my favorite sights, the Duluth lift bridge.


We spent a good hour watching gigantic freight ships pass through the harbor. What a sight!

One of the most exciting parts of the whole experience for me was when I nabbed a pair of MT100s at the marathon expo for $30. They had all kinds of stuff on super sale. I also tried on a pair of VFF Bikilas. My first impression: they feel like a foot condom.And I don't need that kind of protection. Anyway, not my style. But I liked the MT100s so much that Ialmost broke a cardinal rule of race day and wore them instead of my VFFs.

After the race expo we checked in to our hotel inProctor. In contrast to the last room, this "suite"was no bigger than my freshman dorm room. How they fit a king bed and a pull-out sofa was beyond me. It came complete with a whirlpool tub in the middle of the living space. Good for the couple unfortunate enough to honeymoon in Proctor, but bad for the guy vacationing with his extended family and looking to check out of the hotel before I could do the after marathon ice bath. And to top it off, this room came at a $220 price tag.

I did enjoy that the hotel was filled with nothing but marathon runners, and the staff had the event schedule down cold. Lunch was a pasta buffet. Dinner was a pasta buffet. Breakfast waswater, bananas, bagels, sports drink, and all that other crap we runners eat like candy the week before a race. And unlike other days, the breakfast started at 3:45 a.m. to get runners fed before grabbing a shuttle to the race.

For those of you who haven't run Grandma's before, here's how the race goes down. The full marathon goes from the middle of nowhere in Two Harbors to Canal Park in Duluth. There's nowhere really to stay in Two Harbors because it's a town of about 2 people. The only "resorts"have the words "lodge"or "campground" in the title. So you usually stay in Duluth and take a bus over to the start line. Since everyone takes a bus over, you have to board at around 5am to ensure that you make it to the start on time. The course has a net altitude change for the whole race that feels like a whopping 1 foot. And the race is all along the coast, so you can see the finish line from about 15 miles away. It has awesome views of Lake Superior for most of the race, and for the rest of the race you are in downtown Duluth being cheered on by drunk college kids. You can't ask for much more.

My plan for the race was to go out with the 4:15 pacer and see how it goes. I don't run with a watch, so I don't know what my times are, and I don't really care. Ialso decided to run with VFFs instead of barefoot. I ended up getting passed by the 4:30 pacer at mile 19, and just hoping I finished somewhere ahead of last place. I lostfeeling in my feet at mile 16, and I didn't care.I figuredif Igota stress fracture, who cares. Plenty of people get those in marathons. Ipaid over $500 to be at the marathon, and I was finishing if they had tocarry me across the line in a stretcher.

One thing I like about running in VFFs is that people come up and just start talking. That doesn't happen with normal shoes. And I was grateful for all the people that Imet along the way. I met a gal
named Reena from Chicago who just bought some VFFs and is falling in love with them. We chatted about running for the first 15 miles, and that made the miles go by fast. I met a nurse named Dave who runs mostly in huaraches (although that day he was running in some NBs). He kept me going during the last 5 miles whenI thought I was looking fondly at the drop-out point. Isaw three others wearing VFFs, although nobody going barefoot. One of them said it was his first long run in VFFs. Normally they are his "drinking shoes". I suppose they would be comfortable for that purpose also.

All in all, it seemed like a very supportive event for BFR and MR. I also wanted to give a shout out to this guy:


Lots of people admire us for running barefoot. Iadmire people who run marathons in costumes.

One thing I think sets this marathon apart from other events is the fans. There were people cheering in large amounts from the start of the race on. Iwas offered all sorts of food, from fresh fruit, to candy, to various kinds of alcohol. Ipartook in some fruit, a piece of chocolate cake, several bananas, two pieces of bacon (awesome idea by the way), two shots of beer, and a swig of Wild Turkey. Iwas offered a beer bong, andpolitely declined.

Anyway, my firstminimalist marathon was a rousing success. Ifinished atadecent time of 4:37:52.My family and friends were a hugesupport during my training. My sister and my wife ran the last .5 miles of the race with me barefoot to show their support. Since up to this point my wife has told me that barefoot is stupid, that was a huge gesture. IfI had any fluid left in my body at that point, I would have cried.


Here's my family greeting me at the finish line.


Here's me lumbering along at mile 26.

I have thelong distance bugnow and you'll definitely be hearing more about my marathon and ultra exploits!

Thanks for reading!