Monday, June 23, 2014

Week 44: Marathon

In case we didn't have enough going on at the beginning of this week with Lemon's pulmonary function test (results came back great, yay!), on Friday we left home on our biggest road trip yet--a 300 mile drive from our house to Duluth, MN, where my good buddy Norm and I were scheduled to run a marathon (my first one in almost 14 years).  We packed up what seemed like every single thing in our entire house: portable crib, portable booster seat, baby foods, bowls, spoons, cups, medicines, PT equipment, diapers, wipes, blankets, and a few other essentials like running shoes, and hit the road as Lemon was ready to go down for his morning nap.  We hadn't done a long drive with him in a while, so we were a little nervous as to how it would go.

Luckily for us, Lemon is an absolute champ at car travel.  Aside from a few short stops for meals, we drove pretty much straight through with very little protest.  We went to the pre-race expo at a convention center to pick up my race bib, and then headed out to a little cabin right on a small lake where we were staying.  Norm met up with us there, and we had a chance to discuss our race strategy, which was largely based on this brilliant set of illustrations from the Oatmeal.  We had dinner together at the cabin, set our alarms for 4 a.m., and went to bed.

At 4 a.m., we got up, had our favorite breakfast of egg sandwiches and some "delicious" Folger's coffee and headed in to the convention center again to catch the bus to the start of the race.  We got to the starting area about an hour and a half before the gun, and it was about 45F and totally fogged in.  We were freezing, so we found a little shed where we sort of hid with one of the elite runners (we think he was actually allowed to be in there, whereas we tried our best to blend in with the woodwork). 

The race had color-coded flags to indicate the risk of heat exhaustion, with green being "low" risk and red being "high" risk.  All day during the race we were seeing white flags ("risk of hypothermia").  It was hard to believe that it was really June, although the weather suited me and Norm perfectly since we both really suffer when it gets hot.  The only slight trouble with the weather was that because of all the fog, we hardly saw Lake Superior at all, even though we ran along its shore for probably 20 miles.  We caught a few quick glimpses of the shoreline every now and again, but not the open water panoramas that I had imagined.  The course was still very beautiful, though, with the thick woods on one side and a big white fog bank on the other.

Our race was just textbook.  Although we weren't setting any land speed records by any means, we were absolutely in control of the race the whole time.  We ran at a very consistent pace, and actually ran the second half of the race a little faster than the first half, picking off lots of people along the way.  This is in spite of (probably because of) the fact that we walked through most of the water stops, made a bathroom stop, drank coffee and beer that were handed out by spectators, and had a number of good laughs along the way.  My time was only 6 minutes slower than the race I ran 14 years ago, and this was by far a higher quality run.  You can see a video of our finish here (Norm is in the green short-sleeve shirt, and I'm in the white tank), and it's representative of the entire race--we were matching each other stride for stride, never separated by more than 18 inches.  If you're going to run a marathon, I highly recommend this approach!

After cruising across the finish line, we hobbled/staggered for almost a mile back to Norm's car, and headed back to the cabin where Papa Bear and Lemon were waiting for us.  We had a nice lazy afternoon and evening with them, where Norm and I spent a surprising amount of time discussing when our next marathon will be.

The next morning, Norm headed home to Boston, while Papa Bear, Lemon, and I went back into Duluth.  Originally, we thought we would take a boat cruise on Lake Superior, but it was still just as foggy as the day before, so we opted for the Great Lakes Aquarium instead.

 It has a lot of nice exhibits and tanks set up at just the right height for Lemon to get eyeball to eyeball with a sturgeon.

Finally, today we drove back home.  I was glad we took an extra day in Duluth for me to recover before attempting the drive back.  About 25% of the total miles on our car are accounted for by this one trip.  Wisconsin is a huge state--of the 5.5 hours it takes to drive from our house to Duluth, all but the last 15 minutes or so of the trip are within the state.  It is really beautiful, though, and I look forward to exploring it!

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