Thursday, October 3, 2019

Race Report: Grand Forks Marathon 2019

What ended up being my worst ever taper week turned into the best outcome. That was Grand Forks Marathon 2019 in a nutshell for me.

Parenthood is a blessed daily lesson in humility, it really is, and the past couple weeks were just another one of those lessons! Our youngest boy (23-month-old, can I just say he's 2 already?!) had a gunky cough and runny nose the past couple weeks. Then it passed on to 6-year-old. My husband and our 4-year-old both seemed to avoid getting this sick bug so I figured "Ah ha! My superior immune system helped me miss it too!"

Think again there, Amy, think again.

To sum up race week, Monday felt "off" as we met for homeschool co-op; more tired than usual. Tuesday = felt bleh and then Wednesday I was pretty much useless. My neck was stiff, lymph nodes swollen, sinuses stuffed and I had a miserable headache. No cough, just a runny nose and PAIN. This felt like a sinus infection coming on so I drank water, some apple juice, some gatorade, even some kombucha; to push this grossness out with, well, fluids.

Much of our lessons took place with me wrapped up in a blanket on the couch and the kids seemed disappointed that I was such a (literal) bump on a log. I read Tina Muir's article about getting over sickness before race day and put her tips into action.

Thursday I headed out for a few early morning miles with my running partner (she is great!) and running itself felt easy -  the post-run exhaustion concerned me though. My heart rate was elevated and I was freezing... sooo I dug out the sinus rinse bottle and school took place mostly on the couch again. After getting the kids to bed, I passed out. Absolutely zero packing got done.

I contemplated skipping Grand Forks and focusing on the Bemidji Blue Ox (2 weeks after) instead but, after coming this far, from being injured last Fall to being ready to race this year... and then missing due to a measly sinus cold?! I needed to give it a shot. I could jog the race just to finish if need be. Not every race needs to be raced, right?

We'll see what comes tomorrow.

Friday: Race Day Eve. I woke up feeling very little improvement and anxiety about all that needed to get done that day before I could sleep again (I'm not the first mom to feel that way!). Lessons were finished, lunch, I packed while toddler napped and then we were off to Grand Forks. The expo is pretty low-key, which I like especially when bringing the kids with me. We saw Amanda as she was leaving the expo and, when I said I was a bit under the weather, she said she would pray for my healing. I definitely needed prayer! After picking up my number, we wandered booths and I was thankful to finally meet Kristen with Run Your Life! She has been so helpful as I have been working to up my strength training "game" after that 2018 injury.

Expo, check. Sam's Club to pick up hotel snacks. Then checking into the hotel room. My family met us there and I'm so grateful they wore out the kids at the pool! The boys drew good luck pictures on one of my hands for race day and I wrote Psalm 105:4 on my other hand. "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."

We got to bed a bit late and so maybe I was up a few times that night - I'm not sure if the toddler woke me or if it was just nerves or a runny nose - but overall, that certainly wasn't my worst hotel overnight with kids! The weather was set to be perfect for running (unlike Fargo back in May); now if only I could feel better.

You think they like to watch mom run? Nah, they're in it for the hotel pool & snacks!
The "big" boys swimming with Auntie Dbo

I suppose it's about time I actually got into the race details :)

On race day morn, I woke up actually feeling GOOD! Isn't that always a shock after being sick? "This is what it feels like to be human again"! 

Praise the Lord - those prayers for healing were answered and in a big way. My mom joined me for breakfast because she's an early morning kinda gal. 5:00 am wasn't a bad wakeup time - actually pretty standard for marathon training. After getting packed up and ready, I headed out to the Scheels Shuttle Bus.

The bus ride over was quick and I enjoyed the company of a Bostonian Marathon Maniac who was running her 48th marathon (!!!) and was chasing that 50-states goal. That's SO crazy! I enjoyed visiting with her as we waited in Camp Hog as well. Grand Forks is the perfect size race because there wasn't a massive line-up at the porta potties before the race. A couple stops there and it was time to line up!
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My plan was to hang with the 3:10 pace group as long as my body allowed. The start line mob spread out fairly quickly over the first few miles. Pacer #1 kept us going a little fast which helped to bank up extra time. This was the chattiest pace group I have ever ran with and that made the miles fly by.

Pacer #1 swapped out at mile 14 and Pacer #2 did a great job as well (besides the fact that I couldn't keep up with him!). Grand Forks had an awesome team of pacers this year!

1 - 7:05
2 - 7:09
3 - 7:06
4 - 7:10
5 - 7:06
6 - 7:11
7 - 7:06
8 - 7:03
9 - 7:10
10 - 7:13
11 - 7:05
12 - 7:04
13 - 7:00
14 - 7:02
15 - 7:06
16 - 7:20
One runner and I from the 3:10 pace group stuck together basically the entire race. Around miles 16 and 20, I saw my wonderful family cheering section and that boosted the moral! Mile 16 had me feeling out of gas and the marathon crazy was starting to set in.

We talked about that while running; the delirious stage you hit in the later miles when basic math becomes challenging. At the delirious stage, my main goal was to stay under 8-min/mile. At mile 20, we were thinking "Oh, now we just need to run a 10k! That's all. 10k's are fun." As crazy as that sounds, tricking my brain in those final miles actually works.

These people are THE BEST! 
17 - 7:16
18 - 7:23
19 - 7:18
20 - 7:25
21 - 7:24
22 - 7:21
23 - 7:22
24 - 7:34
25 - 7:34
26 - 7:18
.56- 6:32

We kept up the pace really well for the last 10k and it was glorious to see the finish line when the biker guy, fellow runner and I turned the corner. I LOVE that Grand Forks is a straight shot to the finish line after that final turn. Races that weave you around the parking lot just mess with me!


I picked up the pace as much as possible for that final stretch!


3:11:26. SO. HAPPY.


It was pretty much a dead stop just a few strides after crossing the finish line. Thankfully the cool weather left me feeling really good after this race; no dizziness and not super sore! I owe Kristen a big thank you for the strength training wisdom because my hips and legs didn't feel dead after crossing the finish line. Crazy, right?! My energy was completely gone and I desperately needed a cheeseburger but that was about it besides typical marathon stiffness.

Huge personal victories for this race were:

  • Staying sub-8:00/mile for the entire race (7:34 was actually my "slowest" mile!)
  • Not walking a single stride through aid stations.
  • A 5-minute PR off Fargo Marathon back in May

And my Garmin data said this race was 26.56 miles @ 7:13/mile. That was encouraging because maybe, just maybe, that sub-3:00 marathon can happen in the next 8 years or so. You never know!


As rough as the race week had been, this race really couldn't have gone any better! I was met at the finish line by my favorites; my mom & dad, hubs & the boys, bro & sis-in-law, and by sweet friends too. Answered prayers and God's healing strength over this sinus cold just blow me away. There's no other way to explain feeling that terrible one day to being able to run a marathon the next. I've had quite a few sinus problems in my life and they don't just go away overnight on their own!
Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Psalm 105:4

Thank you to my family for watching kids and for coming out to support my love for this crazy sport! Marathons aren't that exciting to watch but you certainly don't lack enthusiasm :) I am so grateful for the friends I was able to meet up with at the race, for such solid pacers, kind volunteers, fellow runners and just an overall beautiful day for running. Everything came together this weekend.

Now onto recovery, taper and 26.2 #13!