Race Report: Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon 2021

 After a marathon, you never have to tell me twice to "take time off" from running. I'm more than happy to take a break - two weeks is the goal. My current post-marathon cross training is catching up in my insane tornado of a house! The kids and I were gone for nearly a week, came back Sunday, dumped everything here after church and now it's like a pit. No running. Just right back into the school week and then power cleaning on the side.

And writing a race report, of course! 


On Saturday, I had the privilege of running the Blue Ox Marathon for a fourth year - not consecutive - but my fourth year on the full marathon course. It's actually pretty comical. I am at this race every 2-3 years or so and have had a baby boy in between each Blue Ox race... 

2013: 7 month old E
2016: 3 year old E + 1 year old W
2019: 6 year old E + 4 year old W + almost 2 year old C
2021: 8 year old E + 6 year old W + almost 4 year old C + 1 year old S

Thank you, Jesus, that our family has been growing like crazy over the past 8 years! Though I will say this mama is tired and the pattern will likely not continue from here on out. Our hands are full with four boys in the best kind of way :)


Training for the past 12 weeks was focused primarily on the Fargo Half Marathon (from two weeks ago) with longer long runs, tempos, and speed efforts thrown in to work for this full marathon as well. I recovered for a few days after the Fargo 13.1, acquired a moderate lower calf strain, and then tapered for the next week leading up to Blue Ox. Thankfully the calf strain resolved itself after icing, compression and easy runs.

Mileage for the half marathon I raced in the Spring was a super low average of 27.5 mpw. For this Fall half and full, the weekly mileage average did increase to 36.4 mpw - still very low for marathon training but better than this Spring. Work in progress here! I'm gradually building up that base while doing my best to recover after baby and maintain a strength work base. 

The Fargo Half Marathon went really well two weeks ago and my goal at the Blue Ox was to run a smart marathon and to be happy with how I ran. Going for a PR in the half and trying to PR in a marathon soon after isn't always a great idea, but it was an idea anyways. 

All in all, I just wanted to end 2021 on a good note.

I lined up with my friend Amanda and planned to stay around 6:50 for the first half marathon of the race and to then re-evaluate based on how I felt. That has grown to be a fairly comfortable pace for long distances but this race would be different because I was running with my hydration pack (lack of volunteers/water stations for this year). I have only used my Orange Mud pack for training - never for racing before. That made me a little, or maybe a lot, nervous.

Trying out mom's hydration vest (w/o water pack in it)

The first half marathon felt okay. The pace was fine, I didn't feel overly fresh, but I'll tell you what - I was well hydrated! And I was in great company. Amanda and I were with two other runners for probably the first 11 or 12 miles or so and I really like running in a group. There is power to being in a pack!

But then, as I hit mile 12 or so, I started falling back. Mainly in self-preservation, because my calves/hams and even quads were feeling very fatigued. Not a skeletal feeling but the muscles. I wasn't sure if that is what cramping feels like, as I haven't had a huge problem with that before. They just felt like fire and there was WAY too much race left to be messing with that.

In hindsight, it could have been the fast paces we had been hitting, fatique from the half marathon PR two weeks ago, the extra weight from a full hydration vest OR more hilly terrain than I am used to. Or maybe my mega-low marathon mileage. Choose your poison? I have been thinking this one over, trying to trouble shoot for future races, but I'm guessing it's a combination of all the factors that lead to my burnt out legs. 

Despite the burning legs, I was really impressed to see the first half marathon was a 1:29:12 for this FULL marathon! That is a huge positive in the big scheme of things as a runner. This was my first year breaking a 1:30 half and then I happened to hit a sub-1:30 while in a full marathon! Pretty cool! Also lead to some discomfort later... #talesofapositivesplitrunner

The first half of the race was super speedy, and really I would have loved to maintain that speed throughout, but the reality of my training set in and I needed to shoot for a 7:15 to stay "alive" and well for the rest of the race. 

A positive to running this course before is that I know where the hills are. 
A negative to running this course is also that I know where the hills are. Hehe.

I shifted to a less speedy mindset and locked in to a marathon-shuffle-y pace. By mile 20, I was mad at my hydration vest (yes, mad at the inanimate object) and dropped it with my dad before turning on to Birchmont Drive. My shoulders were sore, I felt like a heavy Babe the Blue Ox myself and I was analyzing whether I actually drank enough out of my pack to make it worth carrying that weight for 20 miles. 

Per one source I had read earlier in the week, "According to a study that was done in 1978 at the University of Georgia, for every extra 5 pounds of weight, you slow down by 1.4 seconds per mile." At this point in the race, I was regretting carrying my hydration vest. But I felt torn, because especially in the marathon, fueling early and fueling often is so important. I tend to lose my want to drink/eat at the end and I didn't want to get in a rough spot there.

Thankfully, dad and my 6-year-old W were watching at mile 20 and I was able to leave my vest in their care! Freedom! I felt lighter but still pretty tired.

On this course, I struggle with the rolling hills from mile 20 and on. I am a big believer in walking when you need to and this tactic has helped me a lot in this course (it wasn't my goal but it happens)! My legs were on fire back in 2019, too :) I made it a goal to run half way up the larger hills, speed walk the other half and then run down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

With cramping, tight hips and leg muscles, this run up half/walk up half/run down strategy helps me mentally and it loosened my tightness, too. I also thought any chance of a PR was shot by this point, too.

"Oh well, just finish. I want to enjoy this, " were my thoughts from that point on.

I ended up hitting two fuel stations that had sports drinks - one from the race and one solely from spectators. The timing was perfect and SO appreciated!

I purposely didn't look at my watch's running time to avoid stressing over my finish time. I just kept putsing away. Saying hi to people, complimenting gals rocking their Zyia leggings (lots of them out there!) and cheering the half marathoners on. And smiling at the spectators - that's always fun and some seem surprised when marathoners are smiling at that point!

Psalm 119:32 was written on my hand and that helped me to focus. And maybe my prayer for the last mile of the race was, "Jesus, move my legs. Please move my legs!" That was a fancy prayer, wasn't it?

For that last little homestretch, the clock was now in sight and I saw a 3:10-something. I can make it! I picked up the pace as much as the ole legs allowed and, watching closely, saw that I crossed just before it switched to 3:11.


YES!!! The race didn't feel great (though it was more pleasant than 2019!), my pacing definitely wasn't perfect but a PR is a PR. I was glad to stop running and definitely hobbled more than after most of the marathons I have ran. Those legs just wouldn't loosen up. 

Amanda set a blazing fast Course Record and came in first! After spending some time on the ground, it was time to get up and hit the shower. Then off to a delicious lunch with our families! I actually had a BIG appetite after this race. Not the usual for me!

Marathon #14 was a good one. A memorable one. And a fine ending to 2021 racing. There are definitely things to work on for the next racing season. I'm thankful for the health and growth that God has blessed me with this year and for having my dad and W there to cheer me on. My mom gets the super-grandma award for staying back with the other three boys! Raising a young family really does take a "village" and I'm thankful for mine!

Lesson takeaway from this marathon: Avoid racing with a hydration pack at all costs if going for speed/time goal. Consider a handheld water bottle if the situation ever arises again!


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