Saturday, June 18, 2005

Grandma's Marathon (Minnesota)

June 18, 2005
32nd Marathon, State #26 (Age 37)
Duluth, Minnesota

This was a long weekend road trip for the whole family.  Actually the first road trip and first marathon for my new baby daughter.  We left from Ohio towards Minnesota via the upper peninsula of Michigan on Wednesday evening.  Our first stop along the way was to visit Grandma Whitt since she had not seen the baby.  

We spent the night in Ann Arbor and headed north and couldn't resist stopping in Frankenmuth, Michigan, a little German town.  We drove through the the downtown area and made two stops.  First Bronners, the largest 362 day a year Christmas store and Zenders, an authentic German restaurant.

We continued further north and crossed the Mackinaw Bridge to the upper peninsula of Michigan.  We drove along Lake Michigan taking in the beauty of the coastline until we were tired of driving.  We had packed our mountain bikes and baby trailer so, biked about 20 miles along some back roads and out to the coast for some photos.

We ventured on having dinner and trying a "Pasties".  These seem to be a northern Michigan thing.  Depending on which side of the peninsula you live there are different condiments to complement the glorified pot pie.  We pushed on and made it to the home of Northern Michigan in Marquette.  This set us up for the next morning to find the highpoint of Michigan.  For more on this adventure see my highpoint blog.

Finally rolling into Duluth on Friday afternoon we checked into our hotel and headed to the expo.  Downtown was super busy with the nearly 15,000 runners plus families.  There was a 5k Friday night next to the expo which added to the chaos.  The expo was large as well as the pasta party.  I picked up my packet as we headed back to the hotel which was across the river back in Wisconsin and had dinner at a steakhouse next door.

Race morning came quickly and because of the point to point course and the crowds it was recommended not having your family and friends at the start line.  A shuttle stop was next door, so two hours before race time I boarded the school bus and headed 26.2 miles out of town.  The start line was full of excitement as busload after busload of runners unloaded.  I sat down with a group of runners and relaxed to pass the time.  This is when I realized I forgot to put on my championship chip.  Opps.  I stopped by a booth for support, but they said tough luck.  I found a cell phone and called my wife at the hotel and asked her to bring my chip to the finish area.  Bags were well organized to transport morning clothing to the finish line.

The start of the race was prefaced with two F-16's flying overhead and a DJ playing great music.  There was also an old train with VIP's next to the starting line that headed back to town when the race started.  The start line was fenced off which you would think it would be hard to cut, but ends up it was pretty easy as I made my way up front to not be penalized as much by not having my chip.  I started only 1:25 back.  In addition to not having my chip, I had sent my heart rate monitor in for battery replacement and didn't bring a watch for my own splits.  I was excited to see giant yellow balloons in the sky as mile markers the whole race.  The course was relatively  straight, so always easy to see the next mile marker way off in the distance.

The course was along Lake Superior pretty much from start to finish.  Very scenic.  Slight rolling hills were not too much of a burden.  The only clock along the way was at 13 and 15 miles, which was a bummer without having my watch.  Support was terrific along the way with lots of fans, especially the closer you got to town.  Once in town the streets were completely lined with cheering fans.

I met up with my wife just shy of the finish line, picked up my chip and crossed the line, received my finisher shirt and medallion.  I was beat and rested for a bit.  Great snacks at the finish line.  Massage was packed and I didn't feel like waiting in the sun so made my way to the nicely organized meeting area and met my family.  The whole finish area was jam packed with people supporting their favorite runners.  We found a little pizza place along the course downtown and had a nice lunch on the patio and watched the rest of the runners come through downtown.

After an afternoon nap we headed out to a bike trail that was a converted railroad track and did an out an back route.  After a shower we went back to the finish line where live bands were playing all night.  We found a great Italian restaurant for a relaxing late dinner.

On a scale 1..10 this race was a 10!

On the way home we found Wisconsin's highpoint.  For more information on this adventure see my highpoint blog.  We made it as far as Madison Wisconsin where we got the bikes back out and biked around town and around the lake downtown.


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