Just Enough: Grandma’s Marathon 2014

Just two days before the race, Grandma’s Marathon was looking less likely for me.

Rain kept drenching the farm making nearly every chore take longer, and several employees had problems come up that made scheduling dicey. Obviously the animals must be cared for when we’re away, and I’d resigned myself to staying home if I needed to. Maybe this redemption marathon just wasn’t meant to be.

My husband, who is usually more creative about these troubles than me, eventually got everything organized so we could head to Duluth on Friday night. I’m grateful to our people who worked an extra day or long shift to make it happen.

One of JR’s good friends, John, farms north even of Duluth, where only hearty souls can endure the weather winter dishes out. Okay, I suppose that’s sort of true for all of Minnesota. :)

Anyway, we dropped in at the farm and saw cows, sheep, and eager dogs, plus great people. John’s small niece was busily playing with something, which she proclaimed to be “re-raysers.” She was clearly pleased with the small dog-shaped erasers, so I was surprised when she handed the brown and white one to me. It immediately reminded me of my Calvin, with a round, brown back and white feet. She said she wanted me to keep it, and her dad said the e-racer would be good luck for me, the racer!

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They knew I was in town for Grandma’s, and I appreciated this sweet gesture.

I left JR with John for the evening, and I drove back south to get my race number and stay with my cousin in Duluth. While driving I chatted with one of my sisters who wished me luck. She also reminded me that true strength comes from God. I’d been reminded of that poignantly during my last marathon, and it was just what I needed to hear that night.

I also thought about how fortunate I was to even be there. I’d felt addled during the hectic week, but once we got on the road I just felt grateful. A marathon for fun is a non-existent luxury for billions across the world, and I was about to do my second of the year. I had an opportunity, and opportunity is not insignificant.

Duluth was COLD, 48 degrees, when I stepped out of my car, and I said a silent thanks for the weather. (It had been in the 80’s when we left home.) The North Shore usually does remain cool well into June with Lake Superior working its chilly magic.

A 10:30 bedtime was later than I planned for, but I still had a hard time falling asleep. By 4:30, I was up for good. It was race day.

My cousin (who went on to run a 3:33!) and many of her friends were running the marathon, and we caught an early bus up to the start at Two Harbors. It was foggy and lightly misting, but no real rain ever showed up. A 50 degree start meant we were cold while waiting, but I knew it would be better as soon as we got moving. I had plenty of gels and more bananas packed than I’d ever need, so I organized the fuel I wanted in my pockets and under my hat. I put the rest, along with my light windbreaker, into my gear bag to check. Shorts, tank top, and gloves it would be.

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The fog was thick enough that we couldn’t see the lake, but I knew it was just off to my left as I finally crossed the start. I promised myself I would run an easy first few miles to warm up and then settle into goal pace. I did stay comfortably behind the four hour pacer for the first few miles, and then I forgot to notice where she was for awhile.

I found a new running buddy about two miles in, and for several hours we talked jobs, running, kids, pets, and hydration. Sometimes I wonder whether it does use too much energy to chat with people, but I really can’t help it. I love the human interaction and sharing the race with others. As the miles progress I get more quiet, but talking makes the early miles so enjoyable.

We both had our eye on 3:59, though she said it would be a larger stretch for her. About mile six we randomly wondered where the four hour pacer was. I knew we were running almost exactly on pace, but I still got nervous thinking we might be behind. We picked it up a little, but when we passed 10K in under 56:00 I was certain we were ahead.

The weather continued cool and overcast, and when we passed right next to the shore a cold breeze would prick the goose bumps up on my arms for a minute. In spite of that, I felt it was nearly perfect temperature. The morning was still, and it was nice not to fight the wind.

Spectators were few but lively during the first half, which we came through just under 1:59. I was satisfied that I hadn’t gone out too fast, but I was nervous about my ability to stay strong in the second half. There wasn’t a lot of cushion. I continued to run with my friend, and about mile fifteen it suddenly got really crowded. We realized the four hour group was upon us, and we were fighting for every inch of elbow space. Feeling claustrophobic, I started blazing a path forward. She followed, and we were back ahead of the group for a few more miles.

Somewhere around mile twenty we got separated. We’d talked earlier about each running our own race, and I knew no matter what she was on track for a big PR.

Now it was just me.

I’d had in my iPod since mile seventeen without paying too much attention to it, but now I was really hurting. Even my ankles and the vertebrae in my lower back were sore.

I tried to muster positive thoughts, but I knew I was slowing down. For a few minutes I thought this was doomed to be another repeat of “almost.” The crowds were getting larger and the cheers louder, but that didn’t make my legs move faster. Then, Amarillo Sky started playing through the one earbud I had in.

My playlist was an eclectic mix of pop, rock, Latin, praise & worship, and classic rock, with only a little country thrown in. This song surprised me but was exactly what I needed. If you don’t know it, the songs talks about a guy working his farm land and sending up another prayer for his dreams of prosperity for his family.

It wasn’t a peppy running song, but I’d added it a few days ago because it reminded me of friends and college days. During the marathon I felt like I was soaking in the words for the first time. I thought about all the people who work hard everyday with little reward (in all sorts of jobs) and how strong they are. I was again reminded of my opportunity to run and how I owed it to my family, my friends, and myself to make the most of it. I thought about my mom and her failing eyesight. Even though I didn’t have a sign on my back this time, I was still running in honor of her at heart. I even thought about the many generations of my family who have farmed the land and how they’ve always put their trust in God.

The race was no longer just about running. I had a renewed purpose; I had a choice. I could pick my knees up a little higher, try to run a little faster, and see what happened.

I wish I could say after this I was so inspired that the final four miles were a breeze, but … absolutely not. They continued to be a battle. I was feeling stronger mentally, but physically, of course, my body was getting more and more fatigued.

The closer I got to the end, the more I hurt and my brain demanded to stop. I knew I would keep going and finish, but I was tense as I thought about how every second counted if I was going to beat the clock.

I didn’t slow down for water the final two miles because I needed to keep momentum. If I stopped for even a second I feared I wouldn’t start again.

The last mile or so features more turns than the rest of the race combined. I tried to keep close to the tangents and hoped the next curve, then the next would bring the finish into sight. Finally I could see the line, and I heard JR call out my name from the crowd. I thought I had it, but it would be close. The last .2 I visibly sped up (according to my husband), and I mostly felt relief as I crossed the finish. Then I looked down to stop my watch, which had me at 3:59:53. I made it!!

I wished I could have waited at the finish to see when my running buddy of so many miles came in, but the skillful volunteers were herding us quickly through. I filed on to get the particulars – space blanket, water, medal, shirt, red carnation, food – but I couldn’t really relax until I saw the official results. It was still true; 3:59.

My smart husband and his friend came to the edge of the gates by the gear bag pickup, cold beers in hand. :-) They spotted me as soon as I had my stuff. I didn’t even have to dig out my phone to call. Don’t worry; I drank my chocolate milk too.

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We eventually secured a patio table for lunch at a restaurant near the finish, then later got coffee to top things off. It had turned into a beautiful, though cool afternoon. We were just starting the walk to the car away from the crowds when we passed a lone individual sitting on the curb. He held a sign proclaiming he was homeless and hungry, but the thing that really hit me was the wistful look in his pale blue eyes.

I knew I didn’t have any cash, but I thought about the three bananas in my gear bag. I’d packed enough to share at the start but eaten none.

I quickly backtracked, and as I approached the man I asked if he liked bananas. I apologized that they looked bruised from being in my bag, but I said he was welcome to them if he wanted.

He answered that “Yes,” he did like bananas, and he thanked me as I handed off the yellow bunch. I didn’t know what else to say, so I just turned around and walked to catch up with JR and John. That was it.

I know not everyone seeking help on the street is really hoping for food, and I know three bananas don’t exactly equal a meal. Still, I see there was a reason I packed that extra fruit, and I pray for the man with the pale blue eyes.

Duluth is a beautiful, friendly city, and I am so grateful for the second chance it gave me to reach my goal.

Looking now at my last two marathons, I realize I could not have hit 3:59 without both of them.

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Last year I ran 4:05 on much less training. I worked harder this year with only a few setbacks, and I admit I thought under four hours was almost a sure thing. Lake Wobegon was a wonderful race, fun and inspiring, but it taught me not to take marathons for granted. As I look back at my splits, I see in black and white how things only slipped away in the last three miles. For some reason I wasn’t ready for how much it would hurt.

At Grandma’s this weekend I was more prepared when my legs felt pinched and tired at twenty. I knew it meant I was working hard like I was supposed to, and then it was time to run with my heart.

I’m grateful that God gave me enough heart for the duration.

As with most things in life, I now understand the journey and the people involved made the experience far richer and more valuable than the plain completion of the goal itself.

Posted in Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Colorful Update

Spring is about to give way to summer, and each day offers new glimpses into the coming season.

Yesterday afternoon I was checking some recently moved calves, and Calvin showed up to check on them too. He takes his job as farm dog quite seriously.

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Dogs, cows, and people alike appreciate the end of winter, but it’s a delicate balance. Cows especially don’t like it too warm.

My gardening attempts this spring are still behind, but luckily we moved into a place with a yard full of perennials. Our house certainly has quirks that leave much to be desired, but I’m grateful for the flowers which took many years to develop.

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We’ve had rain, rain, and more rain this spring, so late last week we were extremely grateful to finish chopping our hay crop.

The yard is wet and low spots of the fields are underwater, but at least we have all the critical spring projects done. (Planting and first crop of hay.)

We are hoping for drier skies this week, but we’ll march on no matter what the weather brings.

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{This water is at least gone for now.}

Posted in Calvin, Cows, Gardening and Yard Stuff | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Adam

I’ve heard it said that time is a blur, and days and nights often blend together for new parents.

While I don’t know this from personal experience, I did get an inside scoop this week.

My newest nephew, Adam, entered the world almost three weeks early on June 9th. Perfect and healthy, our whole family was excited for his arrival.

Back at the farm…we (of course) were in the thick of hay harvest, so I knew I couldn’t make the drive to see him right away. Then the sky turned grey and the rain poured down Wednesday night, which caused us to temporarily halt hay chopping. We covered the hay that we did have and prayed for dry weather again soon.

This gave me enough time to organize and make the drive Thursday afternoon to meet Adam. It was actually perfect timing because the new parents were exhausted and could use an extra set of hands. While I cooked supper they filled me in on all his particulars, and in the evening I got to hold a snugly baby while they took a much deserved nap!

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I wasn’t really sleeping on the job, but he was quite warm and peaceful.

The night hours passed in a progression of naps, feedings, diaper changes, and late night television. I may have also eaten a doughnut or two. {Don’t worry, I also brought good stuff like yogurt, cut fruit and veggies, and homemade pizza.}

All good things must come to an end, and now I’m back at the farm this evening waiting for the last loads of hay to come in. Once they arrive then we’ll finish covering the pile for good. (At least until second cutting in July.)

A big congratulations to Dan and Julie on their sweet new baby boy! Though my baby knowledge may be lacking, I’m glad I could help share in the excitement of some of his first days. I also promise to quit comparing his habits to those of a baby calf if I can help it. :-)

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Posted in Crops, Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Tales of Summers Past

We’re in the thick of June. Summer is beckoning, and the days are long, warm, and lazy. Ok; they’re not exactly lazy. But sometimes I imagine they are!

Lately lots of small things have been reminding me of past summers. I think about growing up on my parent’s farm and the daily rhythm summer life used to have there. My sisters and I would find so many ways to have fun amid the chores we helped with. The apple trees were always thick and the garden was plentiful. The cows went about their normal routine, and we would teach calves to lead in preparation for the county fair.

There were always noon family dinners and late night family suppers. After hot days we would slip on swimming suits in the evening and drive the few miles to one of the area lakes. This was the perfect way to cool off when you didn’t have air conditioning!

I went through the first old photo album I found to look for some of these moments. The pictures may not be as sharp as today’s megapixels allow, but the memories certainly are.

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I think I’ve always loved dogs. This was Cody Rae, and she was as loyal and tenderhearted as they come.

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I’m afraid I look ready for mischief here. I also remember loving that Minnie Mouse hat.

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My July birthday always arrived in the middle of summer fun and heat. From the candles it appears I am turning seven. And I have the best seat in the house on Dad’s lap. Gotta love the glasses and curls of this era!

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Linda and me washing cows for the fair. I think we usually got as soaked as the animals.

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With five kids we had many confirmations and graduations in our household. I mostly like this picture because it shows my mom. Usually she was either behind the scenes making preparations or she was the one taking the photo. Even here, you can see she’s busy setting up. I appear busy trying to taste.

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More summer fun in the barn.

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The whole clan at one of our favorite lakes. It’s crazy for me to realize even this picture is nearly ten years old.

I hope you’re already busy making lots of your own great memories this summer. Soak it up; it will be gone before you know it!

Posted in Baby Calf Care, Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

General Miscellany and Mayhem

Welcome to June, everyone!

This week I spotted a fun way to usher in Monday morning, along with June Dairy Month. Perhaps you already saw this picture (and thought it was dorky) as you scrolled through your social media feeds…

Oh well, I’m posting it again. :-)

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Just in case you think you’re having a bad hair day…
Happy Monday, and Happy June Dairy Month!

Even though summer won’t officially arrive until later this month, I feel like it’s in full swing. The sun has been hot and the humidity high. We’ve also gotten drenched in rain. Over the weekend we had more than 3 inches, and we were the lucky ones. I’ve heard totals of 6-7 inches not too far away, which has washed out many small crops growing in the field in those areas.

Right now, we ‘re all hoping for a dry week, and then small showers of rain when we need it.

My garden progress is slow. I’ve still got tomato and pepper seedlings sitting in the big south window. As soon as the ground dries out we’ll be starting our first cutting of hay, so I may have to get creative finding time to plant them.

We have already been enjoying a few fresh delicacies though. I got tender asparagus from my mom, and last night I cut rhubarb to mix into a tasty cake.

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On a different note…

I signed up for another marathon.

I didn’t think I would so soon, as Lake Wobegon took a lot out of me mentally and physically.

But about a week later, I started wanting one more long race this season. I thought about another half marathon, but there weren’t really any options close by in the next month.

Then I started thinking about 26.2. I’d been so close to my goal, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle going after it and missing again.

So I prayed about it. I’d already made some peace with my first race, but what about another? These thoughts came to me:

Is this a smart time for a marathon? Talk with your husband, and see what he thinks. If those things line up, go for it if you like. I can’t run the race for you, but I will be right beside you.

JR also said to sign up if I wanted, and the next day I squeezed in near the end of registration for Grandma’s Marathon.

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Grandma’s is run along the shore of Lake Superior from Two Harbors to Duluth, and it is Minnesota’s oldest marathon. I’ve wanted to run it for awhile now, and this year things just clicked.

We should be long done with hay by June 21 race day, and that weekend is otherwise free. My cousin lives up in Duluth, and she is also running the marathon this year. I can stay with her, with is a major bonus considering hotels get sparse and expensive for marathon weekend.

JR also has a good friend who farms up in that area, so if he comes with me we’ll visit his friend. (Or maybe I’ll just drop JR off and let them hang out while I run.)

The other thing I like about this race is the increasing support at the end. I hear the last six miles as you come into Duluth just get fuller and louder with people as you go. Water stops are every single mile in that last stretch, and the whole city comes out to cheer. I had a rough last few miles in May, so I’m thinking this might be the boost I need.

I am a little worried about June weather, but this race is historically cool. It takes a long time for the North Shore area to warm up in spring. I’ve also come up with a plan. If it’s a miserable hot or pouring rain day, I’m just going to run what feels comfortable and enjoy. If the weather is good and I feel good, I’ll see if I can go faster than ever before. Either way, I’ll keep in mind who true strength comes from.

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cooking and Foods, Running, This and That | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments