grandma's marathon


there was only one goal in my mind during the race last saturday: claudin and i had to finish together.

in all our years of running, one of us had always made it to the line ahead of the other (she'd hand it to me in the shorter races where speed trumps endurance, but then i'd get her in the longer distances where strength beats leg turnover). we've never finished side-by-side before and have always dreamt of crossing the line holding hands, so that end result was my entire motivation. in my mind, there was no.other.way. but with six miles to go, it didn't seem like i was going to get my way.

first, let's go back to the beginning, when everything was going to plan and it was like running in a dream.

a dense fog had consumed lake superior and the scenic highway that ran alongside it's shore that morning. the locals continually apologized for the weather and sure, it would've been nice to see the "great lake", but cool temps and mist? it's a marathon runner's dream. like with most dreams though, my memory of the race is bizarre and probably makes more sense in my head.


i remember standing at the line, straining to see the course, which seemed to dissappear into nothing only 50 feet ahead. there was an excited buzz in the air as we waited for the start, but as soon as the air horn sounded, everything hushed into a loud silence of muffled footsteps and heavy breaths. usually, the beginning of a marathon passes by in a blur, but because of the visibility, it was more like everything oddly emerged in and out of a mist. there was a duck-dog along the side of the road near mile two; a mocha moose around mile three; yellow balloons hanging solemnly in the air at every mile; and a train that slowly chugged parallel to our route with passengers cheering from it's windows. the fog swallowed everything up so fast you wondered whether or not what you saw actually existed - we were in one of dali's fantasy worlds where time vanished and the non rational prevailed.

claudin and i were running quietly in stride through the surrealistic landscape when a voice from behind brought me back to consciousness. it was jen bigham, member of volée, the elite racing team for oiselle and she had spotted me because i was decked out, head-to-toe, in their apparel. hashtag, fangirl.

ANYWAY. the three of us made fast friends and instant racing buddies, forming a flock {oiselle means bird, en francais} that was on a mission to break 2 hours, 50minutes. for almost 15 miles, we flew down the asphalt road together, gliding along the coast and soaring in and out of clouds. we steadily clicked off mile after mile at a 6:30 average and took turns sharing the pacing duties. there was casual chit-chat at first, but once we got past the halfway point, the vibe became more serious and we all got quiet, focusing on our efforts.

i took an energy gel at mile 8, sips of water at every aid station, and another gel at mile 15 - pretty standard fueling for me - but around mile 17, my stomach started to feel a bit off. i tried to distract my mind with positive thoughts and mantras, like this one my high school coach gave me days before the race: "be comfortable being uncomfortable". but when "uncomfortable" became "unbearable", i began desperately looking for a suitable pit stop. then, as we approached mile 19, i saw it in the distance with a light from the heavens cutting through the fog and shining down on it: a port o' john. "i'm going to pull off here, claudi. i'll catch up" i said, without really thinking.

it was only after my group charged onward and the door slam shut behind me that i realized there'd be a lot more that a few seconds i'd have to make up. i kept the watch running, but didn't have to check it to know how far back i'd fallen. by the time i was back on the road, the group was so far ahead that the fog had eaten them up. i was a minute behind and all alone. in a mater of seconds i went through all the emotional stages: panic, despair, frustration, and ultimately, determination. i resolved to stay calm and gradually work my way back.

over the next mile i eased back into pace and kept my eyes ahead, but with six miles remaining, there wasn't much time to make up ground so i had to push. slowly, people came back into view and i could see some runners who were falling off their paces. i stared at their backs, always giving myself a mile to catch them, but doing it in shorter time than that. one by one, i ran them down, flying past both men and women, surprised at how easily they let me by. i didn't care about time anymore, i just wanted to make it back to claudin so that we could finish the damn race holding hands!

finally, with three miles to go, i saw her. she had broken away from our entire group (which at one point had amassed to a flock of five women and a couple of dudes). she looked strong and was also moving past fading runners. there was a tremendous sense of urgency coursing throughout my body as we entered downtown duluth and i questioned whether i'd be able to reach her before she crossed the line. i kept taking advances one runner at a time though and with each one seemed to be gaining momentum.     
with about a mile remaining we crossed a bridge that took us into the harbor area, i powered down the last hill hoping to cover some major ground, but for all my efforts i only seemed to be inching closer - the gap was getting harder to close. luckily all those inches did add up though and as we entered the file 800 meters i was right on her heels. CLAUDIN! i yelled. i wanted to let her know i was there so she wouldn't take off in her final sprint without me but she was just as spent as i was. relieved that i had done it - that i had caught up and that the race was almost over, i was all smiles. we finished stride for stride and ran down the straight-away holding hands.

for the record:

+ not only did i look super fly in my oiselle kit, but the gear is comfortable - no sport bra of shorts-band chafing whatsoever!
+ it takes ONE MINUTE, at least, to get in and out of a port o' john during a race.
+ claudin ran a two minute pr in her second marathon ever - either this girl is on fire or her coach is awesome, but it's most likely a bit of both.
+ finishing a race hand in hand is a lot trickier than it seems and definitely not as glamorous as you'd imagine {the awkward proof is in the finishing photos}.
+ ice cream sundaes taste sweeter after 26.2 miles and no one judges the second you eat when you tell them you ran a marathon that morning.


    Wesley Walsman said...

    Thanks for sharing your amazing race with your fans!

    Amy S. said...

    As someone who is not a runner, the thought of finishing a 26+ mile race (which is about the distance from here to Livingston!), and doing it in less than 3 hours is amazing. So kudos to you guys!
    And it's very sweet that you and your sissy were finally able to finish a race together :-)

    Petra said...

    oh boy... less then three hours. that's fantastic.

    lucinda said...

    thanks, lady! and good luck with your training for the half - you'll have to keep me posted on how it goes. you're gonna get hooked and then you'll want to do the full! ;)

    lucinda said...

    Really, Bozeman to Livingston? Wow, that really puts the distance into perspective! It's an amazing challenge though and it was awesome to be able to do it with Claudin

    lucinda said...

    aw, you're sweet brian. thanks for keeping up with us and following our stories - eres un buen amigo.

    Amy S. said...

    Yep! When I first realized the connection, it was mind-boggling to me. It seems like a long drive, and that's going 70 mph most of the way, never mind actually running it! Then the next thing that popped in my head was that you are one tough cookie!! :-)

    Jen B said...

    SO HAPPY TO MEET YOU LADIES!!! Yes, screaming that! Was a pleasure to run with you. Lucinda - I'm SO impressed with you making the comeback and getting back on pace (even faster!) after your pit stop. Congrats!

    lucinda said...

    yet another great thing about running [marathons]: the awesome people you meet! it's tough to find people who you click with so well of the bat though and we all did so naturally (and right on pace too. ha!)
    it was so much fun cruising along with you and claudin, which is what motivated me so much to get back up there! you don't know how much you ladies helped me.

    Rebecca Thexton said...

    CONGRATULATIONS! Its a goal of mine to run further than 3 km's! great work x

    Hannah Smith | fox and willow said...

    good grief! you are a beautiful beast! It's so inspiring to see someone do something they love that stretches them at the same time. Bravo! <3

    lucinda said...

    hahaha! thanks hannah! running really is an inspiration.

    Ursula said...

    Great race recap. That's so awesome you crossed together and I so need to look into that chafing and quick to get out of in emergencies?! Win win :)


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