I wasn't sure if I would be wearing snowshoes or not at the race yesterday. The forecast for Duluth had shown a 50% chance of snow for Thursday, but I didn't know if any or how much had fallen.
I placed my snowshoes into the truck just in case. I was thinking that if there wasn't any snow, I would probably drive home after the race, not spending the night, I probably wouldn't be too terribly tired since this would be more of a training run, and well, *only* a marathon.
That's crazy thinking, really. A marathon is still a very long distance and on hilly ski trails, covered with ice and a dusting of snow, very difficult. Still, I was in the *only* a marathon thinking mode.
Last year I arrived to the race location two minutes before the start. Barely enough time to strap on my snowshoes. This year I left my home at 530 AM. I was not going to be late for the 930 start.
As I approached Duluth I could see very plainly that this was going to be a NO snowshoe race. Oh! Easy Peasy. I was looking forward to running in plain old trail shoes.
I had no time goals; I just wanted to spend hours on feet. I thought probably 6-6:30 I would finish, depending on conditions of the trail. Some of the half marathon entrants had moved up to the full marathon as they realized there were no snowshoes involved. There was a record 21 marathon entrants. I didn't ask about the entrants for the 1/2 marathon or the 10K.
After talking a bit to some friends and adding another layer of clothing I sat in my car and waited for the start. The Duluth radio told me it was 5F with high of 20F. Not too bad, hardy any wind, perfect!
As it neared 930 I made some last minute changes in clothing (three shirts, jacket, two pair of pants, hat, neck gator, gloves and mittens) and was ready to start.
The race begins in the Lester Park ski trail area. There are many many hills. After a small loop in the ski park we go through some private properties, some single track, some open meadow, around a big beaver pond, over a few river crossings, many high high hills with a magnificant view of Lake Superior. This truly is a beautiful area for a race. The volunteers are fantastic. I think they are the same volunteers every year. I was shocked when they recognized me. One man asked where my entourage was. I told him since there wasn't any snow here, some of my friends had stayed behing to pull their sleds at Afton. This is the first time I ran the race by myself. I normally hook up with Scott and we run together. He was sled pulling for the Arrowhead 135, as was John and Pierre.
The course was changed a bit this year. Man, we took this one hill that went straight up, up, up, up. My hamstrings were screaming. Luckily, this hill was grass covered and there wasn't a lot of ice on it. I was happy to make it to the top and look out over Lake Superior. What a view! I was glad Barb had added this hill into the race. I was looking forward to repeating the loop so I could scale it again.
I was surprised that I didn't seen hardly any other runners after the race began. I ran with Jo and Rick for a few miles and then didn't see another soul until the last 3 miles of the race. I did have my iPod with me, but was enjoying the peace and quiet and never did turn it on.
At 6 hours, I ran into the finish. Barb, (race director) and a few others were mingling around. Mike brought me a hot cup of hot chocolate! What a great way to end a winter race. Yum. I told Barb that I wouldn't be staying for the banquet, I was going to head home. I collected my very nice sweatshirt, blue this year, with a pair of snowshoes and a red x inside of a circle stating NO snowshoe races, and headed off for home. After stopping to change clothes at a Dunns Brothers and grabbing a Skim Latte, I was off. I arrived home by 7:00 and it sure was nice sleeping in my own bed last night!
I and Topaz are off to head out for 15 miles now. It'll work out some of the stiffness in my legs!