We left Chicago on Friday morning and rolled into Carlton, MN around 5:30PM. After picking up our packets, we went to Cozy Cafe for dinner. Sitting near the entrance was a group of runners, one of which we recognized as Rob Wehner (the super RD for Glacial Trail which we ran and loved last fall), he invited us to join their group and boy were we glad we did, they were hilarious! After dinner we walked over to watch the finish of a 5k the town holds as part of their Carlton Daze festivities. We were drawn to a couple with a tiny yellow lab puppy and immediately made friends with Jim and his wife. It turned out to be one of those conversations that leaves you wishing you were neighbors so you could get to know these people more (and play with their puppy, of course). We headed into Duluth to have a look around. Having run Grandma’s marathon several times, it was fun to revisit and show Paige around since she’d never been before.
Race day: I’ll start with saying that this race was a lot tougher than I remembered. Paige and I ran together the whole way which was too bad for Paige because I was in a terrible mood for most of the run. I think this was a lingering bad mood from the week but I thought a day in the woods would heal it… eventually it did but it took like 40 miles of being grouchy and, as usual, Paige was a trooper.
The temps at the start were in the low sixties but the humidity was in the mid ninety percent. We rolled out of town and quickly picked up some very technical single track for the first 3+ miles. It was slow going with several runners taking it very easy through this section. Next we started on several miles of nice rolling wooded trails before hitting the dreaded “power lines”. I didn’t remember this section being all that bad last time, selective memory apparently because it was tough. We got through it and the rain began to fall. At this point, I was soaked from sweat anyway and the rain felt good. We ran like this through the turnaround, physically I was fine but my mood was still a bit dismal. The return trip was good with a lot of running despite some long gentle uphills. We purposefully threw in a few walking breaks but generally, we just kept plugging along. The sun started to peek out and accented the beauty of this course, I had also forgotten how gorgeous it was.
On the way back, we did a sock and shirt change at the 34 mile drop bag, it felt amazing. The next section led us back to the power lines, the sun had heated things up a bit and the rain had turned the trail into a muddy slip and slide – this didn’t do much for my mood. By the time we got through there, I was more than ready to be done. We topped off our bottles at the aid station and I tried to muster some friendly banter but only got out a “thank you”. The last ten miles got progressively better and by the last five, we were moving really well. We danced over the rocks and roots, passing people that were feeling the effects of a long day. As we hit the pavement on the edge of town, Paige noticed a woman in front of us and locked in. She hit the turbo and it was all I could do to keep up with her, I loved it! We passed her and said some friendly words of encouragement but I’m guessing she was thinking to herself, “they saved way too much for the end.” After crossing the finish line, Andy Holak came over to congratulate us and give us our finisher mugs. They have custom made pottery finisher mugs – a very cool tradition. This was Andy’s first year as RD and he did a great job preserving the “look and feel” of the race.
We met up briefly with fellow CHUGs Tony, David and Jerret before showering and grabbing some post race dinner. One thing I really love about this race is that they encourage people to stick around by serving dinner and providing showers so people can get cleaned up and hang out. My gut instinct tells me that I will be back at this race again but the nine hour drive may keep me from making it an annual thing.