Saturday, April 4, 2009

Race Report: Trailbreaker Marathon

Let me start by apologizing and explaining to you why I didn't tell I was running a marathon today. I am sorry I did not tell you recently of my intentions but I really didn't fully decide to run this until Thursday. I did hint that I was going to run this one a month or 2 ago but like I said, no decision until 2 days ago. Also, I did not "race" this run, I used it as a long training run. If I felt good at mile 18 to 20, then I would decide to pick it up for a time, otherwise it was just a long run.
The Trailbreaker Marathon took place in Waukesha, WI and started about 15 miles or so from my house. It is ranked by Marathon and Beyond as one of North America's 25 toughest marathons. For the most part, it is a pretty easy marathon except for miles 11 to 16, those are a different story.

I woke up at about 6AM, ate some oatmeal and then travelled to the starting area. I signed up for the race (Yes, signed up "Day of") and then met Chaz and Paul who were also running the race. It was sunny in the morning and the starting temperature was in the Mid 30's, I LOVE IT! Chaz's plan was to run 7 minute pace, Paul was to run with me for 2 miles or so and then take off and try to break 4 hours. My goal was to practice my marathon strategy of easy for 6 or so miles (Just over 9 minute pace) then pick it up.

The race starts and runs along the Fox River for a mile, very beautiful scenery, then a little sidewalk running and road running until we hit the Glacier Drumlin Trail at about mile 3. This trail is a paved bike trail easy to run. The first mile I ran a little fast (8:46) and then slowed it down some and was at an average pace of just over 9 through 7.

The race has under 200 people but there were plenty near me on the way out. I talked with a few guys who run lots of marathons and even are "Streak Runners", runners who run everyday. One guy had run over 9000 days in a row before he had surgery to stop his streak, the other was over 4000 I think. I stopped at mile 7 to use the facilities then continued on. Average pace now was 9:09, perfect. I now picked up the pace some. The trail now went uphill at railroad grade. The next 2 miles gained 200 feet. I ran these 2 miles under 9's.

A neat part of this race is that they have a bag drop at miles 10.5 and 16. This is mostly an out and back race except for the first 1.25 miles so we could get stuff from our bags twice. I put in my bag a banana, some AccelGel, Accelerade Drink, and an extra pair of shoe and sock (I will explain more later). I stopped and picked up my bottle of Accelerade and kept moving. A third of a mile past the bag drop is where this race get interesting and hard. We leave the comfort of the bike trail and start on the Ice Age trail, a grass, dirt, rocky, hilly trail.

The first 1/2 mile o the trail is wet but not too bad until we cross a little bridge, then we encounter about 200 meters of muddy, sloppy trail. I run as close to the edge of the trail as possible to avoid the major mud but there are bushed blocking my way. It gets a little dry for a few feet them gets muddy all over again. After 200 meters, the mud is done (until we come past it on the return trip). Now my shoes feel very heavy as they are full of mud on the bottom but my feet are still dry. I see the first place runner pass going the other way and I look at my watch to guesstimate how far back my friend Chaz is. I see him in about 5th or 6th and let him know he is about 2 1/2 minutes behind the leaders. I now enter the woods and the trail gets very tough. Lots of roots and rocks and leaves block them some. The hills prove challenging as we climb higher toward the signature spot of this marathon. I walk up some of these short hills as they are so steep, I don't want to waste energy to only save a few seconds. I see Paul pass me and wish him luck as he continues. I finally see the turn around which is at the top or a bunch of trail stairs (too steep so they built stairs into the hill), I walk up these stairs as it is very hard to run these, especially after 13.5 miles.

I reach the signature turnaround, but before I go back, I must climb it. It is a 40 foot observation tower. Everyone in the race must climb the tower and then come down and run back. Now I am on my way back down the hills, rocks, roots, leaves, etc. You really have to pay attention to the trail otherwise and sprained ankle is easy to come by. Plus other runners are coming toward you and the trail at times is narrow. My time up the stairs and up the tower, and back down slowed me to a 14:03 mile, that is how difficult this trail is. After this, my pace picks up down the hills and back to the bike trail I a look forward to the paved trail for stability and hopefully an increased comfortable pace. I have to run through the mud again (remember, I have extra shoes, I knew there was gong to be mud), and I get to the bike trail.

My legs took a real beating on the dirt trail and hills and they are tired. I am also very warm and sweating good so I decide to drop my long sleeve shirt at the bag drop when I get there and just run in a short sleeve shirt. Little did I know that I accidentally pinned my number in one corner to both shirts. I must have looked really funny doing a weird dance taking off both shirts, unpinning and re-pinning and getting my short sleeve back on. I stop at my bag and refill myself with AccelGel, eat half a banana, and grab my Accelerade bottle but decide my shoes are OK. A lady passes me at the bag drop and I run behind her for a few miles as no one else is close behind. I run the next 3 miles at under 9:30 even though my legs are tired and then the next 2 under 10. I begin to try to calculate a finishing time in my head but also remind myself this is a training run. The final 4 miles are over 10 but under 11 and I can't wait to finish.

A few runner have caught up to me and passed me and some I passed. I see the finish line ahead and finish in a time of 4:16:35. I think I ended up in 48th place, my 3rd top 50 place this year. It really helps when you run small races tp lace high :) I am happy with the time considering a few things. I was at 9:00 pace until we hit the difficult rocky, muddy, hilly trail. My only 2 miles over 11 minutes are the tower mile and the mile I stopped at the bag drop too long. It is the fastest of the 4 marathons I have run this year so that is also good. If I compare the times of my friends and how they normally do in a race, this is a race about 15 minutes slower than a normal race which would put me right near 4 hours and on a training run. Chaz ends up running 3:08 (or close to that) and takes 7th or 8th place overall. Paul finishes in 3:49.

It is funny all the things you think about during a race. I had lots of miles all by myself so the mind goes everywhere. I do recall thinking of my friend Karl and the good times we had. I also was thinking of a few of my Blog friends and reminding myself they were cheering me on, even if they didn't know I was running. I kept thinking how fun it would be if they were next to me running. Maybe someday I could meet some of you, that would be a lot of fun.

It is now in the evening and my legs are still tired (duh!) I have to wake up early as my oldest princess is singing in church with her class at the 8:00 service. It is always a treat to hear little voices singing. Hope your weekend is going great!
I will post some pictures from the race when I see them.

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