Today was the Trailbreaker Marathon in Waukesha, WI and I ran a good 26.2 mile training run.
I ran this race the past 2 times they had it in 2007 and 2009 (they skipped 2008) and last year I wrote a not so great review of the race. One of the guys on the race committee contacted me and asked for details on my opinions of how they could improve. I was very interested in see what they did improve on and what they did not. I am happy to say that they did improve on a few things and not on others.
The race started in Waukesha a Frame Park at 8:00AM with sun and in the lower 30's. The wind was blowing a bit bit not bad at all. There were a little over 100 starters in the race. Before the race, I decided to wear shorts and a long sleeve technical shirt as well as a singlet. I also wore my WELS Kid's Marathon tshirt over this and was planning on dropping it off at mile 10. I actually made 2 contacts with other runners about the Kid's Marathon because I was wearing the shirt. That was fun. The plan was for me to run this as a training run and relax as much as possible and if I felt good at mile 20, then maybe see what I could eek out for a time. I was suppose to go out at 9:30 pace until the extremely hard trail and just make it through the trail. I am glad to say I stuck to the plan and it worked well.
The first 8 miles were sunny then the clouds came out. At mile 10.5, they have a unique feature in this race. There is a "Bag Drop" where runners can give the committee a bag full of whatever you want and they will bring it out there along the bike trail for you. You pass this location at mile 10.5 and at mile 16.5. By the time I reached my bag, I was right about at 9:30 pace. I took some salt and off I was to the Ice Age trail portion of the race. This is an off road portion with about 2.5 miles of grass and slightly muddy conditions and then 3.5 miles of rugged trails though the wood with lots of loose rocks and many hills. This is where the pace slows considerably.
I decided that when the hills were steep, I would walk up them instead of wasting energy running up for very little return. Right before the turn around is a very steep hill that has been converted to railroad tiled steps. At the top of this, you are required to climb the 40 foot observation tower and ring the cow bell at the top. It may be minor, but for the past few years, they have advertised a bell at the top of the tower but they didn't have it. I suggested they put it back and they did, so suggestion 1 taken!
With all the walking up the hill and tower steps and the walking down the loose rocks hill, I managed a very slow mile split of 15:04 but this was expected and not a big deal. I did manage to find one root with my foot and almost took a digger at mile 13.3 and got my hands dirty but at least I did not go fully down.
I got off the rugged trail and stopped at my bag again to refill my pockets with a couple GU packets and another packet of salt. I looked at my watch and the average pace was all the way down to 10:20. That is how tough the trail was. 11:27, 15:04, 11:43, and 10:44 were all on the trail and 2 other miles partially on the trail. Now it was time to go back and run on the paved bike trail and have 2 1/2 miles of railroad grade downhill to help. The next 2 full miles after to bag drop stop were 9:05 and 8:55. The legs were stiff but not too bad. The next 3 miles continued to be fast at 8:30, 9:00 and 8:57 so now I wanted to run the fastest time I could, plus I wanted to see if I could bring the average pace back to under 10:00.
I was passing a few runners on the trail which is always a fun thing and was only passed by a lady at mile 24 that I had been running with or near since mile 12. I was taking my usual 30 second walk breaks every 2 miles and that worked for me. I had brought along my fuel belt so i carried my own water. This was a good thing since they did not take my suggestion of more water stops. They had them at 3.5 miles, 7 miles, 10.5 miles, 13.5 miles, 16.5 miles, 20 miles and 23 miles. 7 water stops is not enough for a full marathon. so it was good of me to bring my own. Suggestion 2 not taken!
At mile 25, I rewarded myself with 1 last walk break and I found out later, this gave the guy about 75 meters behind me hope he could pass me. With 3/4 of a mile to go, i could hear his foot steps closing in and that is when I decided that this was not going to happen. I picked it up and gave all the effort I could so he did not pass me. It really wouldn't have been that big of a deal if he did pass me since this was only a training run but the competitive runner in me won out on that decision. I ended up running mile 26 is 8:38 just to keep in front of him. I ended up beating him by 20 seconds but I did not catch the lady who passed me at mile 24 by about 10 seconds or so.
I crossed the finish line in 4:16:09, a full 26 seconds faster than last year with an average pace of 9:47 per mile. I was happy with this time considering the course and my goals. Most people I talked to said the course make them 15 to 20 minutes slower (all on the Ice Age Trail) than a regular marathon so that means I did a bit better than expected. And right after the finish line, I received my first Trailbreaked Marathon Medal. In past years, they did not give the full marathoners a finishers medal and I suggested they change this and they did. Suggestion #3 taken. It is not a great medal by any means but it is also not the worst either. It is 2 inches by 1.25 inches and has the Trailbreaker logo on it. Hey, at least they got the medal, Kudos for the change.
After the race, I was able to get a free leg massage from the Lakeside School of Massage Therapy who was at the post race area. Tiffanie did a great job working out some of the knots that I got somewhere in the race. I may have to now make an appointment and get a full massage. I kept telling her it "hurt so good". She would work areas and it was painful but I knew it would help afterwards and it did. The post race area also improved their selections of food. They did not have chocolate milk :( but did have water, some flavored drink, bananas, apples, bagels and cinnamon rolls. Those were really good. And they had beer. And for the second straight marathon, I enjoyed a beer after and it was good. They also did not have an overly loud band blasting music not allowing anyone to talk to anyone else. So they took some of my advise on improving the post race area. Suggestion #4 taken.
The last thing I suggested they tried to do but did not do well at all. I suggested mile markers the entire race. In the past they has them at miles 1,2,3 and 4, and then the last 3 miles. This year they added a cone at mile 6, 7, 8, and 10, as well as 17, 19, 20, and 21. The problem is that the 6 mile cone was really at 6.2 miles. the 7 at 7.3 and all the way to mile 10 cone at 10.5 miles. This according to my garmin and since the race is on a bike trail and fairly straight during these miles, I knew it was not off. My garmin seems to be pretty accurate. On the way back, they used the same cones with a different number of the other side so the 17 mile cone was the other way off at 16.5 miles and then getting closer as we went along. Suggestion #5 not taken. It would be so easy to put these markers out accurately but they did not. Maybe next year.
I have now done this marathon 3 times and may do it again, maybe not. It is not a great marathon and it a tough one. I really have no desire to "race" this one but a training run may happen again. I am happy with my performance today all things considered. I am sore now but that is usual.