With only 13 days rest, I ran yet another marathon. #26. I ran the Haunted Hustle Marathon in Middleton, WI on Saturday morning. This was the inaugural race and all in all, I think they did a pretty good job for a fist time. Where there some problems, you bet, but not enough for me to dislike the race.
I don't really want to start with one of the problems right away but the first issue I had with the race was that they required you to pick up your packet the day before the race. I live a little over 1 1/2 hours away and would have preferred to pick up the packer in the morning before the race and save the $85 I spent for a bed to sleep in for the night.
I got to Middleton at about 4:30 in the afternoon and decided to drive as much of the course as I could to get a feel for what I was into. I am very glad I did this because I then knew that the first (and last) 3 miles had some hills and that miles 9 1/2 to about 14 1/2 were very hilly with some longer ones and some steeper ones too. I was able to adjust my plan knowing this.
I then made it to the Expo which was quite small and able to get to the spaghetti dinner. Nothing special about the Expo except for the Halloween decorations and the dinner was average. I bought a raffle ticket to try to win some prizes and I actually had about a 50 -50 chance of winning, but no, as always, I didn't.
I woke up early, ate my oatmeal, and headed to the start area about 3/4 of a mile from the hotel. It was starting out to be good weather to run a marathon. It was in the lower 40's, cloudy but a little higher wind that I would have preferred, but not too bad. One thing that was fun before the race was to see how many people were dressed up in costumes. I don't think I would want to run a race in a costume, but it was fun seeing them. Most were only running the half marathon or 10K, but some were running the full. I saw Supergirl, The Flash (1 in a good costume and 1 in a crappy costume), many fairies and a family of Waldos. (Is a female Waldo called a Walda? Just wondering).
The race started at 7:45 and off we went, full and half marathoners together. The first 3 miles were quite crowded as there we 950 half marathoners and 350 full marathoners. This first 3 miles were though a nice middle class neighborhood up and down hills. At mile 2, we passed the second aid station and they had jack-o-lanterns decorating the course. This sounds good, but the jack-o-lanterns were right in the middle of the course. Who thought this was a good idea? At miles 24, when we passed it again and it wasn't crowded at all, no problem, but with so many runners, I really wonder if anyone tripped over them.
After mile 3, we went through "downtown" Middleton before entering a bike path near 4 1/2 miles. I decided before the race to go out slower and not try to beat the 3:35 I ran 2 weeks ago as the course seemed too hilly for this. So by this time, the Garmin said I was right at 8:55 pace, right where I wanted to be. I am so glad I had a Garmin for the race because the biggest problem of the race was that many of the mile markers were off and some by a lot. I first noticed this at the 5 mile marker when the Garmin only said 4.65 miles? this was about where the half marathoners turned around so we had a lot more room. I don't know if the half marathon mile markers were off, but the Garmin sure helped me. Mile marker 8 was right on and I thought we were back on, but 9 was off a tenth of a mile, 10 was right on, 11 was 0.3 off and 12 later as well. The half marathon point was right on and after that, I just ignored the mile markers and used the garmin for pace.
The best part of the course was from 5 1/2 to 9 1/2 where we ran though the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. We ran on a crushed limestone path over little hills and winding through trees and open fields. I would love to run through this park if I lived near by.
Throughout the race, there were very energetic and awesome volunteers. The aid stations were well stocked with powerade and water and close to half of them offered powerbar gel. I don't take that gel and bring my own Gu, but it is nice for them to offer it. All the aid stations were themed and they sure dressed to their theme. Some were ghouls, there was a Pac-Mac aid station, nurses, etc. This race had the most aid stations in any marathon I have run. Plus, as a whole, the most energetic. Big porps to the race for this.
Over the hills of 10 through 13, I took it easy and just maintained an easy pace. I passed the half marathon mark in 1:57:06 (152 place), took some salt and thought that I felt good enough to break 4 hours since the miles 14 to 23 were mostly flat. After getting back on the bike path again, I started noticing the same runners I was with and striking up some conversations. Sandy was running her first marathon and later, Jodi, also running her first marathon trying to break 4 hours. Jodi eventually was using me to help pace her until she took off on me at mile 21. (She ended up running a 3:54, way to go Jodi!)
Miles 16 though 21 were run though an industrial park/park area. It was a nice looking area with a bike path following fields and ponds. Mostly flat and open. The wind was a small issue here but not too bad. There was about a 1 mile out and back here where we could see who was near us and then onto some roads for a bit before closing the loop back up at mile 20 1/2.
Mile 20 caused me some issues. I was feeling quite strong until this point when suddenly my legs felt like they lost all energy. I knew I was still ahead of 4 hour pace but now I was concerned. Miles 21 ans 22 were both 10:06 and I still had the last 3 miles of hills to cover. At mile 21, I took off my long sleeve Grand Rapids Marathon shirt and tossed it near the aid station and ran with only the singlet I had on as well. This felt good and helped cool me off. I tried to hold on and then as quickly as it came on, the energy came back. Mile 24 was back up a steep hill before a longer downhill and I was back down to 8:51. I was running alone now with a few people either passing me or me passing them. I passed the same jack-o-lanterns again, this time no tripping hazard. At 24 1/2, I was passed by a bumblebee. Yes, a lady in a bumblebee costume passed me but I was able to keep here just ahead of me and in sight.
Over the last 2 miles of hills, I was feeling strong and by mile 25, I knew I would be under 4 unless disaster would strike. Not. This. Time. I stopped for my last water break and kept running. I was able to pass the bumblebee with about 100 yards to go and I finished with a time of 3:56:31, the first time I have ever run 2 consecutive sub 4 hour marathons. I felt better than usual immediately after the race. I wasn't dizzy or wobbly and was able to walk quite easily.
After the race, I am glad to be done, I need a break.
Since I parked only 100 yards from the start/finish line, I went to my car and got some warmer clothes on headed back for some food. They had a nice selection of treats and some beer as well. I tried some Capital Brewery Oktoberfest and then had many cups of hot chocolate before I was able to get get a free massage from Abigale from Elements Therapeutic Massage. She worked on my legs and did that ever help! She was awesome and my legs hardly hurt the rest of the day or even the next morning. I only wish she were local to my area, I may then get another one to help the legs. I talked with some other runners and even talked up the Icebreaker Marathon and Half Marathon and may have convinced a pair of ladies to join the half. We'll see.
As I left, I remembered to go back to the mile 21 aid station to find my new Grand Rapids Marathon Shirt. I got there and the station was completed packed up and bags by the side of the road to be picked up and no shirt to be found where I tossed it. Luckily I found it in a bag full of other items runners had tossed. Good thing, I really like that shirt.
After a quick shower back at the hotel, I was off to home. I was very happy to be able to keep the energy and break 4 hours 2 weeks after GR. The course was much tougher than GR too so that made it sweeter as well. The problems with this race (packet pickup/mile markers) could/should be corrected by next year. I know they will hear the mile marker issue from lots of runners as I heard it a lot at the post race area. This should be very easily corrected. I hope the change the packet pickup to allow day of. I understand they may tourist commitments to try to help fill hotels rooms, restaurants, or possibly volunteer issues, but many much larger marathons (Grand Rapids to name one) allow race day packet pick up and this may attract more runners. The course was a little tougher than average (Full Marathon only), but that is OK. A challenging course can be fun as well. Volunteers were top notch! Post race food was average and the medal was small but unique. I would definitely consider doing this one again.
The race medal was small, but unique, I like it.
Now 3 weeks of recovery before the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon in Nashville, TN. The sub 4 streak will definitely come to an end here but the fun will not!
A "pumpkin tree" in Middleton.