Sunday, April 3, 2011

Race Report - Trailbreaker Marathon

Yesterday was the Trailbreaker Marathon in Waukesha, WI, about 12 miles from my house. This isn't one of your huge or glamorous marathons, it is a low key, no frills marathon. It is also a tough marathon as far as a course. It is for this reason that I like to run it as a trailing run, and not as a race.

Here are some of the Pros from this years race: The registration fee is quite small. I signed up the morning of the race and it was only $55. By signing up the day of, I also saved on the Active fees. The race is quite small with only 120 finishers this year. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Again this year, they had the "Bag Drop" option which allowed you to fill a bag with whatever you wanted to have and they would bring to the 11 & 16 mile mark of the race. This came in handy this year for me. Also, they again had a medal for marathon finishers, something they just started last year. The return of the bell as well.

The Cons were that while the mile markers were accurate for the first 11 miles, after that, they were off about 1/4 mile each. They used a come to mark the miles on the way out and on the opposite side of the cone was suppose to be the mile marker for the way back, but it was off 1/4 mile. Another con is that they have too few mater stops. In the entire race, there are only 7 and some about 3 1/2 miles apart. Quite a few years ago, this race was ranked in the top 25 of the toughest marathons in North America. While it is a tough race, I am not sure it is a top 25. The course is actually not hard at all for 21 of the miles, it is the middle 5 that are quite tough, especially if you are not a trail runner as it is off road, on grass and wet slippery rocks, and this year, a ton of mud. Also unique to this marathon, at 13.5 miles, you climb a 40 foot observation tower at the top of a hill that is the highest elevation in the entire county. That is where you ring a bell and head back the way you came, more mud!

This year, I had a few friends joining me in running. Mike, Paul, and Chris came out for good training runs. The weather turned out to be really good as it was in the mid 30's for the start, overcast, and a touch of wind, but not too bad. I knew Mike and Chris would be running faster so Paul and I stayed together for the first 2 miles until he took off. I would be able to see these guys again on the off road trail since the course is almost a complete out and back.

Paul running along the bike trail. As you can see some snow is still around.

A mile in the race, suddenly I realized I forgot to put on my band aids to protect my nips. I was suddenly worried and hoping there would not be a problem. Luckily I did not have any issues.

Chris is in his final few miles of the race.

Paul took off at mile 2 just when I was joined by a guy named Jay who just wanted someone to run with. He was on a training run as well and we paced good together. I found out he was a principal of a local school and even invited his school to join the WELS Kids Marathon. He said to email him after the race and he would see what he could do but was interested. We clipped mile after mile off at an easy pace. Experience of running this race told me to take it easy until after the off road trail as that can really zap all your energy if you run it wrong or too fast.

Jay and I ran about 15 miles of the race together talking and helping each other out.

Before the off road trail, the course climbs a little more than 200 feet in a 2 1/2 mile stretch on the bike trail that used to be a rail bed so it was gradual but your legs start to notice. By the time Jay and I got the the start of the off road portion, we were averaging just over 9:15 per mile. We hit the grass and the first part feels OK. There is a notorious spot early on the trail that is always muddy and you can't go around it was it is surrounded by thorny bushes. This year, it wasn't too bad here so the shoes were not too heavy yet. Once in the woods, the trail gets very hard to run. Not only do you have to watch for rocks that are wet, but this year, the course was super muddy with a couple spots where snow/ice were still on the trail. Also, the trail is very narrow so single file is the only way to run and now other runners were on their way back from the tower going the other way.

This is where I saw that Mike was in 3rd place over all. After a high five, he was on his way back. The trail slows us down A LOT as not only our shoes are full of heavy mud now, but we begin to climb in elevation toward the tower. I get to see Chris and Paul and high fives again and I finally see the tower. But before we get the privilege of running up the tower, the trail climbs about 75 feet of steps first. Once up those, you have to climb the 40 foot tower to ring the bell before heading back to Waukesha.

Mike was running extremely well the entire race.

Jay and I are still running together pointing out muddy areas and trying to avoid the pitfalls of the dangerous course. The tower is at about 13 1/2 miles into the race and since I had my new garmin on, I was able to see my 13 to 14 mile split. This mile 14 split was a whopping 15:25! That as the mud, hills, and tons of steps and that back down all that. By this time, it was extremely difficult to run the steps so in order to conserve energy, most walk them. And then it is wet and slippery, so most end up walking down them too. The trail is just as hard on the way back to the bike trail.

Jay and I get back to the bike trail and 1/4 mile later, we were at the bag drop. I planned ahead and had a fresh pair of shoes in my bag so I stopped and changed into clean, light, non muddy shoes. Jay's parents were there cheering him on so he talked to them some as I said he could catch up to me. By this time, I looked at the garmin and the average pace went from 9:15 going into the mud, to 10:20 when back on dry pavement.

With new shoes on foot and a portion of a PB & J sandwich in me, I am able to really pick up my pace. It helps that now I get to run the 2 1/2 miles of railroad grade downhill to get me moving. It feels fast as I clip off an 8:37 & 8:48. I finish the gradual downhill with an 8:15 and know that my legs are tired but not enough for me to slow down. I look back and see Jay behind me by not too much and gradually catching up. He has changed to a 5 minute run/1 minute walk but he is running 7:30 pace when running. I am also passing a few runners who are now struggling from the muddy trail & hills. This is where I like to see a few runners ahead of me that I can use as goals to try to pass. I am also passing a few half marathon walkers who are still on the course as their race started a hour later.

A Gu or 2 keeps me going as I continue with an 8:46 & 8:17. I am trying to calculate what I would need to run to beat my time from last year which was a 4:16. I think I need to run 9:00's the rest of the way so I try to keep the pace. Jay now has caught up to me for a bit but takes his break and I don't see him again.

With only 2 miles to go, I was still feeling strong.

I keep the pressure on my pace and while tired, feel like this can only help me in later races giving me confidence later in future races. Mile 25 was a 8:19 and mile 26 was 8:08. the final 0.2 at a 7:30 pace and I finish the fasted I have ever run the last 9 miles of a marathon averaging an 8:30. My finishing time was 4:13:37 good for 57th out of 120. Considering this was only a training run and the course was extremely muddy in spots, I am very happy with that time. It was a great training run!

I feel like I could have kept going another few miles, but I didn't.

Shortly after I finish and see Jay finish, I find Paul and Mike. Turns out Mike ended up in 4th overall and was the first Master Finisher. He somehow ran 3:24:45 even after running 20 miles with me last weekend and doing a good hill workout on Tuesday. He was extremely please with his race. Paul ran pretty good finishing is 3:55:13. We found Chris who also ran this as a training run in 3:35:46. In a month, he will be running his first trail 50K.

Paul ran pretty well as well.

After the race, Mike, Paul, and I partake in another big Pro for this race. The free beer for runner! We watch the awards for the half marathon and hope that the full marathon awards are right after so Mike can pick up his Masters Winner award. Now a Con, we waited and waited and waited and finally, 6 hours after the start, the give out the awards. Why did they have to wait so long???? In fact, they gave out awards for the top 3 in all age groups and the only female still there, was the overall winner. Now they will have to mail out all the certificates, they could have saved close to $20 in postage if they just had done the awards earlier plus made the winners more appreciative.

All in all, this race has improved over the years (I have run the full 4 times, and the half and 5K once each) but there are still some simple improvements that can be done. But for only $55, I can't complain too much and do like the race. I'll probably run this again, but only as a training run.

Keep on Running!!!


misszippy said...

Congrats on a great time, training run or not! It sounds pretty tough to me...way to eat it for lunch.

Love the post-race beer--all races should have that!

Beth said...

What a great race! Congratulations- you had a great time and it was a fun race report. Gotta love that they let you pack your own drop bag.