Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Race Report - Madison Marathon

Sunday was the Madison Marathon in Madison, Wisconsin, the capital of Wisconsin. In fact, the race started and ended right in front of the Capital building, one of the most beautiful capital buildings in the country. In is modeled after the National Capital Building in Washington, D.C.

Last year, the Madison Marathon took a lot of "heat" for some of its decisions regarding the weather. In fact, I think the cancelled the race at some point during the race due to extremely hot conditions. I was not there to know whether is was warranted or not but I presume they did it for safety reasons. The weather this year was much better.

I woke up very early on Sunday to pick up Paul at his house and then drive the hour and half to Madison. It was very foggy in the morning so the drive to Madison was quite slow at times, even slowing to 35 MPH at times because I couldn't see far at all. We ended up getting to Madison plenty early and was able to snag a free street parking spot only a block from the finish line, very convenient. I called up Jamie (Running Diva Mom) to coordinate meeting her as she was gracious enough to pick up our packets the day before so we didn't have to stay overnight. She met us not long after that and we got our chips on and were ready to go to the starting line.

By the way, Jamie is a good friend of mine I met last year at the Haunted Hustle Marathon in the Madison area. She has a VERY popular blog about running and being a single Mom. She had TONS of giveaways and product reviews so if you want some free stuff or know about new running items, check out her site. Jamie was running the half marathon this day and as I spoke to her after the race, I learned she had run a 3 minute personal record time of 1:51. Way to go, Jamie!!!

Jamie and I before the race. You can see the fog is still in the air.

The start area was only about 3 blocks from where we parked so Paul and I headed there and learned it was VERY crowded. Even though the entire street was blocked off, only about half of it was used for the runners corral. Seemed like they could have used more area so Paul and I ended up starting with the 4:30 pace group as we could not get any further ahead. This was not a bad idea since it would slow us a bit at the start. It was about 55F at the start and still slightly foggy out so very humid. The race started at 7:00AM and pretty much right on time.

My goal going into the race was to run easy for the first 16 or some miles, right at about 9:00 pace and they see how it goes from there. I was not in great race shape so I didn't expect a PR or anything like that. Plus I knew the course had some challenging hills so going easy was the game plan.

One thing that is really nice about the Madison Marathon is the beauty of the city and the course. It is a University city and has nice lakes and scenery. If it were me, I would make a few changes to the course but it still was very nice.

Paul ran with me for about a mile before he took off and ran his own pace. About 2 miles into the race, we enter the UW Arboretum. This is a very beautiful road though a wooded and park area. We ran about 3 miles through here. This is one part I would change on the course though. We ran it at the start when the course was still very crowded. If it were me, I would put this part near the end of the race so runners could enjoy it more instead of making sure they didn't trip on the runner in front of them. None-the-less, it was till a beautiful run through "The Arb". At this point in time I found myself running near the 4 hour pace group. It was a big group so I made sure I was either behind it or in front of it. They were going a little fast so my pace was right near 9:00 still and feeling good.

About 7 miles in, the fog had burned off and the sun was starting to come out. Fortunately, we lucked out and some clouds moved in and the temps stayed in the 60's. At mile 8, we passed right next to Camp Randall Stadium, where the University of Wisconsin Badger football team plays. Ironically, someone waving an Iowa Hawkeye flag outside it. I think he got some good flack for it.

At 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 is the largest and most challenging hill on the course as we run up Observatory Drive. Here is where I would have changed the course again. It wasn't because we had to go up the hill, that was OK, it was because the did not run along the path that follows Lake Mendota. The race used to go on that path and I have run it tons of time when I lived in Madison eons ago. It is a shame the skipped this part and also State Street, but maybe next year.

The next 5 miles we the "boring" part of the course but not nearly as boring as most marathons. The city is very nice so boring means about 5 miles on only 2 different roads, quite straight. After mile 15, we run through a park and head back toward Lake Mendota and some more hills await in the Maple Bluff section of Madison, a very upscale area. I had gone through the half in close to 1:59 and still feeling good. the 4 hour group was still right behind me but I didn't want to make any moves until after the Maple Bluff hills. At about 18 1/2 miles, we pass the Governor's Mansion which is a beautiful mansion overlooking Lake Mendota but most people don't even know it is the Governors house as it is surrounded by other very nice houses.

The race has plenty of aid stations along the way. In fact, many of them I don't even stop at or get any water as they are close enough to the next one. They must have one every mile and the volunteers are very friendly and helpful. This is a major Pro for this marathon.

After mile 19, I decide to give more effort and make sure I break 4 hours. So far my first 3 10K's are all 56 and change so now I begun to pick off runners. The race now heads a little under 1 mile across the isthmus to the Lake Monona side and we turn toward the capital. At mile 22, I am still passing runners as I feel like I am picking up the pace. I see my average mile pace on my garmin drop from 9:03 to 8:59 and I now have a new goal of keeping it under 9:00 average.

The race moves along a path right aside Lake Monona and is a very scenic part of the course. From mile 22 to 23.75, we run right next to the lake and a little welcome breeze. I also felt a rain drop at 22 and by 23, it turned into a heavy drizzle (if there is such a thing). As for me, I liked this as it helped cool me off. By mile 23, I was very confident I had a sub 4 and now concentrated on keeping the pace under 9:00. The course goes under a busy road and then we go around Monona Bay, another scenic area.

By mile 25, we head to the final long stretch up to the capital building. It may seem like a cruel and dirty trick, but a half mile to go, we have to climb a hill about 75 feet to get to the capital square and then a short 2 turns to the finish. I push as hard as I can up the hill and still pass runners all the way to the finish line. I end up finishing in a time of 3:55:42, an 8:59 pace.

The finishing chute for the Madison Marathon with a bit of rain.

I never did catch Paul, he finished in a time of 3:49. You may think I am crazy with all the marathons I run (this being my 6th of 2011), but Paul is way more nuttier than I. This was his 4th marathon of May!!!

Paul after the race with a dry shirt and some fashionable head wear.

A dry shirt felt good and warm after the race.

It is raining at the finish so after I get some ice for my aching knee, I find Paul and the car and we change into drier shirts and head back for some beverages and food. They had a ton of Chocolate Milk at the finish area for the runners so that is a major bonus for this race. They also had plenty of water bottles, sandwiches, cookies, bananas, etc. A nice supply for runners. They also had a free beer for runners so Paul and I took a seat at a table in the middle of the road on the square and enjoyed a relaxing beer while light rain fell.

The capital building was a nice backdrop to the finish area of the Madison Marathon. This is the last turn of the course in the background.

It was getting a little chilly so Paul and I headed back to the car for the ride home. It was a good day and I was happy with my time.

The Madison Marathon is definitely a fun race to run. Great volunteers and a very beautiful yet challenging course. A good short sleeve technical shirt (finally, not a long sleeve, I have to many long sleeve tech shirts) and a much improved medal from previous years.

I have now run 6 marathons this year and 33 overall. Next up, maybe one in late August. The summer will be used for training and a few fun races.

A nice technical short sleeve shirt. Good for summer wearing.

A much improved medal over past years of the race and an really cool lanyard.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reading The Fine Print

Paul and I are planning on running a marathon next weekend. We were planning on running 1 of 2 different marathons both about an hour away from our homes. One was the Madison Marathon and the other was the Great Midwest Marathon.

Paul and I went over the Pros and Cons of each race. Pros of Madison is that is it a well organized marathon that we are both familiar with (I have run the full marathon once, the 2 person relay twice, and the 4 person relay once). There are a lot of runners to keep you going and quite a fans plus the course is very beautiful for an Urban marathon. The cons are that is is a larger marathon (1800 in the full and 4500 in the half) and that I have already run this one.

The Pros for The Great Midwest Marathon is that is is very small (we like small) with only a little of 20 finishers last year. It is also a race we did not run before as last year was the first year. A possibility for a high placement sounded good too. The cons were that is is so small and new that is could be a major disappointment and the course seemed on the map to be kind of boring.

Mike said we should do the Great Midwest Marathon since we had not done it before. I have now done 9 different marathons in Wisconsin so a 10th sounded like a good idea so we decided to do the Great Midwest Marathon. Then something didn't seem right.

Marathon Guide has the Great Midwest Marathon listed as coming up next weekend and we have been checking out the website looking at the course maps, race times, etc. Then I saw the date and it still listed 2010 on the website. More checking showed old info as well. I emailed the race with an email listed on the site with no reply. Oops, guess the race doesn't exist anymore.

So now we are going to Madison which I actually wanted to do more that Paul did but he wanted the other so I went along with him this time. I am getting excited though. The race begins and ends now at the Capital Square which is really cool. I also get to see a good friend of mine I haven't seen in awhile. Jamie is running the half marathon so I will get to see her for a bit before the race. Jamie has graciously offered to pick up our race packets the day before so we don't have to drive all the way to Madison to get them only to drive all the way home or stay over night. Jamie lives right outside Madison so very convenient for her. Paul and I will leave early Sunday morning for the 7:00AM start.

I am not into full marathon race shape but that hasn't stopped me in the past. I will go out and just have fun, enjoy the scenery, and finish #33.

Glad I read the fine print!

Keep on Running!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Friends First Try at a 50K

I thought I would share something with you all. My friend Chris just ran his first Ultra Marathon this past weekend here in Wisconsin. He ran the Ice Age 50K which is a 50K trail run. Lucky for Chris, it was cold, windy, and rainy on Saturday for his first Ultra.

Here is a link to his post about the race. He writes about the need for experience when running a race like this but how much fun it can be running with like minded people.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Week Like A Roller Coaster

This past week started out with OK weather. Then Mid week it got into the upper 80's and the by the weekend, crappy windy and rain. That made it interesting for the track team I coach. Thursday was a meet during the day. IT was sunny and 88F out. The kids were hot and did they best they could under the circumstances. It was the first real hot day of the summer. Then summer was over. Saturday was the last meet of the year for them (yes, a very short season). This time is was cloudy, windy, upper 40's and to make it even more perfect, it was drizzling. And with the way the track was set up, they had to run into the wind for the final straight away. The kids were really tough though and not overly complaining.

Today it is VERY windy and cool but no rain. I assume the weather is about the same 2 hours north of here where Paul is running the Green Bay Marathon today. Tough marathon conditions.

My running was like a roller coaster this week as well. Monday I got in a really good 7 mile tempo run. I didn't go out thinking I would tempo it, but I came in at about 8:10 pace. Then Tuesday I ran with the kids an felt really tired for 2 miles and then did 3 more slow miles. Wednesday it was starting to get hot. Mid 80's. I struggled again this time feeling a bit dizzy on the 5 miles run. All I could muster was 9:20 pace and that was a struggle. On my log, I even rated it only a 1 on quality.

I took Thursday off to rest some, plus I was in the sun all day at the track meet. Friday I bounced back somehow and did 5 at 8:23 pace and it felt easy. Weird.

Before the track meet on Saturday, I decided to get in a long run. I did 16 miles. The first 8 at 9:05 pace. and the last 8 around 8:32 pace. It was one of those runs where I felt like I could have kept the pace going for many more miles. I'll take that as good news.

So now the week is over and this roller caster may finally end. I hope so. Paul and I are planning on running a marathon in 2 weeks. We are not sure which one as there are 2 very close that we can drive to the morning of the race.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Race Report - Nicolet Bay 5K

I was able to race pain free last Saturday in the Nicolet Bay 5K that was apart of the Door County Half Marathon. These people sure know how to put on a nice race.

We arrived in Door County and Peninsula State Park on Friday evening for a quick drive in the park and to drive the course for Melissa to see what she would be running the next day. Peninsula State Park is a little over 3 hours drive from my home and in case you are wondering where Door County is, it is the "thumb" of Wisconsin. It is the peninsula that jets out into Lake Michigan about half way up the east side of Wisconsin. It is an absolutely beautiful place to visit and explore. It is also a very big touristy place in Wisconsin because of this but not usually in the Winter and Spring. The Door County Half Marathon is basically the kick off to the tourist season.

Packet pickup in the town of Ephraim was no problem at all and they had a small expo in case you needed any last minute things. The race offered shuttles from a lot of the hotels in the area because parking was limited in the park but I had already chosen to drive. There are no big name hotels, restaurants, etc in Door Country. They keep it this way to make it quaint and still have the small town feel. It really works up here so a lot of the local hotels scheduled shuttles which helped a lot of people since there were 1500 runner signed up in the half marathon and 500 in the 5K.

Race day come and the weather is almost perfect. Sunny and about 50F with little wind. I almost wished I was running the half marathon but Melissa wanted to run the 5K and since this would be her first "Solo" 5K, I said I would be there for her near the end. She is only 9 year old after all. The half marathon started at 10:00AM and I joined them for a bit for my warm up for the 5K. After about 2 miles warm up, I headed with Melissa to the starting area where we were told the race would be delayed 5 minutes to make sure the half marathoners were clear of the course.

I wish Melissa good luck and toward the front area. I knew this race didn't call for much in the line of competition and I didn't want to be stuck behind too many walkers and slower runners. I wanted to try to run a fast time if possible.

The horn sounds and we are off. As usual in a 5K race, about 5 to 10 little kids sprint off to the front only to be passed by about 1/4 to a half mile into the race. I try to keep my pace fast yet comfortable and by about 3/4 of a mile in, I was running alone with 8 runner ahead of me and no one near me. I hit mile 1 in 6:27, exactly the pace to reach 20:00. Mile 2 had a hill in it but not too bad and I just kept the same level of effort. There were a couple runners a bit ahead of me but not really in striking distance until I caught one of them at the mile 2 marker.

Maybe it is just me, but I found it funny to see this guy all decked out in Triathlon gear for a 5K. The whole tight bike shirt and bike shorts thing. I thought that is couldn't be the most comfortable thing for a 5K but what do I know?!?! I passed him and he stayed with me for about 10 seconds and then faded. Now there was no one close enough ahead of me to realistically catch unless they had a major meltdown. Mile 2 split was 6:50.

The last mile I ran all by myself and it show in the final results. I run the mile 3 in 6:42 and end up finishing in 7th place overall in a time of 20:46. A little slower than I would have liked, but a good time considering the week off I has for the hurt back.

Like I said before, there was little competition in this race and it shows since I took 7th out of 483 runners in a time of 20:46, not exactly a stellar 5K time for placing that high. But I was happy anyways. After a quick breather, I head back onto the course running against traffic trying to find Melissa. I see her and she is running really fast! Turns out she was walking and saw me first and didn't want to be seen walking. She runs the last 1/2 mile of her race very fast passing close to 50 runners and finishes in a time of 33:38. This is a lot slower than she is capable of running but this was her first solo 5K race and she had no one to help her pace or push her to a faster time. She will learn over time what she is capable of doing.

After a 2 mile cool down, we all head to the 5K awards and find out that I was the First Place Masters Runner! My old age got me a nice plaque and a medal for first in my age group. I wish they would have given the medal to the next runner in the age group thus allowing more runners to receive awards. I will have to suggest that to them in the future. Is it just me or do you think that is the way it should be? Top overall award winners and Masters winner should be taken out of age group awards. Makes sense to me. But is is a nice little plaque.

After a nice swim int he indoor pool at the hotel, we had to go to Wilson's, and institution in Door County and my absolute favorite Ice Cream Shop. The girls love it too! We only made it there 2 times on this trip but we are planning a return trip in early August.

If you are from Wisconsin and you have never been to Door County, you are missing out on one of the Gems of the state. It is such a beautiful place to visit and stay a few few days. There is also a lot of small (and big) races for all you runners / triathletes out there. I have now done 3 different races and maybe will do another later this year. They have the small race suck as the 5K I did or the 4th of July 5K as well. Also longer like the Door County Half Marathon and the Fall 50 in October (a 50 mile race with relays too). There is the Door County Tiathlon with sprint and half Ironman distance too. And quite a few other races. And even if you are just visiting and not wanting to race, the roads as runner friendly in the towns and very friendly in Peninsula State Park. No, I am not to the tourism board of Door County even it it sounds like it, I just enjoy the area a lot.

Across the street from Wilson's has gorgeous views of Eagle Harbor and the town of Ephraim.

The road hugs the shore line of Ephraim allowing a wonderful drive.

Ephraim is a small quaint town in Door County. Lots of shops and art galleries.

I forgot to mention one of the most astonishing things about the 5K. The over all winners! In a time of 18:44, the winner was a 10 year old kid! Holy Crap!!! He was good! And not to be outdone by a lot, the overall female winner (6th place overall) in a time of 19:44 was a 12 year old girl!!! Both of these kids ran extremely well, not just for their age, but for any age. Both were very gracious in accepting their awards. Let's hope they continue to use the running gifts they have been given.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I am Back to Running . . . almost 100%

I ran again! Yipee!!! I woke up early this morning and headed to the High School track for 4 miles of laps. My back was tight but I did not have the a single "twinge" the entire run. It went well. I ended up running 8:35 pace for the 4 miles and it was a little harder than 8:35 pace should feel for me. I guess that is what I get for a week off of running.

I will get in a few miles tomorrow. I am coaching the kids again and I think I will be taking them on a Fartlek run for 3 to 4 miles. They have their first track meet this Friday. I think they are having fun, i know I am.

In other running stuff, I am working on a big surprise for the 2011 WELS Kids Marathon. I don't want to jinks myself and say what it is but I think it will be really cool for the kids if it come to fruition. We are still working hard on the Kids Marathon and sign up has begun. I think we have about 30 schools participating this year! Lots of work but so rewarding!

Keep on Running!!!