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.


Mark said...

Nice race! You are having a great year!

Raquelita said...

Great race report! I ran the half and thought it was a very well-organized event with great energy.

Beth said...

Nice medal, nice shirt, and you ran a great race! I ran through the arb when we were there for Mike to do the ironman and I thought it was beautiful. I would love to go back and run the half. I'm thinking the full would be too hilly for me. Congrats on another great race!