Last Saturday was the Haunted Hustle Marathon in Middleton, WI. This was my 10th marathon of the year and my fastest! We had almost perfect weather and a very well run marathon.
This was the second year of the Haunted Hustle Marathon and the second time I have run it. Last year, they did a good job but had a few problems, not unexpected for an inaugural year. this year, they fixed a few of the problems but had a couple new ones. But each problem was really minor in the whole picture.
First the Pros: The course was quite nice and not necessarily easy. It wasn't the toughest course I have ever run (I did run the Flying Monkey last year) but it is not easy. There are hills the first 3 miles and the last 3 miles, just when you DO NOT want hills anymore. There are also a few bigger hills from miles 10 to 13 that can cause some issues, but the course is quite beautiful with running through some residential areas, some shaded bike paths, some country roads, and a very nice crushed limestone path through the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
There is wonderful volunteers along the course, very friendly and very helpful. There were plenty of aid stations along the way, in fact, probably too many. I found myself passing a few of them up since I had just gone through the previous one less than a mile earlier. I would much rather have too many aid stations as opposed to too few.
New this year, they started the full marathon 30 minutes before the half marathon. This was a welcome change which made the course much less crowded. The size of the full marathon was just over 500 (almost perfect) and with the half over twice the size, it made it much easier on the course. The first 9 miles of the half and the full were the same and only 2 or 3 half marathon runners actually passed me before we separated.
I did not attend the Expo because I had a friend pick up my packet for me so I did not have to stay overnight in a hotel but for the dinner speaker, they had Suzy Favor Hamilton speak. I almost wish I would have had to be there. Suzy is a multi-time US Olympic 1500 meter runner from Wisconsin and I grew up watching her career (she was only 3 or so year a head of me in school) and I would have loved to hear her speak. I hear she is a great motivational speaker so I missed that but it sure sounded like a great addition to the dinner.
Parking for the event was awesome. I got there just under 1 hour before the race and was able to park less that 100 meters away from the start/finish line. Even closer than last year.
The race encourages runners to wear costumes which is pretty fun to see. Each race even had prizes for the top 3 costumes. I saw a ton of fun costumes along the way and a few very disturbing ones as well. I did not wear a costume this year but may consider it for next year. And I did not have to pick it up at the end just to beat a bumble bee.
Now for some of the Cons: No race day packet pick up. I understand that they want runners to use the local hotels and to attend the expo, but for us who live only an hour and a half away, it seems pointless. They did let others pick up your packet but they needed a signed waiver and copy of an ID to get it. How many people really take other people's packets? Maybe more that I realize but it seemed like a lot for someone else to get.
At mile 14 1/2 of the marathon, the full marathoners met up with the half marathoners at mile 9 1/2. Not a big issue expect for my pace was much faster than the half marathoners at this point. We ran about a mile and a half on a together on a bike path and in reality, I did not have big issues passing the other runners, but I could see it being a problem.
What should have been a Pro for the race turned out to be a Con. At the end of the race, they had beer for the runners even with a beer coupon on out race bibs so everyone could get their 1 free beer. I finished in under 4 hours and the beer was gone!!! WHAT!?!?! I am not a big beer drinker, not at all, but if you promise a beer for a runner, then have some. I heard they did not control the beer distribution after the half well and many spectators were taking advantage of it. They also did not have ANY chocolate milk after the race. I thought all races knew this was mandatory now. Guess not. They did have hot chocolate, oh wait, they HAD hot chocolate, it was also gone, like the beer.
All in all, not a big deal on these Cons for the race, more like annoyances. It would not stop me from running this race again or recommending it either.
Now for my experience.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to get my friend Jamie (Running Diva Mom) to pick up my race packet for me so I did not have to stay overnight in a hotel, saved a few bucks which will help on the Disney trip in January. Jamie is a good friend of mine I met last year because of this exact race when we found each others blog reports on the race. We have been friends ever since and even been able to see each other at a few races here and there. I don't get to see her enough, so it was great to catch up, even if it was for only 15 or so minutes before and after the race. So I woke up a little before 4:00AM and left the house a little after 4:30 to head to Middleton, just west of Madison, WI.
I arrived and it was cold and dark, it was breezier that I had hoped for but I like the cold. By 6:45, I found Jamie along with her 2 adorable kids and her parents. Jamie was dressed in a Dorothy costume that she was going to run in. Her daughter was also dressed in a Dorothy costume so that was very cute. After catching up with her, I found Dan. Dan is a guy who I met because he was on the Jennipede team with me. He was running his first 'real' marathon (I said the Jennipede counted) and we were going to pace together.
The race started at 7:30AM, right at sunrise and it was cold (33F), I loved it. Dan and I started at an easy pace and were basically easing into the race for the first 3 miles over rolling hills. After the hills, we picked it up a bit and headed into the bike trail feeling really good. After 5 or 6 miles and a quick stop in the bushes, I caught up to Dan and passed him thinking he was keeping with me. A little later, after I passed a big group of runners, I looked back and did not see him. I knew he was feeling good so I assume he would catch me sooner or later. Interestingly enough, the group I passed the 3:50 pace group which was way slower than the needed pace. I felt bad for the group that wanted to run 3:50 since the pace leader basically screwed them out of a good chance of running a 3:50.
At mile 10, I entered the middle of the course hills and found myself running with Elvis. I ended up running on and off with Elvis for about 4 miles over the hills. At a little after 11, I was able to see Jamie's family and got some encouragement from them which is always nice. Right before the half way point is a large hill that slowed us all down some. I reached the top of the hill and the half way point at 1:58:09 and I felt good. I did not realize Dan was only 34 seconds behind me. He said he could see me most of the race so I was still sort of helping him. Now that the large uphills were done until the last 3 miles, I decided to pick up the pace. I was running with the half marathoners for a bit and passing them a lot. This was fun but hard to pace yourself passing so many. I also lost Elvis at this point.
Once the half marathoners turned off around mile 16, I found myself running a lot more by myself but still passing a few runners here and there. At a little past mile 17, we enter an out and back portion of the course that is about a mile and a half long. After I turn around, I see Dan not too far back and encourage him to start to catch up to me. Then just before I turn onto the new part, I see Jamie. To be honest, I was surprised to see her as she was aiming to run a 4:30 and I was under 4:00 pace so I knew she was having a great race so far.
Mile 19 to 20 are the most boring part of the course as we run through an industrial park with very little spectators. I wasn't feeling very good from 18 to 20 and was a bit worried, but at 20, I was feeling good and strong again and my average pace on the Garmin was 8:55 and I really wanted to try to finish at an average pace of under 9:00. I took a small break at mile 21 and then began to try to pick it up some more. At mile 22, I found myself feeling very strong for 22 miles into a marathon so I tried my best to keep it up and attack the hills over the last 3 miles.
Right before 23, there is a steep hill that I ran up and was passed at the top by a lady I had passed somewhere around 15 or 16. She wasn't running a lot faster than me so I decided she was going to be my goal, keep with her. There was some more hills ahead of us so I kept behind her by about 25 meters for a long time as we passed quite a few runners. At 24, there is a long hill that isn't very steep, just long. After that, a downhill and an uphill until we reach the 25 mile mark. I always seem to give myself a break at about mile 25 as a reward for running hard before that, but this time, I kept going as not only did I feel pretty good (well, pretty good for 15 miles that is), but I also still wanted to catch that lady ahead of me, not about 50 meters ahead.
With a half mile to go, we head onto a bike path and wit only 150 meters to go, a small uphill where I passed a few runners who walked up or slowed a ton. I knew we were so close to I actually pumped the arms and started my finishing kick there. A short downhill and 2 turns and the finish line was there. I felt great coming down the final stretch and heard my name loudly yelled by Robin who was watching from the side lines. I crossed the finish line in a time of 3:52:30 for a pace of 8:52 for the race.
Only 5 minutes later, Dan crossed the line in a time of 3:57:49, a 2:21 PR for him. No, not 2 minutes and 21 seconds, 2 HOURS and 21 MINUTE PR. His only other marathon was the Jennipede so a huge PR for him. I bet not many people in this world have PR'ed in a marathon by over 2 hours.
I then head to the top of the hill with only 150 meters to go and find Jamie running great. She finishes with a smile of her face (as always) in a time of 4:09:16. (sure Jamie, going to run a 4:30?!?!). I was able to talk with Jamie for a bit after the race before she headed home for a well deserved break. I head over to talk with Dan and Robin for a bit before I decide to head to the food tent to see if anything appeals to me. Most of the time, I can't eat anything after a race as my stomach is usually queasy for a while. No exception this time. They did have some food that looked like it could be good maybe a hour later but I didn't want to wait around.
I don't have a picture of this year's medal but it is bigger that last years and the lanyard is really cool. The design of the medal is OK, not as cool as last year. The shirt was a long sleeve technical short in orange (Halloween Orange). I wish it was a short sleeve shirt like last year, but, oh well.
All in all, a pretty good race for me. I was happy with the time of 3:52 considering it was only 13 days since my last marathon. It is also my 4th fastest marathon to date. I negative split the course as well which was fun (1:58:09 to 1:54:21), and I passed a total of 58 runners since the half way point finishing in 161st place out of 511.
I think I am done with marathons for 2011. 10 is enough, right? Though I am sure I could be convinced to do another is close enough. But then again, the Goof is right away in early January and the Icebreaker right after that. It has been a fun year.
Did you run the Haunted Hustle this year? Tell me all about it.
Keep on Running!!!