Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Race Report - Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago

It has now been a week and half since I did the Ragnar Relay from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL.  I am recovered fully but the race was quite hard.

First let me tell you I was on an "Ultra Team" which means instead of the usual 12 runners for a team, my team had only 6 runners.  This meant about double the distance and I was hoping for double the fun.  Well........ not quite.

The Ragnar Relay is an event that takes place all over the country with many different relays through some of the most beautiful parts.  This is the one that goes right through my neck of the woods and a lot of the course is on trails that I run on a regular basis.  Most teams consist of 12 runners who pile into 2 different vans and run a total of 3 different legs to complete the almost 200 miles to Chicago.  My team had only 1 van.  Since the race doesn't stop, runners run through the night and very little sleep (if any) is had.  Teams start in Madison at different times in order to try to finish close to the same time in Chicago for the post race party.  Some teams start as early as 5 or 6AM while other start as late as 5PM. That is the basics.

 Fat Tire Express:  Brian, Scott, Paul, Bill, Trisha, and Rob

My team was not a fast team.  We didn't go into this as a fast race and just as a bunch of runner out to have fun.  Sure, I had my goals for my legs, but we didn't care to go fast.  Our team started at 9AM and it was already very sunny and getting very warm.  The race already issued warning about keeping hydrated and watching your team closely.  We took this pretty seriously and made sure our guys (when we could find them) were well hydrated.

My team consisted of a friend of mine, Brian who invited me as well as his friend who have run as a team before.  So I met Paul, Rob, Trisha, and Scott too.  Paul was our first runner and was injured in his buildup so he took the shorter total distance.  He started pretty good in the heat but on his second of his 2 starting legs, slowed some.  This would be the case for 5 of our first runner.  It was very hot out, very sunny out, and not much relief.  It was tough.

Rob was second and our first problem occurred.  His first of 2 legs was only 2.9 miles so we drove ahead to the exchange to give him water there but he didn't show up anywhere near on time.  Turns out he and about 15 teams took a wrong turn due to bad marking and ran 2.5 miles down a road he wasn't suppose to.  Then after he and the others realized the problem when someone in a car told them, they had to back track another 2.5 miles.  Rob and a few other teams were going to take a "short cut" to the exchange area making their 2.9 mile leg a whopping 5 miles, some one on another team actually threatened to turn him and the other teams in for 'cutting the course' if they didn't go back to the place they went off course.  Hey, we weren't in this race to actually "race" it and we already went 2.5 mile extra and this guy had to be an ------- so Rob decided to go back and make his 2.9 mile leg into a  7.9 mile leg.

Scott before the heat completely beat him down.

Scott ran next and he had 17.5 miles to run for his 2 legs in the heat of the day.  He ran good for about 10 then the sun and heat got to him and he struggled in too.  Brian ran slower than he usually does too as he ran in the heat too.  Trisha ran slower too as she ran from the evening into the dusk time.

Brian happy to be done with his first run and Trisha ready to give it her best.

It was weird for me at first.  I almost felt like I wasn't apart of the team since I was our last runner and didn't go until about 9PM but I finally got my chance with 12.6 miles for my first run.  The sun went down so it was cooling off but still quite warm.  I ran completely on bike paths the entire way and was able to maintain 8:40's the entire way.  I did pass 1 runner out there but was passed by like 6 others as if I was standing still.  The really fast teams that started later in the day and had very fast runners were passing us.  By the time I was done, our team was about 3.5 to 4 hours behind where we should have been due to the extra miles run and the excessive heat slowing us.  This was a problem.

Paul, Rob, and Scott ran again much better in the cooler night but at exchange 18, we had a big problem to solve along with about 5 other teams.  With the super hot temperatures forecasted for Saturday and how far back we were, there was no way we would make the finish line until 9 or 10PM.  One of the race officials was able to get the race director on the phone (it was like 2:30AM now) and we were told to do what we needed to do to get to the finish line on time.  We could skip legs or double run (2 runners on 2 different legs at the same time).  Like I said before, we were not racing this so we took this in and made a few tough decisions.

Brian and Trisha ran their next 2 legs and I began my second run at 6:58AM.  It was already sunny and about 80F out so early.  I was told that when I started my leg that were were in the last 3 teams on the course.  IT was hot but I did finish the 11.8 miles at a pace of just over 10 per mile.  I did catch up to one team at the end of my leg and we pretty much ran it in the last mile together which was good.

Now we decided to take the advise and Paul, Rob, Scott, Brian, and Trisha all decided to run only 1 of their 2 remaining legs and we would skip ahead.  We were all tired as hell already and it was another scorcher out with no relief from the lake less than a mile away most of the run.  By skipping ahead, we finally saw a lot more teams and had people to run with.  When we go to exchange 30, Brian and I were waiting for Scott to finish and heard the race officials encouraging teams to do the same thing we were already doing.  Skipping legs and double running.  Most of the teams at that time at exchange 30 would not make the finish line it time too.  In the end, I would think that over 50 of the the 400 teams ended up skipping legs or double running.  It was just way too hot and humid to run fast.  It was already in the 90's.

When Trisha finally started her final 4 miles, we drove ahead and I got out to start my final miles.  Now I am stubborn at times and I came into this race wanting to do the entire 37.5 miles I signed up for so with my teams blessing, I decided to attempt the final 13.1 miles with the goal of completing it.  Man was it hot out.  I ran most of the beginning part taking breaks every mile, then the breaks came more frequently as all I wanted to do was finish.  By 8 miles in, I was so tired that I went to running a quarter mile, walking a quarter mile and I did that the rest of the way.  I finished my final half marathon legsin a time of 2:48 (ugh) but met my team near the finish line so we could cross together.

We finished (sort of).  Not sure how many miles we ended up running total but we didn't care and neither did Ragnar.  It was hot, it was very sweaty and stinky and I has ZERO sleep over the night.  I walked the 150 meters to the lake and walked in the cold water to give my legs a breather, it felt great.  We have our Ragnar Medal and my team deserved them.  I am not sure I ever felt so tired toward the end of a race before and I have crashed in burned in marathon quite a few times.  But I didn't care.

Scott and I and the finish line right before we sat down for a well earned cold beer.

In the end, it was a fun event.  I got to run with some great people I just met and finished 37.5 miles in a 21.5 hour stretch.  Will I do Ragnar again?  Not sure.  The heat really killed us and soured my opinion even though Ragnar had nothing to do with it.  I suppose I may do it again but would prefer not to be on an ultra team.  I would have liked some sleep but it is very difficult with an Ultra team in 1 van when you need to support your runners.

There were some pretty cool things that happened though.  I was able to see some of my friends who ran on a regular 12 lady team made of of Midwest Bloggers.  I got to see them at 3 or 4 different exchanges since we were close at that time.  They were all decked out in their panty pirate themed garb with vans decorated.  Some of the vans looked really cool while other just looked dumb and juvenile.  (By the way, we didn't decorate at all, yeah I know, party poopers).  Teams really helped other teams a lot out there.  We gave tons of water to other runners and we were offered a lot too.  Runner take care of their own!

Then there were some crappy things like to hot weather and crabby runners bent on making sure all the "Rules" were kept.  And what is with the safety rules on steroids!!!  You have to cross the road with a flag?  What, am I a child?  There was one exchange where a volunteer made sure we had our flag and vests on a 7PM when the sun was still well up and the road to cross was more like a driveway than a road. It is sort or ironic that they were hell bent on these rules but didn't cancel the race due to excessive heat.  Don't get me wrong, I was ll in favor of the race going on in the heat, there is personal responsibility here.

Then there were run teams that had to "kill" as many teams as possible and make sure you knew it by marking it off on their vans.  Yeah, I get it, it is fun to do that, I can see but I wonder how many of those teams removed a "kill" when they were passed?  I am guessing ZERO.  Heck, I got 'killed' like 30 or more times in just my last legs.

If you were at this Ragnar, I hope you had fun.  I certainly did even with the conditions.  A different type of race is always fun to try and I am not completely saying no to future one, but I will be cautious before saying yes.

Keep on Running!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quick Update

I am between races yet again.  2 races down in June, 2 to go. 

Last weekend was the Ragnar Relay from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL.  I will for sure put up a lengthy race report in the next few days but here is a super quick recap.  HOT!  VERY HOT!  VERY VERY HOT!  I did get in all 37.5 miles I was scheduled to run but I can certainly say I did not run all of them.  It was 90+ and sunny both Friday and Saturday so speed was not on the docket for anyone out there.  But I survived with lots to tell you about.

This coming Saturday is the Great Milwaukee Race.  This one is a race where you are given 10 clues your team needs to figure out, run to the locations, and then do a challenge at each one.   Tons of fun.

The following weekend I will be a pacer for the 2:20 group at the Summerfest Rock n' Sole Half Marathon in Milwaukee.  Should be a ton of fun and I even have a couple friends that may be joining the 2:20 group.  Can't wait to help them and everyone else to a fast time and maybe even a PR.

Keep on Running!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Race Report - Deckers Creek Trail Half Marathon

Don't let the name fool you, this is not a trail half marathon, at least not in the sense of trail running.  It is a half marathon run entirely on a bike trail, and I mean a recreational bike trail, not off road biking.  With that said, I really enjoyed this half marathon, one of my favorites.

I don't really know how many half marathons I have run before, I don't keep track.  I would suspect somewhere around 25 maybe??  I prefer the full where I have 39 under my belt.  I was on a trip with the family to Washington D.C. and was looking for a full marathon somewhere in the area between DC and Wisconsin on the way home.  I did find one in West Virginia (a state I do not have) and called them up only to find out that after 19 years, they decided not to have it this year.  So I looked and found this gem, also in West Virginia, at the right time.

The price was right too.  I paid ONLY $45 to enter, very cheap for a half marathon.  But I did know in advance that there would be no medal at the finish line.  No big deal for me, I actually think medals should be for the fulls anyways.

The race takes place in Morgantown, WV, in the northern part of the state and I enjoyed a very scenic ride in through the mountains.  Very beautiful country, I only wish it wasn't pouring rain on the way in.  The hotel I stayed in was only 2 blocks from the finish line and where the buses took you to the start.

I woke up on Saturday morning to find the weather beautiful.  About 50 and sunny. I walked to the start area and was able to pick up my packet on race morning (Very nice feature), use a nice restroom (not a portolet) and board a bus for the 13 or so mile drive to the start line up the mountain somewhere.  I was able to get to the start about a half hour before the gun, plenty of time.  There was a long line near the start at the portolets so good thing I didn't need them.  A little low on the numbers of these needed here, but didn't seem like a huge issue to me.  

It was sunny and cool and the race started right on the Deckers Creek Bike Trail just a little down the way in a beautiful tree covered area.  The path was not very wide so it was very crowded at the start line with 550 or so runners.  They do have 2 waves though to help with the congestion.  One at 8:30 with the other at 8:45.  I was in the first wave due to the 1:45 time I submitted.

This race advertised itself as a downhill half marathon with hardly any uphill which surprised me being in the mountain area.  How could they possibly find 13.1 miles of downhill with no uphill?  And the course would drop over 800 feet too!  Solution: use a trail that follows a river and hopefully the river won't go uphill!  (joke!)

The race started on time and it was still cool and sunny but no need to worry about the sun and the trail was mostly tree covered for the first 10 miles.  And since I knew it was a downhill race and I did see an elevation chart, I knew it was also a fast course.  The first 10.4 miles are on crushed granite or limestone which made it soft with the final 2.7 paved.  I took off a little faster that I wanted to and passed mile 1 at 7:38 but feeling great.  I wanted to go 8:00 but the downhill had already begun.  The nice thing about this downhill is that is is very gradual.  It is hard to actually see to elevation change but your legs feel so much better and easier to run on.  I used this to my advantage.

My best case scenario goal was to break 1:40, something I only did one time 20 years ago in the first half of my first full marathon.  This meant an average pace of 7:36 so I tried to keep it near there to give myself a chance near the end to break it.  The miles clipped off each one feeling easy for the first 10 miles.  I took my short walk breaks through the water stations and still managed to do all miles sub 8:00.  I would talk to a few of the other runners as we went along in the first 6 miles and then as some started slowing down some, I picked it up just a touch and began passing many runners.  In all, I think I passed about 25 runner after mile 6 with only 3 passing me (including a guy who started 15 minutes after me, he ran a 1:20 though). 

There was no crowd support along the trail but that was to be expected.  Some closer to the finish line but the scenery was beautiful so no need for cheering on.  The volunteers were good at the aid stations with both water and Gatorade and most stops which were just under 2 miles apart. 

At 10.4 miles in, you leave the soft trail for a paved trail which initially made me feel faster but the downhill was over and now it was flat the rest of the way.  But after going 10 miles downhill, it felt like an uphill.  The trail was less tree covered so the sun beat on us more too.  I was beginning to feel my pace suffer a bit so I had to concentrate more in the last 2 miles.  My average pace was down to 7:34 so I knew I was under 1:40 at that time but knew I had to work it all the way to the finish.  I kept finding someone ahead of me a just pushed until I caught them and then looked for the next.  This helped.

With 1 mile to go, I knew I had it barring a major collapse but I maintained and finally saw the finish line crossing in 1:39:08, a new half marathon PR for me.  Like I said earlier, no medal at the finish line but that was OK with me.  I ended up in 85th place overall out of 563 finishers.

The post race party was pretty good.  Lots of food for runner including the usual water, Gatorade, bananas, cookies, etc, but also pizza too.  And in the amphitheater area, a bluegrass band playing tunes to keep festivities going.  An above average post race area for sure.

The next day I learned that the race was truly more downhill that I thought or it felt like.  My quad took a beating and I was a bit for 2 days where I usually feel just fine the next day.  Like I said, it was an 800 foot elevation drop for 10 miles so the beating did happen.  But it was worth it.

In the end, I really liked this race.  Great price, nice cotton short sleeve shirt (I have too many technicals so cotton is great for me), great course, good competition, nice post race spread, and close lodging.  This all out ways the crowded start and no medal.  I would definitely come back to the race if I am ever in the area though it is unlikely living over 600 miles away.  If you are in the area looking for a nice half marathon, I give it my thumbs up.

Keep on Running!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Wisco Mile

Tonight was the Wisco Mile is the Milwaukee area.  I did not run this year due to the fact that I just ran a half marathon 4 days ago and will be starting the Ragnar Relay in 2 days.  But I had promised my daughter, Melissa, that she could run.

When I signed her up, I was hoping to get her in the the girls grade school mile which was for girls in grades 6 to 8, but since she just got out of only 4th grade, she wasn't allowed in  Instead, she was in the Coed Community Mile which is open for anyone who wanted to run.  Her goal was to run sub 7:00.

Melissa at the Start Line #3

The weather was almost perfect when it was her time to run just before 8:00PM and she was excited.  She took off a little fast for the first lap but settled in for the second.  On the third lap she was ahead of pace but slowing some.  With 1 lap to go, she was looking like she was ready to just be done but kept going as I tried to cheer her on.  In the last 100 meters, just as a lady was trying to pass her, she finally found some extra energy and kicked it in finishing in 6:54, a new PR for her.

She is so young to track and will earn over time how to pace herself better and how to keep running hard even when she is tired.  She did great though and we went for ice cream afterwards.

There was a special guest at the event handing out awards.  Her name is Molly Seidel, and she is a local high school senior.  She is also a 12 time High School State Champion in Track and Cross Country and also the the Girls National High School Cross Country Champion from last fall.  Melissa and I were able to talk to her and her family for a bit and she was so sweet to Melissa giving her some great encouragement and advise.

Melissa and Molly

After the race, Melissa couldn't wait to tell Molly about her PR.  You can see Molly has some crutches.  After winning 2 more State Titles this past weekend, her foot was sore so she had it checked out.  I hope it isn't serious and it seems like it.

2 days until Ragnar.  And most likely no sleep.

Keep on Running!!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Has it been busy!

Just a quick note on a few things as I don't have the time to devote to a full race report at this time.

On Saturday, I ran the Deckers Creek Half Marathon in Morgantown, West Virginia.  I will certainly write a race report about it soon as I have quite a few nice things to say about this race.  In the end, I ran a time of 1:39:08, which is a PR for the half marathon for me. (Back 19 years ago in my first marathon, I went through the half in 1:35, but it wasn't a half race).  I certainly got help in this race in the form of a mostly downhill course, I think 800 feet down in the first 10 1/2 miles.  I will share more soon.

Just got back from a family vacation to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio and Washington D.C. to see some sights and see an old friend of mine.  I will share some of that as well soon too.

I am getting ready to run race #2 (of 4 total) in June this weekend.  I am running the Ragnar Relay from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL on an ultra team (only 6 of us).  I get the most miles, something like 37.5 over 3 different runs.  I am looking forward to it since I have wanted to run this race for years.

The next weekend is the Great Milwaukee Race which is always a blast and the following weekend I am a pace leader for the Summerfest Rock & Sole Half Marathon in Milwaukee.  Not Rock & Roll, Rock & Sole!  Yeah, I think they weren't took original but it is a catchy name.  I will be pacing the 2:20 group so it should be no problem for me.  Let's hope it is not too hot this year like last when they ran out of water and had a lot of problems.  The race in under new management and they seem to know what they are doing.

My daughter is also running in the Wisco Mile on Wednesday evening.  I ran this last year but with Ragnar so close, I decided to skip it and just cheer her on.  Her goal is to break 7:00.

Check back soon for updates.

Keep on Running!!!