Sunday, July 1, 2012

Race Report - Rock 'n Sole Half Marathon

On June 23rd, I ran my 4th race of June as a pacer for the Summerfest Rock 'n Sole Half Marathon that took place in Milwaukee, WI along the lakefront of Lake Michigan.  We have had a very hot summer so far this year with many races actually being cancelled or reduced in Wisconsin.  It was a releif to have some cooler weather for the morning.  And I am sure if was a huge releif for the organizers as well.

There was a new organization team in place for the 2nd annual race here becuase last year, there was a big time disaster for this race.  Last year it was very hot and sunny and the race ran out of water on the course and many runners needed medical attention.  The race took a lot of 'heat' for being poorly prepared, especially since there was plenty of warning that it was going to be hot.  I was not down at the race last year but from everyone I talked to or heard from, this year was so much better.

I was scheduled to be a pacer for the 2:20 group.  Obviously with my times from the past, I was not worried at all about being able to finish but I was a little worried about if the pace would be hard to maintain since it is a pace I am not used to running.  Turns out that it was not difficult.
My pacing group before the race, Cole, Bill, and Chera. 

The pace group I was in consisted on 3 runners, Chera, Cole and myself.  Cole was a member of the Jennipede team I was on last fall but was about 50 spots ahead of me so I didn't really know him all the well.  We all met that morning and all hit it off really well and had our plan to help all the runners near us.  The plan was to run about 10:30 pace and walk for 30 seconds through every waterstop (10 of them).  The race strated right on time at 7:00 and it was foggy out.  Temps were in the 60's so combined with the fog, felt cool.

The Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee on the lakefront and the first 4 miles of the race.

One of the features of this race is you get to run over the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee.  This is an express way that goes right along the lakefront, over the Summerfest grounds, and one of the iconic images of Milwaukee.  The race begins right away going over the bridge and then once over it, right back on it over again.  The bridge is 2 miles long so we were almost 5 miles into the race once we finally got off.

I was holding the 2:20 sign for our group and just talking to everyone I could, basically being a little of a nut, but is a playful, encouraging way.  I pointed out some features of Milwaukee to the runners from out of town as well as talked about some of the music acts coming to Summerfest, also known as the largest music festival in the country.  I wanted to help the runners relax and keep their minds off running for awhile.  Cole, Chera and I didn't really run together too much as we would go around and see how everyone was doing.  Typically Chera went ahead and talked to people and Cole lagged behind encouraging everyone to keep up with us.  We would yell back and forth to eachother keeping it simple and fun.

By the time we were heading back over the bridge, the fog burned off and we could see the entire Milwaukee area from atop the bridge.  I must have been looking too much when I tripped on a raised crack and went down scrapping my hand with the sign hitting the ground.  Besides my embarrassment, I was OK and was up quickly.  I am pretty sure I heard Cole or Chera saying "Down goes the Pacer, Down goes the Pacer!"  It was all good.

This about 11 miles into the race.  Amy was running right behind me and finished great under 2:20.

By 6 miles, we were getting to know the runners who joined our group and knew their names and even some background on them.  Us pacers knew it was only a matter of time until they would begin to struggle.  Pace was almost perfect as were were within 30 seconds the entire race.  One guy named Jim was riunning his first Half Marathon with us and had a goal of 2:30 but found himself with us.  He looked really good and relaxed for a first timer, that is until mile 12.  Cole made sure he went back to Jim and ran with him the rest of the way.  Jim struggled a lot but managed to finish in 2:19 and change.

Crossing the bridge to the "Summerfest Island" right about at mile 12.  Chera right next to me keeping pace and the group right there with us.

At the mile 13 mark, I was 21 seconds ahead of pace so I slowed down and tried to get as many runners pass me as I could before crossing the line in a time of 2:19:59.  We were running on chip time so hopefully a lot of these runners started after us and managed to squeek under 2:20.

The post race party was really good.  Besides getting some chocolate milk in me, I was able to get a free beer as a part of my entry.  Since this was the Summerfest race, they had a band playing at one of the 12 stages on the Summerfest grounds.  I think they picked an almost perfect band to play.  They were a really good cover band playing songs from the 70's all the way to now.  And the old man in me loved that the band was not too loud.  You could still hold a conversation for the most part and still enjoy the music.  I did have one of the runners from my group find me and thanked me for helping her get her PR.

I really enjoyed this race and enjoyed pacing and plan on doing it again. I have been invited to pace again in the fall at the innagural Milwaukee Brewers Mini Marathon held at Miller Park here in Milwaukee.  I will take that opportunity again.  Not sure what pace I will go then but will still go into it with the same enthusiasm hoping to get runners to their goals. 

As you can see, the shirt I had to wear was really bright neon green.  This will be the perfect shirt to wear for my next marathon.  I will tell you all about it soon.

Keep on Running!!!

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