Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Report - Wisconsin Dells Honky Tonk Marathon

Last weekend I ran the Wisconsin Dells Honky Tonk Marathon.  Yes, it was only 1 week after my previous full marathon but I had some really cool reasons to do so.  Have you ever ran a marathon with someone who means the world to you?  Perhaps you ran a marathon with your Mom or Dad?  Spouse or significant other?  Brother, Sister, or Best Friend?  OK, maybe you have and I am sure if was a very special experience for you, one you will never forget.  I got that opportunity at the Dells Marathon but in my case, I got to run it with my 7 year old daughter, Katelynn.  No, No, she did not run the entire marathon and it wasn't a kids marathon either.  In fact, she didn't run a single step of the race.  I was able to do something I wanted to do for a long time but this was one of my last chances to do so.  I pushed my daughter in a jog stroller for the entire marathon.

Ever since my first daughter was born over 10 years ago, I have run with them int he jog stroller.  We have had our share of Daddy / Daughter bonding time during a lot of those runs.  Sometimes they laugh, cry, sleep, have fun, fuss, you name it.  But most of the time it is just fun.  I get in a good workout and they get to see the world, or at least the local neighborhood or wherever we were.  Many dogs are spotted and stories of how the day went have been told.  And I never hesitated to enter races with then too.  While they have mostly been 5K's, I have entered a 15K with Katelynn once as well, but never a full marathon.  Partly because most races do not allow it sighting insurance issues.  But this marathon had a rule that stated the baby/jog strollers were allowed as long as you started in the back.  I knew this wasn't a very large marathon so I decided to give it a go.

The week before the race, I still wasn't signed up.  The only reason to enter was to run with Katelynn so if the weather was going to be rainy or windy, I wasn't going to enter.  I finally entered on Thursday or Friday when I was confident the weather would cooperate.  We arrived on Friday evening and had a fun filled day at the Chula Vista Indoor Water park on Saturday after picking up my packet.  The girls LOVE water parks so it was a major bonus for them.  Sunday morning came and we headed to the race while it was still dark out.  I made sure the tires on the jog stroller were inflated properly and packed all the stuff we needed for the race.  We got to the start line about 2 minutes before the start and made our way to the starting area.  It was cold out, maybe lower 40's so Katelynn was bundled up with mittens and warm jacket and I opted for a long sleeve shirt to start.

Katelynn and I before the start of the Wisconsin Dells Honky Tonk Marathon.

As the rules stated, Katelynn and I started in the back of the marathon / half marathon start.  We in fact we the very last to begin (except for anyone who came late tot he start).  The first mile or so was mostly downhill and I was feeling good so it was difficult to go slow.  It was good it was so crowded as it helped keep us slow.  We were getting lots of comments from runner in the first miles.  Some pretty cool comments about running with my daughter and more toward her and how good she looked.

The course is quite hilly, lots of rolling hills so that posed a challenge for me.  Going up hills I would generally be slower than other so I would get passed a lot but going down hills, I was being pulled down by Katelynn in the stroller so it was quite easy.  We would talk to a lot of the other runners, some asking if we were only doing the half or if we were doing the full.  Many were very surprised we planned on doing the full.  The course was a full and complete 13.1 mile out and back and that was the same for the half marathon as well so when we got the the half turn around, most of the runners around us turned back and we had lots less runner around us.  There ended up being only 132 finishers in the full marathon so you can imagine there weren't too many near by.

A couple miles into the race.  I think Katelynn knows where the camera is.  She was so good!

When we were by ourselves, we would talk about almost everything as we rolled along.  The colors or the trees, the hills ahead of us, the river on the side, the horses we passed and even if we could stop at the play ground for awhile.  I had to disappoint her on that one.  Don't get me wrong though, she wanted to be with me and we discussed it a lot before hand so it was not forced on her.

There is one advantage to using a jog stroller in a race, besides having a constant cheering section with you the entire way that is.  There were places I could store things that I needed to bring along.  When I needed a GU, it was there in the back pouch waiting for me.  When Katelynn wanted a fruit roll up, all I had to do was reach down and get one for her.  We even had a big bag of animal crackers with us.  She would eat them and when I asked, she would hand one to me.  Where else can you get service like that during a marathon?!?!?

Again early in the race down a hill.  Katelynn finds the camera again.

During the first half of the race, we kept a steady pace of around 10:15 per mile.  A the 11 mile aid station, we did have to stop for Katelynn to use the port-o-let but that was our only stop.  We passed by the half marathon point in 2:13 and change and by this time, it warmed enough to take off my long sleeve shirt and only use my singlet.  Katelynn was still cold enough to keep her mittens on unless she was eating something and her jacket on.  On the other hand, I was sweating.  On the way back, unfortunately the wind picked up a bit and it was now in our face.  It wasn't extremely difficult to run into but was enough to make it tougher.  No worries, we weren't about to stop.

Katelynn and I would play some games along the way at times.  We would play "I Spy" and go back and forth with "What Team?  WILDCATS" from High School Musical.  She loved that.  Another thing she would do was try to tell me what place we were in.  Of course since she didn't know, she would only count the runner ahead of us that she could see.  So quite often I was in 5th place, or 3rd place.  Sometimes we would even be in 1st place (if only it were true).

Along with us was her favorite stuffed animal, Berry Bear.  Berry Bear made many appearances during the race and at one point, Katelynn asked me to only whisper to her as Berry Bear was taking a nap.  Katelynn can be so cute at times.

Around mile 20, I started getting pretty tired.  Maybe it was that since I had never run 20 miles with a stroller before or maybe the marathon the week before but the hills became very hard.  I ended up making a decision to walk the stroller up the steeper hills in order to make sure I could still run at 25.  This worked well for me as I would take it easy there and not really lose much time at all because I wasn't running much faster than I was walking up the hills.

About 2 miles to go.  We were ready to be done.

The people at the aid stations were great.  They made sure Katelynn got small cups of water when she was thirsty and one even made up a goody bag for her on the way back with pretzels and M&M's.  Katelynn sure got more cheers int he race than I did too but I expected that.  Hey, it is not easy sitting in a stroller for over 4 1/2 hours!!!  One lady at an aid station near mile 23 even said that Katelynn deserved a medal for finishing too.

As I mentioned before, the course was an out and back so I knew what was ahead of me and the first mile or so that was mostly downhill was going to be the final 1 1/4 miles of UPHILL at the end.  We got to the final aid station at about 24 3/4 and had a little water and dug deep for the final uphill mile.  We struggled a bit going up the 2 part hill.  I walked some up the first part until it leveled off and I was able to pick it up.  the final hill was a short but steep on and unfortunately was only about 1/3 mile from the finish line that was still not visible yet.  I knew we were close and I knew that time was ticking away for us to beat 4:45.  We finally saw the finish line with about 200 meters to go and had that sudden energy spurt that comes with the finish line.  We turned the 2 corners into the parking lot and came though the finish line with smiles on our faces.

 In the finishing chute and everyone raising their arms in victory, Katelynn, Berry Bear, and myself.

Just as the lady had said at mile 23, sure enough, they gave Katelynn a medal too.  That was so cool of them.  Everyone in the race got a cowboy hat too so Katelynn received on as well.  Not only Katelynn, but also my other 2 daughters, Melissa and Megan.  I am sure they knew by that time they had plenty left over but was still very cool of the to do.  We finished in a time of 4:44:02 good for 95th place out of 132 full marathoners.  We ended up passing 7 runners in the second half of the race and only being passed by 2.

 Katelynn totally pumped being done.  So proud of her medal and new cowgirl hat.

After the race, I had half of my complimentary Miller Beer and we headed back to Chula Vista for more Water park fun before heading home.  It sure was difficult climbing the stairs to the top of the water slides another 8 or so time after the race but the kids had fun and Katelynn deserved it.  The hot tube was nice for a bit though.

 Katelynn, Melissa, and Megan after the race complete with Cowgirl hats.

In review, this race was a nice small marathon.  The medal was quite unique as it doubles as a belt buckle.  I am pretty sure that won't be used by me but I am sure some will.  The course was difficult but not extremely bad.  It was mostly country roads so not many spectators at all.  Instead of a shirt, full marathoners received a fleece sweatshirt.  It is quite soft and nice.  I am not sure why they call it the Honky Tonk Marathon.  Not much Honky Tonk going on in Wisconsin so that seemed odd to me.  Wisconsin Dells is the Water park capital of the world so it would have seemed more fitting to use that in the name somehow.  I wouldn't use this course as a PR attempt but if you just want a small marathon with some nice sights along the way, this one may be good for you.

In the end, this one was really special for me and I will not forget it anytime soon, or ever.  I hope Katelynn remembers it for a long time too and now she can appreciate how long a marathon really is.

I am not done for the year.  But more on that in another post.

Keep on Running!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Race Report - 2012 Haunted Hustle Marathon

October 13th was the Haunted Hustle Marathon in Middleton, WI.  Middleton is right next to Madison and not too far of a drive for me.  I have run this race all 3 years that it has existed and the first 2 years were not too bad of an experience for me so I decided to go for it another time.

Originally I had just wanted to run the race for time like I had before.  The 2 times I ran this before, I had just run a marathon 2 weeks prior and each time I came here and still broke 4 hours.  The course was a bit hilly those years, but not too bad.  It is a nice sized race with about 400 runners in the full marathon and more in the half and 10K.  I saw that they changed the course this year but was optimistic that they were able to make it less hilly (unfortunately I was wrong).  I also like seeing all the runners in costume for this race as it is Halloween Themed.

My friend Amy (blogger at Running is Cheaper Than Therapy) was also going to run the full and she got an email asking if she would be a pacer for the 4:15 group.  She asked if I would be available to pace with er and I was granted a free entry to do so.  I like free races.  Unfortunately the 4:15 pace only lasted for like 2 seconds and she was told we were to pace the 4:00 group.  Nervously we both agreed knowing we were both capable of running a sub 4:00 but conditions were bad, that it could make that difficult.  

The week before the race the weather forecast kept getting worse by the day.  Finally the day before the race, the forecast called for 90% chance of hard rain throughout the race.  UGH.  We contemplated changing our strategy about pacing, maybe splitting the course but in the end , decided to give it our best shot.

Since I was coaching a Cross Country Race on Friday evening, Amy was able to pick up my packet and pacer shirt.  That helped a lot!  I ended up waking up at 4:00AM and driving to Middleton in rain the entire way.  Sometimes hard, other times soft.  This was not looking good, but my spirits were high.  I met Amy near the start about 45 minutes early and we both were able to park within 200 feet of the start/finish line.  BONUS.  Then about 15 minutes before the race, we headed out to the start area and the rain had stopped (but for how long?)  

Amy and I before the start.  You can see the puddle on the road.  It was still very wet even though the rain had stopped for awhile.

As we were waiting in the starting area, we were met by our mutual friend Jamie (known the world over as the author of the blog Running Diva Mom) who was running the half marathon.  I would have given her crap about only running the half but she had just ran the Chicago Marathon the weekend before so I figured that was pretty awesome already.  Turns out she ran pretty good in the half marathon.  Way to go Jamie!

Jamie, Amy and I before the start.  I met Jamie because of this race 2 years ago when we found each others blogs about the race.  Wow, has it really been 2 years now Jamie?!?!?

The rain looked like it was going to hold off for a bit at the start which was nice and we started right on time.  The roads were wet and puddles were plentiful so my shoes got wet pretty quickly.  Amy and settled into a nice pace of between 9:00 and 9:05 for the first few miles over the hills at the start.  After a few miles, we started to get to know the runners who had decided to use us to help pace them.  We kept it steady as the rain held off longer.  A few of the mile markers were off but we reassured the group we were on pace.  the new part of the course that was not run before ended up being quite hilly so that made the course decidedly tougher this year.

I am feeling good here but we are in the first 2 miles of the race.  Wish I felt this good 20 miles later.

At the half point, the rain decided to begin as we ran through Pheasant Branch Conservancy which is a really cool place to run.  I had to stop before we entered and caught up to the group but was feeling like I was running really fast to keep pace.  The rain made it more difficult but Amy was very steady and I ran beside her hoping for a little relief on my legs.  By the 17 mile aid station, I was in trouble and feeling very crappy that I was not able to be where I needed to be.  We still on pace by both our Garmins and the mile markers but at that point, I told Amy I needed to slow a bit and  that I would catch up.  At least I hoped I would.  I did not like that I was struggling at a pace that should not have been any trouble at least this early, maybe at 23, but not 17.  There was another big hill at 17 and slowly Amy and the group crept away from me.  At one point I thought I was feeling better and made a move to try to make up the about 1/4 mile I was behind but that didn't last long.  The mile marks were off by quite a lot and by mile 20, I was still right at 9:09 pace (4:00 hour pace) but the legs were toast.  I just hoped Amy was able to keep it up, she looked very strong when she left me but I didn't want the group to be let down.

Turns out Amy was very strong and while her pace slowed a bit, she was able to get through the 26.2 mark in just under 4:00.  The problem was that the race was 26.61 miles long according to my Garmin and longer by every one else that I spoke to.  I run the tangents very well in races and I have my theory as to what happened, but I won't go there right now.

I struggled in passing the 26.2 mile point in 2:14:51 (would have been great if I was still the 4:15 pacer) and a finish time of 4:18:57.   I was NOT happy with my performance but is is a competed marathon.  Turns out I reached my age in marathons with this one.  41 completed.  So that was good.  I also got to run with Amy for 17 miles in a race which was also good.  I feel bad I couldn't help her out more though.  One of these days we will get a race done together (we ran the first half of the Heatbreaker Half Marathon together before Amy cramped up).  It is still good to have a good training partner to run with.

 A little more than a 1/4 mile to go and up another hill.  I am so ready to be done.

In the end, the Haunted Hustle is still a good race.  The weather sure put a damper on the costumes this year which are always fun to see but maybe next year.  The course was much tougher this year.  I don't know why they decided to change the course this year, I am sure they had their reasons, but I liked the previous course better, and that is not because of more hills this year.  The course was more scenic in my mind the last 2 years.  The medal is always unique here and is a nice one.  The shirt was a nice short sleeve technical shirt (I prefer short sleeve, I have waaaaaaay too many long sleeve ones).  The ladies even got a pink one for the half marathon.  I know Jamie was ALL OVER THAT.  If they could just get the mile markers right, this would be an even better race than it already is (they had problems in year 1 as well).

As for my poor performance, I have my theories.  Number 1 is that I don't have nearly the miles that I had in the past few year due to my injury at the start of the year and shorter miles over the summer hoping not to aggravate my IT Band.  I think with my new roller, I will just have to increase the miles again next year and get back that endurance I desperately missed toward the end of the race.  It could be that I just had a bad day too.  But I finished yet another one and that is good.  No time to rest though.  the next marathon was only the very next weekend.  That report to come soon.

Keep on Running!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blog Slacker

I have been such a slacker when it comes to not only my blog writing, but also my blog posting.  I need to catch up.  But here is a quick preview of what is to come from me:

1.  I ran the Haunted Hustle Marathon with my friend Amy on October 13 and need to write up a Race Report.

2.  I ran the Wisconsin Dells Honky Tonk Marathon 2 days ago and need to write up a Race Report.  Stay tuned, this one was a really cool experience (Hint: I got to experience it with my 7 year old daughter).

3.  I have 3 more marathon this fall on the schedule where I can get 2 more states completed.

In the mean time ....

Keep on Running!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It has been really, really busy lately.  Between work which is very busy, cross country coaching, training for fall marathons, and all the home life activities, I haven't had much free time. Sorry for no updates for awhile so here is a quick one.

As I mentioned before, I coach Cross Country for my daughters school.  This year, I have 2 daughters on the team, next year will be all 3.  Megan joined as a last second decision and while not a very fast runner, did have a lot of fun this year on the team.  There are not too many girls on the team so Megan was actually our 4th fastest runner (right here with Molly) and that is important as in grade school, they score 4 deep.  We trained all year for the big 'conference' meet which was last Wednesday.  Both Melissa and Megan were running in the JV race which is for kids grades 5 and under (Melissa is in 5th, Megan in 3rd). 

Melissa has been running outstanding this year so far and had the help of a teammate who could run with her and push each other.  They traded off being the top runner on the team over the first 4 meets.  At the conference race, her teammate was the victor, not only of the 2, but of the entire JV race.  Melissa had a cramp just before the 1 mile mark of the 1 1/2 mile race and eventually was passed by 1 other runner but held on the 3rd place out of 114 total runners.  Melissa finished in a time of 10:45.  Megan gave it her all and finished in the last spot in the top half of the race, 57th place in a time of 13:28 (just under 9:00 pace).  The team ended up taking 2nd place out of 20 teams beating 3rd by only 2 points.  I was so proud of both of them and the entire team. 

Melissa is in second place of the conference Cross Country Meet as her teammate begins to pull away.

Melissa and Megan after the race.  Megan happy with her race and Melissa slightly disappointed but still OK.

 The Second Place Conference JV Team.

Melissa running a different Cross Country race through the woods.

I have kept putting in the miles planning on a fall marathon or 2.  I put in a very nice 13 miler last weekend running completely around Pewaukee Lake over the hills.  A very nice run on a cool morning.  Then yesterday, I met up with Amy for a nice 8 miler on a very cold morning.  It was only 33F when we started and not much more when we ended.  There was no wind so it was actually very nice running weather.  Amy and I are pacing together next weekend at the Haunted Hustle Marathon in Middleton, WI.  I have run this marathon the last 2 years and really enjoy it.  It is early this year by 2 weeks but should still be fun.  Hopefully the weather will be like this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend and Marathons, today was the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon as well as the Chicago Marathon.  It has now been 1 year since last years World Record Jennipede marathon.  I have sure made a few really cool friends from that event (including Amy), and it is good to remember such a fun day.  I don't know many running in the Lakefront Marathon today but did have 3 close friends that ran in Chicago today.  Jamie, Dana, and Chris all ran this morning in what seemed like prefect weather.  Congratulations.

Also, I was able to go to the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon Expo yesterday after a Cross Country Meet for the girls.  They had 2 pretty cool speakers this year.  First, a few days ago, Joan Benoit Samuelson gave a talk as well as took some people out for a run.  I was not able to see this.  But I was able to meet and hear from Nick Symmonds, the US Olympian from London in the 800 meters.  Nick is a really cool guy and was so friendly with me and the girls cracking jokes with them and signing autographs and posing for pictures.  Before he spoke, he even jokingly asked the girls to not heckle him during the short talk.  They were good.

I asked him if he would sign a beer can for me and that got a laugh out of him.  Besides being the 3rd fastest American ever in the 800 meters (the race I ran in college), the 5th place finisher in the London Olympic Finals, he is also the American record holder in the Beer Mile.

What is the Beer Mile?  Well, check out this video of Nick attempting to break the World Record for the Beer Mile.  In a nutshell, the Beer Mile is a 1 mile race on the track where when the gun sounds, the first thing you do is chug a beer.  Then you run a lap and chug another beer.  Each lap you have to stop and chug a beer before starting the lap.  So 4 beers and 4 laps.  I am sure it sounds easier than it really is.  Nick ran something like a 5:18.  Dang that is fast.  Beer or no beer.

Katelynn, Melissa, and Megan with Nick Symmonds, 2012 US Olympian. 

 Nick and I.  In my hey day, I would be "only" 13 seconds behind Nick in an 800.  Hmm, an entire straight away.  LOL

Next Saturday is the Haunted Hustle Marathon so an easy week is ahead of me.  I am pacing a pretty fast group so hopefully there will be no problems.  The evening before the marathon is my oldest daughter's last Cross Country race of the year, and special race she had to qualify for that only 4 runner from her team (boys and girls) qualified for.  After Haunted Hustle, I have lot of tentative plans for marathons, some dependant on the weather, some dependant on travelling.  It should be a fun fall marathon season.

Keep on Running!!!