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!!!

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