Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Icebreaker Marathon Weekend - Recap

This past weekend was the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay and 5K held at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, WI.  It was a long, long, LOOOONNNGGG weekend.  I will wait to give my marathon race report a little later but as a preview, it was less than spectacular.  All in all, including packet assembly, I spent close to 30 hours at the Pettit on Thursday evening, Friday evening, all day Saturday, and a lot of Sunday.

Friday was our first event, the 5K race which started at 7:00PM.  My family arrived early as we were helping out with packet pickup and I needed to help set up the course some and also set up the music system.  My daughter, Melissa, was also running the 5K for the 2nd straight year.  Most everything went smoothly and the 5K went off without much of a problem.  The Friday 5K is always a good warm up for the crew to see how everything is running and we passed.

There were 88 runners signed up for the 5K with a little more than 60 running.  My daughter wasn't in the shape she was last year but did do the 4 required runs I had her do in order to race so she was welcomed into the field.  Her goal was to run about 28 minutes or a little slower than 9:00 pace and since the 4 runs she did were the first since Thanksgiving, there wasn't much to expect as far as a fast time.  Sher ended up running really well and finished in 26:58 good for 2nd place out of 6 in the 0-19 age group.  She was quite happy with her race, and so was I.

Melissa running in the 5K on Friday evening.
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

We left pretty close to right after the race as I needed to be back at the Pettit Center no later than 5:30AM to set up for the first race of the day on Saturday.  I had to pick up 2 cases of bananas at the store a little after 5:00AM and was able to arrive right around 5:30AM.  I was able to set up the music pretty quickly and also finish up putting some signs up and the runners were already arriving for the first heat of the Half Marathon which started at 7:00.  My friend and one of my running partners, Amy (from Running is Cheaper Than Therapy) was running the first half marathon so we talked a bit before the race.  She also ran the full marathon on Sunday as a part of the Icebreaker Gold Medal Challenge.  Turns out Amy didn't hold back and ran a great half in just under 1:44.

Another friend of mine from the blog world, Jamie (from Running Diva Mom) was running the 2nd heat of the Half Marathon with her boyfriend and some other friends at 9:30 and the arrived early enough to watch Amy finish her race.

Runners in the Half Marathon on the front straightaway of the Pettit Center.
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

The Icebreaker Races are very unique events.  There are other indoor marathons in the US, one is even older, the Zoom-Yah-Yah Indoor marathon in Northfield, MN, but the Icebreaker is the largest.  Each race has up to 130 runners in them and they are run on the largest running track in the US, a 443 meter track that surrounds the Olympic Speedskating Training Center Ice Oval.  The track is 2 lanes wide and can comfortable have 3 runners wide running.   Because the track is so long, there is no need to change directions as there is no problems created by the turns as they are gradual enough.  Basically it is like running in lane 9 or 10 of your basic High School track.  The temperature at the Pettit Center is perfect for racing, a nice cool 50 dry degrees.  The surface is hard though, it is a layer of hard rubber a quarter inch think on top of cement, not very giving, but I have heard there are plans to put in a new track sometime soon.

 Banners of the Olympic Medalist that have trained at the Pettit Center
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

I have gone to many, many marathons all over the country and I love to hype up the Icebreaker and I hear the same thing from almost everyone.  "Isn't that boring running around a track for so many laps?" and I always say the same thing.  No Way, just the opposite.  It is more fun that other marathon in a lot of ways.  If you don't believe me, just check out what others are saying on MarathonGuide.com.  Where else can you see the leaders in a marathon for the ENTIRE race, that is unless you are one of the leaders?  Where else can you run a marathon and see your family watching you 96 times without them leaving their seat?  Where else do you have a port-o-let every 220 meters and an aid station every 443 meters with a volunteer handing you the exact beverage you choose?  Also that volunteer getting to know your name and being your person cheerleader for the entire race?  Where else can you sit after the race is done in comfortable chairs having post race beverages and food while still being able to watch everyone else still racing?

Awesome volunteers at the aid station cheering on runners including aid station captain, Kim, in the white sweater.  You won't find a better aid station volunteer ANYWHERE. 
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

Water bottles and Gatorade Bottle lines up ready for runners at any moment.
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

Some other advantages of racing Icebreaker are not only the perfect racing climate, but free parking within 100 yards of the door for everyone including family and packet pickup on race day.  At Icebreaker, the announcer will let you know how many laps you have left whenever you would like to know and will let everyone know when you are on your final lap.  Since there is an Ice Oval right next to the track, there are a variety of activities going on on the Oval to help entertain you as you run.  This year, on Saturday and Sunday was the US & North American Speedskating Marathon Championships going on.  Saturday was the 25K and Sunday was the 50K on the Ice.  And one skater/runner took part in the Blade-Runner Challenge.  Albertus Rohling skated the 25K taking 3rd place.  And 25 minutes after he finished, he ran the half marathon.  And since that just wasn't enough, he ran the full marathon on Sunday as well.  And just for kicks, there was a teenage girls elite hockey tournament happening on both the hockey rinks that are inside the Ice Oval.  Then at about 11:00AM on Saturday, there was children's ice skating lessons on the oval.  So cute to see kids as young as 3 learning to skate.  Then at 2:00 on Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday, the Oval was being used for open public skating.  Phew, lots going on at the Pettit but sure made it fun for everyone.

Another fun thing we have at Icebreaker is back bibs.  What are back bibs?  It is a blank number bib that you can write whatever you want on so the other runners can see it as they come up to you or as you pass them.  Some people put their names on them while other put jokes or saying on them.   I know I read a Prefontaine quote on one, one about a guy who had 3 daughter, a nurse, a clown and and nun (sounds like the start of a joke, right?), and Mary from RunningInTheUSA.com had "I made the Cookies" on her back.  She loves to bake and made tons of awesome cookies for all the runners in the shape of the US and of running shoes.  Her cookies are an Icebreaker fixture now and she also is a great runner too.  She was the 3 time defending Women's Gold Medal Challenge Champion and took 2nd this year.  Her husband, Bill, also took tons of pictures of the race and sells them on their website.  Check them out at RunningInTheUSA.com , the nations largest online race directory.  A really cool running website!   

Speedskaters competing in the US/North American Speedskating Marathon Championships while the running races are taking place right on the outside of the Ice Oval.
 Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

And just to be fair, here are a couple disadvantages to running a marathon at Pettit.  Don't expect to PR even though the climate is perfect and there are no hills.  Sometimes hills can help you in a marathon but the elevation change for this race is 0!  While turns are very easy in the Icebreaker and you never have to reverse directions, you still need to run in the outside lane unless you are the fastest runner on the track.  Lane 1 is for passing which happens a lot in this race.  Lane 2 adds about 1/4 mile to to total length of the race but if you are not running tangents in an outdoor marathon, you may add that if the race has many turns anyways.  By coming up to slower runners constantly, you need to adjust your speed frequently to allow even faster runners to pass you quickly as well.  This isn't really a hard think to do, for me it is a quick look over my shoulder to see if the coast is clear and maybe speed up for a bit if another runner is coming.

Amy runs her first race of the weekend, the Performance Running Outfitters Icebreaker Half Marathon.
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

 Jamie runs in the Half Marathon as well with her usual smile on her face.
Photo courtesy of Bill Flaws (RunningInTheUSA.com)

Saturday afternoon was the Icebreaker Marathon Relay where teams of up to 4 runners race the entire marathon in relay format.  The difference with this relay from other marathon relays is the rules allow you to exchange as many times as you choose to and run for as long as you want to providing your team completes all 95.3 laps.  Of all the races, this one has the fastest runners because of the strategies used.  Some teams traded off every 2 laps and almost sprinted it seemed.  The winning team ended up running a time of 2:18:17, about 5:30 slower than the winning team from last year but only had 3 runners as well.  Not bad averaging 5:17 per mile!  I ended up being the announcer for most of the Marathon Relay and had a lot of fun with announcing the team names.  I always love to see the names that come up.  Some of my favorites this year were: "Ron Jeremy's Kids", "4 Sacks and No Rack", "R2D2", "The Craptaculars", "The Angry Little Lizards", "When in Doubt...turn left", and in an ironic twist, team "Born to Run...Ferociously Slowly" beat out team "Ferocious Tarantulas" by 1 place.  I over heard that after the race, "Blood, Sweat, and Beers", "Wood Lake Drinking Team", "Los Gatos de Cerveza", "Cervesa Amigos", and "Runchata" got together for some post race activities and the local watering hole.

Saturday came and went and after over 14 hours at Pettit, I was able to go home with very sore feet and tired legs, perfect for the day before a marathon, right?  My kids graciously gave me a foot massage at home, about as good as a 7 & 8 year old can give.  You know, it starts out good but after 30 seconds, their attention wanders to the TV or something else.  Ahhh, it was good while it lasted.  On the other hand, my 11 year old gives awesome head massages.  My hair looks like it just came out of the 80's when she is done. Big and poofy.  LOL

Sunday morning came way to quickly but I was able to sleep 1 hour later than Saturday and did not have to pick up bananas. Good thing too, the outside temperatures dropped like a rock and it was something like 5F and windy outside when I arrived at Pettit.  Good thing the race was indoors.  I will give a race report on the marathon in my next post.

Congratulations to all the runners who ran any Icebreaker Indoor Race over the weekend.  I know some of you even completed your very first marathon and some completed their 50th marathons, for me it was only number 45 but that includes all 5 Icebreaker Marathons.

Keep on Running!!!

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