This past weekend I ran my second marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon.
We drove down to Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon and went right to the Expo to pick up my packet. I saw that they were going to have a 4:40pace group and I thought I could probably try to keep them in sight and finish around my goal of 4:45.
The Expo was nothing special and we didn’t spend much time there. We grabbed some dinner at Noodles and Company and some frozen yogurt for dessert. I was really questioning my decision to have the fro-yo, given my history of GI distress. But, it tasted good. 🙂
I tried to get to sleep early on Saturday night. I wanted to be as well-rested as possible. Our hotel was conveniently located about 20 minutes from the start line and I wasn’t anticipating a whole lot of traffic on race morning. I set two alarms for 5:30 a.m., which I feel is sleeping in on race morning!
We had no issues getting to the start line. Very little traffic. The start was at a high school, so we got to wait inside. The bathroom lines were long.
Outside the Grafton High School at 6:45 a.m. It was cold!
I ended up changing out of the tights and into my capris. It was the right choice.
Tim said good bye to me when the gun went off and headed over to the first of 5 viewing spots he had picked out along the course.
I lined up with the 4:30 pace group. My strategy was to run the first few miles to warm up and then go into my 4 minute:1minute run:walk strategy for the rest of the race.
We had to wait for an ambulance about 1/4 mile after the gun went off!
My first few miles of running put me ahead of the 4:30 pace group, but that was fine. I figured that they would catch me about halfway through. My biggest problem was that as soon as I crossed the timing mat and hit start on my Garmin, the screen went blank! I had NO idea how fast I was going for the entire race. (I did hit stop at the end, and when I connected it to my computer, I did have an accurate time, but no mile splits, pace info or elevation info.)
That’s me…ahead of the 4:30 pace group. This was about 2 or 3 miles into the race. I can tell because I still have my jacket on.
I felt fantastic the first few miles. My run/walk strategy was working beautifully. I saw Tim around mile 7 and gave him my jacket. I still had on a tank and a long sleeve tech shirt. I also had my ear warmers. It was chilly, but I was warming up.
Tim’s first viewing spot at Concordia University Wisconsin (where I graduated). The crowd support here was probably the best on the whole course. And it was great for me to be able to run through campus and see everything that has changed since I graduated (more years ago than I care to admit).
I got to the 13.1 timing mat 1:15 off of my half marathon PR. I was pretty impressed. Like I said, I had no feedback from my Garmin on how I was doing, and I wasn’t mentally astute enough to start doing pacing math in my head.
I ran into a huge problem at the half way point. Very suddenly, my knees started hurting. It felt like I was being stabbed. It slowed me down A LOT. There were times when I would be running and I would suddenly stop dead in my tracks because of the pain.
I was so upset. My race had been going better than I could have imagined up to that point. I was still ahead of the 4:30 pace group. My run/walk segments were leaving me feeling energized and encouraged. Practically instantaneously, everything started going downhill. My pace deteriorated. My sunny disposition darkened. I wasn’t having as much fun.
I saw Tim again at about mile 14. I didn’t say anything about my knees. But I did give him my ear warmer. I kept my gloves. Just in case.
I got to mile 18, which is another spectator area and I didn’t see Tim. I was almost through that area when I saw him running along the side of the road with a cup of coffee, laughing. I blew him a kiss and kept running.
There was a local cross country team that had gone along part of the race course and written encouraging phrases on the road in sidewalk chalk. That was pretty cool.
By the time I got to mile 19 or 20, my stomach wasn’t feeling the best. I was finding it difficult to take in any sort of fuel. I tried to get in a few more calories, because I knew that the end of the race I probably wouldn’t be able to stomach anything.
I also stuck to water at the aid stations. Gatorade doesn’t work with my GI issues, so I didn’t take in any electrolytes, other than what was in my food. I’m glad it wasn’t super hot, or my sweat rate would have probably necessitated more electrolytes.
This was also the point (around mile 19 or 20) when the 4:30 pace group passed me. I noticed that the pacer had a much smaller group at this point than he did at mile two. Even though I had never thought that I would finish under 4:30, it was still a bit disheartening to watch the group get further and further ahead of me.
After this point, my stomach made it perfectly clear that it couldn’t handle anything else. I had been trying to fuel a little more frequently, but with smaller portions. So I would have about a bite every 30-40 minutes or so. But after a while, I just couldn’t get anything else down. I think I could have used more calories, but I wasn’t so depleted that I didn’t think I could continue.
I was able to see Tim again at mile 23. By this point, I was really hurting. My knees were throbbing. My legs were starting to feel like lead. I was slouching and my form was crap. (Remind me to do core work.) I told him I was dying.
But, I kept going. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of quitting and getting in the jeep with Tim, did (briefly) cross my mind. My knees were really sore. But, I knew that wasn’t really an option. I had to finish.
As I got closer to the end, the course wove back around toward the lake. It felt like the wind changed and started blowing in off the lake. I suddenly started getting cold. I was really glad that I still had my gloves because they went right back on my hands. My hands are always cold. Even in July. It wasn’t July.
My 4:1 run:walk ratio was starting to become difficult, but not in the way I thought it would. The walking sections were really tough. My knees hurt more while I was walking. And then those first few steps when I started running again were AWFUL! So, in the last two miles, I skipped a couple of the walking sections.
I crossed the finish line in 4:37:01! (If I hadn’t had to wait for that ambulance…) I was 8 minutes better than my goal, and only 2 minutes away from my if-everything-goes-right-and-I-have-the-best-day-ever goal. I was pretty pleased. One of the medical volunteers must have sensed that I wasn’t doing well and he led me to the medical tent. He got me some ice for my knees and gave me a couple ibuprofen and some Gatorade. I figured I could drink the Gatorade now that the race was over.
I sat for a little while and then I tucked the bags of ice into my capris and staggered out to get a bottle of water, my bag of food and a bottle of chocolate milk. The beer held no allure for me.
Once I found Tim, I had him help me get my shoes off so my feet could breathe. I put on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt and I was still shivering so much that I sounded like a stutterer with stage fright. I tried to down the chocolate milk, but even that took a while with the way my stomach was feeling.
We headed off to where he was parked. I was moving pretty slowly. We headed back to our hotel. I had arranged a late checkout time so that I would have time to come back and shower. It was the most wonderful shower ever! Once I was warm, I started to feel better. I put on my compression socks because we had about a 4 hour drive home.
But first…my reward!
I had the biggest bowl of frozen yogurt (and all the toppings) ever.
I was pretty tired on the drive home and I was so thankful that Tim was willing to do all the driving. I tried to study for my Pharmacology test, but kept nodding off.
Overall, I would say that my experience was a pretty good one.
Flat course with a couple of nice down hill sections. No uphill sections of note.
Nice scenery. The leaves were changing and it was very pretty along the lake.
Really nice volunteers. Well stocked aid stations.
Easy packet pick up. The Expo was well organized and everyone was really helpful.
Grafton High School. Having a warm place to wait before the race (and a real bathroom) was a nice touch.
Not a lot of access for spectators…made for some pretty lonely sections of running.
Not a lot of running room. There were sections of the course where we ran on the shoulder of the road, and the road was open to traffic. I never felt unsafe, but it made passing more difficult and sometimes I had to run in the gravel on the side of the road.
Crowded water stops. When the running area was narrow, it became even narrower with the addition of an aid station. Traffic slowed considerably.
White shirts. I can’t even count how many white race shirts I have. Some people got red. Not sure why or how that was decided.
B. I think this was a great choice for a marathon for me. I don’t think I would do it again, simply because there are other races I would like to do. But it is a race I would recommend to others.