The Pettit Center is where the Olympic speed skaters practice which added a touch of coolness to the event. The race was to be held on a newly installed Kombi rubber featuring 3 lanes that went around the ice rinks. The speedskating track wasn't up while we were there but there were 2 rinks in the middle with 1 featuring a free skate and the other hosting a hockey practice. The track was 445 meters in length meaning we would have to run 47.4 laps as measured by USATF to complete our half marathon. The other features were port a johns at the turns on each side of the course so you had 95 chances to use the restroom if needed. They also didn't have a traditional water station, instead you placed your water bottle on a table and grabbed it when you wanted it. Most runners would take it and run and drink for a lap before dropping it back off. Sadly our heat had no volunteers to refill the bottles for us like the earlier heats did. Oh, did I mention the race was run in heats? There was a 7AM (no thanks!), 10AM, and 1PM. There was also a musical playlist with music for the duration of the race since headphones weren't allowed. The 7AM heat featured rock music. The 10AM heat was pop music. My heat was an 80s dance party.
|Artist rendering of the course map|
I was able to sleep in relatively compared to most races since I opted for the 1PM heat. I probably would have preferred the rock music, but there was no way I was getting to Milwaukee at 7AM. Instead I left at 10AM and made my drive up. I sipped on a coke to settle my stomach and snacked on a Powerbar on the way. I hit some mild traffic on the way but still arrived by noon. I got checked in, grabbed my shirt and ankle bracelet - I mean timing chip, and went to scope things out since people were still running from the 10AM heat. I snapped a few shots and relaxed while getting my things together.
|Water table at the curve on left|
|Ice rink past the padded divider, concrete where speed track normally is|
|View towards where the finish line is|
Finally I decided I had a ton of time so I headed to the bathroom and walked around to scope things out. After a bit I headed back to the track and got my shoes, bib, and tracker on. I was sipping on my gatorade and trying to make sure I was properly hydrated. I spotted Chris who I found out from his RnR race report was going to be there and he let me know to wave hi before the race so I did and we chatted for a bit. I found out he had ran the Icebreaker back in the winter so I picked his brain a little bit for what to expect. We talked a little bit more and then dropped off our water bottles at the table and finally headed to the start line. It was the most casual start line you will ever see. There was probably about 30 of us and it looked like we were getting ready to do a run for middle school gym class. There are some great pictures over at RunningInTheUSA if you're curious to see what the experience was like. The race director came over and said this is just going to be ready and firing the start pistol, and then he did just that and we were off.
I did my usual and started too fast. Normally I'm a bit tamer and take it easy for half marathons, but being on a track must have brought back the sprinter spirit in my heart. I shot out near the front of the pack - but not the front. Before the race I did some calculations and figured out I needed my laps in the 2:18-2:19 range in order to break the 1:49 needed to bump myself up a corral for the Chicago Marathon. I hit the first full lap and was at 2:05 - crap! I knew there was no way I could sustain that so I backed off and started getting splits right in the range I needed - lots of 2:18-2:19-2:20s. I have not learned to run with a bottle of water in my hand so I suffered on those laps - 2:22-2:23 range, but I figured I bought some time with the first 1.4 laps that I could spare a few seconds. I had also hoped to pick up speed later in the race if I had it in me.
I must admit it did get monotonous running in ovals, but it wasn't as bad as you might think. It was a constant game of reel in the person in front of you, and there was always someone in front of you. Also by being in the 1PM aka the quieter heat meant that most of the super speed demons had run earlier in the day. It was kind of nice only being passed by 4 people for most the day, although they did pass by me multiple times. I gave Chris a hard time the 2nd or 3rd time he passed me. I was finally passed by a 5th person as the announcer let us both know we had 4 laps to go. By this point my legs had started to stiffen. I wasn't in nearly as bad shape as I was for RnR, but between that race and my normal training load during the week - I didn't taper - my legs were just ready to be done and my pace suffered. I started slowing down to the 2:25 range and bottomed out at a 2:27 lap when I got Gatorade one last time - which thankfully Chris had finished already and refilled my bottle for me. I did the mental math and knew I needed sub 2 minute laps for the final 2 laps to reach my goal and that just wasn't happening. I finished in 1:49:37 - my 3rd fastest half - which is pretty great considering it was my 2nd half of the week and I didn't taper. It looks like I will have to try and break that 1:49 hump some other time. I keep coming close - 1:49:13 and 1:49:25 were 2 other halfs I had this year. I finished 37th of 105 runners. Amazingly 6 people chose to run all 3 half marathon heats - 1 of the women actually finished first for women in the 7AM heat and still ran great times in the other 2 heats.
After the race I met back up with Chris - it wasn't hard to do with only a handful of people there. We watched the runners and I grabbed my Gatorade and re-hydrated. We then decided to scope out the recovery room. This room had danishes, cookies, bagels, pretzels, water, and chocolate milk. It was a pretty impressive spread. I snacked on half a bagel and grabbed a couple glasses of milk. Other runners came in as they finished and we chatted. It was great being around other people who just love running and who have accomplished crazy feats like dual marathon weekends. I'm not at that level yet, but I aspire to be. I was thoroughly impressed by the event and think I might head back for Icebreaker in January. They offer several events of a weekend for that one. They even have a biathlon where you can ice skate 25km and then also run the half marathon or they offer a full marathon. There is also a 5K and marathon relay that weekend. Its spread over 2 days so you could really go running crazy if you want. It will also be guaranteed to be around 55 degrees and dry.
|Simple and Classy|