Sunday, October 9, 2011

Milwaukee Marathon Race Report - Him

Waynes World! Waynes World! Party time! Excellent!

Wayne Campbell: So, do you come to Milwaukee often?
Alice Cooper: Well, I'm a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers were coming here as early as the late 1600's to trade with the Native Americans.
Pete: In fact, isn't "Milwaukee" an Indian name?
Alice Cooper: Yes, Pete, it is. Actually , it's pronounced "mill-e-wah-que" which is Algonquin for "the good land.
Wayne Campbell: I was not aware of that.

Last Sunday found me running the Mill-e-wah-que Lakefront Marathon up in, um, Milwaukee. Being from Chicago where every race has to be worlds largest, Milwaukee feels kinda like an anti-marathon wrapped in the little race that could. Its a point to point run capped at just over 3000 participants that starts in the quaint little town of Grafton and finds its way down to the Milwaukee lakefront (hence the name). And although the race has been around for 31 years, I bet a straw poll would reveal that most of the populace in Grafton has no idea that the race exists (I happen to know this because my cousin lives right off the first mile and seriously had no idea). In this part of Wisconsin, it doesn't take very long for 3000 runners to run across Main Street and disappear into the rolling farm country. And the race is so extremely sensitive to the communities they run through that I'm quite certain as soon as we were off, any remnant from the race start is eighty-sixed before most of the farmers are finished with morning chores.

Joining me for this go at 26.2 was my brother Andrew. We decided on this Marathon because of the geographic proximity to our family origins. In fact, we were able to spend Saturday with our 91-year old Grandmother (Dad's Mom) watching the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks in the playoffs (seriously, she knows her Brewers and she knows her Packers). Milwaukee would have been our second Marathon together if I hadn't DNF'd Philly last year.

I mentioned above how this felt like the anti-marathon. Honestly, Jen dropped us off in front of the high school like we were headed off to a cross country meet. The school was actually open to the runners and the logistics of getting yourself ready and to the race start was just about as easy as walking out the front door for a morning run.  The only difference being some bright purple portapots, a gear check truck and an inflatable race start archway. Oh and 3000 other runners and Bart Yasso.

Yup, there is no marathon too small for the Mayor of Running, Bart Yasso (@BartYasso) who was there to see us off and greet us at the finish.

After a summer of triathlon training I had 11 weeks of marathon prep time. Its sounds like a lot especially given my base. But due to the last three years of dealing with injuries, I kept my run volume especially low all summer. So the bulk of this focused training time was spent on gradually building my volume and my long runs - hardly any speed work (strides only) but lots of hills, strength work and tempo. My goal was a 3:15 which translates to a 7:26/mile pace. In the recent past, my marathon goal had been 3:05-3:10 so I really felt a 3:15 was right in my sweet spot and very realistic.

Mile 10 - feeling sassy.
And as Bart pointed out that morning, the weather was perfect. Not a cloud and really cool temps to start. Tactically I broke the race into a 5x5mile workout each in 37:10. Breaking the race into smaller chunks would give me some easy early victories to gain confidence. The course rolled - always up and down and I decided early on to take what was given to me and keep the effort even. So our early splits were anywhere from 7:17 to 7:36 depending on the climbing and descending. But the effort felt the same and we easily pinned back the first two sets of 5 with time in the bank. I was feeling sassy. See over there on the right. Yeah, that's me doing sassy running - laughing in the face of the marathon gods. All in black 'casue they say that black is slimming.

Mile 26 - Not puking
The third set got a little rough toward the end especially mile 15. We hit a bad running pack and I exerted a lot of energy trying to rid myself of a overly labored, foot pounding, huffer. He's the type of runner where you start to feel like he sounds just through osmosis. Additionally, Andrew's tricky hammy started acting ap and his silence during 13 and 14 were enough to let me know that things were starting to go a bit south. We gave back at least 30-45 seconds during that set of 5. So mile 16 was gut check time. I was really struggling but was able to rally and soon found myself just off the pace of a chick and three guys that I had chased for about two miles. Turns out all three guys were named Dave - all having met during the race. They even designated who was Dave 1, Dave 2 and Dave 3. So the three Daves, this chick and I paced each other for the next several miles. I thought this new pack was my Boston Qualifying salvation. But my faith was misplaced, the rally was short lived, and cement legs came on right around 19.5. How quickly the body and the mind can turn. Miles 21-23 began the death march up a false flat. By 24 my right quad was screaming and my stomach really wanted to relieve itself of its contents. You know your day has absolutely bottomed when your once spirited inner voice pitifully deteriorates to "Please God don't let me puke on these nice spectators."

All that said, the finish of the race is actually a visual spectacle. The elevation chart falls of a shelf and with a left turn the lake majestically lays out before and below you - its all downhill to the finish. And Sunday October 2nd was one fine morning to be on the Milwaukee lakefront.

I ended up with 3:28 and change. 7 minutes off my PR and 13+ off my goal. And I just felt "eh" afterward. Not happy, not terribly disappointed. I've had this same type of race countless times. I just can't get over the 20 mile hump. Still chasing my BQ.

Congrats to my brother though who powered through a crap hamstring for his third marathon finish. One of these days Andrew, we will start AND finish together.

- Him.

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