Sunday, May 13, 2012

Race Recap: Wisconsin Marathon

Within minutes of finishing my first marathon last September, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm totally doing that again!" I promised a couple years before I stuck him with the kids every Saturday morning and dug into a big training plan.  Several months later though, I was signed up for marathon #2.

My calling to the Wisconsin Marathon was the cool cheese medal, the scenic lakefront course, and the allure of beer, brats and cheese (these are all food groups of themselves in Wisconsin).  My original intention was to run the half and collect my cheese bling.... and then a photo of the medals was released. Full marathoners were a orange/yellow (cheddar) ribbon, while the half marathoners received white (swiss).  I'm a full-blooded Wisconsin girl and I love my cheese, but somehow I hate swiss.  So just like that, the decision was made... I'm going for the Cheddar!

THE BIG DAY arrived last Saturday on May 5.  I slept fairly well the night before and robotically went through my morning routine. I had rehearsed my pre-race prep so many times that it now clicked off without a thought at 4:30 in the morning.  I had slept at my Aunt/Uncle's house just 40 minutes south of the starting line.  As soon as I started heading north to Kenosha, the rain began.  My heart sank. I really didn't want to do this in rain... again. (The only race I've ever been rained on was my first marathon.)  Thankfully I found a covered parking garage near the start.  I stayed under the shelter of the garage to warmup with yoga and stalk the weather radar from my phone. Finally the rain moved out.  Just fifteen minutes before the start, I exited the garage (dry!) and jogged to the starting line.  As I slipped into the crowd, the National Anthem started and we were on our way.

As the running began, I mentally reviewed my race strategy... Nothing faster than a 9:30 pace. Even-Steven. Be consistent. Be loose, but good form. No hurry, just go with the flow.  Enjoy the company of the half marathoners. My race doesn't begin until mile 12. Hydrate often. Fuel before you need it. Be strong. Be confident. Don't quit.

Mile 1 - 9:40
Mile 2 - 9:32
Mile 3 - 9:43
Mile 4 - 9:46

The first couple miles we made our way through some neighborhoods.  My parents were right before the 1 mile marker, so I was able to toss my hat and rain jacket.  There was little congestion around me so I found my steady pace early without too much jitterbugging around other runners. My problem was attitude though. I'd been missing my run-joy from my runs lately and today was no exception. By mile 3, I was already counting down... 23 to go.  Not a good sign. I needed to get into this race... and quick.  By mile 4, we came through downtown Kenosha and the streets were packed with spectators.  Lots of noise, signs and cheers... just what I needed!

Mile 5 - 9:20
Mile 6 - 9:40

As we exited the downtown area, we ventured into a park along Lake Michigan.  The views of the lake were great - especially breath-taking on a nice day I would imagine, but today was gloomy and dark with a cold wind coming in off the lakefront.  Shortly after mile 5, I saw my parents again with my Aunt D, Uncle J and cousin D perched at the top of a small hill, making a home with lawnchairs and a lineup of cheer signs. My mom definitely had the best signs on the course.

Mile 7 - 9:46  *GU*
Mile 8 - 8:49

Since I hid out in the parking garage before the race, I missed the bloggy meetup at the starting line.  Thanks to several out and back spots along the course, I saw a bunch of people I knew as we were running.  Around mile 7, I saw Kim and Rachel as they were cruising through their half marathons. Shortly after, I heard someone else yell out familiar names.  It broke me out of my zone enough to look over and see... Marcia and Bobbi!  It was so funny because I had been listening to their conversation for the past mile about running skirts. I ran with them and chatted for awhile. I also saw Tough Chik Erika and my friend Katie, who were running their first full and half marathons respectively.

Mile 9 - 10:24  *water refill*
Mile 10 - 9:32

During mile 9, I made my first stop to fill up my handheld water bottle that I had been sipping like a good student.  I ran past my family again at mile 10, forged up the little hill and out of the park and back to the big crowds in the downtown area.

Mile 11 - 9:31
Mile 12 - 9:47

I could feel the pace of runners pick up around me.  I tried my best to hold steady despite the finishing momentum of the half marathoners.  At mile 11, there was another small out/back before the half-ers made their way home.  I cheered them on and got to see Kim, Rachel and Marcia one last time before their finish.  At mile 12, I forged ahead... and it suddenly got really lonely on the course.  Out of nearly 3300 finishers, only 1/4 of those were running the full.  Yeah, I had plenty of running space now... In fact, the nearest runner ahead of me was blocks up the road!

Mile 13 - 9:46
Mile 14 - 9:57  *GU*
Mile 15 - 9:38
Mile 16 - 9:59  *water refill*
Mile 17 - 9:56
Mile 18 - 9:57

Once I hit mile 13, I turned on the music and kinda zoned out.  As I came up on mile 14, I saw my family getting out of the car and "making camp" at the corner. I was ahead of my pace and they barely made it in time to see me run through.  A lot of these miles were run through pretty neighborhoods - big trees, pretty gardens and fancy houses. We hit a couple stretches of gravel road that were kinda messy with all the recent rain.  At mile 16, we came up on the lakefront and got a brief glance at the lead runners on their way back home.  By mile 18, I was starting to feel the drain of running so many miles at a sub-10 pace... I've never done that before!!  And I started drinking more often.

Mile 19 - 10:03
Mile 20 - 10:09  *GU*
Mile 21 - 10:22  *water refill*

I had no idea just how tired I was until we made the turn at mile 19.  I had 7 more miles to go - but now heading north right into the lakefront wind.  I battled against it and tried to hold my pace, but by mile 20 I was hurting. My mind was oddly obsessed with the thought of eating oranges.  So I grabbed one of the PowerBar Tangerine energy gels that was offered on the course (they had no fruit station... boo).  I was so tired that I actually walked to take the fuel. It tasted horrible and I could barely swallow it.  (Marathon Rule #1 - Never deviate from your training!  But I was so tired at that point that it sounded easier than unzipping my pack to get my own GU out.)  Weird things start happening in my mind in these late miles.  I started envisioning my running buddies by my side... and had a complete conversation with them. I may have actually spoke aloud.  Thankfully runners were sparse on the course around me.

Mile 22 - 10:36
Mile 23 - 10:58  *water refill*

At this point, I was trying to take one mile at a time.  22 is my personal lucky number, so I used that to take me through that mile.  I sure appreciate runners who come out to spectate.  They make great cheerleaders.  There was a guy all dressed in running gear (obviously waiting to run someone in) whom I made eye contact with and he yelled to me, "You're killing this thing." It made my mile.  Later on, there was a group of runners who had finished the half and were back on the course, cheering wildly for all the marathoners. I knew my family was waiting ahead and that got me through mile 23.  It made me laugh when my Aunt D was wearing a Darth Vadar mask handing out Kleenex tissues!

Mile 24 - 9:21

Where did that come from? The course made a cut inward away from the lakeshore (and the wind!).  It automatically gave relief to my body.  I studied my watch and did some quick math.  The 4:17 goal was still vaguely in the picture, but I really had to push the last three miles.  After mile 24, we turned back into the headwind and my body felt like it stopped.  There was no way I could hold a mid-9 pace.  It really hurt to give in, to let go of my 'A' goal.  But I tried to focus on my 'B' goal, which was a 4:20.  I couldn't let that slip in the final two miles.

Mile 25 - 10:14
Mile 26 - 10:18

I fought for each step in the next mile.  I remembered from marathon #1 that the last mile went by so quick, so I ached to see the mile 25 sign.  Unfortunately, that last mile was not as smooth as last time.  I had so little left in the tank and struggled against the lake wind.  I kept telling myself, "You can do 1 mile in your sleep.  Just run it in." As I approached the final turn, there was a hill that practically killed me to make it up.  (It was probably only a slight incline, but at this point, any elevation change felt dramatic!)  I was so delighted to see Kim and Rachel waiting at the mile 26 marker to cheer me in.  They finished their race hours ago and hung out in the cold weather to see me finish.  Love 'em!

The Final 0.2 - 2:00

With just a 1/4 mile to go, I could almost see the finish line and of course, the cheerleaders grew on the side of the road.  I tossed my water bottle to my family and zoomed off to finish. I seriously reached down to find any bit of energy I had left.  I made the two women holding hands in front of me into a target.  They had matchy-matchy outfits and would totally steal the finish line camera.  I passed them quickly and never let go.  I gave some fist pumps down the final stretch and was delighted with the cheers I received for that action.  The finish line was finally here.  I was utterly exhausted and nearly doubled over. I think the guy putting the medal around my neck actually helped me from falling.  I stumbled around looking for water... water... and oranges!  Still no oranges.  But I did find the beer and brats!

Enjoying my beer, bling and brat!
Me, Rachel and Kim after the finish!

Full Marathon #2
Chip Time:  4:18:56
PR over the 2011 Quad Cities Marathon by 24:31
#486 out of 835 overall
#141 out of 329 women
#22 out of 47 division F35-39

Was I pleased?  Yes, extremely!  Who wouldn't be happy with a 24 minute PR?  I had come a long way with my training in the past 8 months.  I trained smart and prepared properly.  I ended the marathon with no chaffing, no blisters and no stomach issues.  My legs were tired, but well-trained.  I fueled and hydrated properly (although I did miss my last GU planned for mile 23).

Was I satisfied?  No. I missed my goal and still feel like I have more to perfect on the full marathon.  However, unlike my first, I felt a great relief that "the marathon" was done... until next spring.  I'd like to take another 10 minutes off my time, but most importantly, I want to feel STRONGER through those last six miles.


  1. What a fun recap, and you are such an inspiration! I had to laugh, as someone who was born in raised in WI and also hates swiss cheese :)

  2. Aw, congrats Jess! Gotta feel good about this! So happy for you!

  3. been waiting for this and so worth the wait! LOVE LOVE LOVE Great job Jess!!!

  4. Wow! What a great race Jess. Your splits are so impressive. You stayed consistent and picked it up at the end. So very excited for you! NICE work out there... congratulations.

  5. NOW you are a real marathoner!!! the first one is done with adrenaline - the second one makes or breaks you! You didn't get broken and that's what counts!!!

  6. Congratulations on your 2nd marathon and new PR! I love you comment about your mile 24 pace. :)

  7. That was a great Recap !! Thanks for sharing and Congrats again!! You are for sure a Rock Star!! You look great in all your pictures!!

  8. Awesome job, and great recap! You rock!

  9. Congratulations! This was a great recap.

  10. Awesome job Jess!!! You look so strong in these pics!!!

  11. Congratulations! What great pictures - you look so happy!

  12. Great report, Jess! A 24 minute PR is absolutely amazing.

  13. You ran such a great race and it was SO MUCH FUN to see you! Congrats again! I know you'll take that additional 10 minutes off. It is IN you! :) Love the fist pump pic!

  14. Congratulations!! You look FANTASTIC in those pictures!

  15. 24 Minute PR?!! Also- I think that is one of the BEST finish line pictures EVER!!! Congrats on such a great race! You ran smart and paced right. Great job!!

  16. Jess, I am SO PROUD of you! Thanks for the great recap!


  17. Loved this report! Congrats on a great race! I will remember what the guy told you at mile 22 and yell it out the first chance I get. Way to go!

  18. 24 minute PR is HUGE!! You should be proud of that and there is always more to shoot for in the future :)

  19. Great job. This was fun to read!

  20. A 24 minute PR???!!!!! You are amazing!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

  21. Congrats Jess on such a great race! A 24 minute PR, that is almost 1 minute quicker PER MILE. What an amazing accomplishment! Looking forward to cheering Team You've Been Chicked at Ragnar in a few weeks! :)

  22. Great PR!!! Also, I love your color coordinated running outfit and your great attitude!

  23. Awesome race Jess!! I love to see your big smile after all those miles!

  24. You did awesome. There is no other way to put it! How could we not stick around to cheer you into the finish line? We were so excited to see you coming around the corner knowing you killed it. Keep up the amazing running!

  25. Congratulations Jess! Great time and great pictures!

  26. you did AMAZING!! Congrats! It was so much fun to see you out there :)

  27. Congratulations! You did an absolutely fantastic job (a 24min PB?! That's amazing!). I definitely find running very mentally challenging, and your recap shows that everyone has these thought processes sometimes. Thank you.

  28. Amazing!!! Congrats on a huge PR! You almost ran 1 minutes faster PER MILE! That is incredible. And in regards to not hitting goal A - well, there is always marathon #3! :)

  29. 24 minutes is amazing! Congratulations! I know what you mean about wanting to feel stronger those last 7 miles...I felt the same way even though I PR'd too. There's the goal for next time!

  30. Jess - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recap and am SO HAPPY for you!!!!! :) :) :)

  31. Nice job!! You have nothing to be disappointed about, you killed it!!

  32. LIKE W2G Jess,look forward to more intervals with you so you can get that next marathon PR!

  33. Congrats on the PR! Which training plan did you use?

  34. Congrats!!! Awesome job!!!

  35. Great job and congrats on the PR! I was excited to read about this race. My sister recently moved to Madison, and I have my eye on this race for next year.

  36. Great recap! I'm glad I'm not the only one that says to herself "You can run X number of miles in your sleep"! Congrats on an AWESOME PR!

  37. You did an amazing job, trying for my first marathon you really give me a lot to consider. Of course I was thinking finishing in 5 hrs not 4!

  38. you need to do a post on how to look good for the awful race day photographer...I always look like I am about to DIE, and apparently in a painful way:)


I appreciate your feedback and comments!