Date: May 4, 2013
Kenosha, WI shirt & medal
Distance: 13.1 (13.28)
Date: May 5, 2013
Distance: 13.1 (13.26)
Palos Heights shirt & medal
Running buddy and BFF, Denise and I just completed our long-anticipated double race weekend. We were able to efficiently complete races in two states by finding Saturday/Sunday halfs only about eighty miles apart.
And, while we are fully aware that others out there are doing far more Herculean tasks such as full marathons and ultra marathons on a regular basis, this was our version of a similar feat. For us busy, middle-aged moms who have to struggle to carve out training time, and whose bodies are feeling more aches and pains than we want to admit, this was our Iron Man–a half-marathon on Saturday morning, followed by another half-marathon on Sunday morning.
The first race we completed was located in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha is about an hour south of Milwaukee and, like Milwaukee, is right on Lake Michigan. The course was flat and we were joined by over 3000 runners–some running the full marathon and the rest running the half. The out-and-back course was mostly flat and provided great views of the lake at several points in the race.
After checking the weekend weather forecast on an almost hourly basis the whole week prior to the races and being warned about the likelihood of rain, we were greeted with pouring rain on Friday when we arrived and drove to our hotel. We were incredibly happy, then, to wake up on Saturday morning to clear skies. (We’ve done our share of rainy races and would prefer to avoid those if possible).
We thought a lot about our race strategy for this weekend because we knew it would not be a good idea to go all out at Saturday’s race and shoot for sub-2:15 times because then we would be completely spent for Sunday’s race. After discussing our options, we decided to try a run/walk strategy and agreed to dial back our running pace during the running portions. We decided: run a slow first mile, then walk the first .1 mile at each mile marker then run (slowly) the rest of the .9 mile. Because a half is 13.1 miles, that also allowed us to run a full last mile to finish.
At first, it was really difficult to force ourselves to walk during those first three or four miles when we were feeling so good and people were passing us left and right as we slowed down to walk. As the race progressed, however, we looked forward to those brief walking breaks and discovered that we felt really great. Without intending to, when we WERE running, we would run faster than planned because we felt so good. In all honesty, we were planning to run 12-minute miles and aim for a finish time of about 2:45 or maybe even 3:00.
Instead, (as current running research is demonstrating), the walk/run strategy is more efficient and can allow for faster overall race times. We did not exert ourselves at all during the Wisconsin race and still finished in under 2:30. We weren’t planning to finish that fast but made that a secondary goal at about mile 10 when we realized a sub-2:30 was in sight.
At the finish, we received our medals, a pre-packaged food bag with a bagel, banana, and cheese (of course, “cheese” was the theme), and–here’s the best part–a bratwurst. Mmmm. That was some good post-run grub. They also offered us a hazelnut flavored local beer but that wasn’t as appreciated at 9:30 a.m.
This was a well-organized race that I would recommend to any of my friends.
After the run, we showered, checked out of our hotel, and drove to the race packet pickup location for the next day’s race, checked into our Illinois hotel, and went to a recommended Italian restaurant to get some post-race/pre-race carbs. When we got back to the hotel, we watched the Kentucky Derby, caught most of the Celtics/Nicks game, and were asleep early. Until we were awakened by the sounds of screaming, running, junior-high aged demons at about 9:00 (yes, I yelled and swore at them), followed by drunks coming home from the bar at 2:00 (refrained from yelling and swearing). Gotta love some hotel stays.
The Illinois race only offered a half distance–not like the Wisconsin race that also had a full option. This was half the size of the Wisconsin race, with about 1500 participants.
I liked this course better–it had very gradual hills but felt mostly flat, and we ran along a paved roadway lined with trees and other vegetation the whole way. When we heard the race announcer say that all runners needed to be finished by 3:15, we looked at each other and wondered if that meant us. We were definitely feeling tired from the previous day’s race and planned to run this race slower than the previous day’s run.
As planned, we started off slowly. My legs were feeling achy and heavy, and my nagging peritoneal tendon was protesting right from the beginning. (It’s been causing me grief on and off for the past two years). We slogged along for the first four miles and then something clicked in me. At that point in the race, I suddenly felt good–like my body decided, “well, fighting this isn’t working, so let’s just give in and go with it.” I suddenly found an easy rhythm, caught a second wind of energy, and my movements felt fluid and relaxed. Even my sore ankle quit hurting (probably went numb at that point), and everything clicked. Lucky for me, Denise also went with it. She said something like, “hey, this wasn’t in the plan–we are going faster than we thought”. She was right. Even though we were still following yesterday’s walk/run strategy, I HAD kicked it up a notch. We talked a bit about our options and agreed that maybe–just maybe–we could knock out two sub-2:30 races in one weekend.
I’m not going to lie. This race was not as physically enjoyable as the other. This one required a level of focus and grit that the previous day’s race did not. We knew that we would be feeling it after we were done, but we stayed together and got each other through it. That, I think, is also what made us feel especially proud of our accomplishment. We pushed ourselves physically, and it paid off. We ran the Sunday race faster than we ran the Saturday race. Nice.
The Illinois post-race experience was a disappointment. After we received our medals, we walked further along and got water. Then, we kept walking–expecting the normal post race food. Usually, there are volunteers handing out fruit, breads, chips, chocolate milk, and even things like sandwiches and pizzas. This race? Nada. We were able to track down a banana at a table about 300 yards from the finish, but nothing else. Humph.
Needless to say, we didn’t stick around. Instead, we grabbed sandwiches on the way to the hotel, showered, packed, and then made our way back to the airport for our late afternoon departures. We were beat but feeling pretty darn satisfied. We kind of rocked.
Firsts from this weekend:
- The Wisconsin race was the first race where Denise was willing to chat with me. Normally, she just wants to be left alone to focus while she is running. I loved this race because we felt like we were out for an enjoyable morning jog.
- We have decided we like Gu Chomps over Gu Gels. Watermelon is especially yummy and I also liked the lemon.
- Denise tried an ice bath for the first time on Saturday night. Ice baths are recommended for faster recovery after long runs. She sat in that ice-cold bath water for a full five minutes. Although it felt horrible at the time, it really paid off and she felt no muscle soreness for the next day’s run. I bow to her endurance.
- First race to have a “cheese corral”. At the Wisconsin race, anyone dressed in cheese paraphernalia got to start at the beginning of the line.
Doh! moments from this weekend:
- I forgot to have my Wisconsin race packet mailed to me, as was a convenient option. Luckily, our flights weren’t delayed and we were able to make it to packet pick up in time.
- I accidentally reserved our Illinois hotel room for the night AFTER the race. Oops. That’s why they couldn’t find our reservation. Thank goodness they still had rooms available.
- Denise panicked for a few minutes as we drove back to the airport when she realized her debit and credit cards were missing from her purse. Good news–they had simply fallen into her workout bag and she found them before canceling everything.
- Denise’s Magellan and the GPS on my phone did not like each other. We spent the whole weekend listening to conflicting driving advice from two different electronic women. It was funny how often they didn’t agree on the suggested route.
- We took zero pictures! I wish we had better and more photos from all of our races together. Reminder–take more pictures.
- The biggest “doh” of all? When my son arrived to pick me up at the airport, I didn’t realize the doors were locked when I shut the one open door–while we were both standing outside and the car was left running. It was a good stroke of luck that our dog was left in the car. That meant the airport police were willing to break into our car for us–otherwise, we would have been stuck with a hefty locksmith bill.
In summary, I loved this weekend. I’m so grateful to have friends to run with and share experiences like this with. Denise and I even discussed how sad we will be when our 50-states quest comes to an end. We’ll need to find something else to give us an excuse to have such fun weekends together. For now, we still have twenty-eight to go so we aren’t quite finished yet. I’m glad.
Mile 1) 10:48/10:56
Mile 2) 11:02/11:42
Mile 3) 11:02/11:27
Mile 4) 11:22/11:21
Mile 5) 11:23/10:51
Mile 6) 12:42/10:53
Mile 7) 11:15/11:30
Mile 8) 11:40/10:24
Mile 9) 11:18/10:43
Mile 10) 12:03/11:06
Mile 11) 10:45/10:58
Mile 12) 10:49/10:41
Mile 13) 10:46/10:14
Mile .1) 8:47/8:39