This weekend I went down to Kenosha to run my first bona fide distance race of the season, the Wisconsin half-marathon. Known as “the cheesiest marathon”, this one has a nice vibe, with 2400 half-marathoners and 835 marathoners traveling along the shore of Lake Michigan, and lakeside neighborhoods.
It was actually only the fourth half-marathon that I’ve completed in a competitive manner. The handful of others all had some kind of different purpose: run the Madison Mini to pace kph, run Rock-n-sole to pace Mandee, run Des Moines with Dione for training… it had been since back in Indianapolis 2009 that I ran a half-marathon on my own! In running this one, I developed a renewed sense of respect for the half-marathon: it’s not a short distance, and especially when approached with the goal of racing – either another person or your own personal best – is very challenging! Walking to dinner last night and moving around this morning, my legs are seriously sore!
I decided that this would be a good opportunity to run a race without my Garmin – or any kind of watch at all, and found that approach to be very enjoyable. I just ran at a pace that felt natural to me, in the terms in which I think about running. At first, “easy”, but at a pace that’s natural entirely to me. (Don’t get me wrong, I like running with others, but there is a sweet-spot pace for everyone that’s quite personal.) Then, “steady”. Then into the wind “slightly leaning on the accelerator”, then with the tailwind “cruising”, then finishing by “opening it up” in the last two miles. It felt good to be free from the numbers in between. As it turned out, my pace-by-feel gradually increased throughout the race quite perfectly!
How do I know this? Because in another break from usual, I listened to music throughout the race. Since I used my iPhone for music, I enabled my Garmin app to track my stats – because even though I didn’t want to know them as I went, I did want to look over them later.
The day gave the racers some challenging conditions. After being in the 80′s earlier in the week, a cold front brought 50 degrees, rain, and strong north winds to Kenosha Saturday morning. I put on a base layer, but as the rain stopped for race-time, fortunately avoided any other overdressing. I started the race with gloves, but soon stashed them in the bushes and felt fine in otherwise “summer” clothes. The lakeside course began south, then turned north – straight into the wind – for about 6 miles before turning south again. At least seeing the out-and-back course, I was able to delicately balance extra energy output into the wind against the extra energy I’d want to put out later in the race increasing my pace.
The moment I finished, though, standing at what I’m sure is sometimes a very scenic lakeside park, I was shivering and miserable in the wind and mist. I got some snacks, cheered in a few friends, and hit the road. I wasn’t even able to wait for the TNT folks to get back with the special much-coveted TNT finisher pins! We’ll pick them up later… when a warm shower and hot lunch call, a tired runner must answer. This race is one of two TNT alumni events I’m racing this summer, and I’m proud to report that Dione and I, teaming up to raise money for these two events, have raised over $2,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! (Donate here!)
This race has all kinds of history for Dione. It’s the site of her marathon PR – which she obtained on a whim, traveling to Kenosha and completing the Wisconsin marathon, instead of doing a 20-mile training run solo. What would her coach have said about running 26.2 instead of 20? If any of my athletes are reading, consider following Dione’s good examples in many ways, but not this one. We went back to Renzo’s, where she had had her previous pre-race dinner. An Italian place seems like a good site for carb-loading, but I discovered that this one is famous for its deep-fried breadsticks, and cheese-loaded calzones. Delicious! The weekend was indeed the “cheesiest” race, in many respects.