Searching for a Second Wind {High Cliff Ultra 50k Recap}

Well so, I did a thing. I got that whole ultra thing out of the way. What a freaking relief.

As is customary for me, I did not train for this race. I will never learn. I only signed up a few weeks ago, after the Dances with Dirt marathon didn’t completely ruin me. I figured, well that was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. I hadn’t trained for that race either, so I thought – how can I make life a little bit harder? Let’s run 5 more miles.

So I signed up, promptly pretended I hadn’t signed up, and then freaked out the day before when I realized I actually had to go do this thing. There was an 8 hour cutoff, but I really wanted to finish in 7 hours – an arbitrary time I set for myself based on literally nothing. I didn’t even know what pace that equaled to, I just decided that’s what I wanted.

The day and the night before, it poured and stormed and generally sucked outside. I’m about an hour and a half south of the race, so I just kept thinking – well, maybe it isn’t so bad up there. We got up around 4:15 and I finished my last minute preparations and then we got in the car and settled in for the drive. At around 6:10, we were pulling into the parking lot at the race start.

The rain had subsided for the morning, that is, up until the race start. Shortly after the gun {airhorn} went off, the rain started. It didn’t stop or let up throughout the first 25k. I can’t say I minded though, as it was preferable to a muggy, humid morning like we have been having for forever it seems.

The 50k course consisted of four loops done twice. The majority of the first two loops were wooded dirt trail which are my bread and butter. I love them. I could do them all day. There were some steep sections, which I personally like because it breaks up the run. And if we’re being honest, it gives me an excuse to walk. Sadly, these loops were only about 6ish miles per big loop, so like, 12ish total of the whole race. Also sadly, there were no steep descents, which are the only thing I like more than wooded dirt trails. I love to bomb them. Anything that could have qualified as a steep descent was too slick and slippery from the rain. Bummer.

So anyways, that leaves roughly 19 miles, and they were the 19 miles that cumulatively sucked my soul from my body more than probably anything I’ve ever done in my life. Anyone in my vicinity during any of these 19 miles heard one thing on repeat: I just hate running prairies. I don’t know why, but the bane of my existence is running through prairies. I thought what I hated about them was that you’re out in the open, i.e. exposed to the sun and other disgusting summer elements, but it wasn’t even sunny. In fact, on the first pass, it was thundering and pouring rain the whole time. My excuse was out the window. Turns out, I just don’t like running them.

At around mile 10 was the first time I stopped to walk in earnest. Not because it was steep, but because I was sick of running in that damn grass. I had started the race with 300 calories of Tailwind in my handheld, and it was around now that I finished it and refilled with plain water. I told myself I’d walk awhile to let that settle in my stomach and drink some more water before I hit the aid station coming out of the prairie. I probably would’ve kept walking even longer if it weren’t for Trisha, who I had started the first half mile of the race with and then we leapfrogged a little until we hit the prairie and we stuck together. She started running and I said screw it, I’m gonna run with her. We realized we were comfortably running at a 10 minute pace, and we were feeling GOOD.

We finished the god awful prairie loop to start the “last” of the 4 loops – a quick 2ish mile mix of prairie (UGH) and wooded dirt paths (YES) and we were still in good spirits. I remember saying, the next time we see this we’ll almost be done! It was both of our first 50k’s. The rain broke and it started to get a little humid and a little too bright for my liking. We came through the finish area {avoiding crossing the finish area, because neither of us wanted to} and went over to the main aid station where our drop bags were. I took an ibuprofen and ate some grapes. I struggle with eating during marathons and beyond because I really hate how sweet and fake tasting everything marketed in that category is, so I was glad to have a drop bag where I could leave some real food. I pocketed some grapes for the road and then talked to Bryan for a little, who happened to end up in the area just as we were coming through. He tried to get me to change into a dry shirt since it had stopped raining, but I just really didn’t want to. I was secretly praying it would start raining again so it seemed pointless.

I’d done all I really had to do at the aid station, but my new found friend was changing into different socks. We’d spent so much time together already, and I wanted to start off again with her. I wasn’t in a hurry. We just kept saying “as long as we’re not last” and we both wanted to finish in seven hours, which seemed doable since we started to second lap of loops at around the 3:25 mark. Less than a mile into the second lap, she stopped to fix a bandaid in her shoe and told me to go ahead. I asked if she was sure, she said yes, and I replied something to the effect of “you’ll catch up to me when I stop to walk” – but much to my dismay, she never did.

Everyone else who would run near me or talk to me for the rest of the race just served to irritate me. I was suffering at this point, and I wanted to be left alone. My toes had started to hurt so bad for some reason – probably a combination of the rain and massive puddles and my wet socks rubbing on them – that it became a struggle to run. It hurt to run, but it pissed me off to walk, especially since by all intents and purposes, this part of the loop was insanely runnable. I kept trying to tell myself to run while I was still in the woods, because I knew I’d want to walk a lot in that damn prairie. Try as I might, it was more of a shuffle into the aid station just before the prairie started.

The prairie. There isn’t much to say about it other than it was such a slog. I was walking almost as fast as I felt like I could run, so I just gave in to walking for longer than I’d like to admit. I kept thinking, where the hell is that second wind people always talk about? {Spoiler, it apparently is after 31 miles for me, since I never found it that day} I started staring at my watch, thinking 6 more miles, 5 more miles, 4 more miles… while simultaneously doing the math in my head – if I can keep moving at at least a 15 minute per mile pace, I can finish in xx time, if I can move at a 12 minute per mile pace, I can finish in xx time…I’m not going to collapse, in xx time I. will. be. an. ultrarunner.

My fingers had started to swell which was starting to concern me, because it had only happened to me one other time – at Dances with Dirt earlier this summer. My assessment based on no knowledge whatsoever was that it was because I needed more salt. Ah well, nothing I could really do about it now. Note to self, bring salt caps to 50 miler…3.5 more miles… where the hell is the aid station…

I finally got back to the prairie loop aid station, refilled my water, and was told there were 2 miles to go. I started the last loop and was determined to run it all. Well, that didn’t end up happening, so I was determined to at least run once I broke out of the woods to where the finish area was setup. I was religiously checking my watch at this point. Getting angry that they said the finish was 2 miles away when it clearly was NOT 2 miles! It seemed like the longest short distance of my life. I was still doing my mathematics and was so crazed that I felt like rainman trying to figure out if I could finish under 7 hours. Once I saw the finish line, looked at my watch and knew it was going to happen, I lost it. 6:52:42.1 – hell to the yes.

Nothing to write home about, but everything to write home about. Earlier in the year I intended to run my spring 50k {that I ended up deferring} in under 6 hours. Given the complete distaste for training and running I’ve had this summer, 6:52 seems like a godsend.

It was the first year for this race, but it was extremely well done. You could see how much the race director and all of the volunteers {who sat for hours on hours in the rain and cold} cared and the effort they put into it. I would recommend it to a friend and definitely plan on coming back next year.

And the one thing I took away from this weekend:

There’s nothing in the world like a finish line after suffering. Nothing.
 

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Off days and weeks and years and an impulse 50k

Most people have an off day, maybe an off week. But I think I’m having an off year. There’s that classic saying, old habits are hard to break, and it’s becoming apparent that it’s like, really true in my case. When I was in the habit of running, or at the very least working out every day, it was second nature. Rest days felt weird and annoying and I would go for a six mile walk just to fill my time. But when I got out of the habit, I got really out of the habit.

With a disgustingly little amount of anything resembling physical activity this summer, I somehow managed to crank out my first trail marathon (marking my 2nd this year, and 6th total) in a not too terrible time in my book. A couple weeks later, I ran a 5k, a 2 mile, and a 5 mile race in the span of 4 days because I decided speed was important? I magically placed 2nd in my age group in the marathon, the 2 mile, and the 5 mile races. I thought, okay, this’ll light a fire under my ass. It… did not do that.

Speaking of my ass. I’m still having these disengaged glute issues that originally cropped up halfway through Lakefront last year. They went away for awhile after that and then pain reared it’s ugly head shortly before the Oshkosh Marathon this spring. I’ve somehow managed to suffer through all the runs I have actually done this year, but it hasn’t been easy. But it also isn’t going away, so…

So. After the trail marathon, I was like – that wasn’t so bad! I should sign up for a 50k before my 50 mile race that for some reason I still think will be okay even though I haven’t run more than 12 miles at once all summer not including the marathon situation. So I did just that. And well, it’s Saturday and I really don’t want to do it. It’s supposed to storm and be generally awful out and that’s not helping anything at all. I’m horrifically unprepared on literally every and I am pretty sure I’ll get lost and there are loops and it’s confusing and UGH. I had some serious contemplation about not going. I didn’t really tell very many people about signing up at all because pressure can be suffocating.

But I digress. I’ve never not gone to a race I’ve signed up for (except for that one time I forgot I signed up for a 5k and then signed up for a marathon the same day so I forced my sister to run it for me), so I’ll be there in the morning. As to what happens after the gun goes off, damn, I really don’t know what to expect.

Let’s talk about stress, baby… [Natural Calm review]

Let’s talk about you and me.

Or you and magnesium. Either way.

Back in the day (i.e. a year ago), I was really in the groove of training. I would run in the morning (no less than 6 miles, ever) and lift in the evening. It felt good, but if you know me at all, you know how easily I get injured and over-trained. So it didn’t take long for this schedule to start taking its toll on my body, and I started to feel super stressed. I did a little bit of research on the matter (read: Google), and it all led to Natural Calm – a natural magnesium supplement.

It touted all sorts of benefits, but I’m always willing to give basically anything (natural) a shot, which has led me down some interesting paths, but that’s another post. The short of it is that it aids in muscle relaxation, which appealed to me for obvious reasons. But it also purported to help with headaches (I suffer from them almost daily), sleep, and, uhh, being backed up, if you catch my drift.

I opted for the unflavored version (because I don’t typically eat anything sweetened by anything other than maple syrup or honey, and the flavored options have stevia) and I really liked it right away. This obviously isn’t the intended effect, but to activate the magnesium, it fizzes. I don’t drink soda (but have recently acquired an addiction to orange La Croix), so I kind of enjoy the “taste” that this gives my water. You can take it in the morning, or at night, and I basically just take it whenever I remember. Sometimes I forget, and after a few weeks of feeling crappy, I notice and start taking it again.

So it’s been a year(ish) since I’ve started taking it, and I’ve been on and off consistent with it, but can definitely tell when I’m off. Also I have this weird thing with routine, and I *really* like having a routine, which includes drinking my magnesium in the mornings on the way to work. It may make me a little crazy, but I thoroughly enjoy the repetition of it. But, I digress. Basically, I really like it. I literally always have it in my cart on LuckyVitamin.com (where I’ve found the best deal on it, here). They also have discounts on the brand a lot so definitely check the special promotions page while you’re at it (because even when Natural Calm isn’t on sale, there’s always a million other things I want that are).

All in all, I think if you’re feeling stressed – mentally or physically – you’ll find relief with Natural Calm. I’ll just be over here drinking way more than the serving size suggests (like I do with everything because moderation is not a thing with me I guess. Maybe this explains my stress, ha!).

Musings on Marathons {and why I’m going beyond}

I distinctly remember a conversation Bryan and I had shortly after I ran my first few half marathons. He asked when I thought I would want to run a full and I was like – um, not for a long, long time. Not because I didn’t WANT to, but because it seriously scared the shit out of me. I was still terrified of 13 miles, why would he ever think I was mentally prepared to even sign up for a full? (Side note: you’re never going to be “ready” and that’s the whole freaking point.)

Like, a few weeks laterish, I did sign up. I honestly wanted to vomit. I was at work and got immediately hot and sweaty after I clicked submit. I texted all my closest friends and family and told them what a huge, terrible decision I had just made. And it was still over 9 months away! That’s the type of fear that was struck within me at merely signing up. When I thought about it at all I would feel physically ill.

Fast forward those 9 months (like I had a baby or something, ha! In hindsight, something WAS born that day…) to the actual race. The night before I couldn’t even remotely sleep. I went through what I needed to bring over and over and over. I endlessly worried about what to eat before, during, and after the race. I checked to make sure my Garmin was charged no less than a dozen times. Probably more than that because #DATA obvs (can’t agonize over each mile split if my watch dies). I ran the race. I was elated. I was irrevocably HOOKED.

Awhile after that, Bryan asked me when I thought marathons would stop making me nervous (because I now didn’t feel like I might die at the start of every half and actually became fairly comfortable with the distance fairly soon) and I probably laughed right in his face. Who just doesn’t get nervous before a marathon? That seems like, literally not even possible.

I ran my next marathon a little over 6 months after the first. It didn’t go how I wanted and also the weather wasn’t on my side. This time, when I finished, there weren’t tears of elation in the slightest, there were actual tears of pain. Not because of an injury or anything. The first thing I said was “it was just SO hard.” (Uh, no shit, it’s 26 miles.) But I had already signed up for my NEXT marathon, in the fall again.

And then I somehow convinced myself I might as well run another less than a month later. Luckily, I ended up pacing the second (so less pressure on myself to perform), but even then I didn’t think I was capable of doing that. Running a marathon at a sustainable “easy” pace seemed like an actual oxymoron. But then I did it and it WAS sustainable and easy and fun, obviously.

After that race, I took a little running break. I wasn’t doing much of anything at all actually, when my friend Rebecca convinced me to sign up for the Oshkosh Marathon. Which was 5 weeks away. I figured I could just train a little in between signing up and the race – but if you thought signing up would be enough to convince me to get off my ass (like I hoped and assumed it would) you would be wrong. Since pacing in early November – I’m pretty sure I ran two 10 milers, and 3 (slow) half marathons. That was literally it for “long runs” for almost 5 months. But still, I wasn’t really nervous for the race exactly, I was just mentally adjusting goals in my head. I had originally wanted to finish in 4:30 or under, but when I saw how unmotivated and flat out lazy I was going to continue to be, I thought, okay, anything under 5 would be a miracle.

Here’s what brings the story back around to that beginning conversation with Bryan about nerves. (I ramble. What can I say?) I had no real nerves the weekend of the race. It was a weird and surreal kind of thing – we would all of a sudden be like, wait, are we actually doing this tomorrow? I literally wore shoes I hadn’t run more than 13 miles in. Total. Last summer. That’s how nonplussed I felt about it all. I ended up finishing in 4:36, my slowest outside of pacing, and frankly I’m pretty damn happy about that. I felt more or less “fine” during the whole race. I also wasn’t attempting to “race” it, just run and be happy and not die. Check, check, and check. I just had fun and ran slow and steady with a smile on my face nearly the whole damn time and it was fabulous.

I won’t lie – there was a teeny tiny minuscule fleeting thought when I looked down at my watch to see 4:29 and knew there was no way I could come in under 4:30 (which I knew already was a highly unrealistic goal, all things considered), but it was honestly the quickest acknowledgment and then it was gone and I kept running.

The real moral of this long winded story is that everything is relative. I agonized for months over my first race (which was a quarter marathon). I was terrified the morning of my first half. I had actual nightmares before my first marathon. And now? I woke up yesterday (okay, I wrote this on Monday but was too lazy to type it out until now, so let’s all pretend for a second) with the slightest acknowledgement that I was about to run over 26 miles, and then I just… did it.

So now, I can’t wait to feel the sheer terror as I train and prepare and obsess and freak the eff out the night before my first 50 miler. This isn’t to downplay the marathon. It’s always going to be hard, and it’s always going to be a huge freaking accomplishment, no matter what the time on the clock says or what the circumstances surrounding it are. 0.5 percent of Americans can say they’ve done it. Around 600,000 people a year. That’s a VERY small amount, considering.

I point all this out because I’ve just been reflecting after Sunday’s race. I’ve been struck by the wonderment and sheer incredulity of what the human body (and more important, the mind) can do. It’s amazing how we can continuously push our comfort levels and always be striving for that next horrifying goal. Because as that cliche goes – if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Terrify yourselves every once in awhile, y’all.

grateful for everything. entitled to nothing. embrace the process of working towards a goal and enjoy the journey. the things in life you want, you must earn them, you must work for them. you must persevere through times that seem terrible and be grateful for what those times teach you. don’t expect earning success to be easy. 

The swing of things

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think I’m finally [!!!] getting back into the swing of things. After last weekend’s race and then moving for the entire day after (40,000 steps according to my vivosmart – woof), I was not moving an inch on Sunday. Except to eat. Because food.

Monday was spent attempting to put away all our belongings (spoiler: didn’t happen), but Tuesday night I finally got back to the gym. And um, ow? 5k nearly annihilated me. I did 5k on the bike after just so I didn’t feel like a total waste of space. I chalked it up to my body just being so totally exhausted after the past few days. Muscles I didn’t even remember existed were in excruciating pain after moving, so I blame it on that.

Wednesday afternoon I may have went to the gym solely to use the WiFi. Seriously. They can’t figure out what is wrong with ours in the new apartment, and I may have (I did, I definitely did) already gone over my data for the month. 4 miles done and dusted though!

And yesterday, glorious yesterday. It was finally sunny outside and 30ish degrees, so I ran outside for the first time in over a month. 5 miles that were super slow going. Mainly because the first mile, I felt like I was dying – my body just felt so stiff and sore and slow, and the next 3 miles I literally ran past 5 schools that were just letting out for the day. Dodging children of all ages and their inattentive parents slows you waaaaaay down apparently.

Today I’m going to “rest” i.e. go for a walk to the coffee shop to once again mooch someone else’s WiFi, and then walk around the neighborhood to meet my step goal for the day. I’m a slave to my steps, and I don’t feel one bit bad about it. Anything that keeps me moving is a good thing in my book.

Tomorrow I hopehopehope to run 6-8 miles. Sunday 3-5. And repeat. I want to get into the routine of running S-T-W-Th-S like I used to – it’s always worked best for me. The past few months I didn’t so much as fall off the wagon as the wagon completely broke down and was in complete disrepair, but I really do finally feel like I might be getting back into the swing of things. Which is for the best, really, because 50k training started like… 2 weeks ago.

Icebreaker Indoor Half Marathon Recap

If it sounds like you need to be a little mentally unhinged, you might be right. Though this race had been on my radar a little bit since last year (since pretty much everyone I know participated in some capacity), I never really considered signing up for it. I’d heard from some people that so many laps around a track in one direction and just the never ending flatness of it could be a recipe for injury. As we all know, me and injury are basically BFF, as I am basically always hurt or on the verge of being hurt. So I figured, maybe not for me.

After pacing the Milwaukee Running Festival, I was given a gratis entry to the race, should I want it. And I mean, let’s be real, at that point I signed up immediately. It DID sound fun I thought. (Like I said, mentally unhinged). There are a lot of options with this race series over the course of the weekend, which I always think is great. Because who doesn’t love a good weekend that revolves around running? There’s a 5k, 2 half marathon heats, a marathon relay, and a marathon. I knew I would do the half, but I was moderately undecided on which heat to sign up for. Ultimately, I chose the earlier one (because I hate sitting around waiting for a race to start when I get up at the literal crack of dawn), which was the 2 hour and under heat.

If we’re being honest, I haven’t run much or fast or far since the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon, actually. I ran a half in early December. 10 miles a few weeks ago. And then a spattering of shorter runs randomly whenever I could get myself motivated to go to the gym. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Nothing great, obviously.

Of course, when I originally signed up for the race (like, 3 months ago, I think?), we weren’t planning on moving at all. Certainly not moving that weekend. Or that day. But alas… there we were. So I had that to contend with as well.

Friday night, in the midst of packing my entire life (AGAIN) into boxes, I took a minute (an hour actually) to ponder what to even wear for this thing. It’s 45ish degrees in the Pettit National Ice Center (where the race was held), which is cold but then also is not cold? Most people wear long sleeves and some people wore mittens and that made me second guess the fact that I was wearing a tank top and shorts. I run extremely hot and sometimes I forget that when everyone else looks like they’re going on a Antarctic expedition in comparison. But I stuck with my decision and am super glad I did.

Saturday morning we got to the Pettit around 6:10-6:15 and I picked up my bib and timing/house arrest anklet. I’m perpetually afraid of being late to a race start, so of course then we had like 45 minutes to just sit there and wait. But better than the alternative, right? Finally we could go to the start line where I stood and waited and pretty much questioned my entire life decisions before the gun went off.

And then… I just ran. 47 laps around a 443 meter track. Not very fast. You aren’t allowed to use headphones so I just basically zoned out the entire time. I even had a thought that I was barely having thoughts. Monotony at its finest! There were of course times where I was like, this isn’t fun anymore, how many laps do I have left? Really? I think that’s wrong. There are 2 big boards displaying everyone’s position in the race and how many laps they had left, but every time I passed it, it seemed like it was never at the right time to see my name.

There is also a water stop set up where you would bring your own bottle labeled with your bib number, and then they were placed in numerical order. You would call out your number to the volunteer and they would get it for you or get it to you on your next lap. Naturally, I did not bring anything with me because I never use anything for races shorter than a marathon. If I did the race again next year, I would probably at least have something there. The air is crazy dry in the Pettit, so it would have been helpful at some points, but I was fine generally. Although, I have never gotten a nosebleed in my life, and almost immediately after I stopped running… bam!

I was using my Garmin Forerunner 920xt on the Indoor Run setting, which is usually pretty accurate I find, but towards the end of the race, as it clicked passed the 13.1 mile mark, I wasn’t sure. According to my Garmin, I ran 14.35 miles total. I think it was somewhere in between the two. From switching lanes and weaving on the track, of course that changes distance a little.

Towards my final laps I was just so done. My knee and ankle kind of were starting to hurt (they’re quite sore now, 3 days later) and I was just tired overall from 1. not having run this far in awhile and 2. the flatness of the track and the monotony of running in circles tires out different muscle groups than I was used to. My calves are still sore.

When I finally finished, I took the water from the volunteer, chugged it, got my medal, ate a stale Clif bar from the vending machine in the lobby, and we were out of there. We had things (lots of things) to move. At the end of the day, between the race and moving, my Vivosmart clocked almost 40,000 steps and 24 miles. So needless to say, I feel like I either got hit by a truck, or ran a really hard marathon. Rereading that comparison, I think it’s moderately hilarious that I knowingly correlate getting hit by a TRUCK with running a marathon. Like I said, mentally unhinged…

 

Hashtag Goalz.

I didn’t make any grand sweeping resolutions for the new year because, meh, I didn’t want to. I really don’t think you need a whole new year to start something new. So while I don’t exactly have the typical “resolutions”, I do have some pretty freaking big 2016 #GOALZ.

I don’t know what came over me, but somehow, 2016 became the year I bit the bullet and signed up for, not one, but 2 ultras. I signed up for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile race because firstly, it’s still like 9 months away, so that means it isn’t real yet, right? And secondly, because I love this race series so hard that it made sense to make it my first 50.

Then, I got caught up in the excitement of websites crashing when the registration opened for the Ice Age 50k. I was like, well, if I get in, then I clearly was meant to run the race… right? Sure. I didn’t get through for awhile.. but you know, once you can’t have something, you HAVE to have something (or is that just me?). Finally, I got registered, and now I’m staring at impending doom. I ran 19 miles on the course with my friend Nikki last spring when she was training for the same race, and it was hell. I had never run more than 13 on trails before and it pretty much annihilated me. So I have a LOT of work to do before May – because I have some secret arbitrary goals I set for myself for that one, as I do.

So then… I figured, I’m really going to need to do some long ass runs on trails this summer to even wrap my head around running FIFTY miles on trails in September. I wasn’t so sure I could force myself to do that as much as I needed to… so, why not sign up for a trail marathon? Like, one of the hardest trail marathons in the state? Dances with Dirt it is! I ran the half back in 2014 (recap here) and rode the struggle bus the whole time. Granted, I had completely wrecked my ankle prior to the race and shouldn’t have run it at all, but still. Pure torture.

And my latest spur of the moment endeavor… signing up to run the Chicago marathon (like… 3 weeks after my 50 mile. Uh. Insert expletives here.) with the Ronald McDonald House Charity team. I’m really, really, REALLY excited to finally get to run Chicago, and I’m shooting for the stars with my fundraising goal as well. Please consider donating to my fundraising page here, as this charity is amazing and provides amazing services to families who really need them.

All in all, I’m really excited for everything I’ve got in the works so far this year. I’m deathly afraid for my foray into ultrarunning in May, only very slightly less afraid for DWD in July, probably going to straight up pee my pants at ECSWI in September, and hopefully am injury free and ready to straight up party for 26.2 miles in Chicago in October. It’s going to be a hell of year, but I’m settling in for the ride.

Inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon Recap

Sunday was the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival here in town, and also part two of the Fleet Feet Brew City Marathon Challenge for me (you got an extra shirt & medal FO’ FREE from Fleet Feet Brookfield if you ran Lakefront & the MRF marathon, so obviously…).

When the opportunity to pace the 5:00 marathon group came up, I was all over it. I was a little nervous to run another marathon within one month in the first place (due my injury proneness) so this seemed like the perfect way to not have to stress out about the “racing” the course, which I know I would have done no matter what I told myself (if I wasn’t pacing).

I got to the start line area around 6:15 to meet up with the other pace groups. My first co-pacer showed up a few minutes later and we talked aimlessly until we could start lining up. There are no corrals for this race, just estimated pace signs along the side, so we headed to the 11-12 minute area and settled in with the 2:30 half marathon pace group (more on that in a minute). Right away, an older man spotted us, said “my friend was looking for you!” and ran off. A few minutes later he came back with the aforementioned friend (Patti, who was the best!!) and introduced her to us. A few other people around us asked us about our pacing plans, i.e. what we would do through aid stations, if we would slow down on the hills (OH, the hills…), etc. By then it was pretty much time to go!

To be honest, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into this race prior to actually standing at the start line. I was having some weird foot/ankle/everything pain and hadn’t ran a ton in between Lakefront and vacation and the start of MRF. I did run some, and got a few good runs in, but still, I didn’t know what to expect from myself. I also never practiced at the 5 hour pace (11:27ish) so I wasn’t sure how I would fare on that front either. Even while the race was underway, I never really had the thought like, oh, I’m running a marathon right now. It never felt that way (if only all my races felt this way too, ha!!).

My first co-pacer (they switched out at the halfway point) and I were pretty much on point with our pace throughout most of that first half. Memorable spots about the first half of the course were aplenty! There was a long gradual hill from miles 3-4 (ish), which most Milwaukeeans know well, and most Milwaukee runners despise (just me? well, I think it sucks). Lots of neighborhoods that I typically drive through but not run through were also included in the first half, and it was super fun to see them from a different (also, slower) point of view. We also got to run downtown which is another thing I just don’t do because traffic and pedestrians and just no.

The first half really flew by and up until then we had a pretty consistent group of runners with us. Though around mile 9 the half marathoners split off to close out their race which did take our group down a few. It was nice that the courses remained the same for so long because it added to the energy of the race, at least I thought so. We ran a windy (I meant that to say windy as in twisty, but it was also extremely windy during this part as well) path through a park, and then it was time for my co-pacers to switch out.

It was also around this time that we lost the couple runners that had been with me through the start, which made me super sad! I was really hoping I could bring them along for the whole race. We picked up a few other people who ran with us here and there, but with a new pacer, our pace consistency started to suffer.

The miles between 14ish through 20 or 21 were pretty boring in comparison to most of the first half. This is also where a lot of the rolling hills came in. Running through Miller Valley is always fun to me, you’re basically running a lot of the Brewers Mini Marathon course backwards for awhile though at this point, so it didn’t thrill me. After awhile though, we ran near Miller Park and then after a few more miles dumped out near another park (I was seriously lost most of this entire time, if you can’t tell). We got to run on the Hank Aaron State Trail for awhile which oddly I have never been on and it was really beautiful! Then we ran around some unknown (to me, like I said… lost) football field, which felt like actual heaven on my knees at this point.

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Because I am incapable of describing the course: I present to you, a map!

Shortly after that, we ended up back in the Third Ward, got some really good views of the city, and were nearing the end of the race. SERIOUSLY this thing flew by for me, which just goes to show how much fun running can be when you don’t take it so seriously all the time. 5 hours (4:58:11 if we’re being technical) felt like nothing, whereas the 4:09 hours during Lakefront felt like serious hell every step of the second half.

Per my Garmin, I had been about a tenth to a quarter mile ahead of each mile marker on the course, up until mile 24 & 25, which came up extremely short. This messed with our pace a little (a lot, actually) bit. Other pacers confirmed they had the same problem as well, which made me feel a little better. By the time I knew the finish line was coming up, I knew we would come in ahead of 5 hours, but we tried to keep it within at least 2 minutes of that time. Which we did… just barely. Sadly, no one from any of our groups came in with us, but I know a few of the girls we picked up near the end finished ahead of us — so I was super happy about that!

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Finishing! Displaying my pacer sign proudly 😉

All in all, this was a great race. The course support was absolutely fantastic and every aid station was so well supported with upbeat and encouraging volunteers. The weather could not have been more perfect. I personally am glad that it wasn’t my first marathon, in the way that I think I would have gotten discouraged by the difficulty of the course, but that’s just because I’m lazy and beat myself up easily 😉 But I would definitely return to pace and/or have a fun, casual race through my favorite city in the world.

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Results & medal!

Some of my only feedback in terms of improvement for the race related to the medal, which I had seen several other people comment on as well. I love it and I love the design of it, however half marathon and marathon finishers received the same medal. While it doesn’t particularly matter to me, I think I would have been especially disappointed if this was my first marathon as it didn’t commemorate that well. I had heard that this was due to budget, but I feel as though there were other things that could have been cut to at least make the ribbon of the medals differentiate between the 2 distances. But obviously I have no idea what kind of money/budgeting goes into these type of massive events, so what do I know! Other than that… it was all in all an absolutely perfect day of running in the city of Milwaukee, and I think everyone who ran as well would agree 🙂

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Well it’s your birthday… {Birthday Wishlists + Skirt Sports Giveaway!}

Well, it’s MY birthday at least. Well. Actually, Friday was. But for the purposes of today’s post let’s just pretend, okay? Go with the flow, and all that.

I celebrated my birthday in true Rani fashion… with a run. Well. And chocolate brownies. Vegan, obvs.

But anyways, if you’re anything like me, you make birthday lists. And if you’re REALLY like me, your entire list revolves around running. Some say obsessed, I say… well. Yeah, I guess I’m obsessed.

So if your birthday is coming up (lucky you!!) or you’re just getting a jump-start on your Christmas list (actually… I guess at this point it isn’t really even a jump-start. Where did this year go!?), here’s a little peak into my wishlist:

Mizuno Wave Riders

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I mean, I’m obsessed. I have 3 pairs of Wave Rider 18’s, which are easily my favorite shoe forever and ever amen. I’m interested in trying the 19’s, mainly because of this patriotic colorway, if we’re being honest. I’m also interested in stock piling the 18’s once the price drops, if we’re REALLY being honest. You know, just in case I don’t like the upgrades.

Momentum Motivate Wrap

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You had to know there would be bracelets on this list, right? Right?! And just keeping it real, I already have 3 of these. But, as a wise woman once said (okay fine, it was me, I said it), you can NEVER. EVER. have too many bracelets. Never. #allthebraceletsallthetime

Pro Compression Calf Sleeves

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Just look at them. LOOK AT THEM. I need. But seriously, I live in compression. Sometimes (most of the time) I wear dresses and boots to work so I can sneak some compression sock time in. And calf sleeves for ALL OF THE RACING. Sorry, I just get really excited sometimes about… socks? Running turned me into a weird, weird person.

Skirt Sports Jette Skirt

*inserts Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode here* For real though. I want all the colors and prints x 100. Pockets x 3. (I’m obsessed with pockets. The more the better.) I have been eyeing the Dream print ever since it got released. I would be eyeing the Tantrum print (BECAUSE LOOK. LOOK AT IT.) but naturally I got it, um, pretty much immediately. I like all things skirty, but I especially love the pleats on the Jette. Looks so swishy and pretty when you’re running.

See aforementioned action swishy/pleats here:

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And because I want you all to experience the joy of the swishy pleats, and to celebrate my birthday, I’m giving away one Jette skirt to a lucky one of you! To enter: leave a comment below on what is #1 on your running wishlist! If you just can’t wait, you can always use the code SSCBR20 for 20% off at Skirt Sports!

Edit: The lucky winner has been selected and contacted. Don’t forget to use SSCBR20 if you’re having giveaway FOMO 😉

Giveaway runs through November 9th. One winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email. This giveaway is part of a series of giveaways presented by the Skirt Sports Ambassador Captains. If you have won another giveaway in the series, you are not eligible to win again.