This race report will get at least one update, but it won't be a three-parter like last year's (read them here if you're so inclined). I'll just get most of the negativity over first, then write about how my race went.
First off, I talked with a speaker at the expo about how the course would be marked, since I missed the turnaround last year. "On thing we learned from last year," he said, "is that we needed to mark the course better. This year there'll be way more markers." He wasn't wrong. There were a lot of cones marking the route, but unfortunately there were several spots where it wasn't clear which way to turn.
Around mile 8.5 the course came to a Y at the bottom of the hill. A right turn brought you on a sidewalk toward a bridge and a left turn brought you on a paved path along a river. I didn't know which way to go, so I stopped, turned around, and yelled, "Do you know which way?" to a runner twenty yards behind me.
"I don't know," he said. Then he shrugged and said, "maybe right?" We turned right, and fortunately he was correct. There was at least one other spot I had to guess. The route went through some city parks, and the trails would sometimes come to an intersection and you really needed to look ahead for the next cone since it wasn't always clear which way to go. There was also a spot where a volunteer had to yell at me that I was turning the wrong way.
So while the turnaround at least had cones and a volunteer this year, there were actually more spots with the potential to get a runner off course. I read on the PNC Milwaukee Marathon Facebook page that several runners ran off course. If getting enough volunteers to direct runners at turns was an issue, most places where it was confusing could have been solved by simply having an arrow pointing which way to turn. Although there were tons of cones, I don't remember seeing a single arrow to mark a turn.
OK, negativity over for now. The actual race went well. We started at 6:30 a.m., about half an hour before sunrise. It was a little chilly waiting for the race to start due to some very gusty winds, but the air temperature was almost perfect at right around 60*. Throughout the race the temperature dropped until it was down in the low 50s -- perfect for a marathon.
The tough part about the weather was the wind. The course was a loop, so there was a decent amount of tailwind, but at some points the headwinds were ridiculous. There was one section about half a mile long that went through some buildings and it was an absolute wind tunnel.
Despite the wind, I did enjoy the course. It's by no means a flat, fast course -- too many hills and turns, but there's a good amount of variety. Although there are a lot of hills, most are just rollers and the longer ones have pretty gradual inclines.
The course also does a nice job of going through the different areas of Milwaukee. There are some great views of the lake, some nature areas, historical neighborhoods, and landmarks like Miller Park, MillerCoors brewery, and Harley-Davidson.
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this race. I hurt my right foot a few weeks previously, and had been dealing with some peroneal tendonitis in the opposite ankle that wasn't getting any better, so I finally went to physical therapy. Thankfully the physical therapist cleared me to run, but told me not to expect a PR. I definitely felt some pain in both the right foot and the left ankle, but I don't think they really slowed me down.
Although I knew my foot and ankle would hurt, I tried for a PR anyway. I went into the race with a plan to start out slower than goal pace and then speed up until I was on target by the half marathon point. My mile splits weren't perfectly even, but I generally sped up as the race went on. I got a nice pick-me-up at mile 21 where Laura and Calvin were waiting for me. They were at a great spot because they saw me right as I was headed on the out portion of the out and back section of the Hank Aaron trail, so I got to see them twice.
|Blowing kisses to Laura and Calvin|
My watch ticked past mile 22 and I started to wonder just how far off it was going to be on the mile 22 marker. Last year the course was long, and I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case again. Finally, I saw a mile marker up ahead and looked down at my watch. I was almost at 22.5 miles -- I didn't expect to be that far off of mile 22. Then, I got closer and noticed that it was the mile 23 marker. I hadn't seen a mile 22 marker at all.
After that, things are kind of a blur. I don't remember the scenery much, and I know I passed two other runners, but I don't remember where. I hit the mile 24 and 25 markers and they were still half a mile short. I was holding onto hope that the final distance would be correct, but it was not. When I went through the finish my watch read 25.69 -- not even close to a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
I was pretty chilly after finishing, so I put on some warmer clothes from my drop bag, found Laura and Calvin, took a couple pictures, then got my post-race beer. Later, I confirmed on the race's Facebook page that many people had found the course to be short.
Today I got a email from the race organizers confirming that the course was in fact short by about 4,200 feet. There was some miscommunication about the course map and markings, and the turnaround was placed in the wrong spot.
I did some math, and depending on how the organizers decide to adjust times, I may have a new PR. I ran 2:45:03 for the short course. If they adjust the times by simply adding on the 4,200 feet and multiplying by that pace ran through the finish, then my adjusted time will be about 2:50:14, a twelve second PR.
We'll see what happens. I'll keep you in the loop