Saturday, November 19, 2016

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 3

As I covered in previous posts, the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon was a big disappointment. Though I was in shape to run a new PR, a critical error and a mis-measured course took that chance away from me.

This leads me to a strange spot. I had planned on this race being my last shot at a PR, but without this race even being an official 26.2 miles, it's hard to settle on this being the last marathon I train for a PR. After thinking about it and talking with Laura, I think I'm going to try for another PR race. The question is, which one?

Part of me wants to get it over with and go for a spring marathon, but the other part of me knows it's easier to train for a fall race. Training for a winter race means more time on the treadmill and more runs in the dark--two things I don't look forward to. And, if the race is hot, it puts one at a big disadvantage after training in cold or cool weather.

A fall race means a lot of training in hot weather, which is a big bonus in getting ready for a race that may be warm. Running in hot weather also means increasing blood plasma level, an advantage similar to that of training at high elevation.

Despite the disadvantages of training for a spring marathon, I'm leaning toward doing one anyway. I was already thinking of running Grandma's Marathon in June, so that may be the race where I chase a new PR. After about a month of running easy, I can start some base building and move right into another training program. Carrying my fitness from this training cycle into the next one will be at least one advantage in training for a spring marathon.

I will admit that I also looked at marathons in December, but there are two reasons I don't think that will work out. First, there's nothing close by. Second, I'm not confident in my ability to recover and come back to run another PR pace marathon.

A big thanks to all the support from my readers. Though this race was mainly a huge disappointment, I've still received a lot of encouragement and sympathy. In the great scheme of things, a disappointing race is relatively minor.

Happy Running.

Part 1
Part 2

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 2

Though this race was a disappointment as far as the big error on the course (and having to cover over
29 miles because of that error), I have to be happy with how I ran the actual marathon distance.

I started out with the first mile being right about where I wanted--around a 6:35. I needed to run just a hair under 6:30 per mile if I wanted to PR, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out too fast.

After that first mile, I stayed consistent, running between 6:20 and 6:35 throughout the first half of the race. The halfway point on my Garmin had me right around 1:25--right where I needed to be to have a shot at breaking 2:50.

Around mile 17.5 was where the trouble took place. I had been running off and on with a pack of four other runners, and at the point I was feeling pretty good, so I ended up passing all but one. I was running with that runner when we missed the turnaround. I did see a small spray painted arrow on the course, but I thought for sure that such a critical turnaround would have a course marshal, or at the very least a large sign.

On the bright side, I saw some fans after running off the course. It was super cool seeing Laura and Calvin at what was supposed to be right before mile 20. Fortunately, Laura heard from other runners and volunteers about how the turnaround was not properly marked, so she knew I had run significantly off the course. Since she knew, she didn't have to worry at the finish line when I showed up about an hour and a half later than I was planned.

When I figured out I'd run much farther than I should have, I had a decision to make--I could dial back my pace and try to finish as fast as I could for the rest of the race, or I could keep my pace until I'd run an unofficial marathon distance. I opted on the later, and my unofficial marathon time (I estimated it at 26.46--about what my Garmin would say for a full marathon) according to my Garmin was 2:49:27--an unofficial new PR.

Besides the huge turnaround debacle, the course was pretty nice. It looped through Milwaukee, and it was cool running by Miller Park Stadium, the Miller Brewery, and finishing along Lake Michigan (though at that point I was walking, having already covered 29 miles).

The finish line area was decent. The food wasn't the greatest, but there were food trucks where food was available for purchase, and they gave out one free hard soda and one free beer to the marathon finishers. There were also some activities for spectators--a climbing wall and a bounce house, so that would be cool for spectators who brought their children.

This race has a lot of potential, but next time they definitely need to get their act together. Besides the turnaround error, the course was also mis-measured, and the race issued a statement saying the course was about 0.4 miles too long. Kudos to them for admitted their error (they're also working with the USATF to adjust runners' times accordingly). Though I applaud the race for taking responsibility for their errors, if they plan on making this a premier event, next year they need to be much more careful with their course measurements and markings.

Overall, this race leaves a very bittersweet feeling. I was in shape to run my first sub-2:50 marathon, and while I unofficially did, it would have been an amazing feeling had that time been official. In my next post I'll write about how I'm going to deal with this disappointment.

Happy Running.

Part 1
Part 3

Race Report - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon - Part 1

Just before the turnaround
I've gotten away from race reports after having written so many, but this race was so unique I had to write up a report--a three part report, in fact. The first part will explain the disappointment of the race, the second part will be about how the race actually went, and the third part will be about what's next. The one word to describe this race: disappointing.

So what was disappointing? Around 18 miles into the race there was supposed to be a turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail. Unfortunately, I ran right past the turnaround. There was a spray painted arrow on the ground that I thought might be a turnaround, but I thought to myself, "there's no way there'd be a turnaround without a course marshal, or at the very least a large sign and some cones."

Turns out, it was in fact a turnaround. Unfortunately for me, I ran almost two miles past the turnaround before actually turning around. I asked one cyclist if she'd seen any runners, and she said she'd seen some coming from the opposite direction, so I thought I might still be OK. Around a mile later, I asked another cyclist and he had not seen anyone.

At that point I knew I had missed the turnaround. When I headed back, there was a course marshal running over to the spray painted arrow to place a cone and direct runners. I found out later that the volunteers who were supposed to be at that spot had not shown up, and some jerk had thrown cones off the course and into the woods.

Eventually I caught up to another runner who had also been affected, though he did not run quite as far past the turnaround as I did. We walked and jogged together until we reached an aid station about 1.5 miles from the finish line. There, we explained our situation to some volunteers. The told us they would get us a ride to the finish, but after waiting for thirty minutes, we decided to just walk to the end.

After the long walk (a mile and a half seems like a long way after covering over 28 miles), I got to see Laura, Calvin, our friend Joy and her son at the finish line. It was super nice of all of them to be waiting for me.

Though it was great to see friends and family, I was still very disappointed with the race. I will say that the race director responded to my e-mail promptly, and he did a nice job explaining the situation. Unfortunately, my time will not be changed. They will, however, refund my race entry.

So there it is--the disappointment that was the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon. Still, in the scheme of all that's happening in the world and all the real problems people face on a daily basis, this is pretty minor. It's important to keep perspective.

Happy Running.

Part 2
Part 3

Friday, November 4, 2016

PNC Bank Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon

I've shifted away from writing about running for a while, but I am still putting in the miles. On Sunday I'll be running the PNC Bank Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon. This weekend will mark my 15th try at the marathon and, after I finish, my 14th completed marathon (I dropped out of the 2015 Med City Marathon with calf issues). 

One nice bonus of this race is that it is the day after my birthday, so I'll get to do my birthday run during a marathon (on the weekend closest to my birthday I've been running a kilometer for every year old I am since 2011).

I've got high hopes for this weekend. First off, I'm aiming for a PR. It's going to be tough--I missed almost a week of training while in the hospital, but after a few days my workouts were going well again. 

I'm excited, but also nervous. The marathon is a tough race. I've run a positive split in every marathon I've raced, running the first halves 2-8 minutes faster than the second halves. This means I've either gone out too fast, or that I didn't have the mental toughness to push through those finals miles at race pace.

On with the goals:

A. Break 2:50 and set a new PR
B. Break 2:55
C. Break 3:00

I set a new best time at the half marathon this year, 1:16:09, and various running calculators say that based on that time I should be able to run a marathon somewhere between 2:40 - 2:45. I know that's nowhere near reasonable. I'd run almost as fast at a half marathon in 2012, and that year was the year I managed a 2:50. As far as racing goes, I'm much better at the 5k than the marathon.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. Not only do I get to race, we also get to see some friends and their kids. It'll be a good time.

Happy Running!