The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon was the race of a lifetime! It marks my third full marathon–my second this year–and my first race in my home city. And it marks a new personal record of 4:29:29.
This marathon was so different from the Bayshore Marathon in that I was kind of a lone wolf, both in training and during the race.
Part of me cursed the loneliness: I sometimes struggled to push through those early-morning long runs because I knew no one else was up before the sun running, too. I worried about racing without a partner–someone to keep me on pace, at least for half of the marathon, and someone to talk to, to help the miles pass.
But as it got closer to race day, another part of me embraced the loneliness: I had trained to my abilities and mostly alone (save for the standard last 6 miles of my long runs with Christopher and the girls ). I was prepared to run my race.
As such, I was very calm about the marathon. I knew I would hit my goal of 5 hours. I thought I might hit a more lofty goal of 4 hours and 45 minutes. But, I wondered if I could hit a pie-in-the-sky goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes.
The day before, Christopher and I met Mindy and Andi in Milwaukee to grab lunch and beers at the Milwaukee Ale House, then pick up our packets at the Italian Community Center. We had dinner back at home, then put the girls to bed. We shuffled off to our respective rooms about 9:30 p.m. and finally went to bed about 10 p.m.
I slept well, all things considered.
Mindy and Andi and I were up at 5:45 a.m., at which point, we promptly ate breakfast, then changed into our running gear. We headed out the door about 6:30 a.m.
My mom drove us to Grafton High School, where we pinned on our bibs, put on our other gear, and then headed outside to the porta-potties. We met up with my friend, Jillian, who waited in line with us; we were in line for about 20 minutes, then headed to the start line.
I dashed back to my mom to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her, “I love you.” She said, “I love you, too.” and reminded me that Oma was with me and she would give me light feet.
(My mom had given me a guardian angel–a white angel encased in a clear stone, about the size of a large marble–to keep with me during the race. It belonged to my Oma. She had it in her pocket the day her aorta ruptured and she later died. I found it–it fell out of her pocket into the washer–a few days later. My mom has kept it with her, in her purse, in the car, ever since. I tucked it in my sports bra, on my left side, close to my heart and frequently touched it throughout the race.)
I lined up in front of the 5:00 pace group, but behind the 4:30 pace group, about where the 4:45 pace group had gathered. The race director counted down, and we were off.
Somewhere between Mile 1 and 2, as the course ventured into its only truly “rural” setting, the breeze blew in the scent of cow manure and wet hay. I laughed. “Good morning from Wisconsin!” I said. A few people around me snickered at the smell wafting in the air. “Smell our dairy air!” one guy said.
Just after Mile 7, we turned onto the Concordia University campus and straight into the wind. Luckily, within a few more turns, we headed south and out of the wind.
Around Mile 8, I saw my dad, and then, steps away, Christopher and the girls! The line of spectators was crowded, as was the general pack of runners, so I opted to wave to them, rather than stop.
About Mile 10, I saw my blog friend, Jamie, who I saw again a few more times, including just before the finish chute. Basically I would see my family, then I would see Jamie, then I would see my family again, and then I would see Jamie again. It was a nice boost to see someone familiar every few miles.
Just before the halfway point, I stopped to use the porta-pottie. By this time, I had caught up to the 4:30 pace group and decided to hang with it for as long as it felt comfortable and maintainable. But, in stopping to pee, I lost them and lost maybe 2 minutes.
But then, at the halfway point, I saw Christopher and the girls again; the girls were out of the jogging stroller and so, ran into the street. I pulled off to the left, hoisted Anna in the air, then bent down to hug her and Elise together. I grabbed hands with my dad, then headed off again.
At Mile 15, I saw my mom again, then at Mile 18, I saw my mom and dad, and Christopher and the girls. And then about Mile 22, I saw my dad, Christopher and the girls for the last time.
At that point, the course had neared ultra-familiar territory–the UW-Milwaukee campus, Lake Park, and Lincoln Memorial Drive. It was an incredible sight to head toward downtown, toward Veterans Park, past Bradford Beach, Villa Terrace, Alterra (ahem, Collectivo) on the lake–all with the Milwaukee Art Museum in the background.
The finish area neared. The cheers of the crowd gathered on both sides of the path and then, at the end, the finish chute grew louder. The clock came into focus.
I saw 4:31 on the clock, and I grinned like the cat who ate the canary. I was so happy with my time: I had come in ahead of my goal of 5 hours, and I was merely a minute off my pie-in-the-sky goal of 4 hours and 30 minutes. And I felt good–strong, even.
After I had my medal around my neck, I headed into the milieu. I grabbed some snacks, including a giant soft pretzel, and I put on my newly-purchased Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon long-sleeve technical jacket.
In the runner-spectator meeting area, I finally found Christopher, the girls, and my dad, and at that moment, I found out my time was actually sub-4:30.
This was such an incredible race. I was so.freaking.steady. throughout: My average paces were 10:09, 10:27 (bathroom break), 10:19, and 10:16. My first half was 2:14:37, and my second half was 2:14:52–a difference of a mere 15 seconds!
I stopped at every aid station, but truly walked through only two or three of them. I took fuel every 4 to 4.5 miles. I just felt plain ol’ good, save for the typical aches and pains that come with running a marathon.
The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon gets major points, not only for being the race where I set a PR, but also for being well organized, having wonderful spectator support, and having one sweet medal.
The spectators really made the race one for the books. There were tons of people at the designated viewing areas and major mile markers, where you would expect a lot of people, but there still were plenty of people at other places, even in the quieter residential areas. Everyone was cheering loudly and holding clever signs, and most everyone was calling out your name (It was printed on our bibs!). It was so unique to have complete and total strangers cheering for you by name. One woman even looked me dead in the eye and told me she was proud of me. I still have no idea if she is someone I should know or remember or not.
So…another marathon is in the books. I am so grateful to all who supported me–on race day and every day before it–especially my family; my best girls, Mindy and Andi; and of course, my amazing husband, Christopher, and sweet daughters, Anna and Elise. I am truly amazed at what my body, my mind, and my heart are capable of.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average pace: 10:17 per mile
Miles 1-7: 1:10:57
Miles 7-13.1: 1:03:40
Miles 13.1-20: 1:11:03
Miles 20-26.2: 1:03:49