Ah, Wisconsin. I love ya.
This marks the first time in three years that I attended the Wisconsin Marathon but didn’t run it (the half, anyway). Back in January, I had decided to forego it in lieu of running the Soldier Field 10-miler in late May, with my sister and Kristiana. I knew I’d miss it but figured I’d deal. However, after my dear friend Katie narrowly missed qualifying for Boston in February at Myrtle Beach, it came up again as an option for another try for her, and ended up being the race she decided on. Since I know the course (half of it, anyway) and the area, and since I love a good runcation, I quickly volunteered to go with her for race support, and to drag Kristiana (who got me into running in the first place) along for the ride.
We flew into Chicago on Friday morning and picked up Kristiana at her (amazing, 39th floor) place before heading straight for Kenosha. I was super duper (hi, i’m in 3rd grade) excited to show Katie so much of the Upper Midwest that I adore so we immediately started packing everything we could into the trip. We stopped first at the Lake Forest Oasis, because they just don’t build large rest stop/gas station/Starbucks combos over the interstate in Georgia. I went with a risky choice for lunch–chicken kebabs from a no-name Greek place and enjoyed them with a view of… cars.
We crossed the border into Wisconsin and headed toward packet pickup. Just off the interstate, we saw the Jelly Belly factory and store and stopped in to get goodies for children: Jelly-Belly Uno games and toasted marshmallow jelly beans. I also picked up some very strangely colored “Irregular” Jelly Belly Sport Beans for a little bit of nothing. Jelly beans. This trip was already going well.
Packet pickup for this thing was short and sweet, one of the things I love about this race. It took about 7 minutes total. Then we drove the course, so Katie would know what to expect, and since I wanted to see the other half of it. After that, it was off to the hotel to settle in and get dinner. We ate at the restaurant in our hotel, The Chancery, which is a local chain that has a lot of Wisconsin specialties–five cheese French onion soup, cheese curds, and lots of beef. Kristiana and I both got a grass-fed Angus burger, no bun, with sweet potato tots, and man, it was good. Katie got -shocker- pasta, and should you choose to eat at The Chancery before this race, you should know that the portion sizes are smallish, so order a large. After dinner we hit up Walgreens for some toiletries and poster board and then went back to get Katie race-ready. I snuck in my mile to continue my run streak, made some signs, and then put Katie’s name on her shirt with KT Tape so she’d have support when Kristiana and I weren’t around. Then it was lights out in preparation for a 5AM wakeup call.
The next morning went smoothly and we were at the race start by 6:20. Katie warmed up and Kristiana and I found Kim, who is a fellow Nuun Hood to Coast teammate this year. She was ready to go for a PR in the 1/2 marathon but sweetly met up with me and we had a few minutes to chat. I loved getting to meet another of the ladies that I’ll be running with in August.
Soon it was time for Katie to get in her corral and we walked her toward the start. The race lets people wearing cheese-related apparel into the first “corral” (truth be told, there are no corrals in this race, just a self-seeded start) and so it was fun to get a chance to see that, for once, since I wasn’t lined up behind them. After a moment of silence for Boston, a round of applause for the first-responders, and the National Anthem, they were off. I started my Garmin as I watched Katie cross the mats, rang the cowbell a few times, and then headed for the Harborside Coffeehouse. With a 7AM start in May, it was pretty chilly at the start, and coffee is always good. Plus, the coffee shop sits at the 4.5-mile and 11-mile mark for both the 1/2 and the full, so it’s a great place to cheer without having to be terribly mobile.
We got coffee and watched the leaders go by. Actor Mark Ruffalo is from Kenosha, and his brother Andy is usually in the top two finishers for the Wisconsin Marathon Half. So if you’re watching the leaders in the race, you get to see the sibling of a famous person. Hey, hey!
Soon it was 7:30 and we went outside to watch for Katie. She came through looking strong and we held up our signs and yelled and yelled. Then we kept cheering for a bit, until we saw my friend Angie come by, and Kim too. We had made double-sided signs–one side just for Katie and the other for everyone else, and so we spread some good cheer around until we got cold and holed up in the coffeeshop again.
Kristiana and I had a few minutes to visit before Katie came back through at mile 11. She was perfectly on pace, looking strong and as happy as I’ve seen her look when she’s focused (one of her great strengths is race focus, in my opinion). After she passed, Kristiana and I headed to the car to shed some layers since we both had some running of our own to do. Kristiana is in the early stages of planning for the Paris 10-miler (illness set aside her plans to do Soldier Field, unfortunately) and was going to do 5 miles before heading to the finish to watch for Katie. My job, was to get myself to mile 23 to try and run Katie in the last part of the race. I say try because her planned pace (8:15) would mean that 3.2 miles would be major PR pace for me. I’d been training for it, but I was nervous.
I used the 3 mile distance between downtown and the 23-mile mark as a nice, long warmup. I’ve run in this part of Wisconsin many times, while visiting friends, running this race, and doing Ragnar Chicago. I just love it. Scenic and flat, and particularly when the weather is nice, there’s just no place nicer.
I got to the mile 23 mark with about 15 minutes to spare so I cheered and yelled for the runners. Saw my friend Tracy’s husband Jon, who I wasn’t expecting and who I’m sure had NO clue who I was, but I hollered for him anyway. ‘Cause that’s what I do!
I saw Katie round the corner about .25 away, and yelled really loud and cheerleader kicked for her. As she came closer I realized my cheering time had taken its toll on my warmup, and that I needed a little head start to work up to her pace. I started to run as she came toward me. My Garmin was not giving me pace info–something about having the time on it run for so long when we weren’t moving at the start seemed to make it not want to give me a pace when I was moving. So I have no real idea how fast I was going. I can run 9:00 miles and 10:00 miles by feel. Faster than 9:00 miles and I don’t really know how fast I’m going. But it seemed like it was taking her longer to get to me than it should have. So I slowed.
She caught me quickly after that but as soon as I saw her, I could tell things were not good. She has agreed to write a blog post about the race that I’ll post later this week. We had not gone but about .5 when she tearfully said, “Not today, Lindsay. Not today.” I am rarely without words but I was not prepared to hear that. That’s how well-trained she was. I’d watched her training logs on Daily Mile. I’d seen her run. There had not been a doubt in my mind that she would get this BQ done. So, I wracked my brain for the right words. I worked on being encouraging to her regarding finishing, without being so over-the-top Pollyanna that she would want to punch me.
The last 3.2 miles were very hard for her. I’m so proud of her for finishing that race. I was very worried about her and honestly wouldn’t have blamed her a bit for walking off that course. Something went wrong, and while that is frustrating, I think the hardest thing for her, and even me, to deal with is that no one is quite sure *what* went wrong. I know that is the nature of the marathon. All the planning and training in the world can’t guarantee a race of that distance will go smoothly.
For better or for worse, we made it to the finish line. I had not planned to cross the finish line with her, but obviously plans changed on a number of levels, and I couldn’t leave her alone. We got her medal, foil, and food, and I took her to Medical. I wasn’t sure if it was necessary, but I have also been close enough to nutrition and dehydration situations to know that I’d feel better if she got checked out before we went on our way that day. I couldn’t return her to her husband and kids broken!
Thankfully, medical cleared her pretty quickly, and she was even smiling about 15 minutes later. There were tears in there, too, but she seemed herself again (make no mistake, unlike baseball, there is ALWAYS crying in the marathon). It’s always cold after this race–the finish line is right up on the lakefront, and the wind can be fierce. We headed toward the car pretty quickly.
Friends nearby in Racine welcomed us into their homes for showers and scones, and then for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon with them, and it was relaxing. After loading up the car with Kringle from O & H and cheese curds from the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, we headed back to Chicago. We grabbed dinner from the Lincoln Park Whole Foods–third largest in the country, with far more . We ate and went to bed. I know, it’s a wild life we live.
Sunday morning Katie and I went for a recovery run by the lake. We shuffled through three miles and then did some good stretching before heading to the ‘burbs to worship with my parents and model the latest in runner fashion: Katie’s compression socks under a maxi-dress combo. It was so good to see my parents. After church we went to Portillo’s to have lunch, and Katie got to have her first Chicago dog. We also made a quick stop by Naperville Running Company, where I found a special-edition Oiselle tee and some cherry-limeade Nuun, while Katie and Kristiana both got fitted for new shoes. I think Katie also got to have some good race analysis with the awesome gentleman fitting her. Thank, NRC!
All that was left then was to come home. We’d pretty much done as much stuff as three runners can do in 52 hours or so. The “A” Goal of getting Katie to Boston was not achieved. But the goal of having a great time? That was met in spades. Another runcation success, in the books.