October 7, 2014

Race Recap: Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

...In which all of the stars align to create the PERFECT race weekend and I CRUSH my first marathon time!  You guys, I don't even know where to begin.  I have been on an extended blogging hiatus, but some things are just too special and memorable NOT to capture and share!
First, my six word race recap:
Perfect weather, perfect race, perfect day. :)

Before I get into the race weekend itself, I have to say that  marathon training was totally different for me the second time around,  I didn't feel any of the self-doubt and concerns about actually finishing the race that I did last year.  Also, I knew so much better what works for me and my body while training this year than I did last year.  I knew that I needed less miles per week, for one thing.  Instead of following Hal Higdon's plan to the letter like I did last year, I ran just 3 days per week this year and spent my off days riding my bike and doing hot yoga.  I felt so much stronger the entire training cycle.  Less running for the win!
Anyways, back to the race weekend.  Before heading up to Milwaukee Saturday morning, I proceeded to PACK ALL THE THINGS.  I am a crazy over-packer when it comes to race weekends.  Seriously, I follow "When in doubt, pack it all" philosophy.  This is how I ended up with six pairs of shoes, 4 headbands, and enough underwear for a week.  Not to mention the gatorade, bananas, and peanut butter that accompanied me.  Laugh away, but I was glad I had it all!!  Saturday was filled with hanging out with friends, time at the expo (obviously buying more headbands...seriously I have a sickness...), and so much amazing food.  I think I had the best ravioli of my life.  Could this be why I ran so well Sunday?  Probably. :)
This Swirlgear top is seriously my new favorite running shirt.  

Leading up to the race, I was nervous about the weather.  Weather.com was predicting a temperature of 39 degrees at the start.  While I know cool weather is perfect for marathoning, I was concerned that I hadn't done any running in the cold yet this season.  I must have rethought my outfit a hundred times.  Sunday morning, though, I decided to go with shorts, a tank, a long sleeve, and gloves.  This was the *perfect* outfit choice.  We rode the bus 26 miles from downtown Milwaukee to Grafton, WI--the marathon is a point to point race.  I have to say, as I sat on that bus I realized once again how truly far 26.2 miles is.  I mean, that's no short drive!!  Yikes!  Luckily the Grafton High School was open for runners to hang out in, so we were able to stay nice and warm pre-race.  Around 7:10 we headed out to the start line!
I cannot say enough good things about this course.  The first 20ish miles were through beautiful small towns, quiet neighborhoods, horse farms, and of course gorgeous fall leaves.  The weather was perfect, and I felt so strong.  You know those runs where you just find yourself loving every single minute?  Yeah, that's exactly how I felt!  As much as I loved the crazy crowds and cheering stations at the Chicago Marathon last year, I loved completely different atmosphere of this race so much too.  I grinned like a crazy person when I passed two older men playing the banjo and washboard at mile 8 or so, and every time I saw a glimpse of beautiful Lake Michigan I about lost my mind.  It was just pure, perfect running joy.
Mom & Dad = Best Race Cheerleaders and Photographers EVER.  The end.

I came into this race hoping to set a PR and knowing 100% that I could.  I mean, in Chicago, I took 5 minutes standing in line for a bathroom break within the first 6 miles!  Not to mention a few stretch breaks in those last several miles!  I knew that I'd been training so well and running so strong--I was hoping that if I had a PERFECT race, I'd be able to come in around 5:15.  I ran the first two miles in 11 minutes, and from there forced myself to slow way down to about an 11:45 average pace.  That felt SO SLOW to me, though!  After a couple more easy miles running happy, I gave myself permission to slowly chip away at that average pace on my Garmin.  And chip away I did!  I was elated when I crossed the 13.1 mark at 2:30 on the dot.  A couple of years ago, a 2:30 half was a huge, crazy dream for me!  But Sunday, a 2:30 half felt easy.  I felt so strong that I knew I was going to negative split this race, and at that point I realized that this meant I'd likely come in under 5 hours.  FIVE HOURS.  I almost didn't want to let myself believe it.
Pure Joy.

A few miles later, I saw something up ahead that I'd NEVER in a million years expected to encounter in a marathon--the 5 hour pace group!  I took a deep breath and told myself that I was going to pass them and STAY ahead of them!  Guess what?  I did!  When I realized the 5 hour pace group wasn't even in my rear view mirror anymore, realized that I was still feeling SO STRONG, and realized that I was going to finish under five hours, I about cried.  Words cannot even describe,

The real race started for me around mile 20.  At that point my goal went from sub-5 to "get my average pace under 11min/mi."  I dug deep and focused on speeding up with every mile.  I got comments from volunteers and spectators that I looked way too fresh and strong for having run 20 miles!!  As the miles ticked by, I pushed myself harder than ever.  The race was starting to take it toll by this point.  My feet hurt, I was tired, but I still felt completely unstoppable.  (And I felt NOTHING like I did in Chicago!)  I knew that there were no proverbial "walls" in my path--no one was going to stop me.  I was going to do something I never thought I could.  I mean seriously, guys, I ran my first 5K in like 36 minutes.  I don't even know myself anymore!
With the Lake to my left and my amazing parents riding along on their bikes, stopping for pictures every mile from 20-25, I cruised through Milwaukee.  I focused every last ounce of energy I had on that finish line, and tears came to my eyes when I flew past it, passing runner after runner on the final stretch.
While we didn't run together, I was blessed to spend this race weekend with my boyfriend who also ran the race!  Loved sharing this experience!

I crossed the finish line in 4:46:09, nearly FIFTY MINUTES faster than I finished my first marathon last year in Chicago.  FIFTY.  That's almost 2 minutes per mile faster.  I could not be prouder of myself, but just as amazing is the fact that I truly loved every. single. mile.  This race reminded me of EXACTLY why I run.  Alyssa left a post on my Facebook wall Saturday night, reminding me that "The race is the reward."  I kept this thought in my mind throughout the race--the race truly IS the reward.  Training is so hard and time consuming, and there are days when it's tempting to give it all up.  But the race isn't the final challenge--it's the celebration.  The gift.  And this race truly was a gift.
My amazing friend Katy came up to Milwaukee to cheer!  
How did I get so lucky to have such great friends??

Milwaukee was for me 4 hours and 46 minutes of bliss.  I tell people that I run because it makes me feel alive, unstoppable, joyful, and fearless.  This race was everything that I love about running.  As long as running continues to bring me such amazing joy, I know I'll never stop.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: anything truly is possible if you want it and work for it.  As the band The Weepies says, "All it takes is a little faith and a lot of heart."

Tell me about a run or other experience that made you feel completely ALIVE!!!


  1. Congratulations on your huge PR. Sounds like a good course.

  2. Congrats. Sounds like you had a GREAT race!

  3. Congratulations; that is AWESOME!

    Would you mind sharing what your long run schedule was like?

  4. Welcome back! I've missed reading your posts. Congrats on such a great race! :)

  5. What the heck? Blogger ate my comment! It was long so I will paraphrase.

    I'm so proud of you! You did amazing! It so great that you executed well and were passing people in the last 6 miles.

    I love that last quote. When people say to me "I could never do a marathon/triathlon/Ironman." I simply tell them it's not that they can't it's that they don't want to. Because you can train and do anything if you want it bad enough.

    You used perfect 10 times in this race report. I love it. :)

  6. Ahhhhhhhhh yayyyyyy :) :) Congrats! I love the mantra that the race is the reward!

  7. Congrats! Nothing like a great race!

  8. YES! while i had some serious issues during my run i too loved everything about this race! it was absolutely beautiful! congrats on the PR!


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