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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Oh windy Wisconsin marathon: Race report

Sometimes getting older rocks.

Five years ago, if I had run a marathon that was a PW (personal worst, or slowest ever), I would have been crushed. I used to fixated on PRs (personal records), which were relatively easy to obtain since I've only been running about 10 years now.

On Saturday, I ran the Wisconsin Marathon and ran a PW of 5:35:57, 614th place out of 674.


But man, I'm pretty happy to have finished at all.

For months now I've been wrestling with a hamstring/hip ache that won't go away. I've been in physical therapy for six weeks and it's only a little better. My PT was pretty cheery last week that he'd get me to the start and finish line as he dug into my leg with his elbow so hard that tears came to my eyes.

Running is so glamorous.

On race morning, my friend Krista picked me up at 5 a.m. We run together all the time and she's easy to hang out with. She's also a CPS teacher, so we stress out about school stuff together -- she from the teacher perspective and me from the mom one. She's also kind and super chill, a good influence on my tightly wound, sometimes acidic self.

We cruised to Kenosha and arrived in just an hour. Amazing how close Chicago is to Wisconsin when there is no traffic.

We met up with some of our other awesome running friends, Betsey, a lawyer and whose now-teenage daughter has generously passed on an awesome bed, a Pottery Barn play kitchen and the cutest little necklaces to my girly-girl 5-year-old. One of my favorite pastimes with Betsey is to stress about politics.

We also met up with Terri, my favorite snarky Canadian who fosters cats and does something technology-related for a living. (She has patiently explained it to me, but I'm still not sure what exactly it is.) She also gave me Reckless, our family cat, after I "borrowed" him two years ago because we suddenly got mice in our kitchen.

Terri was doing the half marathon, the three of rest of us doing the full marathon. Such a great crew.

Prior to the start, I was able to meet up with Andy, a nice guy I went to high school. Not many of us Nebraska kids in Chicago, so it was nice to say hi and have my arm twisted to go to our, um, 30th reunion this summer.

The morning was sunny and 70 degrees, though it was supposed to cool off into the 50s by race time.

As we lined up at the start line, the sky to the west of us was suddenly dark and the wind picked up. The temperature dropped and we shivered. The wind felt downright cold. I shivered in my short-sleeve Flatlanders shirt and shorts. I tend to run hot, but wondered if I was going to be cold for the next five hours...

Finally we were off. The wind was fierce. Man. I was really cold now.

Also on my mind was a pretty big personal decision just the day before, after weeks of sleeping like crap and feeling stressed. On that race morning, I had been awake since 2 a.m., worrying not about the race (for a change!) but worrying about change, letting people down.

So I was more tired than I would have liked to have been in the first five miles. I told myself one million times that I could just drop out at  the half marathon mark. No one would judge me, except myself.

Somewhere after we left the little downtown area, we were along Lake Michigan. The view was beautiful but we were running straight into a strong wind that slapped our bodies so hard that it sometimes felt like I was barely moving. It reminded me of swimming in choppy open water, when I'm working so hard to swim but feeling like I'm not moving forward.

This continued for about the two longest miles of my life. The wind whipped sand off the narrow strip of beach so hard it stung our eyes, faces and legs. Someone jokingly called it "exfoliation". At one point it felt like one of my contacts was half hanging out of my eye, which burned with sand.

Betsey and Krista were ahead of us a bit by this point, so Terri and I hung together and agreed it was OK to complain to each other. It sucked.
Sandbags were no match for the wind.

Around 7.5 miles, we turned back and the wind was to our back. It was like a whole different run, though there were points I felt like the wind was half carrying me, and I'm not a petite person.

My leg was annoying me, but I wasn't in pain. I could feel the injured area tightening to the point my knee would start clicking. I'd then stop, stretch my piriformis and then my hamstrings, and run again (or walk a bit). I would repeat that throughout the race.

As we approached the half marathon mark, I was still debating out loud whether I should quit at the half. Betsey kept slowing down and waiting for me, gentling reminding me that it was OK to do so. Why she is so nice and didn't tell me to make a decision and shut it... well, she's just nice!

Terri turned off to finish the half and I followed Betsey instead. I laughed, "well, I guess I'm doing the full."

The second half of the race winds south thru town and then into a more rural area into Pleasant Prairie. It was windy but not as windy as right by the water, and the wind was to our backs for miles. I tried not to think about the wind we'd face when it was time to turn back north.

Some of the houses were pretty fancy, others modest. I want to move somewhere warmer some day, but these country houses and proximity to the water were pretty appealing. The scenery mostly made up for the fact that I was, indeed, having a kind of sucky race.

Betsey was so nice and insisted on sticking with me, though I know she doesn't like to stop and take walk breaks (I get it, when I'm in healthier running shape I like to keep breaks short, too). The miles went slowly and then we finally turned back north.


The wind continued to be stiff and unforgiving. By mile 20, I told Betsey that if I managed to do 20 then I certainly could finish 26.2 miles and urged her to go on. I appreciated her kindness but I planned to take more walk breaks to give my body a rest.

I was really tired and didn't care how long it took me to finish.

After all, Ida Keeling doesn't quit. (Damn.)

At mile 25, I took a dorky selfie to text my friends, who would be done with their races by now, so they knew that I was close. I hoped they were staying warm somewhere.

I was so happy to see the 26-mile mark and was reminded of why I like smaller races.

I could hear the announcer cheering people over the finish line. As I spotted it, he ran up to me with his microphone and asked me my name, and then announced me. So nice! I ran as fast as I could muster and after crossing, was handed a cool medal of a guy made of cheese and a Mylar blanket that wouldn't stay on me because of the wind.

I found Krista and Betsey as quickly as possible. We shivered to get our photo taken by a woman I could tell did not want to stop and take our picture (she was on her way to work, but reluctantly agreed) and we went separate ways.

I'm glad I did the race. Thanks to these awesome friends!
Me, Krista, Betsey and Terri. <3

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