On Saturday May 7th, I ran the Wisconsin Marathon. This race was only 2.5 weeks after running the Boston Marathon. It was my 8th marathon overall but did not count towards my 50 States goal, since my very first marathon had been the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon back in 2013.
So why did I choose to run it?
“Boston was so tough, and we are so well trained. The Wisconsin marathon is nice and flat and will be easy.” – Katie
“I had so much fun last year at Wisconsin, it’ll be a nice day trip for us to take and it’ll just be like we are heading to Barrington for a long run!” – Hayley
“I would loooove a running partner! I am planning to run 3:15 -3:20 and that’s right in your wheel house!” – Lucas
Basically, I am easily persuaded when it comes to races. In addition to the three above-mentioned instigators, I knew at least 6 other people running the race, so I thought it would be fun, why the hell not?
If I could summarize the Wisconsin Marathon for you, it would go something like this:
The wind was absolutely INSANE. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I’ll go through the course in a moment, but first some other essentials.
SUPER easy because we could pick up our packets at the Fleet Feet Old Town location. The convenience factor was another convincing factor for me since I didn’t have to worry about getting to Kenosha the day before to get my bib (there’s no race-day pickup). The downside is there was not much of an expo- no vendors at all in fact, just the regular Fleet Feet store like usual.
Upon waking up I had my typical toast with peanut butter, strawberries and bananas, and a tall glass of tea. Hayley picked Katie and I up at 4:45 and we easily arrived in Kenosha just before 6am. Parking was a breeze, we were within a block of the start line.
We met up with a bunch of November Project people, some who were running the race and some AMAZING women who just decided to come watch and cheer us on.
Drank a UCAN about an hour before the race, did a few warmup drills and strides, hit the porta-potty (another GREAT perk of small races is virtually no wait for a restroom), and then mosey-ed on up to the start. The atmosphere was VERY different from Boston- so relaxed and small town, it was refreshing!
Of all the races I’ve done, the Wisconsin Marathon is one of the easiest to break up mentally. It is a looped course that repeats itself a few times, which I had never experienced before. I though of it as 4 separate runs instead of one long marathon.
You start in the downtown area near the Kenosha Public Museum and do a series of small turns to take you around downtown. All of this is contained within the first 4 miles of the course which I dubbed the “Downtown Run.”
You continue heading north along the lakefront and at roughly 7.5 miles you make U-turn to head back downtown along the same street. Since this area is not well spectated, it’s nice because you can see all the other runners- you could even give them high fives if you wanted to! By the time you reach mile 13, you again pass downtown and run along the same route that you did at the beginning I mentally chunked miles 4-13 as the “North Side Run.”
The course continues south and weaves through some quiet neighborhoods. And I mean quiet! Hardly anyone is out there. Around mile 16, the path turns into a gravel road for a while (if that serves as an indication of how residential and quiet the course really is). At mile 19, runners again pop a U-ey to go back to the start. I mentally chunked miles 13-19 as the “South Side Run” and then thought of the last few miles as “The Home Stretch.”
As you can see, it was pretty windy. Just before the 7am start, temps were holding in the low 60s but then a cold front hit us and the temperature dropped to about 55 degrees. Of course the cold front also brought INSANE winds coming from the north, began as sustained around 15-20 mph and ended with sustained around 25 mph with gusts between 40-45mph. Miles 2-8 and 19-end were directly into those winds. WOOF.
Miles 1-3 “The Downtown Run”
The race started at 7am to a few cracks of lightning and a big cold front moving in; however, the rain luckily held off. It was nice and overcast, and the winds were probably sustained between 15-20 miles at this point. Along this stretch, I remember thinking, “Man, this course sure has a lot more turns than Boston!” and “Hey look, the half marathon turn-around point, we’re basically done!” Lucas and I chatted through these first few miles, trying to run as close to the “tangent” as possible and keep the pace nice and relaxed, just like all those Barrington runs. With all the turns, the wind felt like it was coming at us from all directions, and didn’t affect the overall mile pace.
Splits: 7:31, 7:28, 7:30
Miles 4-13 “The North Side”
We left downtown (and all the fans) and headed onto the lakefront path. As we approached the beach, I saw all the sand swirling around and put my sunglasses on, knowing in a few moments it would be hitting my face. I attempted to draft off of Lucas and a few of the other men running along with me, but the wind was just so strong that it didn’t work well.
Shortly after mile 5 Lucas ran to the porta-potty so I was left to face the wind on my own. The course ran right along the lakefront so there was nothing to block the wind; I again tried to draft off of a stranger and he looked at me and said, “Are you drafting me?”
(But then I backed off because he seemed peeved. You are well over 6 feet tall and probably have 60 pounds on me…Give a girl a break!)
Ate some Humas around mile 6 and 12. There’s really not much to this part except that I got a chance to scope out the competition at the turn around. Saw Matt up ahead of me, and I counted 14 girls with marathon bibs. As I rounded the cone to turn around the wind practically lifted me and shoved me forward. The drop in pace was incredible! I gave a wave and fuck yeahs to Katie, Hayley, Becky, Emily, Dallas, and a few others as I saw them on the way back. Lucas caught back up with me around mile 11 as we approached downtown and I was very happy to have company back. We spotted Erin, Careen, and Lauren around mile 13 too!
Into the wind: 7:37, 7:28, 7:46, 7:33
With tail wind: 7:24, 7:18, 7:09, 7:17, 7:16, 7:12
Miles 14-19 “The South Side”
After a flurry of fans again in downtown, miles 14-18 were dead except for the volunteers at the aid station. They were mostly preoccupied with trying to keep the cups from flying off the table and chasing down the empty ones the runners tossed. The crowd thinned out a lot as only marathoners remained and it was much easier to spot the other girls up ahead. Lucas and I slowly began reeling people in at this point, and I kept my mental checklist of what place I was in.
Around mile 16 we caught up and passed Matt, and around mile 18 there were finally other spectators again. Chewed a Nuun tablet around mile 18- this was something totally new to me. Emily R. suggested I try it out for electrolytes since I hate Gatorade. I ate a bit too much as my mouth foamed when I chased it with water, but it tasted good and the inkling of a cramp vanished. Then we reached the turn-around all too soon.
Splits (all with the wind): 7:20, 7:14, 7:14, 7:22, 7:24, 7:14
Miles 20-end “The Home Stretch”
First thought, “HOLY FUCK I AM EXPECTED TO RUN IN THIS?”
Second thought, “The next girl is just up ahead. Let’s go to work.”
Honestly, it was almost comical. The winds had reached 30 mph sustained with gust reaching 40-45 mph. All coming right at us. These last miles were just me shutting out everything else and mentally focusing. Lucas faded pretty quickly after the turn around, which only strengthened my resolve to gut it out and get through it as fast as I could.
Despite the wind, I felt great physically! I didn’t feel tired or crampy like I usually do at this point; I know they say never do anything new in a race, but that Nuun tablet seemed to work! I also decided to eat Huma gel at mile 23 to see if that would help me prevent the energy bonk that usually happens around mile 20-ish. I felt absolutely great the whole race, which is saying something given the weather!
My last mile I slowed down but I think the majority of it was due to the road being much more crowded now that I had reached the half marathon turn around point and most people were walking. I had to do a lot more weaving around others.
Splits: 7:40, 8:04, 8:00, 8:08, 8:04, 8:05, 8:29, 4:08 (8:38 pace)
Overall time: 3:21:06
1st place age group, 6th place female, 49th place overall.
I ended up running faster in this race than in Boston and didn’t experience a bonk. I am thrilled with how it went! I think I’ve learned what I need to properly fuel in a race: electrolytes in Nuun! I realized that during my races I had been taking in gels, but NEVER taking in electrolytes! The taste of Gatorade (plus the crazy amount of sugar) always kept me to water, but now it’s a whole new racing world!
I know, you’re thinking, “Um, duh Becca, you need electrolytes,” but hey, better late than never! Definitely could have been a PR day had the weather been a bit calmer. For those that enjoy a looped course, the Wisconsin Marathon is a great one. Flat, fast (if there isn’t a wind), and relaxed, definitely a good spring race!