Race Recap: Gopher to Badger Half Marathon

As I’m sure many of you know (because I say it all the time) the Gopher to Badger Half Marathon is my all-time favorite race. The 2017 edition marked my 4th consecutive year making the running trek from Stillwater, MN, to Hudson, WI.

I probably like this race so much because it was my first half. But it is a great course, and I get to see a lot of my college friends up here as well.

Weather for this one is always a huge question mark. Since the race is always in mid-August in Minnesota, you could legitimately range from low 40s to the triple digits, and don’t forget about the humidity. It seems like this race alternates between hot and cool weather each year. My first year, the temps soared, the second we had an overcast 60 degree day, the third year we were back in the 80s, and this year we had a crisp 52 degrees at the start.

All in all, you couldn’t ask for better weather for an August day. low 50s at the start, and probably low to mid 60s at the finish. High humidity, but a low dew point and minimal wind made for a good day.

This year, I got on one of the later buses to the start, but still had plenty of time to mill around at the start line, get ready to run, and hit the porta-pods twice.

I took my place near the front of the corral, slotting in just behind the top runners. The race got started a little late, but we were off and running soon enough.

G2B is a tricky race to start. Flat roads, some turns, and then a gradual downhill welcome you to the first mile. Aka, it’s super easy to get out way too quick. This year, I fell in right behind two women runners from UW-La Crosse, and we were quickly joined by two other runners as well.

We clipped off the first mile in the low 6:20s, which was a little faster than I had planned, but it felt easy (don’t first miles always feel easy?) and I was with a strong six person pack at this point, so I stuck with it.

The first six miles of this course roll you with hills, so it’s a lot of ups and downs. Our group quickly ran down two other runners, as we alternated who led the pack, and who drafted. One of our six left us after the first two miles, but another runner who we had caught jumped in with us. So still at six.

We stuck at an even pace for the first four miles, but mile five started to see some movement. Personally, I got going ahead of the group a little around 4.5 to position myself for the second aid station, and that plan worked well as I got my water and hopped back in with the group.

Soon after, another runner came flying past us, and instantly in my head I was telling myself to NOT CHASE this guy. Still feeling good, it’s instinct to go with that runner, and one person in our pack did. But as a whole, our group stayed together.

That is, until we hit the 5th mile marker. My watching pinged the split of 6:33, our slowest yet, and I could sense the group fading a little. So naturally I threw down a 6:13 mile and blew our group apart. I’m not sure who all tried to come with me, but I know two of the women weren’t too far back.

Coming over the second biggest climb, and down the longest downhill, I passed another runner, letting him know what the rest of the course looked like.

And what that was is two miles of flat road before the next turn. Back here, I stopped for a quick bathroom break, and was passed by two of the La Crosse women. We would basically play hop scotch the rest of the race.

I opted in for a Huma gel at the aid station at mile 9, as I got ready for the final push. Miles 9-11 have you roll on a few more smaller hills down by the St. Croix River, and you hop on roads as well as bike paths down here.

The last aid station is right when you hit the 11th mile marker, and it’s in the middle of the climb to the top of the I-94 bridge. I took the rest of my gel here and prepared for the finish.

Coming across the bridge, I was passed again by one of the other runners, and she blew me away the final mile. I was passed by another just after getting off the bridge, and did all I could to keep her within striking distance, even though I didn’t know if I could come back for the pass.

Weaving along the river on the Wisconsin side is the longest mile in the world. Once we got within eye-sight of the finish, I noticed the runner ahead of me slowing, and used the last 400m (the course is about 200m longer than 13.1) to come back for the last minute pass.

I clocked in (officially) at 1:25:07, although the race clock said 1:24:58, in a pace of 6:27 per mile, which equates to about a 1:24:30. In other words, the race went well.

Can’t wait for next year.

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