This one has been a long time coming, and I guess I’m still decompressing from the race a little. And if you follow running news, you probably understand that.
As many of you know, I came into the Fall with Milwaukee as my A race. Training was going well, and my last race, the Gopher to Badger Half, had gone extremely well.
Everything was pointing toward a good day for 26.2 miles.
However, as is the nature of all things running, it didn’t quite work out that way.
The forecast called for chilly, windy, and possibly rainy weather. We got the chilly and the windy, but fortunately not the rainy. But boy did the wind make up for it. Gusts up to 40 mph, and a headwind from 3rd to 35th going straight up Wisconsin Ave. Not pleasant.
When we arrived, there was confusion on where we went to start, find bathrooms, etc. The race website, and all pre-race notifications, said the race would start at 2nd and Freshwater. However, literally everyone (and everything) was moving and set up closer to 6th and Pittsburgh, where the finish was supposed to be. Turns out, the start had been pushed back, and was now the same spot as the finish. This will be important later in this recap.
The bathroom situation was a mixed bag. There were lots of porta-pods, almost like a little village. However, due to the rain the previous days, they were basically in a mud pit. Runners had to decide to either have muddy shoes, or not go to the bathroom.
Next up, the start line. We all got lined up according to pace, like any other race, and it seemed like (for the most part) everyone lined up accordingly. I ended up next to the 1:30 Half group…and a handful of African runners. I moved back just a hair.
After a faulty rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (the singer messed up…twice), we were off!
The start went well, although I fell into the trap of getting out a little too quick, per the usual. As one runner I was chatting with said, we were a little ahead of schedule on pace. But overall, I was happy with how things were going, although the pace did feel slightly more challenging than it should have. I shrugged that off to the fact that it was a 6:30 start.
However, I couldn’t shake that feeling of putting in a little too much effort, and I also noticed that my eyes felt heavy. That’s something that shouldn’t happen running 6:45s in the early stages of a marathon.
After charging up the Lake Drive hill, we went around to mile 6, where problems started for me two years ago. That probably got into my head a little bit as well, in addition to still not feeling great. Already running in no-man’s land didn’t help either.
This all came to a head with a vicious porta-pod stop just before the Mile 9 marker (I’ll spare you all the details). I will admit, I felt better that, and quickly refueled with a Huma Gel. Fortunately, my stomach cooperated from there on out.
At this point, I ran much more relaxed, but at a slower than BQ clip. I didn’t quite have the strength to push after getting sick, but even with the stop, was able to maintain about 3:09 pace.
Fast forward to the next wild part of the race: Mile 14. Weaving through Washington Park (a disturbingly easy place to cut the course, if you’re that kind of person), a big gust of wind blew through and I heard a loud cracking noise, which I new was that of a tree part. I tried to look around to identify which branch was coming down.
Turns out, it wasn’t a branch at all. It was half of a tree. About 50 meters in front of me. Fortunately, it was enough that I was able to slow down to let the tree fall, utter some surprised profanities, and keep running. That one got the heart rate up, though.
After weaving around the Park, and doing a better than expected out and back, we were off to Miller Valley. Still being in no-man’s land, with no runner anywhere close to me, it felt weird running in the middle of Hawley Road and in the Valley. If you haven’t been to Milwaukee, these are major roads. They were completely closed for the race, but I had no runners around me, and no crowd support. It was weird.
At this point, I was still moving at that 3:09 pace pretty well. Then we made the turn onto the Hank Aaron Trail, and that’s where the problems began, in more ways than one.
We quickly hit Mile 21, and not too soon after saw the Mile 23 for those coming back from the turnaround. This was going to be a long out and back. Until it wasn’t. Again, if you’ve followed the fallout from the race, you know what happened here. Runners were turned around early, never passed the Mile 22 marker, and ended up with less than 26.2 on the day.
Remember when I said the start getting pushed back was relevant? It’s my theory that when the start was moved back, someone thought the turnaround needed to be moved to coincide with that. Since the race was too long in 2016, the race organizers couldn’t have that happen again. So instead, they inadvertently shortened it by about .8 miles.
The turnaround also posed problems for me as well. When we hit the Mile 23 sign, I hit the wall as well. The mix-up in distances also played mind games with me. Did we miss a sign? Were there actually only 3 to go? Or about 3.6 like my watch said?
The last few miles were a grind.
Then the final domino fell when I overstrided on a downhill, and pulled a muscle with about 1.5 to go. For anyone who has done that, you know how painful and slow that last stretch was for me.
Coming around to the finish was more of a relief than anything.
We were greeted with a medal (super nice medal, by the way), a 10 oz water, and a bag of pretzels. Food? Space blanket? All the food? Nope. None of that. Let’s just say the finish line area left a lot to be desired.
Obviously, most of the talk after the race were all of the runners comparing watch distances. Almost everyone had 25.5 or 25.6. Except for a friend of mine who got turned around in Washington Park and ended up with 27 and change. Whoops.
I won’t get into too much depth on the fallout of the race. But it went from Race Directors basically saying they were right, the course was correct, and our watches were wrong; to them acknowledging that they screwed up…again.
So if you’re keeping track, yes the distance was screwed up two years in a row. Out of the race’s three years of existence.
All in all, not the best day, in more ways than one. Of course, since the course won’t count for BQ times, I’m almost glad my body and the weather, revolted on this race.
Oh. And no, I won’t run this one again.