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Sunday, May 1, 2011

LaCrosse Marathon

Back in October of 2010, I ran my first half marathon.  I crossed the finish line, meeting my most wishful thinking goal, and my very first thought was, Thank goodness I'm only running a half.  I couldn't imagine having to run another 13.1 miles.  I'm never running a full marathon!  Within a couple of weeks, though, I was online looking up marathons in the area.

The one I settled upon was the LaCrosse Marathon.  I talked my brother, who lives near there, into running it with me (his first as well).  I love Wisconsin, and I thought it would be a fun trip and a great experience to share with my brother.  And I was half right.

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Despite gloomy early forecasts of rain and temperatures in the low 50's, we ended up feeling pretty hopeful about the weather as it looked like it would clear up for our race.  Indeed, we had no rain.  What we did have was a cloudy sky, temperatures in the low 40's, and wind.
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Very cloudy most of the day
 Man, it was cold wind, too.  All the runners were clustered at the side of the building to stay out of the wind.

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There were a lot of people wearing tights and jackets.
The temperature when we left the house was 40, but the wind chill was 32.  Of course, I was sadly unprepared to be cold.  I'd considered bringing an ear cover and gloves but decided against the ear cover and forgot the gloves.  Then I forgot gloves again while we were at Wal-Mart paying for my tires and picking up a few last-minute things.  I could live without the gloves, but my ears get really sore in the wind, and if my brother hadn't let me use his hat, I'd have been forced to unbraid my hair and tie it in a ponytail under my chin so that it covered my ears.  Not cute.  So thanks, Jim, for saving the little bit of dignity I have!
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Me and my brother (and my brother's hat)
I had a hard time deciding how much to wear today.  It was definitely cold at the start, but I felt pretty confident that I'd warm up sufficiently once we got going.  I had planned to wear a tank top, but after hearing that it was 40 I opted for short sleeves and arm warmers.  Or "arm warmers".
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So proud of my arm warmers.
If you read my race report from the adventure (non)race, you might recognize my arm warmers.  They're actually knee socks,which I love, but they got a hole in them from the thorns we bushwhacked through.  Not wanting to throw them away, I repurposed them by cutting off the toes (got the idea from my friend Mike).  I actually got a bunch of compliments on them today.  I may hem the hand end of them so they'll last longer.  The length was great because there was enough fabric to pull over my hands when they got cold.

I love that shirt, but the tank I was going to wear has a very handy pocket.  Not having that, I resorted to keeping my phone and GU in my sports bra (yeah, I'm classy like that).  The phone was no problem...I do that all the time.  The GU packets, though, left scratches all over my chest.  It looks a little like I carried a cat in my shirt.
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Note the start banner blowing in the wind.  At least it was at our backs then.
This is a smaller marathon.  Counting marathoners, half marathoners, and marathon relay teams, there were less than 1200 participants.  Of these, 905 were half marathoners, which made for a lonely course at times in the back half.
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Lined up to start.  We lined up pretty close to the back, so you can see how small it was.
The start was supposed to be in Pettibone Park, but due to high water, it was moved to the road.  At least we still got to cross the bridge, which was to be one of many hills in this race.  None of them were much bigger than overpass height, but they definitely wore on you.
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Approaching the bridge
After the bridge, we wove around LaCrosse near the downtown area for a bit.  It wasn't the most scenic of all routes in parts.  Case in point:
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Nice industrial area
The race was VERY well supported.  Volunteers were at nearly every corner, and there were water stops every two miles...and bathrooms at every water stop, which turned out to be a very important detail today.  I don't know if it was eating raisin bran for two straight breakfasts or race day nerves or what, but despite taking care of things before the race started, I had to stop every four miles or so to go to the bathroom.  Not fun.  If it wasn't for all those stupid bathroom stops, we probably would've finished at least 5 minutes sooner.

We set out aiming for nice, easy 10-minute miles.  Because the GPS on Jim's Droid phone and his Cardio Trainer app is waaay more accurate than the GPS on my iPhone, he kept track of our pace...and kept pulling me back to our pace as I'd just start running.  I definitely could've run faster for the first half, but I couldn't have sustained that pace for the entire 26 miles.
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Right on track at mile 5 (chip time was a bit less than the clock time bc we started so far back.
Just after the 5 mile mark, the sun actually came out for a while, but it was still windy.  Jim told me, "I'm drafting behind you."


"I'm glad my big ass is good for something," I laughed.

"Yep," he agreed.  I was thinking to myself that it was obvious he wasn't my husband because a husband is much less likely to say something that dangerous.  He must've gotten an amazed look from the couple next to him, because he explained to them, "It's OK...she's my sister." 

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Sunlight! It was actually warm enough for me to take off the arm warmers...for a while.
This next stretch of the marathon went through residential areas.  While race support was great, crowd support was pretty sparse at best, and even where there were spectators, they were very quiet.  I made it my mission to get them noisy.  I waved and "good morning"'d everyone we passed, unless I was whoo hoo-ing.  A lot of them looked at me like a crazy person. True.   Jim: "I think you're using more energy talking and waving your arms than I am running."  Also true. 

In addition to being noisy in general, I also made a point of thanking every single volunteer.  As cold as we were running, I'm sure they were miserable standing in that cold wind.
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Neighborhood tour
  The stretch below was a nice little area.  We were on a nice, flat bike path for a short time.
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To the left of the trail was a canal of some sort.  Pretty area.
The trail led to a water stop staffed by a high school track team.  They had all kinds of signs chalked on the path and standing along the way.  The one below made me laugh...and nod my head.
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Several times, we ran towards the hills in the distance.  More pretty scenery.
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As much as I love trail running, I'm sure glad I didn't have to run up those!
The half marathon runners split from us less than a mile from their finish.  I had told Jim that would be a hard point because we'd be able to hear the finish line (we couldn't) and because they'd be finished and we'd still be only halfway done (it really wasn't bad to keep going at that point).  What do I know.

Of course, as we led up to that point, Jim was giving a hard time to the people with signs that said things like "You're almost done!"  We had a great time running and talking and being noisy and a bit obnoxious.
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The split...goodbye other runners...goodbye crowd support...goodbye knees.
In a sadistic twist, the majority of the hills were in the second half of the race.  This stretch was between a wetland area and the highway.  It was also an out and back section, so we got to cheer for the front runners as they headed back.
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The next part of the course kind of kept me guessing.  It looked like it was going to be an out and back again, but instead it wove around the neighborhoods in that area of town.  We followed this crazy cloverleaf route, and every "leaf" started with an uphill.  Not nice.  At this point, my bathroom issue was rearing its ugly head (so to speak) and I was eagerly anticipating the porta=potty that should've been coming around the next water stop.  Which didn't come.  And didn't come.  And didn't come.  I was starting to get a little worried.  I've never been so happy to see a bathroom.  Ever.

We had broken the race up into 4 10K's plus a couple extra miles.  Then we decided to stick the couple extra miles in after the third 10K and run our fourth in to the finish.  We were doing OK on time coming into the 20 mile mark. 
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Our split here was actually 3:34
And then the wheels fell off.  My foot, which cost me a couple weeks of training, didn't bother me AT ALL (score one for listening to your body).  My feet, which I could feel blistering, were a bit uncomfortable but not bad.  My left knee, which has been very quiet for the most part during this training cycle, started complaining around mile 18 and was really hurting after 20.  I don't think I did anything new to it; it was just the general ache I used to get.

We took several walk breaks during that last 6.2 miles.  Unfortunately, walking hurt almost as badly as running.  It was rough to get going again. The course marshals were very encouraging and a bit more lively than they'd been early on...probably smelling an end to their volunteer duties. We took our last walk break at the 25 mile water stop and then ran the rest of the way in.  Coming past the spot where we'd split from the half marathon before was a good feeling, though we still weren't quite sure exactly how far the finish line was.  Some kids on the course told us we only had .25 mile to go.  As we were rounding that corner and could hear the crowd, I started to tear up...not because I was hurting (which I was) but because we were almost done, we'd almost done it.  I knew I could, but now it was real.  I didn't actually start crying, but there was a sob caught in my throat that made it really hard to catch my breath. 

We rounded the corner and there was the 26 mile sign.  On one hand, YEA!  On the other, What??  They told us a quarter of a mile and now we still have .2 miles left!! Still, that was the sweetest .2 miles ever.  I started really pushing to get in, right when Jim's quad cramped up and he slowed down.  Now, if I was beating him fair and square, I'd be all about pushing across the finish line ahead of him, but I know he spent most of the race holding back so he could run with me (and, to be fair, to minimize the pain he'd be suffering from running this marathon severely undertrained).  I didn't want to come in ahead of him under those circumstances.  I wanted to cross the finish line with him.

I looked back and slowed down. "Don't wait for me...go," he said.  So I did.  He ended up finishing one second behind me.  Once again, I was holding back tears as the volunteer put my marathon medal around my neck.  We did it.

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How sweet it is
Bag pickup was super fast (not a whole lot of bags left), and then we got something to eat, talked to some other runners a bit, and then limped back to the car...once we found it.  We picked up some ibuprofen and a chocolate milk for me and then headed home to punish ourselves with ice baths.

So, it's over.  I have to say, I'm happy to have some time to take it a little easier, at least not have such long long runs.  At the same time, I have a fun race coming up in a few weeks (canoe, mtn bike, trail run) and my eye on a 5K PR at the end of the month, so I'll be back training  again once I can walk without wincing.  And now I have a nice new marathon shirt that I can wear.


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My first marathon
When I got ready to take my ice bath and pull off my socks, I got a nasty surprise. I knew I had blisters in my usual spots on my feet (and I'm definitely going to talk about that next time I buy running shoes), but these were the worst blisters I've every had. I actually said, "Oh, my gosh!" out loud. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can click the link to see how nasty they were. Foot 1, foot 2.

Even with the suffering of the last 6.2 mile, while I more than once thought that I never wanted to run again, I never swore that I'd never do another marathon.  I hurt, for sure, but not all that badly.  I think I feel better overall than I did after my first half.  And it was pretty cool being one of the ones going for the longer distance, even if I was one of the last finishers (189/220, AG 12/15).  And there are definitely a few things I'd do differently: bring Immodium AD with me, never (EVER) eat raisin bran before a race, and bring ibuprofen.  I took some before we left this morning, but we left at 5.  By 9, we were about halfway into the race but my medicine was wearing off.  Pain killers at that point might have made the end a lot more enjoyable.

Splits:

13.1    2:13:19
20       3:34:11
26.2    4:53:07 

28 comments:

  1. You killed it. Great run! Those feet are really gross.

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  2. All that pain aside...good on you...I hope I ave the same perseverance in a onth or so.....

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  3. damn those blisters are nasty! If that were me I'd be rethinking my whole footwear situation. Great job on the marathon! I feel like I've said that already though.

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  4. That last 6.2 is always the hardest and the most exciting! Good for you with such a positive attitude! Congrats you have now entered and new level of running! So when is the next one?

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  5. Woohoo! Great job Kate...and no I didn't look at the feet before breakfast :)
    BTW, I love the injinji socks to avoid toe blisters (if you had any there :))

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  6. Great job! The winds were brutal; I felt them almost the entire time. I came very unprepared for the cooler conditions. The weatherman is a liar! I don't think it ever reached into the 50s.

    The feet pics - seriously -- ouch and nasty.

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  7. Way to gut it out! "it's okay, she's my sister" love that. Funny that a road marathon is considered small with "only" 1200 runners. :)

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  8. Ouch :( But great job on the marathon!

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  9. I hate trying to decide what to wear for weather and/or not having what I want. The Gu scratches must have hurt a ton! Love the exchange about your "big ass" with the couple running near you.

    Yeah, those wheels often fall off after 20 miles. Once I made it to 22/23 and thought I had it made. Not so much.

    You are something to already know you will do another marathon! Woo Hoo!

    Figure out the blister thing. I don't get blisters (knock knock knock) I always figured my shoes were just what I need. Who knows?

    Congrats again.

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  10. Congrats! That is a huge accomplishment. While running Lewis and Clark half with you, I reaffirmed I have no desire to run a marathon. Running is painful and I don't like being cold. Love the arm warmers though. They rock!

    Love the pics, except for the feet :-). If you are going to make a habit out of this, you need a new foot plan.

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  11. Thank you for not posting pics of your blisters.

    Way to Cowboy Up at the end there S.K. Thank goodness your bro was there by your side.

    You finished. Thus, you won. You are super.

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  12. From Steve Lamb: Wanted to add my heartfelt congratulations on a great accomplishment. Running a marathon is not like running a shorter race, even a half. You can and should be very proud.

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  13. What a great marathon. To bad the weather wasnt nicer tho. Minus the blisters, thoses look awful. You poor thing. I agree with Jennifer the last 6 are the toughest physically and mentally.

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  14. Dang, photos are not working.

    My next marathon I am flying out and doing this one. It sounds like an amazing one. You should be damned proud of yourself.

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  15. YES!! So happy for you, Kate! Welcome to the world of marathoning, isn't it a sweet place to be?!? So proud of you girl for all you accomplished! I'm not sure why race directors are so sadistic and have to put in so many hills at the end, but no worries cuz you nailed them all!! Love the medal, it is so very pretty (I grew up on the Mississippi River, I so need a medal with that river on it!!).

    Congrats again, lady!!!!

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  16. Kate: you have all my admiration.
    really. You should be SO PROUD! a marathon! Congratulations again!
    this is HUGE! blisters: aouch...looks pretty bad...yes I looked.
    you are truly super Kate!!!

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  17. Con freakin grats you rock star, a battle warrior, the harder they are, the stronger you become! You rule!

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  18. Congratulations, Kate! What an incredible accomplishment. You, my friend, are a freaking MARATHONER!!! Not many people, myself included, can say that. I'm so proud of you and so happy for you.

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  19. Way to go Kate!!! Nice job on your HM! It looks like you had some cold and yucky weather too. I did notice a few people wearing shorts. No shorts for me because it was just too darn cold. This was a fun race report filled with nice pictures. I love the pigtails...you look so cute:)

    I have missed you! Take care and big hugs:)

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  20. Well done Kate, you did it! Congratulations on finishing your first marathon! That is just awesome! Rest well!

    I will cut back and taper a bit for Comrades over the next few weeks. I will still run 6 days per week but shorter distances.

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  21. HOw did I miss this??! you better be on my blog roll...I'm off to check. Congrats to you Girl!! Wow! And What a great report and a great experience with your brother! NOw you can BREATHE! ;)

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  22. WELL DONE, My Friend! Well done!!

    I loved the sign "3 months ago this seemed like a good idea". Most weekends during this training, I've thought that :D

    The "ass story" with your brother totally cracked me up. My brother would have done the same thing!

    I DID click on the blisters. Mine was nothing compared to those babies. Well earned badges of painful honor!!

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  23. Congrats! what a great race you had and after seeing your blisters I will never complain about mine again. You are one tough sister!

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  24. Congrats. Awesome race. Way to stick with it

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  25. Welcome to the club! 42.197 congrats!!!!! Brava.
    Now you are ready for new adventures.
    Beautiful post with wonderful pictures.

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  26. How did I miss this!? congrats!!!

    Those blisters were 'fun'. :) But, I suppose they didn't kill you so you're officially a marathoner!

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  27. Congrats on your first marathon! Most of the small ones don't have a lot of crowd support, Flying Pig and Country Music are both huge. Misty and I once did one with 30 entrants. There were two aid stations, minimally stocked, and then flats of bottled water on the side of the highway. It's all about getting the experience you want from the marathon you are doing and the first marathon is all about the finish. Great job!

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