It has been a few years since I have run on an indoor track…like 20 years (don’t judge, I’m aware that was forever ago). When I had the opportunity to join a group of fellow Oiselle Volee Bird runners for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay I could not pass up the chance to run the full marathon the next day. As with many of my races registrations I sign up 1st then investigate the details later. In the case of this event I was unaware of how many laps would need to be covered to make up 26.2 miles. The realization hit me that I would be traveling around the same course 96 times. At that moment I wondered…what have I gotten myself into?!?!?! I reached out to my runner friends for advice and also joined the Icebreaker Facebook page. Boy am I happy I did both of those things. I was given fantastic advice and highly entertained by the posts on Facebook. As the date of this event grew closer I became more excited to participate, but nothing could have prepared me for the unique experience I was about to encounter!
To provide a little background let me 1st layout the weekend events. Friday evening the 5k event was held and participants were able to pick up their bibs and packets, however runners had to return the day of their event for their chip ankle bracelet (think Lindsey Lohan style). Saturday, the busiest of the 3 days, consisted of the half marathons and relay races. To start the day off the 1st wavy of half marathoners got going at 7am, the second wave of half marathoners started at 9:30am, and awards were held at 10am. This sounds insane but went surprisingly smooth. Kudos to the race director Chris Ponteri and his crew (which included his adorable wife), these individuals know how to put together an amazing event! The energy in the packet pick up room and on the track was upbeat and fun…party atmosphere from start to finish. As the half marathoners cleared out the day ramped as relay teams rolled in for the afternoon marathon event. The 445 track at the Pettit National Ice Center only has 3 lanes so to keep things running smoothly each event was limited in the number of slots available. In the case of the relay there were 100 spots available. I participated on one of the 6 Oiselle teams running roughly 6 miles. I had a blast! Teams dressed in crazy outfits and kept the party going well into the afternoon. But this was not it, there was still another day of racing yet to come.
That brings me to the marathon on Sunday. I was already in Milwaukee and had been building miles in preparation for the Phoenix Marathon next month, the option of doing my long run this weekend indoors but not on a treadmill was quite appealing. You never know what Wisconsin winter weather will be like from one week to the next, on the off chance that it would not be possible to run outdoors I decided to pull the trigger and sign up for the Icebreaker Marathon. (On a side note the temps outside were almost as warm as they were indoors. Mother Nature sure is comical and unpredictable!) I digress, back to the marathon. The race was scheduled to start at 8am. I arrived to pick up my chip and race packet at 7:30am and found I had plenty of time to get ready. When I opened up my packet to pull out my bib I could not have been happier…lucky number 7! That was my tryout number in high school when I was on the dance team at Oconto Falls. The Chris had seen this nugget of knowledge posted in a Twitter chat and pulled it for me. Such a nice touch and very appreciated. Just another reason why I LOVE events put on by this RD and look forward to participating in many more throughout the upcoming year (check out Lake Michigan Marathon & Milwaukee Running Festival you will not be disappointed).
With my bib attached, my shoes laced up, and one last bathroom stop I was ready to go. The race began with the playing of the National Anthem and a few quick instructions. Runners lined up and at 8:05am we were off. With so many runners you would think that it would be a mad house on the track, again there are only 3 lanes, but everyone followed the rules. Slower runners stayed to the outside lane, middle lane was for passing, and inside lane the speedy runners. At no point did I run into any problems or have to bob and weave around others. Head phones were not allowed, which initially freaked me out…I love my music! This though was covered by the crew who had tunes pumping throughout the day. When runners registered for the event they were asked to list a song they would like to hear, this created a very eclectic mix all day long. The announcer was also a hoot. He keep runners on their toes and up to date with the laps they had left. I’m a huge fan of laid back races and this one fit the bill. I was able to bring my own hydration (Tailwind Nutrition – Raspberry Buzz & Lemon mix) and bottles (Orange Mud – handheld). Not only Earth friendly, but also I know what works for me and did not have to worry about getting an upset stomach. The volunteers at the hydration table were AMAZING! They were on top of what runners needed and were so supportive. I looked forward to coming around the back of the track to engage with them. In addition runners could put their supplies around the track and grab what they needed with ease. I was able to get my gloves when my hands got cold, use my inhaler and not have to carry it with me (which is a pain in the neck), and grab my Run Gum when I needed a little boost. These little details may not mean a lot to everyone, but to me they made this marathon one of my favorites and I’ve done a few (this was #14). I almost forgot to mention the easy access to bathrooms. I didn’t need to use them, but if I had they were in ample supply. The Pettit had traditional bathrooms close to the finish line and also 2 Port-a-Potties at the turns on both sides of the track. All these options meant no lines!
When I posted that I had completed this event I received many congrats messages, but also a ton of questions…the most popular being – “Didn’t you get bored?” No, actually didn’t get bored. You would think 96 laps would drive a person bonkers, but in such small quarters you get to know the runners around you and striking up conversations help to get through the miles with ease. I spent a good portion of the first 10 miles catching up with a runner I had met at the Elroy Apple Dumpling Marathon in September 2015. It was great to hear about what he was up to and how his marathon was going. He is the RD for the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon in Luck, WI. Eric also introduced me to the two runners he had come to Milwaukee with to participate in this event. After 10 miles we all settled in to our individual paces and split up, but often found each other around the track as we progressed through the next 16 miles. It was always nice to see a familiar face and touch base even if it was for a brief minute, that broke the monotony of the laps. I’ll be honest this was not my fastest marathon 4:51, but it was a ton of fun and to me that means a lot. I continue to meet amazing runners as I embark on my goal of completing 40 marathons before I turn 40 years old. I would highly recommend that if you have the chance to try an indoor event you do so…very different from what I expected, but in a GREAT way! So far 2016 is off to a epic start. Onto the next adventure.
#BeHappy #BeKind #BeActive
Photo Credit: Bill Flaws (Running in the USA)