Oshkosh will always hold a special place in my heart. I have many wonderful memories from my days at UWO and jumped at the chance to run through the streets to for a moment relive my youth when my good friend Katie suggested we register for the marathon this year. I had run the 1/2 marathon a few years back, but had not tackled the marathon which was added in 2015. I had heard great things about the course and its use of the Tribal Heritage Trail . In recent months I have been looking to transition to more trail events and was intrigued by this hybrid set up which included both pavement and crushed gravel trail. I was pleased to see that registration costs were reasonable ($80 at the time I signed up), there was day of packet pick up, and the distance from Luxemburg would not require overnight stay…winner, winner chicken dinner – sign me up!
As the race grew closer I began to stalk the weather reports for Sunday. At 1st all signs pointed to an awesome day for running – 66 degrees with sunshine. Considering the interesting (code for crappy) weather we have had in Wisconsin so far this Spring I was looking forward to a nice day of racing. Well that bubble got burst right quick! 5 days out the weather was predicted to be in the mid to high 30’s with a 40% chance of rain at the start, which increased to a 60% chance mid-race. Not ideal conditions to run in, but stubborn as Katie and I are we were not going to back out on the chance of a few sprinkles. The weather forecast held throughout the week with a slight bump in the predicted temperature – mid 40’s. Planning for rain and chilly temps can be hard when it comes to wardrobe choices. I opted to go with Oiselle Toolbelt Roga shorts (I can stash 3 gels, my inhaler, and salt tablets in the extra pockets this roga version has), Oiselle Flyte Long Sleeve under my team singlet which is perfect for layering – not to thick or overly warm, Orange Mud Headsweats hat to keep the sun/rain out of my eyes, and Columbia Swtichback Rain Jacket. The only regret I had in this set up with with my socks. I wish I had gone with the Fitsok trail cuffs over the no show…I ended up with a ton of little rocks in my socks on the trail portion of the course. It was a pain in the butt to have to stop and take them out. I did not realize that the trail what we would be on was like the Anhapee State Trail I train on at home. I have come to find cuffs cut down on annoying little stones from finding there way into my socks, which can save valuable time when racing. Stopping and bending over can seem impossible at the latter stages of a race!
The morning of the race the weather was very close to what was predicted with the exception of the rain. Katie and I let out a sign of relief when we pulled into Oshkosh and saw clear skies. Fingers crossed that this weather would continue we quickly found a parking spot and walked over to the packet pick up area in the Best Western hotel (aka Oshkosh Convention Center). We both commented that there were a lot of people in the hotel, more so than either of us remembered from previous runnings of this event. Grabbing our race bibs and goodie bags was a seamless, quick process. There was very little fanfare in the convention center so we headed back to the car to finish getting dressed and head to the porta-potties. The lines were quite lengthy so Katie had on an expedition to find another location inside the finish area.
With about 5 minutes to the 7 am start we headed the 500 feet from our car to the start line and located our corral. Katie is much faster than I am so she headed up to the start. Pacers were used to segregate of the runners, but the 1/2 and full marathoners were mixed together. The start was a bit congested and confusing. Full marathoners were suppose to start 1st and 10 minutes later the half marathoners were to take off…this did not happen. The announcer came on and counted everyone down and off the whole group went. The first mile was slow going as the mob headed down Fraternity Row (Algoma Street). What a trip down memory lane! I was able to check out all the changes that have occurred since I was an undergrad student. Much to my surprise my sorority house was no longer in the same location. The Alpha Xi Deltas now are across the street from the place that I lived my junior year. Times have sure changed. The campus looked amazing with renovations to many buildings and the addition of a new Union area. To be young again and back in college. This little tour did not last long as we snaked our way through town and onto the trail.
We spent about 2 miles in town before we met with the Wiouwash State Recreational Trail and eventually headed onto the Tribal Heritage Trail. We would stay on the trails for the next 8 miles or so before being turned around at mile 10. This by far was my favorite part of this event. The sights and sounds to this area were amazing. We traveled over several wooden bridges (which were thankfully flat in nature) and got to take in the beauty of the area. The weather held around 45 degrees throughout the day and the rain stayed away until roughly 11:20 am. As Coach VanderMuese would say…”It was a great day for running.”
The trails were a bit squishy from the previous days of rain, but not bad. I could feel the effort that was put in on the uneven surface and my legs were tired by mile 20. Knowing that we eventually would need to head back into the city I thought the concrete would be a welcomed change. What I did not anticipate was the last 4 miles of turns! We traversed through several streets turning A LOT. On tired legs this was tough and a reminder that 26.2 miles is a distance to respect. Add on top of the turns we also experienced rain in the last few miles and a bridge to climb, it was a difficult finish and unique finish (more on that in a minute).
Earlier in the race I had hooked up with the 4:30 pace group. The week before I had met one of the pacers at the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon Prevea group training run. We exchanged hellos and chatted about her training for an upcoming 100 miler in Fall. I noticed that a young man had joined our group as well. He hung with our group for awhile, but later broke off and went ahead. Later I caught up with him around mile 19, he looked strong and relaxed. We ran together for a little while and then I moved on. I was a little worried about him as I had found out in our conversation that this was his 1st marathon. I had hoped to see him again and did as he surged by me in the last 200 feet of the marathon. An awesome comeback and finish – I was impressed to say the least! At the finish area I asked him how old he was and was surprised to hear that he was 14 years old. The perseverance and determination he showed while running was amazing…he is going to do great things in his running future, I hope he sticks with distance running.
The Oshkosh Marathon was not my 1st full marathon, but it did bring about a few 1st time occurances. Let’s start with the awesome experience – Katie ran an a 3:33 which is the 1st time she has run a Boston Qualifying time! She has worked so hard over the last 9 years to achieve this lifetime goal. I am beyond proud and happy for her. Now for the not so cool 1st – I vomited at mile 23 in a porta-potty. Yuck to say the least and not something that I would like to EVER repeat!
#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive