So this is going to be a slightly short and sweet recap, and it’s also going to be text-heavy because I didn’t take my phone with me to the race so I only have a couple pics. I wasn’t even going to write this at all, actually, because I just didn’t feel like it. But after being in putting-out-fires mode at work these last 24 hours, I need to unwind. So, here you go.
On Saturday, June 11th I ran my first ever quarter marathon (6.55 miles) at the annual Summerfest Rock n Sole Run. This annual race, which kicks off Milwaukee’s famous Summerfest Music Festival each year, is the largest race in Milwaukee, drawing upwards of 10,000 runners between its half marathon, quarter marathon, and 5K distances. It’s very popular in the MKE running community but also draws a lot of new faces due to its popularity and the more “everyman” feel it has. I have run this race once before, in 2014, as my second half marathon. This year, in light of my extended break from long distances, I decided to do the quarter marathon instead and, given the conditions we ended up with, boy oh boy was that a good call.
I really honestly had no idea what to expect going into this race. The farthest I’ve run since the marathon 6 weeks ago is roughly 7 miles. For the majority of those runs I had very little clue as to my distance or pace. In each of the last two weeks I only ran one time, and before that I was running only 3x per week. While my fitness seemed to be holding up well on those runs, still, my mileage hasn’t been high or consistent, and a tracked run in Tuesday showed it was starting to catch up to me.
And then…there was the heat. It was HOT on Saturday. Not only was it also very humid, but at the 7am race start, temps were already in the mid 70s and forecasted to hit 80 by 8am. I realize this sounds pretty mild to some of you, but it’s not for us – this was the warmest day we’ve had this year and many people around here are not quite acclimated to the heat yet. As we waited for the race to start, announcers told us numerous times to slow down and stay hydrated, and also that they had canceled pace teams for the day. The course started out yellow flagged and was bumped up to red flag about 2:2o into the race; they also shut down the timing at that point, so while the runners after that point were allowed to finish and get medals, no one finishing after 2:20 got an official race time.
While running in heat and humidity is miserable, I can’t say I was that upset about our bad luck. I mean, it’s not like I was in racing shape or had trained for this anyway. [Edited to add: I didn’t realize how much I suffered in the heat until after this post went up – I actually got an email from RnS with my race photos. In the photos from the end of the race I have SERIOUS TOMATO FACE going on. So yeah, it was hot!]
So anyway, after the usual milling about the start area, using the bathroom and getting into the corrals, we were off. It just goes to show how sneaky heat can be – while it didn’t feel that bad standing around at the start, within a couple minutes running already felt awful and hard. I made myself relax a little and let people pass me. I tried to focus on getting comfortable but I could also tell this was one of those days when comfort is just not going to happen. I had to just hold on and hope the miles didn’t go by TOO slowly.
There’s nothing remarkable about the rest of the race, really. Although I had no idea what to expect given the conditions and my fitness, I decided going in that I would be happy with a sub-8:20 average overall. But I wasn’t married to it or anything. After two miles when I saw that I was maintaining an 8:12ish average, I decided to keep pushing and go for my original goal.
The middle of the race takes us onto I-794 and over Milwaukee’s infamous Hoan Bridge, with great views of downtown and Lake Michigan. But it was rough out there. It was just one long, long, long incline that honestly felt like it would never end. I could see the aid station at the top but it never felt like I was getting any closer. My pace slowed here, naturally, but I wasn’t worried because I knew that there was an equally big downhill coming on the other side of the bridge and I could make up speed there, which I did. When we finally crested the top of the bridge and started going down, I could instantly feel my breathing relax and my legs start to turn over faster.
We got off the interstate, the half marathoners split off, and the quarter marathoners made our way into the Summerfest grounds for the last mile of the race. The crowds had really thinned out and I actually ran alone for most of this. It was a hard last mile and I could feel weakness in my legs (STRENGTH TRAIN! STRENGTH TRAIN!), but I kept pushing and pushing and finally saw the finish line in sight. With .1 to go, a few people surged past me en route to the finish, but I just let them go. For starters, I’m not one of those people who really cares when I get passed in a race, but mostly I just didn’t have it in me for a finishing kick. And honestly, I didn’t feel like it was worth it for a non-goal, between-training-cycles race. I remember thinking that finishing kicks will probably be something I need to work on in 10K training, and I already started to dread it. I hate them!
After finishing, I went straight to the results tent and found out I had finished in 54:00 even (8:15 pace). For the first time ever in a race, this matched my Garmin time. Which just confirms my unusual talent for finishing races right on the minute. I’ve now run three races that end in :00, one of them being the Rock n Sole half in 2014, meaning that each time I’ve run this race I’ve finished in :00. 3 races out of dozens doesn’t seem like that many, but considering that the odds of finishing on the minute are 1 in 60, it’s crazy I’ve done this 3 times now.
Anyway, I also found out I was 7th in my age group. A top 10 finish is always pretty cool! Later I found out that it was out of 176. Even cooler!
All in all I’m happy with how Saturday went. I think I handled the heat well. I have no way of knowing how much faster I would have run on a cooler day, or what my results mean in terms of my fitness, but my gut tells me it was good.
I think this race also gave me a little pep in my step in terms of getting back into an exercise routine. I was proud of how well my body came through me on Saturday despite how infrequently I’ve been running lately, and I want to reward it by making it strong and healthy. I want to feel what I felt on Saturday more often: excited about my fitness and the things my muscles and lungs can do for me. Usually it’s poor race performances that inspire me to get in shape, but this time, it’s seeing how much potential I have.
I don’t start 10K training for another 6 weeks, so I don’t want to go too crazy yet, lest I peak too early or burn out. I still want to keep the weekly running more chill and make more room for cycling and strength training and yoga. I just want to start being a little more active and exercising regularly. While I need to make sure I’m not putting pressure on myself, I also feel like I make a lot of excuses to not be active lately, and I want to nip that in the bud.
Okay. I guess this wasn’t that short. But you know me!