Friday, May 27, 2011

On The Road to See America: Wisconsin & Kalamazoo Marathon Double Header

Wisconsin Marathon
The GeekGrl and I flew to Chicago just one week after flying to Nashville so we could knock out two more marathons and see if we could complete the “Double Double.” I have done three marthons in two consecutive weekends but never four so this would be a new experience for both of us. After landing in Chicago we drove to Kenosha Wisconsin and got checked in to the hotel before heading to packet pickup. Talk about a different vibe, the Wisconsin marathon packet pickup took place in two separate rooms of a Best Western hotel and you had to follow hand-made signs to get from one room to another.

Unlike the prior weekend of gargantuan expos and packet pickups that requires hundreds of volunteers to staff, the Wisconsin marathon expo was a couple tables, one of cheese of course, and about five people handing out bib numbers. This kind of scene is really more my speed and I really appreciated the lower key atmosphere.

The next morning it took us longer to drive from the hotel to the race start and I ended up having to park maybe a mile away. As soon as we got to the start we met up with Mike and Jenny Wimmer but I had to get in line for the restroom immediately so Misty was the only one who got to hang around and talk with them before the race started. As I was standing in line the clock was ticking much faster than the line was moving and when I was in the restroom I heard the starting gun go off. I finished up and when I came out the door I saw that I would get to start the race and the very back of the pack but at least I would be starting with the main pack and not running across the start after everyone was gone, not that it really matters because it is chip timed after all.

The people I was running with at the back of the pack were crowded in pretty tightly on the narrow streets and I found myself running up on sidewalks just to pass but I was able to break free in fairly short order. The course is the flattest I have ever run. There was a bit of a roll in it near a park on what I think was the northern end of the course but it couldn’t have gained more than 10 feet. We ran a little through the town of Kenosha, through some nice residential streets, a little bit of farmland and along Lake Michigan.

Where the people of Cincinnati at the Flying Pig were enthusiastic and boisterous the people of Kenosha were polite and reserved. This was a race where you could just get lost in your thoughts and run and that is exactly what I did. I saw the GeekGrl out on the course once and gave her a kiss. I saw Mike and yelled hi and I stopped briefly to give a cramping runner some Endurolytes but other than that I just zoned out and ran. I felt pretty good too and still felt good at the end. Unlike the Country Music Marathon the prior weekend when I got caught up in a sprint to the finish, I just moseyed on across the finish line in a time of 3:41:25 and immediately collected my Cheese Medal, which is really cool.

After getting my medal I walked over to get my free bratwurst. Sadly I decided to skip my free beer because I had about a 5 hour drive to Kalamazoo, MI ahead of me followed by another marathon in the morning. I hung out briefly in the post-race party area and listened to the rock polka band, which was awesome, and then headed out to see if I could locate our rental car and move it closer to the finish line so the GeekGrl didn’t have to walk so far after the finish. I finally found the car after walking for quite a while, drove back over near the start line and then wandered around a bit more and then I saw the GeekGrl wandering around wrapped in a mylar blanket. It turns out that she had finished with a huge PR about 20 minutes before I would have even thought to start hanging around the finish line.

We went and grabbed a bite to eat at Popeye’s and then started the long drive through Chicago to Kalamazoo, MI.

Kalamazoo Marathon
The drive was ok, not as bad as it could have been. I don’t have any idea how anyone could live in a town like Chicago. I need my wide open spaces and relative lack of traffic. It rained almost the whole way to Kalamazoo but it was nice. When we drove through Gary, IN both the GeekGrl and I were dumbstruck as how hideous the city was. I have a Social Worker who works for me that I like a great deal and she is from Gary. I also apologize to anyone who may stumble on this post who is from Gary but I’ve got to tell you, from the road we were on it looked like a post-apocalyptic toxic waste dump and it smelled like sulfur. There were mountains of coal, power lines galore, coal burning power plants and there was even a sign “Gary Indiana Welcomes You” painted on a structure that was obviously integral to their sewage treatment facility. We just kept telling ourselves that there must be a better side of town.

Once out of Gary the landscape turned to farmland and then to the rolling hills and pine forests of Michigan. We arrived in Kalmazoo and headed straight to packet pickup so we could just spend the rest of the night relaxing. Packet pickup was just like a small-scale expo that you might see at any large marathon, there was a fair amount to do and see but the highlight was taking the GeekGrl over to get her free pair of New Balance running shoes and entry fee refund for being the first person from New Mexico to register for the race. After packet pickup we went and ate at a local pizzeria, which was really good, and then to the hotel to sack out.
Morning came quickly and we headed out to the race. They had parking near the race and more remote parking with shuttle busses and we opted for the remote parking and shuttle busses because that turned out to involve a lot less walking. It was all very well organized so the morning went smoothly.

My goal for this marathon was a 3:41. While my original goal for the Marathon Double Double was simply four under four I changed that after having run the Flying Pig faster than the prior days Country Music Marathon. I decided that I wanted to try and run each consecutive marathon at least one minute faster than the previous marathon.

In all honesty I was feeling the effects of the cumulative mileage and travel within the first mile of Kalamazoo. I kept checking my watch for pace and really needed to stay focused to keep on track. I was expecting Kalamazoo to be a flat marathon but that’s not how it turned out, or at least that’s not how it felt. In reality there was only about 1100 feet of climbing compared to Wisconsin’s 900 feet, which I had perceived as pancake flat the day before. In any case, I really had to focus and for the most part my race was pretty grim. I was aware that it was a nice course through mostly residential neighborhoods and I was aware that there was plenty of support and the event was well supported by enthusiastic locals but beyond that my attention to detail was pretty poor.

Oh, I did notice one thing that gave me a chuckle. There is a brief section of the course that is run through a kind of high-tech business park and there was a company that was names Inotech, I think, which reminded me of the “Initech” office from the movie Office Space. It was a laugh I sorely needed at the time because it came after the first of three substantial climbs on the course.

By the end of the race I was pretty much praying for it to be over. It was starting to warm up and I was just really beat. There were a lot of people cheering at the finish line and it was a really good setup with people packed along both sides of the finishing chute for maybe 100 yards. When I finished I just grabbed something cold to drink and a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and went and sat in the shade under a tree. It was really nice to finally be done. My final time was 3:42 and a few seconds. I had missed my goal time but I had still gotten it under four so I was not disappointed in the least.

Four marathons in four states in two weeks are tough. I could probably do more at a slower pace but I’m not sure why I would want to because the logistics and travel get pretty involved. I would probably do it again especially if I were to do something like take a long vacation somewhere on the East Coast where I could pick up several states with less travel but it’s not something that I have in the works again right now.

I will say this though, running these four marathons in different parts of the Country so close in time gave me a very nice perspective on my fellow Americans and quite honestly I like what I saw. It is my belief, quite frankly, that the ways in which we as Americans tend to learn about each other, through biased news, biased politicians and each other’s biased opinions based on lopsided information is just plain poison. If you really want to get a sense of the average person in our country you really need to go and see them, observe them and have a good conversation about running, where to get a good slice of pizza or which kind of cheese is best.

1 comment:

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