Race Recap: Milwaukee Marathon

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Milwaukee Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

The 2019 incarnation of the Milwaukee Marathon (under new management and sponsorship) was an a great success in my opinion! After taking 2018 off from the race schedule and retooling a ton, they chose to have the race in April instead of the previous years’ choice of October: smart move since early April is less busy race-wise than October. I ran the full marathon this time (2017 I ran the 10K and 2016 the half) and I really enjoyed myself; more than I expected to with this race. So, let’s get to the meat of this review!

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Expo Quality: Packet pickup was really easy (I arrived around 1:30pm so the crowd was light) and was held the day before the race. It was held at the Fiserv Forum’s (Milwaukee Bucks home, they were also a big sponsor) lobby area. You had to pick up on this day unless you chose to do day-of but that had an extra cost to it. The line was quick and the volunteers seemed to know that there must have been an issue with Wi-Fi and the Q-code since I couldn’t get my e-mail to pop up but they were more than ready to just look up my name and get me on my way. The rest of the expo was kind of blah and I hope that future years have it become bigger and have more vendors. I know this year was kind of a make-good year for the event so hopefully this will change. There were booths for a local running store, Performance Running Outfitters, Supernola (a granola company), and a couple of other local races had booths set up. That was it. And the table for you to pick up your t-shirt (I will cover this in the Swag category). Outside of the Fiserv, there was the opportunity to see where the Gear Check would be located and multiple areas where they had set up tons of Port-o-Potties (always important to know on race day).

 

Parking Access: I found it simple, but more expensive than I liked. You could have signed up ahead of time for the parking lot near the start of the race. I did not do this but I also knew there would be plenty of parking all around the area and had no problem finding a spot.

 

Course Scenery: The start of the race going through downtown was nice as was the early miles along the lakefront and back into downtown (only drag here was the day was dreary with no sun so a heavy fog was sitting all over the lake, not an exciting view, but there was one hell of an energetic spectator on a bridge cheering/roaring at all runners as they passed both times). After returning into downtown, for the full, you raced through Marquette University’s campus and into the suburbs and neighborhoods of Milwaukee. There were some very quiet moments in this, the largest, stretch of the race but there were also plenty of pleasant surprises. The Washington Park area was full of boisterous people and there were other spots along the course where the neighbors busted out speakers or their cars for blaring music. Good positive energy at the right time. And then the end of the race had you finish back where you started at the Fiserv Forum where a ton of screaming fans and event staff were waiting for you.

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One of the fun parts of this race was competing with other runners. Now, of course, during a marathon you are really only competing with yourself but you also set other runners as markers for how you are doing or as goals to reach. I was nicknamed “Orange” by a couple who were running together and were keeping me in their sites as they went along. I did manage to beat the husband but his wife blew past me around mile 24 1/2 to finish ahead of me. At the end we congratulated each other and she said all she needed to do was make sure “Orange” was within view to be sure she was running the race she wanted.

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Aid Stations: All had water at one end of them and Nuun hydration at the other end, easy to decipher which was which as volunteers were consistently shouting what they had. At some stops there were Honey Stinger gels to consume if need be. I thought the variety of volunteers at the stations was incredible! From Marquette students to kids that looked like they might have been in 3rd or 4th grade and all in between, everyone did a fabulous job!

Elevation Difficulty: There was one major hill in the early part of the race that was a winding path up to an area called the Water Tower along the lakefront. Of course, after going up that, you got to come back down on another hill. That wasn’t so bad at that point. There was a subtle but long hill that took you out of the city (if running the full) that went up Wisconsin Avenue. Positive part of this hill was this is where you were returning for the end of the race, so that was nice. But the killers (for me) were these little up and downs that were consistent for a bunch of the race between miles 17-21. Nothing major but you were going up a little bit, then down a little bit, then back up, etc. My legs were not enjoying that very much. And then as you rounded the last turn of the race to the finish line, you had one more minor incline as you go across a city bridge. That’s near mile 26 and I wasn’t a fan of that, haha.

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T-Shirt/Swag: OK, bear with me on this. So, everyone gets a “Finisher” shirt at pickup (should be handed to you at the end of the race but whatever) and anyone who was running the half or full also received a 1/4 zip fleece. It’s ok, nothing to write home about and not something I would run in. You receive a medal which isn’t too bad, showing a silhouette of the city on part of it and the ribbon around it says what distance you ran. Also, at the finish, there was more water, Nuun, a banana, some Supernola granola, Honey Stinger waffles and you received a free beer too (Miller Lite or Coors Light). Now, something else you received and I must include it is with your medal, you could go into the nearby Good City Brewing spot and order what you wanted and get 20% off your bill. I thought that was pretty cool.

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Race Management: They did a phenomenal job, for the most part. They had a tough crowd to not only impress but convince to come back from the 2017 debacle. So, this race was more a test run than the real deal, I think. I had heard of a lot of people staying away to first see how this “new” race was going to go. Well, they nailed it and hopefully will be back even bigger and better next year. From the gear check (which was quick and well-run with plenty of volunteers) to the pre-race energy to the post race party which had music and Bango (Bucks mascot) riding around taking pics on his Segway, they had stuff figured out.

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The area for pre race/post race was a little cramped but next year there will easily be more space available once the old arena is taken down. I also would have liked to see a PR bell to ring somewhere (if there was one, I didn’t see it or hear it) because many people, including myself, had great races and PR’d their distance. I would have loved this considering I smashed my race out of the park, but there hopefully will be a next time! But overall, they did a great job with pre-race communication and how race day would shake out. They provided a list of 8 or 9 other parking lots to go to aside from the main one they were promoting. This race had a low bar, for sure, to get to due to 2017, but they catapulted themselves well above that bar to a point that this can become a preeminent race for Milwaukee and Wisconsin if they keep up this support and dedication for it. I highly recommend participating in it next year, at any distance. You won’t be disappointed.

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Happy running all!! (Check me out on Instagram @pktirish to read the brief story about the picture above!)

2017 Review of My Running

This has been an interesting year for me in my running world. There have been some great highs with amazing experiences to go with them, but there also have been some lows that did take away from how great this year could have been for me. I look back at everything with a slight frown because deep down I know what could have been instead of what it was and that is frustrating to say the least. What follows here will be a brief synapsis of the running adventures I had in 2017.

The first race I participated in was my annual Samson Stomp and Romp Run/Walk 5K at the Milwaukee County Zoo. I love this race and it’s how I’ve started my year off for the last 5 years. The one major reason I sign up for this race (other than getting to run through the zoo because that is awesome!) is that the cost benefits programs the zoo provides for their visitors and kids. 2017 marked one of my best ever 5K times as well in this race (I believe I run faster because typically it is so damn cold at this run) with a time of 23:05. My goal is to get a top 5 age finish so I can take home a cool trophy. (It’s a mini gorilla!)

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Jumping forward to March will also jump us to when my 2017 plans changed ever so slightly. Plans for run streaks or monthly challenges kind of went away during the Lucky Leprechaun 7K race. During this race, I pushed myself (nothing crazy) but more that my legs on that day were ready. The end result was a hamstring that I guess you would have to call strained. It wasn’t a muscle pull in the way it would hurt but it also didn’t go away. It changed my daily workouts for a chunk of the year as I avoided “leg day” all the way until November when I slowly got back into some light weight lifting. But my runs suffered throughout the year. Any short runs or races I was unable to really push to hard because the hamstring would never loosen up. And on the other side, it usually took the first two to three miles in any long run for the pain to subside or at least fade into the nether regions of my mind so I could continue to push the rest of the long distance. This was the lowest point of the year, even though I didn’t really fully know it until each week turned into months into the remainder of the year.

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The middle of April, and by extension due to some email tag, early May, brought me into the world of BibRave and becoming a BibRavePro. I had applied before but hadn’t heard back right way and still continued to engage in the great running conversations that take place 8pm CST on Twitter every Tuesday! I was so happy to become a Pro and be able to offer advice and represent the group at races. The first race I was able to wear my BibRave gear proudly at was the RAM Racing Bigfoot 10K/5K Trail run in Wisconsin and I had a blast. Another part of the program is being able to test out various running related products and then blog about, chat about and compare notes about via all the social media outlets available to you. It’s been such an experience to learn new techniques and ideas about running as well as new products, like the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones which now allow me to listen to music while still hearing my surroundings. This was one of the products I was able to test and it truly was life altering when it came to running outside.

 

After that there were other various runs throughout the spring and summer as well as some new additions to my wardrobe. I had made a giant mistake with my running career concerning sneakers, as in the first real pair of running shoes I had I managed to run…906 total miles in. Yeah, so I wasn’t aware for some idiot reason that that was not a good thing. So the early spring brought me new sneakers as well as late summer. I don’t think I’ve ever bought four pairs of sneakers in the same year, ever. First up were some new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17’s and a pair of Hoka Bondi’s. In the photo on the left below, the shoe with its tread showing is the 900 miler…I don’t know what I was thinking! The late summer/early fall pickups were a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18’s and a pair of Brooks PureCadence 6’s. So far, I’d say my impression of the two new fall shoes is a good one but more testing is needed.

 

 

Most of my late summer and early fall, other than the race here or there, was for training for the biggest running event of my life: the Chicago Marathon! I was amazed I as selected and quite intimidated by the training I had to do. There were a lot of long, hard runs in some not-so-pleasant weather but who knew that I would end up helping myself. Race day came and I was prepared as best I could be, especially for the unseasonably warm/humid weather that Chicago experienced that day. My 20 mile training run consisted of 90+ degree temps and some nasty humidity that I trudged through that day. Who knew it would come back to benefit me during the race. My body was ready for it and for that I was proud of myself. I wrote a previous blog about my experience so check that out for more on the run, but I will say that running the Chicago Marathon was an amazing life experience that I’m not sure I can ever repeat. All of it was incredible.

There was a race after that weekend, a 10K, that I competed in and did well considering it was a week post first ever marathon. But that would be the end of the race circuit for me. I had a few more options I had been hemming and hawing on, but ended up not committing to them. I continued running but without purpose and that was difficult. Even when on a short vacation in a warmer climate, I ran but there was nothing there emotionally. I was running for the cardio, for the contrast to eating and drinking not so healthy foods. But with no upcoming race I wasn’t finding a competitive spirit inside…and the hamstring was still bothering me. It took a some time but on December 11, I called it. I ended my running for 2017. Pulled the plug to give the leg and hamstring a break. The pic below shows where I finished for the year in mileage. It’s an improvement over 2016 but well short of the 1,000 mile goal I had set for 2017. I am hopeful that taking these last 3+ weeks off will have helped and maybe did some healing work for my hamstring. 2018 so far has me doing my second marathon in April. I have to be ready. I have to start training in the near future. But I can only hope the leg cooperates with my plans.

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So there is 2017 in a small nutshell. I hope I made the right decisions with shutting down at the end of the year. I hope I didn’t make the wrong choices to continue training and running in preparation for Chicago. The long term might be very very bad. I hope for a better 2018 and I hope to reach my goal, once again 1000 miles, this year. And if I can exceed it, well all the better. 2017 wasn’t a failure by any means. In totality, it was an amazing success with future potential all over it. I’m just harder on myself sometimes, but, hey, that’s what makes us stronger runners, right?

Happy New Year to you all!!

And happy running!!

Please comment or offer up any thoughts if you like!