Monday, January 30, 2012

Kickin' Ice at Icebreaker 2012

Hard to believe it's already been a year since I ran the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon!  As you may recall, it was the most fun I've ever had running around in circles.

Until now.

I know what you're thinking:

What could possibly be more fun than running around in circles for 26.2 miles???

The answer is simple, my friends: Running around in circles for 26.2 miles as part of a team.

That's right; this year I took on the Icebreaker Marathon Relay as part of Team Frosty Femmes.  My speedy teammates (Kristi, Juliet and Nikki) and I had two goals: run fast and win hardware.  Based on the 2011 relay results, we thought we stood a pretty good chance of placing among the top 3 female teams.  Possibly even winning.  We were hopeful, determined, strong...

And then two other Peoria-area all-female teams were formed, including a team headed up by our very own FAST coach, Maggie.  Her team, Illini Quad, consisted of a bunch of gals who (a) were 11 years younger than the average age of my team and (b) all ran cross-country competitively in college.

Oh crap.

The local running community was buzzing about these two teams who all had talented runners on them and  both wanted to win.  People were even wagering on it.  Who would be victorious?

Suddenly, our goal of placing wasn't enough.  Our new goal was to beat Maggie's team.  In the weeks leading up to the race, every time I or one of my team members ran into Maggie, growls and evil glares were exchanged.

Before we knew it, race day was upon us.  It was time to prove just how awesome we really were.

The relay didn't start until 1pm, so we had a lot of time to sit around, watch the half-marathon races, chat, snack, and exchange more evil glares.  We also made last-minute tweaks to our race strategy.

Strategy, you ask?  How complicated could it be?  Each person runs 6.55 miles, right?


What makes an indoor marathon relay so unique is that team members can switch off as often as they like, in any order they like, to run any distance they like, so long as the team runs 96 laps total.  You might think, given that knowledge, that it would be best to have team members run one lap at a time, as fast as possible.  But, team members have to hand off an ankle bracelet timing device each time they switch off, which wastes valuable seconds.  So there's a delicate balance between how short of intervals team members run and how much time is wasted transferring the ankle bracelet.

Our team's tentative plan was as follows, with the understanding that we could modify this plan at any time during the race, depending how team members were feeling.  Keep in mind that 1 lap is 443 meters, so 4 laps just over 1 mile.

Me: 4 laps
Juliet: 2 laps
Kristi: 3 laps
Juliet: 2 laps
Nikki: 6-8 laps
Lather, rinse, repeat, for 96 laps total.  This plan was designed to allow each of us to run the distance we felt we could run the strongest. For Juliet, that was short bursts of about 800m.  For Nikki, that was 1.5-2 mile segments.  For me and Kristi, it was about 1 mile increments.

Peoria-area runner chicks chillin' before the start of the relay
(L to R: Juliet, Nikki, me, Maggie, Louisa, Kristi, Katie W, Katie O, and Laura)

We ended up sticking to our plan almost exactly.  And let me tell ya, it wasn't easy.  It took a couple of hand-offs before we mastered the fine art of efficient timing chip transfer.  And because there was so much time between a given runner's intervals, it was nearly impossible to stay warm and loose.  It was essentially a speed interval workout with extremely long recovery periods.

I'm running so fast, you can see through me.
I didn't even know that was possible, but the camera doesn't lie!

Maggie's team seemed to be implementing a similar strategy to ours, playing up each individual runners' strengths.  There were times during the race where we seemed to be surging ahead of her team...  and there were even more times during the race where we were falling behind.  We were just no match for a team of 25-year-old former cross-country stars.  But that didn't mean we didn't put up an admirable fight.

Our team placed 3rd in the female division with a time of 3:05:54.  Take a moment to stop and ponder how fast that really is.  That's an average pace of 7:05. For 26.2 miles! This time would have won us 1st place in last year's race.  This year, the field was that much more competitive. Three minutes ahead of us was the 2nd place female team.  And then there was Maggie's team, who ran a blisteringly fast 2:55:25 for the win. Huge congrats to them - what an outstanding performance! And the other Peoria-area team, The FASTies, also ran strong and broke the 4:30 marathon barrier.  Way to go!

It's amazing what four people can accomplish when they work together!

But that's not all, folks.  I served a dual purpose this weekend.  Not only was I a runner, but I was also a videographer.  As a favor to the race director, I shot video all weekend long (except when I was running) and created a promotional video. So now, I present to you my very first video race report!

If, after watching that, you have any doubt remaining about how cool the indoor marathon experience is (both literally and figuratively), then I have not done my job as a blogger or film producer.  You should fire me.  Except that I don't work for you, so you can't. Ha!

And the good news, for all of you wanna-be indoor marathoners, is that you don't have to wait until next January to try this.  There is a new event coming this July 28 called Heatbreaker, and as you may have surmised from the name, it is great a way to escape the mid-summer heat.  This event is a half-marathon event only...  but never fear, you marathon addicts!  There are four half-marathons spread out over the course of one day (spaced three hours apart), and runners can choose to run one, two, three or all four races.  FOUR half-marathons!  Can you imagine?  For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, that's a total of 52.4 miles.  In one day!

Now, I know you're thinking that I'm the sort of person who is just crazy enough to run four half-marathons in one day.  I can assure you, I'm not that crazy... yet.  But I have never been one to pass up a good challenge, so I will be running the Two-Alarm Challenge at Heatbreaker, which is back-to-back half-marathons.  Some have argued that that's the same as running a full marathon.  I beg to differ.  One would not normally sit down and relax for 45 minutes in the middle of a full marathon.  So, as you can see, it's totally different from a full marathon.

And, as usual, I will not be doing this alone.  Fellow Goofy Challenger, Kristi, is also on board for the Two-Alarm Challenge.  Let's see how many other people I can coerce...  er, I mean, encourage to do one of these events!  Milwaukee will never know what hit it.  Who's with me???

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Kristi & Evily's Goofy Adventure

When I first started writing this race report, I figured I'd write it like any other race report...  long and detailed. But the more I thought about it, the less appropriate it felt for an event like the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  And so, instead of lengthy prose, I give you...  *drum roll*... a song!  Because "It's a Small World" is far too annoying of a song (sorry, Disney), these lyrics are sung to the Gilligan's Island theme song (which is marginally less annoying).

*begin music*

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
a tale of hell and heaven
that started from Midway Airport
aboard this 737

There was a tall blonde runner chick
and a short brunette for sure.
They were headed down to Disney World
For a race-running tour...
a race-running tour!

The Goofy Challenge was their quest
They hoped they would come through
They were going to run 13.1
plus 26.2!

The race expo was super-huge
and they wandered aimlessly
They bought t-shirts to brag about
their accomplishment-to-be.

After traveling all day they wanted some food
So they hopped on a pontoon boat
They set sail for Downtown Disney
on a 30-minute float...
a 30 minute float.

The House of Blues had yummy food
They ate and ate and ate.
But they had to wake at 2:30am,
so they couldn't stay up late.

They took a bus to the half-marathon start
It was a long and early ride
Then they walked a mile to Corral D
where they waited side-by-side.

The wheelchairs started at 5:30
then Corral A, then B and then C.
Finally it was time for "Da best" corral
to start its 13.1-mile journey...
13.1-mile journey.

The path was narrow, the runners were many;
They couldn't get ahead.
So they went with the flow and saved their legs
for the next day's journey of dread.

They reached the finish line intact
They still felt pretty good
They both received a Donald medal
just like they knew they would.

They spent the rest of the day at the pool
trying to relax
Then they went back to House of Blues
and carb-loaded to the max.

At 7:30 they went to bed
and fell fast asleep
But they still were quite unhappy
When the 2:30 alarm started to beep.

They donned their tutus and their Bad Axe Pigeon shirts
and headed back to Corral D
The port-a-potty lines weren't as long
So they had lots of time to pee.

The marathon began on time
They ran and ran and ran
through Epcot and Magic Kingdom
and then the pain began...
and then the pain began.

The miles got longer, their feet were sore
The sun was getting hot.
They took fun and silly photo breaks
every chance they got.

Lots of people noticed their shirts
Some asked "What's Bad Axe Pigeon?"
Other people recognized the towns
and yelled "Yeah Michigan!"

In Animal Kingdom they searched for a goat
but instead they found a sheep.
They also found a tiny owl
they really wanted to keep.

They nearly died at Mile 18
and have the picture to prove it.
At Mile 21, the green Army man
told them to "Move it! Move it!"

They hobbled as the pain grew worse
There were blisters everywhere
They dreamed of crossing the finish line
and sitting in a chair.

At Mile 26 their spirits soared
with the sounds of a gospel choir
The finish line was in sight
two more medals they would acquire!

They ran toward the finish line
shuffling with all their might
They crossed the finish victoriously
A stinky, proud, tired rainbow sight.

Two more medals they did collect
for a grand total of three
They weighed at least 2 tons apiece
They were very hard to carry!

The blonde and brunette runner chicks
were really rather proud
But the pain was just too intense
"Never again!" they both vowed.

Peace. Love. Train.