Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spectating Lakefront Marathon

I ran the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee back in 2010.  The race starts in Grafton and runners travel 26.2 miles to downtown Milwaukee's lakefront.  I laughed, because the event has Lakefront in the title, and you really only have the opportunity to see Lake Michigan the last few miles.  But, I loved the point to point course.  I loved the time of year.  I loved the mix of rural, residential and urban scenery.   I also loved its proximity to Madison.
This year, my husband trained for Lakefront Marathon as his third race covering the 26.2 mile distance.  Since one only of us was running the race, we opted not to stay near the finish line (where the host hotels were shuttling runners north to the startline).  We made reservations near the startline instead.  We were late on making reservations, so we stayed approximately ten miles north of Grafton - in Port Washington.  The Country Inn and Suites was right off of the interstate.
Packet pick up was easy on Saturday afternoon.  The expo was decent and spanned two exhibit halls.  We made a few small purchases - a Lakefront Marathon coffee mug and a box of Rootbeer Gu energy gels.
We found a great Italian restaurant in downtown Port Washington.  We enjoyed carb-loading (and drawing on the table!) at The Past Shoppe.  The atmosphere was great and the photo was tasty.
We got to bed early as we were early risers on Sunday morning.  After getting dressed and checking out of the hotel, we enjoyed the free complimentary breakfast.  We alerted the front desk staff upon check-in that many of their guests would probably enjoy an early breakfast on Sunday.  So, they offered all of the cold items at an earlier hour.  It turned out perfect.  At breakfast, we ran into a friend from Sun Prairie, Tara, that was running the marathon.  The world is so small sometimes.
We then drove to Grafton high school, where I was able to park near the startline in lawn that they were staging as a parking lot.  We walked to the startline and huddled with the other runners inside the cafeteria.  We also met up with my blogging buddies from the Milwaukee area, Bill and Amy.  Amy (from Running is Cheaper than Therapy) was running the race.  Bill would be meeting up with me along the course to spectate.  The race would begin at 7:30 am.
 I had no plan for spectating, but after the runners were off and headed over the interstate and out into the country, I really had no clue where I was headed to watch for my husband.  The event directors were warning spectators not to cross certain streets or get near the route.  I ended up parking in a park and ride just off of the interstate.  This was near mile five.  Quite a few spectators were lined across the turn in the road, where runners would reach five miles.  I enjoyed some of the signs I saw while I was waiting.
It seemed like each spot I stopped to spectate, I didn't have to wait more than 20-30 minutes to see my husband come through.  Everything was timed pretty perfectly.  For most, I had to park a block or two away and walk to the race route. 
I then stopped for a potty and coffee break at a gas station and headed to somewhere between mile 10-11.  After a quick break, I saw Amy come through as speedy as ever.  That smile on her face and  an intense bounce in her step were amazing to see.

Soon after seeing Amy pass, I saw my husband come through at mile ten.  He looked like he was feeling comfortable.

I then headed to mile 16 and met up with my friend Bill.  Once I saw my husband, his pace looked like he was slowing a bit.  Bill and I then caravanned to mile twenty.  We were able to drive behind each other the whole way along the course.  I saw another friend, Dan, that I met at Haunted Hustle back in 2010.  I cheered for him and his son a few times from my car along the course.  I also blasted the rock music that was playing on the radio.  It seemed to pep up runners that weren't using headphones. 
We parked easily right near the mile twenty clock.  This is the point that most runners call the "wall".  Most marathoners run no further than twenty miles and don't push themselves quite as hard in their training runs.  So, by the time they've reached mile twenty of a race, they are starting to experience some things - physically and emotionally - that they haven't felt before.  This is where you really have to find mental toughness and test your limits.

He had slowed considerable, but still had ~4:00 within reach.  He didn't give much expression when he saw me, but I figured he was in his zone.
After seeing him, Bill and I followed each other down to the Lakefront again.  I yelled for my friends yet again as I passed them near the lakefront.  Amy was doing amazing and was on target to finish under 4:30.  And, she did - with an phenomenal 4:28 finish.
It was extremely difficult to turn into the parking lot near the finish.  There wasn't tons of traffic, but the police that were directing traffic and runner's were crossing the path at this point too.  I must have sat in this short line of cars for approximately twenty minutes.  After eventually parking near the kite shop, I was able to walk across the park to the finish line.  I waited approximately a half hour until my husband came through.

He ended up fighting through pain and cramps to a PR (personal record) of 4:09 and some change.  I was so proud of him and was so happy to reunite with him when he found me and tapped me on the shoulder.  He was an emotional mess and I promised him that it was going to be even more amazing four weeks later - when he gets to run it all again with me in Madison!

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