When it comes to races, there are a few themes that resonate so deeply with my tastes that they would make any race under those themes a must-do for me. This includes anything Blackhawks related (e.g. the Home Team Charity Run and the Mad Dash to Madison), anything food/cooking-related and/or Disney (e.g. the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon), and anything that goes towards the cause of animal shelters (e.g., the PAWS Run for Their Lives).
Today, thanks to the Wisconsin Half Marathon, I added another theme to that list: CHEESE!
I grew up in the far north suburbs of Chicago, right on the Wisconsin border - and I've often said that I think I landed on the wrong side of the border because I love cheese so much. Seriously - how did I go this long without running a cheese-themed race? We're talking a race that has:
- Cheese samples at both packet pickup as well as the finish line party
- Cheese inside the runner post-run refreshment bags
- A cheese-themed starting corral
- The slogan that "We're on a mission from gouda"
- Signs along the course that say things like, "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese"
- A race shirt that says "Say cheese" on the back
Moving away from the cheese discussion for a moment (albeit reluctantly). My friend Katie, who lives in Kenosha about 10 minutes away from the start line, was so kind to let me stay at her place the night before (thanks again, Katie!) We met up with Lauren, Kayla, and Sierra for a yummy Italian dinner. (I don't really feel the need to carbo-load for races anymore but I still stuffed myself with way too much pasta.) Then, Katie and I went back to her house to watch the Blackhawks game. (Unfortunately it was an 8:30 PM puck drop and I had intended to be in bed by 10:00 or 10:30 at the latest. Not surprisingly, though, I got immersed in the Hawks game and didn't get to bed until about 11:30. Oops.)
|If they had compression socks like this, I'd be the very first customer.|
Alas, I digress.
The weather forecasts for this morning had been predicting anywhere from temps in the low 40s to the low 60s, with/without rain and wind. This posed a conundrum in terms of what to wear, but the weather ended up being nearly perfect by my standards.
During the race I focused on not starting too quickly, running the course tangents, and enjoying the energy of my fellow runners and spectators. There were about 3,300 runners, so the streets never felt too crowded. I also thoroughly enjoyed the course, which ran through downtown Kenosha, ornate residential neighborhoods, and along the Wisconsin lakefront.
Katie was an amazing spectator - I saw her at miles 3, 6, 9, and at the finish line. She took some fantastic photos along the course, too. Check out some of the costumes she saw:
|Katie said that people were ringing cow bells here, and this runner yelled, "More me bell!"|
|Check out the guy on the right who is running in a full business suit (I thought he was a race official when I first saw him). That suit must have seemed like a good idea for the first mile or so. I wonder if he lost a bet or something?|
Katie took some nice photos of me along the course, too. Here's me in a good, normal-looking runner pose:
... followed by the obligatory race photo body spasm:
In terms of race performance, I did not push myself extremely hard. I had not trained as much as I wanted to - my longest training run prior to today was only 10 miles. I am also still battling a bit of a runny nose and some minor coughing left over from last week's cold. As a result of taking things easier, the distance today actually didn't feel too difficult (during half marathons I am usually dying by mile 11). It felt good to finish feeling strong, but it is also definitely a sign that I took things easier than I could have.
Here's a couple pictures of me approaching the finish line:
My chip time was 2:25:07. In retrospect, I do wish that I had put forth a harder effort. But on the bright side, it felt like it took much less effort to achieve this time than it would have a year ago, especially without a lot of training this year. So that is something to be happy about.
Here's a picture of Katie and me after the finish:
Here's one of (from L to R) Lauren, me, Kayla, and Sierra:
Huge congratulations go out to Sierra for completing her first marathon - and running a killer time, at that!
Here's the medal. I love how cute and quirky it is! Notice how it even has a bottle opener on its right side. I'm not a beer drinker but you have to appreciate the nod to Wisconsin specialties. =D
All in all, I loved this race. Kim had had the highest recommendations for this race, having done it five years in a row, and I can certainly see why. It is incredibly affordable, well-organized, and down to earth, with wonderfully easy logistics, a GORGEOUS course along the Wisconsin lakefront, and a great medal and shirt. This is by far my favorite of the six different half marathons I've ever run to date! I definitely plan to be back in the future.
My next race: the Chicago 13.1 Marathon on June 8.