About 6 months ago I signed myself and a friend up for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay in Milwaukee, WI. I’ve wanted to do this race for a few years now but I’ve always missed the sign-up window because it’s a small event with only 100 teams allowed. This year I signed-up almost as soon as registration opened. At the time the weather was balmy and I was running close to 30 miles a week and doing a half-marathon a couple of times a month – at the least. I signed up my friend Kari because she’s game for anything and although you could have up to 4 people on your team we decided to do it ourselves because them we could justify eating and drinking more after the race was done, plus pffft! we do halfs all the time, no biggie! We decided that we would do the race in quarters – 95 laps meant we could break it down by 24/24/24/23 with each of us running twice. Here’s what actually happened:
The race started at 1pm so we met at the Petit Center in Milwaukee at noon. The race was being held on the three-lane track that goes around the outside of the ice-rinks/speed-skating oval. We snagged a spot to stash our bags and promptly noticed that other teams had far more swank set-ups including blankets to mark off their spots and folding chairs to relax in when you weren’t running (almost like concerts at Ravinia) – eh, whatever. We filed this info away for the next time we do one of these races. I went and collected our bibs/t-shirts/ankle chip and went back to our area. A group of moms and their toddlers had set up camp in front of our bags – again, no biggie. We began to notice that every other team we could see had 4 runners. Yet again, no problem – we weren’t in this to win it, just to earn the delicious beer we’d be drinking later at the Lincoln Square Winterbrew. We were both a little concerned because since the Polar Vortexes have hit the Midwest neither of us has been able to get in a really good long run of double digits. Eh, muscle memory will kick in - right?
I strapped on the ankle chip and went out to run the first leg. Headphones were absolutely not allowed but they were playing a decent selection of uptempo pop hits so it wasn’t horrible. The track surface is pretty hard and I could tell it wasn’t going to be very forgiving. I’ll admit that it was pretty boring running around and around and around, but the temperature was perfect for running and I was feeling pretty smug that I was comfortably running inside when I knew that many of my runner friends were freezing their asses off at the F>3 Lakefront Half. I had plenty of time to notice that other teams were switching out runners after only a few laps (there was no limit on how many times you could swap out runners) and some teams were really flying. The track wasn’t too crowded and it was fairly easy to pass when I needed to – I just had to make sure and check that none of the super-speedsters weren’t about to zoom past. Running just under 10-minute miles I finished my first leg in about an hour and switched off with Kari.
The temperature in the arena is perfect for running in capris and a short-sleeve shirt but it was downright chilly once I stopped running. This should have been my first warning sign. I put on a sweatshirt and did some stretches and walked around, drank a bottle of water, and then waited. Now Kari is faster than me, but not by a ton so her first leg took probably 50 minutes – just enough time for me to go full-on rusty Tin Man. When I took the ankle chip for my second and final leg I could tell after one lap that it was going to be horrible. The chip activated a lap counter and about 5 yards past the start/finish line was a tote board where you could see your team’s name and number of laps completed and it was a cruel twist of fate that on my second leg I kept losing track of how many laps I had done and thinking I had done more that I actually had and then seeing the facts up on the tote board letting me know that no – I had 2 more laps than I thought left to go. I swear every lap I did on my second leg got slower and slower. It was truly awful. Finally I pulled off and gave the ankle chip to Kari. By this time I was starving and I went down to the concession stand to buy a slice of barely-passable pizza. I came back upstairs to the track area and noticed that Kari was also moving much slower than her first leg. By this time several of the super-speedster teams were actually FINISHED and more teams were finishing up with every lap. This meant the track was less crowded but it also had a sort of defeating quality. Kari finally finished up (I don’t even know our final time – we didn’t bother to look and I don’t have any curiosity to look it up now) and we went to get our medals. The guy from the race that we found asked if we won and we looked at him like he was an idiot – um, no, we did not win. Well, for marathon relay people no medals unless you win. Medals for Half Marathon finishers, medals for Marathon finishers (there are several events that span the whole weekend) but zippo for relay runners. I should have said that we probably did win the category of Masters 2-Women teams. Oh well.
So, would I do it again? Sure – but only with a 4 person team and bringing a more swank set-up to relax in during down-time and maybe some better snacks for when I was finished.
What I wore: Gap capris, Icebreaker t-shirt, Oiselle sports bra, Balega socks & my beat-to-hell Mizuno Wave Sayonaras on the first leg, and on the second leg I swapped out the socks for a fresh, dry pair and an Icebreaker tank because it got hotter running than I expected it to. I could have used arm-warmers with the tank, but it wasn’t horrible.
Swag: a unisex long-sleeve tech t that’s not horrible looking but not great and not gender specific.