Rock ‘N Soul Quarter Marathon – Milwaukee, WI (June 23, 2012)

Me crossing the finish line of the Rock 'N Sole Quarter Marathon - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Me crossing the finish line of the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Race: Rock ‘N Soul Quarter Marathon

Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Date: June 23, 2012

Time: 54:52

Apparently, last year, the Rock ‘N Sole Half Marathon didn’t work out so well.  There were multiple hospitalizations, intense heat, and problems all around.  But for this year’s race, they hired a new race director, changed the start time, had more volunteers, much more water, and added two races – a Quarter Marathon and a 5K race.

I could have run the half marathon, but being as I just ran one at the beginning of the month, when I was eying the Rock ‘N Sole race, I figured it was probably better to stick with the quarter marathon (that’s 6.55 miles).  Besides, quarter marathons are rather rare, are a good distance, and it would fit right into my training for my next half marathon in September.

With no hesitation, I signed up.  And this meant taking Friday, June 22, off from work and driving all the way from my home in Southern Indiana to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  My roommate and I decided to work it like it was one of your gym mornings, get up early, grab some breakfast at home, pack some snacks for the road, finish packing, and hit the road by 6:30 a.m. at the very latest.  We hit the road at 6 a.m.

The drive up was long, but we put on the iPod and made it work.  Somewhere in Chicago we dove into our GoPicnic boxes for lunch.  And around 12:30 p.m., we were checking into our hotel in Milwaukee.  Happiness.  Soon after dropping off our luggage, we were hitting the road to downtown because I needed to hit up packet pick-up at the expo, which was happening at the Italian Community Center.

That expo was small as well, but larger than the one for Minneapolis.  I walked straight back to the packet pick-up desk and got my bag that contained some goodies, race information, my bib, timing chip, and my shirt.  The race excitement was definitely building now.  It was feeling real.  While walking around the expo, I was gifted with free socks being handed out by the main sponsor, BMO Harris Bank.  Sweet.  I eyed a few items at the expo, but as usual…lots of window shopping, no actual shopping.  With all that done, and the expo fully explored, my roommate and I headed out to do some exploring and shopping in Milwaukee.

A few stores, some frozen custard, and a stop back at the hotel later, we were dressed in jeans and out of our travel-in-the-car clothes and heading out for dinner.  Cathy found this great restaurant called Transfer Pizzeria & Café.  And what made it so great, aside from the ambiance and amazing staff?  Gluten-free bruschetta, gluten-free pizza, and a gluten-free brownie for dessert.  Perfect ending to the night before the race.  Carbs, dessert, and good times.  It was back to the hotel afterwards to settle in for the night because the morning was going to be another early one.

It was 4 a.m. when my alarm on my iPhone began to go off.  I got out of bed, grabbed my race clothes, and headed into the bathroom to change.  Cathy turned on the Weather so we could see what we would be dealing with while I ate a serving of gluten-free cereal and she had a breakfast bar.  We finished up, glad that it was in the low sixties currently and no rain was moving through, got our stuff, and headed downtown to the start of the race.

We arrived early so we could park in one of the free lots.  We did get a spot in one with no problem.  It wasn’t the one we were aiming for, but, hey…it was a spot.  We grabbed the race bag and she got my sign and off we went.  We could see the finish line from where we parked so now we had to make the walk to where the race was starting.  It was a bit of a haul, but it wasn’t too bad.  There were only a few runners currently mingling and standing around.  Most people out there were volunteers.  And as we neared the start line, which was in front of the Milwaukee Museum of Art on the lakefront, the sun began to come up and we had the most spectacular sunrise over the lake.  It was fantastic.

So, we settled in on a bench and about an hour before the race, we had the rest of our breakfast.  A granola bar for her and a banana with peanut butter for me.  This gave my body time to digest.  This was the same thing I ate before the Mini Marathon in Indianapolis…so I knew it would work out.  Then, just as suddenly as the sun came up…it disappeared.  And this thick wave of fog began to roll in off the lake.  It was a blanket.  No joke.  The sun was completely gone and it was getting difficult to see too far in front of you.

It was kind of great though.  I’ve run in heat, sun, snow, rain, cold, lightning…never fog.  First time for everything.  As 20 minutes to race time approached, the fog was even heavier.  There were much more people around now and we all began our tradition of stretching and warming up.  Everywhere you looked, runners were preparing for whichever race they were running.

The Half and Quarter Marathons were starting together at 7:00 a.m.  The 5K would start at 7:20 a.m.  So, around 6:45, the announcer began to tell runners to get into their corrals because the race would start promptly at 7:00.  I gave Cathy a hug, and she wished me luck, and off I went to Corral G…my short-term home at the start of the race.  At first, runners were scarce in the corrals.  No, the fog wasn’t hiding them, they were just still making their way here.  But soon we were lined up, listening to the National Anthem, and being told that at the top of the Daniel Hoan Bridge was our first water stop, but due to the fog…we couldn’t see it.  So, we were to listen for instructions on where to be so we didn’t run into volunteers, tables or whatever.  Yay, fog!

Runners head across the Daniel Hoan Bridge and into the thick fog
Runners head across the Daniel Hoan Bridge and into the thick fog

And then…the countdown began and we were off.  Well, it took about 2 minutes to get from Corral G to the start line.  Not too bad considering.  And then, I hit start on my Garmin as I crossed the start line…and away I went with the group.

It was rather quick getting to the bridge, which was to offer spectacular views of the Milwaukee skyline, Lake Michigan, and the Summerfest grounds.  But…we saw fog.  Ah well.  And, holding true…running up exit ramps…sucks.  They are a lot steeper than they look, trust me.  And about halfway up, my iPod shut off.  So, I had to mess with that and get it working, which meant I wasn’t really running my best.  But I got it sorted and back on track, and picked it up a little.

They were right…you couldn’t see the water station as you crested the top.  But they had volunteers funneling runners through so that we all got in and out safely.  Once we got past there, it was a breeze.  Mile 1 was already behind me and I was making the push for Mile 2.  The fog was beginning to become less dense, and the sun was making a play at coming back out.  Mile 2 arrived just before we headed down the ramp to run a stretch of road.  Mile 3 was at the top of the other exit ramp as we began to make our way back across the Daniel Hoan Bridge.  There still wasn’t any visibility of the downtown, the lake, or the Summerfest grounds, but running in the fog was an adventure.  However, with the sun breaking through, the heat of the day was starting to get felt.

Somewhere between Mile 3 and Mile 4, a man running in the half marathon stumbled and fell.  I mean, took a hard crash down on the bridge.  Runners stopped to help him up and make sure he was okay (I love the people in my sport!), and he shook it off and started back at a slower pace.  He looked okay and seemed fine after that fall.  That…is only a good thing.

Mile 4 kicked by us and soon we were heading off the bridge and into the downtown Milwaukee area.  I felt great.  This race felt great.  I was keeping a good pace because I wasn’t completely exhausted yet.  I was heading into Mile 5, feeling better than I did the previous 5 mile race the weekend before.  It was awesome and I was having a great time.

Mile 5 marked the split.  Quarter Marathon runners kept to the right to turn and head into the final 1.5 miles of the race to the finish line.  Half Marathon runners continued on for 8.2 more miles.  I made the split and was now running in downtown.  We were guided through this beautiful area between the lake.  With the sun out, it was a fantastic view.  And I was loving it.  Better yet, my legs were feeling strong and I was feeling better than I had on a longer race run in a long time.  Mile 6 was here and I was moving really good.  I knew I had just over a half mile to go.  Normally I ride this out until I can see the finish line…but like I said…I was feeling good.  Taking a risk, I picked up the pace.

The finish area was not in sight yet, but I could hear the announcer.  So, I knew I was getting close.  I came around a corner, and was heading down the street…then the course took another turn.  There it was…the finish line.  So…I decided to just put my all into the finish.  Finish strong.  That’s what I had every intention of doing.  I pushed hard, I found the strength, and I tore it up to the finish line.  I even remembered to stop my Garmin.

I saw Cathy up in the stands on the side of the course where all the 5K runners were coming in.  She was screaming and waving her sign.  I gave a fist pump of victory, not even looking at my time.  It just felt good.  The race felt good.  I knew I had run it well.  I made my way through runner’s services, receiving my finisher’s medal, water, some snacks, and getting my Finisher photo taken against the banner.  Then it was into the Summerfest grounds to find Cathy.

It only took a moment to spot her, waving my sign at me from a shady spot.  I hurried over there and finally checked my watch.  If the official results were close to what my Garmin said…then I really tore this race up.  That being said, I headed over to the results tent and got handed my ticket.

Official results of the Rock ‘N Sole Quarter Marathon are that I finished in 54:52. I was 171/1917 finishers overall. That…my friends…is AWESOME! I was 59/1309 women to cross the finish. And I was 12/228 people in my division.  You know what the most amazing part is?  That I beat out my last Quarter Marathon time by almost a full 10 minutes.  I was shocked.  Stunned.  And I have to admit, the time and effort I’ve been putting into my training for these races is really starting to pay off.  I can see the difference in my running.  I have never felt that amazing at that point of a race.  And when I look at my split times for each mile…for the first time ever…I ran a negative split, doing the second half of my race faster than the first half.  In fact, my last two miles were my fastest, which averaged out to a pace of 7.4.  Holy crap!

To say I am proud is an understatement.  I am amazed.  I am elated.  And I’m still in awe.  What a great race.  I had a good time and I really found my stride.  I learned to push myself beyond what I figured was what I could handle and discovered there is a lot more left in me than I thought.  I finished strong, had a good race, and hope to come back for it again.

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