Wednesday, January 27, 2010

InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon

Do you enjoy running a marathon ...

In ideal, cool dry conditions?
On a flat, windless course?
While listening to music?
With other friendly runners?
With frequent cheering spectators?
Where you can see the top runners competing?
Having your favorite drinks/foods served on the course?
Not having to look for or wait long to use a porta-potty?
Even if it may not be a PR?

If you're like me and answered "yes" to all or most of the above, the InStep Icebreaker Indoor Marathon should be on your To Run list!

I know, I know, running a hundred (really, 95.4) laps around an indoor track sounds so BORING, but I have yet to find anyone who's run an indoor marathon who thinks it is, including me. And it's not because we're crazy! It's totally different than speed work you might do on a track or running laps on your own. The closest thing I can think of to describe my race experience would be to say it was like a Go Cart ride!

Don't believe me?

Well, here I am waiting at the start. Some of the kids have been on this ride before, which is often the case with any good fun-rides, right? Me, I've run 52 marathons, including one merry-go-round (150 laps at the Zoom Yah Yah Indoor Marathon last year). But this ride is bigger, both in number of runners as well as the track size, and the building which houses the track is quite special, as you'll see. Pardon my giddy look!

The gun went off at 8am and about a hundred of us jumped on and spread out along the track (which was a thin sheet of rubber over concrete so not very forgiving but better than nothing). The inside lane was for fasties or those wanting to pass. The outside lane was for those going a slower pace. After that, all similarities with track running as most folks know it ended.

For one thing, this track was inside the Pettit National Ice Center, which is an official U.S. Olympic training site for speed skating. It was actually 442.8767m long, not your traditional running track length because there was a 400m speed skating oval INSIDE of it. And inside of that ice oval, there were two international-sized (100' x 200') ice rinks for hockey, figure skating and short track speed skating. For moi, who had been ice skating maybe only 2 or 3 times as a kid and had only seen ice in the form of ice cubes in her ice baths recently, this was an AMAZING facility!

The first lap, I just admired the gigantic uber slick and shiny ice surface. Ooh, near zero coefficient of friction, I bet could slide my butt around even without skates! I looked at the big banners and colorful flags that were hung all throughout the building. With the Winter Olympics coming up, there was also talk that some world-class speed skaters might be on the ice later, which made being there even more exciting.

And the indoor temps? OMG, a blissful 55 degs F, which actually felt closer to 50 because of the dry air, just perfect for running, but I had to be very careful about going too fast early on (first race since my calf injury last month!). Without a Garmin -- we're indoors, remember? -- I figured I'd just capture splits every 4 laps (1.1 miles). Completing them in 10-10:30 minutes would be about a 9-9:30 min/mi pace, which is what I wanted. Simple, no?

Actually, NO, it wasn't, because the laps were going by too fast! I kept getting distracted so that I'd miss looking at my watch when I was supposed to. The best I could do was capture splits every 8 laps instead:

1st 8 in 20:00 - OK, but no faster.
2nd 8 in 19:51 - I said NO faster!!
3rd 8 in 20:34 - Good.

And poof, 24 laps gone in 1:00:25, 6.6 mi @ 9:09 pace.

Here's a YouTube video created by Fit Milwaukee that will give you an idea what was going on. It's really of the marathon relay event held the day before (they had 2 teams in it) but the marathon was similar with the exception that everyone was running at the same time so no runners on the sidelines for the most part (fast forward to 1:05 to see people running):

So while you could be Speedy Gonzales churning out lightening fast laps on the inside lane, you could also be like me who was cruising on the outside lane, occasionally playing bumper runners and switching to the inside lane, chatting with folks, checking out what was written on their shirts, reading banners & signs, high five-ing little kids' hands hanging out from the bleachers, singing/humming along with good songs they were playing (but why did they play Theme from Rocky so early???), thanking wonderful volunteers, the list goes on and on ...

But boredom or dizziness? Nonsense! Unless perhaps you were a SPECTATOR :-)

But let's go back to those wonderful volunteers, shall we? IMO, they had the toughest job. Not only did they have to stay warm in the cool conditions, they had to pay attention to what runners were saying they wanted and then hand them that as they went past. I chose to ask for things I wanted a lap ahead to avoid slowing down:

Me: 1060, orange bottle next lap (translation: please give bib #1060 her sports bottle with the orange drink on the next lap)

Volunteer: Got it!

And next time around, a volunteer would be looking for me and ready to hand me my bottle. Next lap around I gave it back. Awesome service!!

And how did all those bottles, gels and whatever get on the tables, you ask? Well, before the race, we runners marked and staged our stuff on tables with specific bib number ranges. That way, during the race we knew to ask volunteers near our table as we went by. They also had extra sports drink, water and gels on hand to make sure we never ran out fluids or fuel. Thank you!!!!

Now back to the ride.

0.4 laps from where we started was where the finish line was located and also a large projection screen which turned out to be showing everyone's name, number of laps completed and the last lap split. From a photo I saw of last year's race, I thought it was a count-down screen showing how many laps the top runners had left. With all else going on, I didn't bother reading it until about halfway through my race. So after 2 hours, I glanced up to see how the fasties were doing and holy moly! MY name was listed there with 48 laps done. Quick, hit the lap button NOW!

24.4* laps in 1:04:13, 6.7 mi @ 9:35 pace (incl. porta potty stop).
*fractional lap to account for the distance from the start line to where the screen was

So, obviously, I'd failed miserably at keeping track of any more 8-lap splits the last hour. Hey, have you tried tracking laps around a Go Cart course? But now that I knew lap counts and lap splits were on the screen, things should be easy, right?

Well, not always. The names were constantly scrolling downwards as people were crossing a mat behind you so if you happened to be running in front of others nearby, your name would get pushed down from the top and you had to be quick to find it as you ran by. There actually was a guy standing there holding a sign that said "Ask me for your lap count," but I never did. I just found it more fun to keep playing Find Shirley's Line :-)

Photo of the female winner from a Journal Sentinel article about the race.

In the second half, I noticed a few skaters were on the ice and added watching them to my list of many things to do. There was one guy who looked pretty fast but my guess is that he was not headed to Vancouver. No matter, the real excitement was unfolding on the running track. The leader for 21 miles had to drop out due to a previous ankle injury that began bothering him. Julie Spencer, a tiny woman who made me look big, was the leader by more than a lap for a while. Then Matt Sveum, who'd lost the lead pack earlier, closed the gap and ran past her in the final laps to win the race in 2:51:07. Julie finished second in 2:52:38, a new women's course record. Frickin' incredible to see these folks fly by again and again averaging a 6:30-ish pace!!!

Thereafter, other fasties would periodically jump off the track as they finished their race. After 3 1/2 hours, the ride began taking on a different character. The mid-packers became the new "fast" runners and with fewer people on the track, it got easier to pass people and to run on the inside track (which we all know is a little shorter than the outside track) when no one faster was around. By now, folks have also been running together for a while so friends had been made and we were encouraging and helping each other. Announcements of those who had reached 90 laps, were on their last lap, or had just completed 96 (meaning they were done), were becoming more frequent and they pumped you up too, finishing or not. This party was still getting started!

Meanwhile, I was closing in fast on lap number 80, where I'd decided I would pick up my pace to an 8:30 (2:20 lap time) if I'd not heard any complaints from my calfs earlier. Not a peep! For a short while, I enjoyed passing some who had passed me earlier in the race, even though I knew they were going to be done before me. Before long I was at lap 92, where with 4 laps to go I figured it was safe to let go of the brakes. For the first time during the race, I made sure to FOCUS and COUNT my remaining laps:

1 down - WEEEE, I'm flying!
2 down - Look Ma, no hands -- I mean, sweat!!
3 down - WOOHOO, let's floor this motha!!!
4 down - Wha -- it's time to get off the track?

Announcer: Shirley Pratt from Florida, 96 laps completed!

Final race time: 3:58:42 (9:06 pace), 3/8 F40-49, 7/27 Females.
13.3 mi (48.4 laps) @ 9:22 pace.
12.9 mi (47 laps) @ 8:51 pace. Last 1.1 mi (4 laps) @ 8:09 pace.

Token bib and medal photo.

Me and a couple faster friends from the race, Marathon Maniacs #1083 & 1084.

Nice race schwag (socks and pink fluid bottle given as the AG award).

Thanks for coming along with me on my ride!


DaveP said...

Every step brings ya closer to Kona. ;-)

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Wow that is a crazy amazing idea. Congrats on pulling it out.. I cant imagine, I LOVE being outside, rain and all..

jen said...

Great race report and photos! Congratulations on running a big negative split with a smile on your face. You are so amazing! You make this run sound really fun. Way to go Shirley! :)


Did I tell you it has warmed up in Florida. You can come home now....
I must admit, that race wasn't on my radar screen. Thanks for sharing.

Marlene said...

You actually make this sound appealling! Sounds like you ran smart and really enjoyed it... congrats!

Janyne Kizer said...

I love your blog! You write with a lot of enthusiasm and it's contagious!

Kristi said...

Wow, that actually does sound kind of fun. And I can't believe I just said that. Nice report! :)

Regina said...

You actually made an indoor marathon sound fun and inviting! Way to go. I would have been dead last in our AG, ha!

You have awesome looking legs, by the way (that is motivation to keep running for me)

Bootchez said...

I run on a (much, much smaller) indoor track, and can't imagine running a 10k there, much less a marathon. Way to go! I'll keep this post in mind as I'm running round and round.

Fe-lady said...

Couldn't do it-glad you did it for me! I guess that's why I prefer mountains/trails. Congrats!

Lily on the Road said...

Crazy, mind numbing and fun all pop into my mind!

I have to agree with Marlene, you DO make it sound like fun!

Jenny Davidson said...

Nice work, Shirley!

Rural Girl said...

Glad you had a good time in WI! Sorry we didn't have more snow for you!!

Meg said...

What a gorgeous place to run, it looked so bright and cheerful! So did you, by the way. Way to go and I laughed at how you lost track of the laps...I think I'd do that and then just give up and run! Nice job, Shirley!

Maria said...

love the last picture of you after your finish, you look ready to conquer the world. man, your race report makes marathons sound easy...good thing i know otherwise!

Bruce Stewart (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

I have been training either on a track or repeating loops round a park. At least I know I am always close to home if I feel I have had enough, and if things are going well I can continue. So I like the idea, although too many times around a small track with a lot of people would make me dizzy. I cannot handle constantly changing direction. Well done.

lindsay said...

congrats on the ag award! i loved this. i have wanted to do one of the indoor marathons before, so you didn't need to convince me but you managed to make me want to do one more :)

which did you like better? zoom yah yah or instep?

Rainmaker said...

Holy cow, this is freakin awesome. I love all the attention to detail at the race - from the lap counting to the pro-like nutrition tables.

Very cool. And solid job on the marathon time, very nice!

Sara Cox Landolt said...

This was a super race report, thanks for sharing it and the detail you put into it! Well done!

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

I am going to suggest this indoor marathon event to our local gym. We have an indoor track adn the set up would be PERFECT!!!!

WAY TO GO!!! Amazing when you think that you have ran SO many marathons.

TRI TO BE FUNNY-Carrie Barrett said...

You are amazing!! I would've at least had to have an iPod or something to break up the monotony!! Thanks for sharing. We runners are definitely a "different" breed :-)

Formulaic said...

Kona? Are we talking Kona IM or Kona home?

Because Kona home is just funny! But Kona IM is a real possibility!!


Spokane Al said...

Wow - what a great way to race a marathon - at least once or twice in your life anyway.

And you negative splits were amazing - you absolutely shifted gears at the halfway point.


Petraruns said...

AHHHH now that's what I was waiting for. Amazing report. Clearly not boring at all - you sound like you had a blast! It looks quite narrow though! It looks like it was amazingly well organised - how professional to be able to have your own drink and whatnot. Great stuff.

Well done Shirley - also on the GREAT negative split. Nice one girl!

EndorphinBuzz said...

You make it sound like so much fun!! I would have been worried about losing track of the count so it's good they had a scoreboard and dedicated counter guy :)

Sherry said...

Shirley, I just think that's the coolest thing ever! Seriously! It's so different, how could it possibly be boring?!? If I was actually capable of running a marathon, I think I would go for it! :o)

Way to go, girl! Big congrats... and GREAT race report!!!

Allison Talamantez said...

That is awesome. I don't know that it would be my cup of tea, but I certainly am impressed at the organization and the number of runners!

Michael Pereckas said...

I ran the half marathon Saturday, it was a great event. Great organization, great volunteers, great runners. It's really not dull at all going round and round. You have the spectators, the skaters, and your fellow runners who you keep seeing. At my speed skating class Monday we talked about the marathon. The skating instructors thought it was great having the runners, at least one of them had recognized me running while she was on the ice.

X-Country2 said...

You are too funny. I'd never in a million years do this, and you make it look fun.

Joe said...

Great write up on a fun race, I did the marathon too and loved it. Thanks for the pictures, I'm actually in one of them. Keep on running and enjoying it.

Oz Runner said...

great negative split....that actually sounds like it could be really fun, in a strange sort of way....

pwlee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tricia said...

very cool!

Black Knight said...

What a nice experience! I would get crazy to run an indoor marathon. Beautiful pics.

cman13 said...

What a great well written story about the indoor running experience. I'm the guy who shot the FitMilwaukee video and it was just as exciting to watch our teams as it was for them to run. Very cool event and I may film the whole weekend next year. If you are back FitMilwaukee would love to meet you!

Missy said...

Congrats, you rock. I want to be you someday:) I think it's funny that some people are all bundled up and others have on a bra or singlet. I guess that is probably directly proportionate to how fast they were going!

RoadBunner said...

Congratulations!! So, I've got to ask... Which indoor marathon would you recommend?? I am definitely doing one.. Maybe 2012?

Oh, and today I realized we were talking about different marathons. There is a Bizz Johnson and a Buzz Johnson!

MarathonChris said...

What a great race. Sound like you really had a good time. Glad the calf issue appears to be a thing of the past!

Sunshine said...

I'm a little behind here... but I enjoyed reading all of your indoor marathon report. Interesting to have spectators on skates... and all that cold cold ice sucking up the heat.
Nice track though.
Congratulations on a great race ... I can just see that Shirley smile coming around on every lap.

Jen said...

Wow... what a ride!!! Thanks for sharing... so cool. I never thought running indoors would look like fun.

Vickie said...

Shirly, you are amazing. Great race, and great job finding yet another unique race. Great race report too and tell the photographer thanks for taking us along!

lizzie lee said...

WOW.... that definitely looks like a very fun race!!! congrats!!!

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