So if you don't already know, I currently live in Milwaukee and the winters here can be brutal! A lot of times our choices as runners are bundling into triple layers to head outside or straight to a treadmill. I'm fortunate enough to live in a city with a wonderful large indoor track! The Pettit National Ice Center is one of the USA's Olympic training centers for speed skating and has hosted multiple national events. The speed skating track is 400 meters long and there's a 3 lane running track just to the outside of that making each lap 443 meters long.
I have ran at the Pettit a few times before for long training runs where it's just too cold/ icy/ snowy to go outside and hanging out on a treadmill for 2+ hours seems unbearable. At least at the Pettit there's no wind, it's flat, it's a consistent 50ish degrees and there's some entertainment between speed and figure skating practice as well as hockey games.
Each January there is a race weekend held at the Pettit. Friday evening is a 5k (11 laps) and packet pick up. Saturday morning there are two half marathons (47.5 laps); 7 am and 9:30 am. IF you want to try to place you have to run the 7 am race but you also have to prove with a past race that you will be done by 9:15. The second race, at 9:30, anyone can run. That afternoon is a marathon relay. Finally, Sunday morning the marathon (95 laps) is held. The race is capped at a very small number of participants for safety reasons. Just 75 runners are allowed in the 5k, and 130 in each half marathon and marathon race.
I have always found this race intriguing because, well, there's no other like it that I know of. To be honest I didn't ever plan on running this race because of the cost. The race is $80 (costs $4 to run on this track any regular day) which is fairly typical of a half marathon these days but there are no road closures to tend with and runners are required to bring their own aid in bottles (more on this in a bit). However, I received a free entry for pacing the half marathon last November so I figured I might as well run it!
I opted for the 9:30 race because I knew that I wasn't fully recovered from my PR race two weeks ago and planned to use this as a strong training run to kick off my marathon training for the Green Bay Marathon this coming May. (Plus, who doesn't like to sleep in a little bit on a Saturday?). So I headed to the Pettit center about 8:45 Saturday morning to give myself plenty of time to use the restrooms, pick up my packet, pin on my bib, etc.
As I mentioned before, we had to bring our own aid in bottles and mark them some way to be able to tell they are ours AND put our bib number on the side. We end up putting our bottles on tables that had ranges of bib numbers (ex: 50-99, 100-149, etc). When we want a drink we tell a volunteer standing at our designated table and they get the bottle ready to hand to us the next lap. Then we carry the bottle a full lap before giving it back to our volunteers.
The lap tracking was similar to that at a triathlon. We were given an ankle strap and each time we finished a lap we ran over a typical timing pad. There was a big screen on one of the straight-aways that had our names and how many laps we had left. This was super helpful as the race went on because it was so easy to lose count!
Anyway, back to the race! As I mentioned, I chose the 9:30 am race because I didn't plan on "racing" the half. My goal was to start moderate and try to build as the race went on. I knew I wanted to start about 8:15-8:30 pace (2:20-2:25ish second laps) and for the first mile or two to check out the legs were feeling and wait for the crowd of the start to clear out a little bit as we made our first few laps.
There wasn't too much to look at during this race, obviously, especially since they didn't allow any skaters on the ice. The track was way more crowded than any other time I've ran on it though, so I did have to focus a little bit more on that. I will say though, all the runners were great about staying in lanes 2-3 and allowing faster runners to stay on the inside lane.
As the laps ticked by I really started to enjoy this race. It was nice to be handed your own bottle with your own nutrition (is this how the pros feel?!) and know that you literally have no elevation change or headwind to deal with! I also started to feel myself get faster little by little with not much effort. There were also very few people lapping me, and once I was about half way through the race I realized they were all men! Once I noticed that I started to try to check the screen that had the "laps left" tally and realized that.. yep.. I was the first female!
The laps kept ticking by and I kept increasing my speed. It's interesting to see the entire course all at once but it also makes it challenging to know how much further you have to run until you're on your last lap.
A few of the men had finished when I had about a mile and a half left to go, then the announcer called out my name as the first female with only 5 laps left! Now I really started to push since the race was almost over.
I've never won a race before... been close, but never won one... until now! There wasn't a finish line tape (since it was all laps) or a huge awning with the finish line but it was still neat to officially cross the line as the first female.
Using this race as more of a progressive workout ended up paying off! I couldn't be eligible for any of the prizes since I didn't run in the 7 am slot and I was okay with that. I would have had to actually "race" the race and didn't feel it was smart since I pr'd just two weeks ago.
My official finish time was 1:41:17 with a pace of 7:43 per mile. Not too shabby of an official marathon training kick off!
To go back to the race report archives, click here.