Thursday, January 26, 2012

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #31:


The Full Recap, Marathon #31:

When I started telling people I had signed up for an indoor marathon, I was genuinely shocked by the responses I got.  Most people seemed horrified at the idea of running 26.2 miles around an indoor track.  I first heard about indoor marathons from Shirley and I wrote to her a bit over a year ago to narrow my choice down to Icebreaker.  The race director of this marathon also did a couple of podcast interviews and the whole thing sounded amazing.  I suppose with all the positive influences about this race, the potentially negative aspects never crossed my mind.

To cut to the chase, after Disney (which is near and dear to my heart) this is the most fun marathon I have ever run.  And for sure I rank it in the top 4 races of the marathons I have done (which is 24 unique marathon venues).

I love, love, loved every minute of this race.

Race location:  Pettit National Ice Center; and SNOW!!! (Humor me, I grew up in Hawaii and have been in CA for 4+ years)

First off, to set the stage, things that were awesome:
  • You don't have to worry about the weather.  No sunblock needed.  Wind?  Nada.  Rain?  Nada. Temperature?  Absolutely perfect.
  • There were 96 aid stations and 192 portapotty stops.
  • Bringing a spectator along?  You'll see them 96 times which is probably 92 times more than the typical marathon.  It is always such a pick-up to see Boyfriend at any point in a race and he was there almost every single lap to cheer me on.  He did disappear for a bit when he went to get a pretzel and hot cocoa, but I must have seen him at least 89 times.  Which brings up another point -- ultimate spectating luxury -- food, seats, and real bathrooms at your disposal.  
All in all, the above things made for a zero stress situation.  I never realized how not having the above things makes a marathon so stressful.  What shouldn't I eat the night before?  No biggie, there are 192 portapotty stops if something goes wrong.  How much fuel should I carry?  Who cares?  You can pick it up at one of the 96 aid stations.  I knew they were handing out Gu.  Sometimes the gel stations don't coincide with the miles you want to consume them.  No worries about that at this race.  I am not sure I can ever run a traditional road race again with all those unknown variables.

The track was pretty big and with the ice hockey rink on the inside you couldn't see around the entire track at once -- a good thing, I suppose.

The track had two lanes.  They designated the inner lane the passing/faster runner lane.  This is one bummer of the race.  Unless you are super speedy you are definitely not going to get the inner lane the whole race and will therefore add a bit of distance to your day.  It took me a couple of laps to get a strategy, but I hugged the outer side of the dividing line the first half+ of the race to minimize swerving.  I did have to step into the inner lane to pass people, but I'd immediately move back to that position so faster people could easily pass me.  Around mile 17 or so the crowd thinned and I started hugging the inner side of the dividing line to try to save myself some distance.  It wasn't until the very end of the race when few people were passing that I ran squarely in the center of the inner lane and only during my very last lap did I take the thing for myself.

Runners heading to the start line.
Let's talk about that one aid station you pass 96 times.  There were tables set up by your number and you could leave a water bottle and fuel there and pick it up/drop it off as you liked.  These tables were manned by volunteers who stuck with a certain number group.  So basically they were your personal pit crew.  There were also self-serve unmanned tables you could drop stuff off at but I never used those. I saw some TV tables set up by people around the track that I suppose they used as their personal table.  There was enough room that I could have brought my roll-on luggage and left it track-side to pick through as I pleased.

My two volunteers were awesome.  I'd tell them my number and what I wanted and they'd have it ready for me the next lap.  "Refill water, please!"  "Bottle, please!"  "Gel, please!"  I hate the time I lose on courses refilling my own bottles or tangoing with gel wrappers.  I'd drop my bottle off one lap, pick up a gel another and have two hands free to mess with the thing.

And the freedom of knowing what you want is right there is amazing.  If you don't get it right another 2.5 minutes and you're right there again.  Same with the portapotties.  I had to use the bathroom for a bit and on a normal course since you never know when the next one will appear, I would have stopped. But I knew one was never much more than a minute away and subsequently I never bothered stopping.

And besides being your lifeline, those volunteers cheered their little hearts out for you.  They were amazing.  They took bottle orders and were the best cheerleaders.  I think volunteering at this race would be such an awesome experience.

So stating the obvious, Garfield wouldn't have worked in an indoor track.  As such, I left him at home and ran with a regular digital watch for the first time in a race since 2008.  With auto-lap on the Garmin I haven't had to hit a watch button at a race in years, so that took some getting used to at first.

They had two screens up.  The first showed your name and your lap count.  The second would post your name and lap time as soon as you crossed the timers.  It took me many laps to figure this out.  At first I thought the lap count screen was supposed to know you were coming and show you your lap count.  But I realized it was just randomly scrolling through the names (which was sort of nice because you would have to go around again to see if your name would be up if it wasn't the the first time you looked).  If you wanted you could also ask for a lap count but I never did this since my watch showed me what lap I was on (I did occasionally check it against the official screen since I sometimes wasn't sure if I had pushed the button on my watch correctly).

When you registered for the race, they asked for two song requests.  I was a little sad when my songs played less than a mile into the race back to back.  On top of this the announcer thanked everyone involved with the race while my second song was playing.  So I hardly got to hear the second song and had nothing to look forward to the rest of the run.  But the music choices other people made weren't bad at all, either.

There was a moment in the high teens of lap numbers where I realized that 96 laps was a looong way off.  But shortly after that, I stopped thinking about it and just kept running.  Every lap went by so quickly.  First off it is only a little over a quarter mile.  Second, you are constantly thinking about whether someone needs to get around you or if you need to pass someone else.  Third, they are playing music the entire time.  I pretty much always train with music but never race with it.  Whenever I hear music on course it comes in short bursts as you pass bands or speakers.  But it was going on constantly at this race.  Fourth, you pass a hearty bunch of spectators every minute.

The lap sort of broke down to this:  Cross the timers, hit watch button, look at lap time, on pace, pass spectators in stands (one guy had a dry erase board and changed the message every single lap -- he even had knock knock jokes and hangman games -- and other spectators had multiple signs), ride the spectator high around the corner, start thinking about whether or not you want to drop off a bottle or pick up something at volunteer table, let me pass this guy, let me make sure that lady has room to pass me, there's the volunteer table, smile back as they cheer, cross the timers...repeat.

It sounds repetitive but it was awesome.

I was looking forward to lap 61-62 because I had figured out that I would run my 10,000th lifetime mile at that point in the race.  My mileage count from the early days is a bit estimated at times but the tracking is good enough for me.

My training log stats pre-Icebreaker

My training log stats post-Icebreaker

I got a little misty thinking of all those miles and who would have thought I'd ever run so far.  Boyfriend told the announcer about my 10,000 and the announcer gave me a little shout-out.  Here's to the next 10,000.

The race venue is an Olympic Training ice rink and the speed skaters were out for part of the race.  I have never seen speed skaters up close and man alive are they fast!

Wish I could put on skates and slide on the ice during this race, too.

Olympians in the house!

Quite frankly most of the race is a blur.  I could sort of figure out what mile I was at based on time, but generally I had no clue what mile I was at.  This led to an amazing phenomena.  It may have just been a really good day for me, but I was not nearly as spent at the end of this race as I normally am during marathons.  I recall a moment when I did some mental gymnastics and realized I was over 20 miles into the race.  Really? Over twenty?!  Wow!  It doesn't feel like 20!  And then I just forgot about what mile I was at and kept running.  I didn't have that awful countdown of the last few miles which always seem to go by so slowly.  I thought it would be disconcerting to not know my exact mileage, but it was so freeing.  The time on the track flew by so quickly.

Before I knew it, I was at lap 90 and started counting down.  With two laps to go I started to pick up the pace and when I crossed the timers after lap 95 I heard the announcer call my name, saying I had one lap to go.  I put on the jets and took up the inner lane.  I felt genuinely sad that it was my last time running around the track.  I didn't want it to end.  I passed my pit crew and told them it was my last time around and they cheered really loudly for me.  I crossed the timers in 4:12 and change, and the announcer said I was a finisher.  Finisher. Such a sweet word.

AWESOME post race snacks.  I may or may not have brought my own bag of goldfish crackers to nosh on post-race but was happy to eat some of the race supplied fishies.
I went back and thanked my bottle station volunteers and gave them each a big hug.  They were awesome and were still at it with bottle hand-offs for the remaining runners.  I'm sure the time goes by quickly for them since they are always thinking, but it is a high responsibility, quick-paced job for sure.

I actually like the shirt, but unisex small.  Bleh.  If I was a medium-sized man I would never have to buy any running clothes.
My foot behaved for the race and has not been worse for wear since the marathon.  I gave it three days off before the race.  I generally don't train on pain killers/anti-inflammatories but for races will renege that ideal.  So I Alleve'd up the two days before the race and ran under the influence of Extra Strength Tylenol.  I haven't taken any meds since the race and haven' t had any issues.  Can't really explain it, but I won't question it, either.
I'm really happy with my time.  For the effort level a 4:12 finish is pretty good for me (4th fastest marathon).  I've never approached a time like this in the past without being in PR-mode.  I think normally an "easy" race I would have done some walking through the aid stations, but with the personal pit crew I didn't walk at all this race.  As I mentioned, I finished feeling very fresh and I've been able to get right back into training which was the goal of using this as a training run.  It is a little hairy traveling to the Wisonsin area this time of year but I hope to return one day and run this race again.

Really, really cool.


Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run said...

Oh, indoor marathon. Really interesting! I have a feeling I would like it too. And really, any race where you don't even notice you just ran 20 miles is awesome. Not to mention the 89 times you got to see your boyfriend. :-)

Although, I couldn't read the end of your post. Something funky is going on with the layout of the text.

Lorna Appleby said...

An INDOOR marathon.. That's a sneaky way to try and get your bunny running without distraction.. but I suspect he'd only make it back to the snack table and park his butt.. ;)

Congrats -- I could feel your enthusiasm and energy gushing. Glad it was fun and worth the effort. Always nice to hear of happy runners, happy volunteers and well run events!

Cate said...

OK, I totally thought this was a crazy idea, but it actually sounds really cool. Congratulations on your 10,000th mile and awesome finish time!

Lisa said...

Congrats on the race and thanks for the great report. Before reading about your experience, I didn't dislike the idea of an indoor marathon, but it wasn't something I was interested in. Now I think I'm going to add this to my (mental) list of races to eventually run.

Aron said...

I will admit that I was one of those "you are insane to be doing this" people but this makes me want to run one sometime! Sounds like you had a blast :) congrats on 10,000 miles and 31 marathons!

Also I think it's time to call boyfriend fiance ;)

Alisa said...

I don't know if this would be for me or not...I do like the idea of perfect weather and spectators though.

Great way to cap off your #31. 31 that is a-maz-ing.

A said...

LOVE!!!!!!!!! I totally want to do this race!! Seriously, everything about this seems right up my alley.

PS: Doesn't Boyfriend need a new title? ;)

A said...

ALSO, congrats on your awesome finishing time, great pace, and 10,000th mile!! So much awesome here.

ReneighRuns said...

Wow. I'm impressed with this - everything from being indoors to you not walking at all! Your pace was awesome and it's so cool that it comes fairly easy to you now. Very inspiring. Congrats!!

Courtney said...

HOLY MOLY SANDRA! I do agree that this sounds awesome, like you guys were talking about today. I can imagine that all those factors make it fly by. nice job!

naomi said...

Okay, I was thinking this was a crazy idea, but when you describe it this way, I kinda want to try it! Love the ease for spectators too! Congrats on #31!

Rachel said...

congrats on a successful race! and you've officially convinced me i need to do an indoor marathon ASAP : ) seriously, this sounds pretty darn cool. great job!

Page said...

Is it weird that after reading this I want to do it? I was totally one of those, " way!" people. Nice job and congrats on the 10,000th mile!

Oh, what two songs did you request?

Layla said...

I CANNOT believe I'm typing this, but now I want to run this marathon. What did I just say?! Oh, the influential power of Roadbunner... Your enthusiasm for this race did make me think, "She's nuts!" but now that you've run it and have proven yourself right, I'm impressed.

Great job, and you have definitely picked up the pace!

Saimon Gomes said...
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