Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brewers Mini-Marathon race report

When I decided to attend the Annual Summit in Chicago, my next step was to find a half marathon or two for the weekend before. Located just a couple of hours north, Milwaukee's Brewers Mini-Marathon was a perfect choice.

Packet pickup the day before was fast and efficient -- even if I got a little lost trying to get into the parking lot. And did I mention that parking was free?? Pickup -- and the race start -- was at Miller Park, the beautiful home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Signage was excellent, and I was quickly headed up a very long escalator.

I grabbed my goodie bag -- real goodies -- and bib, reviewed the map, tried to suss out the parking, and left. I was in and out in under five minutes. Perfect!

Brewers Mini-Marathon goodie bag
sweet goodies!
Nice touches -- a personalized bib, a voucher for a free ticket to a Brewers game in 2014, and... what's that in the upper-right-hand corner? Why, it's a Hank Aaron bobblehead, of course!!!

Hank Aaron bobblehead
Hammerin' Hank!!!
Race morning was glorious -- I got to the park quickly, got great parking, sat in my car for a bit tryingto decide whether or not to wear my long-sleeved shirt, and then decided to trust the weather reports and headed to the start.

Miller Park

Best part about starting a race at a major-league stadium? Loads of indoor bathrooms! And did I mention the free parking again? Plus it gave me a chance to have a little sneak peek inside the very pretty ball park.

The wall behind the big screen is glass, so you could see the sky brightening. It's such a pretty park!! After wandering around for a while I decided it was time to head out to the start area. When I picked up my bib, it said I was assigned to corral "I". I was sure hoping I hadn't fat-fingered my time again (like one particular Rock 'n' Roll Seattle!) and gotten myself assigned to the first corral! But I was glad to see that I was in letter I, not number 1.

A little pumping music, a nice simple rendition of the national anthem by someone in the Brewers organization, and the race started. We started 10 minutes late -- probably due to the number of folks struggling to get into the parking lots.

I love running races in cities I don't know. My only Milwaukee reference point was Happy Days,which wasn't even filmed there. But the course took us around the stadium, and then all over town. There were no significant hills, but a lot of little inclines and downhills. We ran through some industrial areas, along rivers, and across bridges. The first "landmark" was the Harley Davidson Museum. I somehow managed to pretty much miss all of it apart from the sign. It was, however, the site of the only bad thing from the race.

I got a cup of water and was walking off to the side sipping it. (I lack the coordination to drink from a cup while I run. Well, okay, I can drink from the cup, but I end up also snorting it up my nose, choking, and gasping for air. It's just faster for me to actually walk and drink.) I took the last little sip, poured it into my hand, and then dampened the back of my neck. Even though I wasn't too warm, it's just a habit.
I dropped the cup n a trash can and suddenly -- SPLASH!!! -- what felt like half a cup of water got dumped down my back and a guy trotted past. I said, "What the hell was that for?" He stopped and started saying that I should wet the back of my neck to keep from getting too warm. WHAT?!?!?!
"Mr. Helpful Runner Guy" stood there smiling as if he expected me to thank him. But I just shouted at him that, actually, I like to manage my own hydration and temperature control, and that now I had one very wet foot. He said, "Oh" and tried to fist bump me. (WHAT?!?!?!? again). I waved him off, told him to go away, and tried to run past him. But he kept talking at me. I told him that I was no longer listening to him, told him to leave me alone, and eventualy had to shout at him to GET AWAY FROM ME before he moved away.

So weird.

So my wet right foot and I headed on our way, me seething and trying to make sure I kept far away from Mr. Helpful Runner Guy. But the sun was out, the course was nice, and I decided to just forget him.

A few miles later, we passed the Mitchell Park Domes, a set of greenhouses which are probably amazing, but pretty underwhelming from the road. I was starting to feel a little tired by this point, but decided to see how it would play out if I just kept going.

Two-race weekends -- which I don't do often -- are a conundrum for me. Do I take it easy on the first day, maybe walking the second part of the race, in order to save my legs for day two? Or do I just go for it? I never really know. Add to that the fact that I haven't run a half since Rock 'n' Roll Seattle back in July, and have barely run at all since breaking my finger. I wasn't even sure I would be able to finish one race, let alone two.

I was feeling pretty "done" when I got to mile 9. We made a sharp turn and... suddenly... entered Miller Valley.

Now, I know the Brewers play in Miller Park. And I guess I probably knew that Miller Beer was brewed in Milwaukee. But I somehow didn't connect "Miller Valley" with Miller Beer. But we ran down a hill and entered the brewery.

We passed a replica of the original brewery, the historic caves, and ran under the "Beer Bridge" (which for some reason made me think of Laverne & Shirley...). The road was crossed with sections of cobbles, which made for some slightly tricky footing, but everyone seemed to navigate it okay.
Running through Miller Valley was, for some reason, really energizing. Maybe because it was such a surprise for me? Maybe because I love industrial heritage? Who knows. But I came out the other side feeling chipper.

Soon we were crossing over another bridge (or was it an overpass?) and I knew we were headed back to town. I guess the downside of running in a new city means you don't really know how far you are from the finish.

Which shouldn't imply that the course wasn't well marked! This race used the most ingenious mile markers I've seen. Each marker included a clock with gun time, a large mile indicator, and a flag to signal race conditions. It's not the hfirst time that I've run a race that followed a flag system (green, yellow, red, black), but it's the first time that I've actually SEEN flags on the course and been clearly notified in advance of how runners would be informed in the event that things started to go wrong. Thankfully, we stayed green all race long.

Eventually we got close to Miller Park, doing a little loop around part of the parking lot before running into the stadium. Did I mention how lovely Miller Park is?

Brewers Mini-Marathon
entering the field
Brewers Mini Marathon
runners on the jumbotron
We ran around the warning track from left field, behind home plate, and out again along the first base line to right field. I made a point of high-fiving the kids who were cheering like mad in the front row. As we passed home plate, we were shown on the jumbotron. One small miss by the organizers -- have a timing mat that pops up the runners' names so during quiet moments you can announce their names. Disney does it at the Disneyland Half Marathon and it's awesome.

Then out of the stadium, up a tiny hill, and the finish was straight ahead. I tried to pick it up a bit, but I was already on empty. I crossed in 2:22:12, feeling pretty surprised to have done pretty well, given the situation.

I made my way through the goodie gauntlet -- skipping bagels, but grabbing a banana, an amazing chocolate chip cookie, a carton of chocolate milk and, oddly, a large bag of Lays Air Pops chips. I then headed over to the post-race party, where a band was playing (or at least music? It was pretty crowded), food and drink was being served, and people seemed to be having a great time. I considered getting one of my TWO free post-race beers, but the beer area was crazy busy -- no clear lines, just masses of people -- and, hey, it wasn't even 10am. So I decided to bail.

Now, I try to have a goal for each race. Not necessarily a time goal -- just to either learn something, to stay positive at mile 12, or even to remember to smile at the race photographers. For the Brewers Mini-Marathon, other than picking up state #20 (Wisconsin!) my one goal was to have my picture taken with one of the racing sausages. As I headed out to the parking lot, I saw them! Now, which one should I choose? German Sausage, of course!

(who knew they were so tall?)
Lots to love about the Brewers Mini-Marathon. I thought it was very well organized, had a nice shirt, great course, and tons of great volunteers. If I could change two things, I'd have an announcer calling out names inside the stadium and more people serving beer at the post-race party. But that's it!
Hooray for state #20!

farewell, Wisconsin!

1 comment:

  1. nice recap! you forgot potowatomi casino somewhere in the first couple of miles... maybe challenging to notice because it was under construction when we were running. i love reading recaps from strangers to the city. i grew up here so i pretty much didn't really check out any of the landmarks and missed the harley museum altogether! i've never even been there. lol! my favorite part was running through miller valley (i lived right in that neighborhood from 2nd to 4th grade and know the area well) because i loved the downhill! thanks for sharing!