05 April 2009

Trailbreaker Marathon Report


This was my second time running the Trailbreaker (I ran it in 2007, finishing in 3:50). After yesterday's run, I'm leaning heavily towards making it a yearly event. The unique nature of the run makes it a great training run for upcoming events. The race starts in Frame Park in Waukesha, runs 11 miles along the Glacial Drumlin Trail (a very flat and paved rails-to-trails type setting) with a gradual uphill climb from miles 6 to 10.
At 11 miles the course leaves the Glacial Drumlin Trail for the Ice Age Trail, where the participants stumble, trip, and slog through mud to the top of Lapham Peak. The "half-way" point of the marathon occurs when the participants climp to the top of the 45 foot observation tower. It's actually a bit past the half-way point--once the tower is climbed, there's only about 12.5 miles yet to run.
The race BEGINS once you're off the Ice Age Trail. Any over-ambitious running in miles 1-11 will be paid for dearly after your quads, calves, and ankles have been abused by the IAT climb to the tower, and then the actual climb of the tower. I learned this yesterday.
My plan going in to this marathon was to really aim for a negative split, keeping my HR under 160 for the first half, going easy on the trail portion of the run out, enjoying the time on the trail, then picking up the pace once I was safely back on pavement. That plan lasted less than one mile, as I cruised through the opening mile in 6:56.
Only 85 runners took on the marathon this year, leaving me dangerously close to the front runners. In the early miles I could see all of the runners ahead of me. All 9 of them.
I eventually settled in to a nice pace, keeping my HR between 150 and 155, and was clipping off miles from 6:52 (the magical sub-3 hour marathon pace) to 7:10. A decent distance in front of me were 3 runners together. One was a prior winner of the Trailbreaker, and another I recognized from this past January's Icebreaker marathon. It was easy to recognize his tree-trunk thighs and calves, covered only in spandex (He's a former elite speedskater, I later found out. That explains the NFL running back like legs). I remember him finishing in the top 3 at the Icebreaker. This information reminded me to watch my pace. I should be nowhere near these guys! If a former winner is running this easy at this point, I have no business thinking I should be passing him.
In all honesty, the first 11 miles are dreadfully boring. Only 3 or 4 aid stations and nobody else around allowed me to develop a nice rhythm and simply enjoy the run. As I began the gradual climb in mile 7, I started to feel my legs a little bit. I popped an S-Cap and took in a little water and that really did the trick. I've really gotten away from taking in a lot of sports drink during marathons, and the electrolyte stuff, along with Clif Shot Bloks, worked well for me. By the time I reached the Ice Age Trail portion of the run, I was feeling great again.
The beginning portion of the trail was sloppy. There were stretches of the trail that was straight mud and I did my best to avoid (a) falling on my @$$ and (b) getting my shoes completely caked in mud. While I didn't fall down at all, my shoes got noticeably heavier at this time. Also, the 3 runners I mentioned absolutely TOOK OFF. I thought I was moving decent on the trail, but apparently not. The two experienced runners mentioned above went on to finish 2nd and 5th.
Mile 12 was 7:42. Mile 13 included the climb up the trail to the tower and resulted in a 9:08 pace. Posing for some pictures at the tower, then heading back down brought mile 14 up to 10:26.
As soon as I started the descent, I knew I had gone out too quick and then pushed too hard (despite the slow times) during my time climbing up the trail. After getting back on the pavement, I simply wanted to get my HR to stabilize and also get my breathing under control. Things weren't feeling good at this point, and the last thing I wanted to do was death march the last 5 or 6 miles and get passed by a bunch of people (the out-and-back nature of the trail allowed me to realize I was in 7th, but 10-12 minutes behind 6th. As I mentioned, it was amazing how much those guys took off from me once on the trail. I'm not sure this bodes well for the Chippewa 50K coming up...).
My pace quickened and things started looking better as the miles went on. Miles 15-19 progressively improved without any change in HR (7:55, 7:48, 7:33, 7:06, 7:03), but I knew that I needed another S-Cap. I asked my crew (my mom) to grab the "pills" out of the bag in the car. Unfortunately, she grabbed the nuun tablets, but not the pills. This resulted in me standing around while she ran back to the car and got them. The NERVE OF HER! Who doesn't know the difference between an S-Cap capsule and a nuun Tablet! Gosh!
As most of you have probably experienced, once you stop, it's tough to get that magical 'rhythm' back again. My miles from here on out were a bit more labored and the pace slowed to 7:17 average from Mile 20-24. And then the wheels really came off.
I've mentioned this before, but I'm always amazed at how quickly things can go downhill. Despite my slower pace from 20-24, I had actually caught two of the runners in front of me. I decided I would wait until the last mile, then try to kick past them and finish strong. Unfortunately Mile 25 got really ugly. I was done. The quads felt swollen--as if I had been doing jump squats with 250 lbs on my back--and my running shuffle was starting to resemble a stagger. Mile 25: 7:43.
Just get this over with. I was no longer having fun. I even walked a bit during the last mile. My eyes were even starting to blur the vision also. I knew I was going to be fine, but I needed to get this over with. Finally, with the Garmin reading 25.97 miles (I think it missed the 'mileage' covered by walking up and down the tower), I finished the Trailbreaker Marathon in 3:15:59, 8th/85. Mile 26: 8:25 pace.
Today I got out for a little bit of running to get the mileage up to 50 for the week. I'm really not that sore at all today and am looking to get in another 50 miles this week before beginning to taper for Chippewa. The most important lesson I learned from this event was that I need to get some time on the trails under my feet before Chippewa. Hopefully next week, between family-related Easter activities, I can get out on the Ice Age Trail for a couple hours.
All in all, though, as I mentioned, I really liked this event. Very low key (no medal for finishing, just a gray tshirt), low entry cost, free beer after.


Jess said...

I can't imagine having to climb a tower in the middle of a marathon! Congrats on a great race!

The Laminator said...

Nice race report! Geez, I can't imagining climbing a tower in the middle miles either. Thinking about it makes the Newton Hills of Boston seem puny in comparison. Great job.

Adam said...

Nice work! 3:15 on a trail marathon, not too shabby! If you drag my ass out that fast at Chippewa I'll be forced to Gilooly you at the turn. We don't have any towers but there are a couple fences to climb over!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

8:25 on the last mile? I ran a 5k this weekend and my average pace was 8:26!


I'm almost as fast as you, Nic! After you've run 25 miles!

When I told Teh 'Bride yesterday that you hadn't managed to break the 3 hours mark, she said, and I quote:


(But I think she may've been talking to me.)

But did I read this right? Did you shave 35 WHOLE MINUTES off your previous time?!

Sweet baby Jebus! (Let me be the first to say that before Teh Marcy gets here. Stole your catch-phrase, Teh Marcy! Deal with it!)

Hey, isn't this like the 17th time you've posted a picture of that phallic tower? Is there something you want to reveal to us all, Nic? I mean, it's a nice tower and all, but, um, dude, this is getting unseemly.

Great job on the run! What SANE person sets himself a goal of breaking the 3 hour marathon mark on a course that makes you climb a 45-foot penis in the middle of it?

Hahahahaha! Make that your goal for a NORMAL course!

(I am going out for a six mile run this morning and I'm hoping I can do it in less than 3 hours.)

Great report ...


Nitmos said...

I know what you mean...never stop running or you'll never get the rhythm back! Great job nonetheless!

joyRuN said...

Ugh - it's what happens when I have to pee in the middle of running - I take a potty break then it's hard to get going again.

But that's neither here nor there - CONGRATULATIONS!!

Rachel said...

Awesome race report!! Great job on the trail run!

Heather said...

Holy cow, I can't imagine climbing up a tower int hte middle of a marathon. That's impressive! Congratulations.

C said...

Congrats again! Love the pics.

Marcy said...

SWEET BABY J! I can't believe G stole my phrase! Dude what were you doing?!? 10 minutes faster than I had predicted?!? Clearly my Godfather skillz are in the toilet. CONGRATS homie! And next time give Mom a good face punch (good practice for when you have babies. JK!!)

ANNNNNNNNNNDD you need to hit me up with an e-mail since you won the Onlineshoes.com giveaway. The kids thought your name was hilarious for whatever reason. Keira picked the name out of the hat and asked who it was. I said "Dr Nic" and both the kids started busting out laughing like crazy. They even made a weirdo game out of your name. Keira will run around going "Doooooooccctttoooorrr Nic, Doooooocctttooooorrr Nic" and Cam runs away screaming. I'm totally not even joking about this. So thanks. They totally entertained themselves with that for 25 minutes.

Annnnnddd I think my comment might even be longer than G's! So TAKE THAT G! Go and steal my phrase and all. GAWD!

Anne said...


VOTE FOR ME! Press the green button!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Here it is EASTER SUNDAY at NOON and I'm posting a comment here just so's Teh Marcy can't have the bragging rights of posting the longest comment on this blog for which I'd have to PUNCH HER IN TEH FACE, because long comments are MY job and in this economy I'm not giving up THAT job or any other without a fight.

Wait till Teh Marcy's kids are a little older - they'll turn their Dr. Nic game into a drinking game:

Every time Dr. Nic forgets his heart-rate monitor on a run, take a sip of beer.

Every time Dr. Nic forgets to turn on his Garmin, take a shot.

Every time Dr. Nic fails to break three hours in a marathon run it's a shot-and-a-beer and PUNCH EACH OTHER IN TEH FACE!1!1

This game will sweep the nation. In roughly 13 years' time, campuses all over the country will be doing it and co-eds will all be falling-down drunk and have punch-swollen faces.

Sixty Minutes will do a story on it. By Mike Wallace, who will still be alive at 350 years old..

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