Last November, my husband and I were up in LaCrosse, hanging out at his sister’s bar on Black Friday, chatting with one of her friends, when we found out there was a half marathon in LaCrosse the following May, and we should all sign up and run it together. Surprisingly, of the three of us, my husband ended up doing the half marathon, I dropped down to the 5K, and our new friend ended up doing the half marathon as a relay with another friend. But that’s what brought up up to LaCrosse this past weekend.
The Grandad Half Marathon starts up in the Grandad Bluff, overlooking LaCrosse, WI, and runs down the bluff, through LaCrosse, and finishes next to the Mississippi River. (If you’re like “where the heck is LaCrosse?” here you go.) Because it’s point-to-point, I had to drop my husband off at the shuttles (near the finish, in “downtown” LaCrosse) by 7am. His race started at 8am. Because of all of my pain issues this year, I dropped down to the 5K, which started at 8:30am and luckily started and finished in the same spot (which is the same spot the half marathon finished). After dropping my husband off, I had enough time to go back to my sis-in-law’s place, have some coffee, a little oatmeal, get dressed, and head back to the race site. Luckily, we had perfect weather – sunny and 50 degrees.
I didn’t spend too much time studying the 5K course, I just knew it started and ended in Riverside Park next to the Mississippi River and ran through downtown LaCrosse. I parked in a public garage (free on weekends), walked about 10 minutes to the race site, did my glute-activations, and lined up. I noticed there seemed to be a decent presence from some type of Girls on the Run organization (with a different name).
The race started promptly at 8:30am. I had no idea what my pace would be, I never target a pace, and run by feel or heart rate. So I just set my Garmin watch to the heart rate view and ran what felt doable. However, my running is finally starting to turn around and my runs have been feeling good lately, which hasn’t been the case for the past few months. I got out of the habit of activating my glutes before going for a run (and also not doing as much strength training in general, so I’m weaker overall), and I think my calves were picking up the slack which led to the pain/fatigue. If I activate my glutes, I can get through my runs (3-5 miles right now) feeling good.
The first mile included some uphill, and Garmin told me I did it in 9:58. I don’t remember the last time I clocked a sub-10 mile. Probably last summer. The course flattened out and mile 2 came in at 9:28, and I thought maybe I had a chance at a sub-30 5K! The course was heading back to where we started, and I was feeling good, so I picked up the pace. We ran back into Riverside Park, and turned toward the finish line. As I approached the finish line, the 5K time clock read 23:xx. I finished and stopped my watch … I ran 2.42 miles in 22:55. (The last 0.42 was at an 8:17 pace by the way.)
I could hear other people commenting that the 5K was only “two and a half miles” and “we took a wrong turn.” That happens, I’ve run short 5K races before, unfortunately. They did send out an email confirming that there was a mishap and we ran a short course (and we’ll get a discount code for next year). Either way, I’m happy that running feels good again and that my pace is improving. This race felt a million times better (mentally and physically) than the Shamrock Shuffle did 6 weeks ago.
Anyway, I finished my race by 9am, and my husband estimated that he would finish the half marathon around 11am, so I had time to go back to my sis-in-law’s house, shower, head back, and spectate for about 30 minutes before he finished. This was his fourth half marathon, and he’s been having some issues with his knee and also he sometimes has stomach issues when he runs. Luckily neither of those bothered him, and he finished the race feeling (and looking) good.
Overall, this was a well-done race, minus the 5K course mishap. They reported 1,400 total participants between the 5K, half marathon and half marathon relay (2-person teams). Both races were on closed courses on the roads or bike paths, so no issues with crowding. The half marathon and relay runners got medals, and I think everyone got some post-race food (bratwurst and maybe beer? neither of us were in the mood for it after our races). The 5K had a water station about halfway through. According to the half marathon map, there were 7 water stations on their course. There was water and Gatorade (in cups) at the finish, so I’m going to assume the half marathon course had Gatorade too. Early bird pricing is $50 for the half and $20 for the 5K, it goes up to $90 and $40 in the last few days leading up to the race. There is ample free parking nearby, and some good options for lunch (and beers) post-race. I don’t know if this race alone is worth the trip from Chicago (especially since the Wisconsin Marathon & Half is the same day in Kenosha, so much closer to Chicago), but since we can stay with my husband’s sister (and of course visit with her and then drink for “free” at her bar), it’s worth it for us.