Monday, May 3, 2021

Race Recap: Lake Monona 20k

I've always had a love for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. Back in my college days, I used to visit the campus and since that time, the city has had my heart. Built on a thin stretch of land between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, the state capitol building sits at one end of the main street and the University of Wisconsin campus at the other. Our lake house is a 30 minute ride away and over the years, we have spent a lot of time visiting the city and attending various events. There's an amazing farmers market on the capitol square May through October. So many fun festivals. I've run multiple races there. It was no surprise that my youngest son chose to attend school there.

Last summer while visiting my son, I took my running shoes to the Lake Loop, a designated running route that encircles Lake Monona. While the Lake Loop is about 11~ish miles around, that day, I only ran a portion of it. I vowed to return to complete the entire loop. The Lake Monona 20k, a race that runs around the lake, went virtual last year and was scheduled to be virtual this year as well. But 2 weeks ago, the race was approved to go live and I eagerly signed up! After all, I had just trained for and run the CARA Lakefront 10 miler, so my legs were trained and ready to go. 

Like the good runner that I am, I stalked the weather forecast all week. As the week progressed, the forecast for race day became less favorable, with high winds and warm temperatures predicted. I am not a warm weather runner and especially this time of year when I haven't had the time to acclimate. I decided to wear a tank top and shorts and hope for the best. I brought my handheld water bottle filled with Tailwind. I decided not to wear my Mizuno Wave Horizons. While I like them for the support they give me on long training runs, they are kind of stiff. I wanted a shoe that would get me the finish time I was looking for. I looked at my recently retired Brooks Adrenalines, the shoes that have brought me all those speedy Friday morning runs this past winter. I examined the soles. I asked them if they had 12 more miles in them. I really did that.

They said yes. 

Tell me that running isn't 90% mental. 

As I always do with a race, I had expectations of what I hoped to accomplish. I set a finish time goal of 2 hours, just under 10 m/m, keeping in mind that I had just raced 2 weeks ago and that there would be hills, wind, and heat to contend with. I had never run a 20k before, but the distance, 12.4 miles, is just shy of a half marathon. I knew what I was capable of. Regardless of my finish time, it would be a PR for the distance, right?

When I got to the race, it was blustery and it was cool-49 degrees. I walked to the bright red portapotties--only in Wisconsin do they have red portapotties--and shivered. Do I wear my jacket and shed it if it actually does warm up? Or do I suck it up and run in my tank top? I sat in my car while I waited to line up for the race, pondering this question. I finally decided to suck it up and left my jacket in the car. There were many other runners in tanks and shorts but also many in long sleeves and tights. Spring running is such a crapshoot, isn't it?

I lined up with the second wave of runners (there were 3 waves). Social distancing was encouraged but not really observed by most of the runners. About half the runners were wearing masks. We were off shortly after the first wave. I removed my mask after I ran across the start line. We headed out into the wind and up a hill. I did my best to keep my pace under control. My legs felt surprisingly good. That first mile was all rolling hills. Mile one was 9:07. A little faster than I wanted, so I started adding in 30 second walk breaks every mile. This turned out to be a good strategy for me.

The course was just beautiful. We followed the lake all the way around. There were people out on the entire course, cheering us on. There were ample aid stations with water, Gatorade, and very enthusiastic volunteers. As the sun came out and it started to warm up, I stopped for water at almost all the water stations. 

free race photos for the win!

It felt great to be running a live race!

Those first couple of miles were into the wind, but as we wound around the lake, the wind's impact lessened, and eventually, we had a forceful tailwind which pushed me along nicely for several miles! The view along John Nolen Drive is breathtaking. The Madison skyline with the Capitol rising above all the other buildings is one of my favorite views. We see it every time we drive into the city and it never gets old. We ran through Monona terrace and then into a neighborhood again. The rolling hills continued, but I ran up all of them without stopping. I just couldn't believe how strong I felt and just decided to keep rolling with it.

The last couple of miles took us along a busy road, but the lake was still on our right. The wind at this point was coming at us sideways, but with the sun beating down on us, the cooling effect was welcome. Do you ever notice that as you approach the final miles of a race, you run with the same group of people? There were a couple women my age with whom I played cat and mouse until the end. As we approached the finish line, one of them stopped to walk and we left her behind. 

I saw the runners ahead of me round the corner to the finish line and I found myself smiling. I knew I was going to beat my goal time and even better than that, I reflected on how good I felt! I haven't run a race that felt this good for a long time. The strong winds and hills would have normally crushed my spirit, but instead, I was able to run through like it was no big deal. The cool weather at the start was definitely a gift. 

Sometimes everything falls into place. I crossed the finish line at 1:56:11. I couldn't stop smiling! There was no after party, so I accepted my medal and walked back to my car. I didn't leave right away though, instead reflecting on all that had just happened. This was my fastest long distance race since my diagnosis with RA, over 5 1/2 years ago.

As always, I am so grateful that my body lets me do this.


Have you run any live races this year? How comfortable are you lining up for a race right now? Have you ever run a 20k?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  

 


44 comments :

  1. Running by the water -- ocean, river, lake -- it just makes me happy. And happy for you that that seemed to be your secret sauce for a strong race, Wendy! It does look stunning.

    Nope, still not racing. Pretty sure racing will be there for me when I'm ready for it!

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  2. Congratulations, Wendy!!!
    When I saw your goal of 2 hours I KNEW you would be faster than that. You not only felt good, but you also looked good on your photos. Especially the last one!
    I checked Lake Monona on Google maps. Thanks to your recap, I have now also learned where it is.

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    1. I based that 2 hours on my recent half marathons! This would have been a 2:02-ish half which makes me very happy!

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  3. Congratulations! Sounds like a beautiful day (except for the wind,) a beautiful course, and a beautiful race for you! So it was your fastest long distance race in 5 and 1/2 years- it doesn't seem like you do speed work, so I'm wondering if you credit your heavy lifting for keeping your speed up? Just curious.
    Glad your shoes told you they were up for the job, ha ha.

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    1. I think the trails have made me stronger, we do interval workouts at CF, and my Friday morning runs are fast. Unconventional but hey, it’s how I rroll!

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  4. You are so strong! Such an inspiration. You say you’re grateful that your body “let’s you do this”, well I think you don’t let your body do it any other way. You work hard at it and it shows!

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    1. I think you’ve got me figured out, lol! But I am so grateful for what I get to do. I never take my health for granted!

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  5. Fabulous race, Wendy!

    I've never been a big racer, so I'm not even looking at races to sign up for right now. I've never raced a 20k, but I did a 25k in Hawaii a few years ago.

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    1. This race was so satisfying! I’m content to sit back and relax for a while!

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  6. Congrats on having such an awesome race Wendy! It also sounds like it was super well organized and I love that there were so many volunteers and spectators as well.

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    1. I think people were just so happy that something normal was taking place!

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  7. Well, I love the 20K distance. Since Dam to Dam was my first-ever long race, and it was a 20K, I always, always LOL, have that distance in my head. I've done far more 13.1's, but I'm always doing the runner's math with the 12.4 "finish line" going on...and that last 1/2 mile (or so) of a half marathon almost always takes me by surprise. Great job! It's a nice feeling when everything comes together on race day ;-)

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    1. There definitely aren't many 20ks! I always do that countdown with a half, only it's 10 miles that's my albatross, lol

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  8. what a wonderful read (and race/day)! the inspiration I needed for me to go running right now... :]

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    1. Thank you! It was an amazing day and I'm still floating on a cloud...

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  9. spring weather is really tricky! Cooler weather is always a gift in my book too. Looks like it was your day out there! So happy for you. What a great feeling. Congrats!

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    1. This race was so satisfying! Now i'm happy to just cruise through the summer until my fall races.

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  10. This looks like such a great race, and you did awesome! I would like running along a lake like that. I haven't done any live races yet. They still make me a little nervous but I'm sure with the proper precautions it would be fine. Congratulations!

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    1. My Chicago race was super strict with precautions; the Madison race kinda left it up to the runners. I felt safe, tho, but being vaccinated definitely made me feel better about it.

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  11. Gotta love a race when everything comes together! Congrats!

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    1. Truth!!!! It's been a hot minute since I've had a race like this. So satisfying!

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    1. And yet, 19 women in my age group were faster!!! There are some fast old ladies out there, lol!

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  13. Great job on your race!! I don't think I have ever run a 20 K. I know a lot of people complained about the restrictions at my recent marathon for vaccination or negative COVID test, but I thought it was great and I felt very comfortable at the race and all during that weekend. Especially when we got together for dinner after the race.

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    1. I'm surprised people complained about the restrictions! At both of my races this spring, runners were grateful to be able to run a live race!

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  14. Congratulations, Wendy! What an accomplishment! I've never been to Madison nor have I run a 20K, but I would love to do both at some point! Spring races are definitely tricky to dress for - I'm glad all the pieces came together for you!

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    1. You and me both! I guess it's always better to underdress than overdress, right?

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  15. Brilliant, well done! I really like Madison and I've been in the Capitol (I was so shocked I could just walk in - this was in about 1998). I got very confused by the street layout, though, being British.

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    1. I still get confused about the street layout, lol. It's the craziest place to drive!

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  16. That smile on your face at finish line is EVERYTHTING. I am just so happy for you. 20K would be a new distance for me, but it sounds like a good one. I'm ok with live races right now as long as they are small.

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    1. It's just so close to a half marathon that it worked out well. I was just thrilled with the outcome of this race.

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  17. Congratulations, Wendy! You look so happy in the last photo.

    Thank you for linking up with us!

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  18. My Gosh, I am so dang proud of you. Well Done!!! Its been a pleasure following along this journey of yours and reading how you are so dedicated to putting in the effort. Everything paid off and you ran like the wind. You were cognizant of your quick pace to start and knew to walk. BRILLIANTLY Done!! You are living proof that we are able to do what the mind will allow. Now, ask the hubby to stand up and give you a 3 Mississippi hug, its from your friend Travis. Again, you so rock. Keep leading with that heart of yours.

    Cheers

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    1. Thank you so much Travis! Your support means a ton. Not sure what a 3 Mississippi hug is, but it sounds like a good one, lol!

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    2. So Cute You Are - When You Embrace With The Hubby, You Count one Mississippi, two Mississippi, And A Quick Squeeze On three Mississippi - And Yes, You Rock - Sending Positive Vibes

      Cheers

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  19. I was smiling while reading your recap. Love that you ran this race. And so happy how it turned out for you!!

    I looks like a beautiful course. Wish I lived closer.

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  20. Congratulations on your great race! It sounds beautiful and fun. I still haven't raced but I've got one on my schedule at the end of the month. I'm sure it will be slow though, especially since it's on trail. That's okay though, I'm just happy to get out there again.

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    1. I have one trail race for sure in the fall and another tentatively planned for October. I'm excited for those. I plan on doing a lot of trail time this summer.

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  21. Congrats on your race! This event sounds so fun, even with the wind. I keep thinking about doing a race in Madison!

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    1. This is such a good race--it's hilly, it's scenic, and it attracts a really strong group of runners, making it competitive! I highly recommend it!

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