Wisconsin: state #39
Since Madison is only about 7.5 hours away, we decided to drive this trip. We drove the day before the race and immediately went to the packet pickup location. The bib pickup location was at a Lexus dealer. It was a little out of town and not really close to anything. There was no expo, just the bib and shirt pickup. It was quick and easy and obviously there were plenty of parking spots.
The race start was downtown Madison and close to the University of Wisconsin campus. I'm an Ohio State alumni, so naturally I had to wear my OSU shirt for the race. The start and finish line is the same. Therefore, there is no transportation to the start line. There were several parking garages in the area, but there was a little bit of a line getting into them, so give yourself a little extra time. Luckily I went with my parents and was able to jump out while they waited for a spot.
I did a mile warmup and headed to the start. My parents were able to park and walk to the start line with a few minutes to spare. There seemed to be plenty of port-a-johns, but I don't notice too much unless I need one. Runners had to self corral and were able to lineup with one of the pace groups.
The course covered a lot of the highlights of town including Capital Square where they were setting up for the farmer's market, Kohl Center, the Arboretum, Picnic Point, Camp Randall Stadium and part of the UW campus. I spotted 5 wild turkey in the Arboretum.
An August race can be tough. Although the temperature was only in the 60's, the humidity was 95% and it was sunny. A lot of the course had shade and there was a little breeze at times. Based on the forecast, I lowered my expectations a little and I wasn't overly confident since I generally struggle in the humidity. Although it wasn't a PR, I felt pretty good about my finish time.
There was 577 feet of elevation gain over those 13.1 miles. Any course that is not flat seems to affect my right quad. It is mostly the up hills that give me problems. It's something that I have not been able to find a cure for. I was just about to the 12 mile mark when I came to a turn. I looked at the street and someone had written "one more hill" in chalk. I thought maybe I was done with the hills, but I turned the corner and saw a large hill right in front of me. I staggered up that hill, hopping I didn't have to walk to the top. It was close to 100' of gain in just under half a mile. All of which was in the sun. From mile 12.5 to the finish, was all an easy downhill. I was able to make up a little time on the down hill, but it was still my slowest mile.
The finish line offered some of the usual fare, bananas, chips, clif bars, and granola bars as well as water. The finisher medal was nice, but appeared that the 5K and half finishers received the same one.
After the race, we walked to the capital building where the Dane County Farmer's Market was still going strong. There are tents setup along the entire block around capital square. Everything is grown or make in Wisconsin. There were hand made crafts, homemade desserts, fresh cut flowers, cheese curds and lots of vegetables. A lot of the vendors were offering samples. I had a cinnamon role and we grabbed some cheese curds from Hook's for later.
We stopped for lunch at a local favorite, The Old Fashioned. Their cheese curds were voted the best in Wisconsin. I agree that they were the best that I have had. In addition to the curds, I tried the bratwurst sandwich. Other highlights for the day included Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Memorial Union Terrace, and a milkshake at The Chocolate Shoppe.
The next day, I met an old friend I knew from a run club in Columbus. We ran a few miles with a local running company called Movin' Shoes. They had a nice route around one of the lakes and offered several different pace groups. The rest of the day was rather gloomy. We did manage to get some outdoor activities in. We started with a visit to Aldo Leopold Nature Center to look for birds. After lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ, we hiked to picnic point for views of downtown across the lake. Finally, we spent a little time at Henry Vilas Zoo before returning to our hotel.
On Monday, it was time to head towards home. We made one final stop at the Sassy Cow Creamery. They have gourmet grilled cheese as well as flavored milk and great ice cream. There were heavy rains, so we didn't have a chance to check out the cows.