I hadn’t planned to run the Wo-Zha-Wa Run, a small race in Wisconsin Dells, WI (Saturday, September 17, 2016). Total finishers in 2016 numbered 111 for the half marathon. There is also a 4 Mile Run; 145 finished that. It was the 5th largest field in its history. Like I said, it’s a small race. It also happens to be the oldest long distance race in Wisconsin. It’s been run in one form or another since 1968. This year marked the 49th anniversary. That’s impressive!
I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago when my daughter, an Assistant Store Manager for a trendy retailer, found out she was getting sent to Wisconsin for a short-term stint (she volunteered to go) because the store in The Dells was suddenly without management. I Googled ‘half marathon, Wisconsin Dells WI, September 2016’ and Wo-Zha-Wa came up. I started scheming how to work out a way to go. The District Manager said she was only needed for 10 days. Nooo! but oh well. It turned out her 10 day stay ended up three weeks after all. And her final weekend in Wisconsin also happened to be the same weekend as the race. I decided to take advantage of her “hospitality” for a free-to-me hotel, and said I’d drive her back home since I would be there anyway. I figured she would have missed me oh, so much after being away for so long. (cough, cough) A mother can dream, right?
I drove just over 6 hours from home and listened to Moby Dick on Google Music audio book to keep me company and my mind focused. The tolls — so many tolls — between Chicago and The Dells set me back about $20. Because I got a late start leaving, I arrived just before midnight on Friday, September 16th. I was exhausted. She was exhausted. We talked a little, hugged and both of us were in bed by 1 a.m. It would be a short night. Race start was 8 am, Saturday, September 17.
My alarm went off at 6:30 and I fought the urge to roll over and go back to sleep. “You drove all this way and paid the race entry. You can’t no-show,” I told myself more than once. I got changed, grabbed my bag with all my gear and picked up a plain white bagel (not my favorite) and cream cheese (favorite), and scrambled eggs in the Guest Lounge (read: lobby) on my way out. I ate in the car. The eggs were in a bowl and I used a spoon. Less mess and very little chance of spilling down my front. A very real possibility.
Packet pickup was race morning only and at the start line, at Wisconsin Dells High School. It was cool, about 65 degrees and a heavy dew had fallen. I decided on a Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra skirt and one of their tank tops for the race. I knew once the sun got higher I would be too hot in short sleeves or capris. It turned out to be a smart choice as there was very little cloud cover for most of the day and being rural farm land there wasn’t much shade. The shorts under the skirt have pockets on each leg, perfect for stashing my inhaler in one and my gel flask in the other.
There wasn’t any SWAG to speak of except the unisex tech fabric short sleeve t-shirt. I didn’t expect much more, being a small, local, independent race. The shirt seems to be decent quality. I missed most of the pre-race announcements and National Anthem while I brought the shirt back to my car. My Google Maps app sent me to the WD Public Schools offices instead of the high school; this little detour ate up my spare time. Shame on me for not double checking. I made it to the start line — which wasn’t a line at all. The mass of runners just congregated on the pavement between the school and the edge of the football field. There also seemed to be a curious habit of a quick clap from the crowd as (I’m presuming) the Race Director paused after each bit of information was shared. “Look for this….” [clap] “Thanks to the timers …” [clap]. I didn’t join in the clapping.
Then he said, “Okay, READY – SET – GO!” or something like that. There were no timing mats to cross so everyone got the same start time. And there was just one timing clock that got started when he said Go!
My left ankle has been finicky the last couple of weeks and feeling stiff after I run. (I sprained it twice this year, March 30 and June 12 so that was the start of it.) My pace and endurance have both taken major hits as a result. I’ve had my chiropractor adjust it a couple of times this summer, with moderate improvement. It was achy when I started and the top of my instep was sore. My shoe laces have suddenly started to put pressure on the top of my foot just under the knot. The spot isn’t quite a hot spot, not quite a bruise. By the end of the first mile I knew I would need to loosen my laces. (Side Note: a quick Google search while writing this brought me an answer. It’s called Extensor Tendonitis. Follow the link for more information.)
I fell into my target pace for the Ragnar Relay I was doing at the end of the September. Little did I know that the first 4 miles was a gentle constant up hill. It took its toll. I knew after Mile 6 I would be slowing down.
There was an aid station at miles 1.5 and 3 and they offered water only. When I got to 4.5 there wasn’t one. Surprise! For the next mile and a half I was watching, hoping — but no. The rest were spaced 3 miles apart on the course, at miles 6, 9 and 12. It’s a good thing I wore my fuel belt and carry my own sport drink and water or I would have been in danger of dehydration.
Just before the Mile 9 water stop I heard a farm tractor coming up from behind me. No surprise considering much of the area is rural farm land. But it was the parade of 9 in various ages from nearly new to almost antique that came after it that made me chuckle.
Most of the last 4 miles are a blur. I usually study course maps in detail but didn’t have the time since registering was a very last minute decision so I had no idea where I was going and hoped it was still in the right direction. A group of children were standing at the end of their driveway cheering and gave me a few waves and a “Great job!” somewhere between 10 and 11 miles. I like seeing kids on a race course. I try to hi-five them back. They were on the other side of the road. By this point I just wanted to be done and the other side of the road was just too far.
There were two women just ahead of me. It learned they were a mother/daughter pair (deduced from their names and ages on the results list) and the daughter was really struggling. I knew they knew I was right behind them. They would start to run again when I got a little too close. I could have made an effort to pass them, but didn’t. Part of me just didn’t have the energy left to give that push. I stayed on their tails for the last mile, and up the last hill. Which was around Mile 12.7, by the way.
The finish line was on the high school track. Runners came onto school grounds and did a 3/4 lap on the track to reach the line. The finish line timing was very low-tech. There wasn’t a B-tag or D-tag on the bib or for your shoe. Nope, it was just a couple of people sitting at a table handwriting your bib number or marking your name off a list and the time on the clock when you went past. Either way it was completely manual. My official finish time and the time on my watch were pretty close and that’s normal even with computerized timing systems.
I grabbed a bottle of water, an apple and congratulated another runner who kept me company for a few miles. She finished a few minutes ahead of me. The wooden picnic tables on the lawn were a good place to drink my water, stretch a little and revel in the 60 minute improvement from my race in June.
Going into the race I figured I would finish dead last. I did. It was the third time this year.