Here's the truth about Waukesha's Trailbreaker marathon...
It used to brag about being rated one of the 25 toughest marathons in the country. I have run it 4 times, and I have run 35 marathons total. This course is just not that tough.
The race starts and ends at Waukesha's Frame Park. The first 3 miles are winding through Waukesha's riverwalk and a couple city streets. The only hard part here is following the poorly marked course. There were some cones out there, but it wasn't always clear which way to turn. Fortunately, I run here once or twice a week, and I know how to get from Frame Park to the Glacial Drumlin trail. Mile 3 to about 10.5 is on the pancake flat, paved Glacial Drumlin trail.
This section requires no markings, because there are no turns. There are a couple long straight sections where you can see ahead over a mile. Many people find these sections incredibly boring. I run and bike the paved trail often, and have traversed these sections dozens, maybe even hundreds of times, and I guess I find it less boring than most. The trail goes through some undeveloped land, past creeks, a golf course, some parks, farms, behind some nice subdivisions. I have definitely been on courses more boring than this.
The Ice Age trail section is more interesting. This is a 3 mile out and back to the Lapham Peak tower. The first mile is pretty flat, and it gets hillier as it approaches the tower. Its mostly single track, and it gets a bit technical as well. There is a significant stair climb leading up to the area that the tower is perched on (since, it really doesn't make sense to put an observation tower at the bottom of a hill). The turn around point is at the top of the observation tower. Ring the bell, and then head back to Waukesha's Frame Park.
The Glacial Drumlin trail is slightly uphill on the way out - like 0.3%, so its slightly downhill all the way back. Furthermore, the winds are generally out of the west, and at our backs for the return trip as well. This gives the perfect conditions for some negative splits.
The Trailbreaker marathon is a low-frills event. The race shirt is very cheap, and the Small that I got has room for about 3 of me. I considered dropping it at Goodwill on the way home, but they might even turn it down. Maybe I will wear it once. The post race food selection will encourage you to try one of downtown Waukesha's local restaurants, 'cause you'll still be hungry. I recommend the Rochester Deli - great sandwiches and desserts.
So, what is the appeal of this race? Well, its my home course, my home town, and my friends are here. Just over 100 people do the full marathon, and I recognize many of the names and faces.
Local legendary ultra runner Lorraine Bunk has run all 19 Trailbreaker Marathons.
In 2009 and 2010, training partner Dennis Hanna and I ran the first 16 miles of the course together. This year, Dennis is recovering from double hernia plus sports hernia surgery, and is not quite up to running yet.
Icebreaker marathon director Chris Ponteri decided last week to run Trailbreaker. He is training for his first Ice Age 50K in May. He and I exchanged emails during the week, and decided we'd start out together.
We started out with a little under an 8 min pace. After a few miles, we picked up Ashleigh Spees, who I know from Fleet Feet in Brookfield, and ran with at the Glacial 50K last October.
We stayed right together all the way out the Glacial Drumlin trail and lined up single file through the Ice Age trail section. I lagged slightly behind, as Ashleigh and Chris tackled the hills. I caught back up to them at the tower, and then lagged behind a bit again on the way back to the Glacial Drumlin trail, and caught up when we return to pavement.
A few miles after returning to the Glacial Drumlin trail, we passed the lead woman. I had a few miles where I started feeling tired, and wondered if I could hold our 7:30 return pace. I fumbled with my waist pack for my Chocolate Outrage Gu, and got that down without any trouble. It must have worked, because when we got to about the 23 mile mark, and Chris commented that we had just about a 5K left, Ashleigh and I picked up the pace to about a 7:15.
I was feeling strong, and the 7:15 pace felt really good. Sometimes I feel better when I run a little harder. I pulled slightly ahead of Ashleigh. She was probably never more than 10 or 20 yards behind me. Just as we approached the finish, Ashleigh kicked it into high gear and caught me on the finish mat. It truly was a photo finish, neither of us could tell who crossed first. Our finish time was 3:33.
The results listed finish place based on chip time, rather than gun time, and since Ashleigh started behind me, it showed she won by 6 seconds. Congratulations Ashleigh! It was a great run. You really helped me stay strong at the end.