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Race Report: Icebreaker Indoor Marathon


Start, turn, turn some more, then turn to the finish.
By Eric T. Olson

Milwaukee Wisconsin, the largest city in the state and home to over a half million people.  Known for its brewing traditions, Milwaukee is also the birthplace of Schlitz Beer which in 1909 was the largest Brewery in the world!   “Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous”!  (Remember those T-Shirts)? 

I put the word out a few months ago about this indoor event and a few brave souls stepped up. We headed down Saturday morning and I went directly to the Pettit National Ice Center to check things out. The Pettit Center is a 200,000 sq ft Arena that consists of two international-sized hockey rinks, surrounded by a Olympic-sized 400 meter speed skating track. Then a 3-lane running track surrounds that. This place is quite impressive to say the least! The 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay was happening Saturday, our Full Marathon was Sunday. I watched a few of the events and made sure I knew where to park when we came back in the morning.

I headed downtown to get checked into our hotel and meet up with the rest of our group since we all drove separately. Upon check-in, I noticed there was a nice Saloon attached to our Hotel and it just happened to be Happy Hour. I pulled up a barstool and the barkeeper asks; “What brings you to town?”  “A Marathon at the Pettit Centertomorrow” I replied.   “A What?”  “A running event that runs around outskirts of the ice track” I explained.   She looked at me all confused and said,  “Why?”

A bit later Micah and Katie showed up and joined me at the bar. We enjoyed some good stories and good beer. Each round seemed to be a different choice. We were on a mini vay-cay and wanted to make the best of it! The Thanig family showed up a little later.

As the night went on, we headed down to the famous Kegal’s Inn. The Kegal’s is a century old German restaurant that was highly recommended. Walking there was our only legal means of transportation at this point, so there we were in the dark, on foot in the streets of Milwaukee, not sure exactly where we were going but we somehow arrived without a problem.

Dinner was great, and the camaraderie even better. Katie took the blunt of the harassment about her pronunciation of the Wiener Schnitzel, and we still couldn’t quite get her to order one. As I’ve said before, these are the greatest times. The Marathon just gets you there. The rest is what you make of it.

The next morning’s early alarm clock going of is always a sudden strike of reality as the thought of 26 miles goes through your mind, especially on a track. This is really a challenge of mind over body. 96 laps of constant circles. Any distraction is greatly appreciated. There is a need to develop a plan to keep your mind occupied for 4 to 5 hours. We met for breakfast in the hotel lobby, then headed over to the Pettit Arena. Micah opted out of the race and spent the morning on his Mountain Bike. We met up with my friend Ali (honorary Cyclova team member for the day) at the Start line. She’s another one of those interesting ducks, who likes to run a Marathon every other weekend. She also ran the day prior in the Marathon Relay. She’s a tough girl!

With a capped field of 140 participants, we all assembled at the start. The gun went off and so did we.  Jim, Katie, Ali and I all started at the same pace and we hung together for the first couple laps. It didn’t take long until the Jim decided to pull ahead and gain a lap on us, Katie soon did the same. We were really impressed with this beautiful facility! About 30 minutes into the race, some local collegiate Speed Skaters showed up and started to train on the Ice Track. If you’ve never seen this in person you’d never believe how fast these guys can fly around the track. I would assume they go between 25 to 35 mph. The sound of their skates clicking the glass-smooth ice around the corners was so incredible. Jim’s wife and their two boys also hit the ice and took advantage of the world class skating while we hammered the miles on the track.

This event is Chip-Timed and every lap completed, your name and lap count was displayed on the Jumbo screen above. We also shared our experience with a visually impaired man who was aided by a running guide. It’s fun to see this and makes you happy to see someone making the best of their life without allowing a disability to stop them. His guide would verbally give him commands on the straight portions, then grab his arm and direct him around the turns.

At the halfway point I knew I wasn’t going to catch Jim, and Ali picked up her pace to put a good margin on me also. Katie slowed her pace a bit and I think last night’s wine consumption was starting to drag her down to my level. She and I ran the next 30 or so laps together, transforming it into more of a social session. It wasn’t long and we watched Ali run her final lap. A few minutes later Jim reached the finish line also. Katie only had a few laps to go so she found her second wind and left me in the dust! It was fun to see my friends smile with victory and accomplishment. There is nothing easy about this distance on a track. (Katie won her age division by the way)!!!

We left this event knowing we gave it all we had, mentally and physically. It was another good day. One more victory, one more finisher’s medal. One more weekend spent with friends doing what brought us all together in the first place.

So what’s next? It’s going to be another great year! Come join us.

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