If you recall a year ago, I challenged myself to run in the Crazylegs Classic, which is an 8-kilometer run put on by the University of Wisconsin—Madison whose proceeds go to fund the school’s athletic program. I had never run in an organized race that long, and I wasn’t sure of how well I would do. Well, I set to preparing for the race, squeezing in 5-mile runs almost every weekend in the lead-up to the race. And when all was said and done, I finished the 4.98 miles in just over 57 minutes, well above the treadmill runs I put myself on and astonishing myself in the process.
This year, I got myself off the couch and, despite a little bit of procrastination (I can’t shake all of my bad habits), signed myself to run the 36th edition of Crazylegs, which occurred last Saturday (April 29). Compared to the lead-up to last year’s run, I wasn’t as nervous. Well, I sort of take that back. The only thing I was nervous about was how cold and/or wet I’d feel during and after the run. Yeah, Madison has had a bit of a cold spell the past few days, along with a few dreary days of rain, including the night before when I had to run in between raindrops to pick up my runner’s packet (shirt, bib, sweat pack).
As it would turn out on Saturday, I really didn’t have to worry… about the rain, that is.
As you can tell from the photo in that tweet, the skies during the run on Saturday stayed rather dry; just a bit of haziness at the start, with not-too-ominous clouds rolling in by 11:30 or so. What you cannot tell from the photo was the fact that it was cool and breezy. Once the runners got within visual distance of the lakes at the Capitol Square starting point, you could really feel the chilly breeze coming from the north and swirling around. At least the buildings surrounding Capitol Square served to be a nice windbreak at times.
Of course, the coolness of the temperature would be balanced out by my working up a sweat during my run. Speaking of which, I started in the third to last wave of Crazylegs runners (group “cc,” which stepped off around 10:45 or so). An option I realized this year when signing up to run was that you could select which group of bringing-up-the-rear waves if your per-mile time was over 11 minutes. My treadmill pace was still just over the 11 minute range, but I wasn’t keen to repeat the relative loneliness of being in the last group last year.
Naturally, it didn’t matter what group I was in if I was keen to get going with the race. And almost from the get-go, I put any nervous energy into my run and turned on the juice at the start. It continued for that entire first mile, after which I checked my watch and… oh, wow! I was on a pace of roughly 9:20 or so, which was a minute better than the first mile pace I put in last year. However…
The end of Mile 1 and the start of Mile 2 of the slightly adjusted course (more on that later) was in the middle of the hill that is Observatory Drive. As mentioned in my review of the race last year, it’s the part of the race that’s the most challenging, going up and winding around like a corkscrew. Like most of the runners around me, and not unlike how I handled that stretch last year, I let up the jets a little bit and did a brisk run-walk advance upwards until the course started to even out just a little bit.
While that curvy, hilly stretch of Observatory Drive that makes up Crazylegs’ second mile can be a challenge (and even more so if you throw in the wind and the cold), at least there’s the scenery. As you go westward, to your right you see a beautiful view of Lake Mendota, the biggest of the lakes that surround the Madison area. (It’s not a Great Lakes type of big, but still…) I took a brief moment to let up on my run, marvel at the view, and then snap a photo with my phone so that I could marvel at it a little more later.
The view to the right of the course was nicer than the view to the left, at least this year. I’ve mentioned that the Crazylegs route runs through the UW campus, part of which is undergoing a little bit of a construction boom. I won’t distress you with a photo, but to our left was ongoing construction of a building that will house UW’s meat science and muscle biology labs. (Uh… yum yum?)
Snapping more than a few photos (the ones above and several others I have no room on here to share) led to the slowing of my pace just a little bit, though not too drastically. I crossed the start of the 3rd mile about :20:30 into my race. The stiffening of my legs helped slow my pace as well, a natural thing when you’ve run 2 miles already and are running your 3rd and 4th. Still, however, I was in good spirits. And when Camp Randall Stadium (the race’s finish) was in sight, I felt really, really good. (Oh, see if you can tell in this photo where my phone’s camera lens was a little bit smudgy after trying to wipe my sweat off of it.)
And when I did cross that finish line in the middle of the Camp Randall field, it was a great feeling. Great that I finished in one piece, for sure, but for something else… say, my finishing time.
I don’t have anything like a FitBit around my wrist, but I do have a stopwatch mode on my watch. And when I crossed the finish line, I hit “stop” and realized I had blown away my previous year’s time of :57:17. A later check of the Crazylegs website confirmed it, with my official time of [drumroll] 51:58! Yes, 51 minutes and 58 seconds, and at a pace of :10:28! I blew away my 2016 finish by over 5 minutes!! Not bad for a 47-year-old who doesn’t get around to exercising much but doesn’t mind a good run.
While my second Crazylegs Classic experience was an awesome one (for my finishing time, of course), it wasn’t as fun as it was the first time. Sure, there was none of that first-time feeling this year. But it felt a little bit disjointed this year for three reasons, the first of which was the move of the start line. Due to road construction around Capitol Square, the start had to be moved about half of a block north from its usual spot. The rest of the route didn’t change, aside from moving back a “turnaround” point where the runners going northwest had to do a 180 and head southeast to the rest of the route. It was generally a minor thing, but it felt a bit weird to start so far ahead than before.
My second nitpick had to do with the location of the “sweat truck” at the start of the race. For the unfamiliar, if you’re about to start a road race and you need to drop off your warm-up outfit and other belongings in a safe and secure manner, you place them in a bag, mark the bag with your bib number, and drop it off in what’s called a “sweat truck.” Unlike last year, when I actually ran the race while wearing my warmup jacket (yeah, I’m crazy for doing so), I wanted to utilize the sweat truck. Problem is, however, the Crazylegs website had inaccurate information about where the sweat truck was located this year. I say “this year” because when a fellow runner and I looked up the info on the website, we recalled that was the location of the sweat truck for last year’s truck; they had to move from it because of the road construction. So, we had to circle halfway around Capitol Square until, lo and behold, there was the truck, just a few yards away from the starting line.
And one last nitpick, though an understandable one: Stadium security. One of the perks of being a Crazylegs runner is that once you’ve crossed the finish line, you can get your picture taken at one of those “photo opportunity” spots, just like one of those red carpet spots with the award show logo behind you and a flurry of cameras in front of you. However, the first thing I did after finishing was slowly… slowly… (because my legs were tired) headed for the Camp Randall Stadium bleachers to catch my wind. Bad idea, for stadium security was at every field entrance barring anyone from re-entering the field. Which meant that I missed my chance to go to the photo opp spot, flash my thumbs up, and smile for the official race photographers (who send proofs and links for purchasing the pics to the runners a couple of days after the race). That’s okay, though, for I had my phone with me to snap my own pictures of my run.
Nitpicking aside, I had a great Crazylegs Classic, and I’m so proud of surpassing — nay, obliterating — my performance from last year. I’m looking forward to other race opportunities in the near future; in fact, I’ve learned about a 5K run in a Madison suburb scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks, and I’m this close to signing up and taking part. Yeah, I’ve still got the running bug.