It’s Sunday afternoon as I write this, and I’m pretty much relaxing today. I’m writing this post, of course. I’m also doing a little bit of laundry. And my only form of exercise today has been a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and nearby nature preserve. I’m eschewing my usual Sunday trip to the gym at work to get in some heavy-duty exercise. That’s because I put in a big amount of heavy-duty exercising yesterday.
As I did in 2016 and 2017, I signed up for and ran in the Crazylegs Classic. For those new to this blog and haven’t previously read those posts (or this one), the Crazylegs Classic is an 8-kilometer (4.97-mile) run conducted the last Saturday of every April by the University of Wisconsin—Madison. It’s a fundraiser for the school’s athletic program, with proceeds helping to support operations and low-revenue teams on the Badgers program.
There were a couple of noticeable changes in this year’s Crazylegs race, which I’ll talk about in a moment. What didn’t change was my procrastination, however. Sure, I could blame Wisconsin’s wintry weather for my decreased desire (compared to past years) in getting in more practice running (including a couple of nasty storms a couple of weeks ago). And I could have also blamed my wondering earlier this year about where I might be living after my apartment lease expires on Monday, which isn’t really a factor since I’m staying in this place another year (I’ll discuss this in a later post, I promise). Nope, I was just hemming and hawing about signing up. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to, just that I didn’t get around to registering online until the Tuesday before the race.
And with that procrastinating and signup, my third Crazylegs experience began. But it really kicked into high gear the night before the race, when I claimed my runner’s packet at the Kohl Center arena. I bring this up because this is where my crossdressing side got involved a little bit. No, I didn’t go to the Kohl Center as Allison. Rather, I had a CD/TG support group meeting right afterwards, and this was also almost right after ending my work shift for the day. So, after work I made a quick pit stop at home; picked out an outfit and wig to wear to the meeting; packed them up in a duffel bag along with concealer makeup and lipstick; and headed to pick up my runner’s packet, which includes a numbered bib with attached timing strip, t-shirt, and clear “sweat bag” to stow your belongings while you’re running. Then it was off straight to the support meeting, where I went into the women’s restroom (I knocked first), changed from male to female clothes, applied makeup, and exited as Allison. Not bad for someone who’s not too much of a quick-change artist.
The next morning — Race Day — was like the previous two years: I had breakfast, washed up, changed into my running gear, and drove to the race’s finish point at Camp Randall Stadium. From there, I jumped on a shuttle bus to head to the race’s traditional starting point at Capitol Square.
A good thing about Saturday’s race was the weather. Yes, it was a bit chilly that morning (around 40 degrees or so). However, unlike two years ago when it was rainy weather, and last year when it was sunny at the star but clouded over by the finish, the skies were crystal clear. You couldn’t have asked for better weather to run in. Well, I could’ve asked for a little warmer temperature, but you can’t always get what you want.
Like in past years on Race Day, the State Capitol building was open for people to warm up inside. I took the opportunity to do so… but that’s was also when I started to get a little bit nervous in the half-hour before the first group went off. I was hoping that nerves would have stayed away, but I guess nerves are par for the course when you’re in a running race and want to do very well. At least snapping a few photos of the Capitol with my phone helped calm the nerves a bit, but when I headed outside to drop off my sweat bag and head to my starting wave, the nerves came back just a tad. Before you think I was an anxious basket case in need of psychological counseling, think again; I was cool and composed and just wanting to get started.
Speaking of starts, two of the noticeable changes of this year’s Crazylegs occurred at the start. For one, the runners (as well as the walkers, who take a different 2-kilometer route) started on the south/southwest side of Capitol Square. Okay, I figure, no problem. But unlike the first couple of years I ran the race, there were much, much fewer starting waves. Matter of fact, you can count the number of waves this year on one hand. I first discovered this when picking up my runner’s packet the night before. Before handing me my bib, the volunteer slapped a “D” sticker on front. “D?” I wondered aloud; “I’m a better runner than I consider myself being, but I’m not that good enough to deserve starting in the 4th group.” The volunteer noted the decrease in number of waves; there were fewer, sure, but they were also bigger. That meant I was in a large wave with, I’m guessing, about 2,500 fellow runners. Yeah, it wasn’t fun to be part of a large group that made a long walk to the start line; better to stop for a little bit before getting the go-ahead to run your butt off.
(A quick aside about the field: According to this article, the total amount of Crazylegs participants was just under 12,000, including almost 8,400 runners. That’s the third straight year that the number of participants decreased. The director of the group that organizes the race blamed Wisconsin’s late winter weather for the drop. Yeah, I guess I wasn’t the only one who was debating about running in Crazylegs.)
Another noticeable change to Crazylegs this year was a rerouting of the course’s first mile. In previous years, runners started from Capitol Square and headed northwest away from the Capitol and towards Lake Mendota, where the course took a hard left toward the UW Campus. Two years ago, the start line (i.e. the line where the timing starts) was on the east side of Capitol Square. Last year, due to a little bit of road construction, it was at the northwest part of the square. This year, though, the start was where Capitol Square meets with State Street. Okay, I figured going in, it shouldn’t be too bad. And it wasn’t too bad, especially taking in the fact that State Street goes downward as you go west from the Capitol toward the eastern portion of the campus at Library Mall. It was a bummer, however, seeing more than a few empty store fronts on State Street. (“Really? Princess of India Imports vacated their space? Bummer.”) Running down State Street was nice, but part of me wishes we could have run past the Red Gym and Memorial Union, two of the more notable buildings on the UW campus. Oh, well, there’s always next year.
That first mile of Crazylegs was the only major change to the course this year. The rest of the course was pretty much the same, starting with…
Observatory Drive and Bascom Hill. This is the part where a Crazylegs runner really has to save their energy, for this is a street that goes up, corkscrews right, and then corkscrews left, and all at a very, very steep incline. Believe it or not, most of the runners in front of me appeared to have been running up this hill instead of saving their energy for later. Admittedly, I started running up the hill myself, but I let up into a steady walk of long strides once that corkscrew turned left. I figured the other runners can use up all the energy they want; I’d rather wait to turn on the afterburners.
As I noted, from the 2nd mile onward, Crazylegs’ course was the same as before. But that’s not to say I didn’t take time to appreciate the surroundings. Lake Mendota to the runners’ right was its usual spectacular self. I also took time to appreciate the sea of runners ahead of me. Though having only 5 super-large starting waves wasn’t my favorite aspect of this race, at least it reminded me that I wasn’t alone, as the below photo attests. (This sea of humanity looked more impressive in person.)
Speaking of photos, I should make note of a couple of bugaboos that annoyed me during the race. No, they weren’t about the race itself, rather what I had on my person. First off, when I bought a new phone a month ago, I also bought a rubber casing and coordinating belt holster, the better to not only have the phone not shatter when it drops from my hands but also to keep it attached to me while leaving both hands free. That the phone loosened itself from the holster and dropped to the ground while I was walking from the Camp Randall parking lot to the shuttle bus should have served as an omen. (Don’t worry, no damage done.) When I started my run, I kept the phone in the belt holster, keeping my left hand feeling for it under my shirt to make sure it wouldn’t fall out again. Not even one-half of a mile into the race, my hand could feel the phone starting to slip out again. So, I had to reach under my race shirt and grab the phone just in time. That phone, for better and worse, remained in my left hand the rest of the race.
The other equipment bugaboo wasn’t the clothing or shoes but rather my radio. Or, specifically, the earbuds I had attached to the radio. To help keep my mind occupied during the race, I use a small palm-sized radio to listen to some music. (It was tuned into this station if you’re wondering, although with the way-too-repetitive playlist it employs of late, I may change stations next year’s race. That’s corporate-owned radio for you.) Usually when I run, I employ a small pair of traditional earphones, but I had such a pair break on me in the past year. So, rather than go for the big, bulky headphones I wear at work, I used a pair of earbuds that came with the radio but I had never used. And for good reason, because every time I’ve tried to wear earbuds in the past, at least one of them would fall out of my ears. Sure enough, the earbuds I used on Saturday fell out several times. During the last mile, they fell out for the last time, and I just tucked them under my shirt. I guess my ears just aren’t made for earbuds.
Speaking of that last mile, a few things to note from that home stretch: One, there wasn’t as many “crazy characters” on the sidelines cheering everyone on. Oh, there was some DJ blaring the theme from Rocky on a maximum-volume loop as we ran past; that was interesting the first year I ran, but three runs’ experience makes me think it’s just an annoyance. But besides him, there were just generic-looking onlookers and students in frat houses watching their phones more than they were watching the race. (Oh, the exact number of times that songs from the Rocky franchise were played during the day, according to my ears, was three: “Gonna Fly Now” during that last stretch, and “Eye of the Tiger” twice before the start of the race. The starting-line music was provided by these folks. Again, repetitive corporate radio, so go figure.)
The other thing about that last mile was the fact that I had hit a wall. Not literally, of course, but the figurative, “Hey, I’m running out of gas so I’m gonna just walk for a few feet before picking up my pace again” kind of wall. Obviously, I wish I hadn’t have hit that “wall,” especially with the end of the race in sight. But at least I regained my pace; dodged the slowing traffic in front of me, which consisted of walkers and runners (the walkers started after us but our routes intersected at the end); and made my way to the finish line inside Camp Randall Stadium.
So, how did I do, you ask? Well, I kept my time on the stopwatch mode of my watch during the race, and its final time was off from my official found-on-the-Crazylegs-website time by only a couple of seconds. And the final time was [drumroll]:
52 minutes and 31 seconds!
A great time for me! However, it was about a half-minute behind my time last year (just a notch under 52 minutes). Still, it was better than the finishing time of my first Crazylegs two years ago (just over 57 minutes). I admit I was bummed out about not doing better than last year. I think next year, if I get the chance to run Crazylegs again next year (and not procrastinate about registering), perhaps I should take less pauses to snap photos during the run. I should also probably remind myself that I’m still relatively a running novice, and that I’ll likely never reach, say, the :28:24 time the winner of my age group (male 45-49) reached on Saturday, or the :25:07 the overall winner recorded.
Am I disappointed with my third Crazylegs Classic experience as a whole? Oh, not at all. I had the chance to enjoy a beautiful day out of the house. I got to get in some necessary exercise (good for any body any time). I also got to slap a high-five with the race’s grand marshal (Alando Tucker, UW men’s basketball class of 2007 and a director of student-athlete engagement at the school). And I got to see/hear a former UW women’s basketball star spin some tunes during the post-race party at the stadium (DJ Shawna is a highly regarded record-spinner in Milwaukee).
And above all else, I had the privilege t again experience one of the many things that makes Madison such a unique place — a 5-mile race. Oh, sure, other places have their own 5-mile races, but I imagine not many of them (if any of them) path their course around state landmarks, through the heart of a Big Ten campus, and finish on one of the more legendary fields in college football.
Oh, a closing note: My Saturday didn’t end with Crazylegs, not by a long shot. I did a little bit of shopping post-race. And after a little bit of rest in mid-afternoon, I got dolled up as Allison that evening and presented poetry again at Mother Fools (no photographic evidence of that, sorry). I think it’s a reminder that I’m becoming better, slowly but surely, by challenging myself to break out of my sedentary shell and figurative closet.