Try It: Badgerland Striders Tuesday Night Workouts

So you’re training for a spring race and need to get some quality speedwork in but it’s Wisconsin and it’s cold and dark and icy when you need to run. Times like these make it difficult to work up the motivation to train. But with a group of runners, the workout becomes that much easier.

The Badgerland Striders offer Tuesday night workouts at the Pettit National Ice Center throughout the winter months to help runners get faster while also having fun running with a group. Erin Smith, one of the workout coaches, tells us more about these workouts and what to expect if you decide to join in the fun!

Why did the Striders decide to start offering Tuesday evening workouts?

The workouts have been taking place in some capacity since summer of 2014. We wanted to provide a more structured running workout for our members. The workouts were originally only running based and we have just recently added in the functional strength portion.

Where are the workouts held and when? About how many people show up each week? The workouts are held Tuesday at 6:30pm. In the winter (December to March/April) we are indoors at the Pettit National Ice Center. In the summer (April to September) we are outside at Hart Park in Wauwatosa. We have about 30 people show up weekly. There is no need to register, just show up and be ready to go!

Take us through a typical workout …

A workout generally consists of 3 to 4 miles of hard running; which can be adapted depending on fitness level. We also include strength and conditioning exercises. There are also breaks so runners have a chance to recover between activities. A runner can expect to be at the workout for about an hour.

Why do you include strength and conditioning exercises as part of the workout?

Runner’s generally run because they love running not because they like doing burpees or squats. Adding in the functional strength helps to build the supporting muscles that many runners neglect, but in the long run will help them improve speed and endurance and, hopefully, prevent injury.

Who leads the workouts? How do you decide what type of workout to do each week?

The workouts are led by myself and Terri Bodden. We are both RRCA certified running coaches and have a passion for running and helping others achieve their running goals. For the winter workouts at the Pettit, we focus a lot on functional strength and maintaining a running base, but also pushing the pace a bit on the running part. In the summer months, we focus more on gaining speed.

Can runners of all abilities join or are these workouts better suited for more advanced runners?

The workouts are written with all ability levels in mind, and we adjust the workouts on the spot to make sure everyone is comfortable and gains something from the workout. I think for beginning runners and slower runners, the idea of this type of workout is intimidating. We make sure everyone feels welcome and comfortable.

What type of running base would you suggest runners have before attending a workout?

While all ages and abilities are welcome, and we don’t turn anyone away, it is best if you can run a few miles before you join us.

Are the workouts geared toward a specific race distance?

The workouts are not geared toward a specific race distance. Each week is a different workout so it can help with any race distance that a person might be targeting, from the 5k to ultras.

What are the benefits of doing speed work with a group?

Any workout with a group helps provide accountability. You might not want to run, but you’ll go because you told your friend you would meet them there. Or you might not want to do the last set, but everyone else is so you do too. In most cases, people don’t regret either of these decisions. It’s also nice sometimes to just show up and have a coach tell you what to do for the workout. Everyone can suffer (I mean enjoy) together.

Thanks for chatting with us, Erin! For more information about the workouts, checkout the Badgerland Striders Tuesday Night Workouts Facebook Group.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

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Meet Lakefront Marathon’s New Race Director!

Taking on the Race Director role for Milwaukee’s oldest marathon is no joke. But Erin Smith is up for the job.

Read on to learn more about how Erin got started in running and race directing and what to expect at this year’s Lakefront Marathon!

2015-10-24 12.28.47Meet Erin!

What’s your background as a race director and also as a runner? Are you from the Milwaukee area?
For the past three years I was the race director for the Firecracker Four or FC4 as I lovingly refer to it. I kind of took on the role by accident. I was at one of my first Badgerland Striders monthly meetings and someone asked if I wanted to help plan a race. I was new to the Striders and wanted to get more involved in the club so I said I’d help. Before I knew it, I was organizing (and successfully pulling off) one of the Striders highest attended races. FC4 has had over 1,000 registered runners for each of the three years I was director, with almost 300 of those runners registering on race day! I’m glad that Lakefront has a runner limit and sells out in advance of the race; it should make planning for race day a lot easier.

As for my running skills, I’m not an age group winner by any means but I love running. I ran my first 5k about 5 years ago before I was a runner. I signed up for an event with a friend who was into running. I wanted to support her, so I figured I would just walk the distance and get a shirt for doing it. Well, when the gun went off, I ran…the whole thing. When I returned back to the finish line 28 minutes later my husband looked astonished and asked me what I was doing. I guess I was running. The whole thing kind of took off from there, the distances and intensity continued to increase. I completed my first 50 miler in October 2015 and look forward to running Ice Age 50 in May. I’ve been toying with the idea of a 100K or 100 miler but we’ll have to see what happens.

I’m not originally from the Milwaukee area. I grew up in Luxemburg, WI, a small town east of Green Bay. I’ve lived in the Milwaukee area for the last 10 years and just recently moved to Hales Corners.

What’s your experience with LFM, both as a runner and volunteer? What are some of your favorite aspects of the race?
I ran Lakefront in 2012 as my first marathon and then again in 2014. In 2012, I was still relatively new to running but thought if I was going to be a runner, then I should run a marathon. I joined the Striders and participated in their marathon build-up program. I was really impressed by the whole event from the expo to everything about the race experience. I can very vividly remember crossing the finish line of my first marathon and being greeted by Kris Heinrichs, the former race director. She gave me a hug and said “Congratulations Erin, you’re a marathon runner.” I was so impressed that she would give a sweaty stranger a hug and congratulate them. I ran Lakefront again in 2014 as a recon mission but also as my farewell to running the course for a bit. It was in the works that I would take over when Dr. Jon (former Lakefront Marathon race director) stepped down and I wanted to make sure I had the chance to see the course again as it is on race day. I often bike the course but it doesn’t have the same magic as it does on race day.

For the past three years, I have been the volunteer coordinator for LFM. It’s kind of a thankless job but I really enjoyed it. I was responsible for finding upwards of 1,000 volunteers for race weekend. I love planning and organizing so coordinating volunteers came naturally. The volunteers are one of my favorite aspects of the race. It’s so amazing to me that the Striders can put on this top-notch event and have it run solely by volunteers. The time, talents and dedication of so many people are really what make LFM so awesome. I also really like the unlimited free beer at the end of the race.

Why did you want to take on the role of LFM race director? How did you get the position and what were your thoughts upon learning the position was yours?
I wanted to be race director to be part of something big in the running community. Since I have taken on the RD role I have had people personally congratulate me, clap for me and give me praise. I mean really, I haven’t even done anything yet. You might want to hold that applause until October, just in case I mess it up. Honestly, LFM is a first class event and like I said before it’s completely run by volunteers; that includes me as well. I’ve had a lot of people thank me for taking on the role but I’m actually quite honored that the Striders have that much faith in me to carry out such a huge undertaking. As for getting this position, there wasn’t an interview process or an application. I said that I was interested and apparently proved myself so a few conversations happened and, voila, I was the next RD. I’m really excited to take on this challenge but I’ve also had the occasional freak out moment where I question my sanity for volunteering to organize a marathon!

What should participants expect at this year’s race? Do you anticipate making any changes?
As always, runners should expect a high quality race, amazing course support, smiling volunteers and some awesome LFM merchandise. I don’t anticipate making any huge changes for 2016. We did decide to increase the capacity from 3,500 runners to 4,000 runners. This decision was made very recently so it might be a surprise to some people. My number one goal for the upcoming race is to have a seamless transition from Dr. Jon to myself. My ancillary goal is to not mess it up!

As always, LFM is expected to sell out several months in advance of the race – Why do you think the race is such a popular one in the area?
I think the race is popular because it’s a well-run event. People look for quality and bang for their buck. They definitely get both at Lakefront. The Striders also provide amazing runner support outside of race weekend: the marathon build-up program, fun runs, speakers and track workouts. I also think the elevation profile lends itself to the popularity. It’s a flat and fast course and lots of people qualify for Boston at Lakefront.

We’re working on building some partnerships with local businesses to get more pre-race events in the area to build up some hype for the race. I don’t have any huge plans in the works or anything over the top planned but you never know what might happen.

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races and why?
I might be a bit biased when it comes to races but I really like Firecracker Four. I’ve only physically run the race one time, but I run the course almost daily now that I live in Hales Corners. I love the atmosphere of FC4; the community support is over the top. Lakefront is also one of my favorites, but again with the bias. I really like the half marathon distance so Strider Half, South Shore and Trailbreaker are some good ones. My all-time favorite race is not in Milwaukee but in Stevens Point, the Point Bock Run. It’s a 5-mile out and back course that starts/finishes at the Stevens Point Brewery. It’s usually blistering cold for the run in March but they have a huge heated tent at the finish and happy people waiting to serve you Point Special.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Erin!

There’s still time to sign up for the 2016 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. To learn more, or to register, visit MilwaukeeLakefrontMarathon.org.

Keep Running MKE – You’re doing great!