Race Preview: Gold Medal Challenge 2016

Every year, MKE runners look forward to the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay and 5k. All are wonderful events that are as fun as they are competitive.

And for those who really love a good challenge – and lots of running in circles indoors – there’s the Gold Medal Challenge. Two days of running, 39.3 miles. This year’s challenge kicks off on Saturday so today Race Director Chris Ponteri is here to tell us more about the challenge and share this year’s top contenders.

sm20150124_070342_IMG_0081Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Tell us a bit about the Gold Medal Challenge – What do participants need to do to complete the challenge? Why do you think this type of challenge appeals to runners?
To complete the Gold Medal Challenge you must run the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. We then add up your times to determine the winners. I think it appeals to runners who like to push themselves. Many of them are ultra runners.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Gold Medal Challenge? How did it get started and how many years has it been run?
This is the eighth Icebreaker and the seventh time we have done the Gold Medal Challenge. I copied the idea from the Goofy Challenge, which is part of the Disney Marathon.

What are some memorable moments from past Gold Medal Challenges?
One of the highlights was last year when both the male and female winners (Matt Jacobson and Ruth Lunz) had a small lead over the second place person after the Half Marathon and decided to employ a similar strategy on Sunday, which was to follow the second-place person as long as possible. In both cases, the second-place runners ended up falling back. It was a smart strategy by the winners.

sm20150125_122242_IMG_1393Last year’s Gold Medal Challenge winners, Matt Jacobson and Ruth Lunz. Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Another highlight came several years ago when the male GMC winner, Mac McCauley, swept both the Marathon and the Half Marathon. That is the only time that has happened, although a few others have come close.

What’s the best strategy for completing the Gold Medal Challenge in one piece? Also, any tips for runners hoping to win or place?
The key is to take it easy in the Half Marathon. If you are a 1:30 half runner, you will want to finish around 1:35. The best strategy I can offer for winning is to know where the competition is at all times.

Who are this year’s top contenders and what makes them ones to watch? Are any past winners returning this year?
The favorites on the women’s side are three-time champion Mary Flaws and Icebreaker newcomer Kim Arbinger. Mary is running very well right now and had a big year in 2015 while Kim is coming off a strong finish at the Lakefront Marathon (3:25) and a third-place finish at the Glacial 50-miler. Both ladies put in a lot of miles and should challenge each other. On the men’s side, it is wide open.

sm20150125_080416_IMG_0053Mary Flaws, in blue, is a top contender in this year’s Gold Medal Challenge. Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Are spectators welcome at the races? What makes the indoor races especially exciting to watch?
Spectators are certainly welcome and admission is free. It’s a real treat to watch these races because how many times can you see a distance race up close like this? In outdoor races you are lucky to see a certain runner 2 or 3 times, but here you can see them every lap. The spectating experience is as unique as the running experience.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! If you’re interested in checking out this weekend’s Icebreaker events, visit indoormarathon.com to get the full schedule. We hope to see you at one or more of the distance events!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Tips for Racing at the Pettit

Will this weekend be your first time racing at the Pettit National Ice Center indoor track? Or perhaps it’s been awhile and you need a little refresher course.

sm20140126_010646_img_1584Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

We recently asked a few local runners for their best tips for racing at the Pettit. Whether you’re doing the marathon, half marathon, 5k or relay event, their tips will help you perform your best on race day:

“I would say divide your goal time by the number of laps to figure out what you need to average per lap. Then use the same fixed object (that is easy to see) to check your own lap times each time around; the video screen can be very difficult to read at speed!” – Richard Dodd

“Try not to think of the whole race at once; breaking it into smaller segments makes the laps go by quicker. If I’m doing a shorter race, I just imagine myself doing a speed workout with my friends.” – Angie Smith

“Having something warm to drink will help with Pettit lung and bring some cough drops.” – Sara Brozek

“In the relay, our team broke it into two-lap segments for each runner last year – you can run quicker and have less “down” time.” – Steve Pavlik

“I set my Garmin to show the average lap time and then hit the lap button every time I go around. I’ll have a number that I never want to see the average dip below.” – Tracey Gessner

“Constantly look up and ahead. So many times at the Pettit it is easy to look only five feet in front of you or at the shoes of another runner right in front of you. Doing periodic look-ups and checks way ahead (especially looking to the corners) will help in not getting lulled into a slower pace when you begin to tire. Plus you can BREATH better when you are NOT looking down!” – Matt Thull

“Best scenario is to concentrate/or perfect your form/stride because you don’t have to combat outside factors of weather/hills.” – Sheila Wordell

“Make sure to take advantage of the ability to take fluids or gels every lap (not that you should take something every lap). You should go in with a plan and let your volunteer at the table know that plan prior to the race.” – Chris Ponteri

“Have a plan with hydration. Because it’s there every lap, it is oddly easy to forget. I like to get fluids every 10 to 12 laps and keeping track gives my little brain something to do.” – Mary Flaws

“What I like to do is bring a TV tray table and set it up along the wall in an open area. There I will put whatever I might possibly need for the race – GU, water, salt, bananas, Body Glide/Vaseline, etc. It is then available to me every lap without me having to ask for it and I don’t have to bend down to search and get it out of my bag.” – Bill Schneider

MKE runners: What’s your best tip for racing at the Pettit?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!