Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Icebreaker Race Director's Recap

As much as you hate to tinker with a winning formula, we have continued to find that the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon is a work-in-progress. We made several small changes from last year’s event; some worked and others didn’t. But for the most part we feel the 2012 version was another smashing success for the nearly 800 runners who participated in the weekend events. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved and also make some comments about the weekend.

First, congratulations to all of the runners who finished their races. We had a great group of competitors in all events. In Friday’s Revolution Natural Running 5k, Sean Luedke ran a 16:51 to win the race and Jennifer Chaudoir was the women’s winner in 20:36. In Saturday’s Performance Running Outfitters Half Marathon, Mac McCulley was able to hold off a late surge by Jeff Bailey to win in 1:13:28 while Monica Schoeneck won the women’s race in 1:26:38. Later on Saturday the ThunderDome Running team set an event record to win the Fit Milwaukee Marathon Relay in 2:12:44, but the Berkeley Running Company Navy team, which finished in 2:15:49, had the ThunderDome team in its sights for most of the race. The men from Berkeley also re-claimed the Running Store Challenge and the traveling trophy that goes with it.

Yesterday’s marathon was special in many ways. McCulley followed up Saturday’s half marathon win with another victory in the marathon. His time of 2:39:28 was just a few minutes off the record set by Bryan Schneider in 2009; he surely would have broken it had he not ran the half marathon 24 hours earlier. McCulley’s win also earned him the Gold Medal Challenge victory. On the women’s side, it was much the same as Mary Flaws won for the second year in a row in a time of 3:13:17, which gave her a 3-peat in the Gold Medal Challenge. Equally impressive, each year she has brought her time down. Congrats to Mac and Mary; you are both great champions.

I also want to recognize Matt Jeromin who lured his buddy McCulley to Milwaukee knowing that it would hurt his own chances of winning the race. All Jeromin did was go out and run a PR of 2:44:29, which earned him 2nd place. Nice job Matt.

Another runner I want to recognize is Steve Tietz, who is a 2-time Gold Medal Champion. He finished 4th in the marathon yesterday, 5th in the half marathon on Saturday, and was 2nd in the Gold Medal Challenge. In between that, he volunteered in the food room on Saturday. I know it’s tough for him to see someone else’s name on the Gold Medal Challenge banner, but he’s been a great champion and I am certain that his best days of running are ahead of him.

We have received many compliments and kind words from runners who participated in the races. One of the things that received the most praise is Mary Flaws’ cookies. She baked 60 dozen of them to promote her website, Running in the USA ( although I claim she has an evil plan to fatten up – and thus slow down- her competitors by feeding them delicious baked goods. The other person who generated a ton of positive comments was Kim Kelly, who is the “spikey-haired” volunteer who was our water table captain. Kim was also one of the first to arrive at the Pettit Center each morning and one of the last to leave at night, and in between she was a great ball of energy who made the water table one of the most exciting places in the house. Her efforts are much appreciated by me and many of the runners.

As we all know, it is impossible to put on a perfect event, and the 2012 Icebreaker certainly had its share of imperfections. In my opinion, the main problem is one of the same things we have had in years’ past: finding an effective way to communicate lap counts to runners. Fortunately I think we may have resolved some of this later in the day on Saturday and on Sunday. We put the announcer right next to the small monitor and he continually called out lap counts. This seemed to work very well although it cut into the music. In Saturday’s first half marathon in particular, several runners expressed their frustration about lap counts, and I apologize for this.

The second-biggest problem was a shortage of medals, which was my fault. In other years, I take home a box of leftover medals from the race. A large box! That is because I would order one medal for each runner that signed up for the half marathon, marathon and Gold Medal Challenge. To try to cut down on the leftovers and be more “economical”, I ordered enough medals to cover about 80% of the registered runners (before you come down on me for this, it is a trick that most race directors use for both shirt and medal ordering). Well for good or for bad, we had a much higher than anticipated number of runners who showed up and finished the races. In yesterday’s marathon, for example, 117 of the 130 registered runners started the race. That’s an astounding 90%, and much higher than the 70-75% we have had in years past. Lesson learned; this won’t happen again. And for the 11 of you who didn’t get medals, I deeply apologize and promise you will get your medal as soon as possible.

Other snafus included a problem with shirt availability in some sizes, mainly due to an issue with the shirt vendor sending us a batch of incorrect sizes, and some packet pickup/chip issues. These are the kinds of things that are hard to avoid and you just have to handle them as best as you can.

And of course my personal favorite snafu was with the starting gun in the first half marathon. It was truly a comedy of errors; I was trying to help a runner get the correct bib when the announcer started the countdown. Then the gun didn’t work and I ended up yelling “go”. It was a legendary bad start, but I used it as a lesson and carried two guns to the start for the rest of the races. And during yesterday’s marathon, I was glad I had both of them because the first one didn’t work.

For 2013, we have several changes in store. For the relay, we want to add a corporate division and also beef up the awards. We also want to allow runners to sign up for a specific half marathon starting time in the registration process rather than us determining it for them.

My favorite two memories of the weekend both came yesterday. The first was seeing Mac McCulley stand on the side of the track cheering on the other runners after his marathon victory. He stood there for several minutes clapping his hands and giving encouraging comments. Many of them congratulated him on their way by. Only at an indoor marathon would you see something like this. The second memory was when our final marathon finisher Kris Hinrichs was in her final miles (of her 96th marathon, by the way). The remaining volunteers and race staff joined her on the track for the last 5 laps. There were about 6 or 7 of us. It was a fitting end to a special weekend.

There are so many people who played a part in making this event a success that deserve thanks. I hope I don’t miss anyone.

First thanks to our sponsors: Performance Running Outfitters, Slendertone, Revolution Natural Running, Fit Milwaukee, Running in the USA and GU Energy. It was refreshing to work with sponsors who understand the importance of supporting local races like ours.

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We also worked with several charity partners including MS Run the US, the American Cancer Society, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team Challenge. We thank them for helping us with volunteers and being part of the weekend.

Thanks to Emily Boggs and Stacey Nash for doing some video-taping this weekend, to Sheila Wordell for putting together some of the music and for making some killer cupcakes for our packet assembly party, to Matt Thull at ThunderDome Running for all of the support you have given our event, to Sam Walton for finding a way to sell quality food for super-cheap prices, to Fleet Feet Brookfield and Berkeley Running Company of Madison for your support of our relay, to Olu Sijuwade and Felicia Sopa for the national anthem performances, to Treva Rademaker at Chiropractic Wellness Group and Susan at Elements Therapeutic Massage of Elm Grove, to the Brookfield Central High School cross country team and Key Club members for volunteering, to Orthopedic Associates and Bell Ambulance for making sure everyone was safe, to Ruma Sports for the awards, to TS Customs for the signs, Chad, Anna & Kat at Vision Event Management (Madison Mini Marathon and Rock n Sole Half Marathon), and to ZapEvent for coming up with the best online registration software I have used.

And I can't forget to thank the folks at Prime Time Timing for scoring the race. Erin and Jamin were marvelous as usual. As I say every year, a race is only as good as its timers.

Pictures for all races are available for viewing and purchase at Running in the USA. Follow this link to see them. A huge thanks to Bill Flaws for taking the pictures. He is the best race photographer out there!

Age group awards will be mailed to all winners soon.

And marathon participants, if you liked your experience please give us a good review on Marathon Guide ( It is very helpful to our marketing efforts.

I would like to thank the race committee – Dana, Bill, Brian, Dave, Rob, and Anne and Tracey from Fit Milwaukee – for their hard work. We meet on a regular basis and go over every detail that goes into making this event what it is. It’s this group that makes things happen. And we miss you Jeff!

And I can’t say enough good things about the people at the Pettit Center. First of all, this is a world-class facility and we are very fortunate to have it in Milwaukee. The people who work there go out of their way to be helpful and supportive of the Icebreaker. Rob at the Pettit has been truly a pleasure to work with and I can guarantee that this event would not be the same without him. And Randy, Jose, Pete, Paul, Jan and the others have been great. I only wish the folks in Salt Lake City cared as much about running events as you!

I would like to thank the volunteers. There are too many to list individually, but I will single out our three captains: Phil, Pete and Kim. Thank you!!! You fit in well with the Icebreaker family. Dave, you did a great job of coordinating the volunteers (although we still miss you Jaime!). And thanks to my wife Karen who designed the shirts and race programs, and helped out at packet pickup and the food room. Also to my kids for pitching in so much this weekend (although I did pay them $20 each!).

Finally, I would like to thank the runners. You are the reason why this event exists. We are honored that you choose to spend your time and money to participate in the Icebreaker. Our goal is to work as hard as we can to make it worth it for you.

Mark your calendars for July 28, which is the date of the inaugural Heatbreaker Half Marathon & Relay at the Pettit Center!!


Daniel from California said...

I'm glad to hear that Kris made it to the finish. I didn't see here in the results list, so I was worried she had to DNF.

Thanks for a great race, Chris.
Big thanks to all volunteers, and big thanks to all runners who put up with my sarcastic "encouraging" signs...

Iron Mark said...

Daniel I smiled every time I read the sign. Thanks for the kind words Chris. I better start training for next year as soon as possible. It was such a fun event and I hope to be more outgoing next year in encouraging other runners.

Mac McCulley