I got up around 6 to eat and make the two-hour drive to Milwaukee. I arrived with time to spare for the 10 a.m. heat. Check in was easy - I got a tech tee, my bib, my ankle timing chip and a label for my water bottle. Because you run indoors near an ice skating rink, open containers aren't allowed. Volunteers handed out your pre-designated water bottles as you ran past, which was quite nice. They also handed out whatever gels you wanted, too. I got the channel my inner Kara Goucher (except really slow and pudgier).
I carbed up before hand with snacks in the food room and stretched. It was warmer than I thought on the "course" and I'm glad I dressed 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. A T-shirt and shorts were perfect and I could have wore even less. I didn't need my gloves or ear warmers. I hear it's colder in January when they host the Icebreaker Indoor Race because a speed skating lane is open right next to the track.
Once I got started, I just tried to zone out and cruise. They didn't have a pace counter that was visible, but as you passed a checkpoint, if you called out your bib number, a volunteer would announce the laps you had left over the PA system. I didn't know how to pace myself, so I split the race into four parts and wrote on my arm the times I would need to reach a 1:55 half. I was so optimistic ... or foolish, depending on how you look at it. You needed to complete 48 laps for the half, so I split the course into 12-lap segments because math isn't my strong suit.
Official times aren't up yet, but I finished somewhere around 1:56. I suppose it's a PR, but I feel like I should have done better because it was flat and cool without sun or wind. Someone said this isn't the place to PR because you use the same muscles throughout, but I feel a little defeated nonetheless.
Afterwards, there was a single shower room available, which was still a nice touch so I didn't have to drive back sweaty. There was a room with nilla wafers, pretzels, goldfish crackers, chocolate milk, powerade, water, bagels, bananas and the best sugar cookies ever. I might have been really hungry, but they were fantastic regardless, I'm sure.
Cost: Free to me, $50 in advance and $60 day of
Time: 1:56:13, second in my age group
Pros: Temperature controlled, completely flat, great volunteer support, nice tech shirt and medal, two port-o-potties literally steps off of the track (meaning you had to go no further than perhaps .15 of a mile to get to a toilet), great for spectators because stands are already set up and your runner just keeps coming by ... about 48 times
Cons: Boring, no headphones allowed, no expo (if that's your thing, I don't really care). There wasn't a great place to stretch after, either, but again, not a big deal for me.