Last Saturday I ran the La Crosse Fitness Festival Half Marathon. The course changed this year, but that is not something entirely new. I ran this race for the first time in 2008 back when the course started in Trempealeau and finished in Onalaska on trails. The next year they changed the course and it remained mostly the same for the next few years. Then this year they changed the start by moving it to the top of Grandad’s Bluff. I come back to this race each year because it is my second hometown. I spent my college years here and now my mom and my stepdad live there. So many good memories were made and will be made here. I wrote more about this race and its significance in an earlier post this year.
Last year there were thunderstorms delaying the start of the race. This year it was cold, which shouldn’t have surprised any of us with the spring we’ve had. When I checked the weather forecast that morning I was just relieved to see that the 80% chance of rain was no longer. Instead there was a dense fog advisory and it was chilly.
When we got dropped off at the top of Grandad’s Bluff this was the sight. It was very twilight-like. I almost imagined Edward might appear to run with me, but then how could he, he’s a vampire. He’d definitely win this race.
Anyways, it was chilly up there and a long wait. I kept my layers on until 7:40 before checking them in to see at the end of the race. I felt bad for people who had never been to Grandad’s Bluff because they really couldn’t enjoy the views. I went back later to get some photos so you could better see the route we ran hence the missing fog.
Sitting in the starting corral body to body actually kept me pretty warm during the 20 minutes before the race began at 8:00 a.m. After a moment of silence for those in Boston and the national anthem, we were off. Those first few miles were FAST. I mean we were running down a bluff and all, but still legs were movin’. The view was fog and tree branches the entire way down, which I happen to love the sight of. The views would have been great though, too. The photos show later in the day.
The first mile took us down the first turns of the bluff and past The Alpine Inn.
After turning down the last stretch of Bliss Road we ran by La Crosse Floral. By then I was warmed up and was ready to ditch my hat. I love my Under Armor hat I purchased last fall and couldn’t bear parting ways forever, so as I passed a friends house on the course I hung it on the back of their mailbox for safe keeping until later that day. We continued running around one of my best friends’ house-literally houses down.
Next, the course took us to the bike trails for the next few miles. This portion of the course caught up with the older version of the course. I was feeling pretty good at this point.
Then we ran over a bridge into a residential area on the South side of La Crosse. The course took us one block from the one bedroom apartment Ry and I lived in for 7 weeks before we moved again because I got my first teaching job. That summer was a crazy one. I lived in three places all in one summer. I had been living in a house on the North side with my roommates from college into the month of June, then it was onto the one bedroom on the South side for 7 weeks, then an apartment after getting my first “real” job. AND we got married at the end of August. There were some stressful nights in that one bedroom, but also some very sweet moments anticipating our wedding weeks away.
The course continued through residential streets, then onto East Avenue where I am giving my #1 sign award. There was an elderly residential apartment building with lots of young at heart fans cheering on the sidewalks. They had an empty wheelchair with a sign on it that said “quit chair.” I loved this! So creative. It is not often you see people in this age group cheering for runners.
A few more blocks and we were passing my old place of employment for two and a half years in college, the Coulee Children’s Center. So many memories from this job; of being the two year old room teacher one summer, floating and being in the baby room another summer, and spending my last summer planning my wedding and being the three year teacher. I remember pushing a huge stroller up and down the sidewalks, a little boy whose face I can still picture who just loved dressing up in dresses and heels (we’ll call him Benny and the Jets), and of the long process of getting 10 three year olds dressed for winter recess all at once. One of these particular winter days a boy said he didn’t feel good and then projectile vomited all over the floor. Before you could stop them, little people were standing up and falling in it and crying. I can’t believe I didn’t cry. Lets just say we never made it outside that day. I learned so much at this job, but it seems like a million years ago.
The course led us past a place I’d always thought would be cool to live-The Gund Brewery Lofts. Next, we passed Gundersen Lutheran and headed towards the Mississippi. And, as if I needed a sign to tell me how the next few miles would feel, it was there anyway.
We passed the Seventh Street Landing and then were back on bike trails. I knew we were getting closer to downtown because I could smell the waste treatment smells always evident in this area. Enjoyable at this point of the course.
With less than two miles to go we turned by the La Crosse Harbor and could see the Cass Street Bridge ahead. We ran along the Mississippi River.
and closed in on the Cass Street Bridge before crossing a small bridge and heading closer to downtown.
Just passed mile 12 we ran by some of the fine establishments of La Crosse. I envisioned lunch on the patio of The Waterfront on a gorgeous summer day and being in the cigar room of Piggy’s on our wedding night. Then it was back to the trail that leads right along the mighty Mississippi.
The finish was right along the river in Riverside Park. This park too has many great memories of walks and runs over the past decade. I wasn’t sure if we had to run around the entire park or not. Since I was tired, I played it safe and didn’t sprint in the end like usual.
Grandad’s Half Marathon
Then mom and I headed out for some shopping. We visited a few of my favorite places-kick and Lillian’s before checking out a new store in Powell Place that has a sign I just fell in love with. If it is still in the store the next time I’m in La Crosse you can be sure I’ll be buying it.
Then it was time for coffee and a snack, so we walked to Cabin Coffee. I ended up getting a Caramel Apple Cider; it was amazing!
This little race day adventure reminded me of all the reasons why I love La Crosse! I’m will be back again next year! If you live near La Crosse or want to make a weekend of it, I would HIGHLY recommend this race (Grandad’s Half Marathon).