Chicago Athlete on the Road: Milwaukee

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Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Chicago, Milwaukee offers all of the big-city fun, with all of the small town charm, and ease of parking…which Chicagoans all will appreciate. I spent this past weekend running the 142.3 Challenge of the Pettit Indoor Marathon.

This challenging event offers runners the opportunity to race a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday…indoors. In March. The 142.3 refers to the number of times that runners circled the gigantic ice rink, complete with practicing hockey teams and speed skaters. This unique event happens each year in February or March and offers runners many options to sign up for including:

Friday – Half Marathon Relay

Saturday – Competitive Half Marathon at 7am, Non-competitive Half Marathon at 9:30am, and a Full Marathon Relay at 1pm

Sunday – Full Marathon

The Challenge series, obviously, includes a double day and extra swag, which is my favorite, as you all know! Challenge runners received an extra medal and two logo-ed pint glasses to commemorate the event.

There are a few rules to be aware of for this event, but I encourage you not to let them dissuade you. The first, and hardest to digest, is no headphones. I know, I know. I’m an avid podcast and book-on-tape runner, BUT, with a hundred runners circling a three-lane track, it makes sense that safety should prevail, and runners should be able to respond quickly to each other. I will tell you that the race plays lots of fun music throughout the morning, so you won’t be left to your own thoughts…too much.

Plus the race staff and volunteers are the absolute best, cheering runners on as they circle and circle. And, if you race the full marathon on Sunday morning, you may even be treated to a karaoke version of Thunderstruck by one of the race celebrity volunteers. It was quite the treat, when about an hour in, we all were serenaded to the AC/DC classic.

The race weekend is more than just a way to get in miles before spring racing. It is a time to connect with runners that you may not have seen since the previous fall. It’s a climb out of the winter hibernation that runners find themselves in, without races to attend. It’s as much of a social event, as it is an athletic challenge. That being said, I found myself incredibly sore and tired after those loops. Between the pounding on the hard track and the circular motion, my body was spent.

Indoor track running is a different type of training, with its own set of challenges. Outside running can bring weather mishaps, elevation gains, and terrain changes. While you won’t get those inside, the repetitive motion of an indoor circular track can really take a toll on your body, and mind. The last 10 loops of my full marathon were incredibly challenging and taxing on me, much more so than the normal fatigue I feel at miles 24-26.

I was glad that I chose to stay the night in Milwaukee following this great feat and enjoy an evening of relaxation close to the action. If you are planning to run the Milwaukee Half Marathon later this month, the Wisconsin Marathon in May, or the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October, I’d highly recommend staying at the Brewhouse Inn and Suites. This charming and unique hotel is located in the Brewery District, which was founded in 2007 by philanthropist Joseph L. Zilber. Located between Interstate 43, Fiserv Forum and the Deer District, The Brewery District has become Milwaukee’s newest downtown neighborhood.

The area is jam packed with restaurants, shops, hotels, and urban housing. It has an upbeat and hip vibe, while the cobblestone streets remind you of the deep-rooted history in each block. The buildings are historic and beautiful, each with a story to reveal as you enter.

We pulled up and were immediately stunned by the architecture of the building. Formerly the Pabst Brewery, the vintage charm and grandeur of The Brewhouse Inn & Suites sets the perfect stage for travelers coming to Milwaukee. The lobby area is reminiscent of days past as brick and doorways have been preserved from the former structure. The elevator bell rang as a historic chime as we ascended the levels to our room.

The rooms have been preserved with such grace that you are immediately taken back to the 1800’s. Each of the suites offer an in-room kitchen equipped with a stovetop, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, and Keurig coffee maker. Kitchen amenities include all the necessities such as plates, silverware, cooking utensils, pots, and pans. This is so important for runners, as they prepare for or recover from a hard race. We all have had the unfortunate experience of trying out a new restaurant the night before a race, only to find ourselves searching for the next porta potty along the route!

As a runner, I am naturally a creature of habit, enjoying my routines in all aspects of life, from diet to sleep. These suites provided all of the comforts of home, while allowing an escape into the early brewery days of Pabst Brewing.

My family and I stayed in a roomy loft suite, which provided ample space for relaxation following the hundred plus laps of running the weekend afforded me. If you are traveling with your family, I highly encourage you to give the suites a try. You will have no problem getting a good night of rest, if the nerves let you, while your family enjoys late night fun without disrupting you!

And, bonus, for us thrifty parents, you can prepare meals in the room! You do not need to go out, as a full kitchenette is available for food prep. Plus, breakfast is free at this hotel. I’m not always a fan of hotel breakfasts, but this one offered many healthy options including yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and fruit.

The second floor featured a workout room, which I visited to stretch out a bit and take a stroll on the treadmill. With two treadmills, a bike, and an elliptical, guests can enjoy a bit of cardio, set to their liking. There were also hand weights if you wanted to pump it up a bit. I enjoyed my lazy incline walk and stretch to get everything moving the morning after the challenge series.

Also on the second floor of the hotel were the massive iconic copper brewing kettles and the stained glass window of King Gambrinus (often called the patron saint of beer). Funky furniture was placed throughout, allowing for lounging and chatting among the history of this iconic building.

We also located a cabinet full of board games on the third floor, which we had to pull out and play. My kids were fascinated with the old-fashioned rotary phones and couldn’t stop themselves from picking up the receivers.

It felt as though every nook and cranny of this hotel featured a new surprise to explore. Chicago runners – You have 3 fun races coming up in Milwaukee! Book your stay at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites to make your travel extra fun and a completely unique experience. And bonus, parking was only $10!

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Mandi has been running for over 25 years and has participated in the Chicago, Detroit, and Boston Marathons. Mandi regularly competes in regional events and enjoys being a part of several running groups including CARA and the Badgerland Striders. She is a co-host on the Ten Junk Miles podcast and looks forward to hosting the Chicago Athlete Podcast. An RRCA certified coach and Les Mills certified instructor, Mandi is also a coach with Chicago Athlete Coaching. Mandi is a local government attorney by weekday and race warrior by weekend.

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