How do I even start this post?!
Yesterday, I ran a marathon in 3:11:09.
Yes, you read that right. I still can't really believe it happened.
If you are interested in the events leading up to and during the race, proceed. I will warn you that the text will be rambling, perhaps contain a lot of winding paths to nowhere, and it will be long. Guaranteed. So go get something to eat and drink and settle in.
We left our house at 8 AM on Saturday morning as my kids were registered to run the Kids Run. The kids run is organized into different heats according to age and the 6 year olds were scheduled to run at 11; the three year olds at 11:45.
We arrived at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers football team, around 10:15 which was just enough time to pick up the kids packets and get them organized. My husband was planning on running the 0.75 mile course with each kid, but at the last minute my 6 year old wanted me to run with her. I was fine with this except that I was not wearing my running shoes. My Oofos OOMG shoes held up nicely, though.
I love love love watching my kids run so this was a highlight for me.
After the kids ran, we went to pick up my course packet and then went to check into our hotel. I was starving and we ended up calling for takeout at the restaurant near the hotel. I got a semi-gross grilled chicken sandwich and fries. I was also really tired. Luckily my 3 year old went down for a nap so I also was able to nap while my husband and daughter went to the arcade.
We did a little hotel waterpark and arcade before eating yummy pasta at a local restaurant (Angelina's) and then my dear husband drove around trying to find a bagel shop that was still open to get me a bagel for breakfast.
We got the kids to bed and I began laying out all of my stuff for the next day, including pre-making all of my drinks. I had done a "weed-eating" exercise in my Believe journal on Friday night. The weed-eating exercise was to spend ten minutes writing a list of all of the negative thoughts you usually have during a race/run and then spend time writing a positive response to each of them. In other words, detailing EXACTLY what you are going to tell yourself when the going gets rough. I ended up getting to bed around 9:30 PM and setting an alarm for 5:15 AM.
I had a lot of difficulty sleeping. I woke up often. I wasn't too concerned about it though because the week leading up to the race was a week of great sleep.
My son got up to use the bathroom around 4:45 AM and so that was what time I woke up. I ate half of a whole wheat bagel and drank some water. I had decided that I was going to wear my 3/4 crop top from Oiselle with my Buff Arm Sleeves and shorts. (I will be talking more about the arm sleeves during a product review post since I got them as part of the BibRave Pro ambassador program.) It was raining so I wore my Oofos shoes so that my socks and running shoes would not get wet.
I've talked a lot about the running that I did as part of training, but not much about the race nutrition changes I was planning on making. This also stemmed from the Hansons book. In previous marathons, I always waited to take a gel until the later miles. What I realized from reading the book was that this was a useless behavior and definitely not serving me. I trained for the last several weeks taking gels early to see how my stomach would react to them and settled on flavor choices. I then calculated how many I would need using the calculations in the book using your weight, how much you sweat, etc. This ended up being 5 gels. FIVE! I built my plan around both the book advice and my experimentation. I would carry five gels with me, 4 strawberry banana gu and 1 lemonade Gu Roctane. I would use a strawberry banana Gu at miles 5 and 10, the roctane at 15 and a strawberry banana again at 20. If I felt I needed the extra, I would have it. I would also bring my 16 oz Nathan hand-held bottle with the BeachBody hydrate that I was consistently using while running. I had tried other things but was most comfortable with that specific product. My plan was to grab a cup of water at every hydration stop as well. Finally, I was bringing some RunGum with me for the last miles.
I loaded up the pockets of my distance shorts with the gels and had my handheld ready to go. The night before I had made a disposable water bottle with one packet of Gen UCan orange and one bottle of the BeachBody energize, which I also was used to consuming prior to running.
Once I had my number pinned on, it was time to get onto the hotel shuttle to the stadium. Our hotel was less than a mile away from the stadium, but it was raining so I opted for the shuttle. While on the shuttle, I drank the Gen UCan. We arrived at the stadium around 6:10 am. Race start was scheduled for 7:00 am but due to the possibility of lightening, there was some question as to whether the race start would be pushed back.
I hit the bathroom right away and then went to sit in the atrium. I changed into my running shoes and socks. I made the decision to not wear the headband or the sunglasses that I had planned on wearing given the rain. I knew having those on and wet would irritate me. I was supposed to meet up with some other Oiselle women for a picture around 6:30. I found the group and then we were waiting to see if other women would come and then around 6:40 found out the race would be going on as planned. Through a combination of waiting for people and picture taking, I didn't exit the building until 6:50 which was too close for comfort for me considering I still had to gear check my stuff.
It was also pouring rain. I had a free poncho that they handed out at the race expo on so my clothes stayed dry but my shoes and socks were soaked. I was running - not jogging - running to the gear check buses as the national anthem was played. Then running back towards the start and I had to go to the bathroom. I ducked into a porta potty quick and then ran back to the starting corral, ditching my poncho on the way. The rain had let up just as I entered Corral A and the announcer said, "90 seconds!". My adrenaline was crazy. "10-9-8..." BANG! Gun went off.
Mile 1: I started the race with a throw away long sleeve shirt on over my arm sleeves and crop top. My husband was going to try to see me right in the first mile since we would run past the hotel. I saw him and the kids and gave them my shirt. I felt really calm and good, despite the hectic starting situation. I immediately noticed that I was running with all men. I did not look at my pace while running but Garmin had me at 7:12. My plan was to start conservatively in the 7:30s and ease into 7:15 pace but I realized at this mile that I was not giving myself enough credit with this plan. Trusting my training would mean that I was ready to run every mile at 7:15.
Mile 2: It started pouring. Squish, squish, squish went my shoes. I was wiping away rain from my eyes every so often. I was conjuring up images from high school cross country when we fed off of bad weather because every single meet was held in rain. 7:07. A little fast. Time to back down a bit.
Mile 3 - 5: I was definitely grabbing water from each fluid station even though I was not thirsty. I was running by myself with some guys just ahead of me. It stopped raining somewhere in this chunk. At mile 5, I ripped open my first gel and took it down. Miles were definitely more controlled at this point - 7:16 / 7:17 / 7:18 (This was the first tracking mat on the course which had me at 36:16, 7:17 pace I later found out.)
Mile 6: At this point Mr. Man ran past me and announced he was at 10,000 steps. He immediately became buddy buddy with the guy running right ahead of me. I can't say for certain, and I may have read way too much into his behavior, but I definitely was getting the "I'm not letting a woman beat me" vibe from him. 7:20
Miles 7-8: I don't really remember much about these miles other than they were through neighborhoods and I felt fine. My gels were starting to scratch my leg from the side pocket so I transferred them all into the pouch on my handheld water bottle. 7:12 / 7:14
Mile 9: I caught up to Mr. Man who was now running by himself. He asked me what my goal was and I said "3:15" to which he mansplained to me that I was currently running at a 3:10 pace and that I better slow down. I just smiled and said, "I would be pumped with a 3:10" and carried on. He immediately sped past me. Nope. I definitely didn't read into that one. 7:04
Mile 10-12: We now were on a beautiful paved path through woods along the Fox River. I was definitely all by myself at this point. I was excited at the possibility of seeing some family members at the halfway point. Mile 10 was a second gel and another tracking mat and I clocked in at 1:12:47 or 7:19 pace. My Garmin splits for this chunk were 7:17 / 7:15 / 7:07.
Mile 13: Came and went. I did not see my family. I clocked in at the halfway point at 1:35:11 or 7:14 pace. My Garmin split was 7:11.
Mile 14: Still no family. 7:11 split. My legs were starting to feel tired. I had a minor red flag that I was already starting to feel tired but I knew that I could still run a solid pace while tired based on my training and I started thinking about all those tempo runs.
Mile 15: A woman had come into sight and was fading. I passed her somewhere along this mile and offered words of encouragement. She would be the one and only woman I saw the entire race. At this point I took my Roctane gel. 7:07 per Garmin. I was supposed to have a timing mat time at mile 15 but nothing came through so I'm not sure what happened.
Mile 16: Still running on the paved trail, still running by myself. And then...up ahead....i saw my mom and aunt! I was waving frantically at them but it took them a moment to register it was me. They asked me how I was feeling and I said I was feeling good because although my legs were tired, I DID feel pretty good. 7:16
Mile 17-20: I got into a flow here that I don't even know how to explain. Just keep swimming. As I mentioned early - this is always the point of a marathon where I start breaking down. NOT TODAY MOTHER F-ER. (Sorry for the foul language but I was determined to stay positive during this section...and I recently listened to a C Tolle Run podcast where she and Todd Williams recapped the story of that woman who survived her attacker and that was what she said while she was hitting him.) I saw my mom and aunt again who made me laugh so that helped. They also told me I looked strong. Men started falling back and I was picking them off. Because I joined the Hansons Marathon Method Facebook group, this "I started passing people all over the place" story was familiar to me. It seemed very surreal that it was happening to me. Initially I second guessed how I was running - as in, should I be passing people already? But I just stuck with it. Trust the training. Mile 19 we ran on a track in City Stadium, which the hubs later told me was where the Packers first played. I just was excited to run on a track! ha ha ha Also during the time, the bottom of my right foot, near the base of the 2nd toe started feeling strange. I knew it was a blister. ICK. I tried not to think about it and took another gel at Mile 20. 7:03 / 7:07 / 7:04 / 7:02 Somewhere in this section, I passed Mr. Man for good!!!!!!!!!!! Mansplain that to me please. (Don't worry - he did after the race....and no I am not kidding. Keep reading!) I was supposed to have another timing mat split at mile 20, but like mile 15, it did not work.
Mile 21: En route to mile 21, I caught up with a Team Triumph runner. I always get a huge inspiration boost from these runners and their passengers and today was no different. I ended up pulling away from them and the man riding was non-verbal but making a noise and I heard the male runner say, "What? You want me to stay with her? Aw..that is not happening today. She's going too fast." Huge smile. I was excited to see after the race that they BQed their race and that the passenger ended up pushing the runner across the finish. Their story is here and it's a good one. Here is a pic of them (and me!) that was posted on the Green Bay Gazette (thank you to Amy Bailey, WI Oiselle member, for sending it to me!):
Mile 22: I saw my mom and aunt AGAIN! They crushed the spectating. 7:13
Mile 23-24: I again was in no man's land running by myself through some neighborhoods. I just kept saying, "Get to mile 25 and you can have some RunGum". The blister on my foot was becoming more and more noticeable. People that were spectating were being so awesome telling me that I was strong and looking good and all that jazz. People also (incorrectly) told me I was in 6th place for women. I knew prize money went to the top 5 so I kept trying to see if there were any women ahead of me - I could see no person ahead of me. I was really hurting and so I stopped. Bent over took a huge breath to reset and started running again. Pace was falling off... 7:20 / 7:26
Mile 25: I ripped open the RunGum and shoved both pieces in my mouth. I was trying to chomp my way through all that gum which felt like it was taking up my whole mouth. It was grossing me out more than anything and I determined I was using way too much mental energy trying to figure out how to chew gum, however, a garbage can was no where in sight. I could not stand that gum any longer so I spit it out on the course. Sorry sorry sorry. I felt terrible doing it but instantly better when it was gone. I was still by myself and looking ahead, I could see the stadium and TONS of runners coming from a different direction than I was. I should have immediately recongized that they were the half marathoners as they started an hour behind us and would be merging with us. That is not what I thought though. I immediately thought, "OH MY GOD I TOOK A WRONG TURN SOMEWHERE AND I SHORTCUT THE RACE AND NOW I AM GOING TO GET DISQUALIFIED". I cannot underscore the sinking feeling I had, believing for several moments that this was true. Nevermind that I saw all the mile markers and the course was impeccably marked. I looked ahead of me: No marathoners. I looked behind me: No marathoners. By this point I had gotten to the merge and a police officer congratulated me on my race. At this point, I was also noticing the bibs on the herd of runners were a different color. Only then did it register that these were the half marathoners. There was a time track mat at mile 25.2 which came in at 3:04:28 - 7:16 avg pace. Garmin had mile 25 at 7:39 for me. We made our way into the stadium and a volunteer kept saying, "Welcome to Lambeau Field!!" in a booming announcer-type voice. I am not a football fan but I cheered and got so so SO excited when I heard that. Immediately upon entering the stadium I saw my husband and kids who were leaning over the side to try to get a high five. I had an out of body experience and did my own Lambeau Leap to give them a high five. And then I was bound and determined to finish that race. I started sprinting (ok not really when you see my pace but it felt like I was sprinting). Unfortunately the clog of half marathon runners meant that I was dodging around people and then had to abruptly stop for some. I was not expecting to see my mom and aunt again but I saw them just as I was about to make the final turn out of the stadium! SO EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!
Mile 26 - Finish: Once I exited the stadium, I tried to keep that new found energy going but it was so so hard. Every step was excruciating and I could see the clock in the 3:10s...I really wanted to get in the 3:10 section but I could not go any faster. I again heard my family screaming for me. I crossed the finish line and immediately bent over, leaning/falling heavily on a volunteer who happened to be standing there. He made sure I was ok and then I proceeded to walk through the finish chute and again saw my fam!!! I went over to the fence to give them high fives and talk to them and then my son reminded me to ring the PR bell so I got in line for that. I had forgotten to shut my Garmin off so that was off for the final mile but taking the difference from my finish time and the timing mat at 25.2 miles, my last mile was 6:41!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL!!! I really cannot believe it.
I didn't negative split the race, but came very close:
First half (per timing mat time): 1:35:11
Second half (per taking the difference between my finish time and the above half time): 1:35:58
I also ended up taking 9th place for women (out of 1,026) and 4th in my age group.
I lost my family for a bit post-race but I did see a few Oiselle runners, including Nora Bird who was tracking me and told me my official finish. I am insane because the first few moments were of disappointment that I didn't get into the 3:10s. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME! My official finish of 3:11:09 is a 14:41 PR.
I proceeded to pick up my two beers and brat. I gave one of the beers to my mom, drank one myself and my son proceeded to eat my brat. We walked to my mom's car and she took us back to the hotel where I confirmed the presence of a huge blister on the bottom of my foot. My husband had arranged for a late check out so he took the kids for one last turn in the waterpark and I took the most glorious shower ever.
The kids wanted to go to Bay Beach amusement park. I really did not want to go there, but sucked it up for them since I knew they didn't really give two craps about me running. While waiting for my husband and daughter to get off the Scrambler, who walks up to me but Mr. Man! I AM NOT EVEN JOKING! He asked about my finish time and congratulated me and then proceeded to tell me about the laundry list of ailments that kept him from a 3:10 finish.
Today I feel decent. My legs are sore, but not as sore as they have been post-race. A few well-timed Advil have been key.
You made it through! Thanks for reading. It still feels very surreal. The other weird part is that I think I could go faster. We'll save that for the next one :)