Hundreds of training miles.
Running through snowstorms, rainstorms and whatever else nature threw at me.
And it all paid off on Sunday, May 15th. I finished my second marathon and eclipsed my previous time by almost 27 minutes. But, let's rewind for a moment.
On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Furball and I headed to Green Bay and the Lambeau Field Atrium so I could pick up my bib number and timing chip at the expo as well as browse the various booths at the expo. When we arrived, it was windy and rainy and all I could think of was how much I really hoped that the rain and wind would let up by morning! That evening, after we checked into our hotel, we walked over to the local IHOP where I indulged in my favorite pre-race meal of eggs, whole grain pancakes and hash browns - YUM! I've found that breakfast food provides a nice mix of protein, carbs and fat and, unlike the traditional pasta dinner, doesn't sit like a rock in my stomach. (I've also been know to consume pizza the night before a race if a suitable breakfast place isn't available.)
After dinner, we retired to our hotel room where I spent the time before bed surfing the internet, checking Twitter and obsessively checking the forecast for the next day. By about 9pm I knew I was getting 50% of my weather wish from earlier in the day. No rain in the forecast, but they were predicting winds of 25-35mph with gusts up to 40mph! So much for my shorts and tank top...I was going to be racing in tights and a jacket. I laid out all my clothes, my hat, my gels (GU TriBerry, in case anyone is interested), my iPod and my Garmin and then did a couple of easy yoga poses to try to loosen up a little before crawling into bed to await my alarm at 4:30am!
I slept surprisingly well. Usually the night before a race I toss and turn for hours and get maybe 3 hours of sleep in total. Not this time! I got a solid 5.5! When the alarm went off, I stumbled to the shower and then into my race clothes. Mr. Furball accompanied me back to the Lambeau Field Atrium (all of a half mile from our hotel) and the starting line. Of course I couldn't resist posing at the base of Vince Lombardi's statue on the way inside!
Thanks to the pace leader (Tom), I went out at a much slower pace than I normally do. I have a bad habit of putting the pedal to the metal early and then I end up walking. Not this time! Before I knew it, the first 5k was behind me and Mile 4 (and a potential Mr. Furball sighting) was coming into view. Then the strangest thing happened. My Garmin showed that I had passed Mile 4 a full quarter of a mile before we reached the mile marker! I consulted with Tom who was just as confused as I was. He doesn't run with a GPS device, but according to his pace calculations, we should have been at Mile 4.25, not approaching Mile 4. Oh well, nothing to do but keep running! Mr. Furball managed to navigate his way to an area just past Mile 4, which gave me an extra little lift (and he snapped this picture).
Miles 5-9 passed without much fanfare, although the wind really started to make things interesting as the pack thinned out a bit. Tom & I were both mystified as my Garmin readings and his pacing still didn't jive with the course markings, I chatted with a few of my fellow runners, and the sun actually started to peek out around the clouds at times, which made the wind feel almost like air conditioning at times. Somewhere around Mile 5 I ate my first GU of the race. I like to refuel before I really need it.
Around Mile 10, another runner in the pace group (Jen - who was running her first marathon) and I determined that Tom (who was running his 192nd marathon) was our Wingman and in true Top Gun form, we decided that you "Never, never leave your wing man." Yeah, I know...kind of lame, but what do you want? We were 10 miles into this thing and it amused us! Around Mile 10 I also inhaled my second GU of the race. Just past the 10 mile marker I spotted Mr. Furball for what I assumed would be the last time before the finish line (based on how the course was laid out it didn't make sense for him to try to watch from further on). I was feeling great!
At Mile 11 the half marathoners took a left and headed for a lap inside Lambeau Field and the finish line and the marathoners turned right, into the wind and out onto some country roads. As we approached the half marathon mark, the wind switched to our backs and propelled us up one of the few big hills on the course. I hit the half way point in 2:23:53 which is a couple of minutes slower than my half marathon PR, but I was happy with it since I still had half of a race in front of me.
Mile 15 or 16 (can't remember which) was a tough one. It was a very long, very steep bridge over the Fox River and the wind was roaring right in my face. I later found out that the wind gusts on that bridge were around 40mph. I just glued myself to Tom's shoulder, kept hitting repeat on my iPod (He's A Pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean seems to be an epic bridge-climbing song) and just kept telling myself that it wasn't "that bad". Fortunately when we came off the bridge we turned into a more populous area, so the buildings helped to block some of the wind.
Miles 17-22 were run on a recreational trail next to the river which made for a nice break from the wind as well as some pretty scenery. At Mile 17, suddenly my Garmin, Tom's pace and the mile marker all matched up again...crazy! Mile 20 brought the infamous Wall. Hitting 'The Wall' is a well known phenomenon that usually occurs around Mile 20 of a marathon. It's the point where your body is pretty much out of fuel and the race becomes as much about mental endurance as it is about physical endurance. Jen was hurting pretty bad and ended up dropping back a bit. I was sad to see her go, but I still felt pretty good, although my knees and IT bands were starting to ache a little, so I stuck to Tom's side and carried on.
Mile 22 was a beastly one. One minute you're running on a nice trail, the next minute you're turning into gale force winds! It literally blew me sideways and I had to fight to stay on my feet. After that, it was a nice jaunt through a park, up an incline and up over another (much shorter and easier) bridge.
Somewhere just after Mile 23, Tom really started picking up the pace and I hit my personal Wall. The achy knees and IT bands that had been a background presence for the last 3 miles started screaming. I knew I had to stop and stretch them, which meant I'd have to leave my wingman. Major bummer. I pulled off to the side, did a couple of downward-facing dogs, stretched my IT's and started running again. Unfortunately, my legs didn't like that too much. I kept up a steady run/walk pattern for the next 2 miles, but at least I didn't quit and walk it in.
As I approached Mile 25.2 I was shocked to see Mr. Furball standing there! I hadn't expected to see him until the finish line! It really helped me to see him. I felt better, even if just for a moment. I took the opportunity to peel off my jacket and gloves, listen to some last words of encouragement, and headed into the tunnel at Lambeau.
As I was running into the tunnel at Lambeau, Tom was coming out and he yelled that I wasn't far behind and to keep going. That motivated me through the players tunnel and out onto the legendary Lambeau field. While I'd love to tell you that running out onto the field gave me an amazing surge of energy, it didn't. First of all, they were playing Elton John's 'Rocket Man' over the PA (apparently other runners got Ke$ha and Lady Gaga), which didn't really inspire much from me. Second, I was dog tired. Third, I was hurting. Fortunately, as I rounded the last corner on the field some awesome spectators were hanging over the railing, screaming like banshees and that did give me a surge of energy. I high-fived a couple of kids and headed back into the players tunnel. As I was coming out of Lambeau, I saw Jen (who I hadn't seen in 5 miles) heading into the tunnel, so I shouted the same encouragement that Tom had given me and then I headed toward daylight and the finish line.
As I rounded the final corner, the crowd was loud, raucous and their energy was infectious. I dug way down and began my closing kick. I remember seeing some random guy leaning over the barricade and screaming, "Go! Go! Go!" And I did. I closed that race at the highest speed I could manage at that point and as my foot hit the timing mat I realized that my dream had come true. I had finished my second marathon.
When I say 'at that point', I mean at that moment. On Monday afternoon I received an email from the race director that the course had indeed been mismarked somewhere after Mile 3 and that caused the race to actually be 26.35 miles long instead of 26.2 and they would be posting adjusted marathon times on Tuesday afternoon! What? You mean I technically (very technically) ran an ultra-marathon instead of a marathon? You could have knocked me over with a feather. Cue 24 hours of nail-biting while I waited for my real official finishing time. Finally, around 3pm on Tuesday my wait was over. My true marathon time was
I may have been moving around like someone's grandmother on Sunday night. I may have been achy (and loaded with obscene amounts of ibuprofen) at work on Monday. On Tuesday, I was back on top of the world!
I spent the first 3 days after the marathon grousing because I couldn't run (my post-race training plan demands complete rest for 3 days) and had to be talked out of signing up for another marathon this fall (it's Mr. Furball's turn to run one).
Yesterday, my wait was over. I was finally cleared to run 2 measly miles and I couldn't have been happier! Mr. Furball joined me and we covered those two miles in about 20 minutes. I was overjoyed. I felt pretty good - some residual soreness, but nothing unmanageable. Now I'm on my butt again until Sunday, but I already can't wait to run again!
And I can't wait to share my next adventure with you!