We got to Green Bay around 7:00 Friday night. Saturday morning, while my mom watched Sophie nap off her night of no sleep, my husband, his parents, and I headed to Lambeau Field. They shopped at the Packer Pro Shop while I hit the expo. Compared to the expos for Grandma's and Twin Cities (the only other marathons I've run), it seemed pretty small. But I was able to pick up my packet and Jim's without any problems. I also bought a hooded sweatshirt and some Gu. (Oh, for some reason, I got it stuck in my head that I would want Gu during the marathon, even though I never use it and it creeps me out.)
Saturday afternoon was spent with Sophie in the waterpark of our hotel. She had a blast, and all the activity got her good and tired for what would hopefully be a better night's sleep. Because Sophie isn't that great in restaurants at dinner time (and because the wait for both the Olive Garden and another Italian place we tried was over an hour and half long), my husband and his dad picked up food to go from the Olive Garden. Jim got into town right as we were ordering, so we were able to get him some pasta too.
Thankfully, Sophie slept pretty well Saturday night. The alarm went off at 5:15 and I got right out of bed, not wanting to hit snooze and wake anyone else up. Jim met me at our hotel at 6:00 and we were on the shuttle bus to Lambeau at 6:15. Once we got to the field, we were able to sit and relax for a while. I sipped gatorade and enjoyed watching all the people mill around. I started to realize that a huge portion of the runners were running the half marathon and not the full, and got a little worried about how lonely it might feel after the cut off for the half. At about 7:00, I decided to try to use the bathroom one last time (yay for indoor bathrooms!). After waiting in a really long line, someone came out and said there was no toilet paper. Luckily one of the things in the goody bag was a packet of kleenex. Vicks kleenex no less, so all my girl parts were nice and medicinal smelling before the race.
Once we headed out side to the start area, we tried to find a way to get from the Lambeau Field area to the street. Many people were jumping over the railing, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to break my leg right at the start of the race. We finally found a spot where you could walk down the street and ended up starting way towards the back of the crowd. This hassle at the start was my only complaint about this race.
National anthem sung, and we were off! For as many people as were in front of us, we really did not have to do much weaving. The first 10 miles or so were through shady neighborhoods. We were still with the half marathoners, so there were lots of people around and the crowd support was great. I felt really strong and relied on Garmin a lot to keep us from running too fast. I kept thinking of Beth's "Go out fast, tire your ass." We were running about 20 seconds faster per mile than our goal marathon pace, but I felt that we could probably handle it given our training paces.
The half marathoners split off at about the 11.5 mile mark. I was running towards the split with my head down and looked up just in time to see my mom, mother-in-law, and Sophie! We ran up to them and ditched our long sleeves. I also left my fuel belt with my mom. I was glad I ran with it to that point, but was just done and thought I could manage with the gatorade on the course for the rest of the race. Jim was nice enough to stash my Gu in his pocket.
After the split, we turned into what seemed like more of an industrial, boring area for a few miles. I knew from my many viewings of the course map that by about mile 16 we would be turning onto a trail along the river, so I just kept telling myself to make it to my 16. I felt a little sick to my stomach at this point from the beans I took at mile 10 or so, but just kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
Finally we were on the river trail. This was a beautiful trail, and running on that surface was a nice break from the concrete we had been running on for the first part of the race. Although the crowd was definitely thinner here, the water stops from the trail to the end of the race were awesome. If my memory serves me correctly (which might not be the case, but whatever), every water stop from the point on had orange slices. My hands were so sticky from the combination of oranges and gatorade, but I didn't care. The volunteers at the water stops were awesome - cheering loudly while handing out all their goodies.
At mile 18, I decided to take my Gu (Roctane, orange flavor). Although I gagged on the first taste, I managed to get it down by drinking big gulps of water after each "bite." I'm glad I took the Gu. I really did feel an energy boost from it. At this point, I decided that I need to get better about using Gu instead of other stuff. It is just so much easier to carry and to eat than beans or sharkies.
At mile 19, I needed a bathroom break. I did not want to pee my pants during the race. Although I was getting tired at this point, I still kept plugging away. Somewhere on the trail I saw a girl wearing the race shirt from the Earth Day half marathon I ran in St. Cloud last month. I said, "Hey Earth Day, are you from Minnesota? Great job." I think she had her iPod on a little loud and couldn't tell what I was saying, because she looked at me like I was nuts. Or maybe she actually thought I was nuts. Oh well.
Right around mile 22 we were off the trail and had to run over a bridge to get back into town to start the journey back to Lambeau field. That bridge really sucked the life out of me. From mile 22 until 24.5, I really started losing the will to keep going. I wanted to walk so bad. I kept looking at my watch and thinking, even if I walked the rest of the way I would still PR. And then Jim would tell me to keep going, to not wimp out. He really pushed me during those miles and I am so glad that he was there.
Finally we made a couple of turns and I could see that we were very close to entering the stadium. I started to get excited and emotional about how far we had come, how well we were doing, how awesome it was going to be to run in Lambeau, and how close we were to the finish! We ran into the stadium, through the "back" where I think the players come in from, and then were were out on the field! I got a huge burst of energy, both because I knew we were so close to the finish and because I knew my family would be in the field.
I passed a lot of people running the loop around Lambeau and I was sure that I was grinning like a complete idiot. (Further conversations with my family have confirmed that I was in fact grinning like a complete idiot.) I saw my mother-in-law towards the front of the stands with the camera and started waving my arms around like a real loony toons. She waved back, which made me feel better.
Then we were out of the stadium and it was two little turns to the finish. My energy kick kept kicking, so I really finished strong. I didn't see him, but my husband was outside at the finish and got some pictures of me finishing. He missed me waving my arms around like a loony toons for a second time when the announcer called my name as I approached the finish. I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and could not stop smiling. 4:31:56. A PR by about 24 minutes for me. I turned around as Jim crossed the line just behind me and gave him a huge hug. We've run all three of our marathons together and this by far was the best one for both of us.
After we got our medals and got our chips cut off, we found my husband and got our free beer. I took two sips and couldn't manage any more, but I had to at least have one drink of beer after a marathon that started and ended at Lambeau! We made it back to the hotel with just enough time to shower before check out, and then we were off towards home. When we finally got home at about 9:00 last night, I went straight to bed. Good thing I've got some days off from running . . . I need to unpack, do about 100 loads of laundry, and clean my messy house!
I've got lots of good pictures to post, but I have to collect them from my mom and mother-in-law. Thanks to all of you for your support - I thought of my running blogger friends several times during the marathon and it really helped me keep pushing!