Let me back up a bit.
After weeks of training, days of freaking out trying to figure out what songs to include on a play list and what clothes to wear, it was half marathon time. I headed up to my parents' house after work on Friday since they live closer to Green Bay than I do.
Saturday I went up to the expo to pick up my packet and scope out the vendors. My Mom came along with me, since she's my unofficial race day photographer, she wanted to figure out where she was going to go along the course to see me run and what stadium gate was going to be open to get inside Lambeau Field.
I got my packet and wandered around the expo a bit. I found a few good deals - a new bottle of BioFreeze (love the stuff!), a pair of black Brooks running shorts on clearance, a SPI belt (have heard good things about them and have wanted to get my hands on one, but no stores around me carry them and didn't want to pay the shipping costs) and stocked up on some more mint chocolate GU. Almost bought another pair of Asics Gel Cumulus that were on sale, but couldn't for the life of me remember what shoe size I wore. Had it narrowed down to two sizes, and decided not to get the shoes and risk having to deal with return policies. In hindsight, should have gotten the shoes - they were the right size.
After I had walked through the expo and stocked up on goodies, Mom and I got in the car and drove the race route, just so I could get an idea of what was waiting for me the next day. It was a pretty route, mostly through residential neighborhoods. Lots of tree-lined streets and shade. Fairly flat, a few minor uphills, but nothing to get worried about.
Having seen the course, it was time to head home, eat some pasta and get ready for race day.
We got to Lambeau Field about 6 a.m. and had plenty of time. Got a parking spot and headed inside the atrium to wait. Hit up the bathrooms (a perk to being inside the stadium atrium? No port-a-potties!), downed a GU about 15 minutes before the starting time and headed out to wait for the gun to go off.
It was Go Time.
Then it hit me. I was about to run a half marathon. Some of the worries came back into my head, but I quickly shoved them out. Concentrated on having a good time. With almost 7,000 runners, it took a bit to get to the actual starting line, but after about 5 minutes, with "Shipping Out to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphy's blasting through the sound system, I was off.
Not quite to Boston, but on my 13.1 mile journey through Green Bay.
With marathoners and half marathoners all starting at once, it was a bit crowded during the first few miles, but I just zoned out and settled into a comfortable pace pretty quickly. I was just running, not really thinking about anything. Before I knew it, I was approaching Mile 4, where I knew my Mom would be waiting. Had to be "that runner" who cuts across the entire street and probably makes other runners mad when I realized at almost the last minute she was standing on the opposite side of the street we had planned. Got a "good job" from Mom and I was on my way.
Just before the 5 mile marker, I slowed up for a bit of congestion around road construction and had a moment to see a runner down and being attended to by medical personnel. Hope they were OK.
Took my first GU at the 6.2 mile marker - a spectator spot by a church they were calling the 10K Alleluia. Grabbed some water and took my GU and took a short walk break. Once the GU and water were gone, it was back to running. Was actually feeling pretty good at this point, keeping up with the 4 hour, 45 minute marathon pace group (2 hours, 20ish minute half).
At this point we're running through a fairly swanky neighborhood. Lots of people lining the streets, cheering for the runners. Even a cheerleading squad (decked out in green and gold, how fitting for Green Bay). I get through the race sponsored GU/water station and run down this short hill.
Then it hits me.
BAM! It's like I ran into a freaking brick wall. My legs were screaming at me. What the heck? I thought to myself. I'm at Mile 7. I've got 6 more to go. This wall? Shouldn't be happening right now. I pulled off to the side of the road and found a telephone pole. Took a moment to stretch and just breath. Composed myself. Decided at that point that it was OK to start incorporating some short walk breaks if I needed to. So I walked about a block or so and started running.
For the next 2 or 3 miles, that's what I did. Ran, got to the water stations and then took a short walk break. Tried to keep a decent pace while walking though.
Somewhere around Mile 9.5 I started to feel better. The running stretches were longer, the running felt faster. I hit Mile 10 at 2 hours flat. In a perfect world, one where the running gods were on my side, I thought I could finish in 2 hours, 30 minutes. I didn't know if that would happen though. I decided then to try to make it as close to that time as possible.
There were a few jelly beans consumed around Mile 10.5. Feelings of agony right afterward, running a block away from Lambeau Field, knowing it's so close yet I've still got another 2.5 miles to go. A pit stop at the medical station at Mile 11 for some Vaseline (in hindsight, should have skipped the Vaseline, caused more problems than it helped).
I hit Mile 12 and I glance down at Garmin Gus. I realize I'm not going to hit 2:30, but I'll still be able to turn in a PR over my 2007 half marathon. At this point I make the decision: Run this last mile for yourself and remember to take it all in.
So I did. I actually walked some. Went through the final water stop on Armed Forces Drive, with Lambeau Field and the finish line in my sights. Turned the corner onto Oneida Street, along the stadium parking lot, and started running. I was almost there.
I ran through the parking lot to a stadium service entrance. I ran inside. I'm in the bowels of the stadium, heading towards the players tunnel.
And it hits me.
Here I am, 12.5 miles into a half marathon and I almost break down and cry. Not because I'm in pain. Nope. I almost cry because of what I've done and what this means to me. But that's a story I'm going to save for a follow up post (because this is already approaching novel length!)
Even though I'm on the verge of tears, I suck it up and run down that players tunnel and emerge onto the warning track around Lambeau Field. Amazing. I can't put into words what this was like. I took my time. Soaked it all in. Before I knew it, I had gotten the high five from my Mom and I was exiting the stadium. Running through the players tunnel again and out into the Lambeau Field parking lot.
One final corner and there was the finish. Something I had worked so long for. I upped the speed, heard my name come over the loud speaker and raised my arms in victory.
I wasn't the first finisher. I wasn't the fastest. But 2 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish line - a full 11 minutes faster than my 2007 half marathon time. I collected my medal, my T-shirt and grabbed some ice for my knee (which had been bothering me in the days leading up to the race) before finding my sister-in-law.
All in all, I'd say it was a good race, one I'll definitely be back for next year. But first? Look out Fox Cities in the fall. Because that 2:30? It's mine.