I had the day off of work Friday, so I headed up to Green Bay with my friend Jess for a lunch date with another one of Jess's friends before heading over to packet pickup. In true Wisconsin fashion, the weather had done a 180 since earlier in when it was 95 and uber humid. Friday it was rainy, windy and cold. Like maybe 55 degrees cold. But we picked up our packets and on my way home I drove the course. There were some hills, but after this spring's training I knew I'd be able to handle them.
After a somewhat stormy night, race day dawned bright and early and I slept through my alarm. Oops. Good thing my Mom poked her head into my room at 5:30 and woke me up. I got dressed, gathered my race day gear and prepared my pre-long run breakfast (two Eggo waffles with peanut butter) and we were out the door at 6 a.m.
In order to avoid the parking headaches that were sure to occur near the race site, we opted to go for the shuttle service that was being offered. I was a bit worried there would be a long wait, so I made sure we were in the Shopko parking lot at 6:30 a.m. when the first bus was set to leave. There was no need to worry. When we pulled into the parking lot we saw about 20 yellow school buses just waiting to load up with runners and spectators. First thumbs up for Bellin Run organizers.
Going into race day I knew there would be some of my other runner friends who were doing the race. But knowing that 18,000 other people were running, the chances of randomly running into anyone else would be slim. So imagine my surprise when I got to the shuttle line and there was Krystal, who paced me to my half marathon PR in awful conditions at the Oshkosh Half Marathon in April! We exchanged quick hellos, but didn't get a chance to talk since we ended up on different buses.
After a short bus ride, my Mom and I got to the race site. Walking into the park I spied some port-a-potties with very small lines. So I jumped in. I ended up not having to wait since there were MORE port-a-potties around the corner with no wait. Score! After a quick bathroom break Mom and I figured out a post-race meeting spot, took a few photos and went our separate ways. She set out for the start area while I set out to find Jess.
With 18,701 runners the starting area could potentially be chaotic. But they had a corral system set up (based on your estimated finish time) and you were only allowed in the corral that matched your bib. Before trying to find Jess I made one last pit stop at the port-a-potties and even though I was in the athletes' village with 18,000 other runners I STILL could just walk right up and not wait. Even though it was 30 minutes before the starting gun was going to go off. Seriously. Race directors of big events need to talk to the Bellin folks, because they know how to do the port-a-potty thing.
I eventually found Jess and we waited in the corral until it was go time. 15 minutes after the starting gun first went off we were crossing the starting line and we were off on the 10K.
Mile 1 - 10:10
With this many runners, of course the beginning will be a bit crowded. But I was OK with that. It forced me to hold back and take the first mile slower. I was running with Jess and that was great, even though neither of us said a word to each other. The other thing that kept my pace in check? It was a long gradual uphill.
Mile 2 - 10:12
Somewhere I lost Jess, but I knew she'd have it in her to finish strong. The first water stop was somewhere around the 1.6 mile marker and I used my half marathon strategy to walk through the water stops. Worked like a charm. Still a gradual uphill. Still feeling good.
Mile 3 - 9:35
Shortly after passing the Mile 2 marker, I made a left hand turn and I was greeted with this amazing sight. The street? One huge downhill and all you could see was a sea of runners. Amazing. But I didn't get caught up in the view because downhills? That meant it was time to fly. Great chunk of the course. While the entire route had a ton of spectators throughout, it was just a wall of people along this section.
Mile 4 - 10:10
Still feeling good and strong.
Mile 5 - 10:23
My slowest mile, but that's because for some reason there were two water stops within a half-mile of each other. I took advantage of both though because the sun was starting to peak out from behind the clouds and I was starting to get a bit warm.
Swiped from Jess's Facebook page
Mile 6 - 10:17
By far the best mile of the route. Nearing the park where the post-race activities were going on, the crowds lining these streets were ABSOLUTELY incredible! Constant cheering. Cowbells. I saw my favorite sign of all along this section, "Good Job Person I Don't Know."
Final 0.2 miles - 2:00
I'm not sure what happened but I hit Mile 6 marker and I pushed it. I felt like I was flying. A left-handed turn and then a block later a right-turn and I was in the home stretch. So many people lining that final straightaway. I shifted into another gear. Not sure where the speed came from but it felt amazing.
Final time: 1:02:49
Overall this was an amazing race experience. So many people lining the streets cheering for runners. The organization was top-notch (remember, no lines for port-a-potties!). A great atmosphere. A challenging course, but a fun course to run. I'll definitely be back next year.