Tuesday, May 22, 2007

2007 Green Bay Marathon Race Report

The following is loosely based on the real life events of two nearly-elite runners surrounding the completion of their second Green Bay Marathon, as told by Reb (one of the two nearly-elites).

Jo arrived at my house on Saturday afternoon to collect me and drive to the pre-race expo and packet pick-up at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. When I opened her car door I was knocked back by an avalanche of debri, tumbling off of her passenger seat. I pulled myself up off of the concrete, with only a few scratches on my arms and face from the accident. Jo quickly tossed the piles of unread mail and half-eaten food into her backseat, where the mice attacked the granola bars with glee. Unfortunately there was still too much dirt and crumbs for my delicate behind, so we retreated to The Hornet (my yellow Vue).

The weather was threatening. The sky was black. Wind howled. Horizontal rain pelted The Hornet. A few close calls and many prayers later, we arrived at the historic home of the frozen tundra and abandoned The Hornet.

People came to the expo in full dress. Two men in tuxedos. A woman in a shiny satin gown. Another young woman in a flowing white gown fit for a bride. Glancing down at our casual dress, we blushed and lowered our eyes sheepishly to the ground. A photographer captured images of the four appropriately-dressed people on the steps of the stadium as we shuffled past them and into the expo.

Upon entering Lambeau’s atrium Jo and I made our way to the packet pick-up area and got our race bibs and timing chips. Next we made our way to the chip activation station, picked up our t-shirts and goody bags, and headed into the throngs of formally-dressed racers to hit the expo. I was in search of a long-sleeved running shirt. I was going to need it for the race. We found my shirt at the first booth…a bright pink and orange baseball-style technical shirt. Totally Reb. I was going to look CUTE laying face down in the street at mile 23.

We saw lots of interesting people…the 1% body fat short-haired women who look remarkably man-like…the people who wear all of their running gear to the expo (are they trying to intimidate people? Make people see how ‘serious’ they are? Look like they ran to and from the expo? Think that sports bras and nylon Nair-short shorts make them look sexy?)…the people offering spine scans and massages on the floor….But the most remarkable was without question…….

….the incredible seven-foot-tall farting man.

I’ll try and get through this for you, because I think you will be entertained, but it will be painful and emotionally draining. Please forgive me if I start to mumble or cry out.

Jo and I were walking down the center aisle of the expo behind a very, very tall man. He may have been wearing a dress. I don’t know. I looked over at the strange beaded jewelry on the table next to us and then it happened. The seven-foot-tall man farted in my mouth. I turned to Jo, who was safely tucked behind me, my face green and stomach heaving. “What?” she gasped. I couldn’t talk. “Ohmygod” Jo hissed, “He farted in your mouth, didn’t he?” Before we risked taking another breath, she grabbed my arm and pulled me to safety. Thank God for caring running partners.

We left the stadium in a rush, searching for fresh air and noodles. We found both at Noodles & Co, where we gorged ourselves on noodles of the Far East and diet soda.

We parted ways Saturday evening, going home to prepare our gear, pin on our race bibs, and get to bed.

My alarm went off at 5:00 am. I stumbled out of bed and made my call to Jo, making sure that she was up and nearly ready to go. Sounding stressed and slightly frantic, she told me that she had pinned her race bib to her stomach by accident and couldn’t get it off. I talked her down and told her that I’d cut the pins off with our wire snip when she got to my house.

To my amazement, Jo had spent four hours emptying her car and laying paper towels and Saran Wrap on the passenger seat so I could sit down without incident. (or maybe it was in case I peed my pants in a state of nervous panic…)

As we’d been told, there were to be only 2,000 parking spots for over 6,000 participants. We were both very concerned about finding parking and making it to the starting line on time. Exiting the highway, we made it a mere few blocks before traffic slowed to a standstill. I heard Jo’s respiration speed, saw her hands begin to shake and eye begin to twitch…. “Get into the right lane!” I barked. She questioned me, “but we need to go to the left up there!” I urged her to trust me, and we dove into the other line, flying past block after block of runner-filled cars. Finally we approached the stadium entrance. Jo tried to pull into the long line of cars, but I grabbed the wheel and pulled it to the right. Screaming, Jo skidded around the corner and we headed in the wrong direction…towards the convention center. After convincing her to perform an illegal u-turn, we rolled up to the stoplight, crossed the street, waved to those waiting in the long line to turn left, and pulled into the parking lot. Tricky, tricky, tricky. It is just this sort of inventiveness and agility that would make us compete with the elites.

Inside the Lambeau atrium once again, we made our way to the bathroom before heading for the starting line. It was a long wait, but we used the time to stretch and get to know some of the other runners. Walking into the bathroom, finally, you could smell the nervousness. Literally. We got in and out as fast as humanly possible, and nearly passed out from holding our breath.

The weather was brutal. Temperatures in the low 40’s and a strong wind. Jo and I walked to the starting line and then kept walking…and walking…and walking…until we found the starting area designated for the elite runners. I thought it was funny that the elites had to start in the area marked “5 Hours” but shrugged and jumped into the crowd. A gentleman to our right told his running partner that he had a really hard time getting that timing chip down…he had gagged and choked a couple of times before successfully swallowing it. We commented that he may have a harder time getting it out….

Next was the official false start. When you are an elite and start at the back of the pack, there is always a delay after the starting gun. The gun fires, the crowd cheers, and then….nothing. Moments later another cheer and we take a few steps forward…then a collective “whoa” and we stop…repeat three times, then start for real.

We are proud of, and impressed by, the people who have the gumption to walk the entire marathon. But PLEASE, walkers….PLEASE can you start at the back of the pack, behind the runners, and stay to the side of the road??? It is so frustrating to get caught behind walkers during the first mile of the race when you are already weaving and bobbing constantly, trying to find a free spot in which to run.

As always, Jo and I talked to lots of runners during the race. We love to laugh and joke throughout the event, making it fun for us and the other elites we run with. Those Kenyan guys are real pranksters, but we give them a run for their money in more ways than one.

A couple miles into the marathon we met a couple of middle aged gentlemen running their first marathon. We talked about training and strategy and chatted. Then we left them behind as we pushed forward. About a half mile later we came up on those guys again, making a comment about lapping them. Chatted for a while again and took off. Another mile down the road we came up on them once again, making the same joke about lapping them and encouraging them to hurry up. They said that they were taking it easy and enjoying the scenery. With that, I slapped my ass, said, “yeah, you just like this scenery” and we took off, listening to their laughter falling into the distance. We never saw them again.

Several miles later we came upon an older man, probably pushing 60. We talked with him a bit and he commented that he needed some angel kisses to get him through. I told him that if we finished at about the same time I’d give him a kiss. He agreed, said, “thanks, Angel” and we parted ways.

We saw lots of strange people throughout the race…the half-marathoner dressed as a sheep, the disabled man (possibly minor CP or a stroke victim) who does a very fast semi-paralyzed shuffle in shiny American flag shorts who we see during every marathon (he told me that he’s run over thirty marathons), the cow guy who wears everything Holstein, and other characters of every shape and size. We did not see Barefoot Bob this year, unfortunately. I’m still trying to get over that pain.

There are always long lines at the porta-johns. Therefore, there are always a lot of men running off into the bushes on the side of the road. Usually they run in at least several feet, so that they are somewhat hidden. One man, however, who was running in sandals by the way, decided that it was fine to simply stand facing the bushes and pee right on the side of the road. It was really gross and everyone was commenting on it. Soon afterwe saw an opening in the woods and went for it. We ran off of the course, sprinted into the woods and found a private-ish spot, dropped trou, and let ‘er fly. Jo had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction, but said ‘what the hell’ and we ran back out, arms stretched above head, inspiring cheers of several female racers.

We ran a few feet behind a short and squat man for a couple of miles. He must have been a cop because he knew most of the officers along the course. He’d yell out and get a high five or a fist-bump. After he got a fist bump from one particular cop, I ran over with my fist extended, yelling, ‘don’t forget about me!’. He looked at me with a look of complete confusion and fright, paused, then slowly raised his fist to mine. I had scared the crap out of him, and it’s a wonder I didn’t get shot.

The cramping started somewhere around mile 14. For me it was a constant cramp from everything from glutes to calves. Jo’s alternated between muscles, keeping her guessing. The cold and wind definitely contributed to this phenomenon. My hands were freezing through the entire race, and there were times I actually shivered while running. The weather was definitely a major contributor to making this marathon my toughest so far.

Chris and the girls waited for us at two spots during the last half of the race, and then again at the finish line. Each time I saw The Hornet off in the distance I told Jo, “there’s Chris…stand up straight, try to keep your mouth closed, and do your best to look like you’re not dying for the photos”. I think we did pretty well…Team Dingo (We are members of Team Dingo, the most impressive and accomplished running club of mothers on the planet.) members who saw the photos say that we look like we had only run around the block a couple of times.

At some point we hooked up with the 4:45 pace team and hung with them for many miles. We walked through each aid station in order to get the Gatorade down, and then she blew her whistle and called for a roar. And each time, Jo and I howled like the Dingos we are. After about mile twenty we fell back and let 4:45 lady vanish into the distance. They needed our help no longer.

The last six miles were tough. I would not say that we hit the wall. We haven’t yet. But it was tough. A struggle. A true test. It was sheer will that kept us moving forward during those last miles. Our legs were cramped, we were cold, exhausted, and….quiet. That is not normal for us. When we turned onto the last street of the course, a spectator (or was it a cop) told us that there was only one more turn. We ran a couple of blocks and then the stadium came into view. We were within a mile of the finish. A guy at the 25 mile aid station offered us beads. I did not have the energy to flash him, so passed them up.

We turned into the parking lot of the stadium and headed for the player entrance. Ran the familiar route through the tunnel and out onto Lambeau Field. Jo said, “and now a lap for Owen”, I said a few words to him and we took off around the track. I had chills and knew without any doubt that my father was running with me. I could feel him there.

Running back through the tunnel and out into the parking lot, we could see the finish line. We waved to our families, gave some high fives, joined hands, and ran as hard as we could. The announcer called out our names on the loudspeaker and we got lots of cheers.

Libby came running up to me full of excitement, yelling, “mommy, Santa Claus knew your name and said, ‘here come Berecca Klich and Jo Phillip’!!!!! She swore that it was Santa who announced our finish and was AMAZED that he knew our names.

A photographer took our finish line photo, we got our medals, and staggered over to have our timing chips cut off. We started to walk off to meet Chris and the girls and Jo’s sister and the EIGHT kids she brought along with her without help. Jo said, “you’ve got some kissing to do” and I saw our older friend who I promised to kiss at the finish. He smiled, stood up, and I gave him a big kiss on the cheek and a hug. He had popsicles stuck down each shoe and was looking pretty rough, but he was smiling….and he finished before us. As we walked away, a paramedic came up to check on him, but he claimed that he was fine.

Official finish time: 5hours, zero minutes. Average pace of 11:27 minutes per mile. Although my Garmin said that we actually ran 26.62 (all of the weaving back and forth in the first five miles and the run into the woods added up) miles with an average pace of 11:18 minutes per mile.

Both of us are sore, but neither is injured. Last year I hurt my hip and knee, wound up in physical therapy, and was unable to run for a couple of months. Three days post marathon I am walking fairly normally. I had no chaffing and only one small blister under my toe. Unfortunately, my flu from last week returned with a vengeance and I spent last night violently vomiting and until moments ago hadn’t eaten in 30 hours. I left work after two hours and slept for six hours straight, until the Chris and the girls came home. I’m still feeling rough, but I think I’m on the mend.

Jo and I decided during the race that we would not run Green Bay next year. Instead, we will pick a different marathon each year…starting out with a different race in the state (maybe Madison or Milwaukee or up North somewhere), then a different one in the region (maybe Chicago?)…then somewhere really fun like the Rock N Roll marathon in California. I plan to run the half marathon at the Fox Cities Marathon in September, but who knows…maybe I’ll run the full. We’ll see!!


Sue said...

Come to California! Come run here next year!!!


Jan said...

Wow, I didn't realize you were a marathoner, either! I noticed your blog in your ILP siggy and clicked on it because my DH runs marathons. Chicago is a great race--go for that one! We also have a nice small marathon near us: the Quad Cities Marathon. Gorgeous course that crosses the Mississippi River twice. CONGRATS on your successful race.

Jan from ILP (who used to be a runner but now is way too lazy!)