First Time Marathoner: Qualifying for Boston, The Green Bay Packers, & Hitting the Wall

Oh heyyyy friends! Its currently three days post marathon and I am definitely still feeling quite sore. Well, not horribly sore, but I have a bum knee right now from my IT band being super tight and inflamed. I’m sure it will be feeling better in a few days when I have a bit more time to properly stretch and roll out. I should probably be unpacking my apartment right now, but I am going to just let it be a mess for a couple more days. Instead, I am going to tell you about my first ever Full Marathon: the good, the awesome, the bad, and the fan-freakin-tastic!

If you couldn’t tell from the title, I ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. I chose this race because my friend Kate recommended this race to me and because it wasn’t terribly far. I headed to Green Bay with my sister early Saturday afternoon. It took us about three and a half hours to get there. We headed straight to Lambeau field to check out the expo and pick up my packet and race info. The expo was actually a lot smaller than I had anticipated so that was a little bit of a bummer. We checked out the vendors at the expo for a few minutes and then headed to our hotel. We ended up staying at a Radisson because there was a shuttle that would pick up runners the morning of the race out front of the hotel. After entering the room I was shocked to see that there was no microwave in the room. WHAT, THE. HECK. I had planned on making oatmeal in the morning for breakfast before the race (yep I brought all my stuff for oats).

I needed to alter my plan a bit, so I decided that I would just make overnight oats and needed to make a quick run to Walmart. I had also planned on re-heating some sweet potatoes that I had baked earlier that day to eat for dinner, but I ended up eating them cold. Oh well- gotta roll with life’s punches! Yes, I could have gone out to eat somewhere, but risking eating something that would not work well with my digestion or risking being “glutened” would have been horrible.

After our Walmart trip, we met my parents who drove up a little later for dinner at Red Robin so the rest of the fam could eat. Then we headed back to the hotel- by this time it was already almost 9 o’clock, so I started getting my stuff ready for the next day. I had originally planned on wearing a tank top, but realized that I forgot sunscreen so I decided to go with a climate cool t shirt. I finally fell asleep around 11 o’clock and woke up at 4:45. I ate my overnight oats with chia seed, pb2 and 2 bananas (aka my usual pre-long run breakfast) mixed in at 5:15, got dressed, drank some coffee and water, and headed for the shuttles. The shuttle picked runners up at 6 a.m. and dropped us off close to the start by 6:15.

  • This wasn’t my pre-race breakfast- it was my post race day breakfast- but it was so delicious! Oats with cinnamon, flax, PB2, berries, and frozen banana!

I had plenty of time to kill when I got there so I headed to the port-o-pottys. This race definitely got the number of port o pottys right. I have been at races where you have to wait 30 minutes just to use the port-o-potty. There were plenty of restrooms and the wait was never longer than 5 minutes. Green Bay you done good with this one. There is nothing worse than being worried that you will not make it to the start line in time because of the line at the bathroom.

After using the bathroom a few hundred times (I’m kidding – just twice), I ate about 6 dried mission figs and headed to the start line. They had runners divided up into corrals based on their estimated finish time. I was in the first corral and was happy about not feeling super cramped at the start. I was surprised at how calm I felt at the start after being so nervous the day before. I did however not feel fresh- my legs felt ok, but a bit tight, and my calf had been bothering me a bit all week. The gun went off and the journey to 26.2 began!

I decided I would run with the 3:25 pacer initially – I felt confidant that I could comfortably run 7:50 pace for the first 20 miles or so. As we were running I felt like the pacers were running a bit faster than 7:50 pace and I was right. We were running about 7:35-7:45 on the average mile. I knew that I had to make a choice to either hang with this group, or deal with running alone for a while. I decided that I would just hang with the pace group thinking that 5-10 seconds per mile faster wouldn’t make that much of a difference- and maybe it didn’t. I’m not sure what lead to my legs to fatigue so much quicker than my training runs (which I had done at 7:55-8:05 pace for 16-20 miles). It could have been a less than stellar taper, tight muscles, not topping off my glycogen stores enough (although I eat like 300-400 gram carbs per day!), or something else.

Oh HAYYY – I’m back to finish this post and it is now 10 days post marathon ….ooops! BUTTTT….my IT band and knee are feeling so much better! i’m back to working out- spinning, lifting, rollerblading, yoga- but no running yet! I am going to take another week or so off before I start running again. I do get the urge to run every time I see someone outside on a run, but remind myself that I need a break to let my body fully heal and come back stronger.

So…here’s how the race exactly went:

Miles 1-3: getting in my groove- my calf feels tight at the beginning, but loosens up quickly and I feel okay. I am starting to relax into my pace by the end of the third mile. I took water at the first two aid stations.

Miles 3-6: Still hitting my stride- feeling pretty good, but definitely not what I like to call “fresh”. I didn’t have that spring in my step that I thought I would.

Mile 6: Saw my parents along the course- they toss me a water bottle filled with Nuun and I kept chugging along! I was really feeling relaxed at this point and was getting into my groove. Around mile 6 is where I typically hit that super relaxed pace on my training runs.

Hydration pass off from my Dad! Shoutout to you if you are reading this. Also, check out his sick hat. #sailorstatus

Mile 7-8: Took in 1 Vega gel- yep I like to eat them more slowly and sip my Nuun in between. I also felt my hip tighten up around this point, but it quickly dissipated (or I just blocked it out).

Miles 8-12: Feeling pretty good. Strong. Took in another gel between miles 12-13.

Mile 13-14: My legs start to feel a little bit tired. By the end of mile 14 my legs felt kind of heavy. I was not expecting this.

Miles 14-18: Still hanging with the 3:25 pace group, but my confidence in my ability to hold this pace is wavering. I kept telling myself to hang on to the group as long as possible, not to doubt myself, and to get out of my own head. I knew that I could run this pace, but I was already fatigued.

Miles 18-21: I dropped off the pace group a bit. I was starting to really struggle around mile 20. I was not prepared for the type of fatigue that I felt. It was strange. I saw my parents around mile 21 and that propelled me mentally for about another mile.

Got some water- woo!

Miles 22-25: Wow. Rough. I slowed down A LOT. More than I expected to. There were times I was running when I wasn’t sure if I could keep running. Not going to lie- thoughts of walking did cross my mind. I quickly shoved them out telling myself that I would shuffle my way in if I had to – running a mile in 8:40-9 minutes was a hell of a lot better than walking. Plus I knew for me that if I started walking I would never start running again.

This was my mantra for the last 6-7 miles or so. I kept repeating this to myself every time I felt mentally weak.

Mile 25-26.2- Wowza RUNNERS HIGH – HOLY COW! My friend told me about this but during those last miles I did not think I would experience any type of runners high. We ran around Lambeau stadium, then did a big lap inside the stadium before coming out and running a long straight away into the finish. Seeing all of the spectators lined up around the lower bowl of the stadium cheering really pushed me to the finish. As I first entered the atrium of the stadium, Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” came on my playlist and I nearly started crying. I could not believe that I was actually about to finish. The only down side for me was that it was pretty crowded inside the stadium because there were half marathoners finishing at the same time so I had to try to dart in and around them.

Doing some weaving in and out of runners as I wave to my parents. Most of the spectators were on the side of the bowl that this photo was taken!

Crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings ever. I ran my first marathon in 3:32:49. Not the time I was necessarily aiming for, nor what I believe I was capable of, but I was pretty darn pleased. To even finish a marathon is a huge feat, and I need to not down play my accomplishments. I ran a freaking marathon- that is pretty darn awesome. And I ran a Boston Qualifying time. Now, who knows if I will actually gain entry, but I know that there are more marathons in my future. I cannot wait to tweak my training – especially my taper!- and see what I can do next time.

For now, I am enjoying cross training, lifting, and yoga, but can’t wait to get back to running. It will always be my one true love. After this race, I can confidently say that I will be running as long as I am living. It just makes me so darn happy.

If you are considering running the Green Bay Marathon in the future, I definitely would! It was a super organized course, lots of water/ aid stations, great accommodations and race shuttles, pretty flat, and an overall great time. Also, the shirts were pretty cool.

What did you learn from running your first marathon/ half marathon/ race?

Do you have any races coming up?

What do you tell yourself when you need to be mentally tough?

Have any marathon tips to share?

Let me know in the comments!

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