Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PR Interrupted

On Sunday I ran (well mostly ran) the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. The race was extremely well organized, and yet it was my most disappointing race ever. I guess I need to start at the beginning for this all to make sense.

We got a late start driving to Green Bay and rolled into town around 1:15 (central time) Saturday morning. We stayed at the Cambria Suites just across the street from Lambeau Field. The hotel is new and beautiful with great staff. It was the perfect place to stay in Green Bay.

On Saturday morning we headed to the race expo at the Lambeau Field Atrium. As soon as we walked out of the hotel we were surprised by how hot the temperature was. The sky was clear, and the sun was brutal. Although we could have easily walked, we drove to the expo so we could explore Green Bay after. In the expo parking lot I saw people in the bed of a truck drinking beer. Tailgating for packet pick-up? Definitely a new one.

Lambeau Field Atrim where the race expo was held
The race expo was unequivocally the best expo I've ever been to. It wasn't huge, but it had lots of merchandise, and everything was well priced. There was a wide variety of booths including one with U.S. Track and Field Olympic gear. My husband and I are huge Olympics fans, so I was excited to get a U.S. Team running hat. 

After the expo we headed downtown Green Bay for lunch. This lunch was possibly the highlight of the trip. We ate at Titletown Brewing Company, an old train depot turned restaurant. We sat out on a covered patio looking at the river. The atmosphere at the restaurant was so cool, and our service was great. I started carb loading early with a delicious pasta carbonara. My husband had a peanut butter and bacon burger. It sounds weird, but he loved it. The menu was eclectic and interesting. My husband also enjoyed the beer, but I had to abstain from cocktails the day before a race in the heat.

We relaxed at the hotel for a while and then headed out for more exploring. We were on a mission to go to downtown Green Bay, but we were disappointed. We learned later that there was a cute downtown strip, and somehow we missed it. Before this race I knew one thing about the City of Green Bay - that they are home to the Packers. After this race I pretty much know the same thing. The City left a lot of be desired.

We changed tactics and started looking for the beach. We ended up finding the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. I love animals, and it was such a cool park with walking trails and various animals (birds, otters, wolves, coyotes). We spent several hours walking around and enjoying the park. As we were leaving we discovered an amusement park virtually across the street with carnival rides and a wooden roller coaster right on the bay. We found the park right as it was closing, but it was a very cool space with tons of people.

Gorgeous scenery at the wildlife sanctuary
That night we ate at Old Chicago. We were on a mission to find a pasta and/or pizza place that could accommodate our large group (there were 11 of us). My husband and I are generally anti-chain restaurant, but we were desperate. Dinner was fine, and we headed back to begin our early morning.

I have issues with hydration in general, and I was terrified about the heat. Being a woman who has Crohns and no large intestine means I have to drink even more fluids to stay hydrated. I woke up two hours before the race on Sunday to drink a Gatorade and get ready for the marathon.

Already hot before the start
We walked from our hotel to the start line, and I was already sweating by the time we got there for the 7 a.m. start. My mantra was to keep a steady pace and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  The race started promptly and we headed off into Green Bay's neighborhoods. The course was very crowded for the first few miles, and despite the heat runners seemed to be in good spirits.

Right after crossing the start
Apparently enjoying myself at mile 3

It started happening early - around mile 2: runners going down. We saw a girl passed out cold on the side of the road. I saw another runner sitting on the curb, head in hands at the second water station. It was warm, but I felt okay. The neighborhoods were shady, and we were only a few miles in. The race organizers had been communicating with runners before the race urging them to hydrate. They set up additional water stations. They gave marathoners the option to switch to the half during the race if they chose. 

One of the many awesome fluid stations

This race had some of the best spectators of any race I've done. Green Bay residents were out in full force, many with hoses and sprinklers to spray water on runners. It was the hoses and sprinklers that kept me going. The strategy was drink a Gatorade, drink 1½ cups of water, pour ½ a cup of water over my head, stuff ice in the front and back of my sports bra and run through every available hose. When I saw my husband at mile 11 I was soaking wet but felt great.

Excited Spotting my husband at mile 11

SOAKED from hoses and ice
I promised myself that if I felt sick or dehydrated in any way I would just do the half, but when the race split at mile 12 I was feeling great. The next few miles from 12-14 were a little tougher because there was less shade. We were also in a more industrial area, so there were no longer any hoses. Despite that the race had tons of fluids and ice at every station, so I was still feeling strong.

Only in Green Bay...

At mile 15 it all came to a halt. Literally. As we approached the 15 mile marker, there was a race volunteer with a sign that said "Marathon canceled". A male runner near us said, "Are you f*&king kidding me?" They weren't. Due to the heat, the medical staff was overwhelmed, so they were closing the course. I was shocked. A race volunteer gave me her phone to call my husband, and we sat on a curb in disbelief. 

At first I was angry with the race because I felt so good. But then my anger shifted to the unprepared runners. People down at mile 4?!? SLOW DOWN. HYDRATE. Come on, people. I have no large intestine. I get dehydrated doing nothing, and yet I was fully hydrated and felt great. I think many runners just jumped in thinking it was no big deal and they ruined it for the many of us who were taking care of ourselves and adjusting to the heat. I hope the girl passed out at mile 4 was okay. And I hope she knows she is part of what ruined it for everyone.

My friend's sister came to pick us up and dropped us at the finish. We were determined to get our medals for the 15 miles of the marathon we ran. We were walking around the finish trying to figure out how to get into the finishing area. There was a break in a gate, so we ran in and ran across the finish, which at this point was completely devoid of runners. We got our medals and headed home.

After the race
My sad face for not being able to finish
Despite the heat, we were solidly at a 4:40-4:45 marathon pace with 11 miles to go. If we had kept it up (which I think would've been easy) it would've shaved 35-40 minutes off my marathon PR. That was the most disappointing thing. Now I've got to find a race to do this fall so I can cut down on this PR once and for all.

I couldn't be more disappointed about the race stopping, but I understand the liability issues. The race had to put runners first, and I get that. The race director sent out an e-mail after the race explaining the decision. From registration until that e-mail the communication from the race organizers was stellar. I never felt like I didn't know where to go or what to do. 

I have a medal for a marathon, and I only ran 15 miles. Race weather is always a total crapshoot, and this just ended up not being a great day for a long run. I hope all of the runners who needed medical attention are okay, and I hope all of us learned that we need to adjust to conditions and take care of ourselves. 

How would I rank the Green Bay Marathon? B. I want to give them an A; I really do. If I'd gotten to finish it would be an A+. I understand the decision, but it was still disappointing.

How would I rank the City of Green Bay? C-. Other than the Packers, I just don't get it.


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