Pre-race rituals are there to keep race morning stress to a minimum. Night before, lay out the clothes, shoes, race bib, race nutrition… that way when the alarm goes off at 4:45am, you don’t have to think about anything except getting dressed, eating breakfast and getting out the door. That’s exactly what I did Friday night after I got home from working the race expo all day. I had it all figured out… Skirt Sports (affilitate link) from head to toe for this one! It was going to be an amazing run with some of the best running girlfriends one could ask for.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. When the alarm went off (waaaay earlier than my body wanted to be woke up!) I looked at the weather and started second guessing my race attire! Grated yes, I understand, this is Wisconsin… in October. You never know what kind weather you are going to get. But when 2 days ago, it was 70 degrees, I was really not prepared to see 30’s. Yes, I also know that we had been watching the weather all week and I knew that it was going to be chilly. I was just not ready for THIS level of chilly! Oh, and did I mention – its WINDY… The course starts north of Green Bay at Bay Shore Park and pretty much follows the shoreline back into town and ends at Bay Beach Amusement Park. Since the course runs all along the lake and the wind was coming from the Southeast, we were basically going to be running INTO the wind for 13.1 miles!
Wearing a skirt and tank top with arm warmers was not going to cut it. I don’t mind being cooler when I run, I just don’t like to freeze! So here I was, at 5am, second guessing myself. In the end, I opted to add a pair of carpi’s under my skirt. Needed that extra barrier from the wind. So, I threw on my slightly adjusted outfit, added a pair of polar fleece pants to keep me warm before the start of the race, grabbed my bag with all my food etc and was out the door. Quick stop to get coffee and next stop, catch the bus to the start line!
2016 marks the second annual running of the Bellin Women’s half marathon here in Green Bay. I ran it last year and was not going to miss it this year! It’s not just as race. It’s a weekend experience! Starting on Friday with packet pickup an awesome expo with so many booths filled with apparel, goodies and everything else geared towards women and running! During the expo, the guest speaker for the evening is available to meet runners and sign autographs. This year’s keynote speaker and honored guest for the weekend was none other that one of the world’s top disabled athletes, Sarah Reinertsen. And her booth just happened to be right next to mine at the expo! How cool is that! I got to spent part of the afternoon, hanging out with her, chatting and just having fun. I did end up missing the Welcome Celebration and dinner since the expo was still open and I was working, but I heard her presentation was amazing! This morning, she was then at the start line to see us all off and we would see her again at the finish line!
When Lisa and I arrived at the start line, it was still dark… and it was COLD! Not just cold… it was freezing! What were we thinking? After a few minutes, I remember that I had my Bondi Band hat in my gear check bag (just in case!) and I made the quick decision that, although I love my Bondi Band headbands, it was not going to cut it for these temps, so it was time to switch! We then spent the next hour trying to decide what we were actually going to run in! Jacket or not? Hat or visor? Oh how I wish I grabbed those mittens that I saw yesterday when I was digging out my arm sleeves! It didn’t even dawn on my that if it was going to be cold enough that I will want my arm sleeve… then MAYBE I might want my mittens! Oh well, we are runners. We adapt. We make the best out of the situation and make it work!
About 20 minutes before we had to head for the start line, I finally decided to strip off the fleece pants and let my legs get acclimated to the cold. It was at that point that I made the decision to keep the jacket on to run. Yes, I was probably going to get warm and need to take it off, but I knew enough people that would be along the course that I figured I could find someone to take it for me! I did however leave on my arm sleeves under the jacket. That way when I took the jacket off, I had that extra layer still. again, just in case. I was really glad that I did put on the capris under my running skirt, that one extra layer seemed to make a huge difference.
The walk to the start line was cold! Best quote of the morning? Lisa: “This is going to be my first and only sub 1 hour half marathon… only because I want to be done already!” Normally, we try and get all the girls together for a picture before the race. With how cold it was, and everyone hiding in the pavilion for warmth, it was too hard to find anyone! No one ventured to the start line until they absolutely had to. Lisa, Robin and myself did get one at the start line… yes, that picture is an accurate representation of how cold we were! Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long and we were off… running into the bitter cold wind.
I will say, aside from the cold and wind, this is one of my favorite races. One, because it’s practically in my backyard, but mostly because of the scenery! I was hoping that the colors had changed a little more before the race, but that didn’t take away from the beauty along the course. After a gradual uphill run for the first few miles, your legs get a little break with a nice long downhill stretch that is actually almost a mile long! From the top of the hill is one of those breathe-taking views that one can’t help but snap a photo of!
After this down hill stretch, we took a little different route this year and went through a small residential area, again right along the lake, and then back UP to the main road. This stretch was where the only real up hill section of the course. it may be short, but it was steep! After trying my best to sprint (or what seemed like a sprint) up the hill, it was time for the jacket to go. 4 miles was the limit for that today! Since there was no one around that I knew to give it to, I ended up running the next 2.6 miles with it wrapped around my waist. At the half way point (which was also the relay exchange point) I saw Diane, gave her a quick hug and tossed her the no longer needed layer. Yes there was a chance that I might need it again later if the winds kept up, but that was a chance that I was willing to take.
I spend the second half of the course admiring the amazing “beach homes” that we were running past, enjoying the crisp fall air and amazing scenery. Overall, I really wasn’t that cold now that I was moving. I actually felt bad for the volunteer at the water stations. They were out there, in the cold wind, STANDING there passing out water! One of the water stops was actually right along the beach and the winds were crazy at that point! I know that I was cold as I ran though, I can only imagine what it was like for them! They are the true hero’s of this race! yes, we were enduring the elements and running in them, but at least we were moving. These amazing volunteers are the true hero’s of the day! THANK YOU to everyone that came out to volunteer and support all of the runners!
Second best part of the race? Mile marker 10 water station! By this time, I was chilly and ready to be done. Just as I was coming into the water station the DJ started playing Mickey. Yes, the #1 hit by 1-hit wonder Toni Basil! Just the boost that I needed to push forward. Then I saw my dear friend and trainer Andy at the water station! His energy is always amazing and it was just what I needed at that point. I had 3 miles to go. I grabbed that water that Andy had and I pushed on! I was trying to run and do math at this point… was I going to hit that 2:30 time that I was shooting for? current pace = XX, total tome so far = YY, distance to end = ZZ… forget it, we all know that mathing and running don’t mix. it was time to just go!
I’m really not sure what Andy put in that water, but I am convinced that it was magic water! After seeing him at the water station and hearing exactly that I needed to get me going, that next mile would end up being my fastest mile of the morning. Yup. Mile 10 was the power mile! Thanks Andy!
Finally, the I could hear the finish line! The end was almost in sight! Because the finish line is in the parking lot at Bay Beach, you actually can’t see it until you get to that last hundred yards or so. I pushed it.
Crossing this finish line was the best part of the morning (remember, the mile 10 water station was #2). not only did I finish half marathon #26 but I was greeted at the end by triathlon great – and my new friend, Sarah Reinertsen! Seeing her standing there, with arms in the air, yelling to me as I crossed the finish line is something that I will carry with me for a LONG time! I mean, how many people can say that they got a hug and finish line selfie with the most amazing para-athlete to ever compete in and finish an IronMan race!?!?! EPIC!
After this race, they also pamper you! Free massages, sparkling grape juice, strawberry shortcake, brownies, chocolate bars, homemade wraps/sandwiches and who knows what else! I however was cold, and once I saw Lisa cross the finish line, I grabbed a strawberry shortcake, some juice and headed to the car! I needed a sweatshirt!!
On the end, this still goes down as one of my favorite races in the area. Yes, it might be a little more expensive that most races, but what you get is so much more than just a half marathon. It’s a weekend experience. Everything from the pasta dinner and guest speaker on Friday night to the post race array of food, awesome keepsake pendants (instead of race medals), long sleeve hoodies and a customer race headband, a post race dance party at awards program on the City Deck downtown on Saturday night… and then they even go one step further and offer FREE race photos! I got the email that photo’s were ready as I was working on this post, so what better way finish off this post than to add some FREE race photos’!
Thanks again Linda and crew for putting together another fabulous event! Can’t wait to see what you do for year 3!!