This morning I completed the 15th annual Cellcom Green Bay marathon in a time of 3:41:00. After a miserable winter of training through illness, injury, and severe weather I was exceptionally pleased with my result and the effectiveness of my race plan.
Training Through the Polar Vortex of 2014
In the months of December, January, and February I was regularly thwarted in my attempts to run outdoors by bitter cold, cutting winds, ice covered roads, and deep snow. During those months I logged lots of miles on the treadmills at the Stevens Point, but could never find my groove as I struggled first through influenza and then pneumonia.
In early March the wheel really feel off of my training when I began developing medial left knee pain. At first it was just during exercise and then worsened to pain while at rest. By the middle of March I stopped running for almost three weeks. In early April I made some footwear modifications and the pain decreased significantly but I was weeks behind in my training. For example, the first Saturday in April I was hoping to run 15 or more miles and I barely finished four miles.
High Hopes Change to Realistic Hopes
When I signed up for the marathon in December 2013 I had high hopes of training for and running a PR, maybe even stretching to a Boston Qualifying time. In mid-March when I wasn’t running I recalibrated my goal to be focused on getting to the start line healthy, having fun, and coming out of the race injury free.
Revised Training Plan
As my health improved I revised my approach to training runs. All running was at an easy pace and I adopted an alternative run-walk plan. Run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds. Repeat. On my training runs I always erred on the side of slowing down or lowering distance if I felt any twinges of pain in my left knee. This approach served me well as I continued to get fitter and faster as race day approached.
I managed two long runs of about 17 miles in late April and early May. Typically I start to taper for a marathon 3 weeks out, but with this race I needed the confidence boost of another long run and wasn’t saving myself to meet a race day time goal.
Bib Pick-up and Expo
The Expo is in the atrium at Lambeau Field. We were in and out quickly on Saturday afternoon with little dilly dallying at booths. The race volunteers and staff make pick-up quick and painless. The longest portion of our experience was walking from the car and up the steps into the Oneida Nation gate. Race day outfit.
Marathon Runner T-Shirt
Boo! I am hesitant to even add photographic documentation of the t-shirt. Maybe they were intending on “gold” and ended up with bronze. Outside of the dance team in the half-time of an NBA game I can’t imagine anyone choosing this color.
The Cellcom Green Bay marathon (and half marathon and 5K and kids run) are consistently EXCELLENT events that we have participated in for many years with only one exception…the T-shirts. Year in and year out the shirts are totally underwhelming. This is the 2nd Cellcom Green Bay marathon shirt that I will NEVER wear. It is a bit of a bummer as I like having a good stock of technical t-shirts.
We stayed with family on the far east side of Green Bay. I awoke at 5 am and started my day with my usual:
- Oatmeal with pecans and dried cherries
- English muffin with peanut butter
We were suited up and out the door at 550 am. The traffic was uneventful and we were parked at Lambeau by 620 am.
No lines. Repeat NO LINES for the port-a-potty. I attribute this to:
- Excellent planning
- Half marathon runners starting at 800 am.
Although some half marathon runners arrived with marathon runners (like my wife) I think many were arriving closer to 7 or after the marathon started at 7. We visited with a few friends and made our way to the start area.
Lambeau Field seems to be in a never ending construction cycle. This year we started on the north side of Lombardi Ave, rather than the south side. Although I had a “preferred corral” bib I positioned myself well back in the start field. I was just in front of the 4:00 hour pace group and just behind the 3:50 pace group.
In the past the half and full marathon have started at the same time. This year (and I hope it remains this way in future years) the full marathon started an hour early. When the gun was fired (actually a horn) the crowd moved forward to the start line quickly and we were off!
The route as captured by my GPS watch.
The Early Miles
The marathon route was significantly different (and better) than previous years. We moved the shortest route possible to the Fox River and ran south to De Pere. In the early miles I:
- Felt a little odd stopping at the 1 mile marker to walk for 30 seconds
- Noticed many runners that were likely out running their fitness as they surged past me.
- Made mental notes of the people I expected to sweep up in the miles ahead.
- Worked hard to throttle my pace, remembering my goals to run easy, enjoy myself, and finish injury free.
- Stopped to use the very first port-a-potty (this has become a bit of a habit for me. The line is usually shortest at the first port-a-potty and it is not helpful-to me at least-to carry a jostling bladder of urine with me for any distance more than necessary.)
It did not take long for me to catch the 3:50 pace group. I first got close to them at 172 overpass of Broadway ave. With my run-walk method we jockeyed position for a few miles. I heard some discussion among the paces that they were running a little below pace and were going to try to make up 15 seconds in the next mile. Probably a better strategy would have been to make up 15 seconds over 5 miles.
The wind was generally from the south. I think there is value in drafting and did it where possible.
At a little over 5 miles we crossed from West De Pere to East De Pere and new terrain for the marathon course.
East De Pere and the Fox River Trail
The new route took us on a tour of neighborhoods in East De Pere, including Ridgeway boulevard. We ran past Dickinson School, East De Pere High School, and Legion Park. This was the “hilliest” portion of a generally flat course. My run-walk method was serving me well and I kept with it.
Personally I liked the novelty of running a new route and I thought the spectator support was decent. There was one large driveway party that was offering beer, but I opted instead of a gel pack. Someday I am going to do a race where I stop to drink a beer, eat bacon and ice cream, and delight the spectators.
It was on the this portion of the course that I saw a new to me spectator sign. It read “Touch Here for Power” and had a large target/star burst. I gave it a gentle tap and ran on. Much later in the race I saw another version of this same sign. This time I implored the child holding the sign to tap it for me. Causing her mom to reply, “It’s just a sign. You won’t actually get power.” A yeah, I kind of figured that.
Near the 10 mile marker we turned north on the Fox River Trail. This is a wonderful paved recreation trail. It is wide enough to easily pass other runners, the surface is smooth, and along much of the trail is a crushed limestone shoulder for delightful trail like running. At about this same time one of the 3:45 pace team members zoomed by me. He had taken a bathroom stop and was trying to regain his group. He did catch the group as I caught him and the runners with him a couple of miles later. I also made another port-a-potty stop on this stretch.
In recent years the Cellcom has been buffeted by terrible weather. One year cold and windy. The next year extreme heat and humidity. This year was just about perfect. Cool, but not cold. Light breeze, but not windy. It was sunny, but this didn’t both me until about 10 miles (825 am). I suddenly felt warm and based on past experience of overheating began taking aggressive cooling measures at water stations (conveniently positioned ever 1.5 miles or so). Water over the head, down the front and back of my shirt did the trick. I especially appreciated a wet towel from a volunteer after the half marathon mark.
Out and Back from Downtown Green Bay to the City Stadium
As we neared downtown Green Bay (clear your mind of towering buildings and snarling traffic) we turned east off of the Fox River Trail to the historic City Stadium at Green Bay East High School. This was the home of the Green Bay Packers from 1925 to 1956. After running through some quiet neighborhoods and past the front of East High we ran a lap around the stadium on the running track.
- An entire marathon route on running track surface would be WONDERFUL
- The Walt Disney World Marathon in 2013 included a lap on the Wide World of Sports running track
- The GB East marching band was inexplicably positioned on the front steps of the school and not on the field or the bleachers.
- 25 or 6 to 4 is a terrific song for a marching band, but the band did not have a tuba.
- I don’t think there were any spectators in the bleachers. I was expecting dozens or even hundreds of people there cheering.
- Just as I entered the stadium the 3:40 pace group was leaving the stadium. Putting them about a quarter-mile ahead of me.
After our loop through the City Stadium I ran a few blocks with another supporter/angel for MyTeamTriumph. It was good to chat for a bit. He broke off to keep pacing his brother-in-law. At this point in the race…nearly 20 miles the field was thinning. I was fortunate to keep passing people and was very rarely passed. I think most of the runners passing me were part of relay teams.
In downtown Green Bay there was a “beach party” themed water station in front of the WBAY television station building. When Bill Jartz, local TV personality since my childhood, handed me a cup of Gatorade all I could muster was, “You are on television.” Took me another quarter-mile before I could remember his name.
After the trip to City Stadium we ran west to the Fox River Trail and continued to run the trail to Downtown Green Bay. Much of the trail is on paving bricks…not my favorite running surface. The crowd support continued to be good and I was sticking to my race plan…run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds…and remaining happy with my overall pace.
Total Time…I only looked twice
My watch (Garmin Forerunner 305) was set to only display current lap pace and distance. To see my total time I had to scroll to a different screen. I only looked at my total time twice…after passing the 10 mile flag (85 minutes) and after I crossed the finish line. Instead of thinking about total race time I kept focused on running each individual mile the best I could.
Downtown Green Bay to Mile 25
We re-crossed the Fox River on the Dousman St bridge to the West Side of Green Bay, beginning a 4 mile stretch of turns through a series of residential neighborhoods. Crowd support in this area was sparse and runners at this point in a marathon are usually quiet and determined. There is not much chit chat. I took a few opportunities to draft behind other runners as we ran into the wind from the south. Just after mile 22 another runner stopped in front of me to hurl. Otherwise it was just a matter of putting in the miles.
Brutal Run to the Finish
Each year, because of Lambeau Field construction projects, the marathon has a new route and finish. This year the finish line was on the west side of the stadium. To reach the finish we crossed Oneida and climbed the hill on Morris Avenue (not a large climb, but large at the end of the marathon) just before the mile 25 marker. The hill is short but relatively steep. A runner in front of me was swerving and reported it was a cramp when I asked about his welfare. At the steepest part of the hill I slowed to a fast walk. It seemed like the right thing to do as I was continued to be focused on having fun. I also passed another colleague from a previous My Team Triumph event on the hill. I had not seen him since the start line and he was a bit disappointed about how the day had gone.
At the top of the hill we turned north on Ridge Rd. It seemed like groups of people running were maybe relay teams that were going to run the last mile together as I had to announce myself to several groups that I was going to run through them. They kindly moved aside for me and other faster moving runners.
To enter the stadium we turned east on Valley View Rd. We also were united with the half marathon runners at this point. This year the half marathon was on a totally different course and started an hour after the marathon. So I was entering the home stretch of the marathon with half marathon runners on their way to a 2:40+ half, meaning lots of joggers and fast walkers to swerve around. Together we flowed down the hill of Valley View Rd to enter the tunnel into Lambeau. The route makes a nearly 180 degree turn to the left and then a series of turns as the route enters the tunnel which the Packers use to access the field. This year we ran counter-clockwise around the stadium. It is fun to see the crowd in the seats and exhilarating to have so many other runners to pass. I find it most useful at the end of the race to constantly trying to close the gap to the runner in front of me.
As I entered the stadium the 3:40 pace group was leaving the stadium.
On my way out of the stadium as I ran through the player tunnel I let out some cave man whoops because I was elated about my performance and excited for the finish. To reach the finish line we ran out and up from the stadium. Made a hard right hand turn to run uphill. I think another marathon runner was on my left. I did my best to sprint him to the finish.
Official Time: 3:41:01
I was over the moon when I saw 3:41 on the clock. After a winter of illness and injury I was anticipating a 4:00 or longer marathon. I attribute my success on several things:
- Setting a reasonable pace goal given my training (or lack of)
- Staying focused on having fun and running easy
- Controlling my pace in the initial surge of people in the first 3 miles
- Walking for 30 seconds every 8 minutes (or 1 mile)
- Staying well hydrated
- Using lots of water to stay cool, even when it was relatively cool outside
- Sticking to the run-walk plan through the 25th mile
I ran my PR in Green Bay in 2011. Although I was 15 minutes off that pace I am very content with this performance. Yesterday was the best run – of any distance – I have had since July, 2013. A great day!
Post Race – LOVE the MEDAL
I love the medal.
Stats and Splits
From OnlineRaceResults.com. I think the back of the front of the pack or the front of the middle of the pack is a good place to be.
Below is my Garmin splits. The times look odd because there were 51 splits. I repeated 25x run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds. It looks like I was able to walk 0.04 miles in each 30 second walking cycle. All GPS data is public at Garmin Connect.