It’s done.  3:45:55, solidly demolishing my goal of beating 4 hours.

There was lots of nervousness in the lead-up — the weather forecast consistently said rain and low 40s at the start.  I really had no idea how to dress for that.

Instead, I woke up Sunday to 50 and clearing.  Oh, and 25 to 40 mph winds, which sustained through the day.  At the last minute, when my brother Rich dropped me at the starting line, I dropped everything but shorts, a singlet and a long-sleeve jersey over that.  That turned out to be perfect.

The early miles were uneventful, alternating between head- and cross-winds that weren’t too awful.  I concentrated on pacing and drinking — I had a carry bottle I planned to refill every 6 miles, so I wanted to empty it consistently.

We had a couple nice long down-wind stretches toward the halfway point, and I realized it was going to be a good day when I was feeling strong midway through.

From there to mile 17 was an open cross-wind stretch, which was dicey with gusts from time to time but otherwise just a good place to be consistent.

Then came the challenge.  17  to 22 was straight into the maw of the hell-wind.  The first few miles I felt strong and pushed it — I was still maintaining a sub-9-minute-per-mile pace, which I knew would mean finishing inside 4 hours.

Then I started flagging right after mile 20.  Not the proverbial wall so much — I just really started to feel the miles then.  I stopped refilling my bottle and just stopped at every aid station, grabbed a cup of Gatorade, and took a few walking steps to down it.  I also hit an energy gel, which was part of my plan for mile 20 anyway.  And it passed pretty quickly.  It was totally unlike what I felt in my first marathon, the Paavo Nurmi last August, when I got horribly dehydrated and was forced to do way too much walking after mile 20.

Finally we turned out of the headwind (though the hundred feet or so before the turn had the absolute worst winds, almost blowing me to stop a couple times).  Then it was just a matter of gutting it through the last few miles, which wasn’t hard at all, knowing at that point I’d beat my goal and that there would be no forced walking this time around.

Then finally Lambeau was in sight.  The stretch getting to the stadium was impossibly long, but finally we left the road and headed for the tunnel — and there was my brother John and his wife Theresa and daughter Lauren!  That was a thrill, as was the run through the tunnel and out into the open of the Tundra, around the field and back out to the finish line.  I was actually able to pick up the pace and pick off a few more places before I crossed, arms in the air.

Then the best parts — getting my medal and t-shirt, and all the hugs and smiles from my family.  And some chocolate milk.  And a shower and nap!

It’s hard to believe all the months of training that began in January are behind me, and it never even really seemed all that hard.  Lots of treadmill miles, lots of early mornings down in the basement, and lots of long runs up and down the hills around my house.  Oh, yeah, and the marathon itself.  Wow.