Monday, October 23, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 5: Beyond the Finish Line

Welcome to my race recap! Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

Okay, so I crossed the finish line of my first ever marathon feeling like I'd just, well, run a marathon. As soon as I slowed to a walk my body was like, whoa there crazypants what did you just do and where can you lay down?

It's hard to explain clearly now, but I was feeling pretty out of it. Not only did my whole body hurt but my mind was also pretty muddled. It was what I imagine going into shock might feel like, in some small way. I didn't feel like I had control of myself, which was weird. I had been running for so long, my body mechanically doing what it needed to do, that when I stopped it was like everything hit me at once.

Someone put a medal on me. I was so relieved and happy and kept being on the verge of tears.

Luckily, someone grabbed me right away and asked me if I wanted ice. My brain could at least comprehend that this was a good idea so I followed this woman over to a bench where I sat down. There, she carefully wrapped bags of ice around each of my knees. I remember this older guy sitting next to me with long hair and a long beard who told me he liked my sleeves. I was wearing bright neon yellow arm sleeves!

I knew I needed to keep moving, so I walked gingerly out of the icing area and continued through the herd of finishers. People were passing out foil blankets and I took one but didn't have the wherewithal to do anything with it other than let it sort of trail behind me like I was Linus dragging his blue blanket. Suddenly an older man appeared in front of me and said, "You look like you could use some help!" As I kept murmuring thank you over and over and of course felt like I was holding back more tears, he carefully tied the blanket around my shoulders, double-knotting it. The cold was starting to hit me now that I wasn't running and I was so thankful to have another layer!

So now with my medal around my neck, a blanket around my shoulders, and ice packs around my knees, I hobbled further on to pick up a sports drink, water bottle, and official runDisney snack box. I found a spot on the ground and gently eased myself down, unable to bend my legs too much yet. It felt so good to not move! 

When I opened my box of food, I zeroed in on the salty tortilla chips and cup of fake cheese. That is not usually the kind of thing I go for but when I saw those suddenly they were everything I wanted! I started feeling more like myself after sitting for a bit and when my friend joined me we hung out for a while longer until we felt like standing and then headed out to continue with the rest of our day.

We iced more at our hotel room (and inhaled some cold leftover pizza), took showers and got ready, and then headed to Disney Springs for the evening! The best decision we made was to keep moving throughout the rest of the day. Easy walking around the shops kept our legs moving and I think it definitely cut down on soreness. We also wore our compression socks.

After that, it was a crazy couple of days in both the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. Visiting Disney World is exhausting even if you haven't just run a marathon, but man is it worth it. We had the best time and made memories that I'll always hold close. Oh, and you KNOW we wore our medals every single Disney day!

Running the Disney World marathon was the culmination of so much hard work. I loved sharing the experience with my friend and I love the satisfaction and pride of earning that medal.

Here's to many more racing adventures in 2017!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 4: Completing 26.2

Welcome to my race recap! Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

My friend's knee started bothering her during the first half and we split up around mile 15 as she needed to walk for a bit. We kept in touch during the race through Snapchat and phone calls!

At some point later on in the race, nutrition was available...PowerGels and bananas. I didn't have a super rigid fueling strategy. Just grabbed something here and there beginning at about mile 5 to prevent hitting a wall. (I also brought some mini LaraBars and Gatorade Prime Energy Chews that had worked for me in training.) It was amazing how many volunteers were helping out at these stations. Truly, so much work and organization goes into these events and it really shows.

The route took us through Magic Kingdom first, then Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. Of course, in between we were running on main roads, staff roads, and other various hidden areas. There was a long stretch through ESPN Wide World of Sports which thankfully I had read about and tried to be mentally prepared for. It was just as tough as I expected, approximately miles 17-20. Definitely the longest 3 miles of the race, boring stretches without much going on. Those few miles are the only time I needed my music!

The second half of the marathon got progressively more difficult mentally. Training had prepared me for the tough moments when you really just have to grit your teeth and push through. I was thankful this course was super flat. The two or three inclines were laughable compared to what I'm used to in my neighborhood and it seemed at times like I was the only one still running while everyone else took walking breaks.

Passing mile marker 20 was a surreal moment since, from that mile on, I was going farther than I had ever run before in training. Somehow my legs just kept moving! Stopping or walking never really occurred to me, but during that last hour it was amazing how many different body parts took turns hurting.

Finally, it was mile 23. Then 24. Then 25. For the final mile, we ran around the countries in Epcot. As inspirational music swelled and crowds of people cheered, I got a little choked up as I thought, wow, this is really happening... I'm finishing a marathon, like am I a superhero or something?? 

During the final miles, spectator support is absolutely invaluable. In the middle of the really rough moments when you're asking yourself if it's worth it or trying to ignore your hip pain or wondering exactly how big that blister is.....someone will yell out "You got this!" or "Great pace!" or "Looking good!" And you'll throw your shoulders back, smile to show your gratitude, and give those people something to watch!

I lost count of how many times I heard my name as people specifically encouraged runners by reading off our racing bibs. Those cheers meant more than I can express.

At mile 26 I heard the gospel choir. I threw my hands up in the air and sang along for a minute until I got beyond them and spotted the finish line. WHOA. Donald Duck was standing at the finish line (various characters trade off during the race) and I ran over the line feeling LIKE A BOSS.

I finished with a time of 5:15:45. I will admit to being a little disappointed with that, especially since I completed my last half marathon with a time of 2:02:57. However, I came to terms with the fact that this was going to be a slower race because of the crowds and craziness. This just means that it will be easy to beat if/when I run my next marathon!

Stay tuned! I'll do one more wrap-up post soon.

And only 8 months it is, Part 5!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 3: The First 13.1

Welcome to my race recap! Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

We woke up around 3AM and basically sprang out of bed. This was it! The magical day we had envisioned for months, through endless training runs and long workdays and non-Disney-related moments.

We got dressed, made sure we had what we needed in our gEAR bags (lol) and caught a bus around 4. Yep, it was cold all right! Started out in the 30s. Not bad running weather, but not really the kind of cold you want to stand around in for hours. I was thankful I had heard you didn't really need to be there 2 hours early like Disney claimed. We ended up having the perfect amount of time to get through traffic, security, gEAR check, port-a-potties, and corrals.

Wow. I knew runDisney races were crowded but this was a crazy amount of people. After the race, we found out that there were over 17,000 finishers (not including people who started and didn't finish for various reasons). Disney is nothing if not organized though, and we calmly moved through the horde to get to our starting corral.

I had gotten into Corral F (corrals ran from A-P, with P being the largest including the walkers) which was a result of my proof of time from my last half marathon. My friend was in Corral J, so we decided to start together there. However, somehow we ended up in Corral K. Oh, well.

We watched as corral after corral was sent off in a blaze of fireworks, with Mickey counting down for each start. How magical is that?

Runners were huddled in clumps all around us and it was pretty amusing to see the get-ups inspired by the desire to be warm. Resort towels, garbage bags, and even a bathrobe were on full display. As we moved up to the start, more and more of these comfort objects were tossed to the side (and picked up by people waiting in later corrals!). Disney collected and donated all the throwaway clothes; this happens at many races.

Finally it was OUR countdown and OUR fireworks. Go! Shortly after 6AM, we set off in the darkness. The first few miles flew by and we drank in every little thing. Running under the Magic Kingdom entrance and seeing the first few character stops, we couldn't stop smiling.

As we ran down Main Street towards the castle, I wanted to freeze time and savor the moment, but we had to keep moving! Our pace was slow and steady even from the beginning because of several reasons. First, we were with slower runners and, in the middle of huge crowds, we really had to run the pace of those around us. Second, the course was narrow at times and we had to keep our eyes open for people suddenly walking (thanks, Jeff Galloway), veering off to meet spectators, or stopping for a quick selfie. Third, we were focused on enjoying the unique runDisney experience and meeting our own personal goals. Mine was to run the whole marathon...that's it!

I see why people get addicted to runDisney races. It is my favorite race I have ever done. Period. Nothing beats the magic! True it was crowded and crazy and of course it was difficult, but the pros greatly outweighed the cons.

Runner support was phenomenal. Water/Powerade stops were nearly every mile, with dozens of volunteers ready to assist. Multiple aid stations had everything from Vaseline to Biofreeze (I used both!). Thousands of spectators cheered, offered food, and held up signs.

Many runners were in costumes, so that was fun to see. Lots of great people-watching opportunities! Each mile marker had a different Disney character(s) on it along with accompanying music. Character stops were plentiful, and even though I never stopped for one, I enjoyed seeing them as I ran by. They included Beauty and the Beast, stilt walkers, the dragon float from the Festival of Fantasy parade, Lilo and Stitch, and even Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! It seemed we were always coming up on unique characters and many racers took full advantage, lining up for a picture. My friend and I weren't interested in standing a line during a marathon, though!

Running through the parks was the absolute best, everything I dreamed it would be. One of my favorite places was Africa in the Animal Kingdom. Such great theming! I had heard that it was possible to ride Expedition Everest halfway through the race but unfortunately we ran past it too early and it wasn't open for riders yet. I definitely would've done it if I had the opportunity though!

Honestly, the first 13.1 miles flew by. Months of training had paid off and I was feeling great.

Would the magical Disney runner's high help me "go the distance?" Stay tuned...

Keep going! Read Part 4 here...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 2: Getting There

Welcome to my race recap! Read Part 1 here.

My friend and I had signed up for the Walt Disney Marathon in April, when registration first opened. Our conversation went something like this...

Me: I mean, if I was ever going to run a marathon I would want it to be in Disney World.
Her: You don't have to convince me! I would totally do it.
Me: Wait, are you serious?
Her: Are you?

The marathon wasn't until January, so we had a long time to look forward to it. We spent our time completing a Color Run 5K, a Mud Run 5K, a Hot Chocolate 15K, and a Run & Ride Half Marathon. Yes I admit I had been bitten by the racing bug and I was loving it!

Hal Higdon's marathon training plan that we followed was an 18 week schedule and we plunged right in. I wrote how many miles I was to run each day in my calendar and completed them like it was my JOB. I wasn't going to be disgraced in front of Mickey Mouse, no way. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

After months of anticipation, training, enormous amounts of food to satisfy our increasing appetites, and Disney-related reading/music/gifs/what-have-you, we found ourselves in Orlando on Saturday, January 7. Weather-related delays and turbulence on the flight had my stomach in knots, and the stress only increased when we realized we were going to be cutting it closer than we wanted to at the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Nevertheless, we were extremely grateful that our race was still on after hearing that the half marathon had been cancelled due to lightning. I can only imagine how devastating that news was to the runners. On a positive note, Disney seemed to handle things extremely well and we heard of runners making the most of things, as runners are prone to do. I saw many people out getting their miles in anyway on Disney property. Typical!

Unable to fully enjoy the Magical Express as I kept watching the clock, I self-soothed by eating handfuls of peanut butter M&Ms. Now that I was finally hungry, of course we didn't have time to get any real food. At the resort we didn't have time to leave our carry-ons, instead we hopped on the bus to the expo.

When we finally held our official bibs in our hands I almost sobbed with relief. Okay, now this was actually happening! My proudest moment of the day was scoring a free banana and apple slices at the Chiquita booth by tossing a beanbag through a hole. Apple slices for my empty stomach and a banana for pre-race fuel!

We had intended to do some resort-hopping but our matching faces of exhaustion reassured each other we were on the same page. We headed back to our resort, All-Star Movies, and went straight to the food court. It was time to carbo-load, and we chose macaroni and cheese and pizza. We ordered way too much food, so enjoyed leftovers over the next couple days.

While eating, we talked about the weather again. It was going to be cold. The temperature had been dropping and Sunday morning it would be 30s at the race's start, 5:30AM. I had brought a throwaway jacket to wear over my tank top and arm sleeves but I was getting nervous since I knew we would be standing around for a bit before actually running. After reading a tip online, I asked a janitor emptying garbage in the food court for two trash bags to help us keep warm at the starting line, which she happily supplied.

Oh yes, now we're ready! Early to bed!

Keep going! Part 3 is here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 1: The Training

Yes, I'm just going to casually post this here even though it has been quite a while. Does this mean I'm going to start posting regularly? No promises.

However, because I love reading others' race recaps and Disney World vacation blogs, I'm writing about my experiences here. And if you're like me and obsessively comb the internet for these kinds of updates, this is especially for you!

So, I ran a marathon. *blush*

And that was the easy part! I had heard that running the actual marathon could be considered a "victory lap" after all the training, but I'll admit I had my doubts. I mean, victory lap? Seriously? Running 26.2 miles did not seem like it was going to feel that easy breezy.

Now of course I know where that perception comes from. Training for a marathon is really really tough. I ran most of my miles alone, with no cheering crowds or water stations. Runners have to be self-motivated. Here's the thing: running takes discipline. If you want to run a race and you want to meet a particular goal or goals, you have to be willing to stick it out even when no one but you knows (or cares!) if you are logging the miles or not.

You have to run in the rain or the heat or the cold.

You have to run when you're sad or tired or whiny or anxious.

You have to run because you made yourself a promise...a promise that you're not going to be one of those people who registers for a race and then blows off the training. You're going to stick it out.

And I did! I really did. I followed a Hal Higdon marathon training plan since I felt like I had good success with his half marathon plan. I ran nearly every single run on that schedule, missing only one or two due to sickness. I got up early or I ran after work. I piled on layers or I wore my cap to keep the rain out of my eyes. I pranced through newly-fallen snow like a focused, non-flying reindeer.

And I am immensely proud of myself for this. My confidence increased. I would run up a hill a little faster just to prove I could do it. Each time I completed a run that I started out dreading, it was like I was showing myself that yes, this was possible and yes, I was up to the challenge.

The first training run I completed that was longer than 13.1 miles (a half marathon) was a big step. Then I cleared 16 miles. Then 18. And finally, before the taper, 20. I was running four times a week, farther and farther. My friend, who has been by my side for nearly all my races was my accountability partner. We ran our long runs together every Saturday. We sent each other pictures on Snapchat to encourage each other. We reminded ourselves of the end goal:

The Walt Disney World Marathon.

Keep going! Read Part 2 here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Because I'm Only Half-Crazy

I just completed my first (!) half marathon.

Crazy, right? Who'd have ever thought?

4 years ago, I ran regularly on a treadmill, working up to 7 miles. One of my New Year's resolutions that year was to run 10 miles, but I never did.

Last year, I started running again. My gym membership expired and I decided not to renew. Running is a cheap sport, right? This time I took it outside. I realized I enjoyed dodging chipmunks a lot more than staring at numbers on a screen.

Earlier this year, I ran my first 5k. It was a color run, so it was just plain fun with no pressure. It was so much fun in fact that before I knew it my friend had talked me into registering for a half marathon with her. She is extremely persuasive, not to mention optimistic.

These past few months, I've been training. I used a schedule that helped me build my mileage each week. I hit 8 miles, the longest I'd ever run. Then 9. Then 10 - my 2011 New Year's resolution! My confidence grew and a half marathon seemed possible. I even stopped using the word "allegedly" as I told more people of my plans to run 13.1 miles.

The morning of the race, anxiety hit. What if I couldn't do it? What if I had to walk, or even worse, stop? What if I didn't taper correctly? Did I run too much the week of? Not enough? It was going to be 30 degrees. How much should I wear?

My alarm was set for 5AM. I woke up at 3. There would be no more rest. I tried to talk myself down from the ledge but there was no reasoning with this panic attack. Spreading peanut butter on a piece of Ezekiel bread gave me something to do, but the smell turned my stomach. Twenty minutes in the car on the way to the race and I'd swallowed two bites. Woof.

As soon as my friend and I arrived on-site, I started feeling better. This was real, this was happening and it was all going to be fine! I promised myself that after this, I never had to run again if I didn't want to. That was, um,  super reassuring.

Bundled up in our extra "throwaway" clothes, we waited in line for the port-a-potties. We wanted the full experience, after all. In no time at all, the race was on and my adrenaline was kicking into high gear. No corrals, so there was some confusion. Close to 5,000 runners made for a crowded start.

We started out and it was odd but exhilarating to run with so many people. The first 3 miles were a blur. I couldn't believe how quickly they went. I got my first "taste" of an aid station and enjoyed the true race experience of grabbing a cup from a volunteer's hand and attempting to drink the water while running. (Result: failure and mild humiliation with a side of dribbling.)

Around mile 7 and 8 things started getting hairy. The never-ending rolling hills had me fearing every turn. It felt like we kept climbing and climbing. Periodically I would chew another gummy from the bag I was tightly clutching and visualize an energy boost. I kept thinking that I COULDN'T stop and I WOULDN'T walk. No matter what. I was going to run the whole way.

My saving grace was the spectators. People of all ages, bundled up outside their homes and on the streets with signs and cheers of encouragement. When I was trying to remember why I had ever thought this was a good idea, I heard cries of "You can do it!" "Great pace!" and "You're doing awesome!" I'm so thankful for people who will get up early and do this. I'm sure for a lot of runners it made the difference between carrying on and quitting. I know it did for me.

I hit mile 11. The farthest I'd ever run previously was 10.5. I hit mile 12. One mile left! How hard can that be?

Pretty hard, apparently. It was the most difficult mile as I subconsciously increased my speed and started feeling like I didn't have much left in the tank. It was a surreal final few minutes as time seemed to slow and I felt so. spent. Trying to keep myself distracted, I cued up what had become my theme song of the past few months, "On My Way Home" by Pentatonix. Most of my training runs had ended with that song. I had tried to imagine what it would feel like to finish 13.1 miles. Now it was finally happening.

At the end I strained to at least beat one woman who was ahead of me, you know, because I'm that cool. As I slowed to a walk my legs did NOT like it and I felt like I would fall over. I received my medal and walked around in a state of stunned silence. 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 34 seconds. I had thought I would perhaps cry or smile or leap over the finish line or something. None of that happened, just a sort of numbness.

Reflecting on my experience now I have to remind myself to be proud. This is a big deal! I did what I set out to do! Slower than I wanted, and not with as much pizzazz, but I did it. Sadly I am tempted to compare myself to others who passed me along the way, but I'm not telling their stories. This is mine. My journey. My sweat. My pain. My fears. My determination.

This race has reinforced for me a lesson I've been learning all year: I am stronger than I think and I need to find opportunities to prove this to myself. Adventure, travel, discovery: I want to say yes! My fear is that years will pass one after another, all the same. I am determined to take advantage of new opportunities and not let fear or complacency hold me back.

I will do hard things. If only to prove to myself I can.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Packing Rhymes With Snacking (What I'd Rather Be Doing)

Guys. I am so not good at this blogging thing.

Do me a favor. Take a look at some posts from two or three years ago. Look how consistent I was! Are you impressed?

Here's another thing I'm not stellar at: packing.

I recently got back from a pretty super awesome trip, which I will (fingers crossed!) write about more later. But in the days leading up to said trip, I was preoccupied with "packing," loosely defined here as piles of random objects slowly inching closer and closer to my suitcase.

When it comes to packing, I am very visual. I don't like anything to be hidden away until right up until the last possible moment. Out of sight, out of mind. I just know I will forget what I've already packed, even if I check it off a list.

Yes, I love lists. No, I just don't feel like I can trust them when it comes to packing!

So my floor becomes a maze of shoes, leggings, Clif bars, scarves, lotions, books, etc. in piles that get larger and more spread out as the days go on. Sporadically, like a grumpy lumbering bear, I'll hulk around the piles and shuffle things around.

During the week of packing (it is an EVENT, I tell you!), I get to have fun nightmares where I have either forgotten something important on my trip or I have to pack in five minutes because I'm leaving early for some reason.

And then of course there are the items I need to pack that I truly do have to wait until the last minute for because I'm still using them (makeup, I'm talking to you).

For a girl who loves her lists, they are surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to packing. Not sure why. I will make them, but they are barely coherent and rarely consulted.

Packing helps me get excited for a trip so I can anticipate what I'll be doing, but it also makes me a nervous, disorganized wreck. I'll relax when it all gets UNpacked!