As some of you know, I have been training, very specifically, very diligently, and quite intensely for my Spring marathon! I chose one out of the area, but close enough to drive. Honestly, this is one of the most vigorous training plans I have been through when working toward the marathon distance. As I may have mentioned (it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I can’t remember), I hired a new coach. He was my physical therapist back in 2017 when my hip flexor paralyzed itself, and he got me quickly back on the road. After not reaching any running goals last year, I really needed to reassess my training, and after talking to him, hired him on to train me. And my life has never been the same.
I have had some of the highest mileage weeks I have had in 6 years. I’m not saying that to brag, because I am aware that one extra mile could be the tipping point to injury. But, as I said, Daniel used to be my physical therapist and he knows my weaknesses better than I do. He also knows that in order to speed me up and work on endurance, it means a mix of easy/slow runs and hard speed sessions. We all know how I feel about speed work, but he hasn’t made me cuss him out or cry yet…so his method is working.
I will say, I’m exhausted by the end of the week and look forward to my rest day to prepare for the long runs (yep…runs) of the weekend. Sometimes they are easy runs, sometimes one of them involves some speed. But there is always a reason for where and why he wants me to do runs a certain way. And I’m working hard to hit suggested paces, without going over the edge to injury. It can be a fine line, especially when you’ve dealt with injuries over the years. Last year, I made it out without a single one, and I hope to continue that trend this year.
All that being said, I am getting a slight down week this week as I am headed to Disney World (you know this if you follow me on Instagram) for the Disney Princess Race Weekend. I am participating in the 5K (running it with my roommate at her pace), the 10K (which is what Daniel wants me to race), and the half marathon (training run). I’m super stoked. My last trip to Disney was in January 2018, and it was a hot mess express of a dumpster fire.
So…packing has commenced and I finally got around to trying on my costumes yet. Does my coach realize that I dress up in costumes? Probably not. LOL! But its Disney…if you don’t do SOMETHING Disney related (doesn’t have to be full-on costume), you have no soul.
So…my 5K costume had to change. My roommate is running as Captain America, so I thought I’d go as Iron Man (Tony Stark FOREVER!).
Sadly, the outfit I ordered to do this costume, didn’t match. And the company I ordered the top from hasn’t done much to get me the new top in time for this race. So…I thought about trying to put together a Captain Marvel costume (not enough time), or do something else Avengers…but I just couldn’t cobble together what I needed in the short span of time remaining. So that means, I stick to super hero, but cross the streams into the DC universe and run as…Wonder Woman (DUH!)!
Not what I wanted…but it will work. It will do. And besides, I am Wonder Woman, so might as well stick to my nickname.
For the 10K…I was having a hard time settling on a costume. Believe it or not, I was originally going for Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6.
That being said, it’s really hard to find running clothes that are that golden yellow and not a fluorescent yellow. I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to maybe get fabric for my friend Melissa to sew a costume for me, but there wasn’t anything there that would work. I was sad, but not giving up on this costume. It WILL happen, because she’s perfect for me to run as. So, I had to make a choice between two costumes that I have run in before…Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) or Vanellope von Schweets (Wreck it Ralph). I put it up for a vote on both Facebook and Instagram and the winner…
Pretty excited to bust out this costume again. Hoping that I get the “ears” just right like last time.
The one race that I knew for certain which character I was dressing up as was the half marathon. My nieces, Kaytlynn and Baileigh, chose for me to run as one of the most classic princesses from the Disney films.
My mom made my top for this costume, as the one I wore when I ran Dopey in 2014, was shredded. I mean, the sleeves are made out of ribbons. My mom did a PHENOMENAL job and I can’t wait to share the actual costume with you guys! I tried it on today as we started packing for the trip and I really just want my mom to make all my running costumes from now on. She did my Vanellope top I wore in Dopey 2018, and it was perfection. This one…also perfection. Excited to reprise my role as Snow White for 13.1 magical miles.
I’m going to be trying some new stuff out in the upcoming weeks, but I needed to get through Disney before I make fresh purchases. I’m thinking of switching to the hydration vest versus the belt I’ve worn since 2012. My friend Christine let me borrow hers and I loved it. So…that will be a big purchase, but one I can’t wait to try. Also…my new fuel. It’s pricey, but it seems to work! I’m using old fuel I still had kicking around for now. It’s fine, because I like it as well. As long as it doesn’t make me sick or hurt my stomach, or as long as I don’t have to chew it…I’m happy to use it.
So, seven challenging weeks of training down. Ten more to go. And now, here come the weeks where I also throw in some races (either as training runs, or to race) and I’m pretty stoked to get that going. Stay tuned, as I hope to keep you informed of more of my training highlights and shortcomings (because I’m human and I’m not going to nail everything). But that will have to wait until I get back from Disney.
Life has been…chaotic and busy, to say the least, these last few weeks. The holidays always throw my routine out of whack, but it just seems like it’s taking me a little longer to bounce back into my day-to-day life.
But…a few things have changed heading into the new year.
First of all, I hired a new running coach. Yep. After my former coach and I decided it was best to go our separate ways in July last year, I pulled out old training plans and did my best to get myself into shape to hit a BQ at the Chicago Marathon. The training was hard, but I did my best to get myself prepared within the weeks I had left to get myself to that start line. We all know, if you read my race review, that my Chicago Marathon went all kinds of hella wrong. I was really down on myself and disappointed with my performance, because I was told, by so many people, that there was no way (even with the new qualifying times released JUST before the Chicago marathon) that there was no way I wouldn’t qualify. Guess what…I didn’t. I tried two out of my three marathons…and it didn’t happen. I didn’t let on much, but it bothered me and I felt like I was just going backwards and not forwards, and doing it on my own wasn’t getting me the results I really wanted. SO…I remembered that a former physical therapist of mine was a running coach…so I got in touch with him…and filled out some paperwork, had a one-on-one with him on the phone…and I started officially training with him on December 31st. Even more frightening, January 6th marked 16 weeks out from my spring marathon.
Just kidding. I’m not panicking.
Something else has changed in the workout realm. I hired a personal trainer. Yep. I sure did. And you know what? I really trust him to help me get my body back in shape and ready to race to get my Boston Qualifying time. It’s a process, but I trust him. I met Corey in 2017, and he opened up his own personal training businesses a while back. I never thought about getting a personal trainer until last summer, but with my fall marathon looming, I didn’t want to start anything too rigorous so close. So, I started with him on…you guessed it…December 31st and meet with him twice a week. He plans my workout around the training my running coach sets up and so far it’s all been jiving really well. I love how Corey explains to me why we are working certain muscles and how it will benefit me when I am running. I am trusting him and the process of getting me back in racing shape.
And…I’m currently 39 days away from my first official race of 2019. And I can’t wait. Except I do have to get a few things figured out when it comes to what I’ll be wearing. Stay tuned.
I hope your 2019 is off to a good start. What have you changed, started or hoping to do this year? Tell me in the comments!
Oh, friends…sometimes you dream big. Bigger than big. You don’t want to dream big, because you’re scared of failing. And you don’t want to let people down. But people keep telling you that your dream is going to happen. Ace in the hole. No problem. Easy as pie. And then those aspirations don’t go the way you planned. And you feel like a failure. And it sucks. But you try not to let it get you down. But it still sucks.
Welcome…to my Chicago Marathon.
You know, failing to reach a goal does suck. Some people can just move on. But I have never been one of those people. In hindsight…I did a lot of things wrong leading into this race. For sure.
Instead of flying, Melissa and Paul offered to drive us all up to Chicago from here. It definitely saved time and airport stress, so we took them up on the offer. Paul was running via a lottery draw and Melissa did an amazing job raising money for her charity, Team RMHC. And Cathy…she’s our sherpa, cheerleader, and race mom, as always. We got a bit of a late start out of Louisville, but we hit the road and were Chicago bound. At some point, we all figured we needed to eat dinner…and we were in the Indianapolis area…so Cathy got on the Find Me Gluten Free app, and after a sketchy call to a pizza place…we ended up going to…The Tamale Place.
We had never been to the Tamale Place before. But the lady at the register was SUPER nice and super helpful and walked us through the process. I guess she could tell we were new to the place by the confused look on our faces. But they have a screen up front that shows what tamales they currently have…and how many. They had one vegan one…so that was the one I went with. That just happened to be the Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Tamale. And since I had been wavering between tacos or a tamale, she suggested both. And who am I to say no? She obviously knows what she’s talking about, right? So, I got a Veggie Taco as well with the spicy red sauce. Because…spicy…duh. The tortilla for the taco was homemade. The masa in the tamale was AMAZING. Everything was really, really good. Ironically, this would become our dinner stop on the way home too. I think we’re believers in The Tamale Place. Also…it makes me think of Tawn.
We ate our weight in food. No really. We did. In fact, at one point, we were passing around this cup of Elotes. I couldn’t eat too much of it, because the cheese situation on those were real…but I tried them. We used the bathroom and then we got back on the road to finish the haul to Chicago.
And so…we pulled up to The Hotel Blake in the pouring rain. Cathy and Paul had directed Melissa into the bike lane, so the valet guy helped unload us and the luggage before having Melissa move the car. Some rude taxi driver honked at her and the valet started shouting at him. It was dark, wet, and just awful that night. But she got the car where it needed to be and he got her inside. Cathy got us checked in and we headed toward the elevator with Showtime, our valet. He had the luggage cart. We piled into the elevator, and the doors closed, minus the Nolans. Whoops. So, we decided we would get their stuff into their room, then our stuff into our room and get it sorted. Showtime asked us, “Why did you make the pregnant lady drive?” Cathy assured him it was better if she was the driver than if she wasn’t. We got
to our floor and headed down the hall. They were in room 719. We were room 722. So we were close. Cathy and I were staying in a King Suite. And the Nolans were in a King room. As we unloaded their luggage, they texted to ask what room they were in. I went to go get them while Cathy got our stuff into our room. They met me at the elevator bay and up we went, with me dropping them off. Cathy said, “You have to see our room.” So…I went inside to scope it out and we texted to invite the Nolans over as well to hang. But I think they were ready to crash because they never made it over and we eventually went to bed. But the room was amazing. Big ass couch. Chairs. Dining area. Microwave. Fridge. Garden tub. Shower. Fit for the princess that I am.
The following morning, we all met up for breakfast at Meli Cafe, which is just off the lobby of The Hotel Blake. It’s convenient…so we ate their regularly. Cathy and I went and got a table and started to peruse the menu and drink some coffee. My best friend from my childhood was coming in that morning and once she arrived and dropped her stuff in the room, we were all going to take the shuttle bus to the expo. But we definitely needed to fuel up for the day. I ended up ordering the Tofu Scrambler, which is sautéed broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and organic tofu in a giant bowl. Since they didn’t have a gluten-free bread option, I subbed for a small bowl of fruit instead. It was delicious. And filling. And not too spicy (because the day before the race is one day you really want some bland food)…even if I added a couple dashes of hot sauce. We ate. We went up to the room and hung out. And Heather arrived while I was in the bathroom. So I came out and immediately hugged her. It was amazing to have her in Chicago for me again.
Next stop: THE EXPO!!
The Abbott Health & Fitness Expo is probably the largest and best expo I have ever been to. I have done this one twice, and it’s just…endless and amazing. But first stop is always…race bib. We had to take a short walk a couple of blocks down to the Hilton Chicago and got on the bus. Most of the seats that were left were in the back. Melissa gets car sick, so we just prayed it was a smooth ride. It wasn’t a long ride and we made note of the Green Stop being where we needed to return to in order to get back to the Hilton to get back to our hotel.
We went inside…and immediately I got swept up in that race expo bliss. There were a few photo ops before I had to show my participant info to the security people in order to get in and get my race bib and the info for where to get my t-shirt. It was an easy exchange and after I got this…we decided to branch off from Paul and Melissa so we could all get our necessary things done. I had one thing I wanted at the race expo…the Newton Chicago Edition shoes. Because…NEWTONS. CHICAGO. YES! But first…I needed to get my t-shirt and check the size to be sure that I was happy with the fit. As I was trying it on, my friend AmyLee messaged me to say she was there. She said she would come find me at the t-shirt area. And…she did!! It was great to hug her and wish her luck and just sit and talk about life and catch up. She’s amazing. And…she’s doing the Galloway Method…which I totally respect and believe in, as the run/walk intervals helped me have a strong finish during the marathon at Dopey Challenge at Disney World in January.
We had to part ways eventually, and I had my sites set…on the Newton booth. Cathy had already scoped it out and so…I skipped the first few aisles just to go and get these shoes that I NEEDED. WANTED. NEEDED.
Trust me. I needed them. And, one of the guys working the booth was my friend, Dan’s, friend. And Cathy already had talked to him and he was ready for me. He brought out my size in the Chicago edition shoes…and…yeah…they came home with me. And I wear them. A lot. They’re amazing. And with that done…it was time to shop, sample, and spend more money.
And I did. I picked up the Shefit Sports Bra, which I sadly ended up returning due to it chafing me up really bad on two runs. But the customer service was super nice and very helpful. I got 6 BondiBands. Heather got me three of them as a birthday present, because she’s amazing like that. All of the ones she got me had purple in them. And they totally suited me. Totally. I bout more Nuun (of course) and I got a water bottle with it. And I am totally hooked on their Immune flavors now. I popped one of my tubes open for Heather while we strolled the expo. It was their Energy one. Her favorite. And hydration is important.
There were photo ops everywhere. And snacks. Snacks just being handed to you. And
opportunities to win free passes to the Shedd Aquarium (we didn’t…none of us). We did win those stainless steel straws though. So, hey, reusable straws. We zigzagged our way down each aisle, stopping at the booths that interested us and making note so, if necessary, we could come back. We honestly made an initial sweep and then returned to booths if we wanted to try something or if we were interested in the product.
After some time of doing this. we texted the Nolans. They were in aisle 200 (I think there were 900 aisles, maybe 800). We figured they were probably wrapping stuff up like we were. I wanted to stop by Nike Official Merch (NOT IMPRESSED THIS YEAR!) and also hit up the Abbott area as well. They had a TON of things going on, including the big treadmill you might have seen where you try to match Kipchoge’s marathon pace at Berlin for as long as you can. I would have LOVED to have done it, but not the day before the race. That sounds like an injury waiting to happen. But I did do the thing where you run across this special floor and it feeds you information about your stride and speed. It compares your stride to an elite’s stride.
Mine is WAY shorter. And it calculates your marathon pace if you could maintain that short sprint speed they measured. It was fun. But I am thankful for the guy at the end whose job it was to catch people. We all would have hit the booth wall, and probably take them down in the process.
Once I was certain that I honestly shouldn’t spend any more money…because Roll Recovery, Shefit, Newton, Nuun, BondiBand…and a couple others got my money this time around…we checked in with the Nolans again. They were now in Aisle 300 at the CEP Booth. This was when we realized they were just starting the great expo dive…so we went over there to help them shop for compression and I spotted Goodr next door, which Melissa is a big fan of, despite the tendency of the lenses to flake and scratch. I had been on my feet already longer than I expected and we still needed to get Heather and her stuff over to her hotel. So, we offered to take any bags that they wanted to ditch so they wouldn’t have to haul them around. We also changed dinner plans. Melissa really wanted to go to her charity dinner…which is fine. I really wanted to go to a place just outside the city proper, Da Luciano’s, which has a gluten free menu as big as the regular menu (honestly, it was my one requirement on this trip), so we compromised and said we’d go as a celebration after the race. We left them to continue their expo explorations and do the charity stuff, while we hopped the shuttle back to the Hilton and then back to hotel. We dropped off stuff, grabbed Heather’s stuff and went to hop the Blue Line (I think) to her area of the city. She was staying at a very nice hotel, but it was a walk to get to the train, and then a walk to get to the hotel. Reverse it after we hung in her room for a moment to head back to our neck of the woods to grab some Garrett Popcorn, pre-dinner, and then make our way to our new dinner idea…the impromptu dinner at…Brightwok Kitchen.
I first discovered Brightwok while I was in Chicago to see Hamilton. Cathy and I had gotten out of our show and we were STARVING. Everything there is gluten-free and dairy-free. And the food is phenomenal. So…I couldn’t complain too much. It wasn’t what I had hoped to be eating the night before the marathon, but it was a good supplement.
I ended up getting the Fall In Love Stir-fry Bowl. Fall in Love is Fall 5-Spice, Brown Rice, Carrots, Peppers, Local Zucchini, Butternut Squash, and a Sweet Potato Fritter. It usually comes with Local Chicken, but being that I’m a vegetarian, I had them add the tofu, I think. I actually claimed the last sweet potato fritter, so, as Heather got the same thing as me, I split it with her, because…necessary. I also got a side of their Sweet & Sour Pickles (which are AMAZING). Seriously, I’ve never had anything there that I didn’t like. After that…we parted ways. Heather went back to her hotel…Cathy and I returned to ours. We started to lay out everything for the following day so it wouldn’t be a madhouse trying to get out the door on time. My plan was to hopefully be in bed by 9 pm. I think, after having some downtime and the Nolans over for taping and necessary race pep talks…it was closer to 10 pm. Lights out. Because the next morning…it was time to run Chicago!
Race morning. The usual routine. First alarm. Get up for the meds I need to take. Go back to bed. Second alarm. Get up and actually become a functioning member of society…go to the bathroom, change into race gear, check weather, eat something, check weather, brush teeth, put hair in pigtails, check weather…you get the drill.
Heather arrived to leave her bag in our room and to head to the start line with us. I got a text from Melissa saying she wanted to hug me before we headed out (I was in Wave 1 and had to get to my Gate really early)…and she was reapplying some iron-on symbols to her race shirt from her charity that she was running for. She had a different gate and was in the wave after me. So…we swung into her room (me wearing an attractive big garbage bag because I didn’t want to be soaked if I was going to be out in the rain that was predicted) and we hugged and wished each other a good, safe race. She told me to have fun. I loved her for that. We left and took the elevator down to the lobby to head out the door to make the walk to the start. We had to get over to Grant Park. They could take me as far as my gate…which was Gate 2, before security check. We stood there for a moment, and they told me I was going to be fine and I would be great and to have fun and enjoy the run. That’s what friends do. I really wished I had been in better shape…but, you just do what you can with what you have. We took some selfies…and then hugged…and then they put me in the LONG line to get into Grant Park by way of Gate 2.
And that…was where I stood…for a very, very long time. Barely moving. Just a short trudge here and there, waddling up bit-by-bit. Glance to the left…and Gate 1 was just moving easily. Look to the right…and Gate 3 had traffic moving freely. Gate 2…was at an absolute standstill. And every runner there was basically in Wave 1 and needing to be in their corral. And yet…we stood.
At least it wasn’t raining…yet. Not yet. But, we who were left to stand there and shuffle slowly forward were about to go into panic mode. We couldn’t understand why this gate wasn’t moving. And panic was setting in for me. Usually I would have stretched more…and taken my time eating the banana I brought with me…perhaps use the bathroom near the corrals…but nope. Finally they had runners who didn’t need to check bags get into a separate line (that was me), and while it still moved slowly, it got us through. And then the panic speed walk began for everyone. Because to get to Corral C & D, you had to go behind the other corrals to a separate entrance. And at this point…the National Anthem was being sung, quite beautifully, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was trying to make it to Corral D so I could start on time. Panic and adrenaline was setting in.
I did learn one thing from standing forever in that line at the gate. Count the kilometers, not miles. There are more of them, so you feel like you are getting places faster. Nice trick. But I digress…
I got into the corral with 1 minute to spare before they closed it. I quickly shed my trash bag and the half-zip I had worn to keep warm, as I was in a crop top and shorts for this one. The start temperature was warm…almost 60 degrees…but rain was coming and so were some rather steady winds. The announcers said all the names of the elite field that were running and the corrals would cheer for each name. And then…they sent off the first wave.
To the song Sweet Home Chicago.
After the initial walk to the start line, we could see it grow closer and closer and soon the walk became a job and soon the jog became the run over the start mat and under the starting gate. I was off. For my second ever Chicago Marathon. A race that was so magical for me in 2013.
This experience, however, was going to be a lot different. Because mistakes were made throughout the race as well. I was relieved to start without the rain, and while I knew that it wouldn’t be kept at bay, I was hoping that it would hold off longer than it actually did. The first couple of miles were pretty dry. But as I headed into Mile 3…the rain began. I also knew that Cathy and Heather were going to try to catch me before I hit Mile 3…so pretty much just before the bridge. And I spotted them thanks to Heather’s purple jacket. She was SO easy to spot. I gave a wave and a smile, feeling absolutely strong at this point and continued on…knowing I wouldn’t see them again until Mile 13.
I should mention here that I really just wanted to run by feel for this race. Go out and have fun. Enjoy. And to make sure that I wouldn’t check my watch and fuss over my pace, I set it to only show me the time. The clock face. No pace. No distance. None of it. Not even time elapsed. And I never once looked at my watch the entire race. Nor did I make not of the clocks along the course. But this is where I may have faltered. I ran the first 12-14 miles on pace for my goal for this race. But…it got a lot harder than I anticipated at Mile 10. Mile 10 is not a good place to have your legs start feeling like lead. I pressed on, hoping that maybe the flat course was affecting them, so I hoped they would wake back up. They didn’t.
I took Honey Stinger gels at Mile 6 and Mile 12…and pressed on. I did see Cathy and Heather around Mile 13. I spotted them and waved as I went by…I think I managed a smile, but I wasn’t feeling nearly as strong as I had when they saw me 10 miles previously. I managed to press on through the screams and amazing people at Soul City Church, who were rocking Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” as we ran through. But that, friends…is where it got hard.
The rain never seemed to stop. Most of my race was in this annoying drizzle. And with the winds coming on strong too…I was getting cold. And…by Mile 15, I started my run/walk method that got me through Dopey. Not systematic though. I’d guess on how long I was walking and push as long as I could handle a run…and repeat. It was hard. And it was breaking me. I could tell my little goal I had set was going to get away from me…and fast. But now…now it was about getting to that finish line.
As we went into Mile 16, a female runner slightly ahead of me, started to slow and wobble to the side of the road. Her legs were like Jello. It was too early for that…so I was glad I was listening to my body and easing back, despite not reaching expectations everyone had for me performance-wise. It was scary to see. I kept with the run/walk method as I ticked off a few more miles. No intervals…just as much as I could run, I would. And then I would count (for the most part) to 30 in my head before I would try again. Around Mile 20…there was a runner down on the corner, covered in jackets, with police officers around them. Another scary moment. Especially as I am pressing on just to finish these last 6 miles.
I managed to pick it up a little bit for the next mile…but slowed back down. Mile 24 was the only one where I hit the 10s (although some of my 9 minute paces were close). I don’t know what happened there. But I gave myself the pep talk. 2 miles. 20 minutes. I could do anything for 20 minutes. Even if it was at a run/walk.
The last two miles seemed to come and go…until I hit that hill at Mile 26. This hill takes you up an exit ramp and then you head down to the finish line, back inside Grant Park. I won’t lie. I walked this hill. It got me. This entire race got me. I got inside my head. I let expectations weigh me down. I didn’t follow a good routine. So, yeah, this hill bested me. But I made the last turn and I said I would run it in…no matter what. So I picked it up. And as I was running, I spotted Heather and Cathy…screaming their heads off for me as I ran past them and headed toward that finish line. I had no idea what my time was…my pace…none of it. It stopped my Garmin…and looked. 3:50. And change. I was WAY off. But I knew it. I knew that would happen by Mile 10. Was I still disappointed? You bet!
I made my way through the finishers area, grabbing that famous Finish Line Beer, which I can’t drink, but I promised Melissa and Paul that I would pick one up. They had to open it though…so as I went past Buckingham Fountain and further into the park to where we exited for Runners Reunite…I had to dump it out. But I could keep the can. I immediately headed for the letter X…it’s the assigned meeting spot for myself and my friends as NO ONE is ever at X and EVERYONE is at B. But as I made the long walk, I noticed neither Cathy nor Heather were there. I stayed there for awhile…then made my way up to B…because perhaps they forgot. They weren’t there either. So, back to X I went. And then I got lightheaded. I quickly sat down on the boards holding up the inflatable X and held on. My vision was going black. I was shivering and cold. I wanted to get back to the hotel. I wanted my friends.
Once I stopped having my vision go black and knew I could stand, I slowly did and made my way over to the curb…where I sat down and huddled my mylar blanket around my body. And shivered. And that’s where they found me.
I stood up and they came and gave me hugs and a rose and a stuffed bear. I started to cry a little. I have the best friends.
Cathy asked me if I wanted to do anything in the finish line area. I told her I just wanted to go back to the hotel and get warm. So, Heather took my rose and I snuggled with my bear and under my mylar and they walked me back to the hotel. We got inside and up to the room. And they were gracious enough to help me out of my shoes, socks, compression and my crop top. I stayed in the rest while Heather went to start a hot shower for me.
I got cleaned up and put on some fresh, warm clothes and went to sit down on the couch. Cathy said the last check in with Melissa and Paul was the half, but she got a message that they were behind pace, the mats were being pulled up, and that they would keep us informed of their progress. Cathy went and got me warm coffee and I tried to eat some things, but my stomach wasn’t ready for food. Not yet. I hydrated as much as I could with my stomach being off…and we sat and watched some television, talking, laughing, checking in with Melissa and Paul. Cathy had me put my feet up on some pillows and she covered me with my hoodie and the blanket from the bed. I was toasty warm now. Paul texted to see if we could grab some snacks and drinks from the charity hospitality tent, and since we all had wristbands…we could. But neither Heather nor I wanted to move. So…Cathy went and grabbed as much as she could.
When we got word that they were at Mile 24…I put on my shoes and jacket and we all made our way down to the finish line area. Security wasn’t letting people through at first, but after some women sneaked inside, the woman said, “I’m a volunteer, I’m done.” And she walked off. And so…we walked in.
We waited patiently at the finish, with me moving around as much as possible. When the gates started to come down, we got even closer, moving up toward Buckingham Fountain. We took some time to take photos of the fountain until we got word that they had finished. We tried to direct them to a street, but Melissa’s calves had pretty much cramped up at Mile 6 and she was done. We were going to them.
We found them…Melissa on the ground, shivering, and Paul trying to rub her calves and feet. Poor thing! It was crazy miserable in the rain and then the winds, so if I was this bad off…I couldn’t imagine how she felt. Plus…pregnancy doesn’t help her either. I knew Heather wanted to catch dinner before she had to get to the airport, so we changed dinner plans again…and moved everything to Meli Cafe again. Which was fine. It was closer and less hassle for sure. But with Da Luciano’s being closed on Mondays…this meant I once again was missing my chance to eat there. Next time…it’s happening. Because I will make it happen. Heather and I went to drop off things at their room and head down to dinner. We told our waitress we’d be coming in waves. Cathy got Melissa up and moving and she said that she was meeting us at Meli Cafe…to which Melissa said, “I could eat.” So…YAY!! At least the whole gang would be there to celebrate.
Cathy joined us first…then the Nolans. I was just finishing up when they got their food, but it meant I could walk Heather up to get her stuff and take her outside of the hotel to give her hugs and tell her to have a safe trip back to Minnesota. She had a flight to catch. I went back inside to sit with my friends and just reveled in what we all accomplished. We pushed ourselves even when things got hard. Even when they seemed impossible. And we all finished. Safely.
After we ate, we hit the lobby for a couple of photo ops and then headed back upstairs to rest and recover. We hung out in our room, watching Food Network and just talking and drinking water/cider. It was the perfect way to close it out.
So…the official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in 3:50:41. Definitely nowhere near what I had hoped. BUT…I will follow with my conclusions on that in a moment. I was the 11156 finisher overall. The 2941 female to finish. And I was 566 in my age division. Not bad, considering over 43,000 runner signed up for this.
So…what mistakes did I make?
I was on my feet way too much the day before the race. I didn’t fuel as I would have liked and tried a different method…the day before the race. I think my marathon paced runs killed me the weeks leading into the race as well. I let expectations get to me. I didn’t let my watch tell me to SLOW DOWN (I think that was my biggest error). I didn’t dress for the weather that was moving in. I probably should have fueled more than I did. I did every 6 miles…I am going to work on putting that closer and more frequent. And…I told myself I wasn’t fit enough so I went into it believing I wasn’t fit enough. And there are more…but I won’t dwell on it now.
I finished…I made it. My friends finished. They made it. We all were safe. We all did the best we could with our circumstances. We may not have lived up to our own expectations, but dammit…we at least tried that day. We at least got out there and gave it what we had.
Chicago…maybe one day I’ll be back. But for now, I have other fall marathons to tackle. You were a great learning experience. And I know…if I keep trying, I’ll reach my goal.
“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life it.”
I went back. I went back to an island and a race that both made me find myself and broke me…but this time I was only going half the distance. Because I’m smart. HA!
The trip itself is a whole different story all together, and something I may or may not blog about. I did keep a travel journal the best that I could…but life just happens. Let’s begin this story, then, with the expo.
As you know, my roommate (Cathy) and I have been to Kauai twice before. Once with me in a boot with our friend, Jenn. Needless to say, I didn’t race that year. Then a year later with our friends Indy & Tawn. That was the year I did the full marathon. First marathon after recovering from the hip labrum and stress fracture. It didn’t go as I had imagined…but, those hard races are what make us better. It was the last marathon I ran until January 2018, when I did the Dopey Challenge. My hip problems kept coming back and setbacks led to some cautious comebacks (of my own doing).
This time…no longer being guided by a coach and really just playing around with an old training schedule…I was going in with a plan. And this time, we were traveling with some of our favorite people, Melissa and Paul Nolan!
This is an image from our first day at our resort. I went for a short shake-out from travel run after a day of travel and getting groceries and coffee and ice cream and just checking out a bit of the island with our friends. They headed to the beach…I went for an easy run and met them on the beach. Because…the beach is life. The next morning…was expo day.
But first…coffee and breakfast. We picked up coffee at our go-to coffee spot on Kauai – Ha Coffee Bar! And breakfast, we went to Living Foods Market and got breakfast. For me, the coffee was the Kauai Sunshine and the crepe was the Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable Crepe.
After we were powered up with coffee and food…it was off to the Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. This hotel is GORGEOUS. Seriously. And I love visiting the expo and checking out the resort in the process. For the most part, it’s a small and basic expo. But…I. BOUGHT. SO. MUCH. Maybe it’s because when I ran the marathon, all I bought was the big triathlon backpack (which they no longer have and that made me SO sad because I wanted another one since mine is getting old and I use it for ALL travel). Maybe it’s because it was the 10th Anniversary. But most of my spending money went out the window at the race expo. That’s…pretty typical of me. HA!
I picked up my race bib and t-shirt (this time, I was listed) then went to scope out the merchandise and the little side booths in the small little room where the expo is held. There is a lot going on in there, and it can seem really crowded and chaotic at times (especially in the official merchandise area), but it is worth spend the time checking out. I ended up buying a half-zip, a towel, a magnet, a hoodie, a t-shirt…..maybe a few other small things that I don’t remember…but yeah…budget blown. Melissa and Paul had met Bart Yasso before heading into the expo, and she snagged his last new book. I went to say hi to Bart, as I’ve seen him and talked with him at numerous race expos, and he introduced me to the male marathon winner (who was also running the half this year…and would win it), Tyler. Tyler also ran Chicago…small world. After a chat, I went to see how the Nolan’s were doing with their shopping and found them as overwhelmed with the merchandise as I was. But…we eventually wrapped things up and got ready to head out for the rest of the day.
Sightseeing was the plan and we hit up the Spouting Horn, Glass Beach, The Westernmost Bookstore in the United States (Talk Story Bookstore) in Hanapepe, where we also got to enjoy rainbows and a street fair, walked across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and then hit up Verde (one of my favorite spots) for tacos for dinner!
We went to bed knowing we’d have to be up early enough if we were going to take part in Bart Yasso’s shake-out run that morning. We were running a little late when we got there, but they had to check on the path (as there had been flooding because…hurricanes). It was a path of treachery. Lots of holes and puddles and ditches, but it was straight out and back, about a 5K. I took it easy because…I wanted to see what I could do on the course the next day. I was complimented, however, on my stride. And that has NEVER happened. I was one of the first few people back to the starting point.
Melissa and Paul came in next, and then we cheered Cathy in. Yes…even Cathy got in on the action during the morning shakeout. At the shakeout I got to talk to a lot of people, and everyone was SO nice. I chatted races with a guy named Seth (we’re now friends on Strava). I FINALLY got to meet the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, who I have followed on social media for ages, like back when she was doing her 52 marathons in 52 weeks. She is just as inspiring and sweet in person as she is on her social media. I can say that for certain. After a few group pictures, we went back to shower/change and then head out for the day to do more exploring. And we just ended up winging it. Breakfast for Cathy and I was a cookie that we split at Ha Coffee House. My coffee was (my favorite for life) the Bee Sting. And then…we went on an impromptu hike.
If you know me…you know I’m not a fan of being outdoors. Which is weird, because I am a long distance runner. But the rest of my party were set on doing it, even though the trail was REALLY muddy and…quite not fun to navigate at times. I won’t lie…I was nervous about slipping and falling. I was nervous about twisting an ankle…or breaking a bone. The endgame…a waterfall. We meant to reach the bottom of it…but instead, we took the path less traveled and got to the top. And for all the bitching and complaining I did about the hike (I mean…it was the day before the race)…it was AMAZING reaching that waterfall we set out to see. And being on the top of it was so much better than the bottom. This particular waterfall was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. Hence…why it was on our radar. The hike back felt less dangerous and slippery. Melissa did slip up at one point, but she caught herself. And we emerged, with VERY muddy shoes and a few bug bites. But I burst out going, “I’m FREE!” That being said, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. Even if I’m a princess who doesn’t really enjoy hikes in the woods.
I was cooking that night for our pre-race dinner. I don’t like to chance things if I don’t have to. So, I cooked up the purple sweet potatoes we bought at Costco, topping them with caramelized onions, avocado, and a drizzle of Sriracha Mayo. It was amazing. I’ve never had much luck with sweet potatoes pre-race, but figured this race wasn’t about time, it was about executing my strategy…so I went with it. And I know some people swear by sweet potatoes for fuel…but they just don’t work on me. But…everyone really enjoyed the dinner…and that was what counted. Time to sleep. For the following day…we raced.
Morning definitely came too soon. I got up early to do my stretches, eat something, take my vitamins, slather on a good layer of sunscreen, get my hair put up and my part spritzed with sunscreen, and get dressed. Cathy wanted to be out the door early…as the race starts at 6 am. Like…before the sun can get too high in the sky. We were a little late on the time, but we all got out the door with pre-workout, fuel, pre-race eats, and all our water bottles. We piled into the car, and Cathy drove part of the course before the road closed to get a good spot to park for the start of the race. We headed toward the little area where the runners would gather to use the bathrooms, stretch, warm-up, eat some fruit, hydrate. Melissa needed to use the bathroom (because…she was coming up on 5 months pregnant here…which she hadn’t really mentioned to the world yet…but it’s out now, so I can write about it)…and the lines were long. She had a pregnancy meltdown, but went to see if she could find a place to use the bathroom. She had talked about not doing the race…but I wasn’t about to let her come this far and at least not give it a shot. Apparently, a Starbucks let her in to use the bathroom. So that was awesome. The runners had already been marched down to the start line, and that was drawing close. I left Cathy and Paul to wait for Melissa to head that way and get a good starting spot. Not up front, but close enough to feel good about my pace when the race spaced out a bit.
The blessing was sung by the natives and the National Anthem was being sung when I spotted Melissa’s top knot of her hair. I waived them in and they ducked in to stand next to me in the corral. We were sent off to conch shells being blown (my favorite start line, hands down!). And just before I took off, the three of us took a selfie. It’s on their phone and we haven’t put up our shared Google Drive yet…so I can’t show it to you. Then Melissa gave me a hug and told me to run fast. I told them to have a good race and headed off, waving to Cathy holding her “Run The Fences Are Down” sign with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park on it. She made the official video. I’ll link it here.
And so…it was time to put my plan into action. I know that the first seven miles of this race are a steady uphill. So, my plan was to settle in for those, and push just hard enough to keep it comfortable and challenging. I admit, my first mile was faster than I would have liked, but I was in the crowd and seeking space. But I eased back on the accelerator as I entered into the second mile. And as the climb (it’s gradual until Mile 5) continued, I eased back a bit more. I ran with a local who was doing the full, in bare feet. He looked over and asked if I was doing the half or full. I told him the half. He said I had a good pace. I told him I was impressed he was doing the race in bare feet. He replied with a native, “Mahalo.”
At Mile 4…I spotted the rainbow. YES! Another rainbow during my Kauai race. I even said, “Look! A rainbow!” to those running near me. But they ignored me and just kept plugging away. I passed some runners who were already struggling in the humidity/heat, but I knew…this is where you kept it simple and easy. Don’t race here. Race at the end.
At Mile 5, you start the climb into the Tunnel of Trees. Mile 6 is about halfway through. This is my favorite part of the race, because it is absolutely STUNNING. The views are incredible. You’re shaded by the trees. And it’s just…amazing. It’s amazing. I fueled at the halfway mark with my Honey Stinger gel, and drank down some water, which I had been doing consistently, because I know how humid and hot this race is, so I figured I’d start that hydration train rolling early. As I passed Mile 7…I knew it was time to hit the gas.
This is probably the only time you will see negative splits on any of my races. I usually go out too fast and then sort of dye at the end (fly and die). But this time, I conserved my speed for the final back half…which was more of a gradual downhill toward the beach where the finish line was. I ticked off the miles, running strong and picking up the pace where I could. The heat was starting to get to me around Mile 10, just before we stopped sharing the course with the marathoners. They would turn to the right and take on those mountains (been there, done that). I turned left and knew I could push it still, even though now the runners would be out in full sun to the finish. It’s fine. knew I could do this.
We ran down neighborhood streets, where the locals were out to cheer us on. There was a guy with a big, white Santa beard, and someone behind me said, “HEY SANTA!” It made me laugh, not going to lie. Miles 11 and 12 felt hard because they were sunny, but I knew when I passed Living Foods Market, I knew I was close. I took the opportunity to see what I had left in the tank, and managed to pull out the energy to pick it up and cross the finish line strong. I felt amazing. And, at that time, that was my perfect race pace for my upcoming marathon for the goal I was hoping to hit (although, with the sudden break in my training plan due to parting ways with my coach and striking out on my own, I wasn’t holding my breath). I got my medal hung around my neck and Ron Wiley from Kong Radio announced my name as I crossed. There was no “Brady Bunch” attached to it this time around. HA!
I was quite happy with my time, given how challenging this course was. I slipped into a sun shirt after snapping a few photos with my medal and went to check out if there was anything I could necessarily eat at that point. There was fruit…and coffee. So that happened. Cathy set a towel down on the ground and we sat down to wait for the rest of our party. There really isn’t a way to live track them, so we just had to guesstimate their placement. They checked in at one point, so we had an idea of their finish time.
We did eventually move to the finish line, where we got to see the first female finisher for the marathon come in. No tape. But her name was announced. And she looked fantastic for having taken on that course. Cathy wandered off to go to the turn before you have the straightaway to the finish line, and would text me when they were coming in. When the text came, I readied my camera…and Paul and Melissa crossed the finish line…with a friend they made along the way. It was her first half marathon and her friends had left her…so they brought her along on their run. They looked like they were having a blast. And, as I told her at the finish, that was the first time I had seen Melissa happy at the end of a race.
We had some photo moments at the finish line, and I even sent Melissa back to inquire about getting a medal for the baby. They weren’t sure they’d have enough, so I ended up contacting the race via e-mail and we were able to go in and pick one up the day after. They ended up having extras. So…YAY!! I was so proud of her, because she had been doubting herself all evening and morning leading into the race, but I knew if she started, she would finish. And, she has a built-in cheerleader and running partner with Paul there, so she wouldn’t be alone. All I told her was that she had to make that halfway point and she could walk it in if she had to at that point. She did great. And she didn’t have to walk it in.
We showed them to our little spot in the shade where they could take off their shoes, relax, and get some refreshments. The volunteers remembered Melissa as “the pregnant lady” from the expo, which was super amazing!! They helped gather up some of the snacks and we all went back to have a sit and just take in some of the finishers still coming in. We rested and relaxed and talked and took pictures, but the race was winding down and we had to still make the walk to wherever Cathy parked the car. She knew. We didn’t. We had been running when she transported herself to that finish line from the start. So, we gathered everything up…and started walking…but not before taking some photos near the finish line.
So, my official results of the Kauai Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:46:27. That’s amazing to me! For real! Is it my fasted half marathon time this year? Nope. Sadly, I think that belongs to Dopey. HA!! How does this happen to me? I race before a race before a race, and still pull off a fast time. But this is a tough, tough course, and to say I did it in less than half the time it took me to struggle through the full…total win! I was 63/1561 finishers overall! That’s top 100!! I was the 15/992 women to cross the finish line. And I was 5/143 people in the my age division! I seem to be clinging to this 5th place benchmark these days. I am not satisfied with it. LOL!
Oh…and we ran into Bart Yasso again too. He asked me how I did, and I told him I was the 15th female overall. And he was totally happy for me and so genuine, as he always is. This is one of many reasons why I refer to him as my “Running BFF.” From there, we went back to the resort to shower and change…and we headed out to the Kauai Coffee Plantation that day…and it was the perfect ending to a race day. That and the pho we ate later that night at a random establishment we found in a strip mall. But I might save that for another post.
I am having a hard time tonight. I had every intention of sitting down this weekend and typing up at least one of the two major race reviews/recaps from my races in September and October.
But…I’m not finding the words. And it sucks.
Writing is my passion and reliving my races to share with those who are interested or, maybe, considering that race themselves is usually no sweat. Maybe I waited too long. None of the thoughts or memories are clear. I’m having very mixed feelings on how I felt on the trip/race/etc.
And now…I’m just stuck.
Any ideas on how to get motivated and break through this writer’s block?
But I can’t here. Not yet. Because…things haven’t been said on other platforms by other people that I can’t go into here…but once it’s out there…I’ve got blogs to write and things to fill all of you in on.
I’ve been on the road a lot recently. And I leveled up somewhere in there with a birthday too.
I’m very behind on this blog…and I realize this. I’m seriously going to make more of a push to be active and write about more than just my races. Because I’m not just passionate about running…but also food and travel and…just having fun. With friends.
Here’s a little run-down of things coming down the pike…
I went to Hawaii. Again.
I went to Disneyland. Again.
I went to Chicago. Again.
I got shadowbanned by Instagram. That’s a first. No again necessary. That being said…no one is seeing my posts right now and since I’ve built my account up since 2011…having it currently be unavailable to people who are not my friends is beyond frustrating. My visibility is nill and IG has done nothing to fix it…because I’m not one of their precious influencers. MEH. And how did this happen? I got hacked. On a Sunday morning. While headed to a run.
So…if you aren’t following me on Instagram…come and give me a follow and check out my posts (like them, please!) and my Instagram Stories (I’m hilarious. Sometimes. HA!)
Thanks, lovelies. I also hope to start going back to some product (food and running related…YAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!)…and I’m going to get serious about recipes and also progress with…just where I am…both in fitness and in life. Because…sometimes life is hard and things just get out of control. And it’s good to have a support team.
Thanks for sticking with me.
Blogs are coming. Daily. I am going to make this a priority again.
I love running NYC. I loved running the full marathon in 2014 and then the half in 2016. And, by some luck of the NYRR lottery draw, I got the chance to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon again this year.
Two things though:
New course…starting in Brooklyn and finishing in Central Park (which meant a whole LOT of hills on your tired legs for the last 4 miles)
I had two friends (Paul & Melissa) coming along for the run as well…which was exciting because Melissa had barely spent sufficient time in NYC and Paul never had been there before!
I was so excited. Friends…fun…and NYC!
We had plenty of time to plan this trip as the lottery draw happens early. So over many bowls of pho and lots of text messages and dinner/game night evenings at each other’s homes…we purchased airplane tickets and Cathy had her mom take care of the room…because she has a time share vacation club thing there. Unfortunately…the race was on St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year which meant…EVENT WEEKEND…on top of everyone coming in for the half marathon itself. So, instead of staying at the nice Manhattan Club that we had come to love in NYC…we were booted over to the Shoreham through the travel agency that is used. Cathy called numerous times to ensure that we would have two beds because we were a party of 4, not 2…and was told when the reservation transferred over…it would be taken care of.
Guess what. The room transferred…and Cathy checked and it was listed with one bed. One bed. Four people. She called the travel agency and they were very unhelpful and it was a task and a half to even get the agent on the phone or to call back.
Cathy then tried calling the hotel directly. They were sold out of rooms and fully booked and couldn’t change the reservation either. In fact, the travel agent never changed the request to four people. So…we were kinda stuck. Through e-mails, Cathy asked if we could bring an airbed and was told no extra bedding could be brought in…BUT…if they had any, they could provide a roll-away.
Insert me being overly stressed out about this turn of events. I hate being stressed out over shit that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place but now it is. These are the things I focus on and, when it happens prior to the trip, it’s all I focus on.
That and the shift in weather that went from lows in the 40s and highs in the high 50s…to COLD AS SHIT! Seriously. The weather shifted with some nor’easters that decided that New York needed some snow and ice and cold wind and all that. MEH. I don’t like running in the cold at all. And now…I would be. This also meant running a half marathon in layers, which is something else that I despise doing. Cathy had to pack my luggage because I needed to stretch and roll and try to be in a better place with all of this.
Friday afternoon, Cathy and I left work early and were picked up at our apartment by Paul. We were chauffeured over to his and Melissa’s house where Melissa’s mom was waiting with her van to take us all to the airport. We packed our luggage and carry-on into the vehicle and got ready to get underway. After (briefly) getting locked into the van, we set out to the airport, where Cathy and I were checking our baggage (Melissa and Paul were carrying on) and got our seating assignments taken care of. This was perfect because we were all clumped together. Cathy and I were behind them on our flights out of Louisville and then out of Atlanta.
Let’s pause for a moment to talk about Atlanta. We were delayed going out of Louisville and now our connection was going to be very tight. VERY TIGHT. In fact, when we landed, supposedly passengers were supposed to let those with a tight connection off first (which would have benefited us since we were seated pretty much in the back of the plane. I literally could look out my window and see only the engine. No joke. I had no view.
Of course, everyone had a tight flight to catch so everyone (tight connection or not) disembarked as usual. We decided to have Paul run ahead and see if he could catch the gate agent for our flight and have them hold the plane for us as we all made our way that way. He is very good at sprinting with a suitcase. I am not good at running with a backpack on. And Melissa was in winter boots and Cathy is not a runner. One train ride and an elevator climb later, and we managed to be near the back of the line for boarding. But we got on the plane and were NYC bound.
Baggage claim was easy at La Guardia and Cathy put in the call to the car service we always use in NYC to take us to the hotel. The van arrived to pick us up and we loaded in, somewhere near midnight or 1 am…and made our way to Manhattan and the Shoreham.
I was holding out hope that our hotel mishap was being taken care of, but when Cathy checked us in, the guy behind the desk didn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that they were giving us a 1 bed, 141 sq food room…to four people. Nope. He passed us the keys and played it off like it was nothing.
Guess what. It’s something. The room was SO small that after we rearranged it to hopefully fit a roll-away in, which Cathy had to call down to the desk to have brought up, and had the guy who brought it up look around and go, “I have NO idea where we can put this” (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), we ended up pushing the actual bed all the way across the room to rest against the window. The roll-away was set up right next to that, and then, we sort of put a bench and chair together and made an extra bit of bed.
Paul took the bench/chair and Melissa was on the cot. Paul was, actually, halfway onto the cot too. It was a mess. And it was crowded. And it was uncomfortable. But we made it work. And we were never really falling over each other when we were in the room. No waiting on the bathroom…we just sort of worked it out without even saying anything.
Welcome, friends…to the Suede Tomb. Thankfully, we packed our days and nights in NYC and the room would basically just be used for sleeping. It was close to 2 am and we were setting our phones for a morning wake-up to get up, get breakfast, and head to the race expo. It wasn’t going to be a night for lots of sleep, but at least we could get some.
The following morning meant showers (which we managed without ever hogging the bathroom too much or too long) and then we were off to breakfast at the local Fresh & Co after grabbing coffee at our favorite coffee shop in all of NYC…Tisserie. We all got the Nutella Mocha and snagged whatever sounded good for breakfast. I got a gluten-free bagel that had delicious avocado in it and some other stuff. It was delicious…and I wanted it again on our last day there…but that didn’t work out as we hit Fresh & Co as they switched to lunch that day. MEH.
But I digress…
It was race expo time. And I love me some race expo experiences. New York never disappoints. The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon Expo is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and is easy to spot with all the race flags standing outside. You feel so welcome and get all the excitement upon entering. For this race in particular, they assign bib numbers on demand, which means you don’t get assigned your bib number until you get there. And it’s random. You do know what wave you are in and what corral though…the rest of it just depends on where you stand in line to get a bib.
I was Wave 1 and Corral E and my bib number ended up being 1956. They stuck on the sticker to my Wave 1 yellow-green bib (Wave 2 was a blue) for my corral (E) and sent me on my way to get my t-shirts and get any photos taken that I wanted in front of the race backdrops. The race shirts were running smaller than I expected, but mine seemed to just fit, so I kept it. Melissa and Paul got their numbers and shirts as well and we went to get photos taken before hitting up the rest of the expo…which was basically shopping.
Thankfully…I bought my swag ahead of time because they always run out of my sizes. Cathy got me a finisher’s shirt. The only thing I really wanted was the best winter hat to ever exist, but they sold out of that quick. Probably because it was soul-crushingly cold that weekend and everyone wanted hats. Melissa had snagged one prior to the race online. As in…the last one. It wasn’t meant to be. I was bummed, but I have plenty of hats as it is. We took photos with our names on the wall…snagged some free United Airlines buffs that were being handed out…and got on our way to explore some of NYC before heading to dinner that night.
As with every pre-race meal in NYC…it was pizza night, and of course we went to Don Antonio’s is my go-to place for both gluten-free and vegan pizza. They have a regular menu and a gluten-free menu and take very good care to keep everything safe for you to eat. Melissa and I split the Senza Glutine Marinara Pizza. Melissa also snagged a couple of gluten-free appetizers to share. Cathy and Paul split a regular pizza and each got one of their signature dough puffs to eat. The food was plentiful and we were definitely full and ready to hike back to the hotel to get everything ready for the following morning. And, yes, we managed to do this and schedule alarms so that we could all function and get what we needed done in the morning.
With the first alarm early in the morning, I was up and at them first to put on my winter tights, an undershirt, my fleece lined tech-top I love wearing due to the collar…and then brushed my teeth and went to step out of the bathroom for the next person to do what they needed to do. While Melissa, Paul, and Cathy took their turns in the bathroom, I did up my hair, put on my socks and compression sleeves, put on my winged anklet, got my Dunkin Donuts winter hat (the one I got from the 2014 NYC Marathon) on my head, snagged my gloves, and opted to give the buff we got for free at the expo a chance. I had nothing really to eat in the room, but I brought a Larabar to the start line to eat in the corrals prior to the race. That went into my fuel belt to stay close to my body to keep it from getting rock hard in the cold. We headed out the door to get to the train station and take the subway to Brooklyn. We had to wait in the station for awhile, and when the train did arrive, it was already packed. We managed to squeak our way in…and with each additional stop…every car just kept getting fuller. And despite the driver announcing that the train was full and to wait for the train behind us…we kept having people push their way into our car. Now I was suffocating and dying, especially when the air conditioning would cut off.
But we made it to the Prospect Park stop and disembarked and began to make our way to the starting area, where we would have to go through security. This was where we had to split from Cathy. She was going to get back on a train and go to Mile 3 (just after the runners come over the Manhattan Bridge) to hopefully catch me there.
At the start line…we had very little time to hang around and talk. After getting through security, I needed to drink my pre-workout drink and eat my Larabar so I wasn’t running a half marathon on an empty tank. I ate my Larabar while Melissa and Paul fueled up as well…and then I needed to get into my corral in Wave 1. They were in Wave 2, and apparently had to hunker down in the cold shade and try not to freeze for over an hour. YUCK!
As for me…I started drinking my water and making my way up to Corral E. There were going to be quite a few starts, so I was NOT shedding my toss-away clothes (yep…I hit Goodwill the day before and picked up clothes to shed since it was going to be freezing at the start line) until I absolutely had to.
The National Anthem was sung…and the wheelchairs and elites were sent off. It took a long while for me to get up close enough to shed clothing, but I finally did. And soon, it was my corral’s turn to get ready to go. As we were standing in the cold wind, the woman behind me pointed to one of the free United Airlines buffs that was shed by runners before us and said, “Not going to lie…I’m tempted to pick that up.” I told her I wouldn’t judge. HA! But soon, we were sent off…and it was time to run through the streets of Brooklyn.
The first 2 miles are spent running the streets of Brooklyn. And then, the first climb happens as you start up the Manhattan Bridge. I know that the bridges in NYC are beasts, but this actually slowed me down more than I would have liked. But, as this was being treated as a training run, I wasn’t really focusing on my pace. This would turn out to be a very good thing as the race continued. Crossing the bridge was great. You could see the Statue of Liberty from there…and it was clear and beautiful and COLD that morning. I put my head down and came down the other side of the bridge, feeling like a rockstar for sure.
Cathy was near the turn before heading into the 5K and I waved and smiled as I ran through and began to take in the miles before Times Square. Times Square was such a highlight for me in 2016 when I ran the old course. This course was definitely tougher, as when we started in Central Park…we got the hills out of the way early. Now…now they were at the end. So these were the flat miles in between. Miles 3-7 are downhill to flat and I loved them. It just felt good to run, and have the spectators that were out braving the cold yell motivation to you. I was crossing a bridge near the 10K mark when I spotted Lottie (aka: runningonveggies) doing her thing. I wanted to shout-out to her, but I wasn’t sure she’d hear me and I am…nobody…and she’s like…super amazing. She looked strong.
Coming into Central Park, I knew there was a chance that Cathy wouldn’t make it to see me there. It all depends on the trains. Apparently she got out of the subway about 45 seconds before I was supposed to hit Times Square based on the tracker. She at first decided she wasn’t going to make it, but then changed her mind and did the “Sixth Avenue Sprint” to Times Square, where she did actually catch me and I could hear her shouting and waving at me from the other side of the barricades. Just the uplift I needed at that point, because we were heading up toward Central Park, which meant some minor rollers until hitting the park just before Mile 9. For a few moments in Times Squre, however, I was running next to former NYC Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg, which was super cool. She was getting a lot of shout-outs from volunteers and NYRR…but I turned my attention back to the entrance to Central Park. Here come the hills.
This is also where my watch got WAY off on the mileage and pace due to the buildings in Manhattan…and the rest of the race was just guess work at this point.
My friend Michael told me he would be at Mile 10 near Cat Hill in Central Park with his friends cheering on runners. So I had that to look forward to. And, sure enough, as I was making the ugly climb up Cat Hill…I heard him shout my name, I turned and managed to wave before continuing to die a little on that hill. Somewhere around Mile 11, a woman decided she would cross the road with her dog while texting on her phone right in front of me and a few other runners. She got yelled at by quite a few people who she disrupted. I mean…come on!
There seemed like more uphills than downhills for that last 5K…and my watch was beeping with the distance about .9 miles off of what it was supposed to be. I’m not lying. I was pretty much a mile ahead of myself via my GPS…which was not making me happy, despite not being one who glances at my watch during the race. I don’t like to put any pressure on myself, but now I was questioning if my GPS was off or the course was long. There was no way to really know. The GPS was off (thanks Times Square and Manhattan)…so when I took that downhill toward the finish line…I crossed with 14.02 miles on my watch and crazy fast splits showing me running a mile in under 6 minutes. HA!! I wish!! So, that was the disappointing part if I had to pick one. Because I love reviewing my actual splits to see what I need to work on after a race. It was fun though…and, despite never being warm during the entire run…I was elated to be done. And super surprised with my time.
After finishing and getting my race medal and a mylar blanket, we were loaded down with snacks and sent hiking out of the park. This walk takes a good 30 minutes to accomplish. I made friends with a nice lady named Wendy and we talked until she had to veer off to bag check to get her stuff. I finally could see the statue marking Columbus Circle, which was where runners were exiting and were spectators were told would be the best spot to reunite with their runners. I spotted Cathy immediately and she came over to give me a hug. I desperately needed coffee, and she had suffered through McDonald’s coffee and wanted good coffee…so we made our way to Tisserie (which was on the race course) and each got a drink. I got a Café Au Lait with Almond Milk and it was one of the best things I had ever drank. I needed that to start to warm myself up. But after checking the app to check in on Melissa and Paul (they were Wave 2 and started about an hour after me) we saw they were coming up to the area we were drinking our coffee. So, we stepped outside and found a spot on the rail to watch for them.
At one point, a guy from Norway ran over to me and took a picture with me. Random. But amusing. And then…we saw them coming. Cathy and I shouted to them about how they were killing it, and while Melissa didn’t believe me…she was running NYC. How cool is that?!
As they headed toward the park, Cathy and I hightailed it back to the hotel so I could shower and change and head back out to meet up with them after the race. We got to Columbus Circle as they were nearing the finish line. And when they crossed, I let them know, via text, that we were waiting for them there. Their phone was almost dead, but Melissa was able to fire a response back. We waited until we spotted them and flagged them down. The hills had definitely taken their toll on Melissa’s Achilles, so we got her settled for a moment to rest and rant all she needed. Paul dug food out of the snack pack for the two of them. Once they had rested, we took them back to the hotel to shower and chill before we went out to our celebratory dinner at Red Rooster that night.
THAT. WAS. FUN. And the food was amazing.
The new NYC course is definitely much harder than the old one…but I ended up running this one 2 minutes faster. So…I count that as a win. A course PR and a race PR. WOOT!
So…the official results of the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon was that I finished with an official time of 1:41:29…and that was closer to the 13.1 than the 14.02 my watch showed. I swear. I was 2773/21,995 finishers this year. I was 557/11,075 female finishers. And I was 86/1847 finishers in my age division. I couldn’t be happier with these results considering how much stress I went into NYC with and how cold weather affects my body. I had a blast and would love to do this again.
Or at least get a cute winter hat.
The remaining days in NYC were spent exploring and eating. And the best of the best was going up to the top of the Empire State Building at night, freezing, and taking pictures and just living life.
And that’s what this was all about. Fun, friends…and finish lines.
Anyone else out there have a problem with patience? Especially when it comes to being patient with yourself?
STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.
And…its my impatience (I totally blame being a go-getter New Yorker) that often leads me to setbacks that don’t move me forward and only end up dragging me down and feeling defeated.
I’m trying to break the mold this time around. And…trust me…this isn’t easy. Not at all. As I mentioned before, I recently participated in The Dopey Challenge at Disney World. Over 4 days, I ran 4 races…each of which got longer in length (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon), and I actually did really well on the races, given that I was bouncing into the parks every day and not resting up the legs. Honestly…I’m so super proud of my performance. This being the 2nd time I’ve participated in The Dopey Challenge and having improved on all the times of the races I actually raced (10K, Half, Full), I felt amazing (mentally) but tired and sore (physically) following the actual events. I went into the weekend with a sinus cold and came out of it with the Disney flu. I took a lot of days to recover…from sickness and the races. I knew, following Dopey, that I would need to let my body recover well. I still probably would have gone back to it sooner had my body not been drained from sickness. This past week, I decided to give easing back into it a try.
And I started on Wednesday with an hour long spin class…that totally kicked my ass. I was done within the first 20 minutes…my power, energy and speed all really dropping down. Our spin bikes light up to tell what zone you are in and I didn’t even care that I was in the white and blue instead of yellow and red like the rest of the class. I had to listen to my body. And while I valued the movement, I wasn’t going to push myself to try to hit a level my body wasn’t ready to reach yet.
Call that growth, because I do believe the me of the past would have felt the need to press on and keep up with the rest of the class. But I’ve also had a recurring stream of injuries to deal with the past 3 years. After building up and failing over and over again…you do actually gain wisdom. There is no shame in listening to your body and backing off intensity as you see fit. I put this body through a lot physically both with the races and then trying to fight off illness…it’s no wonder my body isn’t feeling as strong as it used to be.
Have I lost some fitness…you better believe I have. Some mornings, it is a struggle to just simply get through my PT exercises. And for as much as I have stressed their importance to me coming back stronger, the past 3 weeks have seen little to none of the stretches and exercises I was prescribed. And I didn’t feel guilty about it. My body needed the sleep and the time on the couch more than it needed the movement.
But, like any active person, my body does crave movement. I like moving my body. I just needed to give myself the time to get to where it could handle some. Nothing big. No long miles or hard runs. No pushing the limits on the spin bike. Just gentle movement.
This past weekend, with the weather warming up and the snow and ice melting away, I took advantage with my first run since Dopey. And, while I was out there for 30 minutes, believe it or not…only 8 minutes of it was actually spent running. I took my time to warm up with 5 minutes of walking…then did 4 x 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking…then a 5 minute cool down. And it felt hard…and amazing all at once. And that was how I needed to take it. I’m not ashamed that I only ran 8 minutes. I’m damn proud of those 8 minutes and what my body managed to do in that time. I took Sunday off completely and didn’t feel bad about it.
Today, it was close to 60 degrees this morning. So, I decided I would pull on a pair of SHORTS and take advantage by doing a short run. I decided to just run…easy…and deliberately…keeping the heart rate down…but do it without the walk breaks. It was the struggle bus. My body is still recovering, but I managed to do 20 minutes and keep the heart rate in Zones 1 and 2. I count that as a win. I went to spin afterwards, and that’s when my body let me know it was too much for the day. The first half of class I felt strong and almost normal, but my energy levels crashed soon after that…so I turned down the resistance, sat down when I needed, and just let my body do what it needed.
I’m not mad. I’m recovering. And I will still take complete rest days and lift lighter weights when strength training…and keep the intensity down. The me of the past would have taken this as failure…but I feel so empowered that I can trust my body, my mind, and myself to practice patience and self-love and trust that I will grow from this. Constant forward progression. Tired of taking steps back. It’s all a matter of changing the mindset. And I still struggle…but I know, in the end, this will make me a better, faster, stronger athlete.
AND…as another form of self-care and self-love, let me also emphasize that just because I am not working out doesn’t mean I’m not fueling my body. My body went through a lot and proper nutrition is key. I am not just eating fruit and low calorie foods just because I’m not working out. WRONG. I have actually changed a lot of what I eat to give me more nutrients and better sources of vitamins and fuel to help this body maintain fitness and strength through all of it. Starving your body only starves yourself of further potential and forward progress.
Patience is not an easy thing to practice. It’s something that can gnaw at you and really make you question yourself. Learning how to be patient with my body and myself has been one of the hardest things I have set out to do…and while it’s still a constant work in progress…I can see where my mindset has changed so that I am kinder to myself and…more willing to give myself the time I need to get to where I feel I want to be.
If there is one thing I might have taken for granted or just not done properly in the past…it’s taken recovery time. No runner likes time off. I have yet to meet one who actually does proper recovery after hard efforts or distance races.
I actually did this time.
Some of it might have been forced. After all…thanks to the petri dish of germs that is Disney (especially on Marathon Weekend), I came down with the Disney Flu. Yay. And no, this doesn’t come with fun Mickey Ears and character experiences. It comes with a big dose of Theraflu and sleep.
I mean…it has been non-stop since I returned from the freezer that was Orlando over Marathon weekend. Coughing. The coughing is the killer. I am finally able to breathe again. Thank you for calming down sinuses. Remember…a co-worker gave me a sinus-only cold before I even left for Dopey. Run all the races. Go to all the parks. Is it any wonder I ended up like this?
Has my recovery been a bit forced? Perhaps. But here’s the thing…
I set a goal this year. A goal of having an injury-free 2018. So when my running coach tells me to rest…dammit…I’m resting. When my mileage is lower than I like it to be…well…so be it. Trust the process, right? I have a few other big goals I’m hoping to reach in the next year or two…so I have to learn to believe in myself…and the method that will help me get there more efficiently than…past attempts.
I admit to, in the past, rushing back into activities. I bounce back quickly. I do. But I also break down too. We all do. We just don’t always like to admit to it.
Here’s the thing…we might feel good…but we put our bodies through a lot and push it to the limit, not just in races…but in training too. Maybe moreso in training…and we’re LESS likely to take recovery/rest days during training. I don’t care what distance you raced…if you raced…RECOVER!! Like…actually recover!! Would I have taken time off if I hadn’t caught the Disney Crud? Yep. I actually would have. Like I said, I have big goals this year and to achieve them, I need to respect my body and learn a little patience.
I mean…granted, I hurt for about 3 days following the Dopey Challenge…but I also pushed through most of the 48.6 (and more) miles that I covered over the course of the weekend. And that’s just running. I still had parks to visit in between. Because, as much as I’d love to lay low…I pay for those Disney tickets and they aren’t cheap. By God, I was going to get my money’s worth. Park hopping…princess hunting…fast passing rides…all of it. I was doing it. And…I did it. All.
But it doesn’t have to be The Dopey Challenge to make taking down time a priority. Any race…any distance…anywhere where you push yourself more or further…do yourself a favor. Take some time off. Depending on the race distance…it could be a week…it could be two…it could be more. Don’t think you HAVE to get to the gym the day after a half marathon or hop on a spin bike or even go for a “recovery run.” Let’s face it…whether you back of the speed or not…a 6 mile run is generally a 6 mile run…”recovery” or not. I listened to a podcast recently from a running coach who said that there was absolutely no such thing as a recovery run. You’re still putting in an effort and working the same muscles that your regular runs do. And most people don’t actually run these that much slower. Your entire body needs to heal up to get stronger…don’t rush the process. You might feel good immediately after the event…but you’ve still put that body through a lot. You might feel good a week after…and you still might need more down time, depending on the distance that you ran.
Remember…there is no such thing as over-training…just under recovery.
RECOVERY…is super important. I have been fortunate enough that my recovery time has fallen when it’s gotten stupid cold outside, with the addition of some ice and snow on the ground. Bonus. I’m always cold…so I hate running in the cold. And I especially hate winter weather running.
In addition, let me be the first to remind you that you should NEVER stop eating properly or regularly despite recovery time. Your body needs all those nutrition benefits, especially as you recover from a hard effort. With the Disney Flu…I have still maintained my regular food times. I mean, I do live on a schedule. What I have done is simply change what I have been eating. Mostly because I can’t taste flavors right now…and just eating food for texture isn’t working for me. So, soup and chili have been my go-tos. But I am making sure I am hitting all my nutrition needs every day. And yes…I’m eating well and I’m definitely eating enough calories each day. Eat well, eat enough, eat healthy. So many people focus on weight and get really crazy with their nutrition. When you’re training, you need to eat. And you need to eat well. When you’re recovering…you also need to eat…and yes…you need to eat well. Now is not the time to cut down on your nutrition. I promise…you aren’t going to get fat.
As I stated, for the past two weeks…all I’ve really wanted it soup. That being said…I love that soup has so many different varieties out there because it keeps it interesting. I’ve been serving mine up with different gluten-free crackers. And sometimes I add avocado or something to bulk it up. I mean…who doesn’t love tomato soup with a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich? I know my body needs certain things to stay in good shape even when I’m not working out as much. NEVER skimp on nutrition when you are training or recovering.
So…I’m on the mend. I took time off from work to sleep and recovery both before I left for Disney (initial sinus bleh) and then basically all the rest of the week after I got back from Disney. Sleep and rest and proper nutrition have definitely helped me bounce back from not just the races…but the sickness too. My muscles don’t ache anymore (also…thank you Roll Recovery!) because I’ve let them heal and get stronger. I’ve been using my new Roll Recovery R8 and R3…as well as my foam roller. And stretching. Never underestimate the power of stretching. I even went to 2 of my spin classes this past week. I took it easy. I didn’t push as hard as I normally would. And I still felt like it kicked my ass. I’m not mad. I’m taking my time.
That being said…if you thought I was a germophobe before…you should see me now…
Remember, friends…living your best life is all about balance. Find time to rest…recovery…find balance…eat well…play…laugh…and yes…return to that activity you love…once your body is stronger from the respect and rest you allowed it.
I took 2 weeks off…and I still feel I fatigue easily. I’m easing back into with with longer walks and short run segments. And I still feel like I’m a badass. I’m a very smart…totally recovered…less injury-prone badass!!
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” — The Emperor, Mulan.
I can do hard things.
That became my mantra during the last run of The Dopey Challenge this past weekend. To be honest, I think the whole experience was a comedy of errors, but it led to four amazing and different finish lines.
Four races. Four days. Four different distances, each race getting longer. And the hardest part to grasp as that you aren’t even halfway through the entire mileage by the third race.
I did the Dopey Challenge during its Inaugural year, in 2014. I felt invincible back then and went into it with little training and no plan. And it was amazing and inspiring and fun. I missed out in 2016 when I thought I would give it another go due to lingering hip injuries. That was a lot of money to lose out on…trust me. MEH!
I never even thought of running in it again (okay…I perhaps thought about it every year it did run…but never pulled the trigger, really gun-shy about what this body could actually manage anymore), but then, last year, I became great friends with Melissa and Paul…and with a little peer pressure…I found myself registered for the 5th Anniversary of the Dopey Challenge (and also the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon).
With two setback with the opposite hip that has the labrum tear this past year (in January and July, I believe)…I was really starting to lose hope that Dopey or even marathon running would happen again. I had to defer Chicago due to lingering hip issues back in September, which broke my heart and did nothing to boost my confidence. It was through my last round of physical therapy and adopting a run/walk method on long runs that I managed to get through Dopey training (I think to the surprise of everyone, including my coach, bless her) in one piece.
Because after the holidays, I had a 3 day stint at work…where people returned to the office sick. And despite my best efforts…I caught the crud. I started feeling bad on Friday night. Saturday I went to bed before 8 pm after cancelling my last training run and basically living on the couch. Same story on Sunday. Sunday was also New Years Eve…and I couldn’t even ring in the new year. I was in bed before 8 pm again. I woke up feeling a little better on Monday, but not wanting to risk anything, I called in sick to work and stayed home to finish packing before being taken to the airport by our dear friend and neighbor, Laura.
So…here I was…heading into a 4-race series….with a lingering cold, a damaged immune system…and into a Florida cold snap. No joke. The weather turned at the start of the year. It went from being lows of 50s and highs of mid-70s…to below freezing temps. Considering my costumes I was going to run in consisted mainly of tank tops…some modifications had to be made.
I arrived in Orlando late on Tuesday night. My rommie and I had a hotel room off-property that night, just giving us an extra day to not rush through the runDisney expo, packet pick-up, and all that craziness. We went to our favorite Orlando eat spot…Toasted…where I could get a Gluten Free and Vegan grilled cheese sandwich with a side Gluten Free Truffle Fries. I got The Inferno…which is their house-made vegan cheese (this stuff melts AMAZING), tomato, jalapeno, and sriracha. SO good. I figured the spice might help the whole sinus situation I had going on. This is where the madness began. Upon returning to the hotel, I realized that my pajamas never made it into my luggage…so I was now sleeping in my plane clothes. Whatever. We decided that the following morning, we’d hit up Target and Publix for pajamas, snacks, water, and other necessary items.
When we woke up that morning, it was pouring down rain in Orlando. We bundled up in hoodies and went out to the stores. We even picked up a few requested items for our friends, Melissa and Paul, who had spent the New Year at Disney. We got all of that together and headed to Disney Springs to park and head to Erin McKenna’s, the gluten-free bakery there, where we picked up a Scone (which we split right then), a Thin Mint Cookie (and one for Melissa for her birthday), a Cinnamon Roll, a couple of Donuts, and a slice of her Lemon Tea Cake. Then, we headed over to Pop Century to pick up Melissa and Paul so we could all head to the expo together and do the whole packet pick-up, expo, shopping thing together.
It was a mess. We ended up standing in the rain for a good chunk of it. Cathy had ducked into CVS before we headed to Disney property for ponchos and only found child sizes. Mine was super tiny (but had Disney princesses on it) and hers ripped as she unfolded it. So…staying dry wasn’t happening. All of this wasn’t helping the whole cold/sinus issue I was still dealing with at this point either. We got into the building and followed the line down to the area where you show your ID, turn in your waiver, and get your bib. If you’re doing the challenge (and the 3 of us were), you get your photo taken so they can confirm that it was, in fact, you, who finished. After that, we were ready to get our official merch on and then hit the expo. Cathy had gone on ahead to get in the Official Merchandise line…and it was a line. Over a 2 hour wait…mostly outside…mostly uncovered. Melissa and Paul had pre-purchased items, which normally, you would just go ahead and get without having to stand in said line…because you did, after all, pre-purchase them. No such luck. We decided it wasn’t worth it and headed into the other part of the expo where the vendors were.
I felt that the vendor area was much smaller and had fewer products/companies that I recognized. I didn’t see Nuun or Newton there, which I had been hoping for. I need to get more Nuun tablets, and my roommate forgot to bring my new pair of Newtons home from work with her on Tuesday, so I had one pair of shoes for all four races. My intent had been to purchase new shoes at the expo. I could wear them in the shorter races and feel confident that I would be fine. No luck. I did end up getting the Roll Recovery R8 and R3 rollers for a huge discounted price at the expo. And I am totally in love with these products. Cathy went in search of BondiBand and got me needed bands for two of my costumes…and a bonus one she said I had to have. She was right. HA! And after that…we gave up and headed back to Pop Century. The weather was cold, but we had some Fast Passes at Animal Kingdom with Melissa and Paul (it was Melissa’s birthday so we were totally making a day of it…and so far it wasn’t going right), so we parked at their resort, hopped the Animal Kingdom bus and went on the Kilimajaro Safari, the new Flights of Passage in the Avartar part of the park (OMG…THIS RIDE!), and went out for a birthday celebration meal at Melissa’s favorite spot, Tiffins.
I ordered the Autumn Vegetable Harvest, which was a Roasted Red Kuri Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Custard, Black Rice, Baby Spinach, Pumpkin Seed Pistou, and Cranberry. It tasted like Thanksgiving. It was SO good. And of course, dessert happened. Both Melissa and I got the Neapolitan Macaroon off the kids menu, FTW! After dinner, we took the bus back to Pop Century, told Melissa and Paul we would see them bright and early for the 5K the following morning and headed to Port Orleans Riverside to claim our room. It was late when we arrived and we had a 3 am wake up call facing us down. So, we hauled our luggage up in two trips and got ready for bed. Cathy noted that the bathroom door was latching strange, but nothing too bad. Loved the royal room…and this time we had a gorgeous view of the courtyard. Lights out. We were down for the day.
Walt Disney World 5K
Race: Walt Disney World 5K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 4, 2018
“The belonging you seek is not behind you…it is ahead.” — Maz Kanata, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Disney doesn’t officially time their 5Ks. Did you know that? It’s true. And with everything happening in 4 days if you’re doing Dopey…this is probably a good thing. I had an alarm set for 3 am to change into my costume for the 5K, modified due to cold temperatures (it was below freezing that morning and my original costume was Tron…I ended up bringing BB-8, with a fleece top and a base layer to go under the actual bra top). I got up, used the bathroom, and started to change. Cathy went into the bathroom after me, and as I am pulling on my orange CEP Compression sleeves, I hear her messing with the door knob. She says, “I can’t get the door to open.” WHAT?! So, I let her jiggle and mess with it while I layered up. When she still wasn’t out of there and I had tried from my side and she had tried from hers…I called the front desk and explained that we were doing the 5K that morning and that my roommate was trapped in the bathroom in our room. She had me try to get the latch to release with a credit card…and that didn’t work. So she said she would send someone up.
Meanwhile, she has me scoot her clothes under the door to her so she can change while we wait on help. I am texting Melissa and Paul and trying not to panic and laugh at the same time. Steve, the manager on duty, knocks on the door. He comes in and tries the door knob. Nope. Stuck. So he leaves to go get a screwdriver. He returns…and still has no luck. He tells me that I need to get to the start line…so I’m putting on my throwaway clothes (remember…it’s freezing here) and he said he was going to get another tool and try again. In the process of doing that, he also calls 911 to get the fire department out and calls their engineering department, and whoever got there first, he promised, would get Cathy out. I tossed on my BB-8 winter hat and told Cathy that I hoped to see her at the finish line. I had to pin my bib on myself (in all my years of running, she has always done that for me. I’m spoiled), and I headed out the door. I texted Melissa and Paul as I headed toward the bus line for the 5K shuttle to the start. I got to talking to the people in line about the saga that morning, and they were all, “What room are you in? I want to know how this turns out!” HAHA!
Just as I was getting on a bus, Cathy texts to say that she’s free and that the fire department had to come and use an ax to free her from her bathroom prison. She was given a voucher for a taxi to take her to the start line so we hoped we would all meet there. I arrived just as Melissa and Paul were getting there too. With no bag to check, I could skip security and wandered into the staging area where I stood at a sign and waited for Melissa and Paul. They arrived. And Cathy arrived. And our friend Stephanie arrived. And two friends of Paul and Melissa also arrived, Chris and Christy (I might have misspelled her name). We were all going to chill on the 5K…take it easy…and save our legs for later races. I rarely get to hang with a group on runs, so this was exciting for me. I lined up in Corral D with my friends (my bib was for Corral A) and we made our way through the new wave start, ditching our warm layers as we move ahead. Soon…it was our turn and we were off.
The 5K was pretty crowded, but we had no time goals. The plan was to just make our way through the course, stopping for pictures if we wanted, and just having a blast. As we were heading into, or just past Mile 1…a person in front of me moved and I didn’t see the traffic cone in the path. Down I went. Hard. On my hands and my right knee. Melissa made an attempt to grab me and Stephanie helped me up. Everyone was making sure I was okay. I shook it off. The knee stung, but nothing bad. I was probably too numb from the 28 degree (not including wind chill) morning that day to even notice. We carried on through Epcot, stopping to take some photos with Spaceship Earth in the background, with Genie from Aladdin, and then made our way to the finish line.
5K…done. I had such a blast. I even danced across the finish line. It was only after the sit on the bus back that my knee really started to throb. I looked down and noticed blood on my black pants. Plot twist. Also…thanks to the bathroom door needing to be broken into with an ax…Cathy was told that after the race, we needed to pack up our things and have Bell Services get our stuff and move us to a new room. Melissa and Paul were kind enough to take the shuttle to our resort to help with that…and we got it done and ready and out the door. We all went over to Port Orleans French Quarter for the Gluten Free Beignets and coffee. They needed to go get warm and were going to try to hit up the expo after showers and Cathy and I were heading to Epcot for the day. Our first Fast Pass was for Spaceship Earth…but it broke down as we were standing in line. Of course it did. So…we wandered around Epcot and did the rest of our stuff until it was time to head to dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel. They didn’t have gluten free chips for the salsa, but brought me some tortillas so I could have some and Cathy didn’t dip…she used her spoon to put things on the chips. I got the Enchiladas de Vegetales, which came with a vegan version of their rice and refried black beans. It was corn tortillas filled with vegetables, and smothered in salsa verde. It was really good…but I don’t think I’ll do Mexican before a race in the future.
Cathy and I returned to Port Orleans Riverside…and I had to go to the concierge because we never got a text with a new room. Turns out, they replaced the door and we weren’t moving. I was limping at this point, mind you, because my knee was killing me. As we were making the walk to the room, I said, “I hope they moved our stuff back in then.” They hadn’t. This meant another call to Bell Services and needing to wait an extra 30 minutes before even being ready to lay out race gear for the 10K, get ready for bed, and turn in for the night. It was a mess. But things showed up…we did the best we could to do a few things quickly, and called it a night. Another 3 am alarm was set.
Walt Disney World 10K
Race: Walt Disney World 10K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 5, 2018
“You can’t focus on what’s going wrong. There is always a way to turn things around.” — Joy, Inside Out
This was the race I had it in my head to actually race this weekend. Until I got sick. And until I banged up my knee the day before. It was hard to walk, I wasn’t exactly sure how running was going to go. But the 3 am wake up came and no one got trapped in the bathroom. We were off to a good start.
In fact, I layered up (again), because my I was being Joy from Inside Out, and Melissa and Paul were going to be Disgust and Fear. I love that I was costuming with friends. It was fun. But Joy’s dress was a tank top that I was going to put shorts under, originally…until the weather changed. With a morning that was 37 degrees, without the wind chill (and the wind was fierce and cold that day), I put on the black base layer I had used with my BB-8 costume, the leggings I had worn with BB-8, and worked the rest of it the best I could. It had to do under the weather circumstances. No hat…but I did pull the BondiBand over my ears to hopefully keep those warm. Cathy pinned me and we headed to the bus to get taken to the staging area at the start of the 10K.
I hunkered down since we were there so early and took a nap. Melissa and Paul somehow managed to slip past Cathy and were, very smartly, gathered near one of the heating lamps at the center of the staging area. We got up to meet them, and Stephanie, Chris and Christie were there too. We took pictures, but I refused to shed the throw-away clothes right then. Too cold. The mylar wrap was staying as well. Just after 5, I ate my banana and we headed to the corrals. We were going to take a photo of the Inside Out characters…but Coral A (my corral) already queued. I had to now go into Corral B. Who puts a corral at the start line that early? UGH. I had to say a quick goodbye. Got hugs…and went in…bobbing in and out of people in an attempt to move forward. No luck.
I shed the throw-away clothes as we neared the start line and my wave finally went off. It was cold, so thankfully I didn’t feel my knee bothering me. I ran calmly and smartly…the first mile meaning I had to bob and weave through the waves of people who went off ahead. Some of which were walking this one too. I still had hopes of racing this one and maybe coming close to beating my 10K PR. It was still hard for me to breathe (thanks sinuses), but I pressed on through. I managed a respectable time, even with all the dodging I had to do. Mile 1 clipped off and we made a hair-point turn and headed up a hill. I felt strong and was passing a lot of people…but hills and I are not friends and it did slow me down. But what a confidence booster. Somewhere in Mile 2 a guy snot rocketed on me. I turned from Joy to Disgust for just a moment. Miles 3-5 were amazing and fast. Those were the parts that were actually in Epcot and not out on the highway. I think distractions are a big help. And they always do up Epcot great with cast members out to cheer and support you. The lights were awesome. I heard one cast member shout…”Happiness is here…I mean Joy. Joy is here!” HA! Since I was racing, I opted to skip the character stops and pushed on for a strong finish, past Spaceship Earth and around the corner back into the parking lots. I stopped my watch after crossing and was shocked that I was closer to 48 minutes than my hoped for 44 minutes.
You know…running with sinus issues and a badly bruised up knee…I gladly took it.
My official results of the Walt Disney World 10K were that I finished in 47:40. I was 266/12,881 finishers overall. I was 41/7618 female finishers. And I was 12/1245 people in my age division. Not too shabby at all!
I went back to the resort to shower and change and head out to the parks that day. Cathy and I had some Fast Passes to hit up in Magic Kingdom that day. We ended up getting everything done there (including Dole Whip…despite the cold temperatures) and hopped back to Animal Kingdom, where Melissa and Paul were hanging for the day. We met up after I snagged a hummus and veggies snack from the Gluten Free cart and some iced coffee (The iced coffee and Animal Kingdom is the best…and despite the cold…I needed it in my life).
Melissa and Paul were able to get me on Everest with them so I did get to have some roller coaster fun. Which was amazing. I love coasters and rides, but Cathy isn’t the biggest fans of most of them. She’ll do some…but they usually aren’t the ones we like to do. And…at one point, we were hiking through Pandora and saw sunlight coming through the tree and it was SO picturesque. It was like a painting or straight from the movie (I guess…I never have actually seen Avatar).
We hung out until we took the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner that night at Sanaa.
Melissa and I split the gluten free bread service and Cathy and Paul go the regular one. We enjoyed that before feasting that night on the amazing food there. I got the Chickpea Wat and the Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables with Basmati Rice. It was so good and we were so full. Afterwards, we took a bus back to a park where we could hop to our respective resorts. I got all the half marathon stuff together as far as my outfit and called it a night. I set an alarm for 1:50 am and another for 2:50 am. The resort wanted people at the buses by 3:30 the following morning to get to the start on time. We called it a night.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon
Race: Walt Disney World Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 6, 2018
“Every dream begins somewhere. Some are born to greatness, and some find greatness on their own.” –Monsters University
And so half marathon morning dawned. I still felt like crap. My knee was tight and painful…but it was bandaged across the cut. I had taken the bandage off when I ran as Joy and had meant to do it for this costume too…but forgot. It was 2:50 am. I can focus on one thing at a time.
I got up with the alarm and went to get myself ready. Today I was running as Boo from Monsters, Inc. Melissa was costuming as Roz and Paul was going to be a CDA hazmat guy. These were the costumes I was really looking forward to wearing. Mostly because Melissa pointed out the subtle humor that she and Paul would be chasing me the entire race. LOVE!! Even better…today’s costume had short sleeves and long pants. So, I added arm warmers as it was a chilly 39 degrees that felt still below freezing. These temperatures were starting to really get on my nerves. They were also starting to catch up to Cathy. Bless her…we’re at least moving. She is sitting on cold bleachers for over an hour at the finish line.
I got dressed…grabbed some Lara Bites (I didn’t plan out pre-race food for this…I was working on feeling better and it slipped my mind) and a banana to take to the race start. I piled on my throw-away clothes to stay warm, grabbed the mylar from the day before, and headed out the door. There were plenty of people stirring this morning as we all had received the call that we needed to be on buses by 3:30 to make it to the start line. The deal is…for the Disney World Half and Full Marathons, you make a 1.5 mile hike to the starting corrals. So, they want to be sure you have ample time for that. We were texting with Melissa and Paul and they were going to head out. We got a bus…settled in for the short drive to Epcot…and arrived to file in line and get through security. No bags for me, so I walked right through. I waited for Cathy on the other side and the two of us went to claim the spot near the tent that was serving up food and hot beverages. I could smell the sausage again. We huddled in on the pavement and I took a power nap while we waited for Melissa and Paul to arrive.
When they did, I went ahead and shed the throw-away clothes so we could have a picture of us all in the costumes. The last few times it had been too cold for me to even want to take them off. So, I was determined to have a photo with them this time. We missed out when I was dressed as Joy and they were Disgust and Fear. We talked for a short moment before we decided to go find the entrance to the corrals. We went through bag check together and made the long walk, comfortably, and chatting the entire way, until my corral had to split away from theirs. We gave hugs and we separated.
I had to actually off-road here to get up to my corral. That makes me nervous because when you’re walking on grass in the dark…that’s just a recipe for a twisted ankle or whatnot. But I managed to get up to Corral A unscathed. And I managed to get into my corral too. This was the first time I actually had managed that despite my Corral A bib. WOOHOO! I worked my way through the crowd of runners until I found a spot that felt comfortable.The National Anthem was sung beautifully and Donald came out to send off the wheelchair racers. And after that, my corral moved forward. As I was easing myself through the crowd, a ribbon was passed between me and the person in front of me. Looks like I was going to be at the front of Wave 2. They sent off Wave 1 with music and fireworks and we were moved up to the starting mat…which, mind you…was actually back a ways before the starting gate with the logo that displayed the race with Donald and basically what the medal would look like.
It was really cool to be actually toeing the line for Wave 2. I watched as a card was passed over the starting mat and would light up. The woman would then signal 1 minute to start. Then 30 seconds. Then 20. And soon, Donald Duck was counting us down…and fireworks sent off my wave. I was able to settle in comfortably because it wasn’t crowded here. Having not raced the 5K at all, I was feeling good. My knee was a bit of a problem…but when I was running I felt I could at least ignore it. HA!
My plan for this race was to run most of it, but walk the water stops. That was how I had been getting through half marathons prior to this one, so I felt it was a good way to handle this one despite feeling so good at the start. That being said, I also decided that I could go through the first four miles without stopping to walk, so I made that deal with myself as well. Most of that stretch is all highway and parking lots anyway…so I felt even better about it. Heading toward Magic Kingdom, we do get to run down a hill, but it sends us right back up. I stayed on my toes and lifted my legs up to kick up the hill. It slowed me down some, but I still felt strong at the top as we headed toward Main Street and my favorite part of any race that carries us through Magic Kingdom
I love the energy down Main Street as you run it. The crowd is deep and loud and screaming and it really is such a lift. I always wish that this part was later on in the race because of the boost it gives you. I arched away and went through Tomorrowland before making my way through Cincerella’s Castle and back out onto Main Street. The crowd came alive again. Flash bulbs were going off. It was amazing. Then, we turn to head out of Magic Kingdom through Adventureland. The crowd fades off and we are back to the highways for Miles 6-11. Disney does put out characters and DJs and some screens running clips of Mickey cartoons or other cartoons to try to entertain you on this stretch…but it really just is a lot of road and little else.
At Mile 8…I started to feel a burning in the bottom of my left foot and I knew…blisters were happening. I wasn’t running in new compression socks…but I hadn’t had time to Body Glide or Vasoline my feet that morning as I was trying to make the bus in time. MEH! That realization lasted through the rest of the race as both of my feet started to feel the effects of friction between my socks and my custom orthodics. Not a happy camper at all. My pace ended up slowing down considerably because of it and now my walk breaks were a bit of a relief from the friction. I was starting to rethink my life decisions here. As we come back into Epcot at Mile 12, I was just relieved that I was almost done and I could go and doctor up my feet. YAY! I pushed through it all and managed the turn before the World Showcase to head to the finish. The gospel choir was singing “We Will Rock You” as I ran past to make the final turn to head toward the finish line.
I pushed myself as much as I could on sore feet and threw my hands up as I came through the finish line. Stopping my Garmin, I made the walk through the finish zone, Cathy waving me down for a photo before I went to collect my medal, some mylar, and the snack box. Since character lines weren’t too bad, I stopped to take pictures with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto before we hopped on the bus to go back to the resort. I told Cathy I could feel blisters and when we got back up to the room and I took off the compression socks…sure enough. I drained them…took a shower…and got dressed to head out for the day. The plan was to hit up Hollywood Studios. Paul and Melissa would join us later. I got to ride Tower of Terror three times that day, which made me happy. It was fun to have a few ride buddies this time around.
So, my official results of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon is that I finished in 1:44:53. I was 502/20,801 finishers overall. I was 88/12,275 female finishers. And I was 18/2012 people in my division. I’ll take that for sure. I was quite happy with my performance, despite the blisters. It just seemed like nothing was going right that day.
After a casual and relaxed day at Hollywood Studios, we all went to Mama Melroses for dinner for pasta to fuel up for the last race the following day. Melissa and I shared the gluten free rolls and I ordered the Gluten Free Pasta with Marinara. Unfortunately, for me, when it first came out, it was done with the meat sauce. Good thing I looked closely! YIKES! They took it away and fixed it, bringing out my new dish shortly. It was an early meal, but perfectly timed for the Walt Disney World Marathon. I was feeling tight in my hamstring of my left leg as we were heading to the buses to return to the resorts, so I used my Roll Recovery on it that night to try to loosen it. The knee…was just stiff and sore. I took some Ibuprofen that evening…and it was lights out. One more race and we weren’t even halfway through the mileage yet.
Walt Disney World Marathon
Race: Walt Disney World Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: January 7, 2018
“There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” – Wreck it Ralph
I was ready for it. We got back to the room early after making it an early dinner at Mama Melrose’s the previous night. That way I would have time to lay out all my costume stuff and get all my fuel ready to go so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on race morning. I was reviving Vanellope von Schweetz from Wine & Dine a few years ago. I made a few changes to the costume…having my mom create a new top and cut the tights down to go over my compression sleeves. I was excited to be bringing her back…but there was so much small things that go into this costume, I wanted to have it all set to make the morning a lot less stressful.
So when the alarm went off and I got up to get changed, I was feeling as ready as one could for the fourth race of the Dopey Challenge. I was tired…and nervous. The marathon is not a distance to take lightly. Anything can happen. But that morning…I was feeling prepared. I even Body Glided my feet and put Vasoline on them in hopes of warding off further blisters.
My left hamstring was a little tight…no surprise with three race events leading up to this one and no real time to stretch or roll my body as is part of my usual routine. But I felt ready and excited more than nervous, so there was that. I put three Hammer Gels in my fuel belt and my Nuun Performance and Water in their containers and put on my throw away clothing before my roommate and I headed out the door.
Cathy was actually not feeling well. She had started to come down with something the day before, and her voice was pretty much shot, but she’s never missed a race start or finish and, even though I thought she was going to this time, she didn’t miss this one either. Despite the cold, she bundled up with the understanding that she would see me start and then head back to the resort to nap for a few hours before coming back to the finish line. For any of you who are pondering this in the future…here’s a bit of advice…DO NOT think you can get back to your resort from the start. Buses apparently don’t start running back to the resort from the finish until the first person crosses the finish line.
Cathy and I were right on time leaving our room and heading to the bus. 3:30 am. There was a bit of a line, but two buses were there waiting. I climbed on the bus and moved closer to the back than front just because I knew we’d have some time when we arrived. We texted Melissa and Paul and they were about to leave to catch their bus.
Five years ago when I ran the Inaugural Dopey Challenge, my bus got stuck in traffic heading to the marathon and I just barely made it to my corral on time. This year…I was determined not to have that kind of stress.
No such luck. After clear sailing at first…soon…the bus slowed and then stopped. All around us traffic was ground to a halt. Total stop. Nothing was moving. We got a text that Melissa and Paul were at the staging area because their bus driver took some amazing back way to the start. I was having flashbacks to five years before. But then we just continued to sit…and sit…and we’d creep…and sit…and creep and sit…
I was internally freaking out. I kept checking my watch…because on Marathon morning, I have a food regimen and schedule that I stick to. At 4:45 am…I was still not moving and I was forced to eat my Lara Bites. At 5 am…still not moving…the banana had to go down. And then…at 5:10 am…I drank down my pre-workout drink full of electrolytes. We inched forward. Turns out…a bus had broken down in the bus lane and we were stuck behind it. Two cop cars breezed by. A few minutes later…we were past it and moving again.
We arrived at the bus drop-off point at about 5:20 am. If you have done any previous Run Disney races at Walt Disney World, you know for the half and full marathons, you have a 1.5 mile trek to the starting corrals. And I had 10 minutes to get there…and I still had to go through security/bag check. I didn’t have a bag, so I could walk on through. Cathy did have a bag so she had to get that checked. She gave me a quick hug, handing me a pack of hand warmers, saying Melissa and Paul were going to try to wait to make the long walk with me…and she needed some hand warmers. I hurried through, sprinting, keeping an eye out for a Dopey and Grumpy lingering on the side. I could already hear the National Anthem being sung. My mylar blanket was flapping in the wind as I dodged and dashed through the crowds of people also making their way to the start. I could hear Mickey Mouse talking as I rounded the first corner giving a count down. I was sprinting as fast as I could, but soon, the fireworks were being shot and off went Corral A.
“AND…there goes my corral!” I said, tossing my hands up in defeat. They were doing wave starts this year, so I continued to dash, hitting the grassy patches and hurrying toward the front of the pack. I had to lift my big fleece jacket I had brought as my toss-away to get to my bib and managed to duck into the corral that was the end of B or beginning of C. The announcers weren’t sure. I was shedding my fleece pants and top, already warm now from the sprint…and my heart rate was up and I was just stressed and not zen. But then the fireworks went off and we started across the start line on the chilly Florida morning.
Starting in a further back corral is not a good thing at Disney. This often makes for a lot of weaving in and out of people for at least the first mile…if not more. It was within my first mile, however, that I passed Jeff Galloway. I fan girled. As I had my watch set for 4 minutes running 30 seconds walking intervals, I’ve embraced the Galloway method as of late to keep this body uninjured during longer runs. That was a quick boost as the first 4 miles of the full marathon are definitely all highway miles. The course narrows at times and at one point, as I was making my way through crowds, I saw a guy hop off the course to claim some gloves that had been shed.
“Treasure!” Someone said to him. I heard someone else ask him if he was a scavenger and he said, “NO…it’s just cold!” And that was that. I continued to maneuver through the crowds, waiting for the course to open up more so I could settle in.
That being said, my watch was beeping at me every 4 minutes to take a short walk break. I would toss up my hand and shout, “WALKING” so no one would run me over. I had no goals for this race other than to hit the finish line. I had done as much training with some practice “Dopey” runs of 4 progressively longer runs in a row, always using the run/walk method for the longer runs. It works. Seriously. It got me this far, right? Here I was…doing the last run of the Dopey Challenge…hitting the halfway point of the mileage about 2 miles into the marathon. Whew.
The first four miles of highway are never eventful. Construction. Speed bumps. Course narrowing. And the hill leading up to the parking lot of Magic Kingdom. You come into Magic Kingdom at Mile 5…and, as always, this is my favorite part of any Disney race. Nothing boosts your motivation than all the cheering people lining Main Street inside. It was phenomenal. I always wish this part came later in the race because it does really lift you. You just want to run faster because all these people are screaming for you!
I felt so energized as I ran the stretch and made the turn into Tomorrowland. My favorite part of the race is always where I run through the castle. I made the curves through Tomorrowland and around through Fantasyland. And then…the run through the castle. It’s all shouts and screaming and flash bulbs. And I love every moment of it. I come down the path and turn into Adventureland to exit the park at Mile 6.
What I didn’t know is that Cathy was going to catch me at Mile 7 outside the Grand Floridian. After she discovered that she couldn’t get back to the resort, she hopped the monorail and realized that she wouldn’t be able to catch me inside the Magic Kingdom. But she could catch me at Mile 7. Despite having very little voice left, I heard her shouting at me as I ran past. It was awesome. I gave a wave and continued on. I was just glad I was on a running segment at that point and not a walk. HA! She left after that and managed to get to Magic Kingdom to see Melissa and Paul go through on Main Street. She’s awesome like that.
Miles 7-12 are pretty much highway miles. Disney does it’s job with music (each mile marker is a movie that blares the them song), characters, scenery stops, and DJs/announcers just to keep it interesting. I knew what laid ahead was Animal Kingdom and you get to spend about 2 miles inside that park. I love Animal Kingdom because the surface is small hills that really wake up your legs. I never strayed from my run/walk breaks, keeping them going throughout all the miles. To change it up could have meant disaster. There is a switchback turn around at Mile 11…and I took it and moved toward the side of the road knowing a walk break would be coming. But my foot slid off the side of the road where it dipped away and I twisted my ankle. I stumbled. Came up. Took a few precautionary steps…and then carried on. No sharp pains or discomfort…I could do this. Up ahead…Animal Kingdom.
I came into Animal Kingdom and always look forward to running past The Tree of Life. It’s amazing. It is beautiful. I love the Animal Kingdom Park. I normally fuel around this mile, but I refuse to do so inside the park because I don’t want to drop anything that might endanger the animals. I did take a slug of my Nuun Performance and carried myself through Africa, Asia, and Dinoland. The cast members in the park are amazing and just cheer and support you as you run though. You exit the park through the main entrance and settle into about 3 miles of highway miles. Lots of traffic cones line the way making my walk breaks a little difficult, but I maintained them and stuck with it. That being said, everything started to feel very hard around Mile 16. Maybe it was the long stretch of nothing…or the reality that up next was the 2 miles that feels like 20 inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center (too many turns…too many different surfaces)…but I did manage to pick it back up as I came into ESPN. That didn’t last too long. My legs just felt heavy. Mile 18…so I took one of my Hammer Nutrition gel to hopefully wake up my body. I should have done it sooner, but after coming out of Animal Kingdom…I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. Lesson learned.
Here’s what I hate about ESPN. Around Mile 18.5, you have to step up and enter the track. So, softer surface which is a nice relief, but you’re now running the curve of a track. And you aren’t there for too long. You pop out at the final turn and are sent around the baseball fields. You wind your way through Mile 19 enter the ball field just before Mile 20. They announce your name here, which is a booster, but you’re tired from now running on baseball gravel/dirt and you’re just pressing through. You come out of the baseball field. After that, you duck out and are on the pathway through the parking lots and back out to the main road. There was a large puddle there at the end, so I managed to get my legs to step up on the curb and back down to avoid it and continued on. It was just before Mile 21 that the 3:45 pace group passed me. They were doing 3 min run/30 sec walk breaks. My legs just felt heavy and I started to feel a blister on one of my toes on my left foot. That sensation lasted for about a mile…then it popped because that burning feeling went away and I could run a little more comfortably again. But my pace was down. I grabbed another Hammer Nutrition gel and pounded it in hopes it could get me to the finish.
Hollywood Studios was just after Mile 23 and then you know you could walk it in and be fine. If you make it to Hollywood Studios, you’re golden. I started to take a few extra walk breaks on hills that my legs protested on. I was okay with it. I wasn’t aiming for a specific time. Just to hit that finish line. If it beeped for me to walk…I’d continue the walk. Then I’d pick it back up on the run for the next part. You come back to life inside Hollywood Studios. The rolling terrain that leads you through the park and out to the boardwalk. People are out there cheering and it’s really hard, but you keep pushing through. That’s how I felt. At Mile 25, you enter Epcot’s World Showcase. This is the longest trip around the world ever. But on your way around, you can keep your eye on Spaceship Earth and press on. You take the turn out to run toward Spaceship Earth and you feel new life in your legs. Around the corner and there is the gospel choir. I don’t remember what they were singing. I rounded the corner and came made the final turn into the straight away to the finish line. I pressed a bit more at the sight of the finish. I had kept my watch on the intervals, so I didn’t know my distance or pace. I didn’t care. I was about to finish a marathon. I threw my hands up in the air as I ran across the finish line and then immediately started to ugly cry.
I spotted Cathy in the stands and she signaled that I had killed it. She had no voice. I moved to get my medal and started to ugly cry again. And as I went to get my Dopey and Goofy medals, I was also handed commemorative Mickey Mouse ears. I cried again. I composed myself to get my medals and make the walk to get the photos taken before exiting through bag claim. As I moved through, everyone started applauding. And I cried again. And Cathy saw me and gave me a hug and I cried harder. I was an emotional mess. I had never thought, with all my setbacks and hip injuries that persisted since 2015, that I would ever finish a marathon in a sub-4 time.
But I had. Rounding out a gorgeous and respectful 3:49:45. A mere 10 minutes off my BQ time. I was beyond elated. Shocked. And couldn’t stop crying. My coach texted me telling me I was an inspiration for her BQ in March. My friends messaged me over Instagram to congratulate me on the sub-4 I had been fighting for so long to achieve.
So, the final results of the Walt Disney World Marathon are that I finished in 3:49:45. I was 849/20,025 finishers overall. I was the 184/10,763 female finishers. And I was 48/1848 people in my age division. Beyond proud of myself.
Afterwards, I got on the bus to head back to the resort. I was beyond sore, but managed to shuffle my way back to my room, up the stairs, and into a super hot shower. I don’t do ice baths. No shame. Not my game. I put my feet up for awhile and made myself down my protein shake. It was, honestly, the last thing I wanted to do. My stomach is always a mess after a marathon. But recovery had to begin immediately. After awhile, Cathy and I went to stroll down to Port Orleans French Quarter to get celebratory Gluten Free Beignets. I was hoping the sugar would help settle my stomach. It worked. We got some for Melissa and Paul too. I might have promised to have them at the finish line. Afterwards, we hopped on the bus to go back to the finish line. On the way there, Stephanie crossed the finish line. We ended up getting stuck on this bus for longer than anticipated, and upon arriving, making the hike to security for bag check, and then heading toward the finish line, Melissa and Paul crossed. JUST missed them.
Cathy and I waited for them outside of their bag pick up and ran to go hug them when they came out. Super proud of them. Melissa’s foot got injured in the half, so she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to make it through the full. She’s stubborn. She did. We went to get in line to have photos with Dopey, but were told the line was closed because Dopey needed to make it to a parade. So, Cathy took pictures of Melissa and Paul on their phone with Dopey in the background. We had Fast Passes at Epcot…so we let them head back to the resort with the Gluten Free Beignets that we picked up for them and went to head into the park. I managed to make it through the rest of the day before meeting up with them again at Raglan Road in Disney Springs for our celebratory dinner. Hello gluten free onion rings.
The following day, Cathy managed to get through the character breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table before trying a few rides and tapping out. Her sickness caught up with her. So, I wandered around Magic Kingdom alone for awhile until I met with Melissa and Paul at Epcot for photos with the medals. This also involved a monorail fail making it take even longer. But we eventually got it all taken care of. And after snagging Avocado Margaritas in Mexico, I called to check on Cathy and she said she’d grab some soup and meet us at Magic Kingdom. She was moving slowly, but she was out. And we wrapped up the day in Magic Kingdom with food, fireworks, and friends. And that…was what this trip and adventure was all about.
A group I’m in figured up all the finish places for those who competed in the Dopey Challenge. I was 210/7468 overall Dopey finishers. I was 29th female finisher. And I was 9th in my age division. And I’m tired. And sore.
And currently fighting off the Disney crud. Being sick prior to the races and coming back sick has not allowed me proper celebrations. But it’s going to happen.