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.
I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen
It’s been a hard journey for me the past couple of years, but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction. But before I go any further, I want to give a HUGE shout-out to my amazing friend, Kari…who watched a few of my stories on Instagram back in the summer and sent me directly to a few podcasts and links…and that has been helped me out immensely…especially during this time of year.
Through Kari, I discovered Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, well-being coach, and a certified health and fitness specialist. And from Scritchfield…I have discovered the practice of Body Kindness.
Over the summer and through the fall, I have done my best to put the practices of spiraling up and self-compassion to work. And I’ve made leaps and bounds in this regard. I’m proud of myself. After two years of consistent injuries that, basically, kept me from really being active, I put on a good 15 to 20 pounds. And those pounds weren’t from eating a poor diet…not at all. My food choices go up on Instagram on a daily basis and I keep nothing from it. But the lack of exercise brought about a good amount of stress…which brought about bouts of binge eating/stress eating. Every. Day. To the point that certain foods in the apartment had to be hidden in my roommate’s room just to ensure that I wouldn’t devour them one morning when I was the only one awake and stressing out over something that I really coudn’t fix at that moment or at all. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, and while I was still at what would be considered a healthy weight for my size…I was SO mad at myself for letting myself get like this. I was angry every time I would get on the scale and see the number. I was so certain that, when I was cleared to run, the weight would slow me down.
Over those months, I did get back to running…and the weight stayed on. No big deal. I’m not someone who runs to burn calories. I’ve never been someone who tries to compensate food intake for exercise and burning off calories. I don’t do calculations in my head or add on miles or hit the gym a little harder. That’s not me. That’s never been me. So, in that respect, I already was grasping the overarching concept of Body Kindness.
But what really makes it challenging for someone like me…is seeing perfectly healthy people who are in the same boat as me…jump into a program like Weight Watchers to drop weight by a certain date. Hell, I was told to look into Weight Watchers…and I’m at a healthy weight…just not a happy weight (to me). And at the same time, I had a friend who went to the extreme side of the spectrum and wasn’t eating and was over-exercising and was down to just skin and bones…and it was scary. And it was perspective. And thankfully, she is getting help and will hopefully get stronger physically and mentally through her recovery program. But it was a lot of stress and anguish because…I love my friends deeply and when they go through shit…I go through shit with them. And I was thankful that I had been introduced to this concept of Body Kindness and Intuitive Eating…because that could have spiraled out of control quickly. And that’s not to say that the stress and those triggers didn’t get to me…but the way I dealt with it changed.
I work in an office packed with women. And the holidays are made for feasting and treats and parties and drinks and…the inevitable conversations happen at the water cooler…
“I ate one of those donuts today…I am so bad.”
“I’m being SO bad!” *said while balancing a plate with a cinnamon roll on it*
*At holiday pitch-in* “I had lost weight, but I’ve been so bad today and I know I put it all back on!”
“Look at all this bad food. Brownies, cookies, cakes…”
“Well, this has fruit in it, so that’s good, right?”
“All that food in there…I really need to go back to dieting tomorrow.”
“I feel so guilty…I had dessert after eating my holiday meal.”
I wish I could say I was joking. But, sadly, I’m not. With the advent of the holidays comes the inevitable around the New Year…the resolutions.
But it’s not just the, “I’m going to eat better and workout more,” mentality anymore. Nope. Now we have detoxes and juice cleanses and diet pills and fasting and keto and paleo and Whole 30…or meals that are just snacks and not providing you with the nutrition your body really needs to function. But let’s face it…diets don’t work. They don’t. If they did…there wouldn’t be multi-million dollar corporations built up around them. I mean, think about it…the reason they exist is because people have to keep going back to them. Mind…blown!
Diets and “quick fixes” are everywhere. But are they really that “good” for you? Diets, cleanses, detoxes…what they advocate is a huge calorie deficit. Most people don’t even hit the “standard” (and still low, especially if you’re active) 1200 a day. If you’re active…you HAVE to eat more. And I’ve had it out with people before regarding calories in vs. calories out…and I was told that I wasn’t losing weight because I was eating more than 1200 calories a day. Yeah…I also ran 10 miles and need to put nutrition back into my body! But the way it was done made it seem like I was in the wrong because I refused to be super restrictive. When I am training for an endurance race, I make sure my body is fed properly after any hard effort. It’s how it recovers faster and gets stronger. Diets, detoxes, and juice cleanses…yeah…you lose weight. You lose water weight. You lose fat. But you also start losing muscle mass. And I’m a runner. I don’t want to lose muscle. Muscle is what helps this body move faster, get stronger, and hopefully…not get injured as often. No matter what the person who created this meal plan and ran this group said to me…I wasn’t going to waiver on the type of nutrition that I needed to do the activities that I am doing. BUT…she did this in a public forum and made me feel like a failure or that I was doing everything wrong.
I’ve witnessed first hand the effects of starving the body of nutrition and recovery…watching someone I really care for waste away from over exercising and under fueling. If she did eat, she’d figure up how many hot yoga classes she’d need to do or how many extra miles she would need to run simply to negate the meager amount of food she did give her body. Not fueling enough does horrible things to your body. Especially when you’re active. But even those of us who aren’t runners or cyclists or gym rats…your body needs fuel regardless and when you’re operating on an empty tank…it turns to other means to get the energy it means to function. Fat…and then muscle. And, guess what…the heart is a muscle and eventually, that’s going to stop working properly too.
I am the first to admit that I do get triggered by certain aspects of the diet culture. Even today, as I’m comfortably settling into the idea of Body Kindness. I literally want to throw things when someone makes a reference to their paleo/keto dessert. Or the person who went vegan to lose weight and was disappointed when they didn’t. Or the diet pills someone is taking because it helps make them less hungry during the day. Or those “progress” pics that people put up that pretty much shame everyone who has put on even a pound because we’re not standing there in a sports bra with a smaller tummy or abs of steel. Or when people eat a handful of almonds and call it lunch. Or when someone says that they need to go to the gym because of what they ate the day before. The words “juice cleanse,” “cleanse,” “detox,” and “diet”…they all set off alarm bells in my head. Because, this “healthy” person is doing all this on Instagram…shouldn’t I too. And maybe if I did…I could be that skinny and strong and…whatever.
But…I’m not that person. And it took me the better part of the year to get to this point. And to say that none of this triggers me at any point would be a lie. I’m a perfectionist in my own right, and not feeling perfectly healthy or perfectly athletic has been challenging. But…here’s my takeaway…
Four years ago…and 20 pounds lighter, I ran a race on Thanksgiving that I run every year. I was at the peak of my running and the fittest I had ever felt. And I ran 5 miles in 36:52. I never cracked it since 2013…sometimes that race having me around 38 minutes. This year…with 2 years of hip injuries and 15-20 pounds more on me…I ran comfortably for the entire race, never feeling like I was pushing myself to go faster and I finished…in 36:36. I wasn’t dieting or fighting the scale. I was giving myself permission to eat better, more, and what my body needed as I was also in the midst of a marathon build-up too. So…lighter doesn’t necessarily mean faster. And faster doesn’t necessarily come because you follow a strict diet. Hard work is what gets you there.
And trust me…there is nothing easy about learning to love yourself the way you are. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself. But, just for a moment, take a breath and forget about your clothing size and that number on a scale. Forget about seeing yourself fitting in with the social norm. That’s the great thing about being a human being. We’re all different. Perfectly imperfect. And we don’t have to miss out on experiences and treats and foods because we’re told by society what is “good” and what is “bad.”
This journey hasn’t been easy and, yes…I still struggle. Even today I struggle, especially with the “perfect squares” of those “perfect people” in social media. I struggle when I hear someone say they are being bad when they are just taking part in a holiday part or pitch-in. I hate hearing people tell me how much cardio they’re going to have to do the following day because they enjoyed a bit of dessert after their holiday meal. Guess what…it’s okay to indulge…in life, in food, in activities. It’s not okay to paralyze yourself and to stop living a full and happy life because of what the scale might tell you in the morning. Your self worth is not built upon what you are eating and how much of it you are consuming.
And I promise…it’s impossible to gain 3 pounds in one day…and it’s water weight…and it too shall pass.
So…how about this holiday season we share a bit of kindness with others, but also take a moment to spare some of that kindness for ourselves. Don’t stress the small things. Don’t miss out on something due to social stigmas and labels. Enjoy every moment and every bite and every bit of movement you manage that day, that week, that month.
Magic happens when we are not just compassionate, but also self-compassionate. So take a deep breath, and enjoy the foods and activities and moments that come with the season. It will lower your stress…it will brighten your mood…and in the end…you’ll feel better.
Here’s what I have gained since turning my back on the diet culture…late night sushi runs with friends…wine tastings with friends…dinner parties with friends…game nights, brunches, dinners, new ethnic food outings, movie nights, fun runs, vacation planning with friends, so many more invites…so much more quality time with people…bonding…laughing…joy. My life gained so much joy and shed so much unhappiness and stress and feeling self-conscious and unworthy. What I was gaining was way more important than what I had been trying to lose.
I really started living and being and enjoying the little things as well as the big things. There are always bumps and setbacks. I’m not 100% yet. But I’m clearing a path and have gained so much mental health in the process that it’s really become physical heath as well. I’m not saying I don’t stress and cry and feel upset and out of control and lost…I do. But I have outlets and I have people who carry me through it and lift me up and don’t make me feel like I’m failing at everything. I’m a beautiful work in progress.
And that’s truly what makes the journey epic in the end.
Be happy. Life life. Do epic shit. Be full. And be well.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena
And just like that…it’s over. Done. Finished. The race has been run and won and packed up. Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat. Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.
It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.
This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.
Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…
I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August. So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon! I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.
I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me. Personally. Emotionally. I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me. But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.
I’m almost 40 years old. So that’s saying something. Regardless of how average my life is. HA!!
For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone. We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it. We stuck through it all together. We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family. I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other. Simply put…we worked.
When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group. But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up. I was just getting back into the swing of things. I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear). Nothing hurt. No pains. I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon. I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time. Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).
I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!
#KDFMarathon Ambassadors collide…Melissa as Disgust (Inside Out) and me as Officer Judy Hopps (Zootopia) at the start of the Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K
Me, Richie, Stephanie, and Melissa…representing the #KDFMarathon Race Ambassadors at Disney!!
Food. Wine. Running. Disney. You better believe we were bonding. AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party. We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company. AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough*
When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over. While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.
I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances. On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor. It didn’t go away. It only got worse. And I honestly stopped running after that. Nothing leading into my upcoming January events. I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend. When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful. And I had more than one panic attack in California. I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me. I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that. Is it any wonder we all love her? Her pep talks…work magic. And her spirit is contagious.
Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends. We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh. God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things. But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out. But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.
As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them. There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk. Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5. It took forever. And I would cry. GOD, would I cry. But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME! One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance. I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping. I still have that blanket. Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!
We were friends…we are family!
Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it. IT HAPPENED! From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again. It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting. Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand. You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?
The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it. We struggled and thrived in training. We struggled and thrived in the race. And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together. I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line. I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything. WE DID THIS THING! WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!
This past week we had the final meeting. And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit. Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.
And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me. Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected. And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.
Top Social Media Recruiter – Stephanie
Top Social Media Recuriter – Karen
One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions. Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms. And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too. And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!
And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it. Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her. She’s one of my best friends now. And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her. Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!
And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting. Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going. I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about. I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group. We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation. I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.
To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road. I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all. I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level. I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you. Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead. I can’t wait to cheer you through it all. LOVE YOU!
For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it. This has been such a rewarding experience for me. I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me. They were my rocks. And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!
If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August. Fill it out!! Maybe magic will happen for you too! Chase your dreams, friends!! See you out on the roads!!
Wow, I’m behind on posts in the weeks leading up to the races I have coming up. Trust me when I say…I’ve been busy!
When I left you about a month ago…I was getting back to running, easing my mileage back up, adding in some speed work and hills, etc. Right? Right. Not all at once, mind you. That would be Looney Tunes.
So…basically my easing back into things started with a race weekend. As you know from the previous blog, I ran (not raced) the Rodes City Run 10K with my friend Matthew. It was a good way to train, and I learned that small, climbing hills and even the 10K distance were a challenge for this now endurance-less distance runner. My endurance was shot. Gone. Kaput.
I knew this needed to change. I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it, especially on my own. That being said…I made a promise to not give up and to keep on going!
The following weekend, after Rodes, I was up to 7 miles for my long run (my PT wanted me to increase my long run each week by 1 mile). Not only was I the milk maid for the #KDFMarathon training run (this simply means I provide the bottles of TruMoo in coolers for those doing the training run. As we know, chocolate milk has been proven to be one of the most amazing recovery drinks around due to the protein:carb ratio). I’m lactose intolerant and don’t handle dairy well at all, so I can’t use this method…but a lot of these runners look forward to that little reward at the end. The run, however, was starting at SWAGS South. And this meant…we were running Iroquois. I guess I was about to test this hip flexor out against the hills of Iroquois Park. It was an all-female cast of characters for the KDF Race Ambassadors that day too!
Talk about trial-by-fire. My running partner, Matthew, joined me and while everyone else was going 10 that day…we were hitting up 7. It was nice to have company, because…once again…I had to do my own thing. I just hoped no one followed me as I did it, because that would really screw up the mileage. There were 2 options that day for those doing the entire 10. Run to the top of the park (recommended for the marathon runners) or run past that hill and go around the base to some other road. I didn’t pay that close of attention because Matthew and I were doing neither. We ended up running to the water stop at the base of the giant hill leading to the top of Iroquois. We grabbed some water…and then continued on around the base, turning the opposite way of the half marathon runners and going more toward the amphitheater. We didn’t quite make it there before needing to turn around, so we just sort of turned into a lot, found a path, and ended up way off where we needed to be to get back. Garmins paused and we crossed through the grass to the main road and got back to the run. The hills did slow me down, but it was probably the best way to get back to running on hills. There is no getting around them in Iroquois. I was tired as we finished up…but as I was the Milk Maid…I needed to wait around for the chocolate milk to be gone.
Which I ended up icing the last 5 bottles because it was after noon…and I had a 2:30 pm Louisville City FC match to get to. First kick. And it was a draw. No purple smoke that day. But we had gorgeous weather. And I got a sunburn. Life was good. Well, maybe not the sunburn part…
Well, that following weekend would be my first real test. And here’s why. I wasn’t allowed to jump from 7 miles up to 10 because…well…obviously injuries happen to me. A lot. And the whole point was to ease the mileage back up there. The challenge, however, was that there was no training run on tap. Why not? Well…two reasons…
Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Ky, and the Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville, Ky. Most of my fellow local runners and ambassadors were taking part in either RTB (and my coach was providing the pacers), or doing the last leg of the Triple Crown of Running with the Papa John’s 10 Miler (aka: my favorite local race…and I couldn’t do it this year BOO!). My running partner, Matthew, was out of town on a family trip. So…there was me, myself, and I.
And on a morning in the low 40s…it was not easy for me to haul my butt out of my nice warm bed, do all my physical therapy exercises and stretching and get myself out the door to run by myself for 8 miles. I don’t mind running alone. I don’t. I do it all the time. I just prefer to run with people. It takes my mind off all the mental stuff. And it’s that mental stuff that tends to mess with me. So the sun was long up before I finished up the stretches and stuff and made myself get out on the road.
The first three miles were awful…and that was the flat part of the course I was running. All that being said, I found my stride when the hills came into play. And these are some pretty tough hills. I wasn’t worried about speed or time…just the miles…but I felt so amazing for those last five miles. And when all was said and done, I finished up in just over an hour. And I felt good at the end. I showered. My roommate made an great recovery breakfast for me. And the weekend was now officially on.
Did I happen to mention that a few other things happened that weekend that sort of altered the way my weekends as of late were rolling? As a side…I started prepping healthy and vegan meals for friends of mine. I love doing this stuff. The problem was, my little side business was growing faster than I could keep up with. I was spending Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning in my tiny little kitchen. And there was more stress than letting the cooking relax me like it had been. So, due to upcoming races and out-of-town trips, I cancelled service through May so that I could come up with a better way of doing this for people, that wouldn’t take up all of my spare time and still allow me the opportunity to help others. I’m still working on that. But for the first time in 2 months, I didn’t have to jump right into the kitchen to meal prep meals that I wasn’t going to even eat. That was also part of the issue. I was cooking for everyone else and letting my own food prep and nutrition slide. That wasn’t the point of this. So I needed to take a step back and figure it all out. It’s a work in progress.
My roommate and I did FINALLY get patio furniture for the balcony. She hung up some lights and now…I just want to have people over to kick back outside, eat some food, drink some wine, relax, and just talk.
Doesn’t it look amazing? I’m so happy with it. Since putting it all up, we’ve been dining al fresco pretty much every night for dinner. When it hasn’t been too chilly out. And I think that only happened once.
Let me fan-girl rave here, as well, about something I found and wanted to share with all you ice cream lovers.
That’s a coconut milk ice cream. It’s completely dairy free. And it is made from real ingredients. None of that low calorie, low nutrition, chemical-laden crap (Halo Top and Arctic Zero, I’m looking at you) that people actually buy. If you’re worried about calories to that extent, maybe you just shouldn’t eat ice cream. If you’ve found a happy, balanced lifestyle…a serving (1/2 cup) of Nada Moo will astound you. It’s the creamiest, most amazing non-dairy ice cream I have ever had. And I’ve pretty much had them all. Locally, I’ve only been able to find a few of the flavors. Vanilla…Ahhh is the only one I can find that I have yet to try. Otherwise I have indulged in, and enjoyed, Gotta Do Chocolate, Lotta Mint Chip, Cookies and Crème, That Snickerdoodle Dough, and Mmm…Maple Pecan. If you live in the Louisville area and spot any other flavor…please alert me!
Which now brings us to this past week. I got up to meet at Senaca Park for the training run for the half marathon. I was supposed to do 9. The group for th half was doing 10. I figured, if I felt good, and the hills didn’t kill me, I could do my first double-digit run since the Disneyland Light Side Half Marathon (which I did injured, as you recall). The running gods were with me. Matthew and I took on the hills of Cherokee Park and did, for me, the entire route as it was mapped out ahead of time for the training run. And these runs have been going on since Rebel Challenge weekend when I was in California. I walked around for most of these runs, showing up in the cold just to suffer longer than most as I was not allowed to run. This run felt so good and gave me the mental boost I needed. Double digits. And now…taper.
It was an all-female cast of KDF Ambassador characters that morning too. And I also ended up being overdressed, despite the 39° start. When I finished about an hour and a half later…I was dying in the sunlight. It heated up quickly. I was wishing I had gone with shorts at that point.
And this past month, I’ve gotten back into a training plan using my coach, incorporated strides after my easy paces, stuck to my assigned paces, and yes…have done 1 round of fartleks, and 2 rounds of 4x400s as far as my speed work goes. So, yes…I am incorporating it. Speed work and I are still…not friends. In fact, I normally wake up those days not feeling well because it does just wind me up. And I have yet to have speed work day go smoothly. But, at least I’m out there getting it done, right?
Oh…and with the free time I have at the moment…I also snuck in a bit more “ME TIME” by going to the movie theater to see Beauty & The Beast. And it was a beautiful, amazing movie. And I’m glad, after putting it on the back burner and never having a moment to just go see it…that I finally made time.
Tapering because I have 2 weekends in a row of half marathons coming up. I think I’m running 8 with the group this weekend. And that’s it. That’s what I’ve been up to. Pretty boring, right?
Stay tuned…I’m sure there is more to come. But I need to foam roll and get some sleep…because it’s another wake up at the ass crack of dawn morning with body pump and some cardio after. But, hey, I’m getting stronger and faster and better…and that’s only for the better.
Oh yes…you know what?? It was only a matter of time before Disney lured me back to the other coast. So often, for convenience, you see my Run Disney posts from Disney World. Let’s face it…Florida is a lot easier to get to than California. But…I have a goal. An achievable goal. And that is to run ALL the Disney Races. So, you know, eventually I had to return to Disneyland. I hadn’t been here in over 3 years (I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2013).
It was good to be back. The whole thing, however, was unraveling from the very start. Let me start at the beginning…
After getting back from my trip to Birmingham to visit my family over Christmas, I realized my OTHER…note that I say…OTHER hip was starting to twinge at me. I had to run a lot of hills in my parents’ neighborhood…there is no avoiding them…so I chalked it up to that and went about my training…with very little slowing me down. Over the New Year, I did my last training run of 14 miles ahead of my taper for the Star Wars Light Side Half while in Columbus, Ohio. It was after this run that the hip really started to get angry at me. In fact, that day, I was hobbling around and this started to concern me. I felt better the next morning though, a Monday, and went out for my speed work. I did that fine, just slightly missing my assigned pace. Drove back to Indiana, did grocery shopping, and felt okay. Got up on Tuesday and went for a run. The hip twinged a few times, but I slowed down and got it done. I felt fine afterwards. And then…on Wednesday, I got up to do my run and stretches ahead of my spin class and…I couldn’t get through my one legged squats without cringing. I went out and started my dynamic warmups and had to stop. I sat outside and cried. The left hip was not happy. I went to spin…and it did fine there…but running wasn’t happening. It was rough from there on out.
I contacted my former physical therapist, and asked her opionion on what the issue might be. She gave me a few stretches to do…and Cathy researched, figuring it had to be my hip flexor and not the labrum as the pain was presenting itself differently. I wasn’t so sure, but went with it, adding some hip flexor stretches to my routine, in lieu of the dynamic stretches and plyometrics. I went to spin 2 more times…but other than that, I rested this hip.
I even put in a call to my orthopedic doctor, but he was booked solid through after I was already leaving for this race series. I was told he would call and go over things I could do. When I didn’t hear from him Friday or Monday, my panic mode kicked in. I called Tuesday, leaving a message that I was leaving on Thursday morning. No word.
But this craziness doesn’t stop there. Wednesday night rolls around and the third on this trip, my friend and Cathy’s sister, Amanda, comes over. You see, we paid for her to come on this adventure with us. She always wanted to see California, and figured this would be a fun way to do it. Girl’s trip…WOOHOO!! She was pretty excited leading up to it…and we stayed up a bit that night discussing what we would be doing, while I prepped breakfast for the morning before the early airport journey. Then, we crashed out.
Apparently, around 1 am, Cathy said her sister knocked on her door and said that she was sick. Cathy got up and got her some of my tea…it’s SO good on the stomach…and that didn’t help her stomach issues. At about 3:30 am, Cathy heard me watching my Instagram story…and knocked on my door. She asked if I had anything that could help Amanda out. All I had were Rolaids, so we tried that.
No go. When I got up with my alarm at 5 am to stretch and then get breakfast ready, it was apparent that Amanda was not coming with us. So…Cathy and I made breakfast, and Amanda called her husband to take her home. He said this was probably brought on by anxiety…which is weird, because Amanda has traveled further than California with us before with no issues. I’ve never seen her as a nervous traveler. So…who knows.
Cathy and I packed up our stuff and her mom picked us up to go to the airport. We checked in and walked the terminals until it was time to line up for boarding. We got settled on our flight out of Louisville to Phoenix, Arizona. Cathy, thankfully, slept for about 3 of those hours. When we landed, I called my orthopedic doctor’s office and talked to the receptionist. I explained that I was told he would call before I left, and here I was, on my way to a race weekend with 2 distances on tap, a sore hip, and no answers. She actually went and got him out of a room to talk to me. After listening to the symptoms, he said it sounded like a hip flexor strain and that a cocktail of Tylenol and Ibuprofen would help with that. I thanked him and said that, more than likely, I’d be making an appointment with him after this weekend. But now I at least had a plan.
The flight from Phoenix to Burbank, California was short and sweet. We disembarked in the rain and chilly weather. It was warmer in Louisville than it was in Los Angeles that day. Go figure. We got our rental car and headed out to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger (their fries are gluten free…so my lunch was fries. Healthy, I know!). And then, it was onto the hotel to check in and then…yep…head over to Downtown Disney and enter into the Disneyland Hotel for the expo. This did involve going through security to get into Downtown Disney, and then a downhill descent into a parking garage to get my race bib. I was in the first corral and one of the lower numbers, so it was pretty easy-going. With that, we walked back up and into the hotel proper to duck into the Exhibition Hall and to take in the rest of the expo…as well as pick up my t-shirts. I was determined not to spend a fortune at the expo, so Cathy kept me away from the Garmin table. HA! But, as it was, I was already needing to spend over $100 on compression shorts, a recommendation from my former physical therapist after seeing my post about the hip flexor strain on Facebook. So…that happened. I went to get in line for the official merchandise, but was told it was over a 2 hour wait. I had other things to do, so I texted my friend, Melissa, who was coming in for the races the following day to see if she could pick them up if the line wasn’t crazy. She agreed to do just that. So, with my new compression shorts and a couple of new (and needed) BondiBands for my running costumes, we left the expo and went to return things to the hotel room. The rest of that night is a blur. I don’t even think we ate dinner. I stretched, iced, foam rolled and went to bed.
Friday was all about Los Angeles…and we hit it hard! We woke up early and prepared a
breakfast from the stuff I had on hand. We had brought some of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe’s sandwich buns with us…so I loaded them up with some peanut butter I brought and placed some sliced banana on top. It was SO good. And it was just the right way to start off the day. We hauled down to the car, grabbed some coffee at a local place called Coffee Code, then we were making our way down to the California Science Center. We alotted plenty of time to get through morning traffic and it paid off, but we still arrived about 30 minutes before the place actually opened. That was okay, though, because what we were not aware of at the time was that the California Science Center was right next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, for you runners out there, you will know as the place where Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the finish line to win the very first Olympic Women’s Marathon! I was all about standing around and taking pictures (and doing videos) of this place. And that was a good way to kill some time. After a little stroll here and there, we entered the California Science Center and got ready to go see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I think Cathy was determined to be the first there…and while we were the first on the escalator, we were definitely not first over to the shuttle…but they weren’t too busy at the time. We pretty much skipped much of the exhibit to jump right to the good part…the space shuttle. Although, we did pause to touch one of the wheels in the exhibit, because when you have the opportunity to touch something that has been in space, you touch it!! Space shuttles look fake to me, when I see them in person. It’s bizarre. That being said, Endeavour is beautiful…and the lengths that had to be taken to get her to California is still a fantastic story. We stayed and shopped and then went to seek out more of the center, taking a wrong turn, then turning around and discovering that in addition to the space shuttle, they had an Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini capsule as well. Three more points of interest…and we went and took in each and every one of them.
From there…we made another long drive (seriously…how do those of you who live/work in LA survive…it takes hours to get places!) to make our lunch stop…Erin McKenna’s Bakery in LA. This is her third shop and I have, proudly, been to all 3. Love her stuff. We each got bagels for lunch with vegan cream cheese…and then a box of goodies to bring back to the hotel to have during the time we were staying. This included 2 scones, a doughnut and a cinnamon roll – all gluten free and vegan. And, yes, delicious! Our next stop was supposed to be Pressed Juicery in the same area for one of their Freezes…but the Pressed Juicery there was not a Freeze shop. So, with a little Google-fu…I found one that wasn’t too far away and we drove down there. We parked in a parking garage and went to go get our treats. I wish we had this in Louisville…it’s ice cream made simply from real juice and topped off with healthy goods. Seriously…we need this. We walked around while we ate and then went back to the car. Turns out the parking garage where we parked was for customers of a grocery store only. And we needed a receipt to get out. So, we had to go inside and buy some stuff, which worked out. I picked up some AMAZING kombucha (I am obsessed, but when you have tummy problems…it helps!), some water, and a few other goods. With receipt in hand, we were out and back on the road. This time, back to Burbank to hit up a boutique store called Pin-Up Girl Boutique. I
have friends in California who rave about it and my good friend Tawn actually sent suggestions of what she’d like to see Cathy and I try on. I was a bit more into this than Cathy was, but we tried it all on, and the sales people were lovely, and I really wanted to buy it all…but…it was only my first full day in California and I couldn’t drop $150 on a dress at that moment. I will be shopping there though! It took 2.5 hours to get from Burbank back to the hotel near Disneyland. It was late…and I had a race in the morning…so…dinner was an orange and a Glutino gluten-free toaster pastry. Not what I would usually have for dinner before a race…but it was all we had at the time and really all we had time for.
In the morning…it was time to do the…
Star Wars Light Side 10K
Race: Star Wars Light Side 10K
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 14, 2017
Compression shorts…KT Tape…and ACE Bandages.
Welcome to my morning. I got up about 30 minutes before Cathy’s alarm was to go off, just to get myself ready. This meant doing my hip stretches that I found for hip flexor issues and the others I’d been doing for awhile. I also took my Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail my orthopedic doctor had mentioned…both the night before and that morning. Normally, it is not recommended to medicate before a race, but, dammit, I needed to get through 2 in 2 days…I was willing to do just about anything at this rate.
Cathy got up with the alarm and we ate a light breakfast, as we had extra large bananas (Walgreens only had King Kong sized bananas when we went there for ACE Bandages) to split on race mornings…so it was a basic nosh on dry cereal with some water. I went to change into my outfit for the day. Not the normal running gear as I was costuming as Rey, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wore my compression shorts though, and Cathy wrapped the ACE Bandages around my torso and left thigh, just as the video my former physical therapist sent to me. She secured it with the clips and put tape over those. My right foot (the one that the plantar flared up on a month or so prior) was taped and I put on the capris and the costume top I was using. My hair went into the standard pigtails and my new BondiBand I picked up at the expo went on my head. No compression for this one. The costume didn’t allow for it. But…despite the hip issues, this was the shorter of the races. I figured, while it would feel weird not to have compression sleeves on my legs, I could handle it for 1 race.
I got pinned up and we were out the door, stepping into the unseasonably cool California morning air, joining the myriad of other runners that morning at the crosswalk to step onto Disneyland property and enter into Downtown Disney. There was a security checkpoint to go through first. They searched bags if you had them and, some people, randomly, were sent through the metal detectors. I had no bags, so I was an easy pass. Cathy’s backpack is clear…and the security people LOVE that. Makes her journey through the checkpoints easier.
We strolled past a very crowded Starbucks and continued on toward the staging area. As we got to the other security checkpoint, my friend Melissa texted me and asked where I was. I told her I had just passed through Downtown Disney. She and her husband had just gotten into Downtown Disney…so they were on their way. I told her that Cathy and I would wait just past the checkpoint…and that’s what we did. We saw a LOT of BB-8 costumes…and a few Star Trek costumes too. HAHA!! Ah, the Trekkies are hillarious! Melissa arrived, dressed as Maz (also from Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Paul (that’s her husband) was Boba Fett. We hugged and both she and I limped (her hip/knee had been a problem since her first marathon the weekend before…can you say BEAST MODE?!) over to the staging area. Of course…more pictures had to happen…last minute bathroom breaks…I had half a banana to eat…that sort of stuff. We did have to start thinking about heading to our corrals, though…so we walked together until I had to break off to head to Corral A. Melissa gave me a tight hug…told me not to even worry about my time and to just have some fun. And if she and Paul caught up to me if I had to walk it…they would join me. I love my friends. Seriously. I love them.
I got to my corral in time for some of the morning banter with our race emcees that morning. They were actually quite funny. And Disney spares no expense, for sure. I LOVED that so much of Corral A was in costume!! There were LOTS of Princess Leia’s…for obvious reasons. In fact, the first woman to finish was dressed as Princess Leia…which seems fitting, for sure. I was trying not to have a meltdown or panic attack due to my hip. I knew one of two things would happen. I would get to that start line and take a few steps and be able to go…or I would have to walk the 6.2 miles to the finish. Whichever it was, I was going to get to that finish line.
After the National Anthem was sang by a Disney cast member, the wheelchair race was sent off first. Only a few minutes later, the corral was discarding any mylar blankets or other clothing they brought to keep warm. No baked potatoes allowed across that start line…it would screw with the timing. The countdown was given…the fireworks went off…and Corral A was underway. I walked up to the start mat, then took a few tentative steps at a jog…then kept it conservative at the jog, realizing that while the hip twinged a few times, I could run. Not all out fast or anything…but I wasn’t struggling either. And so…the race was on.
That being said, my intention to stop and use the photo ops along the way…went to the wayside. Once I got moving, I was afraid that if I stopped, the pain would settle and I wouldn’t get started again. So, I just ran…and prayed a little…that my ACE Bandage would hold…that my hip wouldn’t do something awful. Let’s remember…I had a half marathon looming the next morning. The goal was to just run this and still be able to walk around at the end of it. My friend Melissa had warned me about the one and only hill (you get sent through this tunnel thing…so down a hill…then through…then back up, but the rest of the course is flat. F-L-A-T. Which is infuriating to me, as I ROCK flat courses, and if the hip had been behaving…I probably would have kicked this course’s ass. UGH! Seriously, it feels like I can’t catch a break.
That being said…I almost broke the don’t stop rule when I saw the life-size, moving around, BB-8 on the course for photo ops!! BB-8 is my FAVORITE…and I was SO tempted…but I knew stopping probably would have been worse…so I kept going, with very little pain at all. I ran the streets…through the parks…pushing on past the water stops. For a 10K, I don’t run with a fuel belt, but the cold air and my slower than usual pace meant I wasn’t really dehydrating myself. My first mile of this race was the slowest…my third…the fastest. I slowed it down between miles 4 and 5…but picked it up when I knew the last mile was ahead. I’m not talking breaking any speed records. I never got faster than a 7:38 pace (and that was mile 3)…but I wanted to finish strong. And I saw that finish line and just went for it. I could hear Cathy screaming at me from the cheer squad seats (she got in there somehow…I never know how she pulls these things off)…and powered over that finish line.
What really kept me going…the fact that I knew the medal for this race was BB-8. I
walked through the finisher’s area, getting my medal…a mylar blanket…a box of goodies and some water. And then…I made my way out to the staging area, where Cathy met me. She was going on-and-on about my time and how she was checking the tracking and going, “Well…she’s running…that’s good!” HA! They had some fun photo ops out, so while the lines were still short, we took advantage of those. Then…it was time to head back to the hotel. Our friend Tawn was coming in from Fresno that morning (she left SUPER early to get down there around 9 am)…and I was ready to shower and eat some real food. The problem was, the exit was blocked by racers. Okay…turned around…and tried to go through one of the hotels, but instead of asking someone, Cathy just kept turning corners out of the lobby, and then put us in an Emergency Exit area…where we got trapped. TRAPPED! Insert me starting to bitch about being cold and wanting a shower…and now being stuck. We finally got out, thanks to the help of some of the Disneyland employees…and after asking if we were okay or needed water, we were now on the road back to the hotel.
I showered. And then I rested a little while we awaited Tawn’s arrival. We had a reservation for a breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. And Tawn arrived in time to change, do her makeup and for us to get to the restaurant, get pictures with Goofy, and get seated. It was the best way to kick off Day #1 of Disneyland adventures for sure.
We spent the entire day at California Adventure…and that night, my friend Alison and her family drove down to meet us at the Pizza Press for my traditional gluten-free pizza before a race. She and her family are amazing, awesome, and just all around good people. It was a blast…and I’m glad I FINALLY got to meet her in person. And her son, Evan, who we nicknamed Mr. Incredible a few years ago. He really is incredible! We sadly did have to say our goodbyes though, because Sunday’s 3:00 am wake-up for a 5:30 am race
Oh…so my official results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side 10K are that I finished in 50:13. Not too bad given the circumstances!! I mean…FOR REAL! I was 296/11,606 finishers overall. I was the 33/6816 female to cross the finish line. And I was 5/1216 runners in my age division. This hips issue is driving me nuts. I can’t even fathom how much better I could have done had I been able to just go for it. Seriously…these results are both amazing…and frustrating at the same time! Given the circumstances…I will take it!!
The rest of the day was fun at Disneyland…but at the end of the day, the hip was done and my limp was starting to return. We turned in after the pizza stop and I took my last round of the Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and turned in for the night. The following morning…did not go as smoothly…
Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Race: Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: January 15, 2017
My alarm went off at 3 am. My friend Tawn was up and in the shower. She’s a Run Disney vet and is AWESOME at the routine. Wake up early…get out the door…do race…do the parks. She’s not a runner, but she comes out to cheer and to just…be there at the finish line. So, while she was in the bathroom, I got up to take that Tylenol/Ibuprofen cocktail and to stretch. I took a few steps toward the table I had things set out on…and knew that today I was in a whole heap of trouble. I was limping. I was limping bad. I was sore…and I had a 13.1 mile race ahead of me.
THIS. WAS. BAD.
I might have cried as I did my hip stretches and foam rolled. Cathy got up just before the alarm that morning, and we started to just roll through race morning prep. While Tawn did her makeup and hair, I got dressed and Cathy prepped some KT Tape to put across my hip flexor. We did that…and I pulled the compression shorts on over that…then she did the ACE Bandage wrap. Over that went my running shorts and then…the BB-8 running sparkle skirt I purchased SO long ago. Seriously…my hip was being held together with tape, bandages, and a lot of prayer. I was not in a good place, physically or mentally, on half marathon morning. Not one bit. But, I finished getting ready, having to modify the bra top costume due to the low 40 degree weather in Los Angeles that morning. I was NOT expecting these temps there. Luckily, I had a bright orange shirt with me and it became the base layer. I was layered everywhere…sports bra, t-shirt, BB-8 bra top on top…KT tape, compression shorts, ACE Bandages, shorts, and a skirt on the bottom half. And every step…a challenge. I ate my cereal to put something in my stomach and filled up my water bottles on my fuel belt with my nuun and water. I grabbed one of the Godzilla-sized bananas for pre-race eats and the three of us were out the door, pretty much right on time. I was not nervous like I was before the 10K. Walking was a challenge…so I was downright freaking out. I think I cried a few times on the way to the crosswalk to get over to Disneyland property and through security. I branched off to the NO LINE group and held my cell phone up over my head as we went through the metal detectors. Tawn and Cathy got through bag check quickly and we were making our way past the overrun Starbucks on the corner. There was another one further in that was never as busy…so we did joke about that a little. We got to the staging area, and I hadn’t heard from Melissa and Paul yet…so we just moved out of the way and listened to some of the music.
At this point…I think I had an all-out meltdown. Both Tawn and Cathy were quick to give me hugs and reassurance. The thing was…I was hurting. And a half marathon is NO JOKE!! Cathy said that it was possible that this race would be just like the last one…where I take a few steps and it’s all good. I hoped she was right. I dried my eyes…got more hugs…and they sent me off to get into my corral.
Same system as before. No Melissa or Paul to hug. I wasn’t sure if they’d pass me or if I’d see them that day…but I stepped up to Corral A and got inside. And I felt, very much, like I honestly didn’t belong there that morning. The race emcees were back for more fun this morning, and they kept the mood light. I was shivering, not completely from the cold…but my nerves were creeping in. I never get nervous before a race…but I knew that I was going into this at about 50%…and it scared the shit out of me.
The National Anthem was played beautifully by a band and soon the wheelchair racers were off. My corral ditched the mylar blankets or clothing keeping them warm and we all started to move up a bit more at the start line. When the countdown happened, the fireworks went off, I walked toward that start line and took a few tentative steps at a jog.
PAIN!! It was unpleasant pain from the start, but I was in the flow of runners, so I just pressed on, without pushing too much. I thought so hard about ducking to the side and just walking…but I didn’t. I kept my pace easy…and I just did what I could. Once again, though, my plan to stop for photos went out the window. Any stopping today would be the worst thing possible…because as I learned at the Boston Marathon…it hurts SO much worse to start back up. I hit the underpass hills again…and managed to navigate those and started through some of the parks. I paid no attention to time clocks…I was focusing in on my form as best as I could. I had to pass up the BB-8 photo op again…which sucked, since I was dressed as BB-8…but it was the only decision that made sense to me. Running this didn’t make sense…but I paid a HELL of a lot for this race challenge…it was happening even if I had to slow to a walk.
But then…something fantastic happened. As we came out of the park around Mile 4…I hear and see Cathy and Tawn, just screaming at me from the side of the route. It was amazing. Tawn recorded it and you can hear Cathy talking about how my form looked good and all that. I was hurting…but it wasn’t bad at this point. I could manage…even though I was wondering when I would have to drop to the side and take it to a walk.
We exited Disneyland soon after and hit the road. As I rounded the corner, I heard someone yell, “HEY! IT’S R2-D2.” Wrong droid!!! I am in orange…BB-8 is orange. R2-D2 is blue. SHEESH!! The cheerleaders that lined this portion of the course was uplifting and it did make me move a little bit faster as I went past them. Miles 5 & 6 ended up being my fastest, and also put me at a 10K time faster than the 10K I ran the morning before. Cathy had been tracking me as she and Tawn went to get coffee and explore some of Downtown Disney and this fact impressed her for sure.
But it started to get rough soon after this. Much of the crowds disappear at this point. But, there are plenty of people running with you. But…Mile 9 going into Mile 10…was the best. The 501st is out in all their gear. You have just this long line of Star Wars characters and it is just…fantastic. I mean, I’m running through and everyone is in character. There was a phenomenal Obi-Wan Kenobi on the corner…with an accent and all…and that was SO amazing to me. It was uplifting. But after I was past them…that was when the pain really started to rear it’s ugly head. My pace slowed way down for the last three miles…but at this point, I knew I was only 30 minutes at most away from a finish line. I gritted my teeth…cried…a little. Maybe a lot. And knew my right foot was blistering, which never happens, but I was now changing my stride to accommodate my hip. UGH. I started to really focus on each step, trying to to baby the hip, but trying to to push it too much either.
I thought I had picked it up for the final mile, but that ended up being my slowest mile of the day. Go figure. I could hear that finish line, and when I saw it, determination and stubbornness took over and I ran it as hard as I dared and could manage. The announcer said, “It looks like we have a BB-8 coming in…Karen Brady!” That made me at least smile, so at least my finish picture isn’t ugly crying or something. I heard Cathy and Tawn just ahead of me as I limped past the photographers. Cathy called me over for a picture at the finish line which hobbled over for. They said that they would see me on the other side…and I went to get my finisher’s medal for the half marathon, my mylar blanket…and then my extra medal for completing the Star Wars Rebel Challenge! After that, the snack box and water were handed over and I exited the finish area to re-enter the staging area…and Tawn and Cathy were there to hug me and greet me. And I cried…again.
We didn’t hang around much after this. I was hurting and we had Disneyland to properly explore that day. We decided to head back to the hotel so I could shower, we could eat breakfast (Cathy split the last of the sandwich buns and we split the donut 3 ways) before heading out for the rest of the day. We had a big day ahead of us…and while it was hard to move…I wanted to get the most out of my time with Tawn and my time at Disneyland. We even did a thing…by getting the names of the Schulyer Sisters from the musical Hamilton on our Mickey ears and posing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!! We are theater NERDS! Honestly, in order to even be able to move that day, I put on a pair of leggins, and had Cathy do the ACE Bandage wrap I wore during the races, and I put my BB-8 skirt back on…because…I needed to cover the ACE wrap.
That being said, this pretty much meant I couldn’t pee all day. Luckily…I never really had to. And I managed a full day at the park…had a blast…and ate an incredible dinner that night at Cafe Orleans. Seriously…worth every painful step.
I guess some results are in order. The official race results of the Disneyland Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:47:53. I was expecting 3 hours, so this was amazing to me. Seriously, even I can’t figure out how I pulled off that time. I was 422/12434 finishers overall. I was 57/7028 women to cross the finish line. And, I was 14/1253 in my age division. Not too bad under these very hostile circumstances. For real! It still pisses me off because this was SO FLAT…and I want to run it as hard and best as I can. Flat courses and I are BFFs. But my body has let me down again.
My orthopedic doctor was unable to see me until February 1. My hip is still…not good. All running is off…I’m walking, spinning, and just trying out other non-impact means of just keeping my endurance and fitness up until I can get some answers.
Ah, Disney. My dear, sweet, Disney. I wanted to hate you for not deferring my Dopey Challenge entry after I was told by my doctor, I physically could not run. I was angry…because that was a lot of money to be out…despite having doctors notes and all. I wanted to swear you off for life.
But I couldn’t.
Especially since I had to cancel my trip in January due to the injury and I opted, instead, to sign up for your latest challenge…Lumiere’s Challenge…which is a 2-race challenge (not the 4 races you do in January)…a 10K on Sunday and a half marathon on Sunday. I had the date marked on my calendar to sign up…and was so busy at work that I totally missed it…by a day. I figured it would be okay…but it wasn’t. The races were sold out.
I was sad, but then I recalled I wanted to do some more running for charity. So, I chose a cause near and dear to my heart…Alliance For A Healthier Generation. I blogged on this during my fundraising effort…and I totally raised a little bit more than the $1000 required for the charity.
THANK YOU to anyone who donated.
So, this was the weekend it all went down. And it has been a bit of a struggle getting here. Not physically…well…not here to Disney World. Physically, my foot ligament has been twinging every now and again, and sometimes is just painful. Also, just under a week before leaving for Disney, my sinuses suddenly decided that they wanted to just get all cloggy. I wasn’t sneezing or coughing, but I was definitely congested and lost my voice. This also meant my training runs were a mess of stops and breathing issues. Which didn’t make me feel confident heading into this weekend. While some of it has cleared up, I’m not 100%, but I was definitely ready for some running for sure.
Two days…two races…19.3 miles.
Let’s do this thing…
Inaugural Disney Wine & Dine 10K
Race: Disney Wine & Dine 10K
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: November 5, 2016
It is my long-term goal for the coming year to set a PR in a distance race. Short or long. With my return to running from injury, I’m having a hard time, mentally, dealing with the pitfalls of this hip labrum tear and the other aches and pains that have cropped up. So, after getting back with my running coach, we’re setting a few goals to aim for.
This was not one of the races I was using to hit a new PR. In fact, I was a little under 4 minutes from doing so. But I didn’t care…because this race was so freakin’ fun!
This is the first year that the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend included a 10K distance as well. I love doing inaugural races. I really do. And then I love returning to them. Disney puts on fantastic races, as I have mentioned before. And I do love these challenge race weekends that are popping up…EVERYWHERE now. But Disney…Disney has always done it best.
I actually got to Disney World on Thursday, giving me time to hit up the expo and have an entire day of exploring the parks before needing to worry about running. It also gave me time to recover well and be ready to run. We all know that race mornings come very, very, very, early at Disney World. And while Wine & Dine is usually a night race…this year they changed it to morning. So…I set three alarms on my phone…the first 2 for me and the final one for my entourage (aka: Jenn & Cathy).
I always do Disney races in costume, and I had originally intended to break out Vanellope Von Schweetz again (I was Vanellope when I did Wine & Dine in 2014), but my hip labrum injury had me not running for close to a year. Despite keeping a clean and healthy diet, I’ve put on some weight. So, the costume wasn’t flattering on me…at all. So…in the span of 2 days, my roomie and I managed to piece together an Officer Judy Hopps costume (from Zootopia). And that took a little while for me to get on (as it involved hair extensions and accessories), but I managed to get it on and get out the door in time to catch the shuttle over to the start.
I was supposed to meet up with my friend (and fellow #KDFMarathon Ambassador, Stephanie) at the shuttle bus from our resort (she was also staying at Port Orleans Riverside), but it turns out she turned off her alarm and slept through the start of the race. But, I did manage to meet up with another #KDFMarathon Ambassador, Melissa, at the start line. She and her husband were running the 10K as Disgust and Fear from Inside Out. Their costumes were totally cute! So, it was nice to converse with them before we were heading into the race. Melissa is a Run Disney pro…for real! And her costumes are AMAZING. So when she complimented me on my Hopps costume, that meant a lot to me.
We took some photos and then headed toward the start line. She and her husband were in a different corral, so I went to get into mine. It was pretty crowded in Corral A, but I found a spot to sit (even with my pinned on bunny tail) and let myself relax a little before being moved to the start line. I wasn’t there for too long before the group began to move. We passed by the other corrals and I heard a few people calling out to Corral A and wishing us luck. Love that.
Once at the start line, there were some announcements made and the National Anthem was sung. And the wheel chair racers were sent on their way. At this point, I was drawing a deep breath as the corral moved forward and we waited a couple of minutes before our fireworks and start time. And soon, Remy from Ratatouille was sending us off for the start of our run. I was hoping for the best. Continuous running was a mere impossibility leading into this race due to some sinus issues. I still had the lingering effects, so I just hoped I could get through it.
I was less than enthusiastic about the first three (and then some) miles of the 10K race. As with most Disney races, a majority of your time is spent out on the highway. They sort of curb your boredom with character stations and areas with jumbo television screens and fast, fun music. Still, by the first mile, I was already not loving my costume. The long hair extensions were hot…and annoying. I honestly don’t know how women with long hair can run with it down. I was so DONE with it. It just kept getting in my way. I can’t count the number of times I flung a extra-long pigtail back behind my shoulder.
Also…wearing three layers on your top half in humid Florida…not my best idea. HA!! Yep…three (3) layers. My sports bra, my t-shirt (which was originally long sleeve, but I thought better of it), and my other sports bra that I made into Judy Hopps vest. Yep…it got hot pretty fast for me. But, you know, you just keep trekking. I mean, it was 68 degrees with 88% humidity (it is Florida, after all) at the start of the race. I knew the layers were going to be hot when I threw this costume together at the last minute.
Regardless…I felt a little better about life (even if all the race photos are unflattering and tell a different story), once we entered Epcot for the last part of the race. At about 3.5 miles, we take to the park, starting around the World Showcase, cutting down across the boardwalk (and I love the people staying at those resorts along the boardwalk who come out and cheer that early in the morning!), and then cutting back into the World Showcase to round out the run by running past the big Epcot ball. From there, it’s down a stretch into the parking lot and across the finish line. I could tell I was slowing down once I hit Epcot. The hills inside the World Showcase aren’t bad…but my legs had been going on a full day of parks and I was tired. Seriously. I was tired…and a little grumpy. That 2:30 am wakeup call came too early and I was doing my best to not fall asleep in the corral at the start of the race. So, finishing was a relief. I didn’t even care about my time. And after crossing, I saw Cathy and Jenn waiting up in the bleachers, waiving the sign that was made the night before…and cheering.
None of us were really firing on all cylinders. But I do love having my peeps at the end of a race. I walked through the finisher’s chute, getting my 10K medal (this thing was HUGE and HEAVY) and continuing down for the water, snack box, banana, and then the official photos near the end. Cathy and Jenn were going to meet me outside of bag claim…so I went through after that and there they were, heading my way.
I gave them sweaty hugs and Cathy helped me change out of my race shoes (I raced in my Altras for the first time!) and into my recovery flip flops. My feet thanked me for that. I had wanted to take some photos with the Disney characters in the finish area, but the lines were super long. I told them we could head back to the resort as long as I got to get pictures after the half marathon. I think they were all relieved. We got on the bus after a few pictures and headed back to Port Orleans – Riverside, where I showered, ate some real food, and got ready to spend the rest of the day out in Hollywood Studios. Yep…at Disney, I don’t rest these legs. I get on rides, chase down characters, and have a blast. It’s Disney. And even though lacking mega caffeine and oomph, I had a brilliant time. Spent the day on my feet, and ended with a traditional (gluten free) pasta dinner at Mama Melrose’s. I even got to indulge in more carby goodness with the gluten free dinner rolls. I only ate one. And I ate only about 2/3 or my huge pasta dish. I was full. And tired. It was back to the resort after that. I climbed into bed, setting three alarms for the following morning…when I would run the half marathon!
Oh…so my official results of the Disney Wine & Dine Inaugural 10K are that I finished in 48:19. Not too bad given the circumstances!! I was 164/9260 finishers overall. I was the 42/6556 female to cross the finish line. And I was 6/1102 runners in my age division. Considering I am still not 100% physically (damn ligament in my foot) and was dealing with the last of a sinus…thing…I’ll take it. It was a fantastic race and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
Race: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon
Place: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Date: November 6, 2016
What a difference an extra hour of sleep makes!!
Seriously, THANK YOU TIME CHANGE!! It was a lot easier to get up at 2:30 am when we had to fall back on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I’ll take that extra hour. I could tell we all needed it regardless.
Especially Jenn. Jenn was not feeling the early morning love all day on Saturday as we trudged around Hollywood Studios. I kept offering coffee and/or caffeine in the form of soda, but I think she was determined to just be tired and (a little cranky) ride it out on her own. NOT ME!! I downed a Iced Soy Caramel Apple Latte from Joffrey’s just after riding Tower of Terror on Saturday and that was the kick I needed, honestly, to help with the rest of the day. I don’t play around. If I’m tired…I get my caffeine. Lessons learned along the way. Definitely helped make the day easier to navigate through. And it was another long day…this time at Hollywood Studios…still undergoing renovations.
We did take in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show, which meant we were sitting for awhile. So, I think she liked that part. Be that as it may, she was not loving much of life all day Sunday, and after hearing, “I’m so tired I could cry” more than once, I told her that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if she stayed at the resort on half marathon morning and slept. In fact, I’d prefer it so that we could avoid another adventure like Saturday.
She ignored all three alarms, and slept through my hurried dash back into the room after forgetting my sunglasses (sunrise was now earlier…I didn’t have time for the sunscreen I didn’t put on thinking it would be like the day before and still be dark when I finished). The one other race weekend she came to Disney with us, I was doing Wine & Dine in 2014…and it was still a night race. Note to self: Jenn doesn’t handle Disney wake-up race times well. LOL!! Hey…those schedules on Disney weekends are brutal…I admit it. But I’m sort of used to the early mornings, and the on-the-go days, to the semi-late. And I’m pretty much a Disney race veteran. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone for sure. I think Saturday was the breaking point for Jenn. And that’s fine. The extra sleep and down time meant that she was ready to go at Epcot that afternoon. So, YAY! And that was a long day, as we had the after party that night as well. So, this was probably the best option for her…so I’m glad she did what was best for her.
Now, Cathy and I were up at the ass-crack of dawn and out the door to the shuttle to take us to the ESPN Wide World of Sports where the race was to start. For the half marathon, I was running as the Disney Princess that my niece, Kaytlynn, requested this time around…Ariel. Yep…I was The Little Mermaid. Simple costume (and much cooler too, although this race morning was a bit cooler (64 degrees) and windy…but the humidity was higher…pretty much at 100%. UGH. That being said, I had a throw-away shirt on over my purple sports bra and it helped keep me warm up until I shed it for the #KDFMarathon Ambassador photo before the start of the race. Anyway, the big shuttle left the resort pick-up spot just as we were getting to the front of the line…so, when the next bus showed up, it was WAY smaller. I said, “And they sent us the short bus!” It made everyone laugh. That being said, we boarded, settled, and let the bus carry us to the start of Sunday’s adventure.
The plan was for all of the #KDFMarathon Race Ambassadors (Stephanie, Richie, Melissa and me) to meet up at Bag Check before the race. This time, all four (4) of us made it. And we all looked amazing in our cute outfits. We got our pictures (which meant I ditched the shirt and then just never got it back) together and chatted a bit about the 10K, upcoming races, and just other stuff…that general stuff. Richie and I were in Corral A together so, after we all broke to get to our corrals, he and I stuck together and made our way into ours. I stood with him until the wheel chair racers kicked off. Then I gave him a hug and said I was going to move up and attempt to meet the goal that my coach had set for me for this race.
That goal…run it in 1:45:00.
As I had run (not raced) the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon two weeks prior to this (that race blog is incoming, life has been a busy, frantic, hectic mess) in less than this time (but barely), I figured this was an acceptable goal and one that I could accomplish.
But it wasn’t a walk in the (Disney) park either.
Once again, we had the fanfare of fireworks for Corral A to start off to. We also had Olympian Jenny Simpson running with the first corral. She was using this as an easy training run, you know…only running 6:15 min miles and all. She came in second, overall, btw…after a back and forth to the finish with the eventual winner. Her husband, Jason Simpson, won the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and set a new course record. So, that’s kind of cool to run in the footsteps of Simpson running greatness.
It was also in this first mile that I noticed a familiar running stride ahead of me. I pushed a little to catch up and was able to say “HI” to another Louisville runner, Lynn Riedling. That was about all I got to say before she pulled ahead and then was gone in the darkness. Probably about halfway through the first mile we heard the fireworks go off to send off Corral B…and one of the guys just ahead of me goes, “Run faster…they’re coming for us!”
Once again, this Disney race was mostly highway miles. But they did make a point to have character stops and some scenic stops along the way. There were also the music and television monitor stations throughout the course, to sort of shake up the monotony. The first three miles of this race…I felt like I ran well. I was comfortable in the moist air, as my layers today consisted of a purple sports bra and a green sparkle skirt. MUCH better in the Orlando humidity.
My first noticeable pace slow-down came between Mile 4 and Mile 5. Surprisingly, or maybe not, this was while I was inside Animal Kingdom (THANK GOD, they let us run completely through a park, because when the course maps were first released, it looked like we were running to the middle of nowhere and coming back). The course did narrow in some areas, and I do get distracted by the photo stops that are set up with characters. But I pressed on through to the 10K mark, my pace picking back up. I told myself that I would take in nutrition at the 10K line, and I did, downing a Hammer Gel (giving these a try…despite the rule to never try something new on race day). This and my Nuun I was hauling in one of my bottles on my fuel belt both had caffeine, which I hoped would wake me up when I was feeling tired and ready to stop.
It worked its magic. I managed to pick the pace up a little again for Mile 7 through Mile 11. These were all on the highway, and despite being Florida, we actually had a few hills to navigate over. Two of them came in a row. My favorite one though had to be the first hill we hit. Disney stationed a character out there…one of the Green Army Men from Toy Story. He was calling out to runners to push hard up the hill. If anyone slowed down they would have to do pushups. He noticed one runner just ahead of me.
“You…you in the blue shorts…get over here. Give me one pushup.” To my surprise, the runner did just that. And then the army man said, “Now…run fast and make up the 3 seconds you just wasted.”
I LOVE DISNEY!
Mile 12 had us entering the Epcot area. Like most of the races at this point, we just sort of duck into Epcot. It isn’t like the 10K where we get to run around the World Showcase and see it all. At this point, I spotted one of those inflatable T-Rex Costumes and the wearer was holding a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” LOVE IT. I was in my last mile…and really cutting it close on time. I hated that I felt like I ran this race better and was still coming in so close to what I did Urban Bourbon in without even trying. Returning from injury is frustrating at times…but you just end up being thankful for the gift of running that day in the end. I did the weird jog around the Food & Wine Festival centerpiece and headed up past the Epcot ball. And with that said, I made the turn and heard the gospel choir that is always at Mile 13 (or 26 if it’s the full marathon) at the Disney races. This is always uplifting…and I picked up my pace. I rounded a corner…got nailed by all the Disney photographers taking pictures of the runners coming toward the finish…and just pushed with every ounce of strength I had left in my hip and (sore) foot…and crossed that finish line…before it hit 1:45:00.
I saw Cathy up in the stands cheering and gave a wave as I made my way down the finisher’s chute. Here I received my medal for the half marathon, then proceeded on to get water, my snack box, and eventually go through the tent to get my medal for completing the 10K and the Half Marathon. This was “Lumiere’s Challenge”. As I was about to grab my water bottle, I hear my name being called over the fence. It was Cathy, sticking her camera over to get a photo. She said, “Want to know your time?” I said I did. And she said…”You did 1:44:30…BOOM!” She even texted it to my coach for me. HAHA! The volunteers at the table found this entire conversation amusing being as it was done over a covered fence. I got to the Challenge Medal tent, had them look up my name, and they sent me through to receive the medal. Afterwards, I exited through Bag Check and met up with Cathy on the other side. Sweaty hugs were given, and my race shoes (today I was in my Brooks), were changed out for the flip flops again. I was lingering a little, hoping to catch Richie again as he came through, but Cathy noticed that the lines of the characters were super short, and didn’t want me to miss the opportunity to get photos with them, since I passed it up due to lines on Saturday. I was able to get photos (rather quickly) with Lumiere and with Remy (from Ratatouille). And after that…I went back to see if I could catch Richie, but he had already finished and left for Port Orleans French Quarter. I had just missed him.
We arrived back at Port Orleans Riverside and trekked back to the manor house we were staying in. Jenn was up, and she was rested. So this was good. I went to shower, change, and eat some real food before we got our stuff together and headed out to Epcot for the day. We finished up around 4-ish with everything and decided to go back to the resort for a little while to unwind before returning to check in and then enjoy the After Party. This also meant that everyone else was kicked out of Epcot and we got to stay and eat at all the countries, drink at all the countries, and ride any of the rides that were open. This was, in fact, how we got on the new Soarin’. We had fast passed the Frozen Ever After ride.
I did manage to meet up with Stephanie and Richie while walking the showcase that night. I didn’t ever find Melissa. Ironically, my friend Michelle, for the second time in a row, managed to find me in the huge crowd of people at the After Party. We took a picture to commemorate her awesome GPS honing skills. HAHA!
I was able to enjoy a few stops at the After Party as well. I started my night off with Dole Whip…then went on to Brazil where I devoured two large rolls of Pão de Queijo, and then finished off the night with a Dark Chocolate Red Wine Truffle.
It was close to 1 am when we got back to our room at the resort. And we had to get up early (but not race morning early) for a character breakfast the next morning. BUT…that involved gluten-free Mickey waffles…so I was okay with this.
Oh…and I guess I should give you the official race results. The official race results of the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:44:30. So, yay…I managed to hit my coach’s goal time with 30 seconds to spare. Whew. I was 208/12651 finishers overall. I was 56/8749 women to cross the finish line. And, I was 11/1513 in my age division. Not too bad.
Now…if I can get this whole endurance with speed (and no pains or issues breathing) thing down, I might be well on my way to a way better race year next year. But this was Half Marathon #23…and the final one for the year. No better way to finish it up than at Disney!
I will say…I still miss running this race at night. But it wasn’t a bad way to start a Sunday off either.
OH…and before I forget…a big THANK YOU to all of you who donated funds to the charity I was raising money for by doing this race. Alliance For A Healthier Generation is a fantastic charity doing great things for the future of our country and the children that are to be our future. I went slightly over my fundraising goal, never a bad thing…and I have many of you to thank for that. So…THANK YOU…from the bottom of my heart!
Ever feel like you just don’t have enough hours in the day? Because I thought that after I got through The Kauai Marathon and home from the rest of the vacation in Hawaii and San Francisco. When in fact…I’m pretty much spending every day like this…
Complete calm…and then panic. Yep. That pretty much sums it up. I have promised a few blogs on products and places, but I just haven’t had the opportunity to really sit down and give the blog the attention that it deserves.
Let’s start with training these days…
I’m really not training for anything as of late. I’m focusing a lot on my form and just making myself a better runner overall. Slowing down is not easy for me, but I’m really, really, really trying. That being said…speed work is back on the training plan. And I did the same training run 2 weeks in a row, and failed to hit the pace my running coach assigned the first week…but nailed it this past Tuesday morning. That was a good feeling.
I’m continuing with my spin classes…because it’s fantastic cross-training. Eventually, I’d love to get up the nerve to clip back into my road bike and give that a go. I’m just still working on getting over my vehicle-induced fall back in the summer. So, for now…it’s a whole lot of this:
And, I’ve finally gotten around to incorporating the strength training into my weekly gym routine. It’s only been…almost a year…since my physical therapist insisted I start doing this. So…yeah…weights are slowly working themselves into my routine. It’s not easy, because strength training doesn’t excite me. I’m a cardio girl…and weights tend to not even make me crack a sweat, even while lifting heavy. So…there is that…
AND…to top all of this off…my running has been pretty much shit since running the Kauai Marathon. Hawaii sort of…killed me. The hip has stopped hurting, but the ligament in my foot is still troubling me. And…a friend of mine noted the limp-run I was doing back when I got my stress fracture last year was back. Note that is why I am focusing more on form rather than speed (except on speed work days). But, I find that while I physically feel okay (aside from the extra weight I wish I wasn’t carrying around right now…but it just won’t go away!) and capable, mentally I am struggling. I find myself stopping more…crying more…and just having to talk myself through each run. This is where I really miss running with people. It helps me. It does. It’s a big, big work in progress for sure. I know this all takes time but…I’m so tired of it.
And…work has pretty much been insane since I got back from my trip. Non-stop. There are days I don’t get to take a full break because I have so much to do. And there are days that work has had to come home…or that I’ve had to put in overtime just to make sure things that needed to get done. Honestly, I would love to have a moment to just have some breathing space. You know…where you can just sit for a moment and do something non-work related at work…
It’s good for the soul.
But these days, I feel like my workload should be decreasing, but it’s getting bigger. I’m not really complaining. The job security is great, but I feel that so much of my day is spent doing this…
…non-stop…at the office…sometimes at home…
…while certain other person(s) are basically spending their day like this:
All that being said…I’m going to make a point to commit a bit more to this blog. Because I love writing and I love writing here. And I love all of you who read this and tune in…whether it’s a rant, a post on running, a recipe, a product, a restaurant…you guys are loyal and I love you.
For now, I do have a free evening free of…stressful stuff…so I’m off to watch Hell’s Kitchen!!
Because Gordon Ramsay makes everything better. For realsies!!
“That’s what a comeback is. You have a starting point and you build strength and momentum from there. Stay the course…remain patient. Focus on small steps that are constantly forward.”
Comebacks are hard.
Comebacks are very hard. And I have been building up to this one for a long, long time now. A very long time. Over a year kind of time. SO…much time. Sometimes…it has gone very well. Sometimes…it has gone all sorts of wrong. The winter months were painful. Rainy days are painful. Humidity has been soul-crushing and run-ruining. And, believe it or not, I discovered trying to stay safe during speed work by running on a treadmill…wasn’t so safe and actually ended up causing a bit of damage to my foot…right before this marathon.
You want to talk about a freak-out, panic-inducing, last few days before taking off for Hawaii. All sorts of visions of last year’s Hawaiian adventure with Bootsie…my boot I was put in for 8 weeks thanks to a stress fracture in my leg…that all started flashing through my mind. You want to talk about some physical and mental breakdowns…the whole build-up to this race has been one big emotional roller coaster. One I really, really needed to get off…and the sooner the better.
Thankfully, I have a fantastic podiatrist…and very understanding and encouraging friends in my life.
And despite all of the anxiety and problems…I made it. First to San Francisco. Then…to Hawaii. And Hurricane Lester took a turn back out to sea.
The race was on.
The pressure was on.
And I can’t even count how many times I had minor to major anxiety attacks in the days (despite being in Hawaii!) leading up to the race.
Like I said…comebacks are hard.
My adventure started, as it always does, with good friends and good support (non sports bra division). For the first few days I was in Hawaii, my friends and I were exploring O’ahu. We were stationed out of Honolulu, but we doing some serious exploring and shopping there. From the Dole Plantation to Waikiki Beach…we pretty much did it all. Oh, and we ate amazing food. I had pineapple, pretty much, at every meal. Fresh cut, amazing, pineapple. One from a roadside stand where a woman sliced it up while I waited. I was having a blast. We were on O’ahu until Saturday morning, when we caught an early flight over to Kauai.
Upon landing, we literally hit the ground running. After getting our luggage and our rental car, we piled in and began our adventure on Kauai. We had a few things to do before hitting up the expo. This involved coffee at my favorite coffee spot on Kauai (Ha Coffee…where I ate half a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie and downed my favorite of their specialty signature drinks…The Bee Sting. SO good. Then we went to find Sweet Marie’s…a dedicated gluten free bakery because…we needed a gluten free cake of some sort to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday that night. The set-up was strange, and the fact that she is open only 2 days of the week (Saturday & Sunday) made this challenging…but we finally figured it all out and, after she was a little rude and snippy to us…we picked up one of her Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping. She got a little huffy at us for paying with cash (who does that??!!)…but we got our cake (it was about the size of a large muffin) and left to go check out the race expo.
Getting there was fun. We got to drive part of the course backwards and I made note of just how damn hilly it was going to be. That sort of kicked up the anxiety again. But as we got to the resort where the expo was being held, I had calmed down a little. A little.
The first thing I did at the expo was go to check out the list to get my bib number. One problem…
MY NAME WAS NOT ON THE LIST!!!
And this was even after I contacted the race prior to the trip to make sure that my deferral from last year was on their records and I was on the list to run. They told me I was. Apparently…I wasn’t. Frustrating…and did nothing to help calm the anxiety and nerves at this race. It took…awhile…but after talking to about 4 different people, they simply had me fill out a form and turn it in. They got me a blank bib, added me to the list…and I was ready to run.
After that…I was ready to shop. I had my Kauai Marathon reusable bag, which my friend Tanya really wanted. She even went to ask if she could purchase one, but they wouldn’t let her. As I have more than enough reusable grocery bags, I told her she could have mine. YAY! There was much happiness. What there wasn’t a lot of…was size small merchandise for the race itself. I had wanted a few of the rainbow race shirts…but they were out of the smaller sizes…at the start of the expo on Saturday morning. REALLY??!! I was starting to think I wasn’t going to purchase anything…but then I spotted this amazing backpack. And…it had to be mine. So…despite being way more than the shirts, that’s what I left with. And I was quite okay with that. Afterwards, I spotted Bart Yasso at a table at the expo and went over to say hello to him. Cathy told him to reassure me that I was going to be okay…and he did…quite a few times, and gave me numerous high fives and words of encouragement. I love Bart Yasso.
Soon after that…we left. We had to buy a few groceries and get a few more important things done…like checking into the resort and all that. We first stopped off at The Spouting Horn, where I thought I needed to put on some sunscreen…but we were ready to go check out the water. So, I said I would do it when we got back into the car. We spent a bit of time on the lookout, watching a blowhole spout a plume of sea water into the air. This waterspout occurs whenever waves are forced under the lava shelf and up through an opening in the rocky coast. The spout, sometimes, can shoot water as high as 50 feet into the air. It’s always amazing. We did need to grab some lunch, so we swung by the Living Foods Market. On the short journey there, I put on some sunscreen because I am prone to sunburn easily. And I finished up just as we hit the market. What I didn’t realize until later was…I forgot I had taken my Claddagh ring off and put it in my lap, so when I climbed out of the car to go into the market…it dropped. Deciding on a light lunch was not as easy as I thought as so much sounded so good. And…we were at the time where it could be breakfast or lunch and we were all having a hard time deciding on which way to go. After waiting a bit too long for breakfast, we settled on lunch. I got a small bowl of their Molokai Potato Salad, which is purple potatoes, coconut milk, green onion, and coconut flakes. And it was fantastic. Tawn got a poke bowl, Cathy got a BLT Sandwich, and Jennifer got the fish tacos. After lunch, we were off to check into the resort, hit up a couple of shops, and then buy some groceries. I was, after all, making something new (I know…nothing new on race day…but…I felt better about this than a pizza place)…Pizza Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. And we hit up the grocery stores hard. We got the tomato sauce, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cheese, and even pepperoni (the other 3 are meat eaters) for the potatoes that night…along with waters and a few snacks to have on hand. And my banana for race morning. That is super important. And a bonus kabocha squash that we found so I could roast it up.
That night, after settling in at the resort, I started immediately in on roasting up the kabocha squash. Cutting it wasn’t too much of a hassle, but I realized we had no aluminum foil or any olive oil at the resort. I thought they might have that on hand…but I was wrong. So, I cooked without it. The squash cooked for about 30
minutes…and as it was cooking, I prepped the sweet potatoes. No olive oil meant seasoning the skins was a bit harder, but I did what I could. The moment the squash was out and plated, I turned up the oven and began to bake the potatoes. They were a bit larger…so I knew they would take about an hour to cook. In the meantime, we through in our trip playlist, danced around the resort, talked, and looked at photos from O’ahu and earlier in the day. It actually took a bit longer, but soon we were slicing them open, laying out the tomato sauce, the mushrooms, the cheese, and for the other three…pepperoni. Back into the oven for 10 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
And, finally, dinner was served. And it was delicious…and filling. But…there was still room for cake. And we had picked up candles and everything to make it special for Jenn. We were glad that the “cake” was actually more of a muffin because it was perfect once we split it 4 ways between us. And it was pretty good. Lighter than I expected though, so there is that. And it was good. It was. But Annie May’s Gluten Free Coffee Cake is WAY better. WAY! We were happy to have this though. And after staying up a little longer for showers and some talking, we turned in. We all knew an early, early morning awaited us.
Sleep didn’t come easy…but I managed a little.
Race morning arrived. Early. I had my first alarm set for 3 am so that I could get up and do my first round of preparations. I went back to sleep for another 45 minutes before getting up for the second time. This time it was to actually get dressed. I used the bathroom, got into my race gear, and nervously began milling about the room, not quite ready to duck out into the main room, where Tawn was milling about getting ready for the day. Cathy was up and moving, slowly, because it was 4 am. While she was changing and in the bathroom, I began the very, very, very tedious (but important) task of getting myself coated in sunscreen.
When in Hawaii…and a super fair-skinned, Irish girl…you lather up. You take a dip and swim in that stuff. You do whatever you can to keep your skin protected. Especially when you are already a skin cancer survivor, like me.
Cathy emerged eventually and helped me with the hard to reach areas on my back (after all…I was going to die in clothes, so it was a bra top race for me). She also had me sit down so she could actually attempt to get some sunscreen on my scalp. This was sort of awkward and left me looking, at first, a bit like a skunk, but at the end of the day…no sunburn on the scalp. And that, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.
I threw a shirt on over my top after the sunscreen had had time to soak in…and then headed into the main room. Tawn and Jennifer were both there, in various states of readiness. I grabbed my water from the fridge and sought out my normal morning routine.
Thankfully, Cathy thought ahead while we were out hitting up grocery stores the night before…picking up a banana and a little individual serving of Cheerios for me to eat. I had my cheerios at the resort, standing in the kitchen, talking to Tawn as she put on her makeup. That was actually calming, because in my mind, I was about to have another anxiety attack. My heart was racing, my mind was racing faster, and my entire chest just wanted to explode. I wanted to burst out into tears.
But I didn’t.
Thanks to my friends.
I filled up my water bottles…2 with regular water and then 2 with my fuel (I am using Hammer at the moment…something I only had time to test out on an 8 mile run the weekend before…so I can’t report back on it quite yet). And then…after getting pinned up, we gathered up our stuff and we were, literally, off to the races.
It was just over a 30 minute drive from the resort in Kapa’a to Poipu (?) where the race started and ended. We didn’t really encounter much traffic, so this drive went very smoothly. In fact, we arrived with some time that Cathy actually pulled into the parking lot where I figured I had lost my Claddagh ring the day before…and all three of my friends got out with the flashlights on their iPhones and began searching. They came up empty handed though. Everyone got back into the car and we set out to find some parking…following cars to an area on the side of the road, just a short stroll from the start and finish line areas. We watched a truck next to us totally pull up far enough to block the sidewalk and spent some time ridiculing them from the comfort of our car. But…it was time.
And as much as I wanted to delay…I couldn’t. It was go-time.
I think I was shaking as I opened up the door and stepped out into the humid morning. It was already moist, the air heavy and wet. Ugh. I took in a shaky, but deep breath, and told myself, once again, to not freak out or panic. It was easier said than done, because I was falling apart on the inside. The last memory I have of a marathon was Boston 2015…and it did not go well for me. And it was replaying…every painful, horrible step…every moment that I had to walk…all of it…right there…fresh in my mind. And it was MESSING with me.
The four of us began the trek toward the starting area. Which, we found very easily, following not just the announcement sounds, but also the other runners heading in that direction. We crossed the road right where the start line was corralled off and took a couple of quick photos. And…just like that…it was time for me to get to the staging area and them to go find a spot for the start of the race. They all gave me hugs. I cried…wiped my eyes…handed over my shirt…and walked away…nervously…into the staging area. It was already 5:30 am…so I had to get my banana eaten so I wouldn’t be regretting putting it off until later. So, as I walked, I noshed, slowly, on the banana. I noticed very few marathon bibs…much of the over 2000 people who run these races do the half marathon option.
These…are the smart people.
These people are brilliant. These people must have looked at the elevation chart before signing up. I had an extra year…and I still didn’t do this up until it became clear that…yes…I could run. And yes…I would run.
I tossed my banana peel in the garbage and went to get in line for the bathroom. I had already used it 3 times at the resort…but I was nervous…and needed to pee. Again. I’m like an excitable puppy in that regard. It’s a curse. The lines moved relatively quickly though, and I managed to get one where the person coming out didn’t start with…”Just warning you…this one is pretty full.” Since I hate using port-o-potties anyway, this was a blessing in disguise.
Afterward…I saw everyone moving away from this staging area, so I grabbed a small tray of watermelon (I know…nothing new on race day, but it was humid enough that I was feeling the dehydrating effects already) and ate it. Then…I stepped up to the crowd waiting to enter the start area.
The announcer, Ron Wiley, from the local (and best) radio station there in Kauai, KONG, was doing some schmoozing and talking at the start. He mentioned the heat we were having…and the humidity…and said that no one was going to PR today. As that was never my intention in the first place, I was okay with that. It was hot and it was humid. Bart Yasso was brought up and, despite a couple of microphone malfunctions, wished everyone a good race. He was doing the half…his girlfriend…the full. And then, the national anthem was sung by a local woman…and, we were counted down and sent off to the sound of conch shells blowing. It was fantastic. I mean, seriously…the sun wasn’t up yet…tiki torches are lit…and conch shells are being blown by locals as the starting gun. I was taking it all in, and waving at the drone…just telling myself to take it easy, breathe, and to have fun.
As I crossed the starting line, I spotted Cathy, Tawn, and Indy…and they cheered and screamed and I waved…and that adrenaline took me through the slow-moving packed start of the race. I was thankful for the much easier pace of the start because I tend to just go all out in the first mile and tire quicker. With the humidity already pretty intense, I was already soaking wet within the first half mile. My pigtails were plastered to my neck. This humidity was NO JOKE. And with the first 7 miles being a steady uphill climb, I wanted to really pace myself and save something for the second part of the race. Mile 1 ticked off, and I was moving without breathing hard. And then…a light, misting rain started up. We’re in the gorgeous Hawaiian countryside…and here comes this light mist. I can see gorgeous mountains ahead, hear roosters crowing, and see the lightening of the sky, with the promise of a sunrise coming. I focused on my surroundings more than how I was feeling. Which was good…because with the steady incline going…by Mile 3 I was already feeling this race in my hip adductor. Not good. Not what I wanted at all.
I had hoped that my hip would hold out longer and do better…but the long climb was not something I could practice. Not for that long or that distance. Which…was now getting into my head. I focused on my form at that point, and as I came into Mile 4…was moving a bit better. My foot, however, was still an issue in and of itself. Even taped up, it would flare up with every few steps, reminding me that it was not 100%…and that I needed to keep that in mind as the race continued. Thankfully, some beautiful hula dancers were on the side of the road and that made me focus on something else for the moment. Distractions are a beautiful thing.
At Mile 5, way earlier than anticipated or hoped for…I took my first walk break. I had ever intention of at least powering through the first half of this race without needing to walk, ideally getting to Mile 15…but that didn’t happen. And I actually cried a little when I had to take this break. But the elevation was wreaking havoc on both my hip and my foot…so I took it. And once I got to a designated spot ahead (I think it was a road sign), I started back to a jog…and then an easy paced run.
Ahead was the part of the race I had been looking forward to the most…the Tunnel of Trees. Just before Mile 6, you run into this gorgeous area canopied by old Eucalyptus trees, creating a natural gateway to Kauai’s South Shore. Just inside the Mile 6 marker was placed. A woman runner from Kauai, just ahead of me, went…”Alright…6 down, 20 to go!” She pumped her hands and two runners from Honolulu began talking to here. The two from Honolulu were doing the half marathon. And, as we were running, it came out that our excitable Kauai native was also doing the half. She said she knew the course and wanted a beer after 2 hours of running. Not 4 or more. Another runner, a guy in floral shorts, stopped here and there to take amazing shots within the tunnel of trees. It really was amazing. And, as we left, we rounded into our 7th mile…and finally…FINALLY…got some downhill time. The lady from Kauai went, “Downhill…time to make up all that time we lost on that climb.” She was adorable and so excited…it was rather uplifting, actually. If she had been doing the full, I’d have wanted to have her along to keep me going. I sort of stayed with this group…having a nice back and forth with them for a few miles. They were talking about how running for over 4 hours didn’t sound appealing to them. I told them about how I was supposed to do this race last year, but couldn’t due to a stress fracture. And this was great. This got me through to Mile 10…when I pulled ahead and soon was at the point where the half marathon runners went left to run the last 2.5 miles into the finish line…and the marathon runners went right…at the rooster sign…and continued for the next 15.5 miles. This is where it really thinned out.
I made the turn, and immediately, another steep hill was waiting. I managed to run a few more feet before I stopped to take another walk break. I didn’t cuss myself out or cry this time…I just told myself to not worry too much about it. This race wasn’t for time anyway. And…at this point a beautiful rainbow was arching over the roadway. So, who needs to run when you can really drink in a Hawaiian rainbow for a moment. I did start up again as I neared the crest of the hill…and took on the downhill.
My foot was now starting to bother me more. As far as long runs went after seeing my podiatrist…I had done 8 miles. So, I was already over the distance I tested this foot out on. And it was screaming at me. I took a deep breath…turned my focus back to my form again, and kept on going. Miles 11-12 were relatively flat, but I soon found myself walking again as the hills returned near the halfway point. I picked it up to run across the half marathon mark which translated to anyone following me via tracking that I was at least halfway done. This was just under 2 hours into the race…and I was now hitting the hardest part of the course. The volunteer they had at the halfway mark though was awesome. And I am so glad he was there, cheering and encouraging people. He told me I was halfway there…and doing well. And he said it that I believed him. I was hitting my unspoken goal…to finish around 4 hours…at this point…on target. I knew I’d be slowing down though with the course being harder on the other side. But…making it this far was good…even if I was really starting to feel the effects of the humidity and heat of the day. After all, the sun was up and blazing now…and there wasn’t a lot of tree cover on these roads. You run the day…so I was running (and walking) to my abilities now.
I ran through Mile 14 before having to slow again. I drank in some water and poured some over my head to keep my body temperature cool. That was not an easy thing for me to do…but it was necessary. Also…Mile 15-17 was the huge climb that I had heard and read stories about. And I knew…I knew I would have to walk some of it.
Truth was…I walked the entire hill. I just couldn’t get my mind to tell my feet and legs to go. I probably could have run some of it, but my mind was not in a good place at this point and the word “can’t” was probably running around more than it should have been. But, once I got to the top…I started to run again. This part of the race went through a very rurual area, with broken down houses. But this…this part had my race moment. I was running along a road that looked like it was made of red clay. And this little girl, also in pigtails, come running up alongside me…just smiling. I told her that I loved her hair and we ran together…the two of us…pigtails bouncing at our shoulders. It was amazing. And even when she hit the chalk finish line she had etched into the road…she kept going with me. When she dropped back, I shouted a thank you to her and continued on my way. Seriously…highlight.
After that is where things sort of spiraled out of control. It’s hard to remember much because it got a little bit…scary. Despite taking in water (my own and that along the course) and fueling the way I have always fueled for races…by Mile 18…I was starting to feel sick. My stomach was not happy with me, probably due to taking in more water than I am accustomed to. Or, maybe it was the new fuel. I can’t say since I didn’t test it out, but I took the fuel in at my usual spots ahead of this and had no issues at all. But the heat was really starting to lay into me. And, needless to say, I started to succumb to it.
I jogged with a Marathon Maniac from Mile 17…and we walked a hill through Mile 18. He took off after that and I told myself I would start to run again. But, my body wasn’t feeling it. My stomach hurt. My head was foggy. And I was aching. Foot and hip. Just…no desire to start up again. I tried…and my foot rebelled. So, I decided to walk a little more. I walked through the next couple of miles, taking offered cold water despite feeling like I really just wanted to throw up. As I crested a hill around Mile 21…I was seeing dark spots in my vision and my lips were tingling. I was in a bad way. But I didn’t want to call it quits. I have never DNF’d a race and I wasn’t ready, after traveling this far, and having had to give upon this race last year, to give up now. I slowed it down. Breathed deeply, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. If I hit a water stop, I would drink half the water, even though I really just wanted to throw up more…then pour the rest over my head to cool down. We had rounded back and had to go over the timing mat I had gone over at the halfway point. The same enthusiastic volunteer was there as I walked…WALKED…over it. He said…”It’s only 5 more miles and mostly down hill from here.”
It was niceto hear. But I knew my pace wasn’t going to be picking up any time soon. And it wasn’t just me. I’d have people run by me who were stopping to walk. They didn’t have the added fun of an injured foot and hip to contend with and eventually would start up again. It was frustrating, to me, and I was trying hard to not worry about the time ticking away with each slow, walking step I had to take. I cussed at myself when I had to walk the downhills. I felt horrible…and the few times I talked myself into jogging, I had to stop almost immediately. I held tears back, because I didn’t want to break down and not be able to breathe. It was already hard enough in the humidity. The heat of the day was upon us now and I just wanted to get to the finish line and find some shade. When I was at Mile 23, I saw two of the volunteers on mopeds. One of them asked about some medical thing at Mile 18. The other guy said it was just a runner who was done. The heat and humidity and hills had done him in. I overheard this and said…I know how he feels, but I just decided to walk it in. And one of them said, “You’ve looked strong all day. Keep going!”
Hearing that made me feel a little better, and despite the runners catching up and passing me, I just kept that steady mantra of just putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going. 2 miles…I could walk 2 miles. I was walking 2 miles. Around Mile 25, the resort near the finish line was handing out cold, wet towels. I took one and draped it over my neck, then my head. I touched it to my shoulders and face. I kept it with me until it was no longer cold. And by then…I was near the finish line. So close.
But my legs still weren’t ready to go. And I was getting so mad at myself and the entire situation. As I was nearing a bend in the road, and seeing the ocean again, a guy was walking up to the runners heading our way, a medal around his neck, giving us high fives. He saw me and said, “You turn that corner and you will see the finish. You’re almost there, girl.” And with that, I came around the bend, and started to jog.
It took every bit of my willpower to keep going. I pushed. I pushed more. And I ran toward that finish line, hearing Ron Wiley (the DJ of KONG radio) say, “And here comes Karen Brady of The Brady Bunch”…and I tossed up my hands and crossed the finish line.
I could hear Cathy, Tawn, and Jenn. I could see them. I slowed to a walk and tried to catch my breath. Tears just flowed. Those ugly cry tears. And I walked up to them, Cathy reaching over to give me a hug, and all I could say was, “That was so fucking hard.” And then I melted down.
After a few moments of sweaty hugs, and getting a lei put around my neck, I slowly walked down the chute to receive my medal. Cathy had me pose with the cute Hawaiian man handing out medals before I made my way to the reunion area to meet them. Cathy went to grab a bag of ice to lay me down on and I went to get into the shade and put my feet up. Jennifer and Tawn went to get me some iced coffee and I was content to lay there, feet up, recovering…and trying hard not to cry. My friends were awesome. They told me how good I did and how proud they were of me. And I focused on that instead of the fact that, while my only true goal was to finish the race, I had hoped for a little bit better time. But, this was a brutal course and brutal weather. I did what I could. I left everything I had out there. And while I was disappointed in myself, no one else was.
After I felt recovered enough to move, I called my mom to talk to her. She and my dad had been tracking me, which I had no idea they would be doing. It almost made me cry…especially when they both started telling me how proud they were of me. I talked to my mom as we were getting to the car and hung up as we climbed in. Cathy asked if I needed water…and as my stomach was still off, I requested a cold Sprite Zero. She said we could swing by the Long’s Drugs that was near the finish line. So…we did. And I didn’t realize she didn’t enter with me. I had gone right over to the cold beverages and grabbed a Sprite Zero. Then…couldn’t find her. Tawn had me help her look for some travel size products, and as I was ready to leave and sit down again, Cathy comes in, grabs my hand, and drops my Claddagh ring into my hand. Turns out, a customer at the Living Foods Market found it in the parking lot and turned it in. My amazing friends had called to inquire about it as they ate breakfast while I was out running. And the market had it. And now…I had it back. I purchased that ring in 2007 in Ireland…I was so upset it was gone. And now…thanks to the amazing people in my life…and a special and honest person who found it and turned it in…I have it back. I ugly cried for the 4th time that day.
After that, we went back to the resort so I could shower off and get changed. Once I was clean…and in the process…noticed that the date was wrong on the medal…I was dressed and we headed out to lunch and to explore Kauai for the rest of the day.
Lunch, by the way, was Gluten Free Vegan Tacos at Verdes. It was amazing. Just what I needed. Lunch with friends…and good food.
So…the official results of the Kauai Marathon are that I finished in 4:52:18. I was 97/258 finishers overall. I was 31/101 female finishers. And I was 6/13 finishers in my age division.
Was this the race I had hoped for? No. Nowhere close. Unfortunately, this race was the race I needed, but didn’t need. The outcome wasn’t the one I wanted. There was way more walking than I had anticipated. The hills, the heat, the humidity…they crushed me and I am still battling this mental block of mine. A part of me wonders if I can honestly take on 26.2 anymore. This race defeated me…but I was not defeated. Despite feeling horrible…despite the brutal heat and course…I finished. I found that little boost at the end to run it in and cross that finish line. And in the end…all that matters is that I crossed that line…my friends were there to hug me…and I survived. I made it.
Was this the comeback I dreamed of? Nowhere close. But there will be other races. Just not anytime soon.
I am proud of myself though…despite pain and nagging injuries…and the weather conditions (possible hurricanes up until the day before!)…I finished. I FINISHED! Marathon #11…done!
From here…I focus on getting stronger.
Aloha, Kauai. Thanks for the memories…even if my race date is wrong on the medal (which…by the way…has yet to be acknowledged by the race peeps…despite it being mentioned numerous times to them via social media).
There’s a Tropical Storm brewing in the pacific and heading straight for Hawaii. Um? Yay?
So, while this is almost what happened last year…when three…YES…THREE…hurricanes were spinning the the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii and bringing unseasonable humidity and general muckiness…this year…there is one. One.
Her name is Madeleine.
What does this mean? Well, as of right now…the storm’s track is heading north and is supposed to turn west. They’re predicting it turns west early, so Madeleine will primarily impact the Big Island. Oahu and Kauai are farther north, so unless she grows substantially, all they’re calling for is 20% for rain and some wind (about 20mph) on Thursday in Honolulu. Do I really have to run in really windy weather? AGAIN??!!
Damn you Mother Nature…AGAIN!!
Needless to say…the forecasts for while I am island hopping around Hawaii looks rather wet, windy and rainy. Um? YAY?! Seriously…I have some adorable bathing suits I’d like to wear…on sunny beaches…poolside…wherever. So…let’s not take that away from me shall we?
Aside from that, as of now, I physically am as ready as I can be for this trip. Mentally, I’m struggling. It’s not easy, sometimes, putting those demons inside your head to rest. And these past few weeks have definitely brought them out more than I’d like. But, the advice given to me by a good friend, Derek, was simple…
RUN THE DAY.
And as I have one goal for this race…TO LIVE THROUGH IT…
Okay…maybe two goals…TO FINISH…
…then I say to simply run the day is some great advice. Humid…hot…windy…rainy…whatever the case…I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can be out there…going the distance again. It might get hard. I might struggle. I might even cry. But, once I start, one thing is for certain…I won’t give up.
Now, to get packing because I’m pretty certain the rest of this week is going to be crazy! I think everyone going with me is ready…and I’m not ready. So they are all…
…and I’m all…
I leave in 3 days. I’m more than a little broke. And…stressing. A little. Maybe a lot. But…this time…this time it’s actually happening.