Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goofy Race and a Half Challenge: Day One

It's taken forever to get the race reports done but getting engaged the day before the Goofy Challenge and then the ongoing battle to catch up at work has me pulled in several different directions but here it is!

January 8, 2011: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

After the excitement of getting engaged (and sharing the news with our parents and my brother's family), we tried really hard to go to sleep around 9:00 pm. It had been a busy day and I knew I needed to try to get a couple hours of solid sleep....but the 2:30 am alarm left me feeling like I had barely closed my eyes.

I went through my usual pre-race rituals but I struggled to eat my breakfast. At 3:00 am, your body just isn't ready to eat real food. I ended up taking a bagel and a banana with me to eat once it got closer to race time. I felt relatively calm as The Pilot and I walked to the hotel lobby at 3:30 am. I made one last non- Port-A-Potty stop in the lobby restroom (along with a lot of other jittery 1/2 marathoners) before climbing onto the bus.

Once we arrived to the Epcot parking lot, dozens of buses from all of the Disney resorts were dropping off 1/2 marathoners and their spectators. We then all shuffled our way to the Family Reunion area, which is just a part of the Epcot parking lot with tents set up with giant signs indicating sections of the alphabet.

While sitting here, I ate my bagel and decided to save my banana to eat in my corral. Disney makes the participants line up in their assigned corrals REALLY early and I was several corrals back so I knew I would have at least an hour before I crossed the start line once I headed over there. I was anxious but not about the 1/2 marathon itself. In the front of my mind was that I would have to get up at 2:30 am the very next morning and go through the whole process again.

When it was time to make my way over to the start, The Pilot gave me some encouraging words, a hug and a kiss and sent me on my way. It is a 1/2 mile walk from the Family Reunion area to the start line. That 1/2 mile walk took nearly 45 minutes. 27,000 other 1/2 marathoners were all trying to get to the same place. I later heard that there were some transportation issues from some of the other hotels so some people barely made it to their corrals before their wave started.

I made it to my corral (and made one last Port-A-Potty stop, just like all of the other 27,000 people) and enjoyed my banana. While looking for a place to toss my banana peel, I looked to my left and I see a Team in Training alumni from Central Ohio! I knew Bethany would be down there but I never imagined I'd find her among all those people! We ran a 4-mile race together in May so I knew I could run her pace. Not wanting to do all 13.1 miles by myself, I figured I would run with her and her sister for a little while to warm up.

The Disney starts are exciting....and misleading. They make a big deal about it. Mickey and Minnie count down to the start and then fireworks surround the starting area and stand there and wait. And wait. It feels like it takes an eternity before you actually get to move anywhere. Luckily they make a pretty big deal out of all the waves, with fireworks going off each time another corral crosses the start line.
The excitement and the waiting certainly does a number on the nerves. I think the only thing that kept me remotely calm during this was my experience. This is exactly why first timers tend to go out too fast. The excitement and the crowd mentality pushes them too fast, too soon. I say this even though I decided to start of the race by running instead of race walking.

I stayed with Bethany and her sister for the first two miles before dropping off to start race walking. Despite dividing everyone into EIGHT corrals, each starting six minutes apart, it was REALLY crowded. Most of the people around me were still running but as I dropped back some, I settled right into the middle of the "Galloway" pack. They run and walk for pre-determined amounts of time rather than distances. So that means they run (and pass me) but then they take a walk break. I almost always pass these people when they take their walk breaks. In my opinion, they use up so much energy on the running that they are tired when they stop to walk. Plus, they don't usually have very good walk form. Just my opinion.

I spent much of the next five miles leap frogging with the Galloway pack. It's amazing how fast the first seven miles of a 1/2 marathon goes, especially at Disney World! The Pilot was waiting for me around mile 4 so it was great to see his smiling face! This was his first time being a "super spectator" at a 1/2 marathon. He was an awesome spectator at the triathlon last July but marathons are a whole different monster.

Miles 5-7 are right through the Magic Kingdom so there are lots of characters on the course and lots of people waiting in line to take pictures with the characters! I wasn't out for a personal record but I certainly wasn't going to wait in line for pictures along the course! This was also year seven for me be involved with Disney Marathon weekend, I didn't even take a camera with me during the race other than my cell phone. Which is where this gem came from:

It got pretty dull from mile 7 to 8 as we ran/walked/shuffled down an access road back towards Epcot. Right around mile 8 is when I saw The Pilot on the opposite side of the road from me. One side of the road was open to traffic so he couldn't get any closer but we were able to yell out to each other. I was feeling pretty good still though my right knee was starting to get a little weird. The full marathon was never far from my thoughts so I slowed down a little bit, knowing I had more than enough time to finish within the 3:30 time limit.

By the time I got to mile 11, which is when you are almost back to the Epcot parking lot, my knee was starting to really yell at me so I dialed it back even more. I was torn because I just wanted to be done so I could focus on the full marathon but I didn't want to push it either because I needed my body to hold up! I also knew that I was pretty close to a walking 1/2 marathon PR but I kept reminding myself that a PR was NOT the reason I was there!

The last mile of the 1/2 is a lot of fun. You go right through Epcot and there are park guests looking at you like you are crazy and wondering what on earth is going on. There are Disney cast members cheering for you. There are spectators cheering for you as they wildly search for their own 1/2 marathoner. There are 1/2 marathoners that finished the race before you, some of them HOURS before you, and yet they are also cheering for you!

As I rounded the corner right at the 13 mile marker, I caught sight of The Pilot. I really want to stop and hug him but there it was! I made it to the finish! I was really excited that I was a third of the way done with the Goofy Challenge so in a pure, cliched, moment of joy, I threw my arms up as I crossed the finish line in 3:14:42! While I was only about 30 seconds away from a walking PR but as I crossed the finish line, I immediately thought "oh no, I gave it too much." My knee and my left foot were not happy.

I tried to push that to the back of my mind and enjoy the moment but it was hard. I made my way through the crowd towards our designated meeting place. I honestly don't even remember what happened next. I tend to zone out for a little while right after I finish a race. It's like I'm walking through fog and often times I'm just in need of some sugar. I do know that The Pilot and I made our way over to the buses and headed back to the hotel. I also think I was limping.

After getting cleaned up, I laid down while The Pilot filled up the ice bags. I immediately started icing my right knee and my left foot. I was really nervous about how I was feeling, but still, I was trying to not face that.

Later that afternoon, we headed over to the Fort Wilderness Cabins where friends Lisa and Mary were staying. We were going to have our own mini pasta party! We are all TNT alumni and it felt a little weird to be down at Disney but not with the Team at the pasta party. Our own little party ended up being perfect though! It gave me a chance to relax in a calm and quiet environment (almost impossible to do at Disney World!) and share my 1/2 marathon experience with Lisa and Mary. The Pilot and I also got to share our engagement story with them so that was fun to relive it again for them!

We made it an early pasta party since we all were going to be getting up for the full marathon. The Pilot and I headed back to our hotel so I could start my race rituals all over again. We also made a few more phone calls to friends and family to tell them about the engagement.

Just as quickly as it was lights out, that damn alarm was going off again....

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