Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend workouts

I realize that it probably seems like I haven't worked out since my race. I promise that I'm not sitting around getting lazy. OK, I might have done that for at least a full week after the race but I'm back into the swing of things. Up until this weekend though, my workouts were a little willy nilly and random. Redundant much?

On Saturday I went out for my first actual RUN since the race. I went out for what I assumed would be a tough 3 miles. I honestly expected my first post-race run to be stiff and awkward. Instead I surprised myself by running my fastest 3 miles since August! I actually think it was faster because I had to stop for traffic twice and I forgot to pause the Garmin. I ran a Virtual 3 miler last year at 35:07. Saturday's 3 miler was 35:18 but that included two stops. Hello 11:46 pace! (Remember my 1/2 marathon goal was to hang out around 12:45.) This run definitely got my wheels turning but that's another post.
It was snowing lightly when I left the house for my run so I decided to leave the iPod at home. I love how quiet the snow makes everything. It's like everything is on mute. By the time I actually got to the trail, it felt like I was running inside a snow globe. The snow was coming down pretty hard. It wasn't so bad on the way out but coming back, the snow was blowing right in my face. As for the snow making everything quiet? Not so much on Saturday. There are some high voltage power lines that run parallel to the trail....and with the snow hitting them, they were BUZZING. I was wishing I had my iPod to drown out the buzzing but oh well. It occupied my brain as I was always wondering if I was going to get electrocuted. Fun times!
Next up was a TNT group practice. Our spring/summer teams just got started and this was our 3rd official practice. I love seeing all the new faces but also the alumni who have come back for more! I'm coaching the race walkers for the 6th year in a row and I love it. It's fun seeing the nervous and excited faces at these first couple of trainings. Soon enough those faces will turn to determination and sometimes angst as they look at me, their coach, with daggers, wondering why on earth they are putting their bodies through this. But then on race day, I get to see faces of sheer joy when they cross the finish line of something they never thought possible!

After doings lots of small circles to try to spend a little time with each walker (all at different paces), I ended my morning just shy of 4 miles. The Garmin recorded 3.48 but it might have helped if I had remembered to start my watch when we actually got started. Oh well. The Garmin pace graph amused me. You can tell when I would run ahead to catch a faster person or stop to drop back from someone slower. The result is this crazy looking thing:
I had bargained with myself before the group training that if I didn't get my heart rate up for at least 30 consecutive minutes, then I would need to get in another workout. As you can tell by the stops and starts above. I didn't get in my 30 minute elevated heart rate. My heart rate just doesn't get up there when I'm walking a 25 minute mile.

So it was off the pool in the evening. Normally the pool is pretty dead on Sunday evening with the exception of a little kid swim lesson but all of the lanes were full when I got there just before 6 pm. I stalked stood at the end of the lane and waited. It became apparent that no one was leaving anytime soon and I didn't want to hang out at the pool all night. Darn it, I would have to get friendly. I finally asked someone if I could share his lane. He was very nice and split the lane with me. He was mostly doing a slow breast stroke though, which just takes up more space. I told myself that it was good for me to get use to having someone in my space. It's good triathlon practice to not be disturbed by other people up in your grill.

I did a ladder work out (50, 100, 150, 200, 150, 100, 50) with a 100 warm up and 100 cool down. 1000 yards in roughly 35 minutes. I tried to keep my rests to 30 seconds in between each set. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't.

Sometimes I raced the guy in the lane with me. Sometimes I didn't. I'm a slower swimmer (nothing new there) so when you are as slow as me and find yourself able to pass someone else, it's exciting. I do have some competitiveness buried in me pretty deep and I know I pushed myself on a couple of those sets just so I could lap the guy (once I realized he had switched to freestyle). Those competitive sets were when I needed a little more than 30 seconds to recover. Go figure.

So that was my weekend workout round up. What were you up to this weekend?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pilot Wife Guilt

There is a certain amount of isolation that comes with being a pilot wife. Sure there is the time spent fending for ourselves but that's not what I'm referring to. I'm pretty independent anyways so I get by just fine with The Pilot is away. The isolation I'm referring to is that being an aviation family is completely unique. My husband doesn't work a 9-5 desk job. Many people don't but he works 3-4 days at a time and with weird hours that don't always mesh with my own work hours. Example: Recently we didn't get to talk one day because either he was flying or I was at work. And then his overnight was in Canada (too expensive to call) and he was going to bed when I was finishing up my dinner. We try to at least talk once a day but that doesn't always work.

And then there is the "unique" feeling of stirring in the middle of the night and waking up slightly only to find a body in the bed that wasn't there when you feel asleep. Yes, this is sometimes startling when you are in a 1/2 asleep state. As was the case the other night when I woke up with a start to find my husband sleeping next to me. " weren't there when I went to bed. I sure hope this body is my husband because if not, I just snuggled up with a stranger. Weird."

The only other people that understand what this all feels like are other aviation families. I follow several other pilot wife blogs and I often find comfort in that I'm "not alone." I have some of the greatest friends in the world and they all have their own unique career situations but for the most part, their spouses come home every night so they "just don't understand." They probably don't have a fear that someone will put in an offer on your house and their spouse isn't available to consult with and you will just have to make a decision(yes, I'm talking about my own fears). My non-aviation friends certainly don't have a fear that their husbands could possibly miss the birth of a child because they are in the air nowhere near home. (No, I don't have a reason to be worried about this yet - ie: not preggo, but it's a genuine fear).

See what I mean about this being a unique lifestyle? See how that can sort of feel isolating? Sure, we adapt (I adapt) but every once in awhile, I sort of realize that our life isn't the "norm." And sometimes I have trouble with days where I've had a rough day at work and I just want a comforting face and hug to come home to and he's only one day into a 4-day trip. No hugs for another 3 days. I did mention that I have great friends so its not like I can't call one of them or meet up for dinner or a workout with one of them (which is often what I do to fill the time when he's not home) but it's not the same.

And then there is the guilt. I sort of feel guilty for even feeling the need to whine about the lifestyle from time to time. I feel guilty because when I'm bummed out and missing him, imagine how he could be feeling. He could be having a rough day and wants a hug but he's stuck in some weird airport hotel with a crew he may or may not like all that much. He could want some comfort and he's only one day into a 4-day trip. At least I have some comfort in coming HOME. At least I can sleep in my own bed or relax with the fur-kids. I can call up a friend to go for a run.

And speaking of a run, there is more guilt there... I feel guilty when I have a workout scheduled when The Pilot is home. Especially if it's a workout he can't join in on (We only have one gym membership for me and there are some workouts that I need to do at my own pace). I try to schedule my workouts for when he's not home but those long trainings must be done on the weekends and if he's home, I can't skip them. He fully supports my training craziness and knows its better that I workout than having a fat, cranky wife on his hands. Despite his support though, there is still some guilt there.

I was recently chatting another pilot wife that we know. She's in an even more unique situation. She is a pilot wife (her hubby works for a regional airline like my hubby does) but she's also a pilot herself. How bad a$$ is that? I'm going to refer to her as PBA from now know, Pilot Bad A$$. She flies corporate which is a completely different can of worms. The time she spends with her hubby is probably even more limited than my time with my hubby. She mentioned that she feels guilty that she waits for him to get home and then jumps all over him when he walks in the door. I know the feeling. You want hugs and kisses. You want to tell him all the things you haven't had the chance to say in the last 3, 4 or however many days. More guilt. You feel guilty jumping all over the poor guy right when get gets home from work. That's often that last thing I want to do when I get home from work. She mentioned she tries so hard to give him some space but it doesn't always work.

PBA also mentioned that she tries to schedule her trips to the gym or time with friends around his schedule so that when they are both in the same city, they can spend all the time together. I do the same thing and well, that just doesn't work. Other people and activities put demands on your time. He can't very well have his own social life if all of his time is spent with you when he's home. It's not like he can have dinner with a friend while he's away on a trip like us wives can. She said they are still working to find that balance. I felt relieved when she said that because it make me feel "normal" and I told her as much. Just knowing that we're not the only couple with these challenges made me feel better.

And another source of guilt for me is sometimes I'm just ready for him to leave. The Pilot was just home for 6 days. I was ready for him to leave. I needed a little time for myself. I feel incredibly guilty for thinking that and even for putting it on the blog for him to read. But then you want to know the kicker of it all? Within about 12 hours of his departure, I miss him like crazy and want him to come back. PBA must have been reading my mind when she stated that she learned to be independent when her husband is away and it starts to feel normal. Then, when the hubby returns, there is a different "normal" and your independent normal is all out of whack. I'm not even sure if that even makes sense to a non-pilot spouse. PBA said it perfectly that it's all about balance. And she's so right. Her and her hubby's marriage has a couple months on us and she felt she was just starting to manage that balance better. She reassured me that sometimes it's difficult but eventually you do find that balance.

Sure, there is some guilt associated with being a pilot wife. There is some isolation because others don't get "it." But that's what we signed up for. If you married a pilot not knowing that was part of the gig, then that is unfortunate. I certainly knew what I was getting into. It doesn't make some aspects any easier, but I haven't encountered much in married life that I didn't already know about.

So I knew all of that going in but I still married the guy because there is a great perk of being married to a pilot (no, I'm not talking about travel benefits). One of my favorite parts of being a pilot wife is that I miss him. Every couple of days, I get to miss him like crazy. That means that when he comes home, I am super excited. I literally feel giddy all day when I know he's on his way home. Sometimes I even get nervous. Almost like I'm waiting on that first kiss at the end of a date. I know we are still in that honeymoon phase but PBA told me that it still hadn't worn off for her and her hubby. Though they are still newlyweds too (they haven't been married a year yet), they have been together longer than The Pilot and I have. She said she feels that way every time she gets to see her hubby. I also think that if that feeling wears off, then there is a problem. I'm not completely naive and I know life (the stress of work, kids, house, whatever) will try to get in the way but in order to keep this strange married life afloat is to make the time to be excited and giddy when the husband is about to come home.

So, The Pilot will come home tonight and will most likely scare the crap out of me when he climbs into bed after I'm asleep but I've been super excited all day. :)

How about you guys? Do your significant others have weird schedules with quirks that you have learned to live with? What makes it worth it?

Fit Bit

I don't think I've mentioned it but I have fallen in love all over again. With this little gadget:
It's a FitBit. I received this last spring as a gift from the bridal shower my co-workers hosted for me. Sure, it's not a traditional "couple" gift but I view it as more incentive to keep from "letting myself go" as the honeymoon phase wears off. ;)

It's like a gussied up pedometer really. I started wearing it everyday sometime back in August (once the wedding madness died down and I had time to set it up). It easily clips onto your pants (on a pocket or the waistband). The instructions show woman can attach it to their bra but I like to keep mine visible so I can obsessively check my step count throughout the day. It tracks step count, distance, calories burned and your activity level which is illustrated with a flower that grows the more you move.

Something else this fancy thing does is track your sleep. You can put it on sleep mode and wear it in a little pouch that wraps around your wrist. I'm not exactly sure how it works but the results were interesting. I wore it every night for about two weeks. I guess I have a 98% sleep efficiency. Go me! I could see (in a pretty graph!) that I take forever to fall asleep but once I'm asleep, I don't tend to make up much during the night. It was funny to look at the results and see the nights when The Pilot came home late from work. I would wake up for a couple minutes (from being startled from a strange man climbing into my bed in the middle of the night) and then would fall right back to sleep. I could even see my SNOOZE habit in the results...wake up...fall back asleep for 5 minutes, wake up....repeat.

You can then upload all of your data to the FitBit web site to track your fitness project. It has a food and activity log that you can update (I don't but probably should) but it graphs all of your data. I love the visuals! I can quickly see the days were I was chained to my desk....or the days that I completely rocked it with my activity level (i.e. my longs runs for my 1/2 marathon training).

Speaking of the 1/2 marathon, I wore my FitBit on race day and was shocked at my distance covered that day. The race was only 13.1 miles but over the entire day, I covered more than 20 MILES! And if you have ever been to Disney or any theme park, by the end of the day it feels like you have walked miles and miles. Well, you probably have. The day after my race, The Pilot and I were super spectators for the full marathon and then hit up the theme parks in the afternoon. We walked more than 12 MILES that day!

Here is the snapshot of the 1/2 marathon day:
So anyways, I fell in love with my FitBit. Seeing my steps (or lack of) would motivate me to move more to see how many steps I could get in before it was time for bed. The Pilot even learned to not think much of it if he saw me doing laps in the bedroom right before I took it off for the night. I might was well try to end on an even number, right?

Then the unthinkable happened.

I was admittedly distracted one evening after work while doing a load of post-vacation laundry. I was pulling clothes out of the dryer when I heard a clank in the dryer. I looked in and there it was. My FitBit had gone through not just the washer but the dryer too. I wanted to cry. I immediately tried to pull up the display. Nothing. I dropped the laundry, ran up to the computer and logged onto the FitBit web site. One of the first questions in their FAQ was "I washed my FitBit." They suggested a bowl of white rice overnight and if that didn't work, email their support department. I raced to the kitchen...we only had brown rice. Then it occurred to me that if people were really trying to get fit, they probably shouldn't have white rice in their house, but that wasn't the point. After 24 hours in the brown rice, I plugged the FitBit into my computer. It came up with a error display but I never could get it to reset or stay powered up when not plugged in. :(

But then the wonderful happened.

I emailed their support department and explained exactly what happened. They asked a few questions about where it came from and once I responded, they said they would send me a new one. That was it! It was my own dang fault yet they sent me a brand new FitBit. Talk about some customer service. The only other occasion I have experienced (indirectly) was when Bose complete rehabbed The Pilot's aviation no charge. Obviously you get what you pay for (or what you get when someone cares enough to give you a rock star gift like in my case).

And then it got wonderfuller. (It's my blog, I can make up words if I want to). They sent me the latest FitBit. Which is called the FitBit Ultra. It's even more gussied up. This one counts stairs climbed as well. What? Another thing for me to obsess over. Awesome!

This weekend has been my first chance to start day wearing my brand new FitBit and I feel like I've been reunited with a family member. OK, so that's a little dramatic but I'm already digging my counts. I spend a lot of time at my desk during the week so my poor FitBit just sits there on my wasitband like a puppy wanting some exercise. When I see that my step count is somewhere in the 2000-2500 range, I am more motivated to squeeze in a work out that day. I often times make up for my low step counts by doing A LOT of steps over the weekend. It's only 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon and I'm already at 10,296 steps. I did 4 miles with my team this morning...then took a nap. So you can see the bulk of my steps came from training this morning. I have another workout still scheduled for the day so my activity levels still have some room to grow but you can see how easy it is to wrack up some numbers.
It took me some time to figure out the floors climbed. It doesn't actually count the stairs climbed, it somehow figures out elevation changes and tracks them in 10 foot increments. So I have climbed 19 floors so far today, or 190 feet. This could be from actually climbing stairs or elevation changes during my walk this morning with my team.

So I've been reunited with a new love and it's wonderful and wonderfuller. If you are a nerd like me or just need some extra motivation to move more, I highly recommend this little guy. If you need a gift idea of an active person, then here you go!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

11 things

Is this the blog equivalent of a chain letter? Does anyone remember those? Anyways, this has been floating around the blog world for a couple days and I was tagged and who am I to break the chain? Thank you, Jana from Running Vegetarian for the tag! These things amuse me so here it goes!

The Rules:
  1. Post these rules
  2. You must post 11 random things about yourself
  3. Answer the questions set for you in their post
  4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
  5. Go to their blog and tell them you've tagged them
  6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people!
Eleven Random Things about me:
  1. I'm afraid of fish. It's irrational, I know.
  2. I want to kick the people who don't wipe down their treadmills at the gym when they are done.
  3. I organize the clothes in my closet by color and clothing type. ROYGBIV, pants, tops, hoodies.
  4. I have an entire dresser full of workout clothes.
  5. I hate tomatoes but will eat ketchup, salsa, tomato sauce, etc.
  6. I'm allergic to cats but I've lived with cats since I was 6.
  7. I am not an early bird or a night owl. I prefer the afternoon. I go to bed early and would prefer to sleep in later than I do but if I had to chose, I'd rather get up earlier than stay up late.
  8. My favorite food used to be hot dogs but now I think it would be Luna Burgers....or maybe Hershey bars but that doesn't go with the whole fitness theme of this blog.
  9. I am a list maker. I always have at least one list going at all times. There is so much satisfaction in crossing things off a list.
  10. I love sticky notes. See #9.
  11. I may or may not have adult onset ADD.....ooohhhh shiney.
Jana's Questions for Me:
  1. Were you ever grounded as a child? If so what did you do? I honestly can't remember being grounded. I was a rule follower for the most part. Boring.
  2. When you hang a roll of toilet paper does the TP go over or under? Over! Absolutely. It drives me bonkers at work when someone puts it under.
  3. Is it Soda or Pop? or Soda Pop? I'm from the Midwest so I call it pop.
  4. What is your biggest pet peeve? Hmmm....probably people that aren't organized. Or people that constantly make excuses. Or people that interrupt. Maybe it's just one of the days where I'm not so into people in general! Ooops.
  5. Who is your idol or who do you look up to? Why? I could go with the standard "mom" or "my parents" but that isn't as much fun (though I absolutely do look up to them!). So I'm going with Walt Disney. It may seem strange but you really can learn a lot from him. He had a lot of tenacity, when people told him no or that something he couldn't be done, he'd laugh and press on. He was a visionary and wasn't afraid to think out of the box and dream big. He was never content and was always trying to improve. He had high expectations of those around him but then gave those around him the tools and opportunities to meet and exceed his expectations. All good qualities to strive for if you ask me.
  6. What is the last dream you remember? I know I had a nightmare last night but I can't remember anything other than waking up freaked out. I rarely remember my dreams.
  7. Out of all the places you've been while on vacation what has been your favorite and why? My family used to take a houseboat trip to Lake Cumberland every year and I have some of my favorite memories from those trips. Then there was the best vacation ever last year.
  8. What was the last movie you watched in the theater? Breaking Dawn....yes, I realize that I am not a teenage girl but I can't help it. The movies are so bad that they are good.
  9. What is the last song you listened to or remember listening to? I've been listening to the radio all day but unless it's a great song, it sort of becomes white noise. I did recently have a moment when Temper Trap's Sweet Disposition came on the radio. It takes me back to our wedding day as we made our entrance to the reception to this song and it is featured in our wedding video.
  10. What is one chore you hate doing? I really dislike the laundry but I hate cooking even more.
  11. What one food that you could not live without? That's a hard one. I love cheese....and chocolate. Not together.
For those I'm tagging:
  1. If you could have dinner with any one person (dead or alive), who would it be?
  2. What/who is your favorite band/musician?
  3. What is your favorite thing about being a "grown up?"
  4. What is your least favorite thing about being a "grown up?"
  5. Describe your best friend(s).
  6. Early bird or night owl?
  7. Do you have a secret talent or just a talent that is unique?
  8. What is your favorite holiday?
  9. Have any tattoos?
  10. Why did you start blogging?
  11. What is your favorite meal?
I'm Tagging:
Run Blondie 26
The Almost Runner

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Creeper and the First Date

So two years ago, I took a chance and agreed to meet a creeper I met online ( at a local Greek restaurant. Boy am I glad I took the chance! He did turn out to be a creeper but I fell in love with him anyways.
Last Friday was the 2 year anniversary of our first date. Normally I am not one to commemorate that type of anniversary. I can be a cheese ball from time to time but not so much that I document every little "first." The big one (aka the wedding) is one to celebrate but last year on the anniversary of our first date, we went back to the same restaurant. If I remember correctly, I even ordered the same meal. Anyways, we decided to go ahead and relive that first date again...though it was a few days late because The Pilot was working on Friday.

On Friday (the actual anniversary), I got an email from The Pilot asking me if I'd go on a date with him on Monday and he knew a great little Greek restaurant we could meet at after I got off work. Of course!

As I pulled up to the location last night, the Greek restaurant wasn't there! It was a new restaurant. Oh no! The Pilot pulled up a few minutes later and gave me the same "oh no!" look through his car window. We found the Papaya Street Grill instead of Greek Corner. We walked up to the window to check out the menu. Normally when we go out to eat, we study the menu in advance to make sure there are vegetarian options and options for my somewhat picky tastes. Luckily this was a veggie (even vegan!) friendly restaurant so we decided to give it a try. It was completely remodeled inside but we still ended up sitting in approximately the same location that we did on that first date.
The food was great! I think I even enjoyed it more than the Greek restaurant. I had a rice noodle bowl with veggies and fried tofu (it was crunchy and yum!) with the house vinaigrette. It had a Chipotle-like set up where you pick each piece of your meal from the menu and order at a counter. It was nice that you could pick exactly what you wanted and they even has samples of all of the sauces available. The gentleman who took our order added that the while the tofu was fried, it was crispy and not greasy. He also let us know that the sauces come on the side so you can control how much you wanted. Love that! The Pilot got the same thing but ordered the Ginger, Garlic and Soy sauce.
We decided that we'd just go ahead and keep it a tradition to reenact our first date each year. We'll attempt to go back to the same location and just keep trying a new restaurant should it happen. Ultimately it was just fun to think about where we've come in such a short time. Two years ago we were sharing what we each did for a living, I accidentally let it slip that I was in fact a cat lady (a first date no-no!) but was relieved to find out that he too was an animal lover (though him being a vegetarian didn't come up until the 2nd or 3rd date). Two years later we were discussing purchasing a home together. And this year, I kissed him good night at the end of the date. I even let him come home with me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's Homemade!

You've probably figured out by now that I'm not so handy in the kitchen. While I can follow a recipe, I really don't enjoy cooking. The kitchen just stresses me out. So I try to stay away whenever possible. But as a pilot wife, I do have to fend for myself when the hubs is working. This means I must venture into the kitchen.

Something that does seem to work for us is when The Pilot is home, 99% of the time, he cooks. He doesn't seem to mind. In return, I eat his food and I like it. I also clean up most of the time. The Pilot would much prefer to hand wash the dishes and I prefer the dishwasher. We have both found supporting documentation that our preferred methods conserve more water but I won't get into that. When I clean up after a meal, those dishes are going in the dishwasher. Another topic of debate is the dishwasher detergent. I buy the cheapest thing I can find. That is until The Pilot came along and ever so gently told me that all of my cleaning supplies are killing me and the Earth. Ummmm....ok. So we bought some "eco-friendly" detergent at Whole Foods. It cost an arm and a leg...and it didn't work. It left a cloudy, chalky residue on the dishes.

Enter the homemade dishwasher detergent. The Pilot's cousin (in law) shared a recipe she tried and had success with. At 4 ingredients, even I didn't mind the extra step of making my own.
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

The Pilot brought his own Borax when he moved in so that was taken care of and I knew I could easily find kosher salt. Washing soda and citric acid?? Where on earth do you get that stuff? I needed to go to Whole Foods anyways so I stopped in and a very helpful employee directed me to the citric acid quickly, as if I had just asked where to find the bread. They sell it in bulk so you just measure out your own.

I stopped at Target with hopes of finding the kosher salt and washing soda. They had the salt but no luck with the washing soda. I stopped back home for a little while and as luck would have it, The Pilot's cousin was on FB and suggested the grocery. Now why didn't I think of that?? I stopped by Kroger later in the evening and easily found the washing soda, right next to the Borax, just as she had suggested.

Once I had all my ingredients, I combined them in a pitcher (I'm hoping it will work out that I can just pour it into the dishwasher). The instructions did mention that the citric acid will cause some clumping. It suggested to stir it a couple times in the first day or two and that should help. They also suggested a teaspoon of rice but I think I will try stirring it a couple times in the first day.
I won't do the complete cost breakdown but the homemade detergent saves about 10 cents per load. This isn't a lot and one could argue that my time is worth the additional cost. More often than not, I would agree and often times, convenience wins. But I also wanted to make sure we were using a more eco-friendly product. Not only is this not going to put any nastiness in the ground water, but it's also not going to leave any nastiness on our dishes.

Now I realize that it seems like I drove all over the place to get these ingredients but I was planning to make these stops anyways. Plus now I know I can easily get the Borax, washing soda and salt at Kroger and only need to make one other stop at Whole Foods to get the citric acid. We are at Kroger at least once a week and Whole Foods every couple weeks. I actually ended up doubling the recipe because I ended up buying one cup of citric acid so I just used it all. This should last for about 90 loads of dishes. I think that will last awhile since we only run the dishwasher 1-2 times per week.

I've run one load of dishes so far and they came out clean! No weird film on the dishes. The glasses were even clear and spot-free. I would call this a success. I'll have to wait to see what The Pilot thinks since he seems to be anti-dishwasher. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Post Race Thoughts

I mentioned in my race recap that I had some post race thoughts.

So my post race thoughts? Happy that I succeed. I got the PR I was after. But by that evening, I was replaying the race in my head. I wouldn't have done anything differently really. I wouldn't have done anything else differently in training. I would have still gone into the race with my 3-6-9 walk break/fuel/text plan. If I wouldn't have done anything differently, then why wasn't I feeling so elated that I succeeded?

Because I walked away from the race knowing that, while I left everything I had out on the course, I could have done better. The things that slowed me down (crowds and a narrow course) were out of my control but it made me start to think what could I have done on a less crowded course? Sigh. It's the truth, that's honestly what I was thinking within hours of finishing the race. And as that negativity started to slide into my brain, so did my overall attitude of the race.

Sure, the conditions were out of my control but I was sort of disappointed in my attitude. When I saw The Pilot at mile 4, I complained that I was having trouble getting up to pace. When I saw him at mile 8, I told him that it might now be my day to PR because of the crowds. That's not my MO. Normally during a race, I just hang in there, knowing that somehow, some way, I make it happen. For some reason, in this race, I let doubt and negativity get into my race.

While I went into this race more confident and less nervous than any previous race, I came out of it wondering what my deal was. Is that what happens when you start to get too competitive with yourself? Did I take the fun of the challenge out of it by trying to run faster/further than I ever had before? With the exception of the Goofy Challenge last year(that goal was to finish and not die), my goal is usually to do better than I did in a previous race of the same distance. I know that a PR isn't going to happen at every race. I don't want that to always be my goal. I want to be able to do a race for the fun.

I'm not exactly sure if this is the reasoning for my negative thoughts during the race, just a theory. I didn't expect to feel anything but elated after getting a new PR so I was surprised by the thoughts that would nag me for the two days after the race.

I am incredibly proud that I did it. I put in the work and I succeeded. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to try to find another 1/2 marathon in the near future to see if I can do better on a less crowded course or if I need to just take a little time off.

Time off is a challenge for this type-A though. Before we even left for Orlando, I was already contemplating what my next goals would be. All the other bloggers were laying out their 2012 race plans and I didn't have anything on the calendar other than the Disney 1/2 marathon. I thought I was OK with that but it sure got me thinking.

I just finished the book You Are an Ironman. I haven't identified if that is a long range goal for me or not but I got to thinking that if it is a goal, then how am I going to get there. I'm not ready for that or even a 70.3 event (half Ironman). I need more tri experience if I'm going to get there. So maybe I'll shift my summer focus to tris again this year. Or maybe I won't.

I took the week after the race off(no workouts!). I coached with TNT on first time coaching since October! We have just started training our spring season and I always look forward to meeting the new walkers and watching this new group do things they never thought they could do.

Maybe I'll just relax a little, try some new workouts at the gym and see where the next couple weeks/months take me before deciding on my next goals.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Walt Disney World 1/2 Marathon Race Recap

Posting The Pilot's spectator reports from last year was a delay tactic. I know I've kept you in suspense but I have no idea how people get race reports up so quickly! I often use the excuse that I don't have a laptop/smart phone thingie to start drafting my reports while I'm at the airport but I've been home for a week and it's still taken forever. Maybe I just like to marinate in my memories for a little while. You know, process what just happened before writing about it. Or maybe I'm just slow. What's new?

I completed my 7th half marathon on Saturday, January 7. The 2012 Walt Disney World 1/2 Marathon was also known as Amber's Epic Running PR Attempt. Sit tight because it was 13+ miles of magic, self-doubt, crowds and much more so this is a long recap. This is what went down:

1:45 am: I woke up 30 minutes before the annoying. I think my brain was starting to feel nervous even though my body just wanted to go back to sleep. No such luck.

2:15 am: Holy crap its early! No matter how early you try to go to bed, 2:15 am comes early. I think the toughest part of the Disney races is the crazy early start times.

3:15 am: Holy crap, its still early. Myself, my sherpa The Pilot and my friend Kim (who was about to start the Goofy Challenge!) boarded a bus to Epcot. Once we arrived, we literally walked the red carpet towards the staging area for the race and then settled in for the long wait. The Disney races are huge and it seems as though everyone brings at least one spectator so there are A LOT of people that need to get to the staging area before the race. This is one of the reasons for getting to the start line more than 2 hours early. That and I'm paranoid about being late. This is my 8th year down for Disney's Marathon Weekend so I know the drill. I brought part of my breakfast with me, 2 space blankets left from last year (one to sit on and one to cover up with) and found a spot in the middle of the Epcot parking lot to settle in for awhile. The Pilot was being our super spectator so he kept busy with his camera, documenting the morning. Kim and I sat down and enjoyed some prime people watching.

4:45 am: Holy crap, its still early and my body is so confused. It was shouting "NO! I don't want to eat breakfast this early! NO! I do not care that you have a pre-run eating/bathroom routine. I am tired and I want to go back to bed." I forced myself to eat and made a port-a-potty stop before Kim and I started the long walk to the corrals.

5:00 am: The Pilot wished us luck and headed off into the darkness to begin his super spectating duties (finding a prime spot to watch the start and then making his way to mile 4). Kim and I headed towards the corrals, which is a little less than a mile from the staging area. It's usually a 20 minute, slow and steady walk as the racers are all herded to the start line. This year though, we were met with a dead stop. No one was moving anywhere. I thought it was strange at the time but eventually things got moving. It took about 30 minutes to get the the corrals. I know this because right when we got to the end of the corrals and made one last port-a-potty stop (nerves!), I was IN a port-a-potty when the fireworks for the wheelchair athletes went off. The inside of my port-a-potty lit up and the sound startled me. Not a great location to be startled but all was well.
5:30 am: Kim and I split up as she was in corral H and I was in G. As she walked into her corral, I turned to find my own but was immediately hit with another dead stop. There was a little confusion with where some of the corrals were. Because there were 8 different corrals with more than 2,500 people in each corral, they line up the corrals on two roads running parallel (actually its a divided highway). The problem was that there were two signs for the F-H corrals and each pointed a different direction. Being familiar with the race though, I just kept walking towards where I thought the entrance to my corral should be and finally found it. I felt bad for the first timers that were probably frustrated with the confusing signs.

Within a couple minutes, the race actually started and one by one, each corral was released, with fireworks announcing the start of each wave. I had awhile to wait though. Compared to my previous races, this was probably the least nervous I had ever been. That is until corral F was released. In that moment, a wave of nerves came over me. In an effort to distract myself, I took off my throwaway jacket. You may be amused to know that the craptastic Hot Chocolate 5K jacket actually came in handy. I used it as my throwaway jacket and took great pleasure in stomping on it before throwing it away. It was pretty chilly once I threw my jacket but I was wearing my Run Girl Run sleeves with my standard TNT jersey so that helped.
As our corral was moved up into place at the start line, I jumped up and down to shake out the nerves and hopefully keep my shins warmed up so I could avoid shins splints in those first few miles.

6:13 am: I finally crossed the start line! 45 minutes after the race officially started. The best part of the Disney starts other than the fireworks and Mickey Mouse of course? The flame throwers. Above the start are giant flame throwers that put out some serious heat. After standing around in the cold for several hours, they felt glorious for those couple of seconds as I passed over the timing maps and started my Epic Running PR Attempt.

Mile 1: "OK, woman, you've got this. Don't let the others carry you faster than you want to go!" I glanced at my watch A LOT during that first mile. I was really paranoid about letting the crowd push my pace, which would give me shin splints. I kept it right at 12:45. Close to .75 mile into the race was a water stop. What? Certainly didn't need water right after I started so I stuck to the middle of the road and tried to avoid the chaos of the water stop.

Mile 2: "Speed up! A 13:15 mile isn't going to get you to a 1/2 marathon PR." I was having trouble warming up and maintaining my goal race pace of 12:45. I wasn't necessarily uncomfortable and my shins weren't screaming. I'm not sure what the deal was but I kept trudging along.

Mile 3: "Seriously, you need to get this pace up!" I forced myself to run until I got to the 3 mile marker. Normally I like to take a walk break in the first mile or two but with that PR in the back of my mind, I wanted to limit my walk breaks as much as possible. In advance I had drafted several text messages to The Pilot so he would know where I was on the course. I planned to send a text at miles 3, 6 and 9. He was planning to be at miles 4, 8 and the finish so I thought those texts would prepare him for when to expect me. I thought I would try to plan my walk breaks for just when I was going to send the texts. I was also planning to fuel at those mile markers. I had my fuel belt full of water and Shot Blocs. I stuck with the plan and sent the text, had a Shot Bloc and some water as I passed the 3 mile sign.

Mile 4: "I love my spectator." The Pilot was near the 4 mile marker and though it was brief, it was so nice to see him. Seriously, I sure picked a great hubby- one willing to wake up at 2:15 am with me and follow me all around the Happiest Place on Earth. I'll share more in another post but I have a whole new appreciation for super spectators after being one myself for the full marathon the next day. I did yell out to him that I was having trouble getting up to pace. I don't remember exactly what he said but it was something along the lines of "keep going." Ok.

Mile 5: "Finally!" I was finally starting to maintain the average pace I was looking for. I actually hung out at 11:45 for a little while. I also was getting a boost of energy because I knew we were about to make our way into the Magic Kingdom, which on the 1/2 course, is probably my favorite point in the entire race. I was also starting to note just how crowded the course was. Each time the course narrowed, it was shoulder to shoulder with your fellow racers.

There is a short jaunt through a backstage area before BAM! you are coming right up Main Street USA. I love it. The crowds are back in full force and then there's the Castle. My beloved castle. We made our way up Main Street, turned toward Tomorrowland, and continued on through Fantasyland before coming right through the castle. I got to catch a glimpse of the spot where The Pilot proposed last year. It warmed my heart and gave me a little extra kick in my step.

The Pilot says I must have been moving so fast I warped space-time.
This is one of the professional race photos. I look like I'm attempting to pose for a running magazine...the odd stare off into the distance, like I'm really focused. Or something like that. File this one under awkward race photos.
Despite the extra kick in my step, I must have looked a little rough. A TNT coach on the sidelines asked if I was feeling OK. I have the thumbs up and kept moving but was also wondering, "do I not look OK??"

Miles 6-8.5: After having my moment by the Castle, it was time for a quick trip through Frontierland. As I came up on the mile 6 sign, I took my scheduled walk break, sent The Pilot a text and chomped down another Shot Bloc. I probably only walked for about 2 minutes before getting in gear to have a strong second half of the race.

That enthusiasm lasted less than a quarter mile. As I started to run again, the course narrowed to one lane when we exited the Magic Kingdom and started the long stretch of road and highway back to Epcot. It's no secret that I adore all things Disney and I am a huge fan of Disney's Marathon weekend. This was my 8th year involved with the race (either as a participant or a TNT coach) and it's one of the most organized races around in my opinion. That is until you start allowing more and more people to register but don't adjust your course accordingly.

I did my first 1/2 marathon at Disney in 2005. The course was slightly different (because the full marathon was held at the same time back then) but it still traveled on the same road that I am referring to from mile 6-8.5. In 2005 there were 8,668 finishers. This year there were 22,421 finishers. That is significant and a one lane road cannot accommodate that many people, at least in the sub 3:00 group I was hanging out with throughout the race.

I spent from just past mile 6 through almost mile 9 shoulder to shoulder with my fellow racers. I'm a slow runner. Nothing wrong with that, it's a fact. I am also a race walker that just happened to be running this particular race. I was caught right in the middle of the Galloway group which does a run/walk combination throughout the race. I want to be clear that while I have some opinions about the run/walk method, I am not against it, especially since I both run and race walk (just not usually in the same race). However you get to the finish, it's incredible that so many people are out there trying.

The only problem with the run/walk group on a narrow course is that you get trapped behind them with no where to go. They would run my pace or just a little faster but then when they'd stop to take their walk breaks (don't even get me started on the amount of watch/Garmin beeping I heard all morning), you would have to run around them. When the course narrowed to a one lane road, there was no where to get around. On the right you had cones blocking the race from the traffic. On the left was grass. I spent MUCH of the next 3 miles in the grass. But even that posed issues. It was a slope down into a ditch. It was uneven. There were road signs and motivational signs (for the race) that had to be navigated around. So every couple feet you had to squeeze your way back onto the road and in with the run/walkers. I'm not going to lie, my attitude took a nose dive. I was getting mad. I was also convinced that I wasn't going to be able to PR because of the course being so crowded.

Just as I was passing mile 8, I saw The Pilot in the distance. The course shifted lanes so now there was an active traffic lane on the left. The Pilot was up on a hill along the left side of the road. I wanted to let him know that I was ok but I was so annoyed in that moment. He started to run alongside me (with a road in between us) and I yelled out that I wasn't sure if today was going to be my day to PR because it was too crowded. I nearly ran into the person in front of me during this exchange because naturally that was the exact moment that person needed their walk break.
"Hey Pilot! I'm about to run into the person in front of me and THEN I'm going
to take an elbow to the boob. Did you know 1/2 marathons are a
combination of defensive driving and football?"

Again, nothing against any of these people. I'm sure they were all just as frustrated because when they wanted to run, they may have been stuck behind someone who was taking their walk break. It wasn't much fun for any of us right through there are that particular time. The Pilot just yelled out to keep going anyways. I knew he had a point. Even if I didn't PR, I still needed to keep going. But I also knew based on my Garmin that a PR wasn't completely out of reach just yet so I really need to just keep going! I waved to The Pilot as I kept moving forward.

The course shifted again so that there weren't active traffic lanes on either side and the course was starting to get a little wider as we headed back towards the highway. This is also one of the easier spectator viewing points to get to. It was great to have people on the course cheering...that is until the spectators started to crowd the course. At this particular point, there weren't cones or temporary fencing to keep the spectators off the course. They are all trying to lean out onto the course to see their racer coming. And when one leans, the next person needs to lean further to see around the other person. So then the next person can't lean, they have to take a step out onto the course in order to see. And so when this girl on her Epic Running PR Attempt is trying desperately to get around people, you either need to move or there is going to be a collision. You would have thought I was sprinting but my 13:00 min/mile pace must have been too fast for this particular spectator to see me and move. I plowed right into him, taking an elbow right to the boob. Ouch. I was still pretty annoyed that I didn't even look back. I just wanted to get the heck off that road and back to the 3-lane wide highway.

Mile 9: "Space! Stomach issues! Smiles!" Finally, as the mile 9 sign approached, we got back to the highway and the overcrowding was completely eliminated. I had plenty of space to run around the walkers but it was also more than enough room for the faster runners to get around me as well. It was glorious. I took my 3rd walk break to text The Pilot, even though I just saw him. I wanted to stick to my 3-6-9 plan. I had another Shot Bloc and some water. It was then that it occurred to me that I had only drank during those 2 previous walk breaks. Normally, I drink A LOT of water. I'm talking at least 16 ounces during a 9 miler in training. Here I was 9 miles into the race and I hadn't even had 8 ounces yet. I started to wonder if that was going to have too much of an effect on me. When I started to run again, my stomach tried to turn over on itself. It cramped and I felt like I might get sick. Oh you have got to be kidding me. I did a little shuffle, looked over my shoulder to confirm no one was on my heels and slowed to a walk again.

There happened to be a TNT coach on the sidelines who jumped out with me and asked how I was feeling. Normally, I would have waved the coach off, not wanting to take a coach away from a participant in the event with TNT (though I always wear a TNT jersey during races, I did not fundraise for this event). Since she was walking along side me though, I confessed that my stomach was a little weird. She suggested taking smaller sips of water until I felt better and asked if I needed any salt. I declined but thanked her and she sent me on my way. I did take a few more sips of water and gingerly got back up to a run. Luckily that short walk break was enough for my stomach to right itself again and I was able to get back up to pace. Yeay! Just getting back up to pace and have the space around me to not feel so trapped put a smile on my face.

Mile 10: "This mile feels really long." As I approached the 10 mile sign, I realized just how much zigzagging I had actually done during the crowded few miles. When I got to the sign for mile 10, my Garmin was reading closer to 10.15. WTF! Sure, you can expect it to be off a little because the race distance is measured on the tangents and in a race this crowded, it is impossible to run the tangents. But .15 seemed like a lot at the time.

I was starting to feel fatigued at this point. I was trying not to psyche myself out too. Ten miles is where I tend to lose my steam. In my first running 1/2, I made it to 10 before starting a run/walk combo. In my second attempt back in September, I did the same thing. That is why I really wanted to train hard and do several training runs further than 10 miles.

Like I said, I was starting to feel pretty tired and I started some internal negotiating. Since this was my 8th year on the course, I know the course well and I knew that a large exit ramp was coming up. It's an decent incline that curves and it sharply banked. Not gonna lie, it sucks. There just isn't a way to train for that condition. You can train for hills but how to you train for a banked hill?? Anyways, the internal negotiation I had with myself was that when I got to the base of the ramp, I would start to walk but once it leveled off again, I was going to run and I was going to run to the finish. No more walk breaks.

When I got to the base of the ramp, I again, checked over my shoulder to make sure no one was going to plow into me and I started to walk. I was towards the left side of the road. I notice some commotion on the ground about 10 feet ahead. It was about this same place on the full marathon course last year that I watched medics give CPR to someone on the side of the road so my heart instantly skipped a few beats. As I got closer, I saw a man sitting on the ground with a woman kneeling at his side. Her back was to me and her shirt said GUIDE. Then I noticed that the man sitting on the ground was an amputee. His legs ended right around the knee. The woman kneeling was holding 2 prosthetic legs. I glanced over and I heard him say something about being "a little tired" and "they are swollen."

Here I was, taking my negotiated walk break and I was passing a man who HAD NO LEGS. I asked myself why was I taking a walk break.
"I don't know."
"Are you in pain? Do you have TWO LEGS?"
" and yes."
"Then run up this damn exit ramp and run to that finish. No more excuses, you able-bodied weenie."

I ran up that hill and when I got to the top, I kept running. When I got to the 11 mile sign, I kept running. All of the running in the grass and on the sloped/uneven surfaces was really starting to become an annoyance. My ankles were tired. Not in pain, just tired. Everything was tired. I had been up since about 1:45 am and was going on about 4 hours of restless sleep.

Mile 11: "Wow, that was a long one." It took a long time to recover from that last mile and the hill climb. My heart rate was way too high but I was having to jump around the run/walkers again. I tried to stick to the middle and let the slower traffic keep to the sides but there wasn't any space so once again, I was in the grass. This is when I nearly collided with a TNT coach standing on the sidelines. "Hi Amber!" I momentarily forgot that my name was on my shirt and instantly felt guilty that I didn't know who this guy was...I've met a lot of other coaches over the years but I am HORRIBLE with names. "How are you feeling?" Again with that question!! I must have looked rough. He started to run with me and I explained that I was a walk coach with my local chapter but was attempting a run PR and I was cutting it close. He offered to "run with you until the next port-a-potty because I gotta go!" I laughed. I know that feeling. As a coach, it seems like you always get stuck on a race course in between bathrooms or water stops.

As we both spotted a row of port-a-potties, I asked him to tell me to keep running. He obliged, added a "GO TEAM!" and jumped off the course. Just as he dropped off, I faced my last hill of the race. Another overpass towards Epcot. You could actually SEE Epcot now so I knew my misery would end soon. You betcha my eye was on my watch a lot at this point. I knew I was getting closer to my time. I was also confused because my Garmin distance was so off. And by that point, my brain was fried. I couldn't make sense of the numbers. Did I have more time than I thought? No, that doesn't make sense. Are the mile markers real? Where am I? Screw it, just keep running.

And so I muscled my way up that last hill. But that ended up jacking my heart rate up again and when I made it to the top, I had to walk to get my heart rate back under control. That's when I noticed the dogs. At first I questioned my eyes. Am I really seeing a woman walking with 2 little yippy dogs? I blinked. Still there. Two little dogs, both much smaller than my cats, on leashes. I was so confused. I couldn't figure out where this woman came from. I think she was a spectator who jumped on the course to say hi to someone but this particular spot on the course isn't exactly spectator friendly. My heart rate went down within about 30 seconds and I was able to start running again as the course made its way down the overpass towards the park and right on past the dogs.

Mile 12: "Are those dancing bananas?" Again, my eyes weren't deceiving me. It was a TNT cheer squad and two people were dressed in banana costumes....with TNT purple jerseys. I couldn't help but laugh. As I refocused on the course in front of me though, I heard a "Go Amber!" I whirled my head to my left, thinking again, it was someone who knew me. Nope, just another TNT cheer squad person. A dude dressed as a woman, with balloons under his shirt and a purple wig. I love my team. I gave him a high five and went on my way.

We made our way through a backstage area before coming out into Future World in Epcot. I knew all I had to do was made it to the Christmas tree and then turn around back towards that giant golf ball. That was it! I would be done.

It got really crowded again. But I just put my head down and kept going. And then it happened...

The course goes out around the Christmas tree, and then right back towards the front of the park so you can see everyone immediately ahead of you on the turnaround. I glanced up and saw some familiar balloons. The pace team. I jerked my head up to catch that the balloons said. 3:00. Meaning that it was the pace group for those wanting to finish in 3 hours. Remember, I wanted to finish under 2:53. What little wind I had left in my sails completely left in that moment. I jerked my wrist so I could see my Garmin. I was getting close but I was pretty sure I was still going to make it. Again, my brain was fried. Nothing made sense. I started to stumble. The Pilot has witnessed this before. My brain is telling me to run but my body wants to walk so I sort of take these weird little shuffle/stumble steps. That's when the internal negotiations started again.

"Amber, even if you don't PR, you came out here to run 13.1 miles. You came out here to prove that you could run further than 10 miles and that you didn't need to do a run/walk after mile 10."

"I know but...."

"No buts. You aren't a quitter. It's not over until it's over. That pacer could be fast and you could have had a user error with the Garmin. You don't know what's going to happen until you get to that finish line. But you have to GET there to find out the results."

"Good point. I'm not a quitter. Let's finish this thing."

And so I ran. And I ended up having the fastest mile I had had in 3 miles.

Mile 13: "Hallelujah!" The gospel choir. There is always a gospel choir just before you make the last turn before the finish line. I always find them amusing. It's like we've all be lead to our death but then there they are, singing us in! All finish lines are pretty darn exciting because it means you are done but of all the races I've done, I love the Disney finish the most. You make a turn and then BAM! There's the finish line. You can hear it before you see it. The spectators are 4-5 deep along the sides and then there are grandstands set up. Last year when I finished the full in 6:55, the crowds were considerably thin. Not this year. Because I was finishing much earlier, the place was packed. As I rounded the corner, my eyes scanned the crowds looking for my super spectator. He was several people back it seemed, but there he was. Despite the chaos and the fried brain, I found him. I smiled, knowing he was snapping away with his camera. I gave up on trying to cheese it up for the race photographers, it was too crowded and I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted at least one good picture though so I smiled at him as I ran to the finish.

It's amazing how quickly one can go from having their eye on the prize to
wanting to throw up all within 100 feet of the finish line.
Those crowds really pump some life into your otherwise dead legs because for that last .1, I was running an 11:15 pace. As I hit the first timing mat, I started to hyperventilate a little. When I crossed under the actual finish line and over another timing mat, I started to cry. Based on my Garmin, I had completed 13.31 (grr!) miles in 2:49:47. In that moment, I couldn't make much sense of that though and figured I'd need to wait to check my text messages. I signed up for the real time race tracking for myself so that I'd know my results immediately.

I've been posting these pictures all season so what better way to end it
than with one last Garmin photo for prosperity.
I grabbed my medal and mylar blanket and wandered through the finishers area. I had this gem taken:
And then loaded up on the post-race foods. I grabbed one of everything, wrapped it in my blanket so I wouldn't drop anything and made my way to the designated meeting place. I immediately sat down and grabbed my phone to check the results text message. Official finish time:


I did it! I got my new running PR. I was so excited and didn't even know how to react. I just sat on the ground and stared at my phone. The Pilot was delayed getting to the designated meeting place because my friend Kim was going to be finishing just after me and I told him to stay at the finish and get pictures of her. I had to wait in lines to get my picture and to get the food so I wasn't sitting there very long when I saw a shadow to my left and then I got a kiss on my cheek. I told him that I did it and he responded that he was proud of me. That was so nice to hear after a difficult race.

And just for fun and because after owning my Garmin for over a year, I finally figured out how to look at all my split times, here's how my race looked in numbers. This demonstrates how mile 10 really did feel like forever and then you can see my strong desire to attack that PR over those last 3 miles as I kept speeding up (I realize that said speed is all relative).
Kim caught up with us a few minutes later. She had a great race and stuck to her goal....which was to stay behind me. She was doing the Goofy Challenge and I strongly encouraged her to hold back in the half marathon so she'd have plenty left for the full marathon the next morning. Kim is a natural race walker and has the ability to walk faster than my run pace. It's insane. I'd like to think it's because she's had a great coach but I really think it's just raw talent....that and her legs are longer than I am tall. She came in at 2:54:08.

Not too long after Kim joined us, my stomach started to get weird. I think whatever it was trying to do back at mile 9 was starting to really happen. I won't go into details but I was pretty miserable. I was also pretty dizzy and light headed. It was like I could feel each little fluctuation in my blood pressure. I didn't want to freak anyone out but I was a little nervous. I remember feeling pretty crummy after my first 1/2 marathon running attempt but this was different. I whispered to The Pilot that I wanted to stick around the finish area a little longer in case I needed to go to the medical tent. I sipped water and slowly ate a banana. I also discovered that when I sat down, I felt worse. But the last thing I wanted to do was stand on my feet that just carried me for 13+ miles.

Once I felt like my blood pressure was normal and holding, we made our way to the bus back to our hotel. It was the longest bus ride ever. My stomach was in knots and I just wanted to get up and walk around (none of this makes any sense!). It probably felt like a really long bus ride for The Pilot as well since he was jammed into a bus full of smelly, nasty 1/2 marathoners, myself included. He kept his urge to gag to himself though.

I spoke with one of my good marathon buddies on the phone during the bus ride and she said she sometimes has the same trouble when she runs hard. Only difference is that when she runs hard, she gets under 3 hours....for a full marathon. Love it. She gave some advice, which I followed and sure enough, I was feeling much better a couple hours later. Well enough to play a round of mini golf. :)
I also got cozy with a dancing hippo but you know, that's all normal post-race stuff.
Despite the frustrations on the course, I am so excited that I got the PR I was after. Stay tuned for some of my post-race thoughts. I had some unexpected emotions in the hours/days after the race.

But do you want to know the real reason that I got a new PR??

I was being chased...

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Super Spectator's Goofy Challenge Report: Day Two

The Pilot did a recap of 2011's Goofy Challenge from the spectator's point of view. I posted the 1/2 marathon recap over the weekend and here is the thrilling conclusion of my 39.3 mile journey last year...
[2:15 A.M.] Ugh. The alarm on my phone wakes me up. It's too frakkin early! Nevertheless, I get out of bed. Full zombie mode now. Watch the balance. Don't fall. Clothes on. Coffeeeeeeee. Coffeeeeeeee. I'm out the door of our room. Don't fall down the stairs. Despite the cobwebs, I'm feeling a little more familiar with my surroundings. The giant dog is not quite as scary this time, or is that I'm just so exhausted that I don't care. Once past the giant canine, I find that I'm not alone. Up ahead of me also heading in the general direction of the source of coffee is a woman alone in the dark. I notice her look over her shoulder, then I get the distinct impression that she has increased the pace of her walk and is moving away from me. No doubt in the dark in a black windbreaker and blue jeans, I look like some kind of pervert or monster that's out to get her. Or perhaps a ninja. . . . no. . . I'm definitely a pervert or monster. I could never pull off a ninja at this hour. . . or any hour for that matter. My thoughts are confirmed after I trip over a crack in the sidewalk. No ninja here. Too clumsy. Did I even have my eyes open?

That creepy kid isn't selling coffee to zombies like me this morning. Maybe he finally went over the edge after I left and bit someone. One of those poor stretching men probably had to miss the race and go to the hospital to be tested for rabies. Maybe they had to use the jaws of life to pry that kid off his ankle. I'm lucky I got out alive. A bed in a hospital kind of sounds nice right now though. Instead of the kid, I find a group of older women working the cash registers. It's early, and not at all busy, so they're in their own world talking about something I'm too tired to eavesdrop on. I walk up to one of them and attempt to pay, but she's too wrapped up in whatever it is that they're talking about to notice me. Ah . . . this is is much better, and more like what I'm used to finding in airports. Eventually I'm noticed, but I don't intrude. I quietly pay for my coffee while the conversation continues. There are fewer skinny men stretching in the food court this morning. No doubt the others heard about the ankle biting incident that must have happened the previous morning. "It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all." Ugh. I shudder at the thought.

Back into the darkness, and attempting to find my way back to our building. Up ahead of me, another woman is coming my direction. She's clearly a runner. She has the gear on. She's also clearly not thinking I'm a friendly blue jean clad ninja with a cup of coffee, as I note that she shifts to the next sidewalk over to avoid crossing paths with me. Fine. Be that way. No mistakes finding the room this morning. After yesterday, I'm extra cautious, and check the room number before attempting to enter. Inside, I find Amber struggling to stay awake as she prepares to get going. Out of the trash-can-turned-cooler, I dig out a package of hard boiled eggs I bought in the food court yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure what I should have expected from eggs that came out of a trash can, but they were not very good. Still better than nothing. Amber is concerned and worried about her wounds from the previous day. [2:49 A.M.] I feel like everything she's saying is going in one ear and out the other. So tired. Why isn't the coffee working? We keep each other moving, and eventually move our way out of the room and out into the chilly morning air. It's colder this morning. At the elevator we meet another couple who are on their way to the race. In the elevator, we make small talk. My role of spectator is brought up. The guy in the other couple tells me that I "had the right idea" being a spectator. He goes on to say he had the "wrong idea" as he is doing the marathon. Yaaaay for confidence! [3:23 A.M.]

We soon find ourselves back in the lobby of the Pop Century Resort. Amber goes to use a real restroom for the last time before the race. I'm left alone, and. . . . "I see the bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way"
. . . . . WHAT? AGAIN??? WHAT THE #$*!??? They're playing Bad Moon Rising again. That is so not cool. I try to console myself in the thought that the music must be on a loop, and we were probably here around the same time yesterday morning. It does little to help the fact that I feel like I'm holding onto my sanity by a thread. I feel like I'm having an out of body experience. It doesn't help to have the lyrics of that song echoing around in my head right now. Amber returns from her last taste of civilization, and we board a bus to take us to the race. While most of the bus passengers are quiet, I am prevented from dozing off by three younger women up in front of us who are excitedly chattering away, using words and phrases such as "Oh my God," "You know", and "like" way too often. Seated next to one of them is a guy who appears to be one of their boyfriends. He looks miserable. I suddenly feel much better about my situation. Off the bus, and walking to the race we can hear the MC encouraging people to walk toward the light . . . but not into it. In my twisted state of mind I find this hilarious. We go to our old haunt from the morning before, the T-Z tent. [4:14 A.M.] There we find Lisa and Mary. They're friends who were kind enough to feed us the night before. The weren't the ones who no-showed yesterday. I'm still not sure who that was supposed to be. Too early in the morning to make sense of it all. We hung out with Lisa and Mary yesterday evening for a small pasta party in a cabin they were staying in with family. Like Amber, they would be doing the Marathon this morning. While the three of them were up and talking, I was standing next to our stuff. A girl walked over placed her trash on one of the concrete filled buckets that was holding the tent down. That location also happened to be home to our belongings at the moment. "HEY!" I called out to her as she walked away, "We don't want your trash! Put it where it belongs." I pointed to a big trash can which was only about ten feet from where she had been standing. She sheepishly came back over and picked up her things and took them away. Not a ninja. I'm definitely a monster. [4:37 A.M.] The ladies decided it's time to head for their corrals, so we split up. Amber was wearing her trashbag, and I walked away hauling the rest of our supplies and gear in a backpack.

Finding a spot along the highway seemed a little easier this time. I hung back a bit further from the start line. Soon I was joined by a couple who stood to my left. After a short conversation, I learned that their 20 something son was doing the marathon. He had done shorter distances before, but this was his first full. Asking who I was here for, I told them about Amber. Somehow the topic of her being a coach for Team in Training came up. I proudly told them all about her role and the organization, and how it raises money for research and treatment for leukemia and lymphoma. I spoke about all the people they would see wearing purple, and how they were the Team In Training people. After I finished my TNT sales pitch . . . they told me that their son had done several events with TNT. Then why did you let me ramble on and on about it if you already knew what it was? Oh well. Still better than being elbowed in the ribs and stepped on by the people who were next to me yesterday. To my right was a guy who was there to see his friend do the marathon. After it became apparent that I was a Disney Marathon veteran after my experience yesterday, he was full of questions about the course and the places where spectators could watch. Amber prepared me well, and we went over all the maps and instructions she had given me days before. It helped to pass the time as we shivered in the cold. Almost an hour after Amber and I split up at the T-Z tent, the marathon started [5:39 A.M.]
The course for the full marathon was different for the half. Yesterday I had to run away to the next spectator location as soon as the race started. For the full marathon the course actually made a big loop for the first four miles, and it came right back around past the start line again, although on the closer side of the highway. As a result, I didn't have to move an inch. While we stood there, my neighbors scanned through the crowd of marathon people on the other side of the highway, trying in vain to spot their people in the darkness. Shortly before the last corral started the marathon, the first of the wheelchair people came zooming by us on our side of the highway. They had already completed the first four miles, and Amber hadn't even started yet. Now it was her turn, twenty four minutes after the first corral began.[6:03 A.M.]
Still shivering. Amber went by somewhere in that crowd, but I don't see her. I stand there and make small talk with my neighbors, and soon racers are coming by us. Clapping and cheering helps to warm us up. On the other side of the highway, workers immediately start tearing down the structures at the start line, and a group of people with bags are picking up old clothing, water bottles, and trash thrown down by the starting marathon crowd. Slowly the people around me start to leave after they see their people go by. Finally the crowd has thinned out enough that I'm standing by myself. The sun is coming up as I stand cheering and clapping for the Team In Training people I see go by. Then in the distance, it's Amber at mile 4. [7:10 A.M.]
We speak briefly as she goes by still wearing a trash bag. I'm a little more relaxed about getting to the next spectator position than I was yesterday. The mile 9 viewing area is the same location that I had to hurry to yesterday, only then it was the 4.2 mile point on the half marathon. I know I have over an hour to get there before Amber does, and since I was there yesterday, I know how long it will take. Leaving the highway, there aren't many spectators left along the fence. On my way over to the monorail station, I pass by the finish line. To my astonishment, the first of the wheelchair competitors is finishing the marathon. I jump up the steps of the grandstands just in time to catch him as he crosses the finish line. [7:23 A.M.]
Continuing on my way, I take my time and look around. By the time I get back to this point, the area will be so filled with people I won't be able to see the things that are visible now. . . like the lip synching gospel choir. It's still early in the marathon, and since only the fastest of the wheel chair competitors are finishing now, it's not a very busy time for them. The music is playing and there is singing, but it's clearly not coming from these people. A handful of them are "performing", but most are standing there, and many of them are talking to each other. Hmpf. I bet that Abraham Lincoln they have giving speeches in one of the parks isn't real either. It's all lies. Lies! Um. Anyway. Keep walking. The giant ball thing at Epcot is pretty in the light of the rising sun.
I hop on the monorail and fly over the race course to the Ticket and Transportation center where I'll be at the nine mile spectator location. Getting off the monorail, my ears are greeted with music coming from a marching band. [7:45 A.M.] Unlike the gospel singers, these musicians are really performing.
Moving away from the Ticket and Transportation center, and upstream against the flow of runners and walkers, I seek out my spot from yesterday. Across from it, people are riding those old bicycles with the giant front wheel, and some of them are doing tricks like taking their feet off the pedals and placing them up on the handlebars. I cringe every time I see this. A fall from that height would hurt.
As I stand there cheering, I notice that I have help on the other side of the race course. A guy is standing with his two kids holding up Team In Training signs and yelling out "Go Team" when purple people go by. My hands are definitely hurting from all the clapping I'm doing, even though I'm wearing gloves. The longer I'm at this location, the more spectators seem to disappear. Soon my help on the other side of the course is gone. They must have seen who they were looking for go by.

[8:21 A.M.] Amber gets to the 9 mile view point, still wearing her trash bag. I run with her briefly, and then she's off into the Magic Kingdom. The next viewing spot for me will be the same one as the 8.1 mile viewpoint from the half marathon, only this time the mileage covered at that point will be about 12.5 miles. As I start to backtrack toward the Ticket and Transportation center, I see a very lively group of TNT supporters trying to rally the troops. This is what that coach I stood next to yesterday should have been doing. Instead he was just standing there.
I walk back through the Polynesian resort, but there are no duck sightings this time. I take my time moving through the resort, checking out the plants, looking at the buildings, and killing some time. Coming out of the other side of the resort, I'm back a the race, and I have a mission to complete. All morning I've been carrying a small bag of pretzels with me. At the 12.5 mile viewing spot I have to find a way to get these pretzels to Amber. Seems like a simple task. The problem is that there is a fence separating spectators from the runners and walkers at that view point. How do I get to the other side of the road? I could see that there were a few spectators on the other side, but how did they get there? Where I had been standing yesterday was a little upstream of where most spectators had congregated. I decided to go down where everyone else was. Here I found a crosswalk that cut across the race course, but the policeman guarding the crosswalk wouldn't let anyone across the road. Frustrated with my first attempt, I worked my way back against the flow of runners and walkers, past where I stood yesterday, and ultimately came to another crosswalk far from the rest of the crowd. Here, the policewoman guarding the spot was a little more laid back, and was joking around with the few spectators in the area. She let me cross when there was a gap in the marathoners. Success!

[9:14 A.M.] Amber sent a text message a little while ago to let me know that she would be here soon, and there she is! I hand her the pretzels as I race walk along side her in the grass. Mission accomplished. She tells me that her knee hurts pretty bad, and she's going to have to stop soon to use a portapotty. Once we get up near where the main group of spectators is, I have to let her go, as there isn't room for me to walk with her anymore. I give her some encouraging words, knowing that this is the last time I'll see her until the finish. Although I'm back at the crosswalk where the mean cop was, I decide not to bother with attempting to cross here. Back along the road I go to the crosswalk with the friendlier cop, and soon I'm back on the opposite side. After I move up the hill a little ways toward the Polynesian resort, I'm sort of at a loss. What do I do now??? It's taken almost four hours to get to this point. Amber still has almost half the marathon to do, and I have all that time before I need to get back to the finish line. I stand there and start to compose a text message to her with some encouraging words, but then decide not to send it, thinking that she won't even see it anytime soon. While I stand there, I start to notice some activity back on the race course. Vehicles. It's the dreaded bus at the end of the marathon. If you can't keep a certain pace, it is assumed that you won't finish. You end up getting picked up by the bus, and your marathon is over. I'm unnerved by how close it is to Amber. I just saw her twelve minutes ago.
Just ahead of the bus are the pace people. Just behind them is a heart breaking sight. A woman trying with all her might to stay away from that bus. She's already fallen behind the pace people, and even though she will probably end up on that bus, she's fighting and not giving up. I feel guilty for standing there watching. She and the bus move off into the distance, and I quietly walk back into the Polynesian resort. I'll go to the finish and wait for Amber there.

[10:19 A.M.] Back near the finish area at Epcot now. I've found a less crowded spot on a small hill that looks down on the last turn on the race course. I sit down and eat a few things I've brought with me, but I'm not really hungry. I keep thinking about a text Amber sent just before I got here. "Mile 16...ok but i hurt might have to slow down" She can't slow down too much. That bus will get her. What if her injuries get the better of her and she doesn't make it? She'll be heart broken and devastated. Oh no. . . what if she doesn't make it? The thoughts keep bouncing around in my head as I sit there for the next couple hours, the stress building. What follows is a series of text messages we exchanged over those two hours.
  • To Amber - 10:37 I'm mentally right there with you. I wish I could physically be there. Push through that pain and slow if you have to, but keep going!
  • From Amber - 11:04 19 sucks
  • To Amber - 11:06 I keep seeing athletes walking around reunited with their families. I want to be reunited with you! I love you! Come to the finish!
  • To Amber - 11:45 Keep coming! Keep coming!
  • From Amber - 11:46 Mile 22...barely gonna make it
  • To Amber - 11:47 But you will do it. Keep coming!
  • To Amber - 12:02 Come on! Push through to the end!
  • From Amber - 12:22 24...ugh
  • To Amber 12:23 DO IT! DO IT NOW!!!
Now that she's getting closer, I decide to start looking for a place to spectate again. As it's getting near the end of the marathon, the grandstands are clearing out enough that I can climb up the steps and find a perch near the top to watch for Amber. While I stand there my nerves are completely shot. How close is she to that bus? How bad is the pain that she's in? Will she make it? I really just wish she'd hurry up! I get my camera out and start taking a few test pictures to see what kind of video and pictures I'll be able to get when Amber crosses.
Wait a second. Did you see what I saw. Lets take a closer look:

That man just did a Marathon . . . 26.2 miles . . . with a giant knee brace and crutches. All the time when I'm with Amber when the topic of marathons or triathlons comes up, it seems that someone always says, "Oh, I couldn't do that." Well, he did it with crutches and a knee brace!!! And he's . . . well . . . old! So really, what's the excuse?

[12:39 P.M.] A text message from Amber: "Mile 25". She's coming. Just over a mile to go. Down below Goofy and Donald Duck are meeting people as they cross the finish line. There are so many Team in Training people crossing right now that it's hard to pick out Amber from the crowd. So many purple shirts. . .

[12:58 P.M.] There she is!!!
After she crossed the finish line, I flew like a monkey down the bleachers and chased her along the fence. About ten minutes later we met back at the T-Z tent, where she sat down and took off her shoes. There are pictures that were taken during this time, as I was still the super spectator, but I am not permitted to show them here, or I may suffer bodily harm as a consequence. After collecting her wits, I assisted Amber slowly over to the buses that would take us back to the hotel. She carefully and slowly climbed the steps, and after we sat down, it was quite obvious from the odor that the majority of the people on the bus had just done a marathon. I might have been the only non stinky person there. Arriving at the hotel, Amber slowly worked her way down the stairs of the bus, finding it easier to go backward down the steps rather than forward like a normal person. We spent the rest of the day taking it easy. We had both been through a lot. Spectating can be hard.