While I obviously love the Disney races, I do not like the crazy early wake up calls. 2:45 am? That isn't very magical. The Pilot and I were in line for the bus at 3:30 am to make our way to the Epcot parking lot.
It was so much fun to have running buddies this year! For the Goofy Challenge in 2011 and the 1/2 marathon last year, I was on my own with the exception of the occasional Pilot sighting. This year, running with Mary and Lisa made those first 5 miles tick by quickly. We enjoyed the sights (costumes, men peeing in the bushes, lots of "what not to wear for a race" and the usual Disney race sights, characters).
By far, my favorite part of this race each year is making that bend onto Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom. BAM! There's Cinderella's Castle. I love it. I love it even more since The Pilot proposed in front of the castle right before the Goofy Challenge. I get a little choked up each year when I reach that point in the race.
It was just after the castle sighting that I noticed I had a slight hitch in my giddy-up. My hips were a little weird. It was only about 5.5 miles into the race. The pace wasn't too fast in my mind, so I didn't think we had gone out too fast, though Lisa made a comment that there was a lot of race left. I brushed it off but did a little stretch of my hips, thinking that would kick it into gear. Mistake #1. I had a Shot Block at this point and thought to myself, man that went so fast that I forgot to eat a Shot Block at mile 3 or 4 like usual. Again, I brushed it off and didn't think much of it. Mistake #2. Did I mention this was my NINTH 1/2 marathon? Obviously I'm not new at this and yet was making some rookie mistakes.
We kept plugging along until the girls needed a bathroom break. By some stroke of luck, I didn't have to go so I kept going, knowing they would be able to catch up to me. That's when I really evaluated how I was feeling. It was just past mile 6 and I was feeling sluggish. I waited too long to fuel. So I made mistake # 3 by trying to catch up. I had more Shot Blocks but that didn't sit well. I took a walk break and saw The Pilot standing on his grassy knoll waiting. :) He camps out in the same place near the Grand Floridian hotel each year but he can't get right next to the course so he stands on a little hill so he can see better. I waved and told him that Lisa and Mary should be coming up behind me shortly.
Lisa and Mary did eventually catch up to me and I was still feeling really sluggish and my hips were irritated. It seemed to alternate between each side. It was also warming up. It was already in the 60s at the start and into the low 70s as the sun came up. By mile 7, I was starting to get annoyed. By mile 8, I wanted to be done. By mile 9, the wheels were falling off in a hurry. It was taking all I had to keep moving at all. I am not kidding when I say that I was trudging along, staring at the ground in front of me. At one point, the only thing I could focus on where Lisa's pink compression socks right in front of me. I knew she could and probably wanted to go faster and I gave them the chance to leave me but for some crazy reason they opted to stick with me. As much as I wouldn't have taken it personally if they did go on without me and I really didn't want to hold them back or do anything to jeopardize their full marathon the next day, I have never been more thankful to have people with me. I honestly think I may have thrown in the towel at mile 10 if they hadn't been there.
We started taking more and more walk breaks. And those walk breaks were slow. And when it was time to run again, it took so much effort. My hips were screaming. Right before mile 10 and right before an evil hill (an exit ramp that is banked and killer on the ankles), I stopped at the medical tent and grabbed a handful of Biofreeze. I didn't even care, I shoved my hands down my pants and slathered my hips with the stuff. Within minutes my hips were numb. I don't think it was just the hips that were holding me back. I had lost all my gas. I fueled too late and didn't catch up. I had hit the wall and Lisa and Mary knew it. My stomach was getting weird so I made my one and only pit stop while they waited for me (and probably contemplated making a run for it! I kid.) When I came out of the nasty porta-potty, Lisa ended up wearing my Fuel Belt for nearly 2 miles. Suddenly that Fuel Belt felt like it weighed 50 pounds. If I had had it, I would have paid her serious money for doing that for me. So when I say that my wheels were falling off, I was not exaggerating. I was a hot mess.
As we made the last stretch (and hill) into Epcot, I found about an ounce of energy as there was more music thumping and lots more spectators on the course. It didn't carry me far. I alternated between one sloooow walk and a shuffle. I'm sure I apologized a million times to Lisa and Mary. I don't think Mary ever stopped smiling. Lisa used her usual humor to amuse me and distract me.
Best part of the picture....the guy dressed up as Woody over Lisa's shoulder. Only at a Disney race.
Finally! Finally! There was the gospel choir, then the last bend before the finish line. I was so exhausted and out of my mind that I couldn't even scan the crowd for The Pilot. Lisa and Mary looked and looked but the crowd seemed to be 10 deep all along the sides of the course. I just focused on not tripping or passing out in the finish chute. The 3 of us grabbed hands and ran (who am I kidding....shuffled) across the finish line. 3:08 and some change. No where near a PR but it wasn't a personal worst either so I'll take it.
Don't be fooled but this celebratory pose....
Mary and Lisa are holding me up and dragging me across the finish line. They are celebrating the fact that they are super heroes and dragged a lame duck for nearly 5 miles.
The shower and nap that immediately followed were glorious. I was zapped. Between the warm weather, the humidity and the stupidly difficult race, I had no energy left. It took both The Pilot and I hours of laying around the hotel room before we were back in the land of the living. I called Lisa to give an update and thank them for their help. Both she and Mary agreed that they had never seen me like that. This coach had hit the wall hard and there was nothing magical about it that's for sure! I wished them luck for the full marathon and said I'd see them on the course at some point to cheer for them. The Pilot and I did manage to get in a game of mini-golf and a walk around a new resort (Art of Animation) that evening but then it was to bed early for another early morning. I'm sure I said multiple times that evening that I was so thankful that I wasn't going to do the Goofy Challenge. Two years later, I still have absolutely NO desire to do that again!
I have a theory as to why the wheels fell off but I'll post more tomorrow as this is already a post starting to look like a draft of War and Peace.
My hard earned 9th 1/2 marathon medal....accompanied by a forced smile.