Sunday, March 14, 2010
So...this runner walks into a bar...
Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? But seriously, just keep reading. I'll knock your socks off with my awesome sense of humor. Or how about a dazzling race report? (Or not-so-dazzling, depending on how you look at things. When you're in the post-race surge of victory, really any minor accomplishment seems pretty dazzling. A load of laundry? Wonderful! Making dinner? Now THAT is worthy of a gold medal!) Well, as it turns out, at around eleven o' clock this morning, I was a runner walking into a bar...for the 2010 Shamrock Shuffle post-race party!
Today was the big day. My first 10K race. A bit anti-climactic, I suppose, given that it was right on the tail of my first HALF MARATHON!!! (Can you tell I'm still feeling a bit giddy about that one?!) My adventure actually began yesterday afternoon, with my quest to find the perfect race-day outfit. I generally wouldn't call myself much of a girly girl. The only time I've ever had a pedicure was the day before my wedding. (I'll admit that I rather enjoyed it and promised myself I'd get another one day, but it just hasn't happened yet.) I'm lucky if my hair gets cut every four months, and forget about blow drying, curling, straightening, whatever...unless it's a really special occasion. I only have one purse and buy most of my clothing at Walmart or Target because I can't rationalize the "expensive" cost of the nicer stuff. But then there's running and racing. I'm finding that selecting my outfit for race days is proving just as much as an adventure as the race itself. Well sometimes. First it has to match the theme of the race. Then the color scheme has to make sense. And it has to be comfortable, with the requirement that it's wedgie and chafe-proof. And well, if it looks cute, that's just an awesome bonus! I took great joy in selecting the pink, princessy-ish, half-marathon themed gear I wore to the Princess Half. And, while other girls can spend hours on Etsy shopping for cute baby/little kid items or at shoe stores or for makeup, I can just sit for ungodly amounts of time browsing sites like RunningSkirts.com or BondiBand.com for new gear. I have my eye on a couple of sweet running skirts, but their price tags are scaring me just a bit. In short, I'm becoming quite the running gear junkie. So even though I don't have even a drop of Irish blood (that I know of), I was eager to pick the most fun, green, shamrock-y outfit for today. I had spotted some cute shirts in Target a few weeks ago, and figured I could pick one up today. It took searches through three stores, but finally Target #2 had ONE (just ONE) St. Patty's Day shirt left that wasn't XS or XXL...so I snapped it up. (Can someone please explain to me while holiday stuff is almost always already on clearance before the appointed holiday arrives? I just don't get it. Why are stores not willing to accomadate procrastinators like me? I mean, they could make a killing off of us...I can't be the only one, right? And while we're at it, could we talk about why you can buy a bikini at Target in freaking January in Wisconsin but they're completely sold out of snow boots?) At least I got there before some other last-minute shopper grabbed my green shirt! The shirt is short sleeved, green, and says "I'm going green." I also found a white long-sleeved running top, perfect for layering, for $4.97 on the clearance rack. AND I snagged some tacky green party beads. And a green stretchy headband. So I was golden! Or is that green? I went to bed relieved that I'd fit into the sea of Shamrock Shufflers.
I had set my alarm for six o' clock this morning to allow myself plenty of time to get ready. However, I was really missing that hour of sleep I lost "thanks" to daylight savings time. (Really, almost everything about DST annoys me...except the prospect of being able to run outdoors after work now!) But in any event, I was up and dressed right at seven, and still was able to get me and Timmy fed and Timmy to the babysitter's without breaking my neck. I was a bit nervous about dropping him off, as he had been pretty cranky most of the weekend, but as I got ready to leave, he grinned and called out "BYE BYE!" It was all the reassurance I needed!
Then I drove downtown, which was a fairly short, easy journey on a Sunday morning, and realized that I had forgotten my iPod's headphones! OOPS! I figured that the race should be entertaining enough even without music, and the race organizers were discouraging the use of headphones anyway. The Overture Center, which was kind of our home base, was already getting pretty crowded with people dressed up in their finest (or tackiest) green garb. I found a comfortable seat in the lobby and wondered how easy it would be to meet up with my friends. "Yeah, I'm the one in the green shirt. But oh yeah, pretty much everyone else is wearing a green shirt too." While I waited, a DJ entertained the crowd with announcements and Irish-themed jokes. I enjoyed seeing people's costumes and accessories: leprechaun hats, tacky party beads, shamrocked-shape jewelry with flashing LEDs, striped tights, pajama pants printed with leprechauns, pots of gold, and rainbows. I saw a group of people wearing custom made shirts with a slogan to the effect "In honor of Pi Day, we're running 3.1 miles!" (Yes, happy Pi Day, by the way...) In case you're curious, one of the ladies in the group was a math teacher. (But hey, maybe if I ever run a race on October 23, I could have a Mole Day shirt made up. And try to run at a 6:02/mile pace or 10:02/mile=602 sec/mile pace...hehe. If at this point, you're scratching your head and going "Huh?!" just move on and don't mind me. It's a chemistry nerd thing!) At around nine-thirty, I ran into some of my friends, we chatted for a bit, and before we knew it, we were on our way out into the cold to wait at the starting line. (OK, it wasn't really that cold, but cold enough that I wanted to keep moving to stay warm!)
A few minutes before ten, a guy dressed as St. Patrick gave us an "Irish blessing" and we listened to one last song from a DJ, "Jump Around", before the race. I took the opportunity to literally jump around a bit to warm up my frozen self. (OK, I'm using the term "frozen" too liberally here. It was really in the high 40s with a breeze that made it feel maybe in the low 40s and partly cloudly. So excuse my whining. I am such a big baby about the cold!) And then, when the gun went off, the 10Kers (including ME!) headed out first. I dutifully set my Garmin, which I had cleared out after the Disney Princess Garmin fiasco, as my foot hit the starting mat. And we were officially on our way!
The first quarter mile or so was easy. We ran through downtown, starting on State Street, past the spot where the finish line was set up (oh, I'm at the finish line already?! Easiest race EVER! Wait...no? I knew it was too good to be true!) We continued winding around a couple of corners. Then up ahead...OMG, BIG hill. What is THAT, and why are there people running up it? Wait, you mean I have to run up that monstrous thing too? Are you kidding me? This was the infamous "Bascom Hill" that everyone had been speaking about with such reverent...fear. Deep breath. Internal longing for Central Florida, where the only "big hills" you really see are overpasses! I knew I'd probably end up walking at least part of Bascom Hill, but I charged forward with everything I had! And you know what, I MADE IT! It wasn't long before we spotted the one mile marker...and I had done a ten-minute mile, hill and ALL! And then, we hit the 5K turnaround point, where a man was playing the bagpipes. It felt strange to continue on with the 10K group rather than turning. Once upon a time, I thought that 10Ks were for "crazy" people who actually could and wanted to run 6.2 miles (and who would want to run 6.2 miles?! Geesh...) And here I was, now one of the "crazy" ones. And to make matters even "crazier" I was running 6.2 the weekend after running 13.1. Hello! But hey, doesn't it seem like every serious runner has at least a little "crazy" streak? I mean, don't most other sports use our sport as a form of punishment?
Ah, anyway, I digress. After decompressing from the drama of Bascom Hill, I had a relaxed, easy second mile which took me along a path by University Bay. The breeze came in over the water, and it was a little chilly and uncomfortable at first, but soothing. I was relieved to see that I was still solidly in the pack of runners. (One thing I had dreaded about the 10K distance was being near the very back of the pack...for some reason it was much more intimidating to me than the 5K.) We ran down the path and alongside a peaceful wooded area. Along the way we saw a guy who got desperate and "went" in the trees. Um yeah...don't see that every day...do we? (Definitely a first for "weird things I see at races!") Anyway. Around that time, we saw the first runner pass us on his way back towards downtown. And as we trekked towards the turnaround, we saw more and more runners coming back. The third mile seemed to drag a little, and it seemed to take foreeeeeeeeeveeeeer to get to the turnaround point. But eventually we passed the third mile marker and the turnaround was right up ahead. We hit a mat that marked our 5K split, and our timing chips all made the sensor beep. I was feeling a bit woozy and got this strange image of the runners being grocery items going over a scanner in the checkout lane. It was hilarious in the moment, in my swirly, crazy, not alltogether there, middle of a long distance run mind! And then (finally) I was one of the runners headed back to the finish line! 5K down, 5K to go...
After I took some water from the water stop and continued along, the fourth mile really didn't seem so bad. And mile five was all right, if not a bit sluggish. My body was slowing down little by little. I had stashed an "emergency" Gu in my pocket and tapped into it to give me a little extra energy. For a while I was playing "tag" with a lady in a white running shirt, but after several rounds of passing each other, I slowed a little more and she ended up a bit ahead of me. And then as we wrapped up mile five, I realized that Bascom Hill was coming up again. The BAD: having to run up it again (just the other side), the GOOD: running down the side we had run up in the first mile. I knew that I'd be walking the uphills, and that was the right decision, since just walking them had me POOPED! And lucky us, there was a photographer stationed at the top of the hill taking our pictures! (Seriously?! One of the runners asked the photographer what he was doing there and not in a spot where we'd be more photogenic?!) But, the top of the hill meant that we'd immediately begin a steep descent back towards the finish line. Wahoo! I flew down the hill, passing a few of the people who had left me behind on the hill. And we got to the bottom only to have some volunteers to tell us there was one more hill. WHAT?! Was this a joke? Another hill and I had forgotten about it! Ack! Luckily this one wasn't as big and I got through it just fine. And then we were hurtling back into downtown and towards the finish line! We went around a corner, and the finish line was then literally around the corner! We passed the last mile marker and then it was in sight! There were already a lot of people gathered at State Street Brats for the finish party. I caught a glimpse of the race clock and it said 1:03:something. NOT bad! I tried to look up and look presentable for the photographer (not sure if I was successful though!!) and stopped my Garmin as my foot hit the finishing mat. 1:03:34. Considering that my goal time was 1:10:00, I think I passed! My chip time was 1:03:33, so apparently I was quite handy with the Garmin today. It was a 10:14/mile pace, which pleases me, especially given that I had Bascom Hill to contend with TWICE!
I had a chance to chat with a couple of my friends, who both had a successful experience with the 5K race. (Unfortunately I missed some of my other friends because it was SUPER busy at the post-race party, and like I mentioned before everyone was wearing green, so "Look for the lady in the green shirt" would have been a completely useless hint for finding anyone in the crowd. And the crowd was packed into State Street Brats, a local bar, making it all the more challenging to find anyone!) It was the first 5K for many of my friends, and hearing their stories gave me the warm & fuzzies about my experience with my first 5K, last year's Zoo Run Run (which I won't be running this year since it conflicts with some travel plans). Anyway, I was unsure about how today would go, given that I was "recovering" from my half, but it was a sweet success! Call it leftover pixie dust...or maybe it was the luck of the Irish!
A big shout out and CONGRATS to my Spark Friends who walked and ran at the Shuffle this morning! You all ROCK and I enjoyed meeting with you! (And I'll see many of you at the Crazylegs Classic next month!)
Monday, March 08, 2010
Yes, this is a crazy long blog entry. But how many times in my life will I run my FIRST half marathon? And at Disney World, no less?
What an adventure. As I look back on the last twenty-four or so hours, it still feels like it was all a dream. But I did it. I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon. And it was amazing. As I began to contemplate the idea of running a half several months ago, I read some race day advice from one of my favorite running gurus, Jeff Galloway. His suggested goal for a first time half marathoner was not to aim for a specific time, but to finish the race upright, with a smile on her face, and wanting to do it again. I can say with certainty, “Mission Accomplished,” as I finished upright (definitely), smiling (I think), and wanting to do it again (ohhhhh yeah).
My day began bright, or rather dark, and early at two o’ clock in the morning. The night before I had diligently sketched out my race day checklist, set my cell phone alarm, and settled into the bedroom on the early side. Going to bed early wasn’t such a tall order since I had risen early for the Royal Family 5K that morning. Timmy, who had been sharing my old bedroom with me, was decidedly not in the mood to go to bed, so we relocated him to my parents’ bedroom so I’d have a chance of getting at least a little shuteye. Even without little T chattering, jumping on the bed, and sticking his tiny cold fingers in my ears, I was having trouble getting to sleep. I was like the little kid from the Disney commerical from a while back complaining, “I’m too excited to sleep!” But by some miracle, I closed my eyes and was woken up a bit later by my dad knocking on the door. “It’s two-fifteen!”
What? I missed my alarm? I wondered briefly if I had missed daylight savings time in my pre-race oblivion. But silly me, my phone was set to vibrate (from being at the movie theater to see Alice in Wonderland the previous day…you know, silence being golden and all). And if the phone’s on vibrate, the alarm vibrates even if you tell it to ring at a ghastly full-blast volume. Thank goodness for the Dad Alarm, that is all I can say! I expected to feel like a zombie…and OK, I really actually kinda did, but I managed to set my feet on the floor and set my race day preparations in order. Black running capris. Check. Moisture wicking socks. Check. Nike running shoes with Garmin foot pod and D-tag timing chip attached. Check. “13.1 Miles and Still Smiling” tech shirt purchased at the One More Mile expo booth. Check. Pink sparkly Bondi band. Check. Can’t run a Princess Half without something sparkly or pink. Or preferably both. Then I moved to the task of packing my standard-issue purple Princess Half Marathon with race day necessities. Sunscreen. Sunglasses. With bling. Armband to hold camera, Gu, and iPod. Camera. Gu (in my favorite flavor, chocolate). iPod. Because what good would the armband be without the things it’s meant to hold? Race bib. Four safety pins. Garmin. Road ID. Water bottles. Breakfast…which was a small chicken sandwich, yogurt, and fresh fruit. A caffeinated beverage to kick my tired body into gear. Cash for concessions, if desired.
After the flurry of getting dressed and pack, I tumbled into the car, and we embarked on the hour long trek to Disney World. The roads were hauntingly quiet, for the most part. On the way to the interstate, we actually saw a ton of people leaving a nightclub to go crash at home. Funny how my Sunday had gotten started before these people’s Saturdays had ended. Yes, it was just that freakishly early. I started to feel the butterflies as we saw the interstate signs for Disney World. We got off at Exit 64, as instructed in the race packet, but missed the turning for EPCOT and had to double back to catch it. Thankfully we were still on the early side, and the traffic entering the parking lot wasn’t too horrendous. (I had heard ominous warnings of bad traffic jams for these events…) At that hour we didn’t have to pay the $14 parking fee (snap!) so we drifted in and followed the signs to the parking area. I was reluctant to emerge from the warmth of my dad’s car. It was friggin’ cold out there and I was dressed in very lightweight gear to avoid overheating during the race. I was grateful that I had brought a jacket to wear, at least until I had to separate from my family and wait in the corral.
I was astounded by how crowded the venue already was! It had seemed crowded for yesterday’s 5K, which had about 3500 runners and walkers, but this time, Disney was expecting 13,500 participants, not to mention their friends and family and over a thousand race volunteers. Insanity! I did take the opportunity to pose for a photo on the red carpet, since there was only a short line. The lady in line behind me told me I looked tired…but happy. (Is saying I look tired a nice way of saying I look bad?) Then into the mob of people to try and figure out what to do with myself. Only a few minutes passed before there was an announcement directing all racers to proceed through the baggage claim tent and into the runners only area. I was somewhat relieved because my dad, who was with me, was kind of making me nervous and edgy but bummed because it meant surrending my jacket to my family. We found ourselves back in another large clearing and I wondered where the race corrals were. I didn’t see them anywhere! I had kind of expected them to be somewhere in the parking lot, but if they were, they were hiding from me. While I pondered this deep thought, I enjoyed the parade of tiaras, pink clothing, and costumes on the other racers and secretly bemoaned the fact that, since I was a late registrant, my race bib wasn’t personalized with “Princess Christina” (although I guess I could have Sharpie’d that had I really wanted to) or my favorite Princess of choice (love you, Ariel!) I was glad I had the foresight to purchase some pink and sparkly race wear and comforted myself with the fact that my race bib would still get me through the race even though it was not custom-made. We stood around in a big, freezing mass until I heard some cheering from the front of the mass and felt the crowd surge forward. Where were we going? Would there be bathrooms there? (I had a hunch my nervous pre-race stomach would appreciate a potty break.)
The crowd snaked noisily along through…what do you know, the first mile of the 5K route. It was a bit eerie moving along under the shadow of night, not being entirely sure where we were going and how long it would take us to get there. We walked and walked and walked…and walked…and walked some more. We walked around a bend and Hallelujiah! Portapotties! I made my much-needed pit stop, and emerged to discover that we were on the main road and right next to the enormous race corrals. We came out right by Corral A, the first one, and it seemed like Corral D, the one to which I had been assigned, was miles in the distance. Would I even be able to see the start from way back there?! I let the race official inspect my race bib (to make sure I wasn’t illegally jumping corrals) and found a cozy spot near the front of the corral. Yeah, the finish line looked as big as a couple of Lego blocks from where I stood. I even wondered if I would be able to see or hear the starting fireworks, which I was sure they’d have (I mean if they had them for a 5K, surely they’d set some off for a half marathon, right?!) I checked my watch. It was barely five o’ clock. We’d have to stand here in the cold for almost an hour and a half?! Not a fun prospect. I know, thus far, my race report really is convincing you to sign up for this race, right? Getting up at two o’ clock, walking through the darkness to some unknown location, and standing in a cold corral doing anything within your power to beat the cold. (Hey, at least we didn’t have any bonus rain to make it “better.” But, bear with me. It does actually get better. Really.) People were shivering, snuggling under blankets, bunched close together for warmth, and contorting their arms and bodies in any way possible to keep precious body heat from escaping. This was one of those times when getting cozy with a perfect stranger really didn’t seem like such a bad idea! We heard the DJ playing music off in the distance and bobbed up and down to the beat. I chatted with some of the ladies around me. One was walking the half, and told us stories of how she had walked 13.1 and 26.2 in one weekend in New York to raise money for breast cancer. Another shared stories of the miserable Disney World Half Marathon (which involved sleet – YUCK) she ran in January. Another told us about her recent experience with the Disney World Marathon, and how she had worn her finisher’s medal into the park only to have it break when she was riding Space Mountain. A few ladies commented on my awesome tech shirt. (Because I’m such a trend setter, don’tcha know?) By some miracle the time passed, and the emcee announced the start of the wheelchair division. It was 5:54, I think. We let out a cheer as they made their way out onto the race course.
And then, we were on the final countdown for Corral A! The Fairy Godmother wished them well, we counted down from five, and the fireworks exploded beautifully into the night sky! We yelled and cheered as we saw the racers run (well…on the Jumbotron since we couldn’t “really” see that far ahead). A few minutes later, Corral B opened up and moved up to the start line. And what do you know, they got their own countdown and fireworks. And then Corral C got the same lively start, and then our gate was opened up and we moved forward to the start. I could feel the adrenaline rush! I settled my ear buds into my ears and set my iPod to Cirque du Soleil music. I mean, what else could I choose but the music that had accompanied me and motivated me through pretty much all of my training runs?! The Fairy Godmother and one of the emcees gave us a last minute pep talk, and then announced that there were 15 seconds until our official start time, 6:21. (Random time…why not 6:20 or some nice, even number?) And then ten, and then FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE! Our fireworks set off and we rushed forward with a loud cheer! As my foot hit the starting mat, I set my trusty Garmin timer in motion. I waved to the photographer who was suspended in a bucket truck above the starting line (but safely out of the fireworks’ range). OMG, I was running a friggin’ half marathon. I was doing something I would have never pictured myself doing a couple of years ago. I couldn’t stop smiling. I suspected that it would be a challenging morning, but I knew in my heart that I could and would make it to the finish line.
Running four minutes and walking one felt like the perfect mix. I had planned on two minutes running for every minute of walking, but sometimes my planned intervals do go out the window if I’m feeling stronger or weaker than expected. Needless to say, I was feeling stronger this morning. I think it was the pixie dust. Or the sparkly pink headband. It was a crowded course, no doubt, but at least people seemed to be following the basic race etiquette (if you’re walking, go off to the side, don’t walk or run more than two abreast, and so on) so there was plenty of room to pass people. A few minutes after we started, we saw and heard Corral E’s fireworks. Now all 13,500 runners were on the course! About a half a mile in, I saw several discarded articles of clothing from runners who had already warmed up, and after that, the road’s shoulders were littered with sweatshirts, blankets, gloves, and even a couple of tutus. Thankfully, all of these items would be washed and donated to charity. (Well, not completely sure about the tutus…) There sure were a lot of them. Admittedly, had I still been wearing my fleece jacket, it might have ended up with them because I was already heating up. Before I knew it, I could see the first mile marker in the distance. A DJ was playing music and encouraging us on. The mile marker was shaped like a storybook and had a race clock, which was only useful to me if I subtracted 21:30 from its readout, attached. My Garmin indicated that I had been on the course a little under 11 minutes. In a nutshell, the first mile had been flat, a bit crowded (but energetic), and relatively uneventful. The next couple of miles continued our trek on the road from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom. Along the way, there were several characters and photo opportunities. The details of what was where along the course are all kind of blurred together into one big, happy mush, but hey, it’s easy to forget the little things when you’re having such a life-changing experience. Any of my more detail-oriented princess cohorts will have to forgive my (possible) lapses in memory. Everyone was really soaking in the good cheer and Disney magic. I even spotted some women posing with the Florida Highway Patrol officer who was guarding one of the on ramps. He seemed to be basking in the extra attention! We saw the first medical station, as well as a couple of beverage (as in water and Powerade) stations. We ran by a ship manned by the Pirates of the Caribbean and a group of charming princes (including Prince Charming himself). Then we saw the Magic Kingdom parking booths up ahead. As we ran through, we got to high-five the Disney cast members. Although the road wasn’t exceedingly scenic, I took pictures during each of my walking breaks. I figured it would be worthwhile capturing the whole race experience, not just the “fun” parts.
We dashed up through the parking lot as spectators and ChEAR squad members cheered us on. Somewhere around that time, we ran over the mat which would record our 5K splits. We were at about 34:00 at that point. It briefly registered in my mind that, in crossing that mat, I was venturing into new territory. Sure, I had completed training runs as long as 11 miles in preparation for this day, but I had never actually run any race longer than 5K. Streamers waved in the breeze, and we jogged under a pastel-colored balloon archway. As we looped by the Ticket & Transportation Center, a group of drummers played for us and even more spectators were waiting to encourage us. Then we started our journey around the lake, past the Contemporary Resort, to the Magic Kingdom itself. As we were going under an underpass, I prepared to take another picture, but what do you know the camera battery was DEAD!!! That’s the last time I trust someone when they tell me that the camera battery is fully charged and ready to go…and next time I run at Disney, I’m packing spare batteries. So that ended my picture chronicle of my half marathon, unfortunately. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about wrestling the camera in and out of my armband anymore. And then at minute 51, my silly Garmin beeped and told me it was out of memory and decided to reset itself!!! Ugh…now all it could do for me was serve as a glorified stopwatch. (Note to self: before a half marathon, make sure Garmin memory has been emptied.) Well, at least I still had a timepiece other than the race clocks. It would have driven me batty not being able to keep track of my nice, neat 4:1 intervals. Garmin aside, I concentrated on moving through the course at a comfortable pace and, of course, enjoying my vibrant surroundings. After all, hadn’t I dreamed of running a Disney race since, well, I began running?
We were running towards the park now, and all of a sudden, we looped around a corner and through a gate, and where were we but Main Street USA?! Crowds of spectators behind ropes were cheering for us and I spotted Cinderella’s castle up in the distance. What a thrill! I was feeling just a bit like a celebrity and only wished I hadn’t left my sparkly sunglasses in the car. Many runners stopped briefly to pose for pictures, but I kept on trucking…what with my lack of working camera and all. The course was fairly crowded at this point since we were jammed into a narrow space, but thankfully everyone was moving pretty well. We made a sharp turn towards Tomorrowland where I spotted the Peoplemover, aka Tomorrowland Transit Authority and the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. Through Fantasyland next and the famous run through the castle (the one from the magazine ads) was upon us. I heard a royal fanfare and eagerly jogged under the archway. Through the castle we ran and I made sure to smile and wave for the professional photographers who were camped out on the other side. (Oh please, please, please let the picture be good!) And then we made another turn towards Adventureland and then the Haunted Mansion, followed by Frontierland. We crossed the train tracks, where one of the trains was parked and manned by an engineer and more smiling characters. Timmy would have appreciated that photo op, I’m sure! Somewhere in there we crossed the 10K mat, and I estimated my time at that point to be around 1:06:00. My fears of getting picked up by the straggler’s van (magic carpet? Enchanted pumpkin? Flying elephant?) abated.
Somewhere around 6.5 or 7 miles, we exited the park and I started to feel a bit tired. Not too tired to keep going, but the effort of the race was starting to bog me down a bit. We were still at a crowded point in the course, and the whole bob and weave game to get around other runners was getting a little old. I was ready to be back on the highway where we’d be able to spread out a little more. We passed mile marker seven, and the distance between it and mile marker eight felt like two miles…too long. And then the distance between mile markers eight and nine, well that felt like ten miles. It was kind of like that crazy stretching room in the Haunted Mansion...it just seemed to get longer and longer and longer...and longer. My legs were starting to feel a bit heavy, I was feeling a bit sluggish, and the rising sun was shining right in my face. Not a pleasant combination! I eased my pace and, to my relief, spotted the food station serving Clif Shots…nice! I walked and gratefully accepted a strawberry shot from one of the volunteers. Eventually, after what seemed like two eternities, we reached mile marker nine, and I was starting to feel a bit better. During the fatigue of that previous mile, I had downgraded to 3:1 intervals to conserve energy, and the chocolate Gu I had eaten a bit earlier, as well as the strawberry shot, were starting to kick in nicely. It wasn’t long before we crossed the tenth mile marker and I thought to myself, “The ten mile warm up is over! Now we just have a 5K left! I can do a 5K. I do 5Ks all the time!”
The last three miles were one of the tougher parts of the course…I’m not gonna lie. I had heard about it from ladies who ran the inaugural Princess Half last year. Two BIG overpasses…you know, pretty much the closest thing you can get to a “real” hill in Central FL. And of course, with ten miles in the bank, these overpasses most certainly seemed as daunting as Mount Everest. OK, kidding, but they weren’t a picnic. Thankfully the uphill part of overpass #1 fell in line with one of my walk breaks. And for #2, I ran up part of it and shifted my walk break to walk the rest of it at a brisk pace. And as we came down overpass #2, I realized, we were about to run into EPCOT! The last mile! The END! For real?! It was at this point that I started to do the math and realize that my estimated time of 2:45 was probably going to be off. As in WAY off! With only a mile and some change to go, I was only just past the two hour mark. Would I have a sub-2:20 half marathon?!
As we entered EPCOT and looped through Future World, there were crowds of cast members cheering and encouraging us through the home stretch. I really needed to hear their cheers, as I was starting to tire again. Their positive energy really helped me press on and keep smiling. Up to the Showcase Plaza we ran, and then we turned back for a run back past the fountain and towards one of the park exits. Several cast members shouted words of encouragement. “You’re almost there!” “Mile 13 marker is right around the corner!” “Keep on running! You can do it!” “The finish line is within reach!” And sure enough, we rounded a corner and I spotted the 13th mile marker, a gospel choir, and just beyond the choir, the FINISH LINE! The cheers of the crowd and the prospect of finishing my first half marathon helped me find that last bit of strength to push past the mile marker, the choir, and right up to the finish! I raised my arms in victory and remembered to smile for the photographers who were stooped down near the finish line to take our photos. I waved at Donald and spotted the race clock. 2:39:14…right as my foot crossed the mat. Subtract 21 minutes, and I was looking at a time of around 2:18:14. (Later I found out that my chip time was 2:17:44, so my estimate wasn’t far off.) Relieved, stunned, thrilled, emotional, and overwhelmed, I gradually let my pace slow down to a walk and looked around in disbelief. 13.1?! Did I really just run 13.1 miles?! And I was still in a vertical position, had a smile on my face, and knew beyond a doubt that I wanted to do it again. Mission accomplished! Around the bend, a race volunteer congratulated me and handed me my finisher’s medal, a beautiful medal in the shape of a tiara with clear gemstones and a royal blue ribbon. I waved to my dad, who was standing in the crowd of spectators and continued down the finisher’s chute to get some Powerade. Then it was a short wait to have my finisher’s photo taken, and then food and soda. And then back to meet up with my family and head back to Tampa. In the car, I was almost delirious with all the emotions! I kept touching my finisher’s medal, reflecting back on my experience, and wondering, “Is this all a dream?”
Yes, when I started out as a Couch to 5K “newbie” last year, this was all a dream. A Disney race was an incredible dream that seemed very far off, something that I wasn’t even sure I’d ever be able to achieve. I even wondered if it was just some fantasy that I’d never get to experience. But with determination, hard work, and dedication, I lived my dream. It came true. As Walt Disney himself said, if you can dream it, you CAN do it!
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Tonight we say goodbye to February, as well as the Vancouver Winter Olympics! 2010 is passing by so quickly already! This month has been a little bit rocky for me, but I've still managed to get a few things done...
Maintain my weight
Run/walk 96.39 miles
Incorporate biking into my fitness routine 2-3 times a week
Try the gym pool for the first time
Stay consistent with strength training
Drink 8+ glasses of water each day
Food has been a bit rough for me this month, and I think it's a combination of a couple of things. I've become a bit complacent and have let things slip a little bit, thinking that "oh, one snack/dessert/fast food won't hurt me." I haven't gained anything back, but food is something to work on this coming month. I really need to find my way back to the healthy path I was on late last year...because from healthy eating to "crap" eating, it's a very steep, slippery slope. With that said, here are my goals for March 2010!
Continue to maintain my weight
Five fruits and veggies each day
Keep fast food to once per week or less
Keep cafeteria desserts to once per week or less
Complete the Princess Half Marathon on March 7
Complete the Shamrock Shuffle 10K on March 14
Stay consistent with the strength training
Run 3x a week, outdoors as often as possible
Cross train 1-2x a week (biking/swimming/other)
Decide on my next race
Keep on Sparkin'
Should be an action-packed month! I'm feeling all ready for the Princess Half. Still pretty nervous, as I was when I showed up for my first 5K, but I'm excited and I feel confident that I'll cross the finish line and earn my *BLING* Today I completed my last long training run before I begin tapering in preparation for the big day. I treated today's 10.8 mile workout as a "dress rehearsal" of sorts for next Sunday. I ran in the outfit I plan on wearing to the Princess Half and used my hydration belt and the same Gu's I plan to consume during the race. It was helpful to get comfortable with all of the gear, especially the belt, which was a little tricky at first. It was beautiful weather, sunny and in the 50s and a little breezy, and the run went by fairly quickly and easily. I completed the 10.8 in approximately 2:09:00, just a hair faster than 12 minute/miles. I used 2 run/1 walk intervals, and that mix of running and walking worked like a CHARM. Perfect. I was tired at the end, but still had enough juice to do more if I would have needed to. I am as ready as I'll ever be!! Now it's just short little "easy" runs until race day. I can't wait to share my race report with you in one week!
Monday, February 22, 2010
So...I've mentioned my big news on a couple of my SparkTeams, but there's yet another reason for me to be excited about my upcoming trip to Florida. *Smile*
I'm going to be running the Disney Princess Half Marathon! This sounds like a completely crazy, impulsive thing to announce, but it's been in the works for a little while now. Several weeks (almost two months?) back I was shopping half marathon training programs, looking for a good fit for my August training. The Hal Higdon novice plan caught my eye, and then I realized that I was already running essentially the suggested schedule...and if I kept on following it, I would be on track for this year's Princess HM.
Totally crazy? Perhaps. But I decided to try out the schedule for a few more weeks...running slowly, cautiously, and safely. If it worked, maybe this WOULD be my time. And if I found I was pushing too hard to do the mileage, I'd step back, stick with the 5K, and would not have lost anything. (And start eyeballing the Princess Half for NEXT year!) So I slowly increased my distance week by week. My long slow runs were done very conservatively, using Jeff Galloway's run/walk at a run two minute/walk one minute ratio...we're talking like 11:30-12 minute miles here ;) With the exception of a hiccup with my knee last week, which was a minor ice-induced injury (as in slipping on a patch of ice on the sidewalk), it's been smooth sailing. So...I'm going for the gold...er tiara...Disney BLING!
My plan for the race is to stick to the two/ones that have been working so incredibly well for me and to allow myself to walk more of the race if I need to. I'm not concerning myself at all with my time. I'm in it to finish and, of course, for the experience! I figure I can use subsequent HMs to increase the percentage of running time and decrease my race time. This is going to be fun, and a big part of me really REALLY wanted my first half to be at Disney World!
I'm excited, kind of a nervous excited. I don't 100% know what I'm getting into, although by now I have done several long runs and have practiced with fueling, hydration, pacing, and other such important things. My list of race-day jitters includes the following. (Some of these questions I do "really" know the answers...but jitters and all...)
Will there be a huge traffic jam getting into the race?
Is parking going to be impossible?
What if I can't find a parking spot?
How will getting up at 3 am work for me?
When should I get there? How early is too early?
What if I'm LATE?!
Will running at 6 am be weird when I usually run in the evening?
What if I'm seriously sleep-deprived?
What on earth do I wear? Do I dress for hot weather? Cool weather? Other?
What if it RAINS?
What should I eat the night before? That morning?
I'm used to cold weather running...how will it be in warmer conditions?
What fuel should I carry...and in what?
How do I carry a camera with me since I KNOW there will be a million photo ops?
How much time do I budget for potty breaks?
Is it going to be impossible to go 13.1 without my IPOD?!
If I want to wear a tiara, how do I make it stay on my head that whole time???
Aaaaaaaaaaaah, so little time, so much to think about! I'm sure all the details will work out with some thought and planning. Luckily I know what I like to wear to go running, I know what foods agree with my stomach and how I do on less sleep than usual. I know my way around Disney and can easily picture the course just by looking at the maps. I'm used to Florida weather from having grown up there and figure there will be enough en route entertainment to make an iPod unnececssary. All I have to do is keep at it with my training, show up, and have a good time. More than any emotion I'm feeling about this race, I'm STOKED! I can't wait to share this experience with 13,000+ of my closest friends!
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