Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge: Finale

Well, I actually put the word “finale” in my title so this has to be the end of the story.

I woke up at 3am.  Again.  The pain from yesterday’s run remained.  There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of soreness, but just enough that I couldn’t imagine running 26.2 miles.  Usually when you run a marathon you want to be in prime shape.  I was definitely not in prime shape.  What the heck was I about to do?  It just didn’t seem so fun anymore and I was really nervous.  Once again I tried to lie to myself by saying that I would be happy just as long as I finished.  I thought about how I could probably surpass the 16-minute/mile requirement.

I knew that I would need to wear cooler clothing (shorts & a tank) because the sun would definitely come up while I was running and the weather forecast stated that it would be a high of 70 degrees.  For a runner, that is hot.  I couldn’t even believe that it was that temperature in January.  I guess I should be used to it by now since I have lived in Florida for over 2 years.  Actually, I am not quite sure why I even thought 70 degrees was hot because I had braved many runs through the hot, sticky Florida summer.

I decided to wear my Team in Training singlet because I knew that there would be a lot of supporters out on the sidelines.  Even a few of my friends were going to be running the marathon with Team in Training.  When you wear the purple you are noticed and I definitely wanted to be cheered on at around mile 22.  And this was really a training run for me anyway (sure, whatever) since I am training to do another Team in Training marathon in April.  I love the camaraderie of the TEAM so I knew it would help me get through these next 26.2 miles.

After I had my delicious whole grain waffles slathered in peanut butter, I headed out the door.  This time I decided to drive over to Epcot because I didn’t want to worry about the shuttle.  I also forgot to mention that after the half marathon the day before, I had to walk about 2 miles to find my shuttle home… just not willing to do that after the marathon.  I arrived early and actually had an awesome parking spot (just hoped that I would find it later so I wouldn’t have to walk miles around the parking lot) and I stayed warm and snug in my car until my friend called to say that she had arrived.

We met up and joined the herd to the starting corrals.  Surprisingly, this herd did not seem as large as the day before.  We were actually moving faster than a shuffle.  That was a relief.  Maybe we wouldn’t have to endure so much weaving in and out of walker/runner traffic during the race.  Actually, my friend and I made a deal not to weave during the next 26.2 miles.  We wanted to conserve our running and it would also force us to start out slow.

So, Mickey and Goofy were on stage this time and when we crossed over the starting line I could already notice the difference from the day before.  It was so much easier to run without smashing into the people in front of me and next to me.  My friend and I maintained a good, but slow, pace.  Something was bothering me though.  My right knee was acting up.  It hurt so much that I knew I was overcompensating for the pain and that really worried me.  I kept thinking about how much it would suck to have to walk and I didn’t want to make my friend do that (she had been explicit about sticking together the whole way no matter what).  Then, miraculously, my knee just suddenly stopped hurting at around mile 2.  I don’t know what that was all about, but the pain was gone and I was so relieved.  All I could feel now was the residual soreness from the day before.  I was certain that pain would stick with me (and intensify) during the rest of the race.  I just had to deal with that slight inconvenience.

As my friend and I ran through the theme parks, we would pick up the pace because there would be so much adrenaline from the crowd of supporters (and of course there were people yelling “Go Team!” thanks to the purple).  We would yell at each other to slow down, but for some reason we couldn’t until we exited the park.  Then our pace would slow during the long and boring trip down the road to the next theme park.  There weren’t as many people out on those roads.  When we passed the half marathon mark all I could say was “we just did 2 half marathons, only 1 more to go!”  Our half marathon time was 10 minutes slower than it was the day before, but we weren’t upset about that.  We knew we had done a good job at starting off slow so we wouldn’t die in the end.

Every once in a while I would feel a sudden burst of energy and feel the need to pick up the pace.  My running buddy and I didn’t always get these bursts of energy at the same time, but it would force us to push through.  I had the job of getting us up the hills (since I love climbing up those hills) and my running buddy would need to get us down the hills (she is a speedster when it comes to downhills).  Sometimes we would talk, but most of the time it would be silent.  It didn’t matter either way because we were just happy that someone else was suffering right alongside.  Sounds cruel I know, but we don’t take offense.

There was a nice incline right around mile 19.  I remembered it vividly from last year.  It wasn’t the incline that scared me, but what would happen afterwards.  During the marathon last year I had lost my 3 running buddies at around mile 20 because I just couldn’t get my legs to go.  I had hit the WALL.  This time I was running in this same spot again, but I actually felt pretty good.  There was an out and back portion around mile 20.  I saw 2 people I knew ahead me on the “back” as I was heading “out.”  I waved to them thinking that I would probably not be catching up with them.  I knew they were strong runners (and they both were male… just had to throw that in).  Well, guess what?  We passed one of them within 5 minutes and the other one within 10 minutes.  Oh, that only got me going.  I was feeling GOOD now.  I mean, how many people can say that they feel GOOD at mile 22?  I was still worried that I would hit the WALL, but it never happened.  Sure, I was in pain, but I kept moving and my mind was on a positive vibe.  We ran through the last theme park like it was nobody’s business.

When we were at mile 26 I knew I couldn’t really sprint to the finish line, but I tried my best.  I focused on looking good for pictures so I could keep my mind off those blasted 0.2 miles.  Then we were across and it was over!  I didn’t cry this time, but I was full of contentment.  Okay, and pain.  Lots of pain.  But it’s alright because I expected it.  Come to find out, I had beat last year’s marathon time by 5 minutes!  And to think all I wanted to do was finish…  My friend and I also realized that we had run the second half of the race faster than the first half!  That was remarkable!  We had done a good job at pacing ourselves in the beginning and it helped us get through those last few miles.  I was so proud of our achievement!

So, I hobbled back to my car and managed to drive back to the hotel.  A nice warm shower was such a treat.  My friends decided that we should return to Outback Steakhouse and I agreed.  This time we shared a Bloomin’ Onion and I enjoyed a steak!  It tasted so good!

If you have been inspired by my story, please make a small donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I will be running a marathon in April in support of this cause.  Please check out my website:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/ncfl/madrid12/haponte

Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge: Part 3

Okay, I should be able to end this story now (maybe).  The shuttle ride to the start went by much too quickly.  I was hoping to squeeze in a nap, but that didn’t quite happen.  I wasn’t too surprised to see a large crowd of people when I arrived because I had experienced this before.  The Disney events always draw a large crowd.  I just didn’t realize how large until I was standing in my corral waiting for the race to begin.

So, I sat huddled on the ground (yes, it was slightly chilly so I was thankful I wore my warmer running clothes in addition to my “throw aways”) waiting for my friends to arrive from their hotel.  My running buddy was one of those friends.  We had decided to stick together throughout this whole race and a half.  I was thankful that I wasn’t going to have to run 39.3 miles alone and we knew when to push it and when to back off.  I only tried to think about how much fun it was going to be.  I didn’t want to dwell on the distance and the pain that would most definitely follow.

Have you ever been a cow being herded back to the barn for your dinner of hay?  Probably not.  Well, when you do a race during Disney marathon weekend it pretty much feels the same.  I have even heard the occasional “moo” being blurted out in the crowd…  seriously.  So, the starting corrals (funny that they even call them “corrals”) are only about half a mile from the parking lot, but it takes about 45 minutes to shuffle there (while tightly squeezed between people).  You also need to remember to leave yourself an extra 15 minutes to use the port-a-potty and I must say that Disney does a good job of providing loads of them (but the shortest line is still 15 minutes long).  Oh, unless of course you are a man.  They are often seen peeing in the grass just 10 feet from the port-a-potties.

Just 10 minutes before the official start, my buddy and I “herd” into our corral.  We stand there debating when we should lose our “throw away” clothing… now or wait till we warm up?  Yes, Disney actually donates a lot of clothing that people chuck during these races.  You have to be careful not to trip over clothing in the street while you are running (come on people, at least toss it to the side!).  I do remember seeing one runner fling his sweatshirt onto an innocent runner who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Stuff like that just happens.

Anyway, Donald is on stage (the half-marathon is his race because I guess he can’t run as far as Mickey 🙂 and some announcer is trying to delve out some motivation.  If it is your first time, then you get prepared to start right at 5:30.  However, you will only be disappointed.  They start in waves.  If you have done this before then you know that those waves are actually a good thing.  I think my buddy and I crossed the starting line at around 5:50.  If you want to know where you stand during the race then you must have some kind of Garmin or other running application because the clocks at each mile checkpoint are way off.

As soon as we actually started running we became frustrated because we couldn’t really run.  I remember the announcer saying something about 27,000 people and I couldn’t help but believe that he might be right.  Our method for the half marathon was to keep it easy, but this was ridiculous.  We were actually running intervals because we would be forced to run slow and then would speed up during passes.  I knew that it would just kill me in the end to keep running like that, but I couldn’t accept the slower speeds.  In most cases, a race will start to thin out the further you run, but that wasn’t the case with this half marathon.  It was cramped the entire way!  My buddy and I just joked about how we planned on making this our slowest half marathon ever. Yet, somehow we manged to do better than we anticipated.  I was just worried that my legs would not be happy about the sudden changes in pace that occurred throughout the 13.1 miles.

It was over and I was ready to head back to my hotel to take a shower and refuel (eat).  I attempted to take a nap, but for some reason my neighbors were still in their hotel room… seriously?  I could not get any sleep so I decided to go for a walk around the Disney boardwalk.  I just wanted to take a short walk, but ended up doing a long loop that I didn’t really need.  Then I was so hungry, but spent about an hour trying to figure out what to eat and ended up going back to the hotel before I could make a decision.  I knew that I needed to eat something that would not only help me recover, but also help me prepare for the next day.  For some reason I finally decided on pizza.  I don’t normally eat pizza before a long run, but it just sounded so good and I was literally starving by that point so I didn’t care anymore.

I worried about going to bed that night and of course I had every reason to worry.  The neighbors were there again.  And they were loud… again.  Another 3 hours of sleep before a race… again.  Whatever.

Okay, I need to stop rambling and get to the marathon right?  Well, stay tuned for the Finale.

Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge: Part 1

Just over a year ago, I completed my first Walt Disney World marathon.  It was only the second marathon I had ever completed (and I don’t even really count the first one I did just 3 weeks prior… yeah, very  dumb move).  After I had crossed the finish line and stumbled around to find a place where I could attempt to rest my aching body, I noticed people walking around with 2 medals (of course at the time I didn’t realize that they had actually received 3 medals that weekend).  I asked around about the Goofy medal because I knew that Donald represented the half marathon and Mickey (the one around my neck) represented the full marathon.  Come to find out, the Goofy medal was received when a person (crazy to say the least) finished both the half marathon and the full marathon in the same weekend.  All I could think was that those people had lost their minds.  I was having enough trouble trying to get my legs to move.

Needless to say, the thought came back to me later that day, but I was more focused on getting a cheeseburger and fries into my belly.  Then there was the fun of walking around the Disney parks for the next 3 days and I would occasionally spot someone with a Goofy Race shirt.  It didn’t take long for my running buddy to start talking about the Goofy race…. I’m almost positive she mentioned it the very next time we ran after that marathon.  Yeah, she was (still is) kind of insane about that stuff.  I remember saying that it sounded like a good idea, but thinking that I would never follow through with it, especially when I caught wind of the registration fee.

The months creeped by and I became more focused on my speed rather than distance.  I was happy keeping my races at a 5K, 10K or even 15K.  I really had no desire to get right back to that marathon business.  However, the next thing you know I am signing on to coach Team in Training (TNT).  Lucky for us, we really only had to focus on a half marathon.  However, since we were intertwined with TNT yet again, my buddy decided to play the Goofy card again.  “How about we do the Goofy Race with TNT?”  It seemed plausible, but the thought of fundraising again made me keep my distance.  Somehow that didn’t last long and I was coerced into saying that it sounded like such and great idea and “let’s do it!.”  Just a few days before I was supposed to submit my registration with TNT, I received a text from my friend:  “I just found out that TNT is offering a marathon in Madrid during the spring!”  To make a long story short, we opted out of the Goofy Race with TNT and registered for the Madrid marathon.

Yet, I wasn’t out of the clear.  The idea of the Goofy race never left my friend’s mind.  Not only that, but we found out that one of our other friends had been registered for the Goofy race as a birthday gift from her husband (nothing like torturing your wife on her birthday).  I remember sitting at my computer hitting the “submit” button.  After that there was no turning back.  I couldn’t really start training until I had finished coaching.  Even after that I kept putting it off.  I began to wonder if I was ever going to get prepared for this race.  Little by little I started training… And then… I was hit by a ton of bricks.  Not literally of course, but there was some bad news that had traveled my way.

Come to find out, my friend (yes, the one who talked me into this mess) was getting deployed for 6 months.  And it just so happened that she would be leaving the country one week before the Goofy Race.  At that point it was too late for me to back out.  I had already paid a large sum of money and I had kind of started my training.  However, I wasn’t alone.  Our other friend had started her training and we brought ourselves together for a common cause (to finish this sucker).  It wasn’t looking so bad after all, but we often found ourselves animatedly discussing our friend’s absence and how she must have done this on purpose to torture us.  I guess friends can make us stronger…  at least that is what I keep telling myself.

Stay tuned for what happened next…