Disney World marathon (Dopey – part 4)

It’s taken me a few days to get to this post as post-marathon celebrations took over and the holiday got in the way of the blog writing. Apologies!

Marathon day started very similarly to the previous four although the nerves and excitement were clearly evident. We were up a bit earlier as we’d decided that, to give ourselves the best possible chance, we all wanted to be in the front of our respective corrals and that it was worth the extra 15 minutes of sleep we’d miss. I will admit to being thankful that it was the last time my alarm would go off at something starting with a 2. While the early starts hadn’t been as hard as I thought they might, it had meant us completely building our days around what time we were going to bed (6pm) and I was looking forward to getting back to a degree of holiday normality.

Regardless, we were up and in the car by 3.15am and, thanks to staying close by and Disney efficiency, were parked, unloaded and at the event village by 4am. We pretty much went straight through to the corral walkout and joined the crowds, stopping for a quick toilet stop on the way (with almost no queues). And so we all found ourselves very close to the front of our corrals. Our little crowd in Corral G set out our cardboard, sat down and got comfortable. The temperature was a relative balmy 6 degrees so our well planned blankets and space blankets were definitely enough to keep us warm and we were thankful for some time off our feet, especially as we still had 2 hours to go until we started.

You would think, after hearing the routine for 4 days in a row, that I would be a bit blasé about it all but the American national anthem (sung so beautifully) actually brought tears to my eyes. They would be the first of many. This was a big day, a really big day. I have dreamed about running at Disney pretty much since I took up running yet never ever thought I’d be able to run a marathon. And, standing there that morning, I still wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to. I just knew that I wanted to try and had done all I could to make it happen.

The fireworks went off for the elites then, wave by wave, the other corrals were let go and it was our turn. Our early start had been worth it – we’d made it into the first wave of our corral (just – the tape was behind us!) which gave us a few extra minutes space. And we were off.

Based on the experience of the previous days, I’d decided to stick to running 1 minute per kilometre with brisk walking for the rest, as long I stayed under the required pace. I was still quite unsure of how my leg would hold out and didn’t want to push it, only to find it couldn’t cope. And I do walk quite fast. So that’s what I did. The kilometres heading towards Magic Kingdom went pretty quickly and, before long, I was headed through the parking ticket booths. At this stage, I was running with Jill-ish – we were doing our own intervals which ended up being at pretty much the same pace so kept catching up with each other. So good to see a friendly face on the course, especially as I was finding those first kilometres challenging, knowing how long the road ahead was.

However, I was looking forward to running through Magic Kingdom (again) and that kept me going. I messaged my husband (very hard with frozen fingers) as I was coming into the transportation center to let him know I was nearly there as he was waiting there to see us. Running down Main Street USA was just as good the second time and I teared up…again! These are the moments that make this run just so special. When I came through the castle, I was searching for my husband and saw him at the bottom so took the time to stop to say hi and give him a kiss. It was exactly the boost I needed and put an extra spring in my step for the rest of the park.

Then we were back out on to the roads and on our way to Animal Kingdom. The roads felt loooong. There was an out and back section where I got my hopes up that I might see my friends and I stuck to the inside lane to give me the best opportunity to scan the crowds as I ran but had no luck. This, combined with the blisters that started somewhere around this time, brought my mood down and it just became about getting it done.

It seemed to take a very, very long time to reach Animal Kingdom and, while I was glad to have a break from the open roads, I wasn’t feeling the Disney magic and just kept pushing through. There were animals on the side of the road as we entered, including a llama and a goat and the distraction of different scenery including the Everest ride – my mood perked up a little and I reminded myself that this was supposed to be an experience to be enjoyed and not endured. The good old “you don’t have to do this, you get to do this” mantra entered my head and brought a smile – as much as my feet were hurting, I was lucky and didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Out of Animal Kingdom and back onto the roads, this time towards ESPN. Having read lots of blogs on the topic, it seemed to be an area people either loved or hated so I was trying to keep an open mind to see how I would feel. I know, heading towards it, frustration was the word that sprung to mind – as you run towards ESPN, you pass runners coming out and the 35km flag which stings when you’re still somewhere in the late 20s. Despite my now very painful blistered foot, I did actually enjoy ESPN. Running on some different surfaces with something different to see was a great change and I didn’t mind that it was going around in circles.

My mood dropped again when I realised, coming out of ESPN, that no one else was going in – I was closer to the back than I had thought. Again, it became a ‘getting it done’ exercise. The kilometres from ESPN to Hollywood Studios were my hardest – physically and mentally. I felt like the blister on my foot extended under all of my toes on the ball of my foot (a reality check after the event confirmed this) so it was pain with every step. And, mentally, I was now worried about having got this far and being caught by the balloon ladies and the sweepers. I powered on. The fact I still had crowds around me was a positive and I tried to draw on their energy as many of them clearly were still enjoying it although a few looked in the same pain I felt.

Eventually, Hollywood Studios appeared and my mood started to lift. The park was full of people who lined the route and cheered – couldn’t help but smile and teared up (again!) at their encouragement. Coming out of Hollywood Studios, I knew it wasn’t far to the last sweep point and, through the car park, it appeared – the last of the parade buses, waiting to take those who couldn’t keep up with the pace. The driver smiled at us and said ‘This is your last chance to get on the bus. No? Then you better keep going for the finish line – YOU GOT THIS!’ and, at that, my face broke and I cried the ugly tears that had been waiting just under the veneer. I was still fighting back the sobs as I powered along the boardwalk and another runner said to me ‘It’s ok – we all feel the same way’ which just made me cry more. For the first time, I actually believed I was going to finish this.

I pulled myself together, stood up taller and resolved to enjoy every moment remaining. We entered the now very familiar Epcot and this time it was full of people, all cheering and smiling and watching us. Nearly finished marathoners were also popping off the course in droves to buy turkey legs and celebratory drinks to carry them to the finish line. I felt my injured calf pull and was reminded that, until I crossed the finish line, this wasn’t done so I slowed it down to do all I could to get there.

I paused one last time at Spaceship Earth for a picture and took a moment just to stand and breath and take it in – I was here, at Disney, running a marathon. Seriously. So lucky to get to actually live a dream I’d had for so long. And then it was time to get it finished.

Rounding the corner, the finish line was there, as was my husband, and I crossed my fingers that my leg would hold out and I ran for the finish line. I don’t think any finish line has ever felt so painful and yet so sweet. I collected my marathon medal and then proudly presented myself to the challenge tent to get the next 2 before moving on to rejoin my friends.

I suspect this won’t be the only post I write about marathon running but it’s well and truly long enough and says all it needs to about the day. A magical day, yes, but harder in so many ways than I envisaged. You learn so much about yourself and what you’re capable of when you do hard things and I still aren’t sure how I pushed through some of those kilometres. But I did. I am a marathoner.

Advertisements

Disney half marathon race recap (Dopey – part 3)

So it should have felt like Groundhog Day again this morning but it actually didn’t. I set my alarm a smidge earlier – half marathon distance is not to be taken lightly and felt like it needed more preparation than a 10km. More Body Glide. More tape. More Clif Shots. Just more.

We left about 3.30pm and things were already different as we had to take a slightly different route due to road closures. Somehow, it all worked out and we found where we were going, ending up at the same runner drop off as yesterday. But everything from there was also different. The crowds were much, much larger, with approximately 25,000 people expected to participate. We could see them streaming from the buses into the event village and then joined them in the toilet queues (which we hadn’t had to queue for on the previous days). We then had to ask for directions to the corrals as they too were in a different place and were much further away – about a 1km walk.

Once we hit the corral, we found our spots and sat on our cardboard (a great idea one of our group had the day before). While we didn’t get to do that for long, it really helped to not be on our feet for as long as we were yesterday. All the usual bits happened – a video about the charity being supported, the American national anthem and Disney characters out to rev up the runners. We joined in by giving a rendition of the Australian national anthem for those around us. And then the shuffle to the start line started.

Today was different. The fireworks were better and as good for our wave as they were for the first. Before we knew it, we were off and running – Jill and I sticking together again. I didn’t really know what to expect of the day (as has been the case all the way along!) however we started off as normal, running 2 minutes per kilometre to keep us under pace. We started on the roads outside the park again, heading towards the Magic Kingdom. There were enough sights to keep us amused including a giant Mickey hot air balloon and a school band as well as various characters. And there’s something quite magical in itself about running on roads around Disney in the dark. Like we were the special people.

However our excitement really kicked up a notch as we approached the Magic Kingdom and ran through the entrance gates – I don’t remember what was said but I’m sure there were squeals of delight involved and ‘wow, we’re really here’ comments. Once through the gates, it still takes a fair bit of running to get into the park but the closer we got, the more people there were which was very encouraging. And then we were inside and the pixie dust was definitely in the air. As we ran up Main Street USA and towards the castle, I will happily admit to fighting back the tears. It was one of those moments that are just so overwhelmingly amazing that you can’t take it all in.

After that, we ran through another few areas of the park before exiting back on to the highway and back towards Epcot. We then came across another fantastic distraction – the pacer group. These wonderful runners, affiliated with Jeff Galloway’s running method, were the 3:30 group from our corral and were running at 15/30 pace. So we joined them. Neither of us have ever run intervals that short before so we weren’t sure how we would go but we actually really, really enjoyed it. It was just enough running to keep us under pace with enough walking not to strain anything. We stayed with them for quite a while and then ended up in front of them, however still following the run/walk bits when they shouted them. In fact, so efficient were we that we caught up with the 3:15 group (from a later corral) and tried to keep up with them for a while but found it hard to duck and weave through the crowd to keep their pace. So we did our own thing as we worked our way towards the finish.

Back into Epcot, we ran only a short loop this time, still including photo time with Spaceship Earth and then the finish line was there and we were smiling for the cameras again.

I didn’t think it was possible to have as much fun as we did yesterday but we really did. Probably my favourite thing ever was that I truly felt I belonged and was around my people. People surrounded us wherever we were and were running and walking at all sorts of paces, many of them doing intervals. All without judgement or comment. It was great. I didn’t complain at any of the bottlenecks on the course as I was actually so grateful to be somewhere towards the back and still be surrounded by people. All adding to the atmosphere.

So tomorrow. All I can do is get to the start line and do my best from there. Again, I have no idea what that will look like or result in but I shall try.

Disney 10km race recap (Dopey – part 2)

It felt a little like ‘Groundhog day’ this morning. Alarm went off at 2:50am, got up and showered, ate toast, took our group picture and loaded into the car to head to Disney. All very much the same as the day before. Except that we were a little bit more tired and a little bit wiser about what lay ahead.

Gary dropped us off so there was no waiting in the warmth of the car this time; instead we headed for the nearest heater and huddled as close as we could. While the temperature was a smidge better than yesterday, the slight wind added an unwelcome chill. We were slightly better prepared with our space blankets from the previous day (thanks Disney) on top of our cheap Walmart blankets (bought at the bargain price of $2.50 each).

At somewhere not long after 4.30am, we moved off towards the corrals, had a final toilet stop and then joined our respective crowds. The time went even quicker for us this morning as we made some friends – a great family from Kentucky completing their 4th Dopey challenge. Before we knew it, the time had ticked by and we were moving off to the start line. I was reluctant again to ditch the layers but it had to be done and then it was our turn to start.

The first part of the 10km course takes you out on to the roads for an out and back section which I was worried might be boring and long. I was wrong. There were enough distractions (in the form of screens, characters and a water station) to keep us amused as well as the people watching opportunities – so many fascinating costumes going past. Like yesterday, it was quite crowded and walkers spilled into all sections although, on the whole, people were very tolerant of each and the need to give each other room.

Jill and I were again running together and I actually tried a little bit of running this time which felt good and was much needed – power walking was beginning to stress my muscles and I needed to give them a break. Odd to think of running as a break from walking but that’s what it was! We also had no music with us and didn’t need it – our chatter, the various bits of entertainment and the general atmosphere was enough.

After about 5km, we headed back towards Epcot and then ran a different route to yesterday through the park, including the Boardwalk area. And it was so much fun. Ridiculous amounts. We could not stop smiling and would find ourselves getting carried away and running, even though we’d promised ourselves that we would walk and conserve our energy. We had stops for selfies and had a lot of marvelling at the surroundings – knowing how lucky we were to be able to run this morning in such a location. Feeling incredibly grateful.

Almost too soon, it was over with the finish line in sight. We crossed it with huge grins and felt great – another run done. And my leg is still behaving itself. It had 1 very minor twinge today but was fine once it (and the rest of me) was warmed up. Next up – 21.1km. See you in the morning (again!!).

Dopey training – week 24

Last week’s entry ended with positive thoughts for an injury free journey to the start line. As I continued to feel tweaks in my leg, I chose to rest instead of run on Tuesday and then booked in to see the physio on Thursday. Even before attending, this was anxiety-inducing – my regular physio was no longer there. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal to others, it’s a huge deal to me. I’m not one to cultivate relationships with my healthcare providers – I don’t even have a regular GP, choosing instead to see whoever is available at the clinic when I need a doctor. However, once I find someone I feel comfortable with, I stick to them and I had found an absolute gem of a physio. He took me seriously as an athlete, never flinched at any of my aspirations (regardless of how wacky) and, most importantly, put niggles into perspective with a spoonful of reality and a prescription of ‘You’ll be fine – keep going’! So it was with some trepidation that I approached a new physio. It turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about – she’s great. Equally supportive and just as good at (softly) telling me to stop whingeing and get back to training. I still have soreness at the top of my calf but she massaged it and assured me it was nothing big enough to stop training for.

So, on Saturday, I got back into it with a parkrun fix, at home for once. And it was lovely. My legs felt great, my lungs felt great and it was, generally, a pretty easy and relatively speedy run. It was made even better as I was tag teaming with another parkrunner along the way and we were pushing each other – she was running continually while I was run/walking but we were pretty much the same pace. She crossed the finish line with a PB and I was so pleased for her – almost as good as getting one myself! I also tested out my new RunFaster gear and can confirm it feels as good as it looks 🙂

Today, it was time for a long run although a run of 11km doesn’t feel long anymore. It’s an interesting point really – I like the fact that it doesn’t feel long and hope it never does again but I obviously can’t keep these kms up forever. Anyway, I digress. I chose my favourite Surf Coast Trail as I didn’t really feel like running and needed something special to get me out the door. Seeing all of my friends posting on Strava and Facebook about their runs was the final push I needed and I got my gear on and went. I also saw a couple of friends at the start of the run which was great – set me off in the right mood. My leg was pretty good throughout the run – a bit pinchy on the hills but not terrible. I did take it easy but also tried not to shirk on intervals until my leg had had enough and kept up a solid pace overall.

Next week is our mock-Dopey runs and our final looooong run. I’m not 100% convinced my leg will let me do it but we shall see.

Weekly summary:
Saturday – 5km (39:20)
Sunday – 11km (1:41:31)

The ups and downs of marathon training

Let me preface this blog post with an important caveat – I am not an expert on marathon training. I am 15 weeks into training for my first marathon which simply qualifies me to talk about my experiences. If I finish this thing and ever decide to do another, it’ll be interesting to reread this and see if the experience remains similar for my next marathon. But I’m getting very ahead of myself there so let’s pause and get back to the job at hand.

The downs of marathon training

I like to start with bad news – it’s just how I do things. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. So let’s start with the stuff I’m not enjoying. Some it I expected, some has been an unpleasant revelation but it’s all part of the experience…

  • There is no down time for things to heal. Specifically at the moment, this refers to my blisters. They are just becoming blisters underneath blisters. None of them are life threatening or run stopping. They’re just annoying. I had one that took up the entire bottom of a toe after last weekend’s long run. Then I had to deal with it and run on it again a couple of days later. Same with chafing – there are bits that I think are probably permanently scarred now, despite the copious amounts of BodyGlide I use. Whatever.
  • Post run highs are great but I also get a bizarre mix of high and exhaustion that isn’t quite so pleasant. This has only happened to me after the really long runs and manifests later that night as I’m trying to sleep. I am so tired I am sure I should fall asleep immediately but, instead, I lie in bed completely hyped. Body weary but brain and heart buzzing. It’s not until the following night that I can actually get the much craved sleep.
  • Anxiety goes up. With less than 80 days to go until take off, I’m becoming paranoid about everything. Avoiding children with viruses (not easy when I’m a teacher). Worrying about tree roots on my favourite trails in case I trip. Religiously reading blogs about others completing the Dopey challenge to try to reassure myself that I can do it. Bleurgh. Just get me to the start line already!
  • It takes over your life. I knew this in theory but, now that the kms are really ramping up, it’s really kicking in. And I’m aware that our marathon plan is much more limited than some. However all weekend activities need to be carefully measured against what mileage long run I’m completing and where I want to run that. Social invitations aren’t always compatible with pre-long run early nights.
  • Everyone has an opinion about what you’re doing. And you’re doing it wrong. I’m possibly being unfair with this one as it hasn’t been ‘everyone’ but there have been some comments that have been delivered, wrapped up as ‘advice’. For example, your plan is too long/too short/not enough kilometres/too long a long run, etc. Why do a marathon? You should stick to half marathons. You should be eating better than that. Actually that last one is particularly annoying – the assumption that, just because I run, that I also embrace all other forms of healthy living. I eat a fairly balanced diet and, due to the whole ‘balanced’ thing, it also includes chocolate and cake. Unless you are a dietician and I have made an appointment, I don’t need your advice on what I eat. It currently works for me, hence why I eat it. If it stops working for me, I’ll deal with that then. The fact that you think marathon runners should be eating lettuce leaves, blueberries and <insert latest fad superfood here> is just peachy but I’ll stick to what works for my body, ok?

The ups of marathon training

So why do I do this? Oh yes, there are certainly some ‘up’ bits and I’m pleased to say, so far, they definitely more than make up for the list above…

  • I feel strong. As my distances have grown, my speed has decreased but I have never felt stronger. Physically and mentally. I feel like I can do anything. Pushing aside the doubts that come at the start of the long run, by the time I’ve finished, I could take on the world! I ran 24km! Seriously!
  • Running and post-run highs. This is the flip side of one of the points above. Somewhere about 4km into a run, the endorphins start flowing and everything in the world is beautiful. Passing people on the trail who smile and say hello makes me happy. Someone passing and saying ‘go you’ may even induce happy tears. Trees, flowers, cows, ocean, birds – all of it makes me grin maniacally. And the huge smile when I’m done is all encompassing – not just on my face but like my whole being is smiling. I might be walking funny and make a face at stairs but I am blissfully, smugly, ridiculously happy. Euphoric even.
  • Anxiety goes down. Yes – this is completely against what I said up the top but, while I’m paranoid about individual incidents, my general mood has never been more zen. My training plan is set so I’m not dependent on my mood to run – I just have to do it anyway. And regularly. So, in many ways, it’s keeping my mental health in check. It clearly is exactly the right dose of ‘medication’ for my needs and I’m very, very thankful for that.
  • You find fabulous places to run. I can’t do long runs on the same old paths – I need variety to keep me interested on those long, lonely kms. So I spend quite a bit of time mapping out potential routes as the distances stretch out. I spend long enough doing neighbourhood runs during the week – weekends are for exploring.
  • You learn a lot about yourself. As most of my training runs are done solo, that’s a lot of hours of alone, thinking time. Once I’ve overcome the first few kilometres which always consist of ‘How do I run again?’ and ‘How do I breathe?’, that still leaves ample time to ponder. And lots of ‘digging deep’ is required. But I now know I can. I know that I can push through painful parts, talk myself out of self doubt and complete things I start. Even when they’re hard.

As I said, I’m only part way through this journey but, at this point, am feeling very lucky to be on it and wouldn’t change it for anything.

Dopey training – week 8

Training started off a bit slowly this week – I decided to push Tuesday’s run to later in the week, partly due to work commitments and partly because my leg was still feeling a bit dodgy. So my first 45 minute run of the week ended up being on Thursday. It’s been pretty rainy and wintery all week so waiting for the perfect weather was definitely not an option – it was either run and take your chances or don’t run. I took my chances, managed to get away from work on time and headed for a park in town. I managed 2 laps before the rain started and I headed down to and along the beach to finish off my 45 minutes. As always, I grinned maniacally while the rain and wind battered me – there is something distinctly satisfying about fighting it out with the elements to get your run done. While I’m not a fan of heading out into the rain, I don’t really mind running once it starts. Although I did have some problems feeling my fingers, especially while trying to take this photo 🙂

Saturday was my second 45 minute run – this time at Brimbank parkrun launch. I had a great run – a beautiful trail and fabulous company, this one was definitely measured in smiles.

And then today I did my long run. There was definitely a time, not that long ago, when I didn’t like long runs at all. Nothing about them. I now feel I’ve moved on to a love/hate relationship with them. And I’m equally as passionate about both sides. All week, I’ve been excitedly looking forward to the weekend for the chance to do my long run. Each day, I’d deliberate about where to go, which route to take. Last night, I was looking at the clock from 7.30pm, wanting to go to bed so I could get up and get it done. The ‘hate’ kicked in this morning when it actually came to getting out of my warm pjs and into running gear but, once I was out there, I was in love again. I chose one of my favourite trails – the Surf Coast Trail from Jan Juc to Ironbark Basin – and soaked up the stunning sunshine that we’re lucky enough to have today. I took it easy today – it was about getting the kilometres done and enjoying some solitude, not cranking out PBs. I started with set run/walk intervals as per the plan but then decided to just go by feel instead. And I made sure I took some time to stop and smell the wattle. Spring is definitely on its way!

Weekly summary:

Thursday – 5.7km (47:03)

Saturday – 5.2km (43:11)

Sunday – 15km (2:18:50)

Dopey training – week 4

I thought that training might be a challenge this week as it's the first week of Term 3 and returning to school always seems to knock me around in unexpected ways. As it turned out, training was a challenge this week but for an entirely different reason – I didn't want to.

'Not wanting to' is a tough one to overcome. I allowed myself to give into it on Tuesday and not run, giving myself all sorts of justifications to make myself feel better. When I finally just came clean and was honest, it really was just that I didn't want to. Wednesday didn't see me in any better mood but I had a much needed and harsh word with myself – it's fine to not want to every now and then but if you don't want to do this day after day, why are you? No one's making you and you're actually paying for the privilege. Is this even something you want? The answer to that is a resounding yes so all other arguments went out the window, I put my gear on, shut the hell up and headed out the door. And, as usual, it was pretty good once I was out there. I quite like running at night – I like the way darkness envelopes you and makes it just about the run. The world seems different at night – a little bit magical and mysterious.

Friday's run was much easier to talk myself into – I'd taken my stuff to work and decided to head up to the You Yangs when I finished. I also had spent the day mentally giving myself permission to walk as much as I wanted to. The whole thing if I felt like it. What always happens when I do that is that I walk for a tiny bit then get caught up in it all and run. And that's what happened on Friday. It was a beautiful run – a stunning, crisp, blue sky evening with the trail feeling like cotton wool under my feet. Even the arduous climb up the Saddle wasn't so bad and, down the other side, I let my legs go and loved the exhilaration of it. I was also accompanied in the last little bit by a couple of large kangaroos – doesn't matter how long I live in this country, I still get a buzz out of that. And, to finish my run, I had an official finish line. Truly. The Trailplus event was setting up at the You Yangs for the weekend and they were just putting the finish line up when I arrived so I helped them out by testing that it met requirements.

Today's run. Well, I got it done. I had gone out to buy new shoes (which I'm sure will be the topic of a whole other post), forgotten my rain jacket and returned home feeling out of sorts. Remembering the talk I had with myself the other day, I put my new shoes on, found my rain jacket and put it on then headed out into an almost instant and heavy downpour. Within about 500 metres I was thinking of turning around to the warmth of my living room however I then actually started to enjoy it and figured I was wet now – I may as well stay that way and get this run done. 7.5km running around the streets of my town is actually pretty good for me so I've ended the week feeling good.

Let the tapering for Run Melbourne half marathon next weekend begin!

Weekly summary:
Wednesday – 5.5km (46:09)
Friday – 5km (45:52)
Sunday – 7.5km (1:00:19)