Saturday, February 6, 2016

Goofy Challenge Part 2- The Marathon

26.2 miles- something I never thought Id take on, let alone complete
2:45 am came again Sunday morning. I turned off my alarm, and felt the deja vu of getting ready for yet another (and longer) race. My legs werent too sore, but my feet were. I applied some KT tape at known 'during the race' sore spots, had my coffee and breakfast, and then we were off to Epcot. On the car ride there I tried to sleep a little more, but I was so anxious about the marathon. Even though I had put in the training, the anxiety of having never done one before really affected me mentally. They say not to do the Goofy or Dopey challenges for your first marathon, yet plenty of people do and they finish and feel great (I would include myself in this category- I trained and felt fine the rest of the day and the following morning). Looking back, however, I wish I would have done a marathon before the Goofy Challenge- I think it would have helped ease my nerves and I could have enjoyed the trip a little more. I still had fun, dont get me wrong, but the pre-race jitters were pretty bad leading up to the marathon until about halfway through it.

I warmed up once again, headed to my corral and sat down. I starting talking to this really nice woman whose husband had done goofy, and she did the marathon every year. She shared some tips and tricks of the course and we sent each other good vibes as our corral made it's way to the starting line.

It rained the night before, and it was WARM. At 530 in the morning, it was 70 degrees. My feelings towards running in the heat already lean towards pure hatred, but add the humidity in and I was worried I would choke on the thickness in the air.

13.1 down, 26.2 to go! 

The fireworks went off and it was time to go. Since my current half PR was at 2:44 (Now 2:37!), I really wanted to finish the Marathon in less than 6 hours- something I considered totally doable in cooler weather. By the first half mile, I was sweating profusely and already grabbing water from my fuel belt. I slowed my pace and tried to let go of any kind of time goal. My goal was just to finish pain free. I aimed for a run/walk interval of 1min 30sec/1 min for the first 14 miles, 1/1 intervals the next 10 miles, and 30/30sec the remaining 2.2 miles. I could do this!

Miles 1-5 were the same as the day before, and we entered Magic Kingdom once again. Some time around mile marker 5 I met a guy named Michael. He was wearing a 'Bay to Breakers' tech shirt, which is a very popular (and naked) race in San Francisco. I did it one year with one of my best friends, and saw enough naked men and women to last me the rest of my life. Since I recognized the event on his shirt, I decided to say hi.

I asked him when he ran it, and he told me he had ran Bay to Breakers 3 times! He was also doing the Dopey challenge, and admitted to me he hadn't trained much- he was feeling sore and tired. I told him the intervals I was doing, and he decided to run/walk with me for awhile. It was so nice to have someone to talk to, I was used to having that, since my super awesome brother trained with me even though he didn't do the challenge (Thanks Joey!).

Space Mountain!
It turned out he lives about 20 minutes away from me in another city and loves Disneyland as much as I do, so we chatted our way through Magic Kingdom and the long stretch to Animal Kingdom (about mile 12). If I ever see him again, I need to thank him- he really helped the first half of the marathon go by super fast.

Michael and I running through the castle

Around mile 12, we saw these cute furry babies right outside of Animal Kingdom, and Michael decided he wanted to wait in line to take pictures. Since it was the Goofy Challenge, I had decided not to stop for pictures for the sake of my legs (and he was far more hardcore than me doing Dopey AND stopping for pictures), so we wished each other luck and I continued on. I was anxious to be over half way done, so I admired the animals from afar. They had snakes, ferrets, donkeys, goats- so cute!

They had race bibs too! so cute!

Between mile 12 and 13, we were in Animal Kingdom. Since the park is open, they let runners ride Expedition Everest. Im not going to lie, I wanted to do this sooooooo badly, but I was afraid if I stopped and sat down I wouldnt get back up, and mentally I knew I needed to keep going until I was passed the halfway mark (another downside to never having done a full marathon before this race- dang those nerves!). If I ever do the Dopey Challenge or this marathon again, I will definitely ride it next time!

Photo Credit: Run Disney
Right around this time the wind started to pick up a little and the humidity started to lessen, and my whole body sighed in relief. The cloud coverage was doing a good job keeping most of the Florida sun out, so it never felt too hot. I left Animal Kingdom around Mile 14, in which my superhero dad was waiting for me with a bagel, peanut butter, and banana sandwich. Amazing fuel. During my training runs I had experimented with different food- I wanted something that would refuel me after so many miles but not leave me feeling sluggish. It was perfect, delicious, and I was so grateful to have my Dad there. I switched to the 1:1 intervals, told him I was feeling great, and continued my way to ESPN.

ESPN!!! So Close to Mile 20!
Miles 14-17 were kind of a blur. I remember running past the haunted mansion/graveyard, and was disappointed they werent further up around mile 18- they were just passed the 14 mile marker and I was still worried about not being able to get back up. Between mile 16 and 17, you could see runners on the other side who were just passing mile 21- I was jealous and motivated all at the same time.

Mile 17-20 was inside ESPN park and that was fun! You get to run through where the Atlanta Braves hold spring training. Being the huge baseball fan that I am, I really enjoyed this. When I passed the Mile 20 marker, I felt another sigh of relief leave my body- I had only a 10k to go, I felt great, and I called my mom to let her know how good I was feeling- I was tired, but I was going to finish. The weather was much cooler than it was first thing that morning, I was pacing myself slowly but appropriately, and was expecting a 6:30 finish. With all the training I had done, I had not yet felt any kind of 'wall', and was confident that I wasnt going to.

Then mile 21 happened. During a run interval, I felt a strange twinge on the left side of my knee. I was concerned, and tried to do some stretching during the next walking interval. When it was time to run again, I felt fine- I had taped the area around my left knee that morning due to IT Band issues, and didnt think much of it.

At mile 22, I went into a run interval and knew something was wrong- the left side of my leg by my knee had had enough- it wasnt going to let me run anymore. I moved to the right of the course and tried to stretch it out against a tree, but every time I went to run again it hurt, and I felt my body was sending me warnings that if I continued to try to run, pretty soon I wouldnt be able to walk either.

Devastated, I called my Dad to let him know I wasnt going to finish in 6:30. The tears welled up, and I fought them down until this really nice woman, Joy, walking next to me asked me if I was alright. I shook my head and said no, started to cry, and sobbed my life story- how I had lost 80 Ibs, I had trained incredibly hard for this race, it had been an ultimate fitness goal of mine for two years, and after all of that my body wouldnt let me finish this race running. She was doing the Goofy Challenge too and had decided to walk the rest of the race, and so she walked with me.

Miles 22-26 were so incredibly long. Between 23-24 you are in Hollywood Studios, but because I had officially hit 'the wall', I dont remember much of that park. I was tired, my feet really hurt, and mentally I was spent. Once you hit mile 23 though they pretty much let you finish since you are no longer holding up traffic, so any fears of being swept were gone once we hit that. After Hollywood studios you hit the boardwalk, and you go by a lot of the park hotels and it's where you enter Epcot- I would have to say miles 24-25.5 took FOREVER. Joy and I talked which helped so much- it kept me going and took my mind off of how tired I was. At this point, everyone around me was pretty much walking too- Most of us had been on our feet for 6+ hours at this point, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, determined to finish.

We entered into Epcot, and after a few minutes I saw 'Mile 26' sign. I had 2/10 of a mile to go, and I would complete this challenge.

When we turned the corner and saw the finish line, Joy asked me if I could run. I probably couldnt, but I was going to try. I ran limped my way across the finish line, threw my hands up in the air and had the biggest smile on my face- I was a marathoner.

Crossing the finish line of the Marathon
I made my way to my gorgeous marathon medal, then went to the medical tent to get some ice on the side of my knee. Once it was wrapped, I walked over to the Goofy Challenge Tent, they checked my picture, and gave me my medal. I had done it! I completed 39.3 miles over the course of two days and could still walk (barely, but I could!).

I found my dad and Uncle in the family meet up area and gave my Dad a huge hug. I dont think Ive ever been more proud of myself than in that moment, and it was so nice to have someone waiting for me at the finish line.

Exhaustion+Exhilaration all in one photo. 

As soon as we got back to the house, I showered, and then we went to Epcot to eat our way through the worlds (SOOO GOOD!). My knee felt fine the rest of the day, for which I was grateful.

Overall, it was such an incredible experience, and one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things Ive ever done. If I ever see Michael or Joy again, I will have to tell them how much they meant to me during the race- they helped it go by quickly, and kept me going when at one point I didnt think I could.

Will I do another Marathon? As a matter of fact I will! Im currently planning to run the CIM in Sacramento in December :). I'd really like to see how I do when I havent done a half marathon the day before.

I've definitely retired my Goofy Challenge shoes- it was fun, but even with training, you still have to spend most of your vacation resting and race prepping. Who knows, maybe I'll do even do Dopey once, if I could do a sub 4:30 marathon haha!

Only time will tell, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy one marathon at a time!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Goofy Challenge Part 1- Half marathon

My very first half marathon was the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland in 2013. It was there at the expo that I first heard of the Goofy Challenge- a half marathon on a Saturday, followed by a Marathon on Sunday. At that stage in my life, 13.1 miles sounded daunting enough- how on earth could anyone do 39.3 miles in two days? That was 3 half marathons back to back! I researched it in and was in awe of the amount of people who attempted this feat. After reading more and more about it, the sense of accomplishment people felt, the respect I had for these runners, I became determined- I was going to master this challenge someday.

In April 2015, After losing 60Ibs, I signed for the challenge. At that point, I was excited! I had lost enough weight where the challenge sounded hard, but doable- I had put in a lot of work to lose the pounds I had, and knew with proper training I could do this.

July started the training. The first few weeks were fairly easy, as it was similar to the half marathon training plans I had completed. Then, in October, my brother and I began the back to back trainings- 7 miles Saturday followed by 14 on Sunday, 8 and 17.5, 10 and 20, 11 and 23, 12 and 26. We followed Jeff Galloway's run/walk plan for the challenge (listed on the RunDisney website) and it really paid off! I was mostly injury free and didnt miss a single long run (although a few maintenance runs were missed due to being sick)

As January drew closer, however, I felt my nerves start to set in- had I trained hard enough? What if my legs gave out during the marathon? What if I was injured? I had already completed 14+ half marathons, but it would be my first full marathon, and I wasnt sure what to expect.

Before I knew it, the day of the half marathon was here, and I had to trust that all the training I put in would pay off.  Since my dad and Uncle live about 30 minutes from the park, I skipped the hotel fees and stayed with them. I flew in on a Thursday night and woke up early Friday morning (5am Florida time, 2am back home in California), in hopes that I could fall asleep easy Friday night before the half. It worked like a charm and by 8pm Friday night EST I was out.

The alarm went off at 2:45am. I kept having nightmares of getting swept, so Im not sure how well I slept, but at least my body rested even if my mind wouldnt.  I got dressed, had my bagel, peanut butter and banana, and my dad and uncle dropped me off at the runner drop off area in Epcot. I was relieved that the weather was dry and cool- similar running conditions I had been training under. I mentally crossed my fingers that it would be the same for tomorrow (spoiler: it wasnt, but thats in the next post!).

I warmed up, got into my assigned corral and sat down, focusing on breathing and calming my nerves. Today is just a half marathon I told myself When did you ever think you would say something like that? 13.1 today, that's it. Dont think about tomorrow. You do half marathons all the time. 

Before I knew it, my time to line up at the starting line had arrived.
Here we go! Photo Credit: Run Disney

During miles 1-4; it was pretty empty- very few characters, a lot of road, and the sound of other runners hitting the pavement. I was focused on saving my legs for the next day (run/walk 30 seconds/1 minute) and enjoying the half. I didnt end up bringing my music with me for this race- and I'm glad I didnt- it was nice to not block out the sound of my surroundings, and enjoy the feeling of being a runner.

A little before mile 5, we came across this beautiful sign:

Photo Credit- RunDisney
Mile 5 came quickly, and we were in Magic Kingdom! The Castle is done so beautifully in Disney World, it was gorgeous.

The unfortunate part of this race course is that Disney World property is SO big, you get limited time in the park. We were only in Magic Kingdom for about a mile and then we were back on the road towards Epcot. I continued to feel great, and around mile 10 switched to a 1 minute run/walk. I was ready to be done with 1/3 of the challenge!

Duck face for Donald and a Picture with Goofy!

I crossed the finish line at 3:08, got my awesome Donald Duck medal, and headed to the family reunion area to meet my Dad. It was hard to go so slow for the half (my usual pace puts me just under a 2:45), but I knew Id be grateful for it tomorrow. After shower and food, we took it easy the rest of the day, alternating between stretching, sitting, and standing. I took my dad and Uncle to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we ate dinner and I had my usual pre race meal of a club sandwich and french fries (yum!), then off to bed for day 2 and final day of the challenge: The marathon.

Did you do any of the events at WDW Marathon this year? If so, which ones? What were your thoughts? Comment below!