So this weekend was the Disney World Wine and Dine half marathon. 13.1 miles of night time running thru Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, topped off with a wine and dine after party.
Well it sounded good at the time I signed up. The reality of slogging thru the night, well after my bed time, in 58 degree weather with non stop rain and ankle deep puddles was not quite the fairy tale I had envisioned. They say you can only prepare your best for race day, and then run the race you are given. Yeah that.
The weekend started off beautifully. I got to watch my son run his very first one mile race. It was a Big Event, complete with medal, race number and timed finish. He did great, coming in at a 10:51…running hand in hand over the finish line with his awesome daddy…what more could a proud runner mom ask for??? It was a lovely tearful moment. The age range for that race was 13 and under so it was quite a collection of kids that entered. The absolute determination and grit that these kids showed was truly awe inspiring. Most of them had at least one runner as a parent I am sure, and had watched mom or dad cross the finish line a time or two. Now it was their chance, a real race of their very own, and they took it very seriously. The look on their faces as they crossed that finish line was priceless. It truly brought tears to my eyes. Some of those kids were running farther and faster than they ever had in their lives…I could so relate. I know that look…I have worn it many times myself. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
After the big kid race there was nothing more to do but relax, have a nice lunch, and get psyched for my race. The half marathon didn’t start until 10 PM, so we had some time to kill. That turned out to be a good thing because I had somehow, someway, torqued both of my quads. I had been faithfully tapering so I know it wasn’t a run that did it. The only culprit I could think of were the stairs at the expo. REALLY??? It seems ridiculous, but I had gotten out of bed that morning limping, and it had only gotten worse as the day progressed. By the time we went to the kids race it hurt to even touch my quads. I tried to keep calm and carry on. My loving husband took me on an emergency Target run to pick up Tylenol, disposable icepacks, and a giant tube of Bengay.
I holed up in the hotel, iced my legs, took my Tylenol, slathered up with the stinky cream of doom and hoped for the best. Oh yeah, and as I checked the weather for the thousandth time, the forecast had crept up to 90-100% chance of rain by 10 PM…oh happy dance of joy.
Well at 7:15 I limped out to collect my running buddy to get on the bus to the start. Disney races are wonderful, big, awesome events. Unfortunately big awesome events dictate that you arrive at the start stupid early. It was 58 degrees and soon to be rainy, so I had on my running capris, a short sleeve top, and a toss away sweatshirt so I wouldn’t freeze while we waited. I hate being hot when I run, but I also hate standing around for hours freezing my butt off, hence the very cheap, ugly sweatshirt. I was also prepared with my shot blocks for fuel, a plastic trash bag in case of impending flood, a running hat, and some TP stuffed in a ziplock for porta potty emergencies.
With the pre race jitters firmly in place, my buddy and I tried to while away the hours before our run. We talked, we prayed, we sighed and fidgeted, until it was finally time to moooove to the starting corrals. It was now 30 minutes prior to the race…and here’s where the rain started in. It was a lovely fine rain..looked like that super fine sugar snow that you see up north. At least it didn’t pour buckets…but it did cover you very quickly and soak every layer you had.
Finally the first corral got started! I could just see the fireworks way up ahead where the running elite were hoofing it at light speed over the start line. They were corral A…I was lowly corral H. Every 5 minutes there were more fireworks and we would move a bit farther forward as another corral got set free. I was beyond cold and wet and miserable at this point. I could no longer feel my aching quads and I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing. My vibrams ( yes I run in those silly barefoot monkey toe shoes) are not even close to water resistant and my feet were squishy even before I got to the starting line. Suddenly-BOOM-fireworks, and I was off.
I did not enjoy those first 3 miles. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to just stop and walk or quit. This was NOT how I had planned this race. This was cold, squishy, wet, and much harder than I remembered. I ran in puddles up to my ankles. The crowds were oppressive for the first few miles. I had no room to move, or breathe and was practically hurdling people as they walked three and four abreast, or took off running and then just stopped right in the middle of the road ( really???). I was quickly heating to supernova in my sweatshirt, so I took it off and wrapped it around my waist for all of two minutes. The darned thing was so wet and heavy that I tossed it before I reached a mile. All of this and I had to pee. I had gone before the race, etc etc…but after waiting for a half hour in my corral…yeah, gotta go.
I literally gritted it out for 3 miles til we rounded into the Animal Kingdom parking lot. I rallied at the thought of a real bathroom. Once I made it into the park and relieved myself, I was feeling a bit better. I chewed on a shot block and tried to rearrange my attitude. The rain was still coming down and would continue to do so for the ENTIRE night. I was working up a sweat tho, so at least I was no longer cold. I also had my hat..thank GOD for that hat…it kept my face dry. That was the ONLY part of me that was dry, but it made a huge difference for me. Every time I would look down at my watch, water would sluice down off my hat…but I repeat…my face was dry. Sometimes its the little things that you cling to people.
On we ran. I said a quick prayer asking God to give me strength, and to run with me in this cold squishy mess. Just outside of the Animal kingdom park was a 10 K sign…I had reached 6 miles! I realized I was almost half way, and not dead yet.
In fact, once I got over my whiny wet self, I realized I was actually running pretty strong. I was averaging around a 10:30 pace…much faster than my training runs…and I was feeling good. My feet were cold and had actually gone a bit numb, but my legs felt pretty darned good. My quads had given up complaining and my new calf compression sleeves were containing any complaints from my shins. I started a mental count down, and from this point on kind of found my ‘happy pace’, my groove. I was still miserable on the outside, but my running machine that I had been training and coaching for months kicked into gear and I ran on.
For the next half of the race, I ran thru Hollywood studios where they had the Osbourne lights on display…a true delight, even in the rain. After that, we ran up a few overpasses and thru the boardwalk areas-this was slick with the rain, but no problem for my grippy monkey toe shoes. Finally we made it to Epcot. With only about a mile to go I knew I was going to do make it-and maybe even PR.
The absolute best part of my entire run happened right here. As I turned the corner to the final stretch, my song came on…you know the one…Thrive. Joy unspeakable, Faith unstoppable, anything is possible…it brought tears to my eyes. God is good. He didn’t clear the rain that night, but He did run every wet, squishy, cold step right by my side. In the end, not only did I finish and run strong the whole way through, but I set a new record! Last February I ran the half in 2h:37m, my official time for this one was 2h:27m, even with two bathroom stops!
Once the finish line was crossed, the cold and wet set in and I was shaking like a leaf. I got to experience the joy of changing into dry clothes in a giant tent, in front of hundreds of other women ( and one wolf spider… one little arachnid almost caused a naked stampede). I think by the end of the night I came close to hypothermia and frost bitten toes, but survived without any real trauma. I am sore today for sure, but I think I am most sore from all the shivering ( my back hurts more than my legs).
I am VERY soberly looking at my marathon goal. I cannot remotely imagine doubling my half marathon distance. Training starts next week, and I am sore enough now that you’d have to be chasing me with a knife to get me to run a mile. That is scary as I look at the training schedule stretched before me.
A year ago tho I would have thought the same about a half marathon. A year ago I was this sore after a 5 K race. I used to limp for a week following every 5 K, so I will give myself a bit of grace and settle into the faith and hope that having come this far, God will strengthen my legs and take me farther. A half marathon is no joke- a marathon even more so, but I am stronger now than I was. I am walking in the faith that I will be stronger still. And hey, I ran a wet, cold gritty 13.1 miles this weekend with jacked up quads…and I did it faster than before. I am a happy bacon runner!