Part Two: The Race
Did you miss Part one: Pre-Race? Check it out here.
|BFFs dressed alike!|
|Waiting for the bus.|
2 a.m. is a ridiculous time to set an alarm, but it's part of the process of running Disney. We'd heard that traffic was pretty bad getting over to the runner's village before Donald the day before, so we wanted to be on the first bus - which was leaving at 3am. Since we'd laid out all of our stuff the night before, getting out of bed and getting going was the hardest part of the early wake-up. Once we'd done that, we were ready fairly fast, and on our way to the bus depot.
We didn't have any traffic issues and we arrived at the runner's village plenty early. My parents had given me entry into the Race Retreat for my birthday, so I was really looking forward to enjoying the comfort and amenities it provides - nice breakfast, place to sit, and "private" bag check and port-o-potties! After chilling with Carrie and Dad in the Race Retreat for a while, we moved outside to meet up with the ROTE gang at the H tent. After hanging out there with the awesome ROTErs, and making one last port-a-potty stop, we started the long walk to the corrals. This walk, although the most nerve-wracking one for me thus far, being before my first marathon, was pretty awesome. Getting to laugh, joke, and be reassured by my awesome friends was a great way to begin an awesome race!
Miles 5-10 were on the roads from Epcot up to the Magic Kingdom. While not the most interesting part of the course, it's a route I've seen plenty of times from doing the Half Marathon in previous years. What was weird for me here is that these miles are usually miles 2-6 for the Half, so it was strange to see the higher mileage markers along the route this time. There were plenty of characters, music/dj/band platforms, and cheer stations all along this emptier stretch to keep us entertained. But, since we were keeping an eye on the clock, and the course crowds had thinned a bit, we took advantage of these miles to put a little more time in the bank. As we approached the Contemporary Resort and hit mile 10 at 2:33:44, we'd managed to do just that, and were down to a 15:22 average pace. That gave us a little more wiggle room, but still nothing to rest easy about.
|Running through the Castle|
Leaving Magic Kingdom takes you out past The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Shades of Green resorts. Again, there were more characters and music along this stretch, along with plenty of spectators staying at those hotels lining the course. This area is also where my nerves started kicking in, because I knew we were coming up on the halfway/relay exchange point. Here, the relay runners were peeling off the course and receiving their Chip & Dale medals. Was I tired? Yes. Did I want to join them? Yes. Was I tempted to? Yes. Did I do it? No way. I had trained for this thing and I was going to finish it! Plus, it helped that Julie, Susan, and I had decided that we'd stay with our 1:1 intervals until the halfway point and then we would switch to 30:90s for a while. That idea made the next 13.1 miles stretching out in front of us seem a little more bearable. Also, at the relay point is when we got to see a bunch of ROTErs that were running the second leg of the relay join the course, including Steve and Kim (who was doing Goofy but was being paced through the 2nd half by Steve)! We hit the half at 3:22:16 - a 15:26 average pace. Still slow going, but still going!
I forgot to mention that we were using my Garmin 305 as our official interval timer (since, even though it is a couple years old, it has an obnoxiously loud beep that all of us could hear). Somewhere around the half, when the Garmin started counting down to another run interval, Susan looked at me and said "I really hate that thing." LOL. We were all thinking it, she just voiced it - too funny! Right around this point is when Roger caught up with us, so we were leapfrogging with him for a bit. A bit after the halfway point was the first food stop: Clif shots and bananas. I had not trained with bananas during a run, but I was terrified of cramping up in the heat (I was packing Enduralytes, salt packets, and yellow mustard, and had even given mom a Nathan bottle with pickle juice in it just in case I needed to start carrying it), and I figured the potassium and a little natural sugar and some solid food couldn't hurt. It went down pretty well, so I was pleased with that decision.
Heading towards Animal Kingdom is the segment of the race I'd gotten a lot of warnings about - the dreaded compost/recycling plant and wastewater treatment plant - right next to each other. Maybe it was because I'd built it up so much in my mind, or maybe it was because I'm slightly de-sensitized to those smells because of my job, but I really didn't think it was that bad. Certainly not pleasant, but I've smelled (much) worse. And, those smells provided the perfect segue into Animal Kingdom's behind-the-scenes animal pens' more...pungent smells (think elephant poop). Just before entering the Animal Kingdom park, there were Disney cast members with various animals on the side of the course. I remember seeing some kind of bird of prey (I think it was an owl?), a large tortoise, and a very cute & memorable potbellied pig. Lots of people were stopping to take pictures with the animals, but we kept on trucking - gotta watch the clock!
|Julie & Me in Asia (AK)|
|Past Expedition Everest|
Leaving Animal Kingdom, going into the large parking lot, and starting onto another stretch of road towards Hollywood Studios, Julie and I were plodding along with our intervals. My Garmin decided to lose the GPS signal inside Animal Kingdom, so we couldn't count on that anymore. Every time we'd hit a mile marker, we'd check our elapsed time against the last mile marker, and as long as we were under the 16min/mi pace, we were doing okay, which we were. This is also the stretch that I really don't like about the Wine & Dine race. It's a straight stretch of boring highway with a set of camelback overpasses that just aren't fun, especially in the heat of the day, going into miles 19 & 20 of a marathon. Yuck. But we walked uphill and ran down, keeping one foot in front of the other, and just kept ticking away the miles. There was another banana stop just before mile 20. I got about halfway through my second banana of the day, and thought, for just a second, that it might come back up. Gross. I was definitely done with bananas for a while. Our Mile 20 split put us at 5:12:29 - a 15:37 average pace.
The highlight of the route towards Hollywood Studios was the out-and-back turnaround. If I'd been running alone, this would have been torturous. But, since I was running with Julie, we were keeping an eye out for other ROTErs and making quite the spectacle of ourselves when we saw them - it made that piece much more bearable. "Colonel," the Green Army Man from Toy Story, was on the entrance ramp just past Mile 21. Normally he's one of my favorite on-course entertainment characters because I think his "yelling" is a hoot. This year, though, he was entirely too nice - I just didn't think it fit his character. I much prefer his "Come'on civilians! Get up this hill!" Oh well.
Just before Mile 22, my calves started cramping, so we pulled over onto the shoulder and used a guardrail to stretch a bit, which really helped, and allowed me to keep on going after that. But, at that point, I was very hot, very tired, and my feet were really starting to hurt. I'm pretty sure I've never used as many four-letter words in my life as I did in the span of those few miles. Oops. Soon after we'd stopped to stretch, we passed an older woman who was talking to a pair of younger ladies and we overheard her say "I'm 72 and this is my last marathon. I can't keep doing this." But she was still going! She was an inspiration to everyone around us, and we all told her so. And I think at that point we all had the thought of "If she can do this, then da**it, so can I!" So into Hollywood Studios we went, with renewed vigor and a sense of determination.
|Me on Hollywood Blvd.|
|More Hollywood Blvd.|
|Just before the last sweep.|
Further down the path, I caught up with Susan and Roger and asked if they'd seen Julie. They said that she'd told them that she could see Kim & Steve up ahead and she was going to run and catch up with them but to tell me what she was doing. They offered to let me stay with them, but I was still riding the feeling of euphoria and felt like I could keep doing the intervals, so I continued on, with the goal of catching up to Julie, Kim & Steve. Navigating the boardwalk path gets a little tricky because it's rather narrow and most people near the back of the pack like me are walking at this point. Because I was still trying to keep up my intervals, I was having to do quite a bit of weaving in and out.
As I was finishing a run interval and slowing to a walk, a guy came up beside me and stopped and told me that he'd been following me for a while, using me as motivation. When I ran he made himself run, and when I walked he let himself walk. I was floored. I was motivation for someone else??? How could that be? I'm nothing special - but his comments made me feel like I was! He and I introduced ourselves (he's David, btw) and ran a couple more intervals together until we caught up with Kim & Steve (no Julie). They said that Julie was feeling really good and wanted to keep running so she had gone on ahead, but that they were going to walk it in because Kim's knees were acting up. I decided that since I didn't really care about my time as long as I came in under the time limit, and I had the time cushion to walk the rest, that I wanted to join them, and they welcomed me for the final stretch.
|I'm going to finish!|
|Hugging Dad just before I finished.|
|Waving to ROTErs!|
|Crossing the Finish Line!!!|
My finish time was 6:56:55.
As soon as I crossed that finish line, I stopped and basically started bawling - I was sooooo happy! I walked up to a volunteer who was handing out medals, still crying. She gave me one look, put my medal around my neck, gave me a big hug and said "Congratulations. You did it!" That just started the tears all over again. In the chute to get pictures taken and to pick up our post-race food and drinks, Kim and Steve and I could not stop hugging each other and smiling and saying "We Did It!" After going through the lines, we went over to the "H" tent to meet back up with the ROTErs. So many people were there and we were all hugging and congratulating each other and sharing our joy and happiness. I got to see Julie and she apologized for leaving me behind - I told her not to apologize. I'm glad that she had felt that good and had gone on - I would not have wanted to hold her back.
|Dad, Carrie, & Me.|
|Dad & Me|
|With Jessie & Buzz post-race.|
|Got my Mickey medal!|
Coming up next: Part Three: Post-Race & The Magic Kingdom