“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” - Walt Disney

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Race Report: My First Marathon - Mickey 2012: Part 2

Part Two: The Race
Did you miss Part one: Pre-Race?  Check it out here.

BFFs dressed alike!
Did I mention that I'd be running "in costume?"  I wanted to make this race memorable, since I intended it to be my only marathon.  Leah with SparkleSkirts made my year when she announced late last fall that she was debuting her MinnieTech skirt - it was exactly what I'd been looking for - a running skirt that was both incredibly functional and FUN!  So I paired the skirt with a black tech top, my clip-on Minnie Ears, and a red and white polka dot hair ribbon for "the essence" of Minnie Mouse.  (And I'm not ashamed to admit that I was over the moon when I found out my bib was red - it would coordinate perfectly with my outfit!)  My one concern about the whole thing was the weather.  The forecast was calling for high 70's and sunny - not exactly the ideal conditions for a slow runner wearing a black top.  After contemplating switching to a white shirt, I decided that black was really the better look, and that
Waiting for the bus.
I'd just have to tough out the heat for the sake of my vanity.  After using iron-on red glitter letters to add my name to my shirt, my look was complete!  BFF Carrie decided to go with the same outfit, so we were matchy-matchy!

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!

Race start.
A large group of us were all in Corral D, so we hung out together waiting for the race start.  Finally, with a burst of fireworks and flames, we were off!!!  I had a small group of friends that were all planning on running 1:1 intervals and "taking it easy" - just trying to finish, exactly my goal - so we all started off together.  Within the first couple of miles, the faster members of our 1:1 group left Julie, Susan, and me behind, and the three of us stayed together for almost the whole race.  The marathon course begins with a large loop on the roads around Epcot, which is crowded at first, but eventually evens out a little as the groups disperse.  Even though the plan was to take it easy, we were a little concerned when we hit the 5 mile mark at 1:18:52 and we saw that our splits were averaging a 15:46 pace - that was entirely too close to the 16mm cutoff for our comfort!  So we knew we needed to pick it up a little without jeopardizing our overall ability to finish.

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.

In Tomorrowland
Running through the Castle
It was odd not to see Mom standing in her "usual spot" as we passed by the Contemporary, but my family had decided that having her wait in front of the castle was probably the easiest way for her to see all of us, so I was expecting this.  I sent her a text message letting her know we were entering the Magic Kingdom just as we were coming in the back gate.  Running down Main Street U.S.A. was, as usual, awesome, and was made even more special when we saw my friend Dana and a couple other "ROTEr Rooters" just before entering Tomorrowland!  Here in
Where's Mom???
Tomorrowland was where I received my first few comments on my outfit.  The cast members directing runners along the course yelled out "Yay Minnie!"  That's when I knew that deciding to go for it with the black shirt was totally worth it.  Running through Cinderella's Castle is the highlight of the Half Marathon course for me, and it didn't disappoint on the Marathon, either.  But, unfortunately, the crowds were so thick in front of the castle, that I somehow missed seeing mom...(and she had missed my text, so she wasn't looking for me yet, either).  I was so bummed that I hadn't seen her, but being as short on time as we were, there was no time to stop and search.

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)
As we were running through a backstage area and we hit mile 16, there were a bunch of cast members and the stereo was blaring "Sweet Caroline" - one of my all-time favorite songs - it really boosted my spirits, and I even sang/screamed along with the "bah bah bah" in the chorus and did the arm pump.  I got some interesting looks, but hey, I was having a good time!  Remember how I mentioned that they were calling for temps in the 70's with full sun?  It was really starting to get warm, and the sun beating down on us while we were out on the open roads had definitely taken a toll on me. So the shade in
Past Expedition Everest
Animal Kingdom was a welcome respite, as were the "real" bathrooms!  Julie made a quick bathroom stop with me just inside the park, and Susan and Roger continued on, knowing we'd catch back up to them since they were mainly walking at this point.  One thing I couldn't believe was the number of people in the park.  I was so used to running through Magic Kingdom and Epcot early in the morning during the half - before they even opened or got very busy!  But Disney does a great job of delineating the course and keeping the crowds controlled, so it made it really fun and special to run through there with normal park guests around.

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.
As we were making our way through the Backlot Tour area, there was a candy stop with Disney gummies and Hershey minis.  I traded Julie her bag of gummies for my couple of chocolate bars, and that worked perfectly!  Julie remarked that at the mile marker at the end of the costume tunnel was when she knew the year before that she was going to finish.  So when we hit that same marker, I teared up, knowing that I, too, had finishing within my grasp.  At this point Julie wanted to run the whole way through the park.  I knew that I could keep
More Hollywood Blvd.
doing the intervals, but there was no way I could run the whole way, so I told her to go on ahead and I would catch up with her on the boardwalk path.  Running through Hollywood Studios, with the race course lined by park guests, was awesome.  People were clapping and cheering and shouting my name and "Go Minnie!"- it was amazing!!!  I kept yelling "Thank You!" and I know I was smiling like a crazy person!  That was such an incredible feeling!!!  Leaving Hollywood Studios, my goal was to catch back up to Julie.  She had said that she was going to start walking after the park and let me catch up, so I stuck to my intervals and figured I'd be seeing her soon.

Just before the last sweep.
Now, Julie and I had remarked in the second half of the course about how glad we were that we'd never even seen the sweepers - that would've been more nerve-wracking than I could handle, I think.  When I reached the last sweeper bus point, there were cast members there with the buses, but they weren't directing people onto them because we were still well ahead of the sweeper people.  I couldn't help myself - I was so giddy with the excitement of knowing that even if I had to drag myself across the finish line I would not get swept, that I did something truly childish: I put my thumb up to my nose and "neener-neenered" the cast members as I ran past.  LOL.  I got a kick out of it...who knows what they thought!  Once I was on that Boardwalk path headed towards Epcot, I took the time to pull out my phone and post on Facebook that I'd passed the last sweeper point and I'd definitely be finishing - I was SO HAPPY!!!

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!
In Epcot!
We were laughing and joking and having a great time as we entered Epcot.  We were exhausted, and in pain, but the excitement of nearing the finish and being with friends was overpowering all of that.  Several others joined the three of us as we made our way around the World Showcase, and we made quite the group.  Seeing the group of ROTErs waiting at the Rose & Crown in England, as well as the support from the crowds on the sidelines was such a boost for that last mile.  When we hit Italy, I called Mom so she'd know to be expecting me soon.

Hugging Dad just before I finished.
When we hit the Mile 26 marker, I looked at Kim & Steve and started tearing up.  I couldn't believe I'd made it and was going to finish this thing, and told them I was so glad to be finishing with my ROTE family.  They both got emotional as well, and there was plenty of "sniffling" from our little group as we rounded the corner towards the finish.  As we hit that corner, I saw my mom & dad right in front of me, and I ran over to semi-hug my dad, who had already finished his race long before and had been waiting to cheer me on.  After a quick hug & kiss, I re-joined Kim & Steve, who'd been waiting for me, and we ran it in to the finish.  Just before we crossed the finish line, I realized that Goofy was on my left, so I told Kim to change places with me so she could high-five him as she completed her first marathon and her first Goofy.  We saw and waved to the big group of ROTErs sitting in the stands to our left, and then the three of us linked hands and raised our arms in triumph as we crossed the finish line together.  It was an indescribably amazing, unforgettable, moment that I will always treasure.

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
After hanging out with them for a short bit, I needed to meet back up with Carrie and my parents, so I made my way back over to the Race Retreat, where they were just arriving.  As soon as I saw my dad and Carrie with their medals, the tears started flowing again.  I'm hopeless, I know.

With Jessie & Buzz post-race.
We spent some time inside the Race Retreat tent, eating lunch, icing my poor feet, and relaxing a bit.  It felt awesome to get off my feet for a while, but surprisingly, I felt ok - other than the painful feet.  (Hey, do you tthink my feet might've been hurting?  LOL.)  After taking some quick character pictures, we left the Race Retreat and hopped on the last bus back to our resort.

Got my Mickey medal!
While I did not, by any means, have a stellar finish time, I met my goal for my first marathon - which was just TO FINISH!!!  Plus, this was my first time to actually run a race with running partners - and I can't think of a more enjoyable way to race!  We stayed motivated and on-task while still keeping each other company and entertained.  And I can honestly say that there's no better way to cross the finish line than with friends!

Coming up next:  Part Three: Post-Race & The Magic Kingdom


  1. Congratulations - we must have been pretty close to each other through the race as I was just ahead of you at the finish!

    So glad you had a good time with friends and a positive experience!

  2. Congratulations! What a great accomplishment!!