Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Long Overdue Race Report Part II

Even though I feel like I'm always apologizing on here, let me say sorry for the delay. The past two months have been rough, but things are starting to straighten out so I can now put some attention into other things. For the past month I've been renewing my love affair with Tae-Bo and other inside activities and only really running about once a week. But, I went for a run today and it was great. I even got to wear my sweet Disney long-sleeved tech shirt that I got from the marathon, so it felt even better.

Now that I'm back from the run, I'm telling myself I can't watch American Idol until I get this race report done. Loses a bit of impact when I write the report six weeks later, but better late than never.

I woke up pretty early on race day. For some wierd reason I insisted on taking a shower before the race. I really just needed it to wake up and calm me down a bit. Everyone woke up when I did, but then most of them decided to go back to sleep and so it was just my brother Bobby and I that headed out to the starting point. I was full of jitters and still randomly exclaiming "26.2 miles!!!"??? at random intervals, but I knew the day had come.

We did arrive a bit early and Bobby got me some water and a super comfy marathon sweatshirt. He is a videographer so he was there taking video of all that was going on. Since it was Disney there was some neat stuff - like guys dressed up like the soldier figurines from Toy Story. The atmosphere was intense. There were so many people it was a little overwhelming, but we were all there for the same purpose. I saw skinny people who looked like they would finish in two hours and others who I thought would be more in my category (just trying to come in before the 7 hour time limit).

I ate my powerbar and drank my water and got in line for the portapotties. I pretty much went every time I could just because I didn't want to have to stop during the race (but I did anyway - why use a portapotty when you can use a real restroom in the parks?) When they made the announcement to get moving to the race line I said goodbye to Bobby and headed off. It was about a half a mile walk to get to the corrals, but I didn't really pay attention. What I was thinking about was how easy men have it because they didn't have to wait in line for portapotties, they were just lined up at the edge of the trees. Jealous. And a bit grossed out.

Anyway, I found my corral and I was resisting the tears. I didn't want to waste the precious hydration!

The weather was nice, not too cold. When it got close to 6 am we heard Mickey and Minnie talking about the race, and it was so cool. There were fireworks at the start but it took about 7 minutes of walking for our group to cross the starting line. It's hard to explain how it felt crossing the starting line with this huge group of people all setting out with the same goal - to finish 26.2 miles. It was such a great feeling to cross the line and know all these other people were going to be doing the same thing. What a rush!

We started out running on the way to Epcot. For the first bit the runners were separated into two groups and spectators were only on one side of the road. My corral was in the group on the opposite side of the spectators. All my family was at that part of the race but I didn't get to see anyone. Fortunately we went by that spot again on the way out of Epcot, so I did get to see my family. That was around mile 4, so my nephew and P had my sport beans ready for me. It was so encouraging seeing my family at that point. I was so overwhelmed at the mass of people I was running with that it was great to hear a familiar voice and see familiar faces.

Running through Epcot was definitely my favorite part of the race. It was still dark out and I was still full of energy. We ran under the big silver ball (which for some reason I can't think of the name right now) and it was all lit up. When we ran through the place with all the different international restaurants there was music. I wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much when I ran through the second time after 25 miles.

When we left Epcot there was a lot of running on the road and at one point the road was really slanted, or technically I thinks it's called "banked". It was a bit uncomfortable but throughout the race there were spots like that and you just couldn't think about it.

I told myself that I had to run as much as I could and then I could run-walk after that. The first time I walked was during a water break around mile 6. Then I ran another two miles. I did tell myself that I had to run throught the mile markers. Around 8 miles I started talking with another runner. Her name was Tamara and it was her first marathon as well. She was really cool and I would have walked with her longer, but a mile marker was coming up so I had to start running again.

After mile 8 I started walking a lot more. When we got to the Magic Kingdom I ran. I had to run through the parks at least. It was so neat because the parks now had some people in them and it was pretty exciting. Running through the castle and running down Main Street was incredible.

After the Magic Kingdom it felt like it took a long time to get to the next park. I met Bobby along the way. He went all over the place trying to catch up to me. After all was said and done he figured he walked about 14 miles trying to find me and catch up to me during the race. He figured if he could do that, why not train and actually run a half and eventually a whole (and eventually do the Goofy Challenge which is running the half on Saturday and then the whole on Sunday... we are both signed up for that next year.)

He did tell me that my Dad and Sister M were at the Animal Kingdom and I'd find them once I got there. By the time I hit the Animal Kingdom I was pretty worn out. I was so happy to see some of may family. M ran alongside me (she actually crossed into the roped area and ran right next to me until one of the volunteers saw her and kicked her out). At some point we did need to stop and walk, but she is a fast walker. She kept asking me questions and then said "wait, no, don't talk, save your breath. I'll talk." It was great to have her with me. She ended up leaving the park and then walking with me a bit more once out of the park. It was refreshing to have her at that point because I was exhausted.

The longest, most awful stretch of the race was the journey from Animal Kingdom to Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). Seriously, after mile 18 I was tired and pretty much running on auto pilot. Each mile was taking longer and longer to tick off. There is this one spot in the race that you are running on the highway and you run out a half mile and then back the same way. Ugh. That was the worst part of the whole race, but along there you see the 20 mile marker and it kind of makes up for it. At that point you figure if you have done 20 miles, what's 6.2 right?

Once I got in to Disney Hollywood Studios I saw Bobby again. He is also a fast walker so he really helped me keep my pace up. By that point in the race I was really struggling. But the good thing was that I was on Disney property for the rest of the way so they wouldn't technically cut me off. You have 7 hours to finish, but as long as you hit mile 22 by the cutoff, they won't deny you crossing the finish line. I didn't know that until after, but there were some family members (K) who were watching me on line and were getting concerned because I was slowing down.

I was pretty much only running over the mile markers at this point and walking all the in-between. I'd try to run, but the legs were pretty sore. My heart and lungs felt great but my legs were just tired. I did stop a bit and stretch too.

The course from Hollywood Studios to Epcot was not that bad. Tons of people were passing me, but there were still a lot of people around. I didn't feel like a straggler because there were so many of us. But one way I knew it was getting towards the end was that the water stops were fairly clean by the time we got there. The ones in the beginning were a mess, but I guess they had time to clean up waiting for the slowpokes. Fine by me. Kept my shoes cleaner. LOL! They did run out of gel at the second gel stop and there was a final food stop that didn't have anything left, but I still had a few of my blocks left, so I was okay.

My sister M, who I had seen at the Animal Kingdom had come to the boardwalk and ended up walking with me for a long way near the end. She is training to do the marathon next year and almost did it with me this year. It was great to have her there. We ran when we could, which by then was almost not at all. She was with me to where we went under the ball again at Epcot. It was just a bit before mile 26 and I told her that was as far as I'd let her go with me. I wanted to do the last .2 on my own. Turns out she couldn't have gone with me after that anyway.

When I saw the 26 mile marker I really dug deep and told myself I had enough left to run the last .2. I don't know how I did it. Actually, no, I do know how I did it. The great part was at the 26 mile marker there was a praise and worship team that was singing this incredibly inspirational hymn. I have no idea what song it was now, but I heard it and asked God to give my legs the strength to run the last bit. To the spectators, it may not have looked like a run, but it was. I saw the finish and told myself I could finally cry and not feel wierd about it. I grew up with Joan Benoit Samuelson as a strong influence in my life since I grew up in Maine so I did the "Joanie" pose for my picture and crossed the finish line.

What an amazing feeling. My family was a little further down and it turns out that my Mom, after seeing me at around four miles went back to the start, and found where the finish was going to be and sat there and waited for me. She saw about 14199 runners finish the race. And was there about 6 hours waiting for me. She was sitting next to another mother of one of the racers and they were talking and stressing about how they couldn't wait until it was over because then she wouldn't have to worry anymore. Sorry Mom. Thanks for being there for me.

Having my family there was so great. What is even more great is that next year we are all going to do it! Well, most of us. Those who aren't running are volunteering to be the motivators. I did say cheerleaders for a bit, but my cousin T who is a Marine (and has been for about 13 years now) said she wasn't wearing any skirt. I can't picture her dressed as a cheerleader anyway. Motivator is a way better term!

I still can't believe that I've done a marathon. I just barely made it in under 7 hours, but I don't care. I did it. Plus now it leaves lots of room for improvement. I'm already signed up to do it next year along with my three older siblings, a sister-in-law and a cousin. So, unfortunately, our Mom will have to worry all over again, but I think she really had fun watching. She always loved Joan Benoit too and now she's got her own marathoners to cheer for.