Wow... What a week! If anyone is wondering where I was last week, as I have been MIA from the pool deck. I was thoroughly enjoying my trip to Florida.
Wednesday. Katie and I left from Richmond Wednesday morning. We rented a car in which we received a white 2012 Chevy Cruze. It was a good looking mid-size economy car which had leather seats, seat warmers, and satalite radio. We thought it was a great car for the trip. Our butts would tell us otherwise by the time we got to Florida. The drive itself went smoothly and we made great time, about 11 hours. The car got great fuel mileage as well, about 37 mpg.
We got into my grandmothers in Lecanto, Florida about 8pm. She was expecting us and had dinner already on the table when we walked in! Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and salad. We ate like pigs!
Thursday. Katie and I got up and got a short run in. It was tough as we were stiff from the long car ride and we still had to adjust to the heat and huminity. Florida was having record breaking heat for this time of the year. Almost every day we were there it almost hit 90F.
After lunch, my grandmother paid for Katie and I to go out on an air boat. Our driver's name was Captain Stuart. He was the owner of the small airboat which was powered by a 500 hp Chevy engine.
Stu then took took us out towards the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped just short of the gulf, in a huge bay area too shallow for most boats and then cut the motor. It was so quiet and peaceful. We were in the middle of no where, floating ever so slightly towards the gulf. When we looked in the direction of the gulf, you could see small islands that seperated the gulf from the bay.
On our way back in, Stu took us past a particular island. The Homossasa tribe had lived in the surrounding area.(They now live in southern Florida, running casinos and becoming very rich! As Stu told us) All the land in the area was made of limestone, so the trible was not able to dig holes and bury their dead. Stu explained that the indians would have to dig up oysters from the water and bury their dead in oyster shells. As we drove by we could see the mounds of oysters. He continued to tell us that it was the largest buryal ground in the area.
That night, my grandmother once again spoiled us. She cooked us Salmon, baked potatoes, and had salad on the table. We stuffed ourselves full!
Friday. Katie and I took off from my grandmother on Friday and headed to the ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Disney World for packet pick up and to explore the expo. The entrance opened up with a stock car and a Ferrari 458 Italia, one of my favorite dream cars. Katie had to pull out a tissue to wipe the drool from my mouth.
The place was packed with people picking up their race numbers and tee shirts for the half marathon, full marathon, and Goofy Race and Half Challange (where you run both races, the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday; within both days you run 39.3 miles!). We quickly picked up our packets and went over to the expo where we quickly got aggravated with the overpacked isles of people. It was shoulder to shoulder as we pushed our way through the crowds. It was quite exhausting. We didn't last long and the remainder of the day was spent relaxing at the hotel and looking up things to do for the next day.
Saturday.... simply put, was NOT our day. We were exhausted from the driving and putting up with the large crowds of people every where we went. We were in a bit of a funk and couldn't seem to shake it.
We had planned to get a short run in that morning and head back to the expo to buy gels for the race; hoping that the expo would be less crowded as the Half marathon was that morning and those runners racing the Half and the Goofy challenged had already picked up their stuff. WRONG! It was still jammed packed and to make matters worse all the "GU" gels were gone. They had a couple other gels from different brands but Katie and I had both trained with "GU" and we both were smart enough to stick with what we had trained with. You never try anything new for a big race. We ended up buying a couple fuel/number belts for the race and left.
Our next mission was to find gels by "GU". I thought for sure that the area had to had a running or cycling shop where we could find gels close by. I was wrong again. There was one bike shop in an extremely sketchy area. Katie and I looked at each other just simply said no. lol It took us about two hours before we found a sports authority that carried our gels. Next time we will just simply buy them here in VA and take them down with us!
The rest of day was spent relaxing in the hotel (again), playing miniture golf, and prepping for the big race.
Sunday. RACE DAY! Our alarms went off at 3:00am. I was already awake prior. We ate a small breakfast, the best we could at 3am, grabbed our stuff, and headed to Epcot. It was in the low 60's but very humid out. The roads in Disney World were crowded with cars as 25,000 runners and their friends and families poured into the park.
And then it hit us like a ton a bricks. The thought that we were about to run 26.2 miles. What were thinking? Why did we decide to sign up for something like this? The task at hand was daunting, but we pressed on.
Once we parked, we made our way into the pre-race area. The air was electric. You could hear the race director giving instructions on where to go, what to expect, what the weather was going to be like, what the course had in store for everyone. People were being interview on the big screen. Music was pumping. 25,000 runners were chatting nervously.
We checked our bag in and made our long walk to the starting line. Katie and I were in different starting corals. Mine was to start first at 5:35a and hers was to start 3rd at 5:49. We said our goodbyes and good lucks and went our seperate ways.
The corals were packed tight and people kept squeezing there way in. I was not sure where they were all going, but they kept filing in. I found a good spot and just went over my race plan in my head. My only goal was to just finish. Around Thanksgiving, I hurt my ankle and my training in December was pitiful at best. Up until the week before, I didn't think was going to run. This meant I had to take care of my body early in the race the best I could. Start out slow, keep the body cool, and keep up with my nutrition. Listen to my body.
Right before 5:30, Mickey, Donald duck, and Goofy all came out on stage. Some one sang the National Anthem and then the Disney gang counted down to start the wheel chairs at 5:30. Then it was our turn. Just before 5:35am, the Disney trio again started the count down... 3... 2... 1... GO! Fireworks shot up from over the starting line banner and from behind us on a nearby bridge and immediately after, flamethrowers spewed flames up in the air as we took off. Everyone bolted at the beginning from the excitement. I knew I had to stay in control. I felt so slow as people were flying past me. I kept my heart rate in Zone 1, between 140-146 bpm, I took my shirt off after mile 1 to stay as cool as possible while running. I had to utilize the cool air while we had it. The weather was suppose to get up into the high 80's that day and I wanted to prevent myself from hitting the wall as much as possible. I also took on Powerade at every aid station and took gels everyone 4 miles to continually take on calories through out the race.
Disney World made a few changes to their course this year. Normally, we run a loop through Epcot before making our way to Magic Kingdom which would be about 10-11 miles. This year they took the loop out and added the distance else where. This allowed everyone to enter magic kingdom just after mile 5 and while it was still dark. The castle was lit up with thousands of lights and glowed a teal blue or purple. It made for spectacle as you ran down main street with thousands of other runners.
After passing mile 8, the course took an unfamiliar turn towards the race track. Then I noticed we were all running onto the oval track. The track itself was littered with several cars from all decades and countries. There were Ford GT's, Lamborghini's, Ferrari (including my 458!), Aston Martins, stock cars, old school Camaros, Mustangs, Challengers, and more! We ran the full loop and every 10 feet there was another car. I was drooling! At this point, I didn't care if I had finished the race or not. That lap around the track had made my day.
The next couple miles were a bit dull as we made our way to Animal Kingdom. The sun was rising and so were the temperature. The course took us past the trash and recycling center in Disney. There wasn't much to see, and smelled pretty bad. They did place a couple disney characters along the course. There was Peter Pan and the lost boys and Captain Hook. Off in the distnace we could see hot air balloons rising.
At this point I had been running pretty slow and people were still passing me. I knew around mile 10 I could probably pick my pace up to a Zone 2 (150-156 bpm). Prior, I was running Zone 1 and holding an 11 min/mile with walk breaks every 9 minutes. Once I picked up my pace, I started averaging 10 min/miles with walk breaks every 9 minutes. I was no longer being passed and was running pretty close to the same pace with everyone around me. I was still taking in Powerade and gels at every 4 miles. Just doing whatever I could to take care of my body.
At mile 12 we entered the back gate of Animal Kingdom. They had a hawk, a monkey, and a sheep that waved to us as we entered. Inside we passed trains, more animals, disney characters, bongo music, and most of the attractions. It went by pretty fast. I don't recall much of Animal Kingdom. Probably due to the large number of people around and the narrower course.
Once we left Animal Kingdom, so did a our shade from the sun. We were now running through the huge parking lot. The tempurature shot up immediately and the next 5 miles were like this as we made our way back onto the highway.
At mile 17 we entered the ESPN Sport's Complex where we had originally obtained our race packet. We ran all around the complex's property, between their various athletic fields, onto their rubber track, and the course even took us into their baseball stadium where we ran a around the field along the warning track. The whole complex added a good 3-4 miles and we exited the complex at Mile 20, where Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were standing on a stage taking pictures with runners who had stopped.
Through out the park, I started the feel myself winding down. My heel was starting to give me some trouble. I stopped to stretch during one of my walk break and found a huge knot forming in my left calf. I quickly disposed of it by digging my thumb into it and rolling my foot around. It hurt for the moment, but allowed my ankle some mobility to continue on with out discomfort. After exiting the complex, I all of a sudden found my second wind. The heat had picked up and my heart rate was now in a Zone 3 (about 160 bpm). I couldn't get it down any lower, but it didn't matter, I was feeling good.
At mile 21, toy solders from Toy Story were on the side of the road shouting humerous and encouraging words for us. "Just remember, you signed up for this! You paid to do this to yourself! Now quit walking, and get to that finish line!"
At mile 22, we approached Hollywood Studios. Again we entered the park through the back gate and immediately ran through a tunnel. The tunnel has windows on either side where people were inside making costumes. All of a sudden I got a third wind. My heart now was around 166-170 bpm but I felt great. My legs were a little tired, but my run felt strong. So I went with it. I was now passing people left and right. Runners were falling apart all around me. Some of which I had seen and remembered from that morning flying past me at the beginning of the race. My pace was now approaching 9 min/miles and I was enjoying weaving my way through the crowd of runners.
After mile 23 we exited Hollywood studios and I hit the boardwalk for a couple miles. Again, there was limited shade. The heat caused my heartrate to rise again and I was now between 170-172 bpm but now holding 9 min/miles.
At mile 24 we entered Epcot. The final park on the race. All I had to do was run around the lake and get to the front of the park. At this point, I am flying past people. My legs still feel strong. There was epic music playing all along the park. I felt like I was in a movie running down some elite runner. Of course, I knew that the winner of the race had finished two hours ago. But hey, I was enjoying myself.
Between the music, me passing people, and the realization that I still had A LOT still left in the tank, I got excited and had yet another wind. Adrenaline was pumping through my viens. I hit mile 25 and was determined to run my fastest mile yet in the race and I picked up my pace. My heart was beating at 174+. I knew I was close. This was my third marathon and I had never felt this good, this deep in the race.
It only took me 8:30 to run my last full mile. At mile 26 a church choir was singing praise songs. I couldn't help but smile as the lyrics had "praise God" in them. I thought everyone running past them are thinking the same thing. The last .2 miles went by pretty quickly. More disney characters were waiting at the finish line. Announcers were talking non-sense and spewing out random numbers as people were crossing the line. I made a mad dash on the final stretch and cross the line in 4 hours and 31 minutes. I slowed to a walk. I could feel my quads starting to scream abit and the heat starting to rise from my neck and shoulders.
I didn't care. I couldn't wait to receive my finishers medal. I have been looking forward earning this particular medal ever since I had signed up for the race in July. Countless hours had gone into this race. Early morning runs. Aches and pains. Cold and hot weather runs. Good runs and runs that left you fustrated. It all came down to that moment I crossed the line at 26.2 miles.
I made my slow walk through the final aid tent, picking up fluids, snacks, and other goodies. Got my bag out of the baggage claim and called Katie. She was just passing mile 20 and hurting. I gave her a few encouraging words and then let her be to finish the race. I have been there before, you don't want to be bothered when you are struggling through the wall.
She ended up crossing the line in 5 hours and 51 minutes. I gave her a hug and kiss and we found an area to sit down away from people to talk about our race. We were both very proud of our finish.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the hotel room, eating, and sleeping and eating some more and hobbling around the hotel room.
That night we made our way over to Downtown Disney to explore (aka hobbling around) some of the shops and to get a couple souviners to take home. The weather was perfect that night, low 70's with a gentle breeze. Between the cool shops and street shows performing, it made for a great last night in Florida.