Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some highlights of my Walt Disney World marathon adventure

Part I : Making a Molehill out of a Marathon

Must say that prior to flying to Orlando for the marathon I was fairly nervous. Noticed this early on when I had some rest time before the marathon event. I was on "vacation" technically, with no where to go but the airport and away, yet I really needed to chill. Everything seemed much larger than life. And if I learned anything from this experience is that many things are much larger than life when we make it this way. Yes, the incredibly larger than life statues of footballs, helmets, coca-cola which stood around the hotel space were created by man, just as all the overwhelming thoughts of what a great feat this could be was created by me.

Nevertheless, I put things into perspective a bit more the day before the marathon and this helped. More importantly, I thought that there are things far more difficult than a marathon (yes, death, war, poverty, crime, illness etc)...but certainly running 26.2 miles won't be nearly as close to any of least that is what I tried to believe and it certainly helped come the morning of the marathon.


Part II : Some run with their hearts & minds, I run with my quads

It was 5 am in the morning and I was wide awake, excited, happy about what was to come. The music was lively and and it was just great to see so many runners participating (probably because I know, at least, in this situation there's a good chance that I would not finish last). The start time and atmosphere, as early as it was, had been a magical one. Each corral lined up to the start line and received special fireworks and count down by goofy, mickey and donald. Who could have asked for a better beginning to their marathon day?!

I started the race a bit too quick (splits: 10.27, 11:07, 11:06) as soon as I heard the gun start, partly because I was freezing. Shorts and short sleeves shirt was not enough for 50 F. I was a bit uncomfortable, but then soon after a few miles I thought that I might die of hypothermia. So kept looking down at all the clothes at the side of the road and finally picked up a light bluish jacket. Special thanks to whoever threw this jacket on the saved my life!!

I should mention here that I learned, upon picking up my race packet/stuff, that I would be stuck in the 5 hour 30 minute corral and was not able to move into the five hour corral to run with the cliff pace group. If one plans to run the WDW marathon and have a goal pace/time, it's best to sign up for it from the get go.

Anyways, after I got my bearings right with the clothes situation, I just kept running up until mile 9. I felt especially hydrated thanks to all the time I spent drinking water (and peeing) on Saturday. No need to stop for water if I don't need it...although I did shove a couple shot blocks into my mouth from time to time.

It also helped that the first 9 miles or so was very entertaining. There were musicians on the side of the road, or DJs, and then disney characters every few miles. In fact, around mile 10 or so I began to notice a Tinkerbell flying through this race. Each time I passed her taking a photo, she was already ahead of me taking another photo with another Disney character or sign. Can you tell that I was really paying attention to my times/splits at this point?!

5 mile splits: 55:20 (NET). Pace: 11:04. Predicted: 4:50:09
10 mile splits: 1:53:13 (NET). Pace: 11:19. Predicted: 4:56:50
13.1 splits: 02:32:19 (NET). Pace: 11:37. Predicted: 5:04:38

At mile 14-15 the worst part of the marathon happened to me. Some lady stepped/ ran over my right achilles heel and made especially uncomfortable/painful to keep up a decent pace (and by decent I mean an 11.30 minute mile). Although I do take part of the blame for starting out way too fast, having an injured achilles didn't help either. ouch!

Nevertheless, a couple disney characters or feet down the road, I saw Tinkerbell taking another photo op again, then heard a new band and this just distracted me from the pain.

Somewhere a little before the final 10K my quads gave out on me or basically my legs buckled up and stopped moving (it seemed like the wall, but I'm not 100% sure). There was a knot in my quad muscle which felt as if it was going to burst. Never had this sensation before, not even when I was running hills in Newton, so I had to ask myself the question: "Do you want to ever run/walk again after this event?" (a critical question since the pain was out of the ordinary). And decided it was best to just do what I could do. Not so happy with my finishing time as a result, but very happy with this choice....right now my quads are still so so sore!

mile 20 splits: 12:29. Predicted: 5:27:28

Must mention that throughout the marathon there had been great music and entertainers along the way. The long, tedious highway miles connecting the parks became entertaining with little signs of fun facts or jokes. Just watching everyone dressed up and enjoying themselves was great in and of itself. And since I did not set foot into the parks until that day (surprised myself), entering Epcot, the Magical Kingdom and then the Wildlife kingdom was fabulous.

At mile 23, someone from behind me yelled only a 5K to if we could not do the math ourselves. This was funny. Soon we turned around the corner and they were handing out hershey chocolate pieces. Grabbed three of them. Yum!

One of the best moments of the final 10K had been when I entered NYC streets and heard Frank Sinatra sing "NY NY." It gave me goose bumps and reminded me of my beloved family and friends cheering for me back home. (Mile 24)

All of the volunteers or person in the crowd who called my name and cheered me on said I looked strong (liars!!), really helped me to make it through to the end. It was especially helpful right before mile 19, when a lady asked how I had been doing and told me that I was going to make it. Just great to have the support of the crowd.

My family and friends were not able to make to Disney World. My older brother recently returned from the Rose bowl in Cali, and my younger brother (although he wanted to fly out to support me), could not make it because he was working on a concert with AWJS to raise money for Haiti. Yes, the audacity (sarcasm). Everyone who I tried to persuade to run with me had their things, but nonetheless they were excited for me and sent me their well wishes the day before and followed my miles via the tracking online/phone system. And even though I knew there could be no one there to greet me at the finish, I could not have been happier to have gone out there to have accomplished goal in what seemingly "appears to be" the happiest place on earth.

Final Time/Splits: 5:42:01 (NET). Pace: 13:02

Fun Facts:

The Chilean miner beat my marathon time by ~2 minutes.

I learned that I was born the same year as WDW-1971!!! Lots of Disney stuff with my birth year on it. Ha!

Didn't take any rides while at WDW with the exception of the go-cart with the cleaning lady to get me to my hotel room. What a confusing set-up. The architect must have been on crack when they designed the layout.


Part III (Finale) : Moving Forward

Would I complete the marathon distance again? Maybe, just one more. I would LOVE to run Grandma's marathon one day (not tomorrow though) as it would be a great tribute to my father who lived there, contributed so much to the Duluth, MN and Superior, WI community. He passed away from cancer in 1998, on the same weekend as father's day, the same weekend as cancer survivor's day, and the same weekend as the Grandma's marathon. The race is definitely calling my name for those and other reasons alone.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grandma's marathon race report: a sentimental journey

The First Half
The day began chaotically. It started with waking up late, with a longer than expected bathroom wait for the port-a-potties and with an on-the-go breakfast of a banana, protein bar, plus two chocolate biscotti cookies and ultimately a push to find my place in the start-up line. It was 5 hours to 5:30 hour mark according to the McMillan calculator based on my current race times. My plan for most things was not well executed that morning. Though despite all the last minute upsets, Grandma's marathon had been lively start with pop music and the American Anthem followed by two military airplanes soaring above us and more importantly, I was able to cross the start line.
In contrast to the start, the first half of the marathon course was fairly quiet. It reminded me of the year my parents moved to Eagle River, WI (the middle of nowhere). I found it difficult to get reception with my blackberry internet/data. The heated, humid and hilly conditions in the Two Harbors area coupled with the monotony of the landscape was challenging.
Luckily there were those "things" which kept me going...including: 1) the 5 hour pace group leader, her stories, dedications to miles and cheers. If it wasn't for my new eat & drink policy at every water station, I may have been able to keep up. 2)The balloon mile markers. Every mile was marked with a yellow balloon and the half marathon was marked with blue ones. 3)Some music and bands at the side of the road. 4)Water station stops and just more frequent walk breaks. It may have hurt me with time, but my recovery has been quicker as a result of it.
Air conditioning finally kicks in!
It's amazing how much cold air Lake Superior can bring to shore, especially during the colder season as I remember it back in the day. Actually, the contrast in weather had been so chilly that Mom had me hold onto--keep wrapped around my waist--my long-sleeved t-shirt.

Picturesque views of the North Shore, Duluth, Minnesota

Second Half! Thank You Galloway!
My final 13+, with already very sore legs/quads were indeed more interesting to see, but incredibly tough! The roads became lively as we continued to trek toward the "metro area" of Duluth. There was a pretend Elvis and band, stereo music, lots of signs with cute, and sometimes not so cute, motivational quotes/humor on the road. Some children actually wore animal costumes. Others had a breakfast/brunch going and gave out free strips of bacon (no thanks!). Generosity was plenty in terms of support and cheers and one can really not expect much less from this area.
There was the feeling at this point of already wanting to be done and all the signs which said 'medical tent and drop out point here' were alluring. It made me think, but didn't prompt me enough to stop! As I got further into the last miles my walk/run ratio decreased from 2:1 to 1:1 and I just decided to add more walking for the importance of being able to run and walk after this event. Luckily, others on the course assured me that I'd be just fine, even if I'd walk the rest of the way.
Adrenaline is a funny thing!
Towards the final two miles I began to see how much time had accrued and the possibility to run some more. Seeing the city streets, the familiar store fronts, city life and with all the the marathon finishers/half marathon finishers walking by, I had enough adrenaline to run for a full 2/3rds of a mile and then walk and then run again! This was a big deal considering how sore my legs felt.
The Rainy End
It was 5 hours 35 minutes and 39 seconds, according to chip time, when I crossed the finish line. It was literally seconds later as I collected my finisher's medal/t-shirt when it began to rain. I felt relieved to have completed the marathon as I hobbled to meet my Mom, but pissed that I had to walk another quarter of a mile more to find her.
I met my fund-raising goal for Dana-Farber this year, wiped a good 6 minutes off my PR marathon time, spent a good weekend with my Mom and family friends. More importantly, I learned the value of time---not for running or completing a marathon---but in spending more of it with my mother, family and friends. I have sworn off the marathon distance and though hope to return shortly to Red Wing, MN if not for a 5K, then just for a simple Mom-daughter visit.