Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Magical Marathon

     My lasts few posts have been about recovering from my shin splint injury. I did everything possible to keep up with my training and fitness to prepare for the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 13th. I had the most amazing virtual support team and cheerleaders via Twitter encouraging me and telling me I could do this! Most of them I didn’t even know in real life! There were also doubters and those who warned me to be careful and not hurt myself more. I even had little nagging doubts in the back of my mind saying “What if you can’t run? What if it does start to hurt?” Well…

Marathon #2 Complete!
      I ran a MARATHON on Sunday, January 13th, and I finished strong and ran pain free the entire race! Now, let me also clarify that I use the Galloway run/walk/run method for half marathons and beyond. I used 2/1 run/walk intervals for the marathon. I also took it slow and easy and because it was the Walt Disney World Marathon, I stopped at almost every character photo op available!!
     But this marathon was not accomplished alone. This run was not all about me. I did not, as I usually do, run my own race. And yet, it was the most magical, fabulous run/race I have ever had! I did listen to my body and make sure to not push through any pain. But there was never any pain to push through!
     To quote my friend, Linzie, “This is the true story, of 7 strangers, who met on Twitter and flew to Walt Disney World to support one another during marathon weekend.” That’s what this race was really about. A group of people who, less than four weeks prior, were just chatting on Twitter. We came together because of Team runDisney. We formed a group when we noticed we were in the same start corral for the race. Then others started to join us just for fun! A movement started as we began to prepare and plan for our Marathon Weekend. We discovered we had a lot of the same dreams and needs for this weekend. Many were nervous, some were injured, all were excited. This would be my second marathon after a disappointing first marathon less than a year before. Many would be running their first ever marathon. We needed each other and a bond was quickly formed. Plans were made to meet, to hang out together and to run together.
      We met up at the race expo on Thursday, shopping for merchandise, picking up our race bibs and shirts and planning the rest of our weekend.
The early expo crew! So early, I'm still asleep apparently!
Several of us were lucky enough to get into the social media runDisney meet-up on Friday morning where we were able to make even more magical memories.
Fun at the social media meet-up with runDisney!
We also spent time listening to the inspiring speakers at the Expo and cheering on those that ran the half marathon on Saturday. We even met for a carbo-loading session at Ghirardelli’s soda shop in Downtown Disney! 
CorralG carbo-loading at Ghiradelli!
Yes, I ate that all by myself! This girl can eat!
     Sunday morning, we all met up at the ungodly hour of 4:30am before the race! You could feel the nervous excitement in the air. We were really doing this! We had a few photos taken and then moved on to bag check and the long walk to our corral. Once at our corral we HAD to get a picture with our group name – the corral sign!
     As we waited for the race to begin we sat in a little circle just chatting about life and things in general. It was a very relaxed way to wait for the race.
Captain Linzie & Coach Marcia
     As the corrals finally began to move out – we were second to last – we became more and more awake & ready! Our fireworks went off and we even got a “Corral G Gladiators” shout out from the announcers. No one knew who we were at that time but by the end of the race I’m pretty sure everyone knew!
     Looking back, it’s amazing to me how quickly the miles flew by! The others may not feel the same but we did have so much fun! We stopped for pictures and chatted and laughed the whole way! The first few miles were in the dark, lit only by street lights or Disney lights. As the sun began to rise, we were heading thru the gates to parking at the Magic Kingdom.
      As we headed past the Contemporary Resort and towards the Magic Kingdom we saw this:
I have never seen the movie “Hercules” but I have always identified with this song when it comes to my running and really my life: searching for that place I truly belong. "Go the Distance" was the song chosen by the runners as this year’s marathon song. I was so happy! They also played it before the start of the race earlier that morning.
     Next it was time to enter the Magic Kingdom. This is the only park I have never run through! This is also my first Disney race in daylight! As we rounded the corner of Main Street and headed toward the castle, it was very hard to contain my excitement and my tears! Even now as I remember, the tears still flow. It was so magical! We were running on Main Street, USA!!!
So unbelievably fabulous to RUN down Main Street, USA!!!
I snapped so many pictures and as we neared the castle I tried to get a self portrait in front. Kinda hard but I got it!
     We also stopped for some family members to take our picture together then headed off to Tomorrowland yelling and cheering! We were so pumped up! We stopped for almost every character throughout the Magic Kingdom! The lines weren’t too bad and the Cast Members were very efficient with taking photos and handling multiple cameras and phones! They were so amazing!
All the Beauties and the Beasts!
The best part of all was getting to run through the castle! I’ve seen so many pictures and videos of this! I had wanted to do this for such a long time and now here was my chance! And what was I thinking as I ran through? Make sure the photographers can see me! I want a good picture of this! Well, I think I got what I wished for! runDisney, feel free to use this in your promos! I don’t think you can get a better shot!
After we ran down the ramp of the castle, we stopped for a couple group shots in front then it was off to Liberty Square and Frontierland!
CorralG made it thru the Castle!
We lost a lot of time with all of our stops inside the Magic Kingdom, but we made up quite a bit after we excited the park. We ran past the golf courses still fresh with morning dew and glowing in the sun. We ran past the Grand Floridian resort, my favorite, and past the Polynesian resort.
      Next stop, the most exciting of all! Well, for me anyway!
The Walt Disney World Speedway - Always heard, never seen...Until now!
     Inside the Walt Disney world Speedway we found the entire track lined with cars of all kinds from all eras!
Sweet Vette!
     For a car girl, this was really cool! I took so many pictures – of cars! How silly! But I wanted to remember them! I should have stopped and had my picture with some of them! We did stop for the cars from the actual movie Cars though!
     After the excitement of the speedway it was a long trip to Animal Kingdom. The sun was rising higher in the sky and it was warming up! The next few miles ran through much of the hidden backlots of Disney. We saw their very large nursery of beautiful plants and flowers, storage for props for events like the Flower & Garden Fest and as we neared the Animal Kingdom there were several Cast Members out with various types of animals from sheep to snakes! We entered Animal Kingdom from the back of the park which is different from all of the night races I have done. Running thru the parks at night is awesome, especially Animal Kingdom since it closes at dusk but running thru the parks in the daylight is just as fantastic! We of course had to stop for a group photo in front of Everest!
Hard to see, but that is Everest in the background!
     We were halfway through! It was getting hotter and we were slowing down but we all tried to keep each other going! The long trek down Osceola Parkway began at about mile 14. We started to spread out at this point. There were spectators to cheer us and some entertainment but my favorite part were the quotes along the way.
My favorite quote of many on the roadside...Also on our medals!
     We gathered up at the Mile 16 sign. I needed a picture with my lucky number!
Me & my lucky number!
     We headed into the ESPN Wide World of Sports at about mile 17. This is where I felt like around every curve something new and unexpected might happen! The Mile 20 Spectacular was coming and we really didn’t know when or where (other than around mile 20) it was going to happen! No one knew what to expect and we were all anxious to find out just what it was!!!
Pit stop at ESPN WWOS - thanks Disney Leigh for snapping this!
     We took a long break and did lots of walking thru the Wide World of Sports. A few of us got our second wind here. It was a nice break! When we hit the track at the sports complex I was all excited! I LOVE running on the track at WWOS! It’s so bouncy! I loved running it at Tower of Terror and I loved running it this day! 
Me running the track - bouncy, bouncy!!

Loving being on the track at ESPN WWOS!!!
     As we left the track, we wound our way thru the parking lots and out of the WWOS onto the road. As we rounded the corner, the Mile 20 Spectacular began! It was out on the road and as we neared mile 20 the road was strewn with LARGE characters from various Disney movies! So much fun to see and get pictures with!
A VERY BIG Genie from Aladdin!
Me & Jill with Mike Wazowski!
     Right before the Mile 20 banner, there stood the three we were all racing for! Goofy, Donald and best of all, Mickey! They are usually NOT on a race course in my experience so to have all three right there was super cool to me! And of course, we stopped for pictures!
Me & the crew!

#CorralG & the Crew

     After the picture we all gathered in a line, holding hands and crossed the Mile 20 mats together! I REALLY wish there had been a photographer there to take pictures of that! 
Mile 20 banner & timing mat
     Wow! We only had six more miles to go! We were so excited and happy! We were having a great time! But we were also tired! At this point we had been on the course for over five hours! We headed towards Disney's Hollywood Studios. As we came down the familiar route - every other race I had done entered this way - we saw the Tower of Terror. I reflected back to Wine & Dine Half and the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. Every other time, we entered in the dark shadows of the Tower. Today the sun was shining brightly, lighting up the Tower and everything around it! It was glorious!
No dark shadows this time...
     We stopped for a few pictures in the Studios and I think at this point we were all becoming a bit delirious! We were being very silly and having lots of fun! I think it may have been the only thing that got us through those last few miles!
Linzie was dead at this point...
     As we left the Studios, I got really excited! I knew we were getting close to the finish because the Wine & Dine Half follows a similar route to the finish at Epcot. I entered my own little world at this point, taking it all in that I was actually running and finishing this marathon. After all that I had been through to get here! It was an amazing feeling!! Once we turned onto the Yacht Club resort, we gathered as a team again and entered Epcot through the back of England.
Great Britain at World Showcase, Epcot
I was so excited to be able to run through World Showcase, my favorite part of Epcot. As soon as we hit France, I asked Linzie to snap a quick pic!
My France...
I was having so much fun and enjoying this time, but my team was starting to break down. We were getting near the end and they were feeling it! We did a lot of walking and stopped for a few pictures but not too many. We wanted to be DONE!
YES! Mile 26! We made it!!!
The famed Halleluiah Chorus at Mile 26! Lovely!!!
     The energy level of our group increased significantly as we neared Spaceship Earth. It was time for our BIG FINISH! And oh what a finish it was! In fact, you can watch it here... (Thanks, Erin, for filming us!)

     We made quite a scene to say the least and quite honestly felt like stars! The crowd loved us and waved and cheered. It was the best race finish EVER!
The #CorralG Conga line finish!!!
      But once across the finish line, we all realized that we had really just finished our marathon - some of us for the very first time, others battling injuries, but all of us FINISHED! We hugged and laughed and cried! It was truly the most magical of all marathons!
The sweet taste of a Disney Marathon finish!!!
     I've run alone most of my running career. I've run almost every race alone. I thought I preferred that. I always tell everyone to run your own race! And yes, sometimes we just need to do that. But there are other times, magical times, when you decide to put you aside and be a part of something bigger than yourself. CorralG became that. I had my slowest marathon that I will ever have. But you know what? I also had the best, most unbelievably fun, magical, EPIC race of my life! (So far anyway! Who knows what will happen at our CorralG reunion at Wine & Dine 2013! You may want to be there!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Testing, Testing

     The mind is a powerful thing. I decided a few days ago that I was going to meet my Galloway group for their run this morning. I was going to walk the distance or go as far as I could. They had 11 miles on the training schedule for today. I had completed 4 miles at a very fast pace (only walking) on New Year's Day. I was pretty sore afterwards. But I'm pretty sure it was just from muscles that hadn't been used that way in a while. The pain eventually subsided and I was fine. But I was still a little worried about going that far today. I haven't run at all for 3 1/2 weeks. I haven't tested my shin and the pain has pretty much gone away. But I was still afraid that the first time I ran it would start to hurt again. But somewhere also in my brain, I believed that I was healed. I just had to keep pushing that thought to the front of my mind.
The video, the taping...
     I purchased some KT Tape on recommendations of several of my runner friends (and as some insurance for me!). I taped myself last night in preparation for today's walk. Hoping that it would help with any pain before, during, or after. It was my first time taping myself and it was pretty interesting! Thank goodness for the videos and also the amazing customer service through their Twitter account! I tweeted with them a few times last night after I had completed my taping and felt rest assured that I had done it correctly.
Ready to go this morning! Doesn't it look nice with my shoes?!?
     When I woke up this morning there were little twinges of pain in all areas of my body. Don't you love how the mind can play with you! Because I know that's exactly what it was! I headed to my group run at 7am. I was very excited to see everyone again and they seemed pretty excited to see me too! I expected to be walking alone and trying to keep up with some group, but lucky for me one of my friends showed up to walk with me! We were the last "group" to head out. She walked the first 2 miles with me and then let me go on my way. It was nice to have her company! My pace was pretty regular for the first couple miles with my friend. We did pass a few groups though! And then when I started off on my own with my music playing, I was really cruising! For those of you involved in the Disney Marathon weekend here's a question for you. I put my playlist that I have set up for the marathon next weekend on shuffle and guess what the first song was that came on?? The song that we'll have at the start line next Sunday for the marathon - "Go the Distance" from the Hercules movie! I took that as a good sign!!
     So, I have a pretty competitive spirit! Okay that's an understatement! I have a very competitive spirit!! As I was walking today, I would see groups ahead of me doing their run/walk routine and all I wanted to do was pass them! Now mind you, I'm still walking but at a really good pace - about 13 minutes a mile! I caught up to several groups and eventually switched to the other side of the road because there were just too many people in my way! :-)
Saw this on Facebook today - I thought it fit the day!
     The entire first half of the walk - 5.72 miles - the only time I ran was a couple times across the street. It felt really good! But I stayed with my walk and kept up my fast pace. I also never saw my group! I don't know where they were and then as I started back I still couldn't find them. I was starting to think they got lost! It was strange! As I came to about mile seven, I decided to do a little bit of a test run. I was feeling pretty good. I decided to run from light pole to light pole. That seemed to be a good way to set up a certain distance for myself. It wasn't very far at all! But it was further than just running across the street. I did it and it felt good and it didn't hurt! I went back to walking and then I found another light pole and decided to run from that light pole to the next light pole! This distance was a little further. It felt good still. But my lungs and heart were definitely experiencing some extra work that they hadn't done in a while!!! I continued in this manner and passed another large group of run/walkers.
Looks like an EKG, but this was my timing on my walk according to my Garmin - you can see where I ran!
     Right before mile nine, as I was running another distance, I suddenly saw my group across the street!!! I kept running further and further to catch up! I snuck up behind them and said "I caught y'all!" They looked very surprised when they turned around! I started walking at that point and they continued with their run/walk. When they ran, I couldn't catch them but when they slowed down to their walk it was very easy to catch them. In fact I even passed them! Now, my group is "Group 5" and remember I went off last after about 11 groups or so. Pretty significant that I caught them, I think! They went off for a potty stop and I kept going, again throwing in a few more runs before I made it back to "The Donna" headquarters.
My splits - Definitely picked up the pace!
     For the entire walk/run of 11.25 miles I kept an average pace of 12:56. Not bad! And I got the distance in! That was even more important to me - to get the distance today! But the best part of the whole thing was me pushing myself a little further and testing myself with the run. They were never very long, not even a quarter of a mile, but they still felt good and gave me hope. And hope is everything!!!
Post run - Tape is still on, leg feels good AND I have coffee!
     On Monday, I will try again with the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill. That will be a true test of whether or not I can run a distance. I truly hope that I can make it all the way up to a mile and if I can do that perhaps get past that mile! I haven't done that in over a month! It will be a huge accomplishment to run pain-free. I now have faith that it really could happen. And, that in one week, I will be able to run/walk the Walt Disney World Marathon with my fabulous friends!