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Thursday, January 16, 2014

That Dopey Thing

This is a bit lengthy so grab a drink and some GU and settle in 

Now that life has settled down and I am not waking up at 2:50am to go run it is time to sum up all that happened in 48.6 Miles.

January 9-12th I ran 48.6 miles via 4 races. a 5K, a 10k, a Half-Marathon, and a Full Marathon. These races took place in the "Happiest Place on Earth" Disney World.

Later it would be referred to as the "Happiest F@*!ing Place on Earth," but I digress.

How did I decide to do the Dopey Challenge? On a whim. And then I dragged Sara kicking and screaming into it, too.

By the time we signed up for Dopey I had done one half-marathon and a handful of 5Ks and just started CrossFit. Some crazy part of my brain said "You can do it...lets do it." So in April 2013 I signed up for the Dopey Challenge... Asthma and all.

I continued to run and CrossFit and complete two more half-marathons, but no marathon. Dopey was going to be my first marathon.  Maybe not the smartest idea, but a crazy one.

I ran my fastest Half in Richmond in November and saw visions of sub 5 hour Marathon, and then I strained my left calf at the start of December.

My training came to a halt and visions of a sub-5 Marathon vanished. I ran a final 15 mile run in December, but never ran my final 20 mile long run.  I kept up with CrossFit during this time and that was what saved me.

If you are keeping track- the first time a I ran since December 10, was January 9. Yup I did Dopey on minimal training.

By January 1st, I was panicked, but determined to do Dopey. Thanks to the support of my freinds and an awesome coach I gained my confidence back.

Soon January 8th rolled around and I was flying down to embark on something I never thought I could do. The fact that I was no longer scared of running due to my asthma kept me going.

The Race Expo was a blur full of nerves and funny photos (I have to take my signature photo).

Soon it was time to sleep and get up for the 5K.

As far as 5K's go you would think this was uneventful, but this was the first time I'd run in almost a month. I was nervous, but ready. In keeping with Disney tradition Sara and I went in costume as Belle and 'The Wardrobe.' Good news is I was the only Wardrobe.


This was my first 10k. Yup, I went straight from a 5K to a Half-Marathons. What can I say? This was a fun distance and an enjoyable, but humid run. We were missing our friend Katy Beth who had to miss due to illness, but we ran as Black/White Minnie and Steampunk Minnie

By this point my left calf was starting to get a bit upset with the amount of running I was putting it through. I had been lent a Voodoo Mobility Band, which was a HUGE lifesaver. I also had packed many other mobility items in addition to Epsom Salt. I was ready for the worst.

I decided to use KT Tape on my calf to make sure it held through till the Marathon. I had everything banking on the Marathon. The weather was HOT and HUMID. Most everyone doing the Dopey Challenge was taking it easy during this race, but I really hate that. Luckily Sara reigned me in a bit. We ran a route that we first ran in February 2013 and felt 100% better.

Marathon Prep
That's 4 lbs of Epsom Salt. ...all of it was used up by Sunday.
In an effort to have the freshest legs possible I took an ice bath. Let me tell first it sucks, then it feels great, and then it sucks. As the evening wore on my nerves grew. The thought that I had not run more than 15 miles and was about to partake in  a 26.2 mile race after running 22.4 miles the previous days seemed insane. WHAT WAS I THINKING? It is times like this that social media is a benefit, I reached out on Facebook and got a huge amount of support. With that I went to bed with thoughts of finishing in my head.

Needless to say, not a lot of sleep was had. Eating breakfast was an nearly impossible task. The one bright spot? I had refreshed legs. My legs were ready for whatever 26.2 miles could throw at me.

Off we went to the starting line and we found our familiar 'Wrecking Ball' serenade. I then realized I'd forgotten the KT Tape for my calf, meaning I was about to test my calf out on an insane volume with no support. This thought brought the nerves back and almost my breakfast.  Soon we were directed to head to the start line (1 mile form where we arrived) and after I went to the restroom for the millionth time we were in our Corral.

I should mention I gained notoriety for my ability to hop the 4ft corral fence, sprint to the bathroom, sprint back, jump the fence in time to amble forward with my corral. Seriously, I got a lot of cheers and high-fives, so if nothing else I can win for a speedy pee.

Awhile back Sara and I agreed to race the Marathon separately since I tend to run faster. So prior to Mile 1 I bid adieu and plodded along to an unknown destination.

The first 5 miles were uneventful, other than the fact that I was running them. You see often with asthma I have to do a run/walk to get the breathing under control...but not today. No today was a great breathing day. Entering the Magic Kingdom was magical and on I plodded.

Mile 7 I felt a spasm from my calf and made a stop for some BioFreeze, by some I mean a HUGE glob. If nothing else Disney is great for the sheer amount of BioFreeze they have on hand (Sara edits to add that by the time she got around to the Med tents at Mile 16, they had run out of the stuff, and didn't have any left through the end of the race). I also grabbed some Vaseline because my camelbak was rubbing my neck. I had run with a camelbak before, but never in a tank OOPS. I still have the marks from that...lesson learned.

On I plodded. Soon we came upon the speed track, which at first was cool...and then you kept going. It felt never ending.

Miles 9-10 became emotional because I decided to dedicate them to people who always believe in me. Thinking about all the times people supported me or pushed me made the tears cry. I mean my parents drove me to endless dance classes and sat through some rough shows for me. My brother, though he may never admit it, pushed me to be better. His endless torment and taunts helped me to see what I could do. I could go on, but it would take awhile. Know that if you are reading this, you were in that mile with me. Also crying while running is not the prettiest, but this wasn't a beauty contest.

Somewhere in here I took a pit-stop...that lasted ages. Seriously the one spot with a large span between bathrooms was when I had to go and wait 15mins. Farewell sub 5 marathon time. It was nice knowing you!

Somewhere around the 11.5 mile marker my calf got real angry and then seized up on me. No amount of BioFreeze could dull the pain. I then realized that a goal of a 5:30 marathon was going to be impossible. This was the start of what would be a really dark second half of the marathon. I was frustrated and pissed. I had a great first few miles and was conservative with my pace and yet here I was hobbling along.

Before I go on, I want to say that never once did the thought of quitting cross my brain...never once. I was going to finish and that was a fact of which I was sure. I got myself into this and I was going to get myself out.

Mile 14- The mile the music died...No really.. I was now left to spend 12.2 miles without any music. I should note that many Disney Marathoners have described Miles 14-22 as the worst because the route is on the highways and they were not lying. Tears were free flowing at this point, old ladies were passing me left and right and I was just alone with my thoughts. I am my own worst critic and in those miles everything came out and I was letting it rip on myself. Many f-bombs were dropped those miles.

The worst thought though, that was was the one where I thought "Why did I ever think I could do this?" It took until I got my medals for me to start shaking that one off. I lost all confidence in myself. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew how much I would hate myself if I quit.

Mile 16.5 at this point you are on a 4 lane highway with a huge median separating  the 4 lanes. So you can see a mile marker on the other side and I turned around to see what mile those runners were on...they were on 21. I didn't think I could feel worse, but realizing I had 4.5 miles just to get to that point felt horrible.

Mile 17 is where you enter ESPN Wide World of Sports aka...the land of switch backs to create 3 miles. aka the worst. Somewhere in ESPN there was a fuel station of bananas and let me tell you...that was the BEST BANANA I have ever had. Seriously I think I might have cried even more.

Miles 20- For most people Mile 20 is a wall, not for me. I had tried to mentally think of the run to Mile 20 as the hard part and the 10K as the easier part. So when I saw Mile 20, realized how truly slow I was moving I vowed to run...because it was just a 10K. So through the pain I hobbled along, only allowing my self to walk for 1-2mins max. My stride was the worst thing in the world, but I was moving faster.

Miles 21-25- These miles blur together somehow. Around 22 some spectator thought it would be a great idea to yell "YOU LOOK GREAT" let me say that is not the thing to yell at someone whose hair is falling down, is sweating, is sunburned, and is crying. My response? F**K YOU PABLO. no lie...I yelled that. You see one of my CrossFit Coaches says that exact statement...usually when you are suffering so that was my natural response. Dear poor spectator...I'm sorry.

Entering Hollywood Studios meant that the finish was closer and that I was slow as ever. The photos of me in this park are depressing. My head is down and my face is scrunched up from crying. Somewhere in here someone read my name on my bib and said "You got this Rachel, You are doing it" and that was enough for me to lift my head.  Later another gentleman would say "Keep it up young lady" and I would. Soon Epcot approached and I knew I was nearly there.

Around this time I was also 99% sure they had forgotten to put out the mile marker for 25. Seriously it felt like HOURS went by between 24-25. I voiced my concerns to my fellow runners, and they just laughed. Let me tell you the relief I experienced seeing Mile Marker 25 surpassed the feelings of the previously mentioned banana.

At this point I entered the world showcase section of Epcot to many spectators. Up until this point I was avoiding the high-fives and looking spectators in the faces because I was defeated. Silly I know, but I felt embarrassed by my race and the pain wasn't helping. Up ahead I heard a father say to his young daughters (around ages 2-4) "Hold your hand out for High-Fives." I realized I was going to be the first runner to pass them so I steered toward the side and held out my hand for the smallest high-fives. The girls shrieked with delight and I started crying...again.

Hearing the joy they received from encouraging me, even though I was a runner whose hair was falling down, was sweaty, was sunburned, and was crying,  shook me out of my slump. I realized that rather than enjoying my first marathon, I had spent most of it pissed at myself. Pissed because one muscle got over worked. I couldn't see the huge accomplishment I was about to achieve. I couldn't see past the fact that I hadn't run in almost a month before doing this and I was about to finish.

At this point another runner joined me and asked if I was alright (read: still crying) and I said I was and he looked at me and said "I have a feeling I will be the same way when I see my wife." He went ahead and I was left to realize that I needed to soak in this moment.

Soon the 26 Mile Marker came into view and the Gospel Choir Disney always has at this point. With renewed vigor I decided pain be damned I'm sprinting the final .2

So I did...I sprinted with everything I had. Arms pumping I heard people cheering me on and with a high-five from Minnie Mouse I crossed the finish line.

I had done it. I had finished my first marathon. I had finished the Dopey Challenge. And you know? It still hasn't sunk in. I may have the medals and the shirts, but it doesn't feel real just yet.

Soon after finishing I called my mom and updated Facebook that I had survived and wasn't dead. I was overwhelmed by the cheers and support I received on Facebook. None of my friends cared what my time was they were proud of me and that blew me away. They were proud of me even as I wasn't. How could I not realize how awesome it was? Days later I am now proud. I finished a MARATHON with asthma and a bum calf, but even those things aside...I finished it.

I learned a lot about myself during that marathon, but I also realized the huge community of friends and family that I have supporting me. Knowing I had people tracking me and waiting to see when I would finish kept me going those lonely miles. I had told people I was going to finish, and I keep my promises.

So thank you to everyone. You got me through it all and helped me see the accomplishment and for that I am grateful.

What now? I rest and then start training for Paris. After that who knows where my feet will take me. Maybe an Ultra- Marathon. Either way I'll finish the next challenge because I'll be ready and I know that I am capable of finishing.