So I swore that I wouldn't do another Disney race...but then registration opened and so many of my running group buddies (aka "Team Ed," named after our awesome Marathonfest group leader) were signed up, so I figured what the heck...I would give it another shot. My sister was also doing it and I am a sucker for races.
I honestly was not that excited for this race until the expo. Any expo gets my blood pumping. I love them. I want to buy all the things and eat all the samples. Plus, Cigna and the AT&T Fam Cam were there, giving us the opportunity to take pictures and then have them printed out and sent to our email. Pretty dang cool! My favorite is the 360 photo that my boo and I took together. He was a good sport and put on the pirate hat with fake braids attached that I
I also liked this Cigna one (quality is bad, sowwy). The quote is so true.
I think I was also excited about this race because it had been a full two months since my last marathon, thanks to my Space Coast fail. My last completed full was the Savannah marathon in early November. I was ready to run long this time. Mentally I was refreshed and my body had been able to recover and take time off from running long. My last longer/faster run was the Jacksonville Bank half that I ran last minute with my sista two weeks prior to Disney and it was a PR, which was a good mental boost for me. I knew I could finish Disney comfortably. I figured I would run it with all my friends and have a blast.
And I did just that...sort of.
Race day morning:
2:15 am was our wake up call since my sis and I were meeting two of my friends Rick and Mike to follow each other to Epcot. We wanted to make sure we parked next to each other and didn't want to deal with the hassle that trying to track someone down at Disney can be. So at 3:15 we met up and moseyed on over to Disney. The drive was not bad and we were parked and walking up to the bag check area by 4:10.
We used the porta-potties (3 times for me), ate, and complained about how freaking early it was. Then we went back to our cars to nap for 30 minutes since we had so much time to kill. After our shuteye, we started the cattle herding walk to the corrals.
|Rick, Mike, myself, and Sarah before our nap.|
Ed, our group leader, had agreed to meet us in Corral I and start with us. He is a perfect Disney marathoner (has done all 21 marathons!) so this was extremely nice of him. If you are a perfect Disney marathoner, you get the very nice amenity of starting in Corral A. So Ed is a saint for coming back to Corral I. This also meant we could run on autopilot and not focus on pace so much. Ed is so great about keeping our splits consistent and making sure we don't go out too fast.
|Team Ed from left to right: Steve, Mike, Rick, me, Ed, and Bill|
We met Ed, took some group pictures, and waited for it to be our turn to run across that start line! Carissa, the best race announcer ever, gave Team Ed TWO special shout outs before the start. I have to admit, it was like being a local celeb for five minutes. Everyone around us was like, "Who's Team Ed?" and we got to respond, "It's us!" So that's my rise to stardom. I doubt I will ever surpass that notoriety.
So the start line loomed closer, Mickey gave us the go ahead, and we were off! It was just as crowded as I remember, which was a little frustrating, but it pans out around mile 5 and got a lot better. Miles 1-5 flew by. I seriously wish my running group could come to every race with me. Chatting with them and laughing as we run makes it so much fun. We passed the 5 mile checkpoint at 52:10 with a 10:26/mile pace. A little slower than I anticipated, but it was early. We had a lot of time to speed up.
|On our way to the castle! Photo credit: Rick|
Mile 6-7 are some of my favorite miles because you go through Cinderella's castle and Main Street. There are TONS of spectators at this point and I felt so pumped up! We decided to stop for a group photo in front of the castle. Normally, I am against photos during a race but I did not plan on PR'ing and so I figured, why not? Might as well get my money's worth. I am SO glad we stopped - our pictures are amazing!
|My favorite picture|
Before the castle scenes, I took a Powerbar Performance Energy Blend gel at mile 5 (my new favorite race fuel), even though I was not hungry. I knew I needed to fuel before I felt like I needed to. I also took a salt stick at mile 4. My fuel plan for the race ended up being like this:
Powerbar Performance Energy Blends/Cliff gel: Miles 5, 11, 14, 17, 19.5, 23
Salt sticks: Miles 4, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19.5, 23
My fuel plan worked like a charm. I was never exhausted, hungry, or tired during the run. I had a LOT of energy and felt great after the race. Also, the next day I was not nearly as ravenous as usual. Not sure if I can attribute it to my fueling, but I definitely think fueling properly and so efficiently made a big difference.
Back to the race...
Miles 7-14 were filled with the Richard Petty speedway, Animal Kingdom, Everest, and knowing that there was a long stretch of highway ahead of us. We hit the 10 mile checkoint in 1:43:10 at a 10:19/mile pace. Faster, but not as fast as I thought we would be by that point. I thought we would be in the 9:5x range for overall pace. It was not something I was concerned with though, because I wasn't feeling too well during these miles. I was honestly getting cranky and was upset I still had a half marathon left to run. I stopped for a picture with Rafiki with Mike and Rick just because I figured I would get done around 4:45 and that is not even close to a PR - so a picture wouldn't hurt my time at all.
|Don't I look awkward?|
We hit the halfway checkpoint in 2:15:31, with an overall pace of 10:21/mile. Our pace was dropping, and I could feel it. Rick asked me how I was doing, and I told him I was tired. Ha. Well, too freaking bad because we were only halfway done, he told me. I let him know I didn't plan on PR'ing and that we could all have fun together and finish whenever we finished. Might as well enjoy it! That was my plan, anyway......
Then came mile 14. I am not sure what happened. We were going through a water stop, and the group stopped to walk, and I continued to jog. If I walk through a stop, I will walk the rest of the race. I have to keep my legs moving. So, I did. According to my Garmin, mile 13 was 10:49. Mile 14 for me was 10:03. I could feel that I was moving faster. But I felt okay. Actually, I felt great. So I started running faster. Mile 15 was 9:53. Mile 16 was 9:50. At this point, I had lost my group. They were behind me and I thought to myself that I had to take advantage of how good I was feeling. I was experiencing second wind, which is so rare for me. I felt ON TOP OF THE WORLD.
I put my headphones in at Mile 16 and told myself that I had a ten mile training run. I was so pumped. My music playlist was new and the songs were getting me hyped. Mile 17 was 9:20. Mile 18 was 9:23. Mile 19 was 9:46. Mile 20 was 9:43. I was running faster, passing people, and feeling so awesome. Never before have I felt so alive while running, so happy and free. Yes, it sounds cliche, but that's how it went down, people. I was killing it. I passed the 20 mile checkpoint in 3:23:20, with an average pace of 10:10/mile.
I realized at mile 20 that I could PR. Not by much (my current PR was 4:34:37), but maybe by a minute. I made that my goal. I could not stop to walk these last 6 miles. I could not focus on the pain. I just had to run. AND I DID.
Pictures that Rick took around mile 24-25 during the final stretch in Epcot.
The last 10k of my race (or the last 6.60 if you are going by my Garmin) was an average 1:08:30. Average pace of 10:22. Incredibly fast? Not even close. Off my 10k time by quite a but. But the last 10k of a marathon is where I usually bite the dust. As in average mile splits in the 12:00/13:00 minute range. Not a pretty site. But this race was different. Yes, I hurt. Yes, I wanted to be finished. But I kept going. I didn't stop to walk once. I pushed through it all. And when I looked at my Garmin at mile 25 and realized that I could negative split this race, I ran hard. I gave it all I had.
I finished in 4:29:22. First half: 2:15:33. Last half: 2:13:49. I RAN NEGATIVE FREAKING SPLITS.
AND I GOT A 5+ MINUTE PR.
I still can't believe it when I think about it. The PR I knew I could make happen around mile 20. 5 minutes is great, and I ran a sub 4:30 race, which I am proud of. But nowhere near as proud of the fact that I ran a SMART race. I paced myself correctly. I fueled perfectly. I listened to my body. I ran the last half of a marathon faster than the first half. That feeling is so incredible, and I am still on a runner's high.
|Finish photo with Team Ed!|
I am not an elite athlete. I am not fast by most people's standards. But I am a marathoner and I am so proud of my accomplishments. This was my 11th marathon and by far, my favorite. It has ignited my love for the distance and for the sport of running right when I needed it. It has made me excited for 2014.
Congrats to everyone that finished any one (or all four) of the Disney races last weekend! BE PROUD of what you accomplished!