Oh Hey, Victory. Pretty Sweet Setup You Got. Think I’ll Stay.

3 Oct

WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The spoils!!! Finisher's medal!!

We went, we carbo loaded, we stretched, we ran, we fucking CONQUERED.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, October 1, 2011 Official results:

Straight off the Run Disney website!

Because I know it’s small and hard to read, and also because I’m super proud of myself right now and want you to read and appreciate this, here’s what it says:

Chip Time: 2:15:57

Overall Placing: 2390 of 8254 finishers (Disney said there were 10,000+ entrants)

Sex Placing: 1065 of 5213 women

Division (Women 25-29) Placing: 262 of 1105

My first time out, with a bum knee, I managed to average 10 minute miles and beat my tentative goal time by 14 minutes. WHAT’S UP?! BRING IT, LIFE!! This weekend has been the most amazing mix of nerves, doubts, excitement, worries, aches, pains, adrenaline and incredible highs.

After spending yesterday icing and soaking and napping and recovering, I am just going to spill out my impressions of the weekend and this first of what I am sure will be many races. I am trying to organize my thoughts, but no guarantees since a lot of it blurred together and I’m not sorry. I earned the longwinded-ness.

I got a REALLY good massage on Friday morning from my neighbor John who owns a massage therapy place in trade for some design work. He spent a solid hour on my legs doing stretches and myofascial release and working out all the kinks. I think I gave him a workout trying to un-knot me and am reasonably sure he is the reason my right leg was able to make it through the race as comfortably as it did, so HUGE thank you to him. 🙂

My on course survival kit, sans Sport Sheild and phone.

I also went and spent a solid 20 minutes comparing knee braces at CVS. I was that person that takes them all out of the package and stands there contemplating the merits and shortcomings of each and talking to myself. I decided on a dual layer system of a light support sleeve with a moderate support adjustable brace over it. That fucker was gonna be SUPPORTED. Saturday morning I woke up earlier than I planned and couldn’t sleep any more so I made a protein shake and 2 pieces of peanut butter toast and watched a movie with my feet up to distract me from the butterflies. Went over my checklist, making sure I had all my gear and necessaries, squashed that last little bit of Self that wanted to listen to my achy knee and stay at home rather than risk mid-course failure and headed out the door.


I spent most of the ride over texting with Brittany about our pre/during snack choices, hydration issues, dinner plans and nerves, texting my friend John (not the neighbor) who would be using the spectator pass I bought about logistics and meeting up at dinner, and painting my nails green to match my running shorts. Hey, I wasn’t in costume. Gimme a break. As we pulled in to the ESPN Sports complex, I saw them setting up the start line and had a mini freak out. I’m not a real athlete!! My knee hurts, I haven’t really run in 2 weeks, I’m gonna crash and burn in front of thousands of people, I shouldn’t be here. SHUT UP, SELF!!

Packet pick up, hotel check in, party pass reassignment and seafood alfredo dinner all went relatively smoothly and we were on to pre-race prep. Saw Brittany for just a few minutes when we picked up our goody bags at the expo and then separated again until race time.

Acting like confident athlete types on the bus to the starting area. That woman in pink is a bad ass, BTW.

At 7:30 it was real no shit get dressed and on the bus go time. John so very helpfully hunted down the ice machine and packed my camelback full of ice for me while I changed, put all my Gu’s in their respective pockets, packed up, laced up, braided and pinned the hair, pinned on my bib and took a deep breath to quiet down the nerves. They dropped me off by the bus loop and I met Brittany in line. We both kept fluctuating between excitement and panic as we rode on the bus over to the start corrals and saw various people and race areas. Nikko called me on the phone to give me a last minute peptalk and encouragement as my long distance support team and my mom called to say they would be able to be at the finish line to see me, which we didn’t think would be possible. This was getting scary real.

Doesn't do it justice at all.

The start area was a massive field and there were people EVERYWHERE. 10,000 people all ready to run a race (some in costume, LOTS in tutus), chatting, stretching, warming up, dancing to the music being played, laying on the grass and taking pictures. Insanity. We all had to be there an hour ahead of race time so they could close the roads we were running on, so we had time to sit there and stretch really well and get good and nervous. They had Mickey and Minnie up on stage and were leading dances and checking in with the relay switch off point. It felt like a festival. 9:30 finally rolled around and it was time to get into line in our corrals to start. I thought I’d be in the last corral, but it turned out I was in the middle. Right smack in the middle of 10,000 runners. WOW. Since Brittany and I were in different corrals, we hugged, wished each other luck and parted ways. I was on my own. It was scary.

I totally stole this from Brittany because I was too busy setting up Glympse to take a pic. This is what it was like starting the race! SO MANY PEOPLE!!

As we were waiting to go, stretching our calves on the curb, they started playing Zombie Nation and counting down each corral. Fireworks went off at the starting line as each group started the race 5 minutes apart. It was chaotic and remarkably smooth at the same time. Then my corral was up next. Everyone around me started moving and buzzing. My heart was hammering. It all hit home like a wave. I’m here. I’M HERE. RIGHT NOW. All the training, all the long weeks of mileage, doubts and soreness, foam rolling and protein shakes, heat strokes, breakthroughs, life and emotional breakdowns, all the minor victories and major struggles have culminated in this moment. And I am here. I made it. I. MADE. IT. I am standing at the starting line to this race and nothing is going to stop me from crossing the finish line.

The crowd was so thick I wound up walking the first tenth of a mile or so since I couldn’t go any faster than that. Had a moment of internal fighting where I was simultaneously pissed and thankful for the mob. It kept me slow and reasonable out of the gate while the music and adrenaline would undoubtedly have made me go way too fast. Once we made the turn out onto the main road it got quiet and all I heard was feet on pavement, people chatting and coaches asking how knees or ankles were and advising on hitting in the toe box. I hopped up on the grass median and started passing people on the outside looking for a more open spot while I waved to all the cops working the event. I started latching on to various runners ahead of me going about my pace and letting them split holes in the crowd. I would just basically draft behind them, slipping through the holes before they closed again, dodging fairy wings and antennae on costumes. I followed a pair of middle aged guys running about a 9:30 pace for about a mile or so this way until I hit an open-ish area and passed them on a hill.

A little after mile 2 The race leaders started passing us on the far side of the divided highway. WTF?!?! We were at mile 2.3 or so and these guys were already closing in on 8!! I had a moment of feeling extremely mediocre and then looked at the literally thousands of other runners right next to me and behind me, all of whom were cheering for these super fast guys and each other and just enjoying this and it went away. I reminded myself I was DOING THIS. I was running a half marathon. Relax. Enjoy this end goal of all my hard work.

They had the floats and dancers from the light parade in Magic Kingdom out on the course. The guys on stilts in light up suits were in pairs in the middle of the course and along the sidelines at intervals along the roads encouraging us and giving out high fives as we ran past. One of them raced me for a few seconds since I was in an open spot at the time and then high fived me before I went on. They had stages set up with live bands playing at different points. All of them were playing THIS SONG when I passed and it was playing on speakers too….this seemed to be the theme of the race. It will be stuck in my head for a month now. A couple other runners and I were joking about it.

It wasn’t until a little after mile 3 that we hit Animal Kingdom. It was kind of neat running up to and through the front gates and on into the park. Felt like a mob scene. I had been consciously keeping my stride really short with higher turnover to protect my knee and hips, but it was starting to get uncomfortable. When I got into the park I accelerated a little bit to pass some people and fit through some holes and was running more of an 8:00-8:30 mile. It actually felt better to stretch my legs out and go faster for a little bit so I maintained that through most of the park. This was sort of tricky since the paths were a bit narrow around the park and I had to keep my eyes peeled for holes. I stuck to the outside mostly, but I felt kind of dumb since I totally missed that I was running around the tree of life because I was concentrating on dodging people, watching the uneven ground and all the twists and turns the track was taking. I was aware of the race photographers snapping photos as I was passing twice and thinking “at least I’m running right now…”. It was really nice, there were trees overhanging the paths and they had special lights and things out all along the track, so there were things to look at even without noticing the HUGE tree…..yea…

The whole race, all along the track there were Disney employees cheering, clapping and encouraging us. I know they were paid to be there and do that, but it still was really nice. Especially since I was on my own with no music for the whole race. As much as I usually scoff at that kind of insincere crap, most of them really honestly did look like they were cheering for us and excited for us. They were telling us we looked great, we were so close to __miles, keep going, we were awesome, etc. A couple times they yelled out “Whose first half?!” And we’d put up our hands and cheer and they’d give an extra loud “YAY!! GO GO GO!!!” It was cool.

I didn’t take my first walk break until just before mile 6 out in the parking lot/highway where it was dark and quiet and my hip started hurting. I walked about a half mile, I think, and then stopped on an overpass to stretch out my hip and quads before starting back up. I ran out of water in the camelback about this time too. I remember miles 6-8 being pretty rough. There were a lot of hills going up and down on-ramps on the way between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and no music, employees or entertainment and my hip was really starting to kink and give me grief. Part of this we were running along the highway and lots of cars were honking at us. I caught my impulse to flick them off since it wasn’t Rockledge and it was likely a supportive honk from a family rather than an asshole trying to impress his friends.

I remember seeing one of the light floats sitting on the side of the course at one point and being confused for a second because all I could see was 2 orange stripes on a bunch of blue and thought it was an 11. It didn’t look like a mile marker and the next one should have been 8…weird…Oh. It’s a peacock. That’s its legs. Never mind. Around the corner and up another hill. I heard the GPS on my phone crap out from low battery a little after mile 8, so I took a short walk break and switched it out so Glympse would keep running and my long distance people could keep watching me slog along. Glympse held the track and place and everything!! I didn’t have to reset it!! SWEEET!!

Running through MGM (Sorry, Hollywood Studios) was neat. We went right past Tower of Terror and down the main strip with it all lit up. I was in a clear spot then so got to coast and enjoy it and nobody was telling me not to run, or to be careful because I’d trip or run someone over. They were all encouraging me to run faster! I stopped for my second stretch break on the side of the road shortly after that in one of the back areas of the park. When I stretched it made my leg feel great for about half a mile and then it started cramping again right at the top of my quad and on the outside of my hips. URG. I started really getting tired around 10 miles, but reminded myself I had just broken another personal record. No matter what, this was now the farthest I have ever run and I’m only 5k from the finish. I can do this. Right after the 11 mile marker I stepped off to the side for my last stretch break to make the rather loudly yelling hip kink shut up and get me to the finish. I basically did some yoga on the side of the race course. Deep lunges, crescent pose and pigeon pose since my hands were too sweat slippery to hold on to the post for standing stretches and my leg was shaking a lot.

Leaving MGM heading out around the parking lot beside the lake towards the boardwalk, Epcot and the finish, a good 60 degree breeze kicked up off the water and felt like air conditioning. It was absolutely awesome. I swear I heard angels singing. Gave me a little boost as I ran along the water.

At mile 12, I sent a text to John and Dad letting them know I was closing in on the finish (just said “12!!!!” I was running, after all. Don’t text and run, kids). It is absolutely amazing how close and how far that finish line felt at that moment. Between there and 12.5 miles I hit the wall. My legs turned into lead, I felt like I was running in water, my hips were screaming, I was thirsty and tired and had a moment of panic as I wondered if I could make it.

About that point, I rounded a corner and there was a whole street lined with supporters and employees holding signs and cheering, one of which said “ONLY 400 YARDS LEFT! YOU DID IT!” I almost cried and I pulled out whatever couple drips of steam I had left stuck to the walls of the tank and pushed. I don’t know how, but I pushed and sped up. I could hear the finish line music and announcer. It was close. I was almost there. I WAS GOING TO FINISH!

Came through the last S turn and just when I was starting to contemplate walking, I blasted into the bright lights and crowd and ran across the finish line. I stumbled back to a walk and kept moving through the areas funneling us out of the way to the post race area half wondering if I had really just actually crossed the line (It was huge and lit, there’s no way you could miss it). A girl on the side lines about a hundred yards down put the finisher medal around my neck and I started choke/cry/wheeze/laughing as I remembered to stop my Garmin timer. I tried to stop moving for a second and realized I would fall if I did.

I pulled out my phone to text Nikko and John and thanks to Glympse, I already had a text from Nikko saying “YOU DID IT!!!! YOU FUCKING DID IT!!! I’MSOFUCKINGPROUDOFYOOOUUUU!!!!! 😀 😀 😀 :D” I started laughing and gasp sobbing. I walked through the rest of the lane, got stopped for an official photo where I think I smiled…I was in a haze. I got my snack and checked bag with my clothes and a compliment on my tattoo from the attendant and started texting John to see where they were as I scarfed a banana and tried to calm down my breathing. I was still in shock and disbelief. Did I just do that?! I JUST DID THAT.

I'M A FUCKIN' HALF MARATHON FINISHER!!!! Sitting on the ground recovering.

I figured out where John was and that I was in fact still outside Epcot and made my way to the entrance. As I walked through, John yelled for me and waved and then ran around to where we were filing into the park. He scooped me up in a huge hug and huge congratulations; it all hit me and I broke down and started crying and laughing. All the doubt and worry and nerves and pain and sleepless nights, and I DID IT despite all of it. I FINISHED!! The feeling was overwhelming and incredible. We stumbled a little ways into the park and found a quieter spot to sit and stretch. As soon as I stopped moving, my legs went out and I was sitting on the pavement shaking, crying and laughing whether I wanted to be or not. John was reminding me to switch legs stretching and helping me get some Powerade and being excited with me while we waited for my parents. I have never felt anything like that. I was totally spent and covered in sweat and salt crust, achy and cramping and caught in an emotional whirlwind. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing. I couldn’t stand up on my own power, but I felt stronger right then than I have in months and months.

I wound up being too nauseous and tired to really enjoy the Food and Wine festival, so we left early. John helped hold me up as we walked out to the car and up to the hotel room. That shower and sleep are some of the best I’ve ever had and the victory pancakes the next morning were DELICIOUS.

It seems odd to me that so many people told me I was inspiring. Me? No. You have me confused with someone that does amazing things. I’m just a crazy, messed up girl that’s too cheap and proud for therapy that found running instead.

This has not been a journey for the faint of heart, but if you really want it, I can absolutely guarantee that it’s worth it. I’m still no Wonder Woman and the coming months are still likely to be confusing and hard, but something changed on that course. I’m different now. Stronger.

I’m a runner now. I’m a half marathon completer. And it feels REALLY damn good.


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