Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 Walt Disney World Marathon Review

When I crossed the finish line at 5:32:49, I was not sure how I felt. It could have been elation. It could have been an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It could have been a flood of emotion. It wasn't. I was just glad it was over. I am pretty sure that if it was a multiple choice answer it would have been D. I just don't know if D would have been "All of the above", or "None of the above".

I was cold. No. I was freezing. And I was in pain. I was done.

I had signed up for the race for two reasons. I had been running regularly, and I wanted to set a long range goal so that I would keep on running. And Expedia had a killer deal on vacation packages to Orlando. Now, nine months later, I was kind of wishing Expedia had had a killer deal somewhere warm...

We were supposed to catch a redeye out of Phoenix on Thursday night, to land in Orlando on Friday morning. On the way to the airport we were listening to the news when they said that all the flights going through several southern states were cancelled do to lack of defrosting equipment. One of them was Georgia. We were going through Atlanta.

We have never actually been to Florida on vacation together. We have tried, and failed, more than once. 10 years ago were booked for a day at Disneyworld, and a week in the keys, when they declared a mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Ivan. The next year we were booked on a charter sailboat for a week in the keys when our dog got sick. The vet bill came out to the same amount as the boat charter for the week. To the penny.

This was the third time Jane and I had tried to go to Florida on vacation. If this trip gets cancelled, I will never try again. Florida will be dead to me...

Flight left on time... No problems. Of course we got delayed leaving Atlanta due to the airport only having one plane de-icer...

We landed in Orlando about 10am. After picking up our luggage, we caught the shuttle to the rental car agency, and headed out to the Health and fitness Expo at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex. It was very cool. Packed with people. Wall to wall runners. It was great checking out all the shirts with the different sayings like "26.2 miles - what could go wrong?" I think most of the racers were just looking for warmer clothes...

When we picked up our race packets, I had to show them the results from the half marathon that I ran back in October. They moved me up to Coral C. In hindsight, all this accomplished was that there would be more people starting the race behind me that would pass me later on as the wheels fell off my race plans.

Friday night we went to Epcot Center and walked around the world. We had a spectacular dinner in Italy, and saw the sites in 30' weather. We had thought that we dressed appropriately, but froze our a$$es off. I guess the only time I have ever spent out in 30 degree weather before, I had been skiing. It is easier to stay warm skiing and wearing long underwear than it is standing in line for an hour waiting to go on a ride.

The next morning we got up and went to the Nike Store at the outlet mall, along with about 500 of our closest running friends. It had been both raining, sleet and snow, before we got up. It was crazy. It was like shopping on the Saturday before Christmas. Every person that was on vacation in the state of Florida that day was piled in to that store buying warm clothes. Including us. We knew that is was going to be cold, and thought we had packed for it. But after one night walking around in it, we both realized we did not bring enough.

My plan had been to be in bed by 8pm on Saturday night, so that 3 am would not come so early. We were supposed to be at the bus in front of the lobby no later than 4am. So when Jane made us get in line at the Test Track ride, I started to get concerned. Not only did the timer say that the approximate wait time was 30 minutes, but again, it was freezing frikken cold outside. Needless to say we got on the bus at about 8:30 to get back for our 8:00 bedtime...

I had picked this hotel because it was the closest one to the starting line. You needed to be on the bus no later than 4:00am to get to the staging area. You then had a 20 minute walk from there to the starting line. We were going to try to walk instead. I set the alarm for 4 am. An extra hour of sleep, and a shorter walk. It took us about 12 minutes from the door of our room to get to the starting line. Perfect...

There were some 16,000 runners that finished the marathon, so I am guessing there were more than 20,000 that started it. When we got to the starting line, it looked more like a million. I guess when you pack that many people onto a stretch of road under an overpass, it just seems like a lot. There were people wrapped in blankets, ski parkas, sleeping bags, and even some in shorts. I was wearing five layers of shirts, two layers of tights, a head band, a hat, gloves, and a scarf. And I was still cold.

Jane and I spent a while in line for the porta potties, and then we split up to go to our separate corrals. She was in H, and I was in C. It was getting close to race time, and I was starting to get nervous. I really wanted to make my goal time of four hours, and I did not know what or how much the temperature would affect it. It ended up taking its toll more than I had imagined possible.

When the race started with a burst of fireworks off of the top of the overpass, it scared the crap out of me. It was still pitch black out, and they looked awesome as they shot up into the sky.

It was go time.

The first bit of the race was like an obstacle course. I had to work my way around all of the items of clothing and blankets that people were tossing as they started to warm up. It was like being up near the stage at a rock concert. Wall to wall people. You could not pass anyone at this point even if you wanted to. I was being bumped from behind from the left, and from the right. And I did my best not to run up on the guy in front of me. It was about three lanes wide, and became even more congested as we reached the first corner, which was a one lane on-ramp. People were hopping over the curb and running in the grass along the side, while dodging street signs, power poles, and the like.

We circled around the big golf ball of Epcot, and then went into the park and ran around the world, along the lake. Since it was very early in the morning, the park was still closed. Disney tried to make up for this my having employees (cast members) line the course at intervals and cheer on the runners. They were awesome. They were in whatever their uniform was for their job. So some were in coat tails, some were in costume; some were just dressed for the cold weather. But everywhere we went, they cheered.

By the time we reached mile four we had maintained a 9:30 pace and I tossed the scarf and the head band off to the side. I was surprised that we had been able to go that fast, so I was happy with it. By the time we reached mile seven, I removed my top 3 layers, and threw two of them away, and put my top layer back on.

My back had started to tighten up before the race, and I had to keep adjusting my posture trying to find a position that seemed to cause less distress. By mile three my hips started to ache. It was not something I had dealt with before, and it freaked me out a little. By mile seven, I actually started to think about the possibility that I might not finish this race.

Mile SEVEN, and I am already worried about not finishing. WTF!

We ran through a lot of service roads in the areas between the parks. They were very dark, lit by only generator light stands. It was a little scary running in the dark knowing that if you tripped and went down, you were going to get trampled by the 500/5000 people behind you.

We reached the happiest place on earth in the 10th mile. Running through The Magic Kingdom was amazing. Main street was all lit up and glowing with excitement. At this point my hips were in so much pain I was ready to quit, but running through here made me forget all about it. For a little while...

During my nine months of training runs, I had never had a pulled muscle, cramp, or even a pain that was more than an annoyance. By the time I ran through Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I had reached the point where I knew that if I did not walk for a while, I was not going to see mile 26.

I don't remember when I stopped. It was somewhere between mile 10 and mile 12. I walked for about five minutes. I walked through the water station. I pretty much walked through most of the water stations for the rest of the race. The ground was like a hockey rink from spilled water and PowerAde that had frozen on the ground. It was like skating, it was so slippery. But as ice covered as they were, I did not see a single person go down the entire race. That was pretty amazing, considering how much ice there was.

About mile 13 I got a cramp in my right groin muscle. Now let me explain. Prior to mile 13 I didn't even know there was any such thing as a groin muscle. But when it cramped into a knot, there was know guessing. I had to pull over to the side of the road out of people’s way. Since I had never had anything like this happen before, I wasn't even sure what stretch to do to help stretch it out. I did side lunges and it helped almost immediately. I stretched for a couple of minutes and then got back into the race. I made it maybe 300 yards before it cramped again.

The pain was the sort that made me stop almost immediately. I went over to the side of the road and stretched again. I would run until the cramps were too much, and then I would pull over and stretch. By mile 16 I was cramping in both legs. It went on like this for about 10 miles.

It is odd how the power of people cheering makes the pain a little less noticeable. When we would reach a spot where there were fans cheering, I found myself running faster and smiling more.

At some point around mile 23, we came around a corner to see a full choir of about 40 people all dressed up in there robes and singing their hearts out. It was a seriously cool surprise. The fact that they were out there freezing there a$$es of and singing for us made me want to run harder, to pay them back for their efforts.

I did the first half in 2:18:34. I was actually happy with the time considering how poorly it felt like it was going. Between the half way point and mile 20, I averaged about 15 minute miles. I guess that is what happens when you run about 300 yards at a time. From mile 20 to the end of the race, I think it lasted 3 days 7 hours, and 28 minutes. At least that is what it felt like...

When we started to circle the lake at Epcot, letting us know that we were nearing the end, I had nothing left. The cramps had subsided for the last couple miles, and I realized that I had hit the wall at some point, but because I had been stopping due to the cramps, I did not realize it until I kept on running. As we got to the last corner on the lake and I was looking over at the big golf ball we had circled at the beginning of the race, all I wanted was to get off my feet and out of the cold and wind.

When I crossed the finish line at 5:32:49, I was positive how I felt. I was ecstatic. I was elated that I was done. My friend asked me later at what point in the race I said to myself "I will never do this again". I told him never. All I could think of was redemption. Even during the worst of the cramps, all I was thinking was that I hoped the next one isn't like this. My time is going to absolutely suck. I obviously need to run another marathon to redeem myself. A five hour marathon is not how I'm gonna go down...

They handed me a Mylar blanket immediately after I crossed the finish line. I just carried it for a minute, thinking what the hell is this thing going to do for me in this cold. I was still holding it in my hand when the girl put the medal over my head. Wow. This is the medal I have been working towards for nine months. It felt heavy around my neck. It felt good.

When I got to the spot where they took pictures, I was still carrying the thin silver blanket. I thought I was still grimacing from the pain and the cold when they took my picture, holding my medal. (Later, when I received the e-mail of the picture, I had actually been smiling ear to ear... go figure). After the picture taking, there was a woman volunteer who was doing nothing but helping people put the blankets around themselves. The wind was blowing so hard that you couldn't have done it by yourself, especially since my fingers were not working because of the cold.

I checked my phone to find out where Jane was. I assumed she was back at the hotel already. She also had started the marathon, but since she had an injury in September, she had not trained, or run for that matter, in over 3 months and I assumed she did not get very far. Her last text showed that she was at mile 18. I was in shock. She was still running. She had not run in over 3 months and she was going on 5 1/2 hours. My phone rang and it was her. She was at mile 23. She was actually going to finish. And I was going to stand out here and wait for her. Shi+! I mean... Good for her!

By the time Jane crossed the finish line, I had been done for about an hour. I was ready to die. All I had on been the running clothes that had not able to keep me warm while I had been running, let alone, now that I was stopped. But I wanted to be there for her, and I wanted us to get our picture taken together, holding our medals. She crossed at 6:16:40.

Her goal had been to run/walk as far as she could, and just enjoy Disney and the experience. Jane’s first marathon was a spectacular success. Mine was a humbling experience. By the end of this week, I will have signed up for my next marathon. I would love to say that I am going to reach my 4 hour goal, but at this point I will settle for running a race from start to finish, without melting down. Without walking.

This paragraph is for all of you people that are thinking about doing something hard. Or thinking about quitting something, because it is hard. Or even worse, because you are embarrassed about your performance, and don't want to feel stupid. Right now I am telling the whole world that my first marathon was a complete and utter blankety blank. The key word in that sentence was "first". Get back on the horse. Don't give up. It's still January. The year is still young...

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010- a look back - a look forward

This posting took me about two and a half hours to put together last night. When I was done, and ready to publish it, Blogger lost it. It was probably user error. So tonight, I am starting over. I hope this is not a sign of the year to come:)

Nearly every positive change in the world started as a goal. That is how we get better. We take a look at something we are doing, and make a choice to improve the outcome. Last year you saved $300 per month, this year you want to save more. You set a goal of saving $500 per month. That is a goal.

Earlier this year I did a story called Goal Setting for runners. There are a million different stories and articles about goal setting on the web. Actually I just googled "Goal Setting" and there are 3,510,000 listings. That is a lot. This is not one of them. This article is two things: a reminder to you that goal setting is important, and it is that time of year when you can find the most support to help you with your goals. And number two: This is my way of making my goals public. My way to help me stay accountable to my goals. My public declaration.

This is the time of year that your local gyms are full. They have all the people that joined and didn't come last year, back again. And they have all the New Years resolution people from this year in there trying to get back in shape. Running shops now have lines on weekends of people getting fitted for their new shoes. 5k's and 10k's scheduled for the nest few months get an added burst of participants from all those people who put running on their list for 2010. Again.

If you are one of the people that already goes to the gym, or already goes to the track for Wednesday Night Workouts, you may find yourself having to wait in line for the next piece of equipment on your circuit, or having to run around a few more slow runners on the track. Hey, it's that time of year. Some people resent these people that are trying to get back into shape. Some people call it amateur month.

You know what I say to these already in shape dedicated complaining athletes? Get over it!

Last year I was one of those people that decided to make a change in my life. Last year, like the previous 20 years, I told myself "This is it. This is the year I am going to get into shape." Last year I did it. I started at the beginning of last year, and am still going. Maybe this is your year.

I started by doing P90X. I got up at 4:30 am in the morning, six days a week, and stretched, kicked, punched, jumped, stretched, lifted, and pulled. I was in pain on a regular basis, and I burned off a lot of calories. I hated it. An hour and a half of yoga two times a week made me want to shoot myself. I started substituting running on the days that I was supposed to do yoga. The more I ran, the more I enjoyed it. I decided to substitute running for the day we did Plyometrics.

It did not take me very long before I had replaced P90X with running altogether. I loved it. I found my Chi. I logged about 900 miles in 2009, and I ran my first half marathon.

It does not matter what you choose, just choose something. Find something that is good for you, that you enjoy. This is a running blog, so there is a good chance that running is what you found. But if you start replacing your runs with yoga and Plyometrics, to the point where you are working out 4 or 5 times a week , and you are loving it, that is the right choice for you.

Don't get me wrong, I still have a weight problem. I am running the Walt Disney World Marathon next Sunday, and I am in the best shape I have been in 15 years, but I am also close to me heaviest. I wrote about Weight Loss and Running a while back, but apparently I did not read it. Just because you run three or four times per week, doesn't mean you can overdose on Carmel Cone Ice Cream whenever you want. Me legs are in great shape, and my cardio is also strong. But my core is still jello. That is the part I am taking on in 2010.

2009 also saw the launch of this blog, Run Into Shape. I have always thought about writing, but could never come up with a subject, or a medium, that was quite right. Now I have running, and just about everyone writes a blog:) Of the 300 runners I follow on Twitter, I think over 100 of them write a blog. With that many running blogs, the fact that Run Into Shape is the number four most followed running blog on Facebook makes me proud. Thanks!

My 2010 Goals:

Running: I am running my first Marathon this upcoming weekend. I am going to Disney World to mark off one of the most important and difficult items on my life list so far. I plan to run a total of three in 2010. I also plan to run two half marathons. I am aiming to break four hours my first race, and would like to qualify for Boston in my third. My guess is the Qualifying for Boston Goal will be back on my list for 2011.

We are also running the Ragnar Relay Del Sol coming up in the end of February. This is a 12 person team running three legs each for a total of about 203 miles from Prescott to Mesa in Arizona. We will start at noon on Friday and finish about 8pm on Saturday, about 32 hours or so. This is going to be a blast. Our team is made up of people from Seattle, Phoenix, and some Seattle Transplants. We had only one requirement for the people we chose for our team. We don't care about how fast they are, they just have to be fun. If I am going to spend 30 plus hours crammed into a van with you, I want to make sure they know how to have a good time.

That, and you need to be able to finish your three legs. So I guess that makes that two requirements :)

I am shooting to log 1250 miles total in 2010. This will require about 25 miles per week for the year. This will need me to average 4 runs per week to run this many miles.

Training: In 2009 I ran the miles. In 2010 I am going to actually train. I will do hills, track, tempo runs, intervals... and more hills. This is a real goal for me. A hard one. I don't do hills ( see The Hills are Alive).

Health (Eat to Run, not Run to Eat): It is time for me to put the same effort into controlling my diet that I do into my exercise. I have proven to myself that I can stick to the running, now it is time to work on the intake. I was doing very well when I was wearing my Body Bugg earlier in the year. But since I quit using it, I have stopped counting calories, the one sure way to control your weight. I will not go on a diet, just watch my diet.

I want to lose 25 pounds in 2010. There, I said it.

2010: Get back on the Body Bugg and log my food. Every day, every meal. Take in less calories than I burn. It is simple. Just do it.

Keep on Bloggin: Look for a face lift to my blog sometime in march. My goal is to write an average of once per week this year, for a total of 52 stories. This is a much bigger commitment than in 2009.

I am a believer in competition. Why do something if you don't want to do it well. In blogging, there is a scorecard. They are called followers and income. Since you need to make $100 before Google will take the time to cut you a check, and I am only up to about a total of $.34, I think I am a ways away from making any money from my blog. That means I track followers. On blogger, a good blog will have 100's or 1000's of followers. I have 26. I want to reach 300 followers on Blogger, and 300 on Facebook. That would make Run Into Shape the most followed blog on FB, and somewhere about 5079th on Blogger :) I will settle for #1 on FB in 2010.

I have other goals for 2010. I hope to get promoted. I want to take Jane to Europe for our anniversary (13th). I want to launch Inspirational Runner. I also have some financial and budgetary goals. But today we are sticking to the point of this blog.

What are your running and fitness goals for 2010? Are you planning on running? Sign up for a 5k. Are you making a mileage commitment? Are you going to run a certain amount of times per week? Do you want to run a marathon? Here is your chance to put them in writing, and make your public declaration. Loud and Proud! Leave your 2010 goal as a comment.