Okay…I’ve had about 6 weeks to reflect on Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend, and it’s still something that I haven’t let go yet. I feel compelled to do a series of blog posts so that A) I can revisit what it was like; and B) hopefully others can read this and understand that they can do it too. I initially planned on doing a single blog post; however, I think that, knowing how wordy I can get, it might rival a Tolstoy novel. The initial goal is to do a pre-trip report and then go from there, whether it be a post for each day or several posts (I can see the latter happening very easily). This entry starts the process with the events leading up to the Weekend.
After the 2012 WDW half, I knew that I needed to take a break from running. I injured myself both before the race (fairly significant pain on the outer part of the left knee…all together now… “it sounds like the IT band”) as well as during the race. I only made it about 4 miles or so into the race before it flared up and sent me walking the remaining 9+ miles. I don’t know if it was just ITBS or something else; all I knew was that the knee was feeling some fairly moderate pain for 2-3 weeks following the race.
I took 5 months off from any form of running in 2012 and started back up with short runs with my sons for a July 4th 5K. After the race, I shut it back down and started working on losing weight for the rest of the year. Marathon Weekend 2013 came, and tons of friends headed down for an extremely HOT race weekend. I got to relive the feelings that so many of them were experiencing, but it also got me longing for those feelings and emotions again. I knew in the back of my mind that 2014 might be the year for my first attempt at a full marathon. I also missed the camaraderie from my Team AllEars buds. Alas, however…my body was telling me that I had been treating it pretty crappy by treating me to my first ever gout attack in mid-January. That sidelined me for a couple of weeks. This pause from running allowed me time to focus on my doctoral dissertation, and I successfully defended it at the end of January.
I had signed up for the Illinois Half and started training for it in February, so I started ramping up the miles again. One of my most memorable runs ever happened during a conference in Del Mar, CA. Being in Southern California but used to Central Standard Time, I was wide awake by 4 am every morning of the conference. I decided to do something that everyone said was amazing…I did a run on the sand next to the waves. I listened to the waves crashing and felt…alive. I was the only one out there for nearly an hour…the moon glistened off the water and provided plenty of light out there. As the sun rose and Del Mar awoke, I enjoyed running by dogs and their owners enjoying the morning. I didn’t want to end that run, though I knew the conference was going to begin soon.
This beach run was one of the first times I felt comfortable running. Though I had run dozens of times before this particular run, I never really felt comfortable…I didn’t feel like I belonged out there. This run set the tone for an amazing day. The conference went exceptionally well; I witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen:
I had an awesome AWESOME dinner with fellow Economics-teaching cohorts from across the country, and, while I missed what sounded like an epic night at the hotel bar, I made tons of progress on final revisions of the dissertation.
Wait a minute…isn’t this blog post supposed to be about getting ready for the 2014 WDW marathon??? Well…that run did something for me. It proved to me that this could be friggin’ fun! Still, amid the training, I had IT band issues starting up again. Unlike the last time, however, I stopped running and, thanks to the advice of many friends, started working on strengthening my core muscle area. I even purchased my first foam roller and cussed more than I have in a long time as I started using it.
Around the same time, Team AllEars 2014 was preparing to form. There was a shocking announcement, however – this was to be the last year of the Team. I immediately knew I had to be on the team this year, and, since I more or less got the blessing from Sheri to do a race (when she heard it was the last year for TAE, she knew I was going to ask), that thought in the back of my mind about doing a marathon was thrust to the front of my mind.
Yeah, I’ve talked about the bucket list marathon, but actually signing up for it? Training for it? Surviving it? Finishing it? Those are all questions that I’m guessing most everyone has bouncing around their heads before they submit payment for their very first marathon. My first attempt at seeing how I was doing running-wise was going to be that Illinois half-marathon, but I was worried about the Team filling up before I saw how the half went. I bit the bullet and, when the early registration for AP and/or Visa holders opened up, I filled out the entire form…
…and stared at it…
….for about 5 minutes…
Was I really going to do this? Once I pressed SUBMIT, I couldn’t go back.
To quote a rather famous haunted Disney theme park attraction, “There’s no turning back now!”
Okay…the next three weeks were an absolute blur. I started working on things for the Team, setting up fundraising goals (I was going big…shooting for 3 times the minimum $500 amount required for the team), doing final dissertation formatting, and watching some friends’ updates from the 2013 Boston Marathon. I remember that I was talking in my ECO 103 lecture hall about my friends running Boston and where they were just as class was starting…I went to the computer console and looked for an update when I saw the breaking news about the first bomb going off. I didn’t have the computer screen directed to the projector, but I was constantly flipping between CNN on the console and Facebook on my phone as I was (attempting) teaching on the two overheads. There were a few students who I could tell were also checking throughout the class.
The entire running community, heck, the entire nation paused to watch the events unfold. Luckily, everyone who I was following was a safe distance away from the finish line and were okay. Suffice it to say, it was the talk of most of my circles for quite a while. This was around 2 weeks before the Illinois Marathon weekend, and a bunch of us running were wondering how this was going to change the experience.
The Mushfam made a trek to Disney World during the weekend that followed the Boston Marathon bombing, and it was definitely a bittersweet trip. I usually try not to watch the news while I’m on a Disney trip, but I felt compelled to with all that was going on. The Friday that we were at Magic Kingdom was the day of extraordinary sequence of events all around Boston that culminated with the eventual capture of the last remaining suspect. With many friends in the area, I felt terrible posting updates about being in the Magic Kingdom.
Later on in the afternoon, though, as we were just about to start our first experience with Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom for the boys, I received an e-mail from the Graduate School with a simple message:
The Graduate School received your final copies and they have been approved for processing. Congratulations on completing your dissertation, and best of luck in your future endeavors.
I showed the message to Sheri and let out this tremendous WHOOP! With all that was going on in Boston, I didn’t know if I should post something on Facebook with the news, but Sheri insisted that I do it. 178 likes and nearly 90 comments later, I think she had me do the right thing by posting it. We met up with a bunch of friends from the group that is affectionately called the “Moose”, and it was great to see everyone…many whom I have not seen for several years.
(Mini Moose-Meet...MNSusan & Hubbie, Badelves & Renee, Edcrbnsoul, Linda, & boys, DaisyDebbie & Dan, Squid & Ragtop, Monarchsfan16, Mush & Mrs. Dumbo (& boys), along with a cameo from AUPH...Brian and Wendy (argh..couldn't remember your ID over there!)).
The celebration was on, but I still had to remember that I had a half marathon in just about a week. The following week was a blur, though the Econ Department had fun celebrating it (and poking a little fun at me, too). I headed down to Urbana for the Expo and met up with friend and fellow Team AllEars teammate Stan Harris for a bit. We agreed to meet up prior to the race as we were both wearing our new tech shirts from The Marathon Show. We also met up with fellow Team AllEarsians Sara and Dana, who were also running that day.
The weather was perfect and the course was flat…oh, and there was a lot of support and entertainment all over the place. As I made the last turn to enter Memorial Stadium, I finally got to hear my name called over the loudspeaker (I never heard it at the WDW half marys). When I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had PR’ed the run, but I wasn’t sure how much. I looked down at my Garmin:
Was that right? If so, that was a PR by ov-ER TWENTY MINUTES!!!!!!!!
I guess you could say I had a pretty good week or so there.
Summer quickly turned to fall, and the training for the marathon had begun. I was doing a 26-week plan that was in Jeff Galloway’s books. I took a week off of running in late July to do a much-needed adults-only trip with Sheri to Napa Valley. It had been nearly 3 years since we had more than a night to ourselves without the boys, so I mean it when I said “much-needed”.
As luck would have it, the training plan called for 13 miles the exact same weekend as another half marathon that I signed up for: the We Care Twin Cities half. This was a smaller one and was local. I treated this as nothing more than a training run. The only problem was that I didn’t treat it as a training run…I came out of the chute too quickly and ran out of steam quickly. I did slow down to help someone who seemed to be struggling (it was her first half, and she was out of water and food, so I stayed with her, got her doing intervals, and shared food/water for a couple of miles). I was just barely under the 3:00 mark, but it was okay…in my mind, it was still a training run. I had a bunch of friends running this one, and I had a blast high-fiving them on the out-and-back course. I also had one of the traveling Team AllEars Muppets with me…Kermit! One of the volunteers, Pam Harris, made sure to give Kermie a shout-out!
From here on out, though, every long run would be a new “longest run ever” run for me. I hit 15 miles a couple of weeks later, and I started changing my intervals to follow my heart rate instead of how tired I was, and it started paying off benefits as my fatigue got pushed back quite a bit without a significant drop in pace.
My 17 miler scared me a bit as I felt my IT band twinging a little bit in the latter part of the run. Three weeks later, I broke 20 miles for the first time with a very conservative pace…and not ITBS issues!!! I did, however, hit the wall for the first time…around mile 18.5, I lost all energy and didn’t want to run another step. I received several words of advice from the veteran runners out there regarding the wall…Gordon Harvey, a friend and podcaster who helped plant the seed for me to try distance running, may have said it best in a post: “nicely done, Chris. The wall is there and you have met it. Rest of training is recognizing before you get to it, pushing beyond it. WTG!” Another three weeks came and went, and another long run was planned…I’ll let my Daily Mile entry tell the story:
Planned 23, got 22.2 in (had to get the boys from school). :30/1:00 ratio for the first 15 miles, then :30/1:30. Didn't like that, so switched again to :15/:45 to the end. 5:40:43 time, giving me a 15:22 overall pace. I think 22 at this pace gets me past the last sweeper spot (coming into DHS), & I'll have 1.3 hours to finish those last 4 miles to finish in under 7 hours. Barring injury, I think I'll be able to finish my first marathon (HOLY CRAP!!!). Cloudy, windy, mid-20s, and snowing (miles 14-20). Fueling: toast w/ PB 1 hr before. Honey waffle 20 minutes before. 3 Gatorade primer gel packs at 4, 8, and 15. GU at 16 & 20. Sport beans throughout (around 3.5 packs). 200 calories of PowerAde throughout (ran out of water/sport drink around mile 12...dry for 2 miles ARGH). Didn't really feel a wall, so yay me.
You can see that I’m really working the energy and the paces here in an effort to avoid hitting the wall. It seemed to work, except for my idiocy of running out of fluids for a couple of miles.
The weather was starting to warm up in Lake Buena Vista, and, after reading the updates during the 2013 marathon with the heat, I decided that I would be best served to do a little training in warmer and more humid conditions, so I grabbed a one-month complimentary membership to the award-winning ISU Student Recreation Center to work on their inside track (8 laps to a mile). I started off with a 6-miler (including my last magic mile that Galloway has us do in training…basically, it involves you tiring yourself out a little bit and then running a mile hard – there’s a formula that is used to estimate race pace).
The following day, I started experiencing a familiar pain in my right toe…right at the joint…on the outside. Anyone who has had that pain is likely cringing and saying in unison: “GOUT!” Unlike my first attack, where I had no idea what it was, I immediately went to the Doctor’s office and got on a fairly powerful NSAID. At the same time, I switched to an almost-exclusive water drinking regimen, cut out all red meat, and quit snacking on high-fructose corn syrup-laden foods/drinks. I had one more long run that I really wanted to get in…a 25-26 miler that I wanted to use as a dress-rehearsal. The problem was that I was supposed to be on the medication for 2-3 weeks. Couple that with the notion that runners are generally advised to stay off of NSAIDS 12-24 hours prior to a long run, and…well, you can see the dilemma I was facing. I started weaning myself off of the drug 3 days before (and ended up with a couple of pounding headaches in the process) and was drug-free 18 hours before the run. It was on!
I tried to make this final run as close to the marathon as possible…including various food breaks that were to be on the course. I made sure I had PowerAde instead of Gatorade (as PowerAde was what RunDisney offered on the course).
Yeah…after the run, I noticed that PowerAde had high-fructose corn syrup…which explained why the gout came back quickly after the run.
The 25 mile run required 200 laps in the rec center…I contemplated drinking heavily to get the room spinning, and then I’d run the opposite direction. I started off how I planned the marathon…:30 run followed by a 1:00 walk for as long as I could keep my heart rate down. Throughout the run, I received texts from fellow marathon runner (and Moose) Brian Swann as well as from local running partner Emily Gomolochak throughout the run…they REALLY helped! I had the bananas when they would be on the course, but I still ran out of steam around mile 22. I started walking and was about to call it a day at 24…mile 23 had a pace over 17:00. I took a chance and swapped out the podcasts and playlist that I usually run to over to a single song: INXS’s The Stairs. As it ended, I threw it on repeat and bumped up the volume. With each repeat, it got louder and louder. The energy started coming back, and I started to feel like I did back in high-school/college…the killer instinct I used to love! Mile 24 was about 45 seconds quicker than mile 23, and Mile 25 was an additional minute and a half faster than 24. I felt absolutely alive at the end of that run.
I was as ready as I could be for this thing!
Now all I had to do was be healthy and hope the weather was okay…