Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Walt Disney World Half - January 12, 2012

I thought about titling this post "Amy's First Half Marathon."

And then thought that using "Amy put biofreeze where?!?!?!" as a title may be more apropos.

But regardless of what I've titled this post, it will be both about my first half marathon experience, and how my brain doesn't seem to want to work after running for (literally) hours on end.

Grab some popcorn, this is going to be a long entry...

The months leading up to Disney's half marathon had gone fairly uneventfully. I had followed the Galloway training plan,  and much to my surprise, it wasn't as grueling as I had thought it would be.

In November-ish, I ran a 9 mile training run and it went well for the first 8 miles but my energy petered out after that, leaving me thinking I would never be able to increase my distance. During my 11 mile training run, the first 9 miles were relatively easy, but the last 2 miles left me completely spent, thinking I would never be able to increase my distance. In my 12.5 mile training run, the first 11 went fairly well, but I had to push myself so hard to just finish the last 1.5 miles that I was left thinking I would never be able to increase my distance. Do we see a pattern here?

During my 14 mile training run on Christmas Eve morning, I was able to reach 13 miles fairly easily but then (trying to force myself into overdrive) I pulled a groin muscle and hobbled the last mile home. Had this been the actual half marathon, that last 0.1 woulda got me.

But thankfully It was only a training run, and I had a couple of weeks of taper before my half marathon where I could let my body rest and relax (rest and relax being subjective here as I somehow managed to perforate both eardrums, then rupture one of them, then get incredibly congested with a headcold, leaving me well outside of the definition of being in tip-top condition, but I digress).

Disney Marathon Weekend was a weekend long trip, despite the fact that we were only running the half marathon on Saturday. The week leading up to leaving, when my balance wasn't off and I could spend more than 2 minutes vertical, I packed and allowed myself to get excited. On Thursday night, before heading to bed, I read my new issue of Runner's World Magazine, and was excited to read a story written by veteran runner Marc Parent about his first half marathon experience ("Oh my God- I just ran a half-marathon"). I would recommend this article to anyone about to run their first half marathon, and took pride in the fact that I was about to undertake a feat that many veteran runners have yet to do. *That* was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Friday before the half marathon, Ray and I drove with our friends Kevin and David to Orlando where we checked into the All Star Sports Resort and then went to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up our packets. Having worked the expo before, I knew it would be crowded, but I was still really intimidated by the sheer volume of people there. 

Then we went off to Epcot, had an early dinner and it was back to the hotel and to our room by 8pm for a good nights rest. Only I was like that little kid in the Disney commercial who was too excited to sleep. I took some sleep aid, and some DM strength cold medication, but still, I tossed and turned. 

Before I knew it, our alarm was going off at 3:00 am. Yikes. It wasn't too long ago when I used to go to bed at 3am (or frequently later), and now here I was getting up and lacing some shoes to go run at 3am?!?!?

Well that's not true. We had to wake up at 3:00 am and have our laces tied by about 3:20 to be out the door and on the shuttle bus over to Epcot at 3:30 for the 5:30 gun that started the race. Ray and I both started in corral G, so we didn't actually start till just after 6:00 am, but that didn't actually change the time we had to be at the corrals. Let's just say it was Zero dark 30 by the time we got to the bag check area and they opened it up so everyone could then walk the 15 minutes to the start line. To wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Me and Ray before the race
And then it was finally time for our wave to go. And I was anxious. And jittery. And nauseous. And nervous. And full of self doubt. And I really had to pee. But there was no time. Before I could figure out where the nearest port-o-potty was, it was time for our wave to go. And we ran. Ray and I had an agreement that (because he runs a much faster pace than me) he would run at his own pace and I would stay behind, running my own race. But the excitement of the crowd got to me, and I started off WAY faster than I had intended. Normally, where Ray would pull away from me after the first 0.1 mile, I stayed right on his shoes until I could see the first mile marker. Veteran runners will tell you to be careful about the crowd pumping you up too much and starting too fast. But I didn't think that would happen to me. Little did I know, right?
So I started too fast. I ran my first 3 miles at about 14:50 per mile (which to me is WAY too fast, but please don't be rude about how this is still slower than your pet snail), and my energy was burning out fast. It was also really hot. I also hadnt slept much the night before. I was also alone, running with a crowd that was less-than friendly. 

I guess I figured because Disney bills itself as the happiest place on earth, that the 35,000 people who were running alongside me might also have been happy as well. Or at least friendly. I had people bump into me and jostle me with complete disregard, I had multiple groups of walkers refuse to give right of way even though I was going faster than they were, I had groups force me off the road, I heard people just be outright nasty to one another. 

Running isn't a pretty sport, but one thing I had hoped to really feel was that sense of camaraderie that runners always talk about during races. I got very little of that, so little in fact that if I was gauging all half marathon experiences by this one, I probably never would have run another half marathon at all (but I'm getting ahead of myself in the story). The reality of my thought process at the time was that I was in the middle of a huge crowd that never seemed to spread out much, and I felt completely and utterly alone.
People run Disney for any number of reasons. And everyone has a different expectation of what this experience is like. For me, while I knew that the majority of the race is actually outside of the parks with only about a mile through Magic Kingdom and about another half mile at the end through Epcot, I guess it never really occurred to me that the majority of this race would be on the really boring access roads with little scenery to occupy my time. Runners don't even reach Magic Kingdom until around mile 6, so that whole first half of the race is somewhat boring visually.

But then all at once, you round a corner and you are running down mainstreet Magic Kingdom toward Cinderella's Castle. And suddenly the race meets all of your expectations. I was starting to have some nagging achiness in the groin muscle I had pulled the day before Christmas, but how can you not get excited when you are suddenly running through the happiest place on earth with thousands of excited people cheering you on?
Then I rounded the corner into Tomorrow Land and the crowd seemed to spread out a little, but then (without spectators cheering me on), I was really hating the world. I hated my music selection, I hated my shoes. I hated Ray for leaving me behind. I hated my groin pain. I hated my friend Shannon for getting me motivated with this running thing in the first place. And thinking of a video that I had watched the week before about what a guy thought about during his marathons, I hated musicians Carlos Santana & Rob Thomas. And I hadn't even hit 7 miles yet! 
(edited to clarify that I didn't really hate Ray, Shannon, Carlos Santana or Rob Thomas. I really love all of them, but I was in a bad place and lashing out with my anger. I'm sorry to you all.)

After running through Cinderellas castle and out a back exit of Magic Kingdom, we were on access roads again. It was then that I learned that without visual stimulation, I got very bored. Whereas, normally on a training run, I could put my earphones in and go off into la-la land and work out any difficulties that I might be having in my personal life, at Disney I was completely unable to do this. Because I had to constantly be on the lookout for someone running me off the road of elbowing me, I never got to that place deep inside myself. And because I never got there, I was beginning to obsess about the things that were wrong. About how awful I felt. About that increasing groin pain. About how I was quickly losing my pace and falling further and further behind.

And then my mind stopped working altogether. My groin hurt really badly, and desperately wanting it to stop, my (broken)mind decided that it was a muscle pull just like other muscle pulls, and could be treated as such. So passing a medical tent around mile marker 8, I put my right hand out and took a couple of pumps of biofreeze. Without even questioning it, I pulled my pants open with my left hand and jammed my right hand down my pants to apply the gel to the inside crease of my right leg. I knew there was menthol in biofreeze, but I was careful to not get it anywhere near my panties or my nether bits.

Look at all those people still behind me!
Fat chance! The first few minutes after I applied the biofreeze, I felt fairly good. But it was all downhill from there. It didn't take long for the moisture in my clothing to pick up the menthol in the biofreeze and deposit it directly where I really didn't want it. For the next 4-5 miles, my lady bits were completely on fire. I was able to smile for the cameras and take joy in the fact that there were still thousands of people behind me when I glanced over my shoulder at the top of a ramp, but I started having visions of crossing the finishline and pouring water and baking soda down my pants. At mile 9, I quit my running intervals and chose to walk straight through.

And just like that, I was entering into Epcot parking lot and into the last 1.1 miles of the race. I was wiped. It took everything out of me. I was dehydrated. And exhausted. My groin hurt. My underwear felt as if I had crushed habanero peppers into it. I was passed in the last mile by an elderly speedwalker using a tri-wheeled walker (true story). But I finished.
I did it!
I was slower than I had anticipated. But I finished.

Then I went to the medical tend, poured water down my pants and had my groin area packed with ice.

Note to self: Biofreeze doesn't belong ANYWHERE near there.

Chip time - 3:35:28
Pace - 16:14 per mile
5K - 46:12
10K - 1:36:06
15K - 2:30.15
OA - 21774 / 43126
Div - 12145 / 13128


  1. Loved reading about your first half, Amy. You made me laugh and cringe a little with the biofreeze! :O I'm having trouble imagining it being hot in January, though. Big difference in Orlando and Fort Worth!

    1. Veteran Disney runners will tell you about the time in 2010 when it was so cold that it was freezing rain and the water at the water stations froze so that volunteers had to crack the top of the water before handing it to runners.

      Last year, I wore 2 sweatshirts and a windbreaker to the half marathon and was still cold (steam was coming off the runner's heads), but during the full marathon I had a tanktop on under my windbreaker and was sweltering.

      When you travel to Disney to run, bring warm AND cold weather gear. You wont know what you'll need.

  2. Replies
    1. After the fact, really funny. During, not so much. thanks for reading.

  3. I laughed so hard I almost peed. Sorry about the biofreeze, but dang that is funny. Usually when someone says their lady parts are on fire, it is a good thing, but I guess this time you didn't want those loins ablaze!

    1. glad i could make your day a little more laughter filled, love.