It was going to be a long weekend. I'd run back to back (x6) races before, but struggling with Bronchitis last week, and still feeling iffy on my foot at times, I knew that the dreaded 2am wakeup call for the first race in the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge would come too early.
It was a girls weekend with my friend Brina, Michelle (her best friend growing up), and Michelle's cousin Kelly (who believe it or not, is a legitimate reigning beauty queen formerly holding the title of "Mrs. Arkansas Woman" and currently holding the title of "Ms. Woman World Elite Grand Champion"). I've got to say, these were absolutely amazing women, with such amazing stories to hear, and though we probably stayed up way too late each night (considering we had 2am wakeup calls), I wouldn't have had it any other way. But still, it was hard to raise myself up out of that bed in the morning. Anyway, I digress.
We got up early, got dressed and headed off to the start line. Like always with the Disney races I have experienced, the crowds were monstrous. We stopped for a quick photo standing in front of the start line, and then trekked over to the start line party where we waited. And waited. And waited some more.
By the time we were allowed into the corrals, my feet were already on fire from standing around so much! Brina and I were in a different corral than Michelle and Kelly. The plan was for Michelle and Kelly to run separate, but for Brina and I to run together. You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?
I had never run a 10k before. Going into this event, I knew that I severely disliked the 5k distance (because believe it or not, it always feels so God-awful long), but I didn't know what to expect for a 10k. I know, I know, the next day would be my 19th half marathon, and half marathons are considerably longer than 5ks, but still... there is something about the shorter distances that gets to me... perhaps that it really takes me a few miles to feel like I even want to be out there, I don't know.
Getting ready to start, I was feeling jittery, yet excited from the pre-race atmosphere. As our corral was moving up to the start line, I realized I had to use the bathroom. I always have to use the bathroom right before a race, but have learned that this is just nerves and I quickly lose the urge once I get moving, so I thought little of it. I reminded myself to calm down, took my inhaler and before I knew it, the fireworks signifying our start were going off.
As soon as Brina and I crossed the start line, we were shocked. It didn't feel like a race start. People were just moseying across the start line like a herd of cattle, slower than anything I had ever seen or experienced before. And this herd never seemed to break up and actually pick up speed. We darted and weaved. Brina would bounce through a group of people and I would do my best to follow, or at least keep her within a couple arm's distances away. At multiple points we were grabbing one another to steer through this crowd. Not only was it annoying, it was downright dangerous. Not even 10 feet into the race, we watched 2 people who were immediately in front of us collide and fall down, leaving us to jump around them lest we be taken out with them. Yikes! I knew the field for the race was ridiculously large and that the course would be packed, but this was something else entirely.
We had started near the back of our corral, and passed probably 3/4 of the people we started with before we even got to 3/4 of a mile... but the crowds never seemed to let up. And on top of the super slow pace, people were stopping in the middle of the right-of-way to take photos and ooh and aah over the Disney eye-candy. By mile 2, the pack had spread out enough for me to get a decent run/walk/run interval going and I was at my pre-injury pace, albeit wheezing very loudly, and coughing up a lot of gunk. I could tell that Brina was getting impatient with me for not being able to keep up, and for continually losing her in the crowd, so I asked her to go along without me, which she did.
And then something amazing happened. We hit a very dark area of the course and over the sound of my music, I started to hear something. It was the strangest sound, so I pulled my earbuds out, to take it all in. It was silence. People had stopped talking, and the course was almost silent except for the sound of sneakers hitting the pavement all around me. I had never heard anything like this before, and it was totally surreal. Unfortunately it didn't last long because we were soon at a water station and the chatter began, but I would have dealt with the insane crowds again and again in order to just experience this sound again. It's funny. I paid all this money for a Disney race, and the one experience from this event that will probably stick with me forever is that moment on an access road without music or entertainment, and just the sound of feet.
Pretty soon, I was entering into Epcot's World Showcase near China. I rounded the corner and saw the flaming pillar and got excited. I'd never run through Epcot before, so this was definitely a first. And while the World Showcase was an awesome experience, with 98% humidity, a fog that hadn't yet lifted, and the heat index rising, I was having more and more difficulty catching my breath. What's more, the ground in the World Showcase was damp and slicker than a freshly surfaced ice rink. I knew that I needed to protect my feet, and I my steps became even more tentative. We exited Epcot through the Disney Boardwalk. In all my times going to Disney, I don't think I've ever been to the Disney Boardwalk, and it was a really neat experience. Running on the boards was sweet relief to my feet and bad ankle after the slickness of the World Showcase, but once again, the participants were significantly bottle-necking. I think on my next trip to Orlando that I may want to visit the Boardwalk again to explore a bit... but again, I'm digressing.
Leaving the Boardwalk, I became acutely aware that I had I still had to use the restroom. I was about 5 miles in at this point, and right on pace, so I kept chugging along. The breathing was getting more and more difficult and the pain was amping up in my bad foot, but I kept pushing. I was going to finish strong. The course took us back through Epcot and around Spaceship Earth. And then the cramping started. I had to go to the bathroom so bad I was almost doubled over in pain. I knew I could push it and make it to the finishline, but waves of nausea were threatening. So I made a bee-line to the nearest bathroom...
At something asinine like mile 5.8 or 5.9.
In a 10k race, this is the equivalent of stopping right before the finishline. The entire time I was in the bathroom, I was beating myself up. Obviously, I am my own worst enemy here, because the stop was REQUIRED, but still... I was taking every opportunity to be mean to myself. Personal note to self: be gentler on myself in the future.
I came out of the bathroom and wanted to cry. Disney races are so crowded that most people know not to count on them to get a personal record, but somehow, through it all, I was right on track for one. And I had thrown it all away, in the blink of an eye.
But I finished, and in the end, I guess that's all that really matters. I got the same medal as everyone else. And I also got some personal knowledge to boot. I'm not a big fan of the 10k distance.
Chip - 1:41:57
Pace - 16:27/Mile.
Day one of Glass Slipper Challenge finished. The Half the next day wouldn't be as "easy" on me.