2

2017 Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon – 1:47:01

If you’ve been following along on this blog for a while or follow me on Twitter, you know my hip has been all janked up for a little while now. So you might be surprised to see a half marathon recap coming at ya, but here we are.

This was my fifth half marathon this spring and sixth (sorta…depends on if you count the whole runDisney debacle) for the year. It was also, somehow, my first New York Road Runners race even though I’ve lived in Jersey City for two and a half years and have been an NYRR member for over a year. And still, to this day, I haven’t run a race in Manhattan. Of course, this is only true because I DNSed the Shape Women’s Half a few weeks ago because of the very same hip mentioned above.

Pre-race hip stuff

So yeah, let’s talk about my hip for a second and get that out of the way. It’s been bothering me for about two months now and, in the last few weeks, has caused me to barely run at all. I’ve been going to my normal physical therapist at Finish Line PT and started also going to a pelvic floor physical therapist, my friend Abby over at Spear. It’s been helping and I think we’ve started making progress between the breathing and strengthening stuff I’ve been doing at Finish Line and the soft tissue sorcery that Abby has been doing. The second half of last week was starting to feel promising that I was going in the right direction.

I also got an MRI last week which showed absolutely nothing. My orthopedist wasn’t able to find anything diagnosable to worry about which is good because at least there’s no real medical problem (I guess?), but frustrating because I don’t have a diagnosis to work from for treatment. Basically, his advice is to continue doing what I’m doing with physical therapy and keep my running mileage a bit lower. He also said I could run this race if I wanted to.

That all left me super on the fence about the race, but I figured I’d start it and see what happens with the plan to just drop out and hop on the subway to meet Danielle at the finish line if I was in pain.

Expo stuff

The expo for the race was much less an expo and much more a party. It was in Brooklyn Bridge Park, out where some of my Women’s Running photoshoot was. Danielle and I decided to meet up by City Hall on Thursday after work and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get there. Despite all the tourists, I think walking the Brooklyn Bridge is something everyone here should do at least once a year.

At the #airbnbbkhalf pre-party

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While there were tons of runners there, it wasn’t overly crowded at all and we were able to get our bibs right away. Unfortunately, they were out of pint glasses, but we probably don’t need any more pint glasses in our house anyway so whatevs.

We likely would have stayed a little longer, but the live music was SO DAMN LOUD. Or maybe we’re just too old now? I don’t know. Either way, it was too loud for our ears…and also we wanted dinner.

There’s my name on the sign thingy!

Race morning stuff

The race starts at 7am in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. If you’re like us and live in Jersey City, that’s tough. You gotta cross two rivers on a Saturday morning using two different subway systems that are both running annoying weekend schedules. But since our friend and neighbor Allison was heading to the race with us, we decided to be lazy and take a Lyft. Still, we had to get up at 4:30am and be out the door by 5:10am to get there with enough time to not worry.

We had the driver drop us off a few blocks away so we wouldn’t risk running into any road closures or traffic. After walking to the starting area, we immediately hit up bag check so Allison could drop off her bag (which had our stuff in it too) and then went through the security line. To our surprise, we didn’t have to wait for either, both were moving along quickly.

We hit some porta potties and then hid under some trees to avoid the cold drizzle. It wasn’t cold out, but the rain that was coming down was. Other than that, it was upper 50s and low humidity, so not bad.

Eventually, Danielle and I made our way to our corral and got in line for the porta potties again. This line might have been the worst part of the day. It was really long and snaking inside the corral—each corral had its own bank of porta potties. Because we were already in our corral, we didn’t have to worry that the start time was getting close while we were still in line.

Waiting.

The race

Unlike any other race I’ve been in, the corrals didn’t separate out the start of the race. Instead, they merely were used for seeding people and then the barriers between them were removed before the race even started. So you could have moved up anywhere you wanted after that. On one hand, this was nice because it kept things moving at the start and it was sort of like a smooth, but organized—albeit crowded—progression of things. On the other hand, it meant there was no escape from the crowding. The really odd thing about the start, though, is that it’s just around a 90º turn out of corrals.

While the corrals were pretty tightly packed, things broke up quickly after the starting line. There were a lot of people around, but plenty of space to still be able to run without being on top of someone. Though, that didn’t stop some douchedude from literally pushing me out of his way to get by.

Shortly after the start, we saw our friends Michele and Ashley go zooming by together. Michele was helping pace Ashley to a sub-1:40 finish (spoiler: Ashley finished with a 1:39:05!).

Danielle and I had planned to run the whole race together so we were mostly just trying to stick to our race plan of going nice and slow since we’ve both been dealing with all kinds of injury shit lately. That said, our 8:45-9:00 planned pace was nowhere to be found. Our first first miles were around 8:25 and we sped up from there.

The miles ticked by pretty quickly early on. Danielle and I just had fun and, before we knew it, we were at 5k and getting ready to actually run inside of Prospect Park instead of just outside of it.

The park was nice and scenic, but slightly hilly. Not even bad hills, but we don’t have any hills at all in Jersey City. I just tried to keep my effort even while going up or down. The water stop in the middle of the park was the only water I ended up taking the whole race—typically, I don’t take much water for non-marathon races. Of course, it went right up my nose.

While we were running much faster than we had planned to, things felt pretty good. I felt relaxed and comfortable. As we crossed the 10k mat, I remarked about that being the farthest I’d run in the month since the Star Wars Half. My legs didn’t seem phased by it, though. For me, the most important thing was focusing on my breathing like I had worked on in physical therapy. From the start, I had been consciously making sure I was breathing in deep with my diaphragm and exhaling fully (it’s the exhaling part that I’m particularly bad at). This seemed to be working well to keep my core engaged and offload the parts of my hip that’ve been bothering me. Through the 10k I had been 95% pain-free. When there was pain, it would be like a quick sorta sharpish thing that would come on and then I’d realize I’d stopped focusing on my breathing. After a few seconds of breathing properly again, the pain would go right away.

When we came out of the park at mile 7, Danielle said she thought the race was flying by. I agreed, but reminded her that we were just starting the less scenic part of the course that’s like a six mile straight shot down the highway.

However, to my surprise, the highway miles also ticked right off like nothing too! Somewhere around here, we passed Mary Wittenberg, former President/CEO of NYRR, and our friend Samantha, who was cheering.

The highway miles were very uneventful and it seemed like we had just turned onto the highway when we were approaching Coney Island. As we passed the 800M to go sign, I was feeling good and relaxed. My legs had plenty in the tank for miles still. Danielle’s IT band was starting to bother her, though, so we made no push to the finish.

With 400M to go, we had to all crowd in to go up a ramp to the boardwalk. It got a little tight, but it was manageable. And then once we got up on to the boardwalk, the finish line was in sight. Danielle and I cruised across at 1:47:01.

That damn guy’s head behind us!

Post race stuff

After crossing the finish line, we grabbed our medals and then walked for seemingly a million miles until there was water. When we finally got to the water tables, the were crowded and there were only half-filled cups of water. While it wasn’t super hot out, it was still warm enough that most people needed some hydration in their lives and those hard-to-get-to cups of water weren’t going to cut it. Then, like 20 feet past the tables with the cups, they were giving out the food bags which had Gatorade and bottles of water in them. It seemed unnecessary to have the cups of water when they could have just moved the food bags up like 20 feet instead. It would have been much smoother.

#AirbnbBKHalf done! Hip was mostly okay, can't complain.

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After grabbing feed food bags, we tried to take a quick photo in front of the old parachute drop, but some volunteer yelled at us to keep moving. WHATEVER DUDE!

After moving through a bit more, we saw Ashely and Michele again and found out about Ashley’s amazing finish time. Then we made our way over to the beer garden for some beers and to meet up with Danielle’s Gotham City Runners teammates.

Like a couple of fools, Danielle and I each ordered a liter of Flower Power IPA (7.5%) and guzzled them down at 9:30 in the morning on empty stomachs after a half marathon. We both were, uh, quite drunk by the time we left.

That’s not a 16oz cup, that’s a full liter!

Final thoughts

I really liked this race! It was fun and organized well for such a big race. And ending at Coney Island is really nice. If the weather wasn’t on-and-off drizzling, we could have hung out there much longer. I would definitely like to do it again!

I’m glad I was able to run. I was really unsure if I should or not. Less than a week before the race, I told Danielle I wasn’t going to run it because I thought it was going to be a bad idea. But it ended up being fine. My hip was okay through the race and then all day yesterday when we were out and about and walking for like a thousand miles. Like the kind of fine where I completely forgot about it.

2

2017 runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon – 2:07:40

Alright, moving on to the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon from yesterday’s 10k recap

Pre-race crap

After spending the day walking around the parks post-10k, I was really struggling to get a good read on my hip. It would feel okay while walking, but then hurt a bit while sitting. I knew I’d want to take the half smart and be willing to walk if I had to. I had an invitation to run/walk the race with my friend Jen, but she said I’d probably lose my mind going at the pace she was planning. While I was pretty sure I was going to just do my own thing, I didn’t fully decide until I was getting walking to the corrals.

Anyway, backing up a little bit… I got in bed and asleep around 9:15 and woke up at 3:15, netting me around 6 hours of sleep—a bit better than for the 10k. I’d’ve loved to have stayed in bed longer, but I had a race to go do.

(Yes, double contraction back there. I’m a fan of multi-contractions!)

Darth Vader Flat Amy for tomorrow's #StarWarsHalf! First time ever running in anything close to a costume.

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I was excited to put on my Darth Vader costume. It was my first race costume ever and I had only thrown it together literally the night before we left for the trip and hadn’t actually put it on yet so I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to look good. I Amazon Primed a very cheap Darth Vader costume at the last minute and then cut out the belt and chest control panel and cut the cape off. I pinned the belt to my shorts and the control panel to my sports bra and threw the cape around my neck. The costume also came with a lightsaber so I had that as a prop too! After everything was put on and ready, I thought I looked pretty decent. Much better than I expected, to be honest!

If I was uncomfortable with my stomach in a sports bra for the 10k, I was triply uncomfortable for the half. I’d been, uh, backed up literally all week and was looking super bloated from it. Plus, 🏃‍♀️ + (🚽 - 💩) = 😧. But it was either stick with the sports bra or ditch the costume altogether since I didn’t have a black tank top with me. I sucked it in up and just went with it. Whatever.

I did this again.

Not bad for a costume I put together the night before our trip! #StarWarsHalf

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When I got to the staging area, I checked my bag right away and went to the designated meetup spot. My friend Jeff was already there, but Patrick was waiting in line for photos and…I don’t know where anyone else was. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Jeff and I chatted for a while to kill time before hitting up porta potties and heading to our respective corrals. While in line for the porta potties, I joked that it was the kind of humidity where you sweat enough that you can just pee your shorts while running if you have to and it doesn’t even matter. Jeff and the guy waiting behind us looked at me like I was the grossest person they’ve ever met, but HEY WHATEVER IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER WHEN YOU’RE SO SWEATY YOU LOOKED LIKE FELL IN A POOL!

By the way, autocorrect changed that to “porta parties” which sounds like a totally different kinda thing.

But, yeah, anyway, it was humid as hell.

Since I didn’t have to sprint to make the corral before closing, I had plenty of time to just hang around and listen to Rudy and Carissa do their thing on stage. Though, the people checking bibs at the corral entrance gave me a hard time because my A corral letter was covered by my costume and they had to see it. My “I assure you, I’m in this corral” didn’t get me very far. I mean, I was bib 20,178 (Dark Side Challenge bibs started at 20,000), of course I was in the A corral! Oh well.

Eventually, the stormtroopers showed up again to send us off!


 

 

The race

My hip was a concern, but there wasn’t much I could do about it except take things easy and see what happened. I started off at a very easy effort and hit a 10:39 first mile including a photo stop with R2D2. My second mile got down closer to an 8:30 which is an easy effort for me, but I knew I should be going even slower than that and tried to slow myself a little. For mile three, I had to stop for a photo with some Ewoks so that gave my hip a minute to just chill.

Amelia with R2D2 at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

R2D2!

At this point, I was honestly surprised I was still wearing the cape. I figured I’d want to ditch it just after starting. It was that cheap costume material that just soaks up sweat like a sponge and sticks to you. And it was shaped to go over your shoulders and cover them, not just hang behind. Once I started running, I obviously got it off my shoulders and threw the whole thing behind me, but it didn’t want to stay, it kept swinging around to my right side. As much as I hated it, though, I liked having it for my photos so I just kept dealing with it. And, of course, I was also running with a lightsaber in my hand—and my phone in my other hand since an iPhone 7 Plus is too big to put in any of my running short pockets. The lightsaber was a real piece of junk. Like, accessory that came with a $25 costume kind of junk. It kept falling apart on me so I had to keep putting it back together while running over and over again. I think I had to pick up parts of it from the ground and reassemble it close to 15 times. It was the bane of my existence. I dreamed of finishing the race just so I could emphatically throw the cape and lightsaber in the trash.

Amelia with ewoks at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

A couple Ewoks!

Somewhere just after the Eworks, I ended up catching up to Jeff and started running with him for a bit. We chatted and I said I’d probably stick with him for a while, as that was a good pace for me to be running with ol’ hurty mcstupid hip. My hip had been starting to hurt, but slowing my running pace to 9:35ish seemed to help a lot really quickly. Jeff was super worried about the humidity so he wasn’t trying to go too fast either.

That humidity suuuuuucked. It was sticky and sweaty and swampy and gross. Being from New Jersey, humidity is a concept I’m very used to, but it hasn’t quite settled in yet this year so I wasn’t ready for it.

As we entered Animal Kingdom via the back of park, I took a moment to appreciate that this was the only time I’d be there this trip—I’m a huge Animal Kingdom fan, bee tee dubs. We quickly made our way around through Asia and DinoLand USA and I had some fun passing the photographers.

Really happy with how my #StarWarsHalf costume came out! #DarthAmy

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Coming out the back of Animal Kingdom there were some stormtroopers, tie fighter pilots, and other characters out. I stopped for photos with the stormtroopers and then took some selfies with the others. I was too sweaty to operate my phone, though, so it took a while to open the camera app. Jeff kept on going so I was back to pacing myself again.

Amelia with stormtroopers at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

My troops.

Amelia selfie with jawa at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

A selfie with some jawas.

Amelia at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

A selfie with some of my men.

Amelia selfie runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

More of my men.

At this point, the sun still hadn’t really come up yet and I was trying to get as far as I could before it did. I knew it’d burn off some of the humidity, but I didn’t want to be dealing with the sun blasting on me on a day that was going to get up to 90º.

After Jeff and I split, my pace started creeping faster again and there was a big break in photo stops. By mile 5.5, my hip was starting to hurt again—really getting close to that 5 out of 10 threshold. At 6.5, I started thinking I’d need to walk soon, but I wanted to try to make it to 8 before I did. I just kept trucking. This section from 5.5 until 10 was the section between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This included the trek down Osceola Parkway, similar to the marathon if you removed the Wide World of Sports part. This section is always my least favorite part of the marathon and it wasn’t much different for this race either. It’s just kinda boring.

Just as I was starting to think about switching to walking for a bit, I spotted Jeff up ahead again. I kept my pace so I’d catch him just a little before the 8th mile marker and then stuck with him again. The humidity was taking its toll on him, but we ran together for the rest of the race and chatted it up about all kinds of things. After running with Jeff for a little bit, my hip started feeling better. By mile 9, I think it was just about 100% pain free. I was thankful for this and knew it would be best to just lock it in around that pace.

My cape was still driving me nuts and my lightsaber was still falling apart. I considered ditching them, but I’d come so far already, I knew I needed to just stick it out.

Once we made the turn into Hollywood Studios, I knew it was runtime-funtime from there to the finish. I grabbed some photos coming down Sunset Boulevard and was all smiles while posing for photographer after photographer.

Amelia with stormtroopers at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

More of my troopers.

Coming out of Hollywood Studios, Jeff was starting to struggle. Being from Pittsburgh, this was not his weather at all. I tried to keep the conversation light and he kept doing some math for what his finish would be, wondering if it’d be under 2:10. I assured him he had plenty of time to work with to make that happen.

Amelia at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Having a blast coming around Crescent Lake!

This time, instead of running on the Beach and Yacht Club side of Crescent Lake, we ran around the Boardwalk side while Jeff told me about the time our friend Lauren got yelled at for cheering too loudly during a race. Classic Lauren! I stopped for a few selfies with some characters and sprinted to catch back up to Jeff. We had been running in the 9:30-9:45 range so my legs were pretty fresh for bursting my way back up to him.

Whoever this guy is.

Amelia with tie fighter pilot at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

A selfie with one of my pilots.

I couldn’t remember what the course was from there and whether we’d be going the long way around the World Showcase in Epcot or not. I was trying to map it out in my head based on how much distance was left and was still a bit unsure. To my pleasant surprise, we did take the scenic route around the World Showcase. From here, I tried to be as encouraging as I could to Jeff and keep the pace steady. My hip was still feeling good so I was thankful for that.

Amelia in World Showcase at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Coming around the World Showcase.

We hooked right into Futurewold, under Spaceship Earth, and then out the side of the park towards the parking lot. I fist-bumped a stormtrooper because I couldn’t high-five with my lightsaber in my hand and he accidentally lapped my Garmin. Hah!

Sadly, most of the photos cropped Jeff out so this is the only one I have of us running together.

As we approached the finish, I asked if he had a finish line jump in him like he did for the 5k and he sorta just groaned at me. I went for it, though, and leapt into the air for the finish.

Amelia leaping in the at the finish at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

So serious.

I finished in 2:07 and Jeff was 2:05, well under 2:10. He thanked me for keeping him on pace and said he’d have slowed a lot if he was running alone.

We grabbed some photos with the photographers and then went over to get some Dark Side photos. We waited in the line for Darth Vader and then moved over to Kylo Ren. When I got up to Kylo Ren, I looked at him and said “grandson!” He did not appreciate my humor.

My wonderful running parter for the day, Jeff!

My grandson #StarWarsHalf

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Amelia with Darth Vader at runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We’re practically twins.

After watching the awards, I walked over to the nearest trashcan and threw my lightsaber and cape right in it. I mean, like I really slammed it in there. I was so happy to be rid of them! Oof!

This race was a lot of fun and my first time running in a costume was interesting. I’ll never run with a cape again, that’s for sure. I don’t know how superheroes do it. Capes are the worst for running! I’ll also never do another prop I have to hold again. Other than that, my costume was great and not a problem at all.

runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Medals

The Dark Side Challenge Medal Collection.

Hanging around Epcot.

5

2017 Rutgers Unite Half Marathon – 1:44:06

Rutgers Unite Half Marathon post race

This thing was actually really hard to hold up

Three weeks, three half marathons.

This week was the CGI Racing Rutgers Unite Half Marathon. Unite has a special place in my heart. Not only does it run through my old alma mater and where I used to live for over a decade—and partially through a park I often did training runs in before moving to Jersey City—but its inaugural year was also my very first half marathon, back in 2010. Plus, as I mentioned two weeks ago, CGI puts on great races that are well-organized and bridge the gap between rinky-dinky local race and crowded big city race.

Back when I was putting together my spring racing and marathon training plans, this was supposed to be a goal race. I wanted to snag a PR here. However, after running nearly race effort two weeks ago and full race effort with a new PR last week, plans changed. My legs spent last week being mad at me so I “downgraded” this race to a fun training run instead.

I originally didn’t have any extra miles on the schedule for before this race, but after downgrading it, I decided I should work it into what a logical long run would have been for this week, 17 miles.

I woke up nice and early at 5am to get dressed and get my stuff together to drive down to New Brunswick. The drive was nice and quick and I showed up much earlier than planned. I took the extra time to in the warm car and relax for a bit. Eventually, it was time to get on out there. The race is a point-to-point race so I parked at the finish and planned to run four miles beforehand. I threw my running backpack on and set out to run to the start. Because of how the course winds and loops, parking by the finish still only gave me about two miles so I did a little loop in Johnson Park to rack up another two miles in the middle. I’ve done many miles in Johnson Park in my Central Jersey days, so this was a nice little throwback. Anyway, weather was fantastic for running. Low 40s, sunny, zero wind.

I ended up getting to the start nearly twenty minutes earlier than I originally planned, but I just took my time checking my bag and hitting a porta potty. Then I stood around in the sun looking for all the people I knew running. I saw exactly none of them.

When it was time to get into the corral, I lined up with 8:00 mile pacer. The plan was to stick with this group and keep myself in control. The last two weeks made it clear I’m incapable of doing that on my own right now. This would put me at a hair under a 1:45 finish.

The first few miles of the race were pretty uneventful. I stayed glued to the pace group and chatted it up with my fellow runners. We chatted some about Rutgers itself and some trivia and then about upcoming races and PRs and such. The course through Livingston Campus was a little different than the last time I had ran this race, but it wasn’t bad at all. I lived on Livingston for two years and spent nearly nine years of my life at the radio station there so it’s always nice to get extra time to check out how much it’s changed since I graduated. Anyway, these miles ticked off pretty quickly.

After heading back to Busch Campus, where the race had started, I was feeling a little tired. We had been running slightly under our target 8:00 pace, but still well under race effort for me. Mostly, my legs were still tired from the last few weeks of training. After crossing mile 7, I pulled just a little ahead of the pacer. Not much, I could still hear him talking and coaching, but enough that I couldn’t see him anymore. I kept trying to pull back enough to fall back in with the group, but struggled to not keep pulling slightly ahead. My body seemed to find a rhythm it liked and I was okay with letting it do it’s thing at this point.

Looping back around through Busch Campus breezed by and mile 9 showed up before I knew it. From there, the rest of the race was about 90% the same route I did my warmup miles on, just in the opposite direction. We made our way into Johnson Park for an out-and-back and then across the Landing Lane bridge over the Raritan River and into New Brunswick. Coming over the bridge, I reminisced about the hundreds of miles worth of long runs I did on the Delaware-Raritan Canal Tow Path, which I would often pick up at this exact point. Such blissful miles, those were!

I was happy to find that the steep hill in Buccleuch Park was no longer part of the course. This hill used to always hit me right in the legs. It’s not long, but it’s pretty steep and comes at you in the last mile or so of the race. I didn’t miss it! Our route in the park was little more than in and out before making our way down College Ave—the center of College Ave Campus—to the finish line.

I was still slightly ahead of the pacer who had continued running slightly fast all race. I crossed at 1:44:06 and he was only a few seconds behind me. So that was about a 7:56 pace which I think is reasonable for an 8:00 pacer, to be honest. Either way, I was pretty happy with myself for sticking to my plan for the day and taking it on the easier side of things and not going too fast. My legs really didn’t need another hard effort long run.

Overall, I really love this race. Now that I no longer live in the New Brunswick area, it was really nice to come back for a race through areas I spent so much time in. And I also just love what CGI does. They’re races are pretty fantastic.

With this race down, I’m halfway through my half marathons for the season. I’ve got this weekend off and then runDisney Star Wars Dark Side and the NYRR Shape Women’s Half Marathon on back to back weekends after that. Until then, training continues!

4

2017 NYCRUNS Ladies First Half Marathon – 1:39:40

Snagged a (small) new PR today in rough 20mph wind at the Ladies First Half Marathon. #runchat

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Half marathon number two of six this season! Yes, last week, I think I said it was five, but…well, now it’s six. Yeah, I added another one into the mix because I have problems. Many problems. Send help.

This weekend’s race was the NYCRUNS Ladies First Half Marathon along Shore Park in Brooklyn. Not only was this my first time running an NYCRUNS race, but it was also, somehow, the first time I’ve ever raced in NYC. Yes, I know. I’ve lived in Jersey City and worked in Manhattan for two and a half years and haven’t actually raced within NYC before this weekend. Weird.

This race, like many of the half marathons that NYCRUNS does is a simple course along the Hudson River made up of two out-and-backs. The first is a shorter one from the start at American Veterans Memorial Pier to just passed the Verrazano Bridge and back. And the second one goes out a bit further before turning around and heading back.

My morning was not as smooth as I would have liked. I spent Thursday and Friday participating in Hack Day at work. It’s a 24-hour hackathon we do a few times year where people get to work on whatever projects and wacky ideas they want. At the end, we present them for voting and a winner is crowned. Typically, there’s usually much junk food and drinking and very little sleep. I slept for 4.5 hours in a conference room Thursday night. I knew this was going to mess me up a bit for Saturday so I got in bed super early on Friday. We’re talking like 7:50pm. I think I ended up closing my eyes around 9pm.

I had a great plan for the morning that involved taking public transit to the start and running two miles before the race so I could get to my scheduled 15 miles for the day. Unfortunately, the PATH Train decided it wasn’t going to follow its own schedule and I had to take a Lyft to the start. Somehow, this resulted in me getting there a half hour earlier than planned, leaving me with time to kill and destroying my perfectly crafted plan. 🙄

The weather was chilly, in the upper 30s and windyyyyy. We’re talking 20mph winds that made it feel bitterly cold. The forecast had rain in it all week, but luckily that stopped before I left the house so at least I had that going for me. Adding rain into the mix would have suuuuucked a bag of old rusty dicks—look, I don’t know why they’re rusty, they just are, okay?

While waiting for registration to open up so I could get my bib and start de-layering for my warmup, I met up with fellow trans runner Allison who was running her very first race as Allison! Exciting! We chatted for a while as I watched the time tick down. Once there was about 25 minutes before the start, I quickly took off all my layers and threw them in my bag. Allison offered to take my bag over to bag check with hers so I was able to just take off from under the overpass where all the runners were sheltering themselves from the wind.

I did an easy mile out down the course to the first marker and turned around to come back. On the way out, the wind was at my back a booster strapped to me. Unfortunately, it was brutal headwind on the back. Still, I was able to get my two miles in and get warm. I got back to the start with about three minutes to go before race time. Basically perfect.

This race was supposed to be a big contrast from the LOVE Run the weekend before. It was really important for me to take this one slowly since I didn’t in Philly. Just a training run. My plan was to run around a 1:45.

It was a small race, 346 runners, so the start wasn’t wild at all. I was able to find some space to run with no issues. Like the week before, I started off faster than planned. Not as fast this time, but a 7:41 first mile. I thought I was running slower based on the feel, but it would turn out I was, in fact, not

From here, I kept things mostly steady until the first turnaround with 7:46 and 7:45 second and third miles. The small field spread out quickly and there just a handful of people out cheering so things were quiet. The only notable part here was a few puddles where the course narrowed a bit. They took up 80% of the path which meant squeezing in a little so there would be enough room for runners in both directions to get by without running through them—they were deep enough to cause some wet feet if you did go through them. But everyone on the course was extremely mindful and courteous. It seemed to be a non-issue overall. Women!

The back part of the first out-and-back sucked with the wind in our faces. Someone yelled out to the woman running behind me that she was in 22nd place overall. I didn’t realize I was so close to the front, but I really didn’t want that to get in my head.

Unfortunately, it got in my head.

Hitting the second turnaround, I was feeling okay. I felt better than I had in Philly, but I was giving roughly the same effort level. As soon as I looped around the cone for the turn, I was next to a man (there were really only a handful who ran the race at all) who seemed to be running about the same as me. We ran from this point, at roughly 4.75 miles, all the way to mile 9 right next to each other, basically stride for stride. We didn’t say a single word to each other, but there seemed to be an unspoken agreement of us pacing each other. While it worked in terms of keeping me steady, that “steady” was too fast. Through this section, I dropped into a race effort level. I ran 7:23, 7:19, 7, 14, and 7:12 to the last turnaround at mile 9. I really didn’t want to be running this pace for a training run, but I mostly felt good. At this point, it was in my head that this was a small field and I might be able to place in my age group. Dammit, this wasn’t supposed to happen.

I knew I was somewhere around 12, but wasn’t fully sure how many runners were ahead of me. After turning around and starting the final back leg of the race, a woman coming from the other direction yelled “you’re eleven” at me. This really motivated me (dammit). I had slightly dropped the guy I was running with and was on my own here. The wind sucked again, but I didn’t want to increase my effort. I tried to just keep it the same and let my pace suffer however it was going suffer. Miles ten and eleven only lost a few seconds each from where I had been.

I was getting tired in the last 5k. Really tired. The race effort level was catching up to me, especially since it wasn’t planned. Still, I tried to hold strong. I started catching up to the 9th and 10th place women, but didn’t think I’d have it in me to take them both. The tenth place woman seemed to be slowing down a lot and, even though she tried to pick it up to stay with me, I was able to pass her easily. At this point, I was right behind the woman in 9th, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get around her. I wasn’t about to fight for it either. If I was truly in 10th place now (assuming the woman who yelled “eleven” was correct), I was pretty happy with that. I didn’t know the ages of these women so I didn’t know if it’d work out for me to place in my age group, but 10th overall was a pretty rad idea!

Somewhere between miles 11 and 12, the 9th place woman started slow a bit. As I made a move to get around her, she started fighting to stay with me, but I was able to hold the pace more than she was. After I passed her, the man I was running with before appeared next to me again. He had briefly passed me somewhere in this section, but couldn’t stay ahead of me. As we came down the last couple of miles, I was ready for the race to be over. My legs were tired and the 20mph wind in my face was not helping at all.

After I got to the last mile, I started watching the pier getting closer and closer and focused on that finish line. I had slowed a bit, but was holding on with what I had. I knew was I was in PR territory now. I didn’t know exactly how much of a PR it’d be, but I knew that was now on the table too.

As we approached the 13th mile marker, I could start to make out the clock and I could see it turn 1:39:00. I knew this was going to be close, but I was running fast enough to just sneak it in under my 1:39:51 PR. I started to kick with what I had left and pulled ahead of the guy next to me and powered across the finish wanting to puke.

I crossed at 1:39:40, an 11-second PR! I was also the 9th woman overall and FIRST IN MY AGE GROUP! It was a small race, but this was the first time I’ve placed in my age group since I transitioned. I would say I was pretty psyched about this, but I didn’t actually know until I was already on my way home from the race. They weren’t announcing placings or doing awards at the race so I hadn’t stuck around for too long afterwards. I changed in a porta-potty and then started heading back to the subway to head home.

Oops.

I’m mad at myself for running a race effort when I wasn’t supposed to, but I’m pretty psyched at my performance. Even the smallest of PRs is still a PR. And while the wind helped me on the out parts, it was brutal on the backs. It probably evened out in the end. This ended up being a good race effort with decent strategy. I slowed in the last two miles, but I kept mostly even splits through the middle of the race and negative split. It feels like my race-day instincts are reasonably decent. This race ended up being a nice confidence boost on top of Philly the week before.

As for NYCRUNS races, I’m a fan! They’re small, which is a nice bonus around here. The medal and shirt for the race are both super cute and the race was only $50. Really can’t complain about that!

5

2017 Philly LOVE Run Half Marathon – 1:39:58

This was like three minutes after finishing. I put warm clothes on right quick!

The last three races I was supposed to run in Philly were all DNSed the morning of—the 2015 Broad Street Run and the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon. But my Philly DNS streak is over! Yesterday, I did not DNS. I actually ran a race! It was my first race in Philly since the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon.

The Philly LOVE Run first of five half marathons I’m running this spring. Yes, I’m running five half marathons this spring. I’m currently training for Grandma’s Marathon and, for this training cycle, I decided to do something different for my long runs. I wanted to change things up a bit and, instead of doing all my long runs along my normal route, earn a few new race medals in the half marathon. This also goes along with my biggest running goal of 2017, running more races and focusing less on PRs.

Pre-race

We drove down to Philly on Saturday and went right to the expo at the Convention Center. CGI Racing expos aren’t particularly huge, but they are well-organized and stress-free. I had my bib, race shirt, and mug without waiting in a single line for anything. After a quick lap, we were out! We hung around the city for a couple hours and got drinks at Brü Craft & Wurst, a great craft beer and wurst bar we happened to stumble upon. After that, it was dinner and ice cream with our friend Hollie.

Got my bib!

Hollie was also nice enough to let us crash at her house the night before which helped make it a cheap weekend with few worries! Of course, Hollie is one of the silliest people I know and when I walked into the bedroom, there was a framed copy of my magazine staring at me. Awkward!

After some foam rolling, it was off to bed before 10pm.

Awkward!

I made Hollie take a picture with it and own it!

I got up at 5:15, got dressed, and hopped in the car. It was a 20 minute drive from Hollie’s to where we parked in Fairmount Park, about a mile from the start. I had 15 miles on the schedule for the day so I needed a couple warmup miles before the race. I gave a quick goodbye to the wife and took off for a mile down Ben Franklin Parkway and a mile back. I finished with just enough time to hit a porta-potty and sprint to my starting corral.

The forecast had some light rain in it for race morning, but luckily it held out and race start was 44º with 10mph winds and overcast. Great racing conditions!

The race

The race started on time with a nice bit of energy. I was in the first corral and lined up between the 1:30 and 1:35 pacers. I wasn’t trying for a big PR or anything so I knew I wasn’t going to be trying to hang with either of those pace groups, but I felt confident with my placement being reasonable enough anyway.

Through the first mile, I hung tight with most of the runners around me and clocked a 7:19 first mile. Oops! Definitely much faster than the 8:00 I was thinking I should have been running. I tried to pull back slightly, but mostly just went with it. If I had stuck with that pace, I’d have had a massive PR, but I knew that wasn’t realistic as I’m not exactly in my best shape right now.

As we were heading around City Hall, Twitter friend Megan came up from behind to introduce herself. She’s just a few months postpartum, but was looking to run a 1:39. We ran together for a bit with some light conversation before I dropped back. Again, this was really just a training run so I knew it was time to get things under control.

Unfortunately, mile 2 totally threw both my Garmin and Apple Watch off so I didn’t have accurate splits at all to compare to how my legs were feeling. It was back to doing mental math based on the clocks at each mile marker—which, luckily, each mile had—just like the old days!

After looping our way back onto the Parkway and to pass through the start/finish area, I started keeping my eyes open for the wife. She said she’d be around mile 4—we had discussed her being around The Oval, which is roughly mile 4.25. It was a good thing I was looking, though, because she was right at mile 4, ahead of where I was expecting her. We waved and I tossed my arm warmers at her.

Things were quiet for a while after that. We rounded The Oval and made our way down MLK Drive and into Fairmount Park where the crowds were mostly non-existent. I was feeling tired, definitely not how I wanted to be feeling to a training run, but it was very par for the course with my running lately. I wasn’t too worried about slowing down if I needed to, my most important thing was not wanting to leave myself too sore or tired to continue my training this week.

As we approached mile 7, I started watching for the lead runners to be coming down the back portion of the out and back. I was able to see the first three men before we veered off MLK Drive and up an onramp at mile 7.5. This is where things got tough, the next half mile was climbing uphill. It was not fun! We don’t really have hills in Jersey City so my hill game is way off these days. The climbing felt like forever, but things leveled off exactly at the 8th mile marker. A guy who had been running near me for a while told me I was helping motivate him and keep him steady here. I was glad to make myself useful!

After some quick looping, we came back down the same hills and I flew. My legs were tired, but gravity, yo. I got a side-stitch halfway down this section, but I was able to work it out pretty quickly.

Before I knew it, we were at the last turn around—mile 9.75ish—and I knew it was a straight shot back to the Art Museum and finish from there. I was feeling tired, but at this point I wanted to keep it steady to the finish. I had been mostly in the 7:30-7:45 range for my splits, except for hillsville mile 8. Coming down this last 5k, a man and woman whom I had passed in the downhill section and who were standing next to me in the corral passed me. I wanted to use them as my rabbit for the rest of the race, but I didn’t want to push myself more than I had been. I kept it close, but didn’t increase my effort level any. As I crossed mile 11, I started getting a little nauseous so I eased back a little for a couple minutes until that subsided.

Once I passed mile 12, I started using the Art Museum as my beacon for the finish. I was ready to be done, but I decided not to push or kick at all to the finish. It wasn’t a goal race and I wasn’t in it for a PR. I did some math at the mile marker and knew I’d be close to my PR, but I thought I was roughly 30 seconds off.

Looking strong at the end!

As I approached the last curve, I spotted the wife and cruised my way to the to the finish line. My mental math was close, but slightly off and it turned out I was only 7 seconds off my PR! If I had known I was that close in the last couple of miles, I would have kicked a little harder. Oh well! I’m not even the slightest bit disappointed, though. Again, this wasn’t a goal race and I was supposed to be running much slower. I was pretty happy.

After the finish, the woman (of the man and woman combo mentioned above) congratulated me and we chatted a little. She snagged a PR! I ended up finding her on Instagram later in the day and we chatted a bit. After talking to her, the guy from mile 8 came up to tell me he PRed and I was helping keep him going all race! In the past, I’ve always hated knowing people were using me to run faster or hold steady, but I was actually pretty psyched about this. I was really happy for him!

After grabbing my medal and some water, I met up with the wife and we walked over to the Whole Foods near the finish to grab some groceries and coffee. A man in the produce section commented on my medal and we talked about races in the city for a few minutes. And then the cashier also struck up a conversation with me about the race. SO MUCH LOVE IN PHILLY THIS WEEKEND!

Final thoughts

This was a great weekend in Philly and I was really happy with the race! CGI Racing puts on great races that are organized and fun without being massively huge and overwhelming.

My performance was much better than I expected. I’ve been in a bit of a running rut lately, but to get so close to my PR without putting in a race effort was a nice boost. I had a big burger and greasy fries the night before and didn’t do anything to prepare for this as a race. And I went at about 90-95% of a half marathon race effort. So it was nice to find out I still have a lot of the strength I’ve been struggling to find lately.

Lastly, I felt like this run helped me really start to hammer home some of what I’ve been working on in PT lately. I’m a very quad-dominant runner. My quads and calves do all the work and everything else is just along for the ride so I’ve been trying to work on engaging my glutes, hamstrings, and core while running. It seems I’m finally starting to get this as I could feel them working all race. And I could feel the work being spread from just my quads to the rest of my legs as well. I still have some work to do, but this felt like a major contributor to running so well without pushing my effort level.

4

2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – DIY half marathon

This is post two of three for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. Checkout my recap for the expo, 5k, and 10k here.

No disappointment here!

So this was the weird day of this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. We’d been watching the weather all week and knew it was going to be rainy. I don’t mind running in the rain if it’s not too cold, but thunderstorms were in the forecast, which…is a problem. runDisney had been sending out tweets that they were monitoring the forecast and would make a decision accordingly. We all had our fingers crossed that the thunderstorms would miss us or the timing would work out.

Unfortunately, at around 7:30 on Friday night, runDisney put up a post on Facebook stating “out of an abundance of caution” they were deciding to cancel the half marathon. I was shocked. As far as I know, they’ve never had to cancel a race before and it felt really early to be making that call. I understood their decision, but I didn’t have to like it!

I was literally snapping this Flat Amy pic when I got the cancelation notification!

Everyone was bummed. Twitter and Facebook immediately went crazy with people reacting. In the end, runDisney made the right decision. They had to think of the fact that they wouldn’t be able to evacuate all of the runners from the course if there was lightning in the area and also about their volunteers setting up throughout the night. As it turned out, it did lightning in the area throughout the night and continued well into the morning. It was the right call.

I have to give runDisney a lot of credit for how generous they were. Runners were offered refunds in the form of Disney gift cards, park tickets, entry into another runDisney race, or the option to run the full marathon the next day. Surprisingly 1,500 runners took that option! Dopey and Goofy runners are getting automatic refunds via electronic gift cards. And everyone got/gets their medals.

Still, many of us came to run and I didn’t feel right taking a medal for a race I didn’t run or taking Dopey and Goofy medals when I didn’t do the full challenge. This where things actually started to get fun. People started making all kinds of plans to run on their own. Some woke up at the same time they would have otherwise, others opted for a little extra sleep first. At first, doing laps around resorts sounded like it was going to be kinda miserable, but I’m stubborn and wanted to take part.

The half was the one race Danielle was planning on running so she still wanted to run too. We slept into just a little since we could and then got out there for our own half marathon. We were staying at the Yacht Club which is one of the Crescent Lake resorts so pulling this off was really easy. We did laps around the Boardwalk and out and back to Hollywood Studios. Each lap was just about 2 miles and quite scenic.

Just doing our thing!

When we got outside, there were already a bunch of other runners and the number of them just kept increasing throughout our run. Many even had their bibs on! It was amazing and there was so much camaraderie among everyone. Having that many people out there running at the same time almost made it feel like it was still a race! Some people even came out to cheer! At other resorts, people started setting up water and aid stops for runners.

Throughout the run, there was lightning that we could see in the distance, but it was never right over us. The good thing about where we were running was we had shelter most of the way that we could have ducked into if we needed. The rain held out for most of our run until about ten miles in, but it was so humid and warm out that it felt great! At one point, we got a pretty decent downpour going and it was probably my favorite thing ever!

Figured that the day that was 70º in the morning was the day the race got canceled.

We ended up doing our DIY half marathon in 2:00:29 and finished right at the lighthouse with huge smiles on our faces! It was an incredible experience, possibly even more fun than the actual race would have been. I’m so glad we decided to go out there and do it. By the time we were done, I had a huge smile and zero disappointment about the race being canceled.

All done! We perfectly nailed it so we finished exactly here.

3

2016 Newport Liberty Half Marathon – 1:39:51

img_0075I haven’t raced a half marathon in a long time. Sure, I’ve run half marathons, but it’s been about four and a half years since I actually tried to run a fast half and cared about my time. That was about a month before I decided to transition. Granted, I also haven’t raced much in the way of any distance in the last two years, but it’s certainly been the longest for the half. So I was due.

I should also mention the bigger point here, this was also my first race of any kind since having surgery in January. It’s definitely been a while since I’ve pinned a bib on.

I signed up for this race way back in like March before I even knew for sure when I’d be running again after surgery. They had a thing were you could register for the Newport 10k and Newport Liberty Half Marathon together, so I went for that. The 10k is in the spring, the half is in the fall. Unfortunately, I ended up DNSing the 10k thanks to some complications in my surgery healing. Boo! Anyway, I had my deferred entry for Chicago Marathon on October 9 so a half marathon three weeks before then seemed like a good way to test out my training. Plus, the race isn’t just in Jersey City (where I live) but it swings through my neighborhood and all the areas I spend my time. It even does a nice big lap of Liberty State Park which is where I log the vast majority of my miles. What more could a girl ask for? Though, I will say that this course map had a few WTFs in it…

help

help

I had 20 miles on the schedule for the day and I tend to prefer to do extra miles before a race rather than after. I like being able to run the race without needing to worry about leaving something in my legs for after. So I got up early to knock out 10k before the race. I ran my normal four mile route and then ran to the race start where my wife was waiting for me with a towel, some water, and a Kind bar. My run ended up being more like 6.4 miles than an even 6.2, but close enough. I was already dripping sweat thanks to 93% humidity so I decided it was gonna be a sports bra only race for me…a first. I even took a poll on Twitter the night before to see where most people pin their bibs. I went with on my shorts on my left hip. It was perfect.

I didn’t have a hard goal in mind for the race. I wanted to push it hard, but not a full 100%. With this coming at the end of my first marathon training peak week, I wanted to test out my training and get a good feel for where I was at for Chicago in three weeks. At the same time, I hadn’t tapered or done anything to set myself up for success—which is fine because my number one priority is my marathon. I figured I’d run in the low 1:40s with an appropriate effort. Yeah, I don’t really know what “appropriate effort” means either, but that’s about how I’d describe my plan.

fullsizerender-3I got into the corral and started with my friend Miranda. She’s also marathon training and her goal was to stay just under an 8:00 mile pace. That seemed like a good place to be so I said I’d probably stick near her.

When the race started, we took off at what felt like an easy and slow pace. I truly thought I was running just over an 8:00 mile until we got to the first mile marker at around a 7:36. Oops. In my head, I knew this was a little too fast, but in my legs and lungs, I felt right where I wanted to be. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Mile 2 flew by in the blink of an eye. We dropped just over 20 seconds off the pace. Big oops. Just before the marker, I saw my wife on the side cheering. I flew by waving at her with both hands and being all around silly about it. This is about when I started to lose Miranda.

I kept things steady through mile three, but started realizing in mile four that I should slow myself down a bit. Miles four and five were 7:22 and 7:24. By mile six I was starting to feel the effects of starting out too fast and slowed down into the low 7:30s.

graphics-interchange-format-gif-42e8f027a5f9-1The miles in Liberty State Park were nice and familiar. There were no surprises which helped keep me on track and made it feel just like a training run—even though the route was a bit different than I typically do through the park. Approaching mile ten, I was really feeling it, but kept telling myself I just had 5k left. As we passed by the marina, I tried to make sure I had the room I needed for the bumpy part of the path right before the boat launch. I run this section of the path in both directions almost every day and it’s a bit rough. The path is really uneven and bumpy. But I’ve run it so much that I’ve mapped out where each step should land through the entire stretch to get through as easily as possible. I came down this section on the right side of the path nice and clean and then looped around the boat launch and out of the park.

From here on, it was just hang on and make it to the finish. The eleventh mile marker snuck right up as my time slowed a tad more to 7:39. I had passed the twelfth mile marker on my pre-race miles so I knew exactly where it was and just focused on getting to that point. And from there, the course followed along the same way I finished my pre-run miles so I just replayed that in my head. I knew exactly where I was going and what was left. This was a huge boost.

Some numbers

Some numbers

As I came down the last stretch, I passed my wife again, as well as my speedy friend Sarah—she placed 5th overall!—just before the final turn to the finish. I looked at the clock and saw I had just enough time left to squeeze in under 1:40 without having to push more. I was beat so I just coasted my way in. Any extra seconds I could have knocked off here weren’t important to me at that point. I cruised past the finish line and bent over like I was going to throw up, just like how I finish most races!

After gulping down some water, I met up with my wife and checked the printout of the times. My ears were literally clogged with sweat, I was dehydrated, and I was still in a post-race daze so when I looked my time, I only looked at the clock time and not my chip time. I wasn’t really thinking quite straight yet. I saw 1:40:03! I was pissed! I thought I had a few extra seconds there at the finish! I could have pushed enough to make it! It was stupid, but I was bummed about that. It wasn’t until about a half hour later when I checked online that I saw my chip time was 1:39:51 and I came in 7th in my age group. Everything felt right again!

We hung around for a little bit with Miranda and grabbed our free beers before calling it a day and walking home. I was pretty proud of my effort!

This is a sign I trust

This is a sign I trust

Takeaways!

Usually, I think you learn a lot more from failure or a bad race, but I actually have a lot of takeaways from this race. Mostly, they’re things I already knew, but had forgotten since it’s been little while.

fullsizerenderFirst off, I need to race more. I’m rusty. I forgot what it’s like to push through at the end of race. It’s nothing like pushing on a hard run.

Control is also a thing I need to work on. I’ve never been particularly good at controlling my pace early in a race and this has definitely been a big worry for me over the last few weeks as I look ahead to marathon day. I’m worried about starting off too fast. I’m really bad at slowing myself down even when I know I need to. It’s like my legs get into a certain rhythm and I can’t pull them back from there. If I can find the right pace early, I can usually keep it and even end up with a negative split. I took off too fast for the first few miles of this race and got in trouble later because of it. I just happened to be lucky enough to still sneak in with a great time, but I was struggling through the last 5k.

Running a race on a familiar route can make a huge difference. When you know the course like the back of your hand, it’s easy to wrap your head around the miles ahead. You know where they are and where they go. A trick I often do late in marathons is pretend I’m running on my normal route at home. I visualize myself with the same distance left on a training run as I have left in the race. I picture where I would be and what would be around me. With this course, I didn’t even have to do that. I was already on familiar paths and streets. It absolutely helped a lot!

Lastly, I’ve forgotten how to drink water while running at race effort, it would seem. I only took water twice, but I splashed it right up my nose the second time. I swear I used to be really good at this. I probably should have taken more water during the race as practice.img_0092-copy

14

2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

I’m going to try to do a recap of all of the runDisney Dopey Challenge in a single post here. We’ll see how this goes, but I’ll try to keep it short.

This was my first time doing the Dopey Challenge–if you’re not familiar, it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over four days in Disney World. I’d done the Goofy Challenge, just the half marathon and marathon part, three previous times and the half marathon by itself once before that. So I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going it.

Training

My training was pretty weak, much like how most of 2015 was. Looking back, it was much better than my training was for the 2015 Goofy Challenge, but I came into this race with 300 fewer miles in 2015 than I ran in 2014. While my training was short (we’ll call it nine weeks) and overall mileage was much lower than I’d like, if you just looked at the last two weeks, you’d think I was in good shape. My peak week was 52 miles with an unplanned-but-totally-felt-amazing 20-miler. This is what I held onto going into the race, knowing that I felt great running 20 miles when I had planned 15. Not to mention that last year’s Goofy Challenge went really well with less training so I was feeling like I’d at least have fun and not struggle too much. I mean, with this being my eight marathon and my goal being “have fun,” I felt like i had the experience and attitude to overcome short training.

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pre-races

I made the trip down to Disney with my wife and our friend, Ellen. We flew down on Wednesday and promptly went to the expo. We didn’t actually spend much time there because we wanted to get a little Magic Kingdom time in before calling it an early night.

5k – 27:39

Because the 5k starts a little later than the other races–6am, as opposed to 5:30am–we got to “sleep in” a little until 3:45 before getting up to head to the buses. Unfortunately, there was a major bus issue and we waited for over 40 minutes for any bus to come at all. Still, we had plenty of time, but it was definitely annoying!

Flat Amy for the 5k

Flat Amy for the 5k

Ellen and I quickly hit the porta-potties and then hopped in the corral. Before we knew it, the race was off!

Knowing it was just the first of four races, we kept things nice and easy and just had fun with it. It was over in the blink of an eye!

Before the 5k with Ellen

Before the 5k with Ellen

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416807_216637836_XLarge

10k – 57:36

My wife joined Ellen and I for the 10k with our slightly earlier wake up time of 3:30. Other than a slightly earlier wake up, our morning was much the same as the 5k was. While waiting in the corral, an old radio station friend, Jaclyn, found us to say hi. I hadn’t seen her in probably close to a decade at this point, many many years before I even thought about transitioning, so it was nice to see her.

Flat Amy for the 10k

Flat Amy for the 10k

Once the race was off, Ellen and Danielle (my wife) took off and left me behind. I didn’t mind too much, I just was going to do my own thing. But after a minute or two, I found myself right next to Ellen again. My wife was no where to be found. It turns out that she ran an accidental PR and was 29th overall and 5th in her age group. Typical.

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

The 10k really wasn’t much different than the 5k except for the fact it was raining a bit. Nothing too bad, though. Besides, I love running in the rain! For real, it’s my favorite.

Wet.

Wet.

With about a half mile left, we passed Phineas and Ferb and you KNOW I had to get a photo with them. Ellen kept on running and after two other runners rudely cut me in line before I could get my photo, I took off at a 6:15 min/mile or so pace to catch up to Ellen before the finish line. Probably not the smartest thing to do.

Phineas and Ferb!

Phineas and Ferb!

And almost as quickly as the 5k was over, so was the 10k! I had planned a 60-minute even 10k, but ended up running a bit faster and finished with a 57:36, which was still well within my “taking it real slow and easy” range.416807_216760450_XLarge

After the race, I showered and ran over to the Boardwalk for a meetup with Lauren, Patrick, Nathan, Amanda, and a few others.

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Through the afternoon, my calves were feeling really tight. While I attributed this to just being on my feet a lot while in the parks, I was pretty worried about it and tried to rest them as much as possible throughout the day. We called it a day pretty early, around 6:30 or so, and I spent some time stretching, foam rolling, and ice bathing my legs to make sure they’d be good to go for the half marathon. Even with all of that, I was able to get to bed by 8:30!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Half Marathon – 2:14:02

Waking up at 3:15, my legs felt a little better. They were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, but there was some improvement. The weather was warm, around 60º and very humid, 100%. I met up with a few of my #runchat friends before getting in the corral, but I was a little nervous about how tight my legs were feeling.

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Ellen, Danielle, and I all started in the corral together, but as soon as the race started, we got separated. They were off and I was left behind on my own. I didn’t mind too much as I prefer to run alone, but I would have preferred to plan that from the start so I could have started in my own corral and had slightly shorter waits for photos.

Fireworks to start the race!

Fireworks to start the race!

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Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom!

Tomorrowland!

Tomorrowland!

My plan for the half was to take it extra, extra slow. I stopped for a quick pee break in the first mile and then just took photos and had a good time. At one point around mile three, I had almost caught up to Danielle and Ellen. I was maybe 20-30 feet back from them, but then I saw Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph and needed to get my Sugar Rush on a photo with them. The line was super long though and I waited for a solid five minutes. Still, it was worth it!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

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It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

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Serious high five at the finish!

Most of the rest of the race went by uneventfully. I kept things slow and easy and took a bunch of photos. I just had a lot of fun with it. I took water and ate a gel, two things I don’t normally do in a half marathon, but I wanted to help my body get through and be ready for the marathon. When the race was over, I was so soaked in sweat that I could wring my tank top out four or five times and water still poured out of it like it had be dunked in a bucket of water.416807_217027044_XLarge

After the race, I tried to follow the same course of action as the previous day, rest my legs as much as possible. We had dinner at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios–I had a beer, which is something I’ve never done the night before a marathon. After dinner, it was pouring rain, but we still walked all the way back to Beach Club, where we were staying. With my calves being a worry, this wasn’t the smartest idea, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As soon as we stepped foot out of the park, I took my sandals off and walked the rest of the 1.3 miles back barefoot in the rain. It actually felt great! I really enjoy feeling the ground on my bare feet.

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

When we got to the room, I followed the same routine as the night before, stretching, foam rolling, and ice-bathing. Got to bed around 8:30 again. Perfect!

Marathon – 3:59:51

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

We went with another 3:15am wakeup, but I felt great when I woke up. My legs were feeling good and I was awake. The weather was about the same as it was for the half, but without all the fog. Danielle wasn’t running the marathon so Ellen and I quickly got dressed and made our way to the bus. I, again, met up with a few #runchat friends before the race, which was a little too much energy for Ellen, she headed off to the corral early. I got a huge hug from Lauren Bailey…twice! And I made sure to photobomb my friends Erin and Katherine (thanks Christina for making sure I got in it!).

When I got in my corral, I was lined up just behind the 3:45 pacer, a little fast for the level of training I put in and being the day after a half marathon. And that gets me to my race plan, I should probably tell you about that because it was a really good race plan for the training I had and for being the last day of Dopey. I planned a 4:30 finish, taking water at every stop in the first half and Powerade at every stop in the second half, gels every five miles, walking all hills and water stops, and taking all the photos. And, of course, not pooping my pants like I was 100% sure was going to happen last year. So that’s a pretty good plan going into a race as I was and I had been planning that for a couple months. Well, because Race Amy thought she was SOOOOO much smarter than Last Couple of Months Amy, I told a perfectly good race plan to go fuck itself for no reason whatsoever. I stood there in my corral and revised my plan to be no walking and 4:15 or better. Because I’m smart. Yup. </sarcasm>416807_217458443_XLarge

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Totally taken before I was ready!

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When the race started, I tried to still keep some control over my pace. I was in the C corral so I wasn’t exactly surrounded with slow runners. I let them pass me and kept on a reasonable pace for my new 4:15 goal. As soon as I started running, my legs went from feeling good to feeling like crap, though. Figures.

I kept things steady and just enjoyed myself–the theme of the whole weekend. I took some photos here and there, but didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for anything.

Going through Magic Kingdom, I was feeling okay and running a little ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed the course changes to include New Fantasyland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.416807_217945231_XLarge

With Disney World Speedway not existing anymore (I can’t believe how quickly that tore that thing out of there!), the trip from Magic to Animal Kingdom was back to the way it used to be prior to the 20th anniversary course changes. I actually didn’t mind the removal of the Speedway from the course, but it would have been nice to have something else in its place to break it up a little besides an additional out-and-back down a random road. Also, the relocation of the RVers messed me up a little. They’re one of my favorite parts of the marathon and I was keeping an eye out for them to take my annual selfie with them.

Again taken before I was ready!

Again taken before I was ready!

I was feeling good when I got to Animal Kingdom and, as I crossed the halfway mark, I was ready to take on the second half. I hit 13.1 at 2:03:52, way ahead of schedule for 4:15. So, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going for sub-4.” Because, again, I’m smart. I started doing some math in my head on how to run the second half in a 1:56 and then started slowly taking my pace down into the mid-8s. I also started taking Powerade at water stops from here on out.416807_217583363_XLarge

I was pretty damn sweaty at this point. I didn’t feel dehydrated, but my clothes were dripping sweat. When I stopped at the graveyard for a photo, I wasted close to a full minute trying to unlock my phone and, eventually, gave up. I was just too sweaty. So sweaty, in fact, that that was the last time I ever saw my phone’s screen turn on. More on that later.

Definitely my favorite photo!

Definitely my favorite photo!

The graveyard photo op was the spot last year where I decided to stop holding back and just let myself go and it felt like a good place to start thinking about the same this year. There were still 12 miles to go, so I couldn’t just let it all go, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in conserve mode anymore.

I grabbed a gel at mile 15.4 where they were handing them out. I had taken my 0, 5, 10 mile ones on plan, but had held off the 15-mile one. I ended up not finishing this one, my stomach actually wasn’t into it, despite it being my preferred flavor and brand. I didn’t take another gel after this and only took Powerade every other stop.416807_217586448_XLarge

Heading towards ESPN Wide World of Sports and the 17th mile marker, I was starting to feel it a bit. I was still okay, but I was not looking forward to the three miles in Wide World of Sports, which are full of turns and generally feel like eternity. Though, I did end up slightly picking up the pace in here. I also took a banana, but tossed it after one disgusting bite. I hate bananas.

This looks like a baseball card photo!

This looks like a baseball card photo!

I got my name called in the baseball stadium which was nice and got this amazing photo of me looking like I belong on a baseball card. I hit mile 20 on my way out of ESPN and did some mental math, I had 55 minutes to go 10k for a sub-4 finish. Basically, I just had to keep the pace I’d been running and I’d be good. It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!416807_217535962_XLarge

As I started into the big banked onramp where the Toy Story army men like to hang out (in between the 21st and 22nd mile markers), I was starting to feel real tired, but I knew what was ahead of me: the energy and crowds of Hollywood Studios, the walkway to Epcot, and then the World Showcase. I had this.

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling super awesome. I knew I was going to be dealing with some nausea for the rest of the race, but I wanted to just stay as strong as long as I could. Miles 22 and 23 were my fastest at 8:07 and 8:10, but my stomach was getting worse and my legs were starting to get pretty tired and sore. I don’t typically have stomach issues while racing, but I have had them before so I knew what the last few miles were going to be like. I knew I was going to have to slow it down a bit and was hoping I’d picked up enough time to still stay under four hours, but I was already starting to feel like I was going to have to let it go…not unlike Elsa.416807_217663099_XLarge

As I came out of Hollywood Studios, I knew my nausea was only going to get worse, but it wasn’t too much farther to go. I crossed the bridge from Boardwalk over to Yacht Club and knew I’d be coming up on where my wife was cheering soon, but I needed a short walk break for my stomach. I was really trying to hold it down. I started running again after a few seconds and passed my wife right where she said she’d be on a bench in front of Beach Club. As I ran by, I yelled “Ice bath! Ice bath! Ice bath!” Channeling my inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (you know, when he yells “Sandlot! Sandlot! Sandlot!” at the end of the movie while running from The Beast). I really wanted that ice bath. <- Never though that’d be a sentence I’d say!

After I rounded the corner into the back of the World Showcase in Epcot, I knew it was going to be a fight for that sub-4 finish. I was down to a run/walk thing to deal with the nausea and eventually gave in and realized I’d be more like a 4:01 or so. I was doing the math and looking at the clock and knew I was losing too much time with the walking.

When I rounded my way out of the World Showcase and into Futureworld, I was determined to run the rest of the way. I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-4. Then…I took my final walk break just after passing Spaceship Earth and accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. <Judi Dench> Or so I thought…</Judi Dench> something came over me and I decided I was going to run the rest of the way as fast as my legs would go even if I threw up all over myself. I picked it up and made a break for it. I knew it was going to be a buzzer-beater and, when I got within sight of the clock, I gave it everything I had left. I couldn’t believe it, but I snuck in at 3:59:51! Not bad! I also stopped immediately and bent over about to throw up. A volunteer came running over to help me to the side and held a bag for me, but I ended up keeping everything down.416807_217774363_XLarge

I had SO much fun with this race! I feel like I always do. Unfortunately, I took my phone-which was in a plastic bag-out of my pocket to tweet about my great race only to find that the screen wouldn’t turn on. I sweat so much that I shorted out my phone…not the first time I’ve done this. So I spent the next three days in Disney World with no phone.416807_217927185_XLarge

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I really couldn’t be happier about going sub-4 for this race. That’s my third fastest marathon since transitioning and my fastest Disney Marathon by 24 minutes. I’m also now four-for-four with negative splitting this race. If only I could do that in any other marathon!

Look, after you've done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Look, after you’ve done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Overall thoughts

Dopey was great! I had a lot of fun and found it really not that hard to do all the races. However, I don’t know that I’d do it again. It wasn’t the running. The running was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. Dopey is just tough logistically. It’s a lot of extra running stuff to pack (two pairs of running shoes instead of one, etc), a lot of early nights and early wakeup, and a lot of saving your legs instead of enjoying Disney World.

I was really pissed about my phone. Not so much because of the cost to replace it when I got home, but more because I just didn’t have it for taking photos and I felt super disconnected and helpless for the rest of my trip. I also ended up losing some great shots from the first half of the marathon: a selfie with Mr Skellington, my selfie with the RVers, the turtle with a race bib outside of Animal Kingdom, and the starting fireworks.

3

Asbury Park Half Marathon – 1:48:11

RunAPalooza Asbury Park Half Marathon 2015

Ignore the nail polish situation here. It came off as soon as I got home.

Oddly, before Saturday, I hadn’t raced a half marathon in three years. Yes, THREE! I’ve run four half marathons (raced two of them) in that period of time, but the last half marathon I did outside of Disney World or Disneyland and wasn’t just for fun was three years ago, April 2012. That’s before I even decided to transition! Really, I guess it’s just because I don’t run a lot of races and I’ve been staying focused on the marathon, but I don’t think this is doing my any favors. In order to get better at the marathon, I need to be running half marathons too.

Enter the Asbury Park Half Marathon at RunAPalooza.

I was back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to do this race. Last year, it was the day before the New Jersey Marathon and my wife ran it–she massively PRed! The race seemed reasonably well put together and it’s not too far away, so it seemed like a good candidate for a tune-race. Plus, it fell on a 16-mile long run day this year. Perfect!

Race Day

I woke up around 5:30–which is roughly when I wake up most weekday mornings these days–and was able to hop right out of bed. I wasn’t quite feeling energized, but I had no trouble getting up. I got dressed real quick, ate some oatmeal, and ran out the door. Unfortunately, I ended up being a few minutes behind schedule thanks to forgetting my glasses and having to head back to the house to get them and needing to stop for gas. Still, I made it down to Asbury Park in good time.

I parked and ran into the Convention Hall to grab my bib. Since I had 16 miles on the schedule, I wanted to knock out a three-mile warmup before the race. As I was throwing my bib on, my friend Lauren saw me and came over to say hi. We had planned to run the race together so we had to meet up anyway. After a quick hello, we set a meeting spot and I went out for my warmup. My timing ended up being pretty close to perfect and I finished my warmup with less than ten minutes to go before the race. Lauren and I quickly found each other again and snagged our spot in the corral.

Lauren wanted to keep around an 8:10 pace which sounded good to me. Ideally, that pace shouldn’t be too difficult for me right now. My only real concern was the weather. Last year, the weather was cool, but super windy. This year was nothing like that. The high for the day was set to be near 80 and the wind didn’t even exist. None of us East Coasters are anywhere near acclimated to that kind of warmth yet.

Anyway, after a couple minutes in the corral, the race started and we were off. We quickly found our pace and settled right in. Our race strategy was pretty simple, even 8:10s for 13.1 miles.

For the most part, things were extremely uneventful early on. We kept things steady with a nice conversation. Shortly before the halfway mark, we saw Aimee coming down the out part of the out-and-back in this part of the race. We waved and continued on.

If we’re being honest, I was already not feeling anywhere near how I wanted to be feeling. I felt like I was working too hard for the pace we were keeping. While I still haven’t set an official goal for Grandma’s Marathon in two months, I do know it’ll be somewhere in this realm, plus/minus 10 seconds. Considering that, I need to be able to keep this pace with no problem for a half marathon. The fact that I couldn’t is a major concern.

As we approached back towards the Convention Hall for our pass-by of the finish line on the boardwalk, I was starting to have serious concerns about keeping the pace up. We weren’t even at nine miles yet. Lauren wasn’t feeling too great either. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun last four miles.

After passing the finish line, for an out-and-back in the other direction from where we had just came, we hooked a right turn onto a 30ft patch OF FRIGGIN’ SAND! It was the worst surprise ever! That really sucked and I felt it in my legs for a few minutes afterwards. This was the final nail in the coffin for having any sort of a decent race. Lauren needed a walk break because of a side stitch and, since I already established we’re being totally honest here, I wasn’t really opposed to the idea. We walked for a few seconds and then started back up again, but it didn’t last long before we needed another break. This time, though, I decided to power on.

From this point on, my pace dropped to about 8:30. I just wanted things to be over. I was hot and not having fun anymore. After the last turnaround, I just did my best to keep up as I had been, but it was rough. As a final insult, the course took us BACK OVER THE DAMN SAND with only like a quarter mile left to go! Ah!

As I approached the finish, I didn’t really try to give much else for the finish. It didn’t feel worth it. There was a guy running next to me that I made sure to beat but that was about it.

I crossed the finish at 1:48:11 and was just glad it was over.

I grabbed some water and waited for Lauren to finish so we could lament about how much that sucked.

Thoughts

I really don’t know what to make of this. As I mentioned, if I want to hit the goal I’d like to be setting for Grandma’s, this race shouldn’t have been so difficult. On the other hand, it was hot. Take off 15-20º and I think this would have been a very different day. I’m just not acclimated yet. My hope is I’ll acclimate just fine over the next two months and then head off to Duluth to race and it’ll be a little cooler than back here. We’ll see how that works out. Besides, my legs felt totally fine afterwards and the day after the race, so that’s a solid indication I wasn’t anywhere near pushing them.

There’s also the fact that I didn’t really have a great week running at all last week and didn’t do any taper at all. All my runs were slow and tough. I was just tired and not on top of my game. I wasn’t super surprised the race didn’t go great. Taking the entirety of my training so far into account, I think my expectation that this wouldn’t be a difficult pace to keep was correct, rather than this being a huge wake up call.

And even on top of that, I haven’t actually raced any race since July of last year. I was a bit rusty going in so, at the least, it was good to have a race to just get the cobwebs out a bit.

Anyway, I’m still not setting a goal in stone for my marathon yet. I’m going to see how the rest of training goes and then make a decision.

10

2015 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

I can’t remember the last time I was this unprepared to run a race. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been this unprepared, to be honest. Since early July, the longest I had run had been 13.1 miles. For months, I’d run anywhere from 10 to 25 miles a week and recently I started throwing in spin class once a week. That’s just enough to be prepared for a half marathon, but not enough to actually earn a solid time. It’s certainly not enough to run a marathon. And it’s definitely not enough to run a half marathon and a marathon on back-to-back days.

So what does one do when they’re not anywhere near where they should be to complete a half marathon and a marathon in the same weekend? They do the runDisney Goofy Challenge. That’s what.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Flat Amy ready to go!

Flat Amy ready to go!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon morning started much like most runDisney races do for me. I cursed my alarm clock at 3am and rolled myself out of bed and into my race day clothes. I shoved a Picky Bar in my mouth, grabbed my apple slices from the fridge, and made my way out the door to catch a 3:45 bus down to the starting area.

Once I got there, I quickly met up with my friend Danielle who was conquering not only her first Goofy, but also her first marathon. We chatted for a bit and then I dropped my bag off and bumped into my Twitter buddies Heather and Nathan who were doing something even dumber than me, the Dopey Challenge–add a 5k and a 10k onto the half marathon and marathon. After a few minutes of standing around in the the cold, it was time to get into my corral and be prepared for the nice and early 5:35am start.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Waiting around for the start!

Time went by surprisingly quickly in the corral and then it was time to go–in typical runDisney fashion with fireworks, of course. Knowing that I really had no business running a marathon the next day, I knew I’d have to take the race extra easy. I set my goal at an easy 2:15 so I could just take my time, take some photos, and have fun. The few 13.1 milers I’ve done in “training” recently were all around 1:57 without too much effort so I knew this shouldn’t be too hard on my legs.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon start

Gotta love runDisney starts!

Less than a mile into the race, I stopped at a bank of porta-potties to let out a quick pee that I’d been holding. From there, I stopped quickly for a photo here and there, but just kept my pace nice and easy.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Stilts.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Main Street Magic Kingdom

Main Street USA

Somewhere before the 5k mark, I ran into my friend Melody who was doing Dopey. She had a faster goal in mind than I did and, though she had started a corral back from me, had caught up and recognized me from behind. We ran together all the way to Magic Kingdom and down Main Street before I lost her after I stopped to take a quick photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Cinderella's Castle

What up, Cindy!

By this point, I had picked up my pace a little from where I was, something I would continue to do throughout the race, but I was feeling fine as we made our way through Tomorrowland and into Fantasyland. After running through Cindy’s castle–which had been taken over by Anna and Elsa–I stopped for another photo in front of the castle, this time with one of the official race photographers.

Making my way around to the sixth mile marker and then out of the back of the park next to Splash Mountain, I was simply enjoying things and having fun. Except for the last mile, the rest of the race is kind of boring from here. You’re on back roads between Magic Kingdom and Epcot and there isn’t a ton going on. There is a bit of entertainment, but not quite enough for this stretch. Though, there was a DJ playing “Shake It Off” on repeat which made me think about great this song still is.

Somewhere around mile nine, I ran into Patrick, whom I had just met at Wine & Dine two months ago. We ran together for a bit before I pulled my pace back a bit to save energy for the next day. From there to the finish was pretty uneventful. I kept it steady and cruised in for a 2:08:07 finish. A bit faster than planned, but it happens.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Phineas and Ferb

Best race photo EVER!

After the race, I quickly hopped on a bus back to the resort to get ready for the day in the parks. I wanted to get right out there so I wouldn’t have to feel bad about making it an early night.

Walt Disney World Marathon

Marathon outfit

Marathon outfit

Marathon morning started off similar to the day before. Though, as I started to spread the peanut butter I brought with my onto my bagel, I noticed it had expired months ago so the peanut butter and half my bagel went right into the trash. This left me with less pre-race nutrition than I would have liked. I ended up with half a plain bagel, some apple slices, a Larabar, and a Cliff Shots gel. Could be worse, but still not ideal.

My real worry was that I was somehow sore from the day before. Not terribly sore, but I felt it in my quads. Sure, I wasn’t really trained for a marathon, but I shouldn’t have been sore from a half marathon ten minutes slower than the 13.1 milers I’d been doing every week without pushing myself. It wasn’t enough to make me think I should pull a DNS, but it was enough to have me concerned.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon start

Some more fireworks to start off day two!

This time when the race started, I made sure to pull it back even more on the pace and I, again, stopped inside the first mile to pee. Given my soreness at the start, I decided I would walk all hills and walk through each water stop. And since the weather was going to get up into the 70s, I planned to take water at every stop anyway. My goal was to, at worst, get to the halfway point before falling back to a run/walk effort and, at best, make it to mile sixteen before that happened. I fully expected a lot of walking in the last third of the race. I figured shooting for a 5:00 finish gave me plenty of time to walk as much as I needed in the second half of the race.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope

Glitchin’ with Vanellope!

I stuck to this plan pretty well, but my pace was a lot faster than planned. Even with all my photo stops, through the first third of the race, I was keeping about a 10:35 min/mile average which was about as slow as I could get my legs to go at the time. The problem was I was kind of having a blast out there. I was just having fun and not worrying about much. Okay, that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that I kind of had to poop…and was starting to feel some thigh chafing show up.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Magic Kingdom

Oh, hey, Magic Kingdom

As we made our way into the Speedway after Magic Kingdom, I started eying up the porta-potties. I didn’t want to have to do it, but I knew what needed to be done and went for it. I think I lost about three minutes or so in there. After that was taken care of, I stopped at the next aid station to throw some vaseline between my legs to ward off the chafing. Despite both of these things, I was having all kinds of fun out there. I had a HUGE smile on my face and couldn’t stop feeling totally in love with running.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

My favorite RVers!!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Quick little jamboree! And, yes, that is indeed vaseline on my camera lens.

Finally, the temperature started to rise a bit more and I broke out into a heavy enough sweat for my thighs to be able to keep themselves all lubed up and free from chafing. And it was around that time we started to make our way into Animal Kingdom. The fun thing about starting a race sore is you completely lose all ability to accurately judge how your legs are holding up through things. I hadn’t run an inch of the race without feeling at least some soreness and things had only gotten marginally worse so I was pretty happy with where I was. In fact, I was otherwise feeling really good.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

I made a very cute friend on my way into Animal Kingdom!

We ran through Animal Kingdom and as we passed the halfway part of the race Samwise Gamgee passed me on left. Not someone dressed like him, it was Sean Astin. This was my second runDisney event I’d run with him (not with him; you know what I mean). The first was the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland back in 2013. Though, that time I passed him. He ran just in front of me for a few seconds and then stopped to walk and I never saw him again.

Anyway, like I said, I was feeling pretty good and my pace was slowly picking up. I was pretty much in heaven…which isn’t exactly where you’d expect someone in my situation going into the race to be. I had about 18 minutes banked for the second half of the race to keep under 5:00.

After passing the fourteenth mile marker, I got up to the graveyard photo op and just had to go for it this year. I waited in a line as about ten runners ahead of me took their photos and probably lost a good two or three minutes, but I didn’t care, my photo was great and totally worth it!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 14 just KILLED me!

I was afraid that laying down on the ground to take the photo would be the end of me. After standing there for a couple minutes and then having to stand back up from the ground, I figured my legs would be done and that would be that. Instead, this is where things got weird.

I got up just fine and then, I don’t know, I just kind of started to go for it. My legs were feeling good and I was passing runner after runner. I knew I still had a lot of race ahead of me so I tried to pull back a bit, but I really just wanted to go. At mile sixteen, where I had hoped to make it before needing to walk, I was starting to really feel in my element. My pace was getting down into the low nine-minute-mile range and I stopped taking water. Oddly, I felt completely hydrated, much more so than when I started the race even.

Coming around into Wide World of Sports, I couldn’t have felt better or been happier…except for the fact that I had another poop brewing. I didn’t want to stop again, though, I was feeling too good. So I squeezed some cheek and motored on while continuing to pass runners through the narrow parts of the course in Wide World of Sports. With 10k to go, I was in the zone and kicking ass. Instead of stopping to poop like I should have, I decided to “go for it” a little more. At this point, the race was really on. What was going to come first, the finish line or my poop?

I rounded into Hollywood Studios after somehow missing the 22nd mile marker entirely and turned it on a little more. I’m running out of ways to say how good I was feeling, but I really was. My legs were saying “Go! Go! Go!”

Coming up on the 23rd marker, I did some quick math and realized at my current pace I was going to score a WDW Marathon PR. Though, I’ve only ever done WDW Marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge and, therefore, never raced it, this still seemed like a pretty big deal to me. Back at mile 20, I thought I would be close, but a minute or two over. Here, I knew I just had to keep it steady.

But I didn’t keep it steady. I picked it up some more. It’s weird, I know, but my legs were only slightly more sore than when I started the race and, somehow, not tired at all. I was at mile 23 of a marathon I shouldn’t have been running at all, I shouldn’t have been feeling good. I shouldn’t have been able to pick it up. It shouldn’t have mattered that I took the first half of the race really slow and easy. I should have been struggling. I wasn’t.

Mile 24 came in at a brisk 8:07, just a hair slower than my goal marathon pace from back in April. I flew through Hollywood Studios like I had a rocket strapped to me.

Coming down along the river behind the Boardwalk, I was doing my best to get around people in the cramped space, but I was still flying. Only problem was, I was really struggling to hold the poop in. I was squeezing my butt as tight as I could and just praying to not shit my shorts. This and the crowdedness of the course here caused me to lose a little time, but I was still putting down an 8:30 min/mile.

I don’t know why I did it, but I grabbed a Twizzler from a girl handing them out behind the Boardwalk. I took a few bites and then tossed it. Unfortunately, as I was chewing it, it slid into the back of my mouth and I started choking on it. Luckily, I was able to deal with that without having to slow down. Almost ruined everything, though!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 25.5 and nothing about that smile is fake.

Coming down along by the Beach Club, I was still passing runner after runner. Some spots got a little tight and, rather than slowing down, I decided to just hop over some of the cones around the trees. I flew around into the World Showcase and would have been really flying if I didn’t have to poop so badly. Though, I was still running an 8:30 pace. At this point, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finish without pooping my pants. I strongly debated stopping real quick, but I wanted that PR bad so I kept on squeezing. I was 100% convinced that the moment I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I was going to crap all over myself. It wasn’t going to be pretty.

Quick high-five from Mickey!

Quick high-five from Mickey!

I made my way around the World Showcase, through Futureworld, and out of the park. The finish line came into view, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it. I high-fived Mickey in my last few steps and crossed at 4:23:21, a four minute WDW Marathon PR. And, of course, my GI immediately felt better. I grabbed my medal and felt on top of the world.

After the race, my legs felt the best they ever have after a marathon. They were sore as heck, sure, but I was walking just fine and not even in the same ballpark of soreness I usually feel. The next day and the day after, I still was significantly less sore than normal.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon and Goofy Challenge

Obligatory hardware photo.

Thoughts

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Seriously, happy as a clam. Not even a clam…all the clams. Every clam.

Sure, 4:23 is not a fast marathon for me when you look at my faster times, but this was a race that should have been difficult to finish at all given how much I had been running. Even though the last eight months of running really sucked for me, I still racked up 1,504 miles I 2014 and I have to believe that really came into play here.

Every marathon has a story behind it. Every one is unique. Just looking at my marathon times in chronological order can tell you that. 3:24, 4:58, 3:08, 4:27, 3:44, 3:48, and 4:23. All of these races have their own story. Different goals, different training, and different takeaways. This marathon was my third slowest, but it slapped me in the face and told me to quit my whining. It told me to get my shit together and start pushing myself for real again. It told me to believe in myself. And it reminded me of what I’m capable of.

You really have to love running to do the Goofy Challenge and I’ve struggled with that a lot for the last eight months, but I just can’t doubt that anymore. I am in love with running. After the New Jersey Marathon last year, I wrote about what I learned from that race and I wrote about how much I love the marathon. This race reminded me that I just simply love running too. I couldn’t have had a better and more fun time out there running it. I had a huge smile the whole time and loved every second of it. I only wanted it to end because of the whole poop situation. Otherwise, I was in heaven.

I’m not making any definite plans yet for this year, but I want to get out there and get my shit together again. I want to work hard. I want 3:30 to be a reasonable marathon goal again.