Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goofy's Race-and-a-Half Challenge: A Race Report - Part 1

First of all, let's go waaaay back . . . back to July 7, 2009 (also known as the day I went temporarily insane and decided to register for the Goofy Challenge at Disney World). I had NO CLUE at that point in time that I would soon quit my job and embark on this big ol' journey of mine to Orlando. Don't get me wrong; it worked out quite nicely given that I didn't have to worry about travel expenses or taking time off. But let's just say that if I would have known I'd be training for Goofy while working out pretty intensely 5 days a week (at times, twice a day), I never would have registered. The fact is, I was signed up, I'd paid the money . . . and DARN IT, I was going to get those three medals if it killed me!

Wilson and I hit up the Expo on Thursday evening in a desperate attempt to beat the crowds. Turns out this was smart thinking, as we were in and out of there in under 45 minutes. We first hit up the Goofy Challenge check-in area, where a kind gentleman presented me with my bibs, chips and some Goofy souvenirs; I then signed my life away to him and he placed a silver wristband around my wrist. As he did so, I couldn't help but silently wonder to myself whether this wristband's secondary purpose was to save time when I inevitably ended up in the hospital, dying of exhaustion and leg cramps at some point on Sunday. But I smiled and thanked the man just the same, and we quickly moved on, hitting up the marathon check-in area (for Wilson) and the t-shirt & goody bag pick-up area (Goofy Challengers got THREE long-sleeve tech shirts--SCORE!). Race gear in hand, we headed straight for the exit, stopping only twice on the way . . . once to purchase a couple pairs of gloves and once to grab some free Larabar samples.

Fast-forward 24 hours to Friday. I went to school as usual and was semi-bombarded with questions by my classmates. "How far do you have to run?" "What's your strategy?" "How are you feeling about it?" "Are you insane?" Somehow, though, I didn't feel nervous. Sure, I put on the whole "I don't know how it'll go; that's a lot of miles to run in two days and I really just want to have fun with it" act. But deep down inside, I was feeling confident. So confident, in fact, that I allowed a silly thought to creep its way into my mind. I'd thought about it in the past, but had always brushed it aside as ridiculous. But again, there it was teasing me: "Maybe . . . just maybe . . . I could pull off PR's in both the half-marathon AND the marathon. How epic would THAT be?" I was really starting to believe that it might just be a possibility.

Well, wouldn't ya know, that confidence faded the second I got back to my hotel room. Perhaps it was the bad news that was presenting me with. Perhaps it was the phone call in which my mother attempted to talk me out of running the races. Perhaps it was the twinge of soreness I was feeling in both quads. Or maybe it was simply the fact that the magnitude of what I was about to do had finally hit me like a load of bricks. Whatever the case, I was REALLY nervous. And my anxiety only grew as the predicted temps dropped lower and lower . . . It was official; The Disney Half-Marathon and Disney Marathon would mark the two coldest races I had ever run. Temps for Saturday were predicted to be in the 30s (with a "real feel" in the low-2os) and freezing rain; and temps for Sunday were predicted to be in the 20s (with a "real feel" in the low-teens). Can we say BRRRR?! And Wilson and I had brought no running tights with us to Orlando . . . FRACK.

After debating for hours about whether we should try to go out and find tights or not, we finally decided to hit up Target. It was a no go. FRACK SQUARED. Just when I had convinced myself that I would be fine in capris, we drove past a Sports Authority. Round two of desperately seeking running tights. And? We were in business! We both found what we needed, sprinted for the check-out line and booked it out of there without so much as trying them on. Well, I'll bet you already know where this is going . . . but we got back to the hotel, tried on our tights, and mine were HUGE; a size medium that fit like an XL. CRAPPERS. Luckily, Wilson's fit him fine . . . but I had officially given up. Capris it would be.

We ate dinner, I packed all of my race stuff AND my school stuff (I was going to have to go straight to school from the race), and FINALLY, we hit the hay around 9:30 p.m., knowing full well that our 3:00 a.m. wake-up call was coming soon.

And did it ever. I woke up, drank some coffee, got dressed and body-glided, ate some oatmeal, drank some water, checked my bags one last time to make sure I had everything . . . and we were out the door by 3:45 a.m., on our way to Disney for Day 1 of the Goofy Challenge! We got there without issue, parked, and I immediately hopped on line for the porta-potties. The lines were long, but nothing too bad.

Before long, it was time to leave Wilson behind and head towards the start line. Little did I know that it was a good 20-minute walk to the start line! I tried to hustle . . . but it was tough to do so with so many people sloooowly making their way over, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the race was about to start. Finally, I felt like we were starting to get close. I attempted to pull my throwaway pants off while walking/jogging, which--for the record--I would NOT recommend! I am lucky I didn't face plant . . . but somehow, I got those suckers off and resumed my jog to the start. All of a sudden, fireworks went off, indicating the start of the first wave. Considering I was in the second wave, I knew I needed to hurry. Luckily, I made it to the start with a minute or two to spare . . . and then another explosion of fireworks went off, and we were moving!

The first few miles FLEW by. There's not a whole lot to report, as frankly, there wasn't a whole lot to see! These miles were pitch black, and we were running on some nice, flat highway. Not real exciting. Despite some crazy crowds and narrow roadways, I really had to focus on keeping my pace down. Running was feeling basically effortless; a little TOO effortless. But still, I knew I had to stick to my plan in order to stand a chance at "fresh" legs for the marathon the next day. On I trotted, singing to myself in my head.

Before I knew it, we were over 5 miles through the race, and we were rapidly approaching the Magic Kingdom. I felt my heart flutter as we entered . . . it was very similar to the first time I saw the place when I was a kid--only WAY better! The sky was still pitch black and everything was just lit up in the most incredible way possible. There honestly just aren't words to describe it; it was . . . magical :) As I ran through the park, I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear like some kind of goofy fool! It was just SO MUCH FUN! I can say without doubt that this was my favorite running memory EVER.

As quickly as we entered, though, we were spat back out of the park for another six miles or so of uninteresting highway running. The only highlight of the section from mile 6.5-ish to mile-12 was getting to see Wilson around mile-8. By this time, I was still feeling great, and I jumped up and down like a hyperactive child when I saw him. Ha. I've NEVER ever felt that good at that point in a half-marathon. I think even Wilson was shocked to see me in such high spirits! Granted, I was running pretty easy . . . but still, I was on PR pace!

By mile-9 or so, the fun was over. The sleet/hail mixture that had plagued us through the first 90 minutes of the race had turned into freezing, liquid rain . . . and I was SOAKED. And also? I was REALLY EFFING COLD. I knew the smart thing to do was to keep my pace slow; but honestly, I just couldn't take it anymore. I was freezing my arse off! I struggled through one last slow mile, but then I officially gave up on keeping my pace down once I hit the Mile-10 marker. By that time, my one and only goal was to finish up as quickly as possible and get into some dry clothes and the heated car!

I booked it through the last 5K to the finish, slapping Goofy's hand right before crossing at 2:08:17 . . . a PR by over 7 minutes. Not bad, considering I held myself back for 80% of the race!

Splits were as follows:

Mile-1: 10:14 (holy crowded start, Batman)
Mile-2: 10:33 (road narrows . . . even MORE crowded)
Mile-3: 9:43 (AH, open space! Oops; slow down, Irish!)
Mile-4: 9:58 ('atta girl)
Mile-5: 10:07 (good; keep it there)
Mile-6: 10:06 (YES. I am a pacing goddess!)
Mile-7: 9:42 (watch it . . . )
Mile-8: 9:42 (watch it . . . )
Mile-9: 9:35 (WATCH IT . . .)
Mile-10: 9:53 (gel break; whew, back on track!)
Mile-11: 9:06 (EFF IT! I am COLD and WET)
Mile-12: 9:11 (I seriously can't WAIT to finish)
Last .1: 7:21/pace (Ah, sweet finish line! It is SO nice to see you!)

After finishing, I got my mylar blanket (WARMTH!) and my medal, and headed to the Goofy tent to have my wristband swapped out. I then grabbed a Powerade, had my finisher photo taken and headed straight for the family meet-up area, opting to skip the food tent. Yup. THAT'S how cold I was, homies . . . so cold that I didn't give a rat's ass about food. I don't think that's ever happened before! I met up with Wilson, he took a quick video of me (will post it as soon as I figure out how--ha) and then we headed to the parking lot . . . time to go to school for 7 hours of Sports Performance education! Of course, this was easier said than done, considering we couldn't remember where the hell we'd parked! We're city people . . . we don't think about things like that! Ha. A really nice runner offered to let us sit in his car to warm up if we didn't find our car soon; but thankfully, we found it (turns out it was like four cars down from the nice runner dude).

Amazingly, despite this delay, we still had time for a Starbucks stop on the way to school. I got a breakfast sandwich and a big ol' piping hot Americano, which I had a VERY difficult time consuming. Turns out shivering uncontrollably makes it very tricky to eat/drink without spilling all over yourself; and chattering teeth don't help matters any either! DAMN, I was cold! I had wisely changed out of my wet top in the car, but my wet sports bra was still on. Luckily, I had brought a change of sports bra with me . . . so I changed that sucker as soon as I got to school. MUCH BETTER! The dry clothes combined with the toasty classroom felt like Heaven. Only problem was . . . all I wanted to do was SLEEP!

Somehow, though, I made it to our hour lunch break without dozing off. I downed my lunch in approximately 5 seconds and then put my head down to sleep and had the most delightful nap in the history of naps. I woke up 55 minutes later to what was basically the BEST NEWS EVER. Because of the shit weather, our instructor was going to let us out of class 2.5 hours early!! We typically would have had a sports performance workout during that time; but Paul had pity on us and let us leave at 2 p.m., promising we would make up the time during the coming weekend's session. You guys, I am telling you; I have never been so happy in ALL MY LIFE.

Wilson picked me up at 2:00 and we headed back to the hotel where I showered (finally), iced, rocked my hot pink recovery socks and basically lazed around until we finally hit up the Macaroni Grill geezer-style (at like 5:30 p.m.) for a good old fashioned carbo-loading meal. We returned back to the hotel, got stuff ready to go for the next day, and hit the hay by around 9 p.m. Let me tell you; I slept like a BABY.

To Be Continued . . .

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Guess Who's Goofy?

Um, you guys? There are seriously just not words to describe how amazingly the Goofy Challenge went. Despite a million and one reasons why it could have been a disaster*, I somehow managed to pull off PR's at both the half-marathon (2:08:17) AND marathon (4:28:23) distance. I don't even understand how that's possible. I'm actually thinking I may wake up soon and realize it was all a dream! I don't have the time (or the energy) at the moment for a full recap . . . but I just wanted to let you know how it went, since y'all have been SO incredible with your support as of late (despite the fact that I haven't been able to reciprocate that support--sad face). I will try my best to get a recap up in as timely a fashion as possible. But seriously, thanks again for being so awesome. I love you all! :)

*Including, but not limited to, my worst face plant ever at mile-1.8 of the marathon

Monday, January 4, 2010

Irish 2.0

It's official . . . I've entered the 21st century, folks. New decade, new Irish! :) But don't worry, I'm still just as nerdy as in 2009!