Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goofy's Race-And-A-Half Challenge: A Race Report - Part II

Dang, yo. There has been all kinds of craziness happening in the life of Irish Cream as of late. But before I let too much escape me, I wanted to go ahead and complete my Goofy Race Report. I mean, it HAS been nearly a month since it took place . . . yeesh!


Race morning once again came nice and early, with Wilson and I rising sometime around 3 a.m. We got ourselves ready, chowed down on some breakfast and were out the door before you could say, "Goofy." Once we stepped outside, it hit us . . . it was EFFING COLD OUT. OMG. The temps, as predicted, were hovering in the 20s with a "real feel" in the teens. Ouch. Luckily, I was wearing the warmest $4.00 size-XXL Grinch flannel pj pants EVER over my race clothes. As hideous as they may have been, they were truly toasty. I may or may not have shed a tear when I had to throw them away prior to the start . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We zipped down I-4 and made it to Epcot in no time at all. Then came the difficult part . . . dropping trou in sub-freezing temps. I contemplated holding it, but finally sucked it up and went. By the time Wilson and I made it through the porta-potty line, it was just about time to head to the start area, knowing from experience that it was a good 20-minute walk to get there. Wilson hit up gear check on the way, and then we wandered through the dark with the masses of runners gearing up to run 26.2. I don't know about anyone else, but I always find the moments just before the start of a marathon to be SO incredible. I think part of it has to do with the fact that marathon training tends to be a lesson in solitude; that is, unless you are lucky enough to have lots of marathon runners in your life. But you all know how it is . . . you train for months and are more likely than not called "crazy" on countless occasions during those months. Then you finally make it to that start line and you are surrounded by people just like you. How incredible does it feel, knowing that those tens of thousands of people went through exactly what you went through to get there? It is truly awe-inspiring.

Anyway, we moseyed over to the start area, thinking we had oodles of time; only, once we got there, we realized that my assigned corral (Corral D), was actually part of the FIRST wave thanks to a split start. Wow, good thing I looked into that BEFORE the race. Oops. Talk about unprepared! Considering the National Anthem had already been sung while we were en route to the start area, we knew we didn't have much time before the gun went off. We found the corral and Wilson immediately hopped the fence, stumbled and fell. Luckily, he just scraped up his palms a little bit, but it was still scary. I, after seeing this, insisted on heading up to the actual entrance to the corral. After all, someone as clumsy as me has NO business hopping fences! This was a good idea in theory; however, once I saw the line of people at the entrance to the coral (where they were very diligently checking bibs) I went into panic mode. Ultimately, I decided to live on the edge and do a little fence-jumping myself. Somehow, I made it over that fence with the assistance of a kind runner man and found Wilson. Whew! We'd made it!

Shortly thereafter, the same video and fireworks from the half-marathon the day before went off--and holy Deja vu--it was like I was in my own personal version of Groundhog Day! Only this time, I had Wilson with me, video-taping everything that happened with his trusty Flip camera. Before we knew it, we were moving! And holy crap, it was weird. Our feet were literally frozen after being out in the cold for so long prior to the start. And let me tell you, it was really hard to run with ice blocks for feet! Luckily, within a mile-and-a-half or so, they seemed to thaw up a bit. Of course, shortly thereafter--somewhere around the 1.8-mile mark--I had a bit of an "incident". We were running through the entrance gate area for the parking lot at Epcot, and Wilson dropped back to take a video of the scene. I kept looking behind me to see where he'd escaped to since it was PITCH black, and I was convinced I was going to lose him. All of a sudden, BAM!!! I was on the ground. The collective gasps all around me were enough to let me know that it looked REALLY bad. Somehow, though, I managed to spring right back up onto my feet. I looked back again to see what had led to my fall . . . a frickin' speed bump! Incidentally, there WERE gate attendants hanging out all around, telling us runners to watch our steps. But I didn't really notice that until AFTER I'd fallen, since I'd been so preoccupied with trying to find Wilson. Oopsies. Just as I turned back, Wilson came running up and said, "Did you just fall down?" Yes sir! We were off to a GREAT start.*

Mile-1: 10:54
Mile-2: 11:14

As we hit the Mile-2 mark, I assessed the damage of my fall. I'd tweaked my left wrist a bit, my palms were scraped up and my knees were REALLY banged up--especially my right knee. In fact, I could tell my knees were so torn up that it was best not to pull my pant leg up and check. I figured it was better to wait until after I finished the race before I took a look. Still, I was okay . . . and I counted my lucky stars that such a hard fall hadn't caused a more serious injury. On we ran, albeit slowly, as I tried to get back into some kind of a groove. This, however, was easier said than done . . . especially since the course seemed REALLY crowded; probably because just after mile-3, the split start groups had come back together, so there were twice as many people as there had been for the first three miles. We jogged on, passing people whenever we could, if for no other reason than to get a little room to breathe!

Mile-3: 10:48
Mile-4: 11:13

By Mile-5, I was in pain. My right knee was throbbing with every step and I could tell that it had swollen up pretty good. In fact, I was so preoccupied with the pain that I don't even remember much about the next few miles. We kept moving (slowly), but I was NOT a happy camper. Wilson tried to cheer me up, and I did my best to oblige, but I was really hurting. I started to wonder how on earth I would make it through 20+ more miles. Another crazy thing I started noticing around this point was that the aid stations had turned into all out ice-skating rinks. Apparently the spilled water was freezing over, making for some pretty hazardous conditions. Wilson and I would slow WAY down every time we made our way through an aid station, just to be on the safe side. The last thing either of us needed was ANOTHER fall!

Mile-5: 11:33 (gel break)
Mile-6: 10:26
Mile-7: 10:38

The next few miles were truly miserable. We were on service roads outside of the parks, I was hurting pretty badly and we still had 3 miles to go before we would make it to the Magic Kingdom. In fact, by this point, I had developed a hint of a limp. I remembered an article I'd read once that said you shouldn't finish a run/race if you are limping. So I focused on trying to NOT limp. On top of the knee issue, I could NOT for the life of me get comfortable temperature-wise. I would get warm and push my sleeves up, only to get cold two minutes later and push the sleeves back down. I'd unzip my half-zip top, only to zip it back up 30 seconds later. It was more than a little irritating. But still, I am nothing if not stubborn . . . and knowing I had TWO medals on the line was more than enough to keep me going. On we schlepped, praying for the Magic Kingdom to come soon!

Mile-8: 10:09
Mile-9: 10:23
Mile-10: 11:24 (gel break/Wilson pee break)

Finally, we hit the Mile-10 mark and entered the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps I was simply grumpy on account of my fall and subsequent injuries, but for some reason, it just didn't seem as cool as it had the day before. I kept telling Wilson how much cooler everything had looked in the dark. Luckily, he seemed to really enjoy the mile that ran through the MK despite my foul mood. He stopped on countless occasions and took videos of the various characters and attractions. Of course, this made me nervous, since I was convinced I was going to lose him. And knowing what bad shape I was in, I was pretty sure that I'd be done if I lost him. But somehow, we made it through the Magic Kingdom without losing one another.

Mile-11: 10:20

After exiting the MK, we embarked on another LOOOONG trek between the parks. I started to get really excited about making it to the half-way mark. But still, it was uber crowded, and a lot of the roadways we were running on were super narrow. The one good thing was that there was really a lot of crowd support. I can't tell you how many times I heard people yell out "Go Goofy!" when I ran by (the Goofy Challengers had unique bibs). This gave me a boost every time. In fact, I'm not sure if it was the crowd support or what, but somewhere near the half-way point, my knee even started to feel a little bit better.

Mile-12: 10:15
Mile-13: 10:22

We ended up crossing the half-way point at 2:21:30, and to be honest, I freaked a little bit. As much as I knew we were trying to take the race easy and have fun with it, I thought back to my secret wish to PR in the marathon. At this point, it looked like that goal was out the window, considering I'd crossed the half-way point almost ten minutes faster during the Chicago Marathon (my prior marathon PR). Oh well, guess I'd just have to have fun with the rest of the race. But not long after I'd resigned myself to the idea, Wilson and I got separated at an aid station just past mile-14. Wilson stopped to get some water, and I kept going but slowed to a walk to allow him to catch up to me. When several minutes passed and I still hadn't seen him, I knew we were in trouble. And to make matters worse? Wilson had been carrying one of my gels in his shorts pocket. Crappers. Eventually, enough time had passed that I was convinced that Wilson must have passed right by me without me noticing . . . after all, he WAS wearing the same thing as 90% of the race field: black tights with black shorts over them and the white long-sleeved race tee. I took off in an attempt to catch up with him.

Mile-14: 10:45 (gel break)
Mile-15: 10:35

As I ran on, I came to realize I probably wasn't going to find Wilson. In the past, I would have been beyond bummed about this. In fact, I likely would have allowed it to ruin the race for me. But instead, I thought about how awesome it would be if I finished strong despite so many hiccups early on. After all, I was still feeling pretty good. The knee had been downgraded to just a dull ache. I was getting a little bit tired, but I told myself that if I just made it to mile-18 before walking, that would be good enough. As I ran on, the course cleared up a little bit, making for a much more pleasant running environment. That, and the sun came out and felt awesome beating down on us. I was finally back to my happy running place :)

Mile-16: 9:59
Mile-17: 9:53
Mile-18: 9:17

While I had promised myself that I could walk if I made it to mile-18, I got to that point and I actually WANTED to keep running. My last split had been pretty stellar and it had felt REALLY good. Plus, somewhere around this point, we got to run through Animal Kingdom, which was a definite highlight for me. For whatever reason, I was passing people left and right as we ran through Animal Kingdom. That, combined with the awesome cheering of some Animal Kingdom employees propelled me on and gave me a huge boost. Oh, I should also mention that just before entering the Animal Kingdom, I had managed to procure an on course gel to replace the one Wilson had run off with. That was a HUGE relief for me. It wasn't a Roctane, but it would do. As I stopped to gel up after leaving the Animal Kingdom, I came up with a new strategy--a bit of an experiment, really. Basically, I wanted to push myself and see how long I could hold on. I decided that if I could just hold on until the 20-mile mark, I would be thrilled; but in reality, I started to think that maybe--just maybe--I could hold on until the end.

Mile-19: 10:14 (gel break)
Mile-20: 9:05

I crossed a timing mat at the Mile-20 marker, which prompted me to check my time at that point. I looked down and saw 3:30:59 staring back at me. Holy. Crap. I realized at that point that if I could hold on and keep my pace at 10:00 miles or faster, I could actually earn myself I nice new marathon PR along with my two shiny medals! This motivated me like nothing else. I thought of how awesome it would be to say that I ran the Goofy Challenge and PR'd at both distances. Suddenly, what had started as the ultimate pipe dream was within my reach . . . and I knew right then and there that there was no way I would let it escape. Miles 21-22 passed pretty quickly as they consisted of a nice out-and-back stretch. By this point, I felt the strongest I had felt all race. As I hit the turn around point, I kept my eyes peeled for Wilson coming in the other direction. No luck, but I WAS passing people left and right, and that felt AWESOME. I looked down when we hit the Mile-21 marker and saw my first sub-9 split. I was CONVINCED it had to be wrong. How on earth had I just pulled off a sub-9 split at mile-34.1 of the Goofy Challenge?!

Mile-21: 8:57
Mile-22: 9:14

On I went, and before I knew it, I'd arrived at Hollywood Studios. This was super exciting, as I knew the remainder of the course would be in/around the parks. The crowds were thick and crazy supportive. Everywhere I looked runners were slowing to a walk, or pulling off course to stretch, but I was feeling really strong. Sure, I was tired . . . but I had a PR to earn, thank you very much! I stopped for one last gel break during Mile-23, just to give me an extra boost throughout the last few miles. But from that point on? I was all business. I didn't so much as stop to take a sip of water during the last 3-4 miles.

Mile-23: 9:24 (gel break)
Mile-24: 8:52

As I approached the mile-25 marker, I did get super excited about the possibility of seeing my favorite Redhead and Spike, who were stationed somewhere in the area, complete with balloons and bright yellow posters. Somehow, though--and I still don't understand how this happened--she never saw me, and I never saw her. Perhaps I was a little more out of it than I thought by that point? Whatever the case, once I made it to somewhere around mile-25.5, I knew I must have missed them. Thus, what else was there to do but to pick the pace up and push myself toward the finish? As I did so, I decided that PRing wasn't enough. I REALLY wanted to finish in less than 4:30.

Somehow, despite everything that had gone down, I managed to pull off my fastest mile of the day during that last mile. I have NEVER had enough energy left in a marathon to do that . . . and holy crap, was it an amazing feeling to go flying towards the finish line! I started hurting pretty badly with about a half-mile to go, but I was so close I could taste it. There was no way I was backing down now! I crossed the line in 4:28:21 and smiled the biggest smile EVER.

Mile-25: 9:18
Mile-26: 8:47
Last 0.52 (according to Garmin): 4:23 (8:24 pace)

I could NOT believe what I had accomplished. Somehow, I had pulled off a negative split by nearly 15 minutes . . . after falling on my face . . . after having run a half-marathon the previous day. Even to this day, I do not know what possessed me to push it so hard that day. I only hope whatever it was sticks around and joins me in future races!

Once I finished, I snagged my mylar blanket and my marathon medal . . . and then I made my way to the Goofy tent to collect my third Goofy medal. I was so proud, I was almost brought to tears. To think that just a few years earlier, I had thought I'd never be able to run a marathon . . . and here I was, a Goofy Challenge finisher! It was awesome to say the least. I had my official finisher photo taken, grabbed some food and then tried to figure out what to do about finding Wilson. I figured the best idea would be to wait for him outside of his assigned gear check tent, knowing he'd have to collect his things after finishing. But I waited . . . and I waited . . . and I started to worry that he might have finished ahead of me. So I made my way over to the appropriate family meet-up tent where he had mentioned we would meet his mother after the race. I looked everywhere, but there was no sign of Wilson. Damn. I stood, shivering for a good 20 minutes before he finally came walking up. And holy crap was I happy to see him--he had the car keys in his gear check bag! I begged him to let me go to the car despite the fact that we had not yet located his mother. I was just SO COLD, I couldn't bear to be outside another second! Luckily, we were much more successful at finding the car than we had been the previous day. We hopped in, BLASTED the heat and I attacked my food baggie with everything I had left in me :)

As I began to thaw out, I began to realize just how painful my knees were. Ouch. I finally took a peak at them, only to realize they were both cut up and bruised pretty badly . . . and my right knee was pretty darn swollen. Yowsers. I couldn't believe I had gone on to run a PR on those suckers! Ha. Once Wilson finally got in touch with his mother, she came and congratulated us and took a couple photos . . . then we headed back to the hotel, anxious to take a hot shower and get some hot food in us. We opted for some "dirty food" from Applebees, as Wilson called it (beer, artichoke dip and burgers--yum!). I figured that after running 39.3 miles in two days, I'd probably earned it :)

After stuffing our bellies nearly to the point of discomfort, we headed back to the hotel and vegged/napped for the remainder of the day. Other than my banged up knees, I actually felt great . . . not even a hint of muscle soreness. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I don't know, but I might just have to hop on the back-to-back long run bandwagon come my next training period!


Whew! Okay, so now that that's out of the way, I have a big announcement coming up soon. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook already know, but let's just say that it's quite a good one :) Thank you again for being so amazingly understanding about my recent absence from the blogosphere . . . I should be back soon, I promise! And while my Google Reader is far too out of control for me to pretend like I can get caught up with everyone, I should at least be back to commenting very soon. I've said this a million times, but wow, I've missed you guys! Until next time . . .

*Unfortunately, Wilson JUST MISSED catching this episode on video. If only he'd kept taping for another few seconds, I'd have video evidence of my spill. Oh well, there's always next time!