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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Princess Half Marathon 2014-Race Report

Yes, I know, slacking. But this race was almost 4 months ago you say. Yes, yes it was. Life happens y'all.

So let's recap the week leading up to the race. On top of being pregnant, I fought with a pineapple plant 5 days prior to this race and ended up with a scratched cornea. 3 days prior to the race, and on our way down to Florida, the stomach big that went around my house finally caught up with me, and I spent Thursday and Friday recovering from that. Saturday, the day before the race, I completed the first half of the Glass Slipper Challenge, the 10k, with my husband. During that race, I really made some part of my lower back angry and spent the rest of Saturday barely able to walk. So all of that in a matter of 5 days before this half marathon. Not cool. I went to bed Saturday night, after a feast at my favorite Disney restaurant, Ohana.

The Mister, enjoying a Lapu Lapu and Ohana
I had hopes of resting my back and waking up in the morning, at least able to walk comfortably. Based on the previous 5 days I had, what do you think happened? Did I have a stroke of awesome luck finally?

Ha, no. I woke up quietly early Sunday morning, as not to wake my husband. All of my previous Disney race weekends, with their 2:45 am wakeup calls, were spent with one or more of my DisBroads, all racing with me, so there was at least a little camaraderie to put some pep in our step the morning before a race. Not this time. I climbed out of bed and knew right away that my back pain had not eased up in the night. I had two choices, get back into bed and take a DNS, knowing there was a good chance I would get swept from the course, as I couldn't maintain the 16 minute mile pace, or even close. Or I could get dressed, shuffle along and hope to get as far as I could on the course. I chose the second option. I had to give it my best shot and hope to get as far as I could. Maybe I could make it. I had too much riding on finishing the race not to start. Not only was it the second half of a challenge, but this was the second half of my Coast 2 Coast races. Adding a 4th baby to our family and seeing how much work and money went into getting me out to the west coast for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon the month before, the chances of me being able get back out there for another shot at C2C in another year were extremely slim.

I got dressed quietly, got all of my gear together, and set out for the monorail to get to the starting area, where friends were waiting for me. My body was tired. I wasn't able to fuel properly before the race, except for Saturday, thanks to the stomach bug I had. I was already worn out from that growing a human thing(that second trimester energy boost they talk about, lies, all lies). I made the walk from the monorail to the start. I remember doing the same last year, being so excited about it all, the atmosphere was electric. This year you could practically hear the Imperial March, like I was trudging to my death. I finally met up with my DisBroads and was as ready as I was going to be.
Many of the other girls were planning on sticking together and were falling back to later corrals to keep each other company. I stuck with my corral, E, because I knew I would never be able to keep up with any of them and I knew I needed all of the extra time I could get if I had any hope of finishing this race.
The Zurg to my Buss, the She to my Nanigans, DisBroad Patty
The good guys, with DisBroads Bonnie and Summer
After what would be the first of 10 potty stops, I parted ways with my girls and headed to my corral.
The long hike to the corrals seemed extra long this year.
The long wait before the race actually started provided a little comfort, as I was able to sit and sitting was the only time I wasn't in large amounts of pain. But eventually it was my time. I started off running. This was a mistake. I was in a decent corral and my pride got the best of me, I didn't want the dirty looks as the people I could normally keep pace with jetted past me, assuming I was in the wrong corral. I made it less than a quarter of a mile before I couldn't even manage a speedy trot anymore. More and more of my corral passed me and then there was a lull, as I heard the fireworks of the corral behind me going off. It wasn't long before that corral caught up to me and that group began to pass me. This trend kept going. I would watch corral F pass me, then hear corral G's fireworks, then I would watch them pass me, and it continued. The first group of DisBroads passed me and recognized my Buzz Lightyear wings and gave me a little cheer as they went by.

The first couple of miles were a blur, but I made it. I stayed all the way to the very far right of the course, in the grass even, to stay out of the way of runners. One thing I noticed is that you can stay as far right as possible, and you will still get groups of runners cutting around you, calling that they are passing, and acting like you are the scourge of the earth for being in their way. I even had an official Clif pace leader and group cut around me like that. I've heard a lot of frustration in various runners groups online about slower runners and walkers and the lack of etiquette in terms of them crowding the course, not staying to the right etc, but I learned during PHM 2014 that this is a two way street. If slower folks should stay to the right, then passing to the left should be just as common, and zipping by those of us all the way to the right isn't cool. Especially if you are a pace group leader. If you don't understand the basic(although still unwritten) rules for racing, don't volunteer to lead a pace group and set the example for a bunch of people. Rant over.

You will notice a lack of pictures here. Because I didn't stop. I had to choose very carefully when to stop, because of my slower than it should have been pace. I was averaging 18-19 minute miles that early on. In the Florida heat, I had to make sure I was staying hydrated, and with my stowaway on board, that made for many bathroom breaks. Those nasty portapotties actually became a bit of a respite, because it meant I could sit down, even for 30 seconds, and meant a small break from the pain. By this point, taking steps sent sharp pain from my lower back, down my legs. People here and there stopped to make sure I was okay, I was visibly limping. Each mile was a milestone. I set very short goals, just make it to the next mile. After starting in corral E, it was only a few miles before I started seeing L and M corrals. But I couldn't focus on that. I just wanted to get to the next mile, and maybe even the castle.

I did eventually get to the castle. At this point, the walkers had caught up to me. No, not in some Walking Dead, eat your brains kind of way, but I was starting to be passed by the back of the pack folks. This isn't a bad thing, just an indication of how slow I was really going. I made it into Magic Kingdom and felt a bit of relief. I wasn't a fan of heading down Mainstreet USA, all the folks cheering. I felt stared at, on display and extra slow. The worst part is, people tried to cheer me on and motivate me, as if my pace was some indication of my ability. "Go Buzz, activate your jet pack, get moving, you can do it!"
Yeah, that's right. I know they meant well, but that's all I could think. I made it through what felt like a personal walk of shame(even among hundreds of other racers) and around through the castle. Heading through Frontierland, I saw a short line for Woody and figured if my time on the course was dwindling(surely it was) and I'm dressed as Buzz, I might as well get one picture. Plus there was a wall to sit on while I waited and that felt good.
I knew the race would be all downhill from there. After getting out of Magic Kingdom, you reach a stretch that leads you right to the pit of despair, even if you aren't ready to lay down and die from massive amounts of pain. Everyone kind of deflates as the course gets pretty boring between miles 7 and 10. I didn't need this stretch, but I kept going. I figured once I got past the resorts and into a more open area, I'd be looking at the balloon ladies and men on bikes, waiting to usher me onto the sag wagon. But I kept on.

DisBroads Patty and Julie were taking the course together and we passed each back and forth. They caught up to me and passed me, they stopped for a picture and I caught up to them and passed them, and we danced this tango over and over. I shuffled along and before mile 10(yes, I was still at it at mile 10!), they caught up to me again.
I was miserable at this point, the ladies could tell and they offered to stay with me, but I told them to go ahead. I wasn't going to drag them down with me, and they went ahead. I really wanted to get up the clover leaf and onto the overpass to see what I was dealing with. How close to the end was I? Where were the balloon ladies? Did I even stand a chance? I did make it past mile 10 and up onto the overpass. I looked down below and back onto the course I had completed. I started to feel a little better. Not physically, I was still in massive amounts of pain, but mentally. There were still tons of people behind me. I didn't see balloon ladies or buses. I started to feel like I had hope after all.

Even though I felt like I would actually make it to the point where they stopped sweeping, it was still very hard mentally. By this point, coming up on mile 11, I was more than ready to be done. I had been on the course for over 3 1/2 hours. The fog had burned off and now the hot Florida sun(yes, they have that in February too) was beating down. I was still in pain. I was tired. Who knew it was actually a lot harder to walk a half marathon at close to a 20 minute pace than it was to run one at a 10 minute pace?

After mile 11, I knew I was going to make it. I started to get texts from my husband, checking in on me. I made it down the last overpass and towards Epcot. I saw a very welcome sight when I got to the entrance.
I had made it to Peggy Sue. Peggy Sue can almost always be found towards the end of the race, holding her trusty "I'm Proud of You Too, Complete Stranger." sign. She signaled I was getting closer to being done. The first words out of my mouth when I went up to her were "Oh mmy god, I'm so glad to see you." and I was, because, even though I knew I was close being almost to Epcot, her presence made it more real. I felt safe enough to stop for another picture.
My 5 and 3 year old girls love Sofia the First so I needed this picture. I made my way through Epcot, which was open by this point. My husband had texted me that he'd drove our car up to the parking lot and was waiting for me. I passed the choir and rounded the bend to mile 13.
I was going to make it. I was going to earn my medal. I was going to complete the Glass Slipper Challenge. I was going to earn my Coast 2 Coast medal. I hadn't given up and I made it. You notice the time in the picture. I was well over 4 hours. I kept walking and heard my name called. For the first time during any of my races, there was my husband, standing along the side, by the guardrails, just before the finish line. He had come out to watch me finish, and it meant the world to me. I crossed the finish line at 4:22. This was close to double my finish time of my personal best time just 4 months earlier. But this was by far the hardest race I have ever done, mentally and physically. It opened my eyes to a lot of different ideas, it made me realize how I had grown. Some people might say that anyone can finish a half marathon in over 4 hours, but I would tell you I earned those medals.