Mission 1 complete….the last blog entry

10 01 2010

After years of being an exercise video devotee, I started running in the fall of 2008 in order to expand my exercise horizons and take advantage of the open terrain in my new town after moving out of inner-city Chicago.  I hadn’t run a step since I was in my early 20s, and was merely a casual non-competitive runner even then.  I had come across the Couch to 5K program online earlier that year and considered it many times, keeping it mostly at the back of my mind.

Then in late September 2008, I went on vacation to New Orleans with my sister and we stayed in a hotel that didn’t have a fitness center.  I wanted to do something to combat the effects of Hurricanes and beignets on my already-generous figure, so I decided to go out walking around the French Quarter one day when I was the first to awaken.  There was something about the beauty of the sun, the cool air and the architecture that morning that filled me with an unusual energy and I broke out into a run.  It would be nice at this point in the story to say that I somehow miraculously galloped along for miles like a gazelle, but the truth is that I made it to the end of the block and then slowed to a walk because I was gasping for air.  So I walked a block and caught my breath and then did it again–and again–and again–down Esplanade to Rampart to Canal to Decatur and back to the hotel, alternating running a block then walking one.  I felt great, and I loved it.

I started C25K upon my return from New Orleans and ran my first 5-K (a Jingle Bell run) in December 2008.  I would gladly have continued doing 5-Ks here and there as an adjunct to my other fitness efforts but I got an envelope in the mail about 6 weeks later from the race containing a ribbon.  I had placed as one of the top in my age category.   Wow!  It was like getting an A on my first term paper.

I immediately started looking up training plans, online forums, runner’s magazines, and immersed myself in the sport.  I wanted to run farther and farther to see how much I could do.  I enrolled in races that were months away, each one longer than the next, in order to stretch myself to a greater distance because I wanted more.   I did another 5-K, an 8-K and then a 10-K and still I wanted more.    When I found out about Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend and noticed that it coincided with my annual trip to Florida, I immediately signed up.

I started this blog because I wanted to commit myself to the training via a public forum as a means of keeping myself accountable.  My focus for 2010 is to work on strength and speed while maintaining distance.  I can’t say I want to move beyond 13.1 miles as a maximum but I d0 plan to shave 10% off my pace andput more focus on trail races (which will necessitate greater physical strength).  My new training schedule starts next week and I’m excited about it already.


Race Report

9 01 2010

My first thoughts after the Walt Disney World Half were quite literally:  (1) I’m hungry, (2) I’m cold, (3)I’m wet, and (4) Boy am I glad it’s over!

Don’t get me wrong.  It isn’t that I didn’t have fun, because I did.  Walt’s folks really know how to create an atmosphere of excitement.  But there’s not much in this world that’s exciting enough to have me rise from a warm bed at 2:45 a.m.to wait almost 3 hours (most lounging on a beanbag chair inside a heated tent but a full hour of it outside in the dark with little ice balls bouncing off my face) and then shuffle along with 17,000 other people.  I don’t know if this is the worst weather they’ve had for the WDW Marathon Weekend, but I’m sure it ranks pretty far up on the list.

But gripes about the weather aside, it was such a fun event.  Costumed characters from all the Disney eras were on hand in abundance to mingle and pose for photos with the runners (and believe me, if I’d had a camera I would certainly have posed with Captain Jack Sparrow).  There were marching bands and other live as well as recorded music at practically every mile.  The fairly flat and potentially-fast course, which wound through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, was incredibly charming and brought many a smile to my face.  Aid stations were more plentiful than I have ever seen (featuring water, Powerade, Clif products and even Tylenol), and the amenities in the Race Retreat tent were five-star.  Even the mile markers were almost billboard sized Disney-themed displays with digital splits clocks at each.  Many people stopped running to pose for photos by them!  I highly recommend a Disney event to all marathoners because it is an experience beyond any I’ve had in my brief span as an endurance athlete.  As for the details….

After arriving at Epcot before 4:00 a.m. (because that’s what we were told to do), we all waited for the start of the race and then lined up in Corrals A through G.  I was in G with the newbies and slow folks.  The start of the race was at 5:35 with the wheelchair racers first, followed by the elites, followed by the rest of us.  It took almost an hour from the starting gun for me to cross the starting line.  That’s a lot of runners!  Being in the final corral meant I was with many of the walkers and had to navigate my way through and around them so I could run.  .  At times it was impossible to pass anyone so I settled into an easy jog and stayed there. 

We started in the parking lot and wound our way through Epcot and then the Magic Kingdom.  And how magical it was!  My jaw dropped when I ran past the giant castle, just like the one I saw on Walt Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” when I was a kid watching TV on Sunday nights.  Two castle guards tooted those long ribbon-festooned horns as we crossed through the gates like we were returning royalty.  People were lined up at the sides of the streets shouting encouragement.  It was truly a trip through fantasy land.  Sharpie was once of the race’s sponsors and had posted little signs along the less-interesting parts of the course featuring amusing commentary like “Einstein never learned to drive,” “If an ant gets intoxicated it always falls to the right,” and my favorite “I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she broke up with me before we met.”  It was all very entertaining.  Even observing the discarded clothing that littered the entire distance was amusing.

So how did I do?  Well, I’m glad I was not trying to set any particular pace because I found the sheer number of runners slowed everything down.  There were lines for the porta-potties, lines at some water stations and mobs of people 5- 6 abreast all going at random paces.  I don’t know my official time yet but I’ll bet it was around 3:00 plus whatever extra time I spent waiting for bathrooms, etc. along the course.  And that’s okay because the sole focus of my first full year as a runner has been to achieve distance goals and not PRs.  Having completed two half-marathons in the past 3 weeks, I’d say my ability to do 13.1 miles is a beyond doubt.

Whoever said the best way to break down a half marathon into manageable pieces is to think “5 miles, then 5 more, and then a 5-K” is truly brilliant.  The first 5 miles go by fairly quickly because of the training, and they seem like no big deal.  The next 5 may require a bit of positive self-talk toward the end but by the time you’ve done all 10, it’s a no-brainer to tack on that final 5-K.  My mantras when I began to feel the strain were “trust the training,” “your body knows what to do” and “5….5….5-K”.

Honestly, if the weather had been better and there had been fewer people, I would have had a blast.  There were a lot of event photographers around the course and I’m sure any pictures of me will likely show me smiling because I did smile and laugh a lot, despite the cold and the wind and the sleet.

So now I’m down the coast a bit in Cocoa Beach with my husband (who flew in after the end of the race) and I’ve already had an excellent broiled fish dinner, some rum punch and a nap.  The Disney Half was a great way to close my first year as a runner, and now it’s on to the next phase.

T-minus 11 hours and counting

8 01 2010

The past 48 hours have been an exercise in mental fortitude and a ridiculously sardonic demonstration of Murphy’s law.

First there was the weather forecast: 
a winter storm bearing 4-10 inches of snow that would begin approximately 9 hours before my scheduled flight to Florida.   I was originally scheduled to work a 13 hour shift the night before departure but got another doc to cover the last 4 hours for me so I could get a ride into the city from my son and stay at the hotel next door to the airport.

10:30 pm Tuesday night —
 the doc sends me an email to say he would likely be unable to work due to a family medical emergency.  Great.  I spend the better part of Wednesday morning making other arrangements and find someone to work.

Wednesday noon —
I get a call from my son.  His car won’t start.  Not only can he not pick me up but he needs a new battery for the car.  Okay.  I arrange for a cab to the motel (a mere $75)  and ask him to meet me there so I can loan him the cash for the battery.  This greatly diminishes my funds for the trip but I will survive.

4:30 a.m. Thursday —
Automated phone call from Southwest Airlines to say my flight has been cancelled.  I spend the next 45 minutes sleepily listening to muzak while awaiting “the next available operator” to make a new reservation for me.  We schedule a flight that has me leaving at 5:35 p.m. instead of 9:10 a.m.

Other than risking decubitus ulcers on my butt from sitting at the airport all day, the wait for my flight proceeds pleasantly enough.  Until….

5:00 p.m. Thursday —
My 5:35 p.m. flight is now leaving sometime after 7:00 due to delays at its origin point in Minnesota.  I’m going to arrive in Florida approximately 12 hours after I had originally intended, which nixes my plan to pick up the race packet, etc. on Thursday.

And just to put a cherry and some whipped cream on this vile sundae, the rental car was not ready when I got to Hertz.  I got one though.  My credit card got declined at the hotel.  I used a different one.  MY ROOM KEY CARDS WOULDN’T WORK  when I dragged my old tired ass up to the room!  I slogged back downstairs and the clerk gave me new ones.

I was starting to wonder if there was a freakin curse on me or something.  I got to bed around 2 a.m. and slept until almost noon.  Today went much better for the most part.

I headed over to the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet, T-shirt and other materials.  What a crowd of people!  If even half of those throngs are planning to run tomorrow, I don’t know if there’ll be room for us all.

I got lucky and found a Whole Foods market near the hotel and was able to get my usual supplies:  gluten-free bread, fruit, peanut butter and a bonus  — 2 six packs of gluten free beer.  Woohoo!  For post-race consumption of course.

I came back to the hotel and was enjoying my chicken and fried plantains dinner when I had a realization that made my blood run cold.  I FORGOT TO PICK UP MY TICKET FOR THE RACE RETREAT PACKAGE!

The Race Retreat package is a little “extra” that Disney makes a ton of money on each year.  Because there are so many runners, everyone is asked to arrive about 2 hours before the start of the race.  Even though this is Florida, the temperatures at 4:00 a.m. tend to be a bit brisk.  The Race Retreat provides heated tents, email access, snacks, private bathrooms etc. so that the wait is not as debilitating as it might otherwise be.  I gladly paid the extra $75 for it.  But unless some other stroke of good luck arises to thwart Murphy’s postulate of perversity, I will be huddled out in 30 degrees with rain tomorrow morning instead of lounging in a heated tent.


Well, I’m going to bed now to see how much sleep I can get before the alarm clock goes off at 3:00 a.m.  I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at 3:30 to take me to Epcot.  Unless the alarm shorts out and burns the hotel down or the taxi gets sucked up in a cyclone and deposits me in Kansas, I will be back after the race with the rest of the details on how I kicked Adversity’s ass.

Preparing to beam up

6 01 2010

My flight to Orlando leaves in less than 12 hours.

I’m heading to Florida 2 days before the race so I can acclimate to the location, time change and weather.  I AM SO READY to leave this frozen snowy place!  I just hope I can beat most of the 4-10 inches of snow we’ve been promised here.  I can’t wait to be someplace where the temperature is above freezing.  I’ve barely done anything in the past couple of weeks because I’ve been absolutely paralyzed by the cold.

My next post will come from sunnier climes.


EDITED TO ADD:  My flight was cancelled and I’ve now been waiting 9 hours for another.  <sigh>

A small recalculation

1 01 2010

  OK, I really WAS ranting yesterday!

WolfClassFrigateLabeledBluePrint.png image by Donovan_NightHunter 
Let me correct some faulty data.

 I WILL run outdoors again before it’s 40 degrees F.  Just probably not below 25.