Before I begin this next entry, I want to tell you all about a very special Christmas present. I do not make it back 'home' (Indiana) except at Christmas. And I like to visit Abi's parents when I am home. They still live 2 houses down from my parents. Last year I gave Teresa and Denny the Tiffany's Medal from my first marathon (ran on what would have been Abi's Birthday). I framed it and had a small plaque put on the frame that says "As long as she is in my memory, I will run in honor of her."
This year, Teresa gave me a very special gift. I gift bag with 3 very simple, but very meaningful things. I only want to talk about one in this entry. It was a Superman keychain (see http://runningforheirlives.blogspot.ca/2014/03/my-new-running-tattoo.html for the significance of the Superman symbol). Attached to this key chain were 4 homemade bracelets. They were the bracelets that Abi wore during her chemo to "remind her what was important." They read Courage, Strength, Compassion, and Love. I felt like I did not deserve to have these things, but graciously accepted them. I told myself I would carry them on every race I run with TNT.
I mentioned in previous posts that I was training for The Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge. This race consists of the Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday and then the Full Marathon the next day on Sunday. I chose this race due it's challenging nature, both to prove something to myself and to suffer. I know the latter sounds strange, but the way I thought of it, if Abi could suffer graciously for 9 months, I could handle suffering for a whole weekend (and attempt to do it graciously).
Disney races have to be my favorite races. They are extremely well organized and make you, the runner, feel a part of something (dare I say) Magical. The start line shoots off fireworks for every wave of runners as they are released.
The morning of the half marathon was muggy and hot. I had trained as if I was going to run both races at my normal pace, knowing that I would end up running the actual races slower. The cut-off time for the half was 3.5 hours. I figured that if I kept a 15 minute mile, I would finish under that time and still conserve energy for the full the next day. I changed my interval watch to a 5:5. Turns out that 5 minutes of jogging and 5 minutes of walking put me at a good 15 minute mile pace.
The biggest challenge of this race was paying attention to my pace. Usually when I run a race, I am not concerned with pace or time. In my mind, I run to have a good time, not make good time. Finishing is always my goal. Everything else is a bonus.
I finished in just under 3.5 hours and felt good about conserving my energy. I crossed the finish line holding up Abi's keychain.
Music is important to me when I run. Up until this point, I had a playlist put together that matched my running tempo. For these races, I decided to make running playlist that would keep my mood up, not my pace. It was full of classic 80s rock songs, from AC/DC to Journey, Foreigner to Styx, etc. (This mention will make sense later).
The morning of the full marathon was here and I was scared to death. I had no idea how my body would hold up to a double race. I kept thinking back to Alaska and telling myself to just pick a pace and go as long as you can until you are done.
The race course took us through 4 of the resorts parks. There was plenty to see and lots of photo opportunities. At these photo op locations, there were official race photographers and Disney characters. Runners would wait in line for a picture, then proceed back onto the race course. Here are a few of mine:
During the race, I could not help but break into song. At one point I was singing Come Sail Away as it played in my headphones. A man ran up to me and said "Oh great! Now I am going to have Styx stuck in my head!" I responded with "Better than that What Does the Fox Say song they played during the warm up" He simply smiled and said "True."
At one point, the course took us one lap around the Disney Motor Speedway. I thought about the Indianapolis Mini Marathon I ran almost a year ago. That course took us one lap around the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway and was a very special race because I got to run it with my dad.
As soon as I stepped foot on the track, Danger Zone began to play on my ipod. I turned it up and proceeded to sing (loudly and I am sure, poorly). Here is the image: A race track with several classic cars and their owners around the outside, several thousand marathon runners, and me.... running and singing (with no shame) Kenny Loggins.
I kept running and singing. The race officials did an amazing job of making sure there was plenty of support on the course. We never went more than 2 miles without a water station and med tent. I barely used my fuel belt at all.
There is a rule in marathon running: Nothing new on race day. I you did not train with a particular sports drink, DO NOT try a new one on race day. If you have never tried a specific energy bar, DO NOT try it on race day. I do not usually break this rule, but on this day I did.....
My quads were getting tight. I could not feel it when I was running, but if I stopped to stretch or adjust my shoes, I could feel it. I kept trying to stretch them, but it was not helping. About a mile ahead was a med tent and I remember seeing something about a "bio freeze" gel. I decided to stop and try some. One medic would glob a bit in your hands and then you would apply to where you needed it. Then another medic would had you a wet towel (to wipe it off your hands).
It felt amazing. Not only did it cool me off in the heat, but it helped with my quad issue as well. Turns out my gamble was worth it.
A few miles later, We Are the Champions began playing on my ipod. Only one thing to do. I started singing. And just like that, everyone around me started joining in. They couldn't even hear the song, but sang with me anyway. It was a pretty cool moment.
Mile 24 came quickly and the TNT coach caught up with me. She asked me if I had hit the wall yet. It was at this point that I realized, I had not hit the wall yet. In fact, it did not feel like I was going to hit the wall at all. A great sense of pride and panic flooded over me. Pride in the fact that I had not hit the wall yet. And panic in the fact that I had not hit the wall yet. I reached into my pocket and pulled out Abi's keychain and bracelets.
I ran those last 2.2 miles with no crash. Once again, I felt amazing. I received my medal and then also received my Goofy Challenge medal. A race that I was dreading and looking forward to was over. So much work and it seemed to go by in an instant. But what an amazing instant.
When I got back to my hotel, I received a phone call from my dad. He wanted to know about the race and had looked up my time. When he told me my time, I did not believe him. 6 hours and 28 minutes. That cannot be right. Alaska was 6 hours and 24 minutes. I stopped several times to get pictures during Goofy AND ran a half marathon the day before. My mind instantly began to race. What if I would have not stopped for all those pictures?! I could have had a new personal best. I suddenly realized. This was a Disney Race. You HAVE to take pictures. Besides, 4 minutes away from a personal best in a double race (in which you stopped to take pictures), was nothing to be ashamed of.
To date, this has been the best race I have ever ran. Maybe not in race time, but I had an amazing time on this race. Run to a have a good time, not make good time. And a good time I definitely had!!
My next race with TNT is May 4th. The Vancouver Marathon.
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As always, thank you for taking the time to read Abi's and my ongoing stories.
One foot in front of the other, at any speed.