Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Once Upon a Run

There is a small portion of cartilage in my left ear that is throbbing in pain.  I wish I could say that was the worse of my maladies.  It's not.

On Sunday morning, I made it across the finish line of the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Sure, the moment was filled with elation and pride and tear-filled eyes, but it was also filled with pain.  Lots and lots of pain.

At that time, it was only my feet, ankles, knees and hips that were screaming in agony, but two days later, I have spent the day wondering why my EAR cartilage needed to join in on the pain party??  I'm also sporting a fever, so in addition to the throbs of overdone muscles, I'm experiencing the shuddering depth of bone pain that sickness brings.  Good times.

I'm keeping myself busy today by lying in bed and thinking about the truly amazing time I had for the most part this weekend in Orlando.  You know, before all the pain.

I arrived to my destination around 2pm on Saturday, and my friends had already scoped out the best of what Disney had to offer us runners.  We jumped on a bus and made our way to the expo hall where I picked up my racing bib, my t-shirt, and a cool hydration belt for race day.  I hadn't even considered wearing a belt with water bottles for the simple fact that I figured even a few ounces of extra weight on my body would be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.  Instead?  Best. Purchase. Ever.   (More on that later).

We left the expo hall and headed back to the hotel for an early dinner of pasta, then turned in early for the night.  With a 2:15 a.m. alarm set and a thousand thoughts running through my head, I was concerned I wouldn't get ANY sleep that night, but God is good and my sleep was sound.

I crawled out of bed into the thick blackness of the middle of a Florida night.  The forecast called for 100% humidity and heat advisories for the race.  My buddies and I said a few quick prayers to hold off the rain and began to suit up.

Here's my outfit for the run:

I would say that 95% of the racers wore costumes.  How fun!!
We boarded a bus packed with sleepy beauties, while the smells of bananas and peanut butter wafted through the aisles.  By 4:00 am, we had made our way to the starting corrals.  One of my biggest concerns was what to do for the 2 hour wait (our particular corral didn't "go off" until 6:24 am!).  I mean, there's only so much stretching one can do:

My awesome princess running buddies, Princess "Green" and Princess "Purple"

It was one of the most pleasantly surprising parts of the day, though - how quickly the time went by.  We met and chatted with lots of new friends, exchanging pictures and email addresses and tips for how to survive the next several hours.  We were inspired by princesses who were running for the first time, those running for the fifth time, and those who had completed the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in California just one month ago!  (Those ladies received special medals for what Disney calls the "Coast to Coast" challenge.)

Before I knew it, our group had made it's way to the starting line, where we were sent off with a fireworks display.  Because, as the "Green Princess" said it, "That's how Disney rolls".

I won't bore you with the tedious details of what the next 13.1 miles held for fear that you'd feel like you'd run your own half marathon just reading this post.

But I will say that the first 8 miles were like a dream.  The first EIGHT miles!!  There was so much to look at, so much excitement in the air!  We ran past a dozen Disney characters who were available for photo ops along the way (we didn't stop for pictures, though.  We were all business).  My favorite part of the entire race was running up Main Street at the Magic Kingdom.  Hundreds of spectators were cheering us on as we snaked a path through Tomorrow Land and curved back around through Cinderella's Castle before we made our way out of the park through Frontier Land (Is that what it's called?).  

A little bottleneck at the castle made it impossible to run, which was a bummer, but the experience was still pretty darn cool, even if I was sauntering through like a regular tourist.

By miles 9-10 I was starting to feel like I anticipated I should feel at that point in the race.  The scenery became a little less exciting, the miles seeming to spread out a little farther in distance.  And while Disney was so good about providing water stations, I was so so glad to have a hydration belt on.  One of my biggest problems during my training runs was that I never carried water on me.  Therefore, when I passed by a water fountain, I had no choice but to gulp down huge amounts of cold water.  It's a miserable feeling to run with water sloshing around in your belly, so "wearing" my red Powerade gave me the opportunity to slowly hydrate throughout the race and not depend on gulping down drinks at someone else's set intervals.  

Miles 11-13 were hard.  It was a truly mental game by that point in the race.  Every body part began hollering that I should really STOP and find a bed or something.  As we walked, one set of muscles hurt, then as we ran, another set screamed out.   The last mile of the race was both humorous and kind of evil all at once.  Bystanders and employees tried to encourage us by shouting "You're almost there!  Less than a mile to go!"   Hahahahaha....  at every single turn I hoped and prayed for the finish line.  That's the point where the course became one of those scenes from a bad dream where you never gain any ground even though you're running and running.  It took every ounce of determination and grit and prayer I could muster to not give up.

But then we turned a corner and I saw a sign that said 13 miles.  And right after that, I finally saw it - the FINISH LINE!  The Purple and Green Princesses and I grabbed hands and ran across the finish line in just a little over 3 hours.  And while I know that most good runners could probably do a full marathon in that amount of time, we were on-top-of-the-Disney-World with our accomplishment.

I actually teared up as the race volunteer placed my medal around my neck.

Too bad I wasn't very excited, huh?
The next hour or so was a blur of sitting and stretching and riding buses and showering and applying or taking various medications.  After recovering for a little while, we made our way to the hotel's cafeteria for a bite of food and a recap of the morning.  Probably a little too tired to even take it all in, my friends and I at least could begin to process that we had just experienced one of those amazing life moments.  Oh, and did I mention?  It never did rain one drop!  Just a perfectly misty morning.  While some of our Michigan and Ohio friends were lamenting the heat, we Floridians couldn't have dreamed up better running weather.

Two days later, my ankles and knees and hips are still reminding me of the pavement I pounded on Sunday morning.  The ear pain thing?  I guess it's just reminding me that an aging body can be pretty quirky and annoying.

And the fever?  Well, I guess it's just a pesky bully that didn't get the memo that I am NOT to be MESSED WITH.  

After all, I just ran a HALF MARATHON!