Sunday, December 29, 2013

Things Can Only Get Better!

So true!
I had so many goals for the year 2013. None of which I was able to accomplish "as is". Unforeseen injuries will do that to a person. So what do you do when goals can not be completed because of circumstances beyond your control? You let those goals evolve into something new. And so my goals evolved into simply completing the races I had signed up for. But even that had to change to finishing the races that I ran in and not quitting. I can honestly say I did my best and finished those races I ran in. Does this make for a successful year or a year of failure?

I believe it was a year of success. Why? Because I learned some lessons that in the end will make me a better person and eventually a better runner. And just what lessons did you learn, Cristina? Well, I am glad you asked.

DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that what I tell you now is my own experience and should be taken as such. If you are injured by all means see a doctor!

Lesson #1 Get a second opinion!
At one point in our lives we will put in the training and then get injured. We will be told to either a) Hang up your running shoes forever (see another doctor) or b) Heal up and then start to slowly get back out there.

When I first got injured after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon my podiatrist told me to just quit running and then he slapped a boot on my foot. I quickly figured out that this man was not a runner and just didn't understand. But I did take his advice, I transferred my bib for a foam race to my niece, and then sought out some knowledge from the internet. I slowly got better. But I wasn't healed when I did the Expedition Everest Challenge in May and I paid for it with pain. Would I run again? I had to get some answers and some help! 

This time it was in the form of a sports medicine/chiropractor. It did help... a ton. He assured me that I didn't need to give up running and that we could get me back out there on the trail. Then he electrocuted me, used medieval torture devices, and basically helped me to begin to heal. Note: I have a high pain threshold so it isn't his fault that we didn't know I wasn't ready for the Tower of Terror Ten Miler. But I felt great! I didn't feel 100% but not many people do before a race, right? Someone is always battling some injury. I felt way better (although I had a little bit of pain still) and I thought if I toughed it out I could finish but I wouldn't be setting a new PR. Little did I know I would be setting a new PR in my pain threshold! Which leads to...

Lesson #2 Never give up...but be smart about it!
If you clicked on the Tower of Terror Ten Miler link then you know what happened. I pushed and did not quit the race! But the next month I was getting more treatments , not running, yet healing. I did make the decision to transfer my Thanksgiving day Run 4 the Pies Race bib to my niece again. You have to be smart about your injuries and like Kenny Rogers says in "The Gambler"..."know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.". During the race I knew I wasn't injuring myself any further and that I could push and so I did. However, I didn't want to go into a race knowing I may have to quit halfway in because I was permanently damaging myself.That is why I transferred my bib. I knew I had to heal and so I am. I had to re-evaluate what the causes could be and what to do to prevent that pain again. So, in my opinion, it is better to not start a race because you are being smart about what you know you are ready for rather than dropping out mid-race because you were an idiot and disregarded all of the warning signs that you shouldn't have run that race in the first place. Healing time is our friend. Which leads me to...

First run with no foot pain!
3 miles, baby!
Lesson #3 Time is both a friend and an enemy in a runner's life!
Why is time an enemy in a runner's life? Because it can both try your patience (when healing) and your nerves (when the balloon ladies are breathing down your neck). Right now I think time has been my friend. I have taken the time to do some physical therapy. It has helped me heal so much. I think at this point I am at 85% ready for my 10k in two weeks. My foot feels good...very good (knock on wood) but my lungs are bad...very bad. I have lost my endurance. But I kind of don't care about that. I know I will get it back. I am just jazzed about my feet. On Saturday I ran/walked 3 miles with no foot pain and no numbness. This is the first time that has happened in almost a year! If the only thing that bothers me during the 10k is lack of endurance and lung power then I am okay with that. I would rather have a tough race than a painful one.

So, in my opinion I have had a successful year of lessons learned. Yes, my original goals went down the proverbial crapper. Who cares about the original goals when the trials you endured give you new insight into yourself? I have a whole new year to make entirely new goals and have those goals evolve into something else. The point is I HAVE GOALS and I intend to always strive to accomplish them. Therefore, I will always be successful because I will never give up trying to become a better me. So was my year a failure or a success? I have indeed had a very successful year. Here's to the new one!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tower of Terror Ten Miler 2013 "Going the Distance"

My latest ”Learning Moment” started with pain and a blessing. As many of you know I was training for a ten mile race at Disney Hollywood Studios. Three weeks before the big race my right foot hurt so bad that I knew I had developed Achilles tendonitis if not plantar fasciitis. Well, now I had a matching set! That is what I already had in my left foot (although I had gotten it under control after six months). I couldn’t walk on my right foot and began to think my race was done. So, I asked for a blessing.

I was promised that if I followed my doctors instructions that I would be able to finish the race. Great! Problem, I wasn’t seeing a doctor. So, I went to a chiropractor. He went to work on both feet. I got better but I wasn’t whole. I knew it was going to be a tough race. But I thought to myself if I have enough faith, follow the chiro’s instructions, and run carefully I might not get swept. Three weeks later I was off to the races.

The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror Ten Miler race night was here! I got into my corral, walked the 1 mile stretch to the start line, and with an explosion of fireworks and techno music I was off! I felt good. I could do this! Pain. Pain. PAIN! Crud. My LEFT foot was saying “Howdy, I hate you.” Okay, more walking than I anticipated was about to happen. Mile 1 ½ and I was running with the sweeper balloon ladies. Those are the gals that tie balloons to themselves and set the concrete 16 minute mile pace you have to abide by. Mind you, they are the LAST to leave the start line. So you can imagine my panic.

Mile 2 and my entire left leg went numb with sharp needle pain. Towards mile three the balloon ladies were shouting “Stay with us, be in front of us, or you will be swept. This is a hard cut off!” I was behind them. The thought began to enter into my head “It would be okay to quit now. Everyone knows you are running injured.” But then I began to think about the blessing I had received. I was promised I would be able to finish this race. Not that it wouldn’t be difficult. I had followed the orders from my doc. Then my hand touched the Faith Bound Journey iron on logo I had placed on my sleeve. I thought of you guys. I knew that I had been in some prayers and thoughts. I then thought about the lesson I taught to my youth that there were blessings when you followed the commandments and had faith. My next thought echoed President Uchtdorf’s words (which I read later)…

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I dug down deep and pushed ahead of the balloon ladies to beat the hard 3 mile cut off. With my numb yet painful leg I pressed on while they passed me yet again. Mile 4 feelings came back to my leg which brought a burn in my heel. Up and over an overpass. I used gravity to once again push me past the balloon ladies. As I neared mile 5, and the medical tent, the same negative thoughts came to my head “No disgrace to quit. You made it half way. You could sit back with ice and a rootbeer and cheer for your family as they cross the finish line. No big deal!” But then the thought of faith and you guys, and never quitting came back to me. I touched the logo and pushed myself through the dark dirt road, past the balloon ladies again, and got a good lead.

Then Heavenly Father sent me a gift. Someone else to encourage so I could take my mind off of my own pain and worry. I never got her name but we fearfully ran from the B.L.s (balloon ladies) together for the next two miles. Have you ever watched Friday the 13th? You know how Jason only walks while the victims run for their lives? Yet somehow he always catches up and kills them? Yeah, that was the B.Ls without homicide. They were soon past me again while I struggled to keep up. Then they shouted something glorious “Mile 8 is another hard cut off. But we think if you make it past that and into the park you WILL NOT GET SWEPT!” Okay, I can do this. And yet at mile 7 ½ they were 50 feet ahead of me and pulling away.

I sprinted. I could not get swept now. Not after all I had been through. Not after the promise I was given. I actually asked myself if I wanted to give up or finish. I wanted to finish! I started running. I was passing people. I was 50 feet behind the B.L.s but I was running. See ya mile 8! I could see the park up ahead. Bikes were all around me (they are the official sweepers who will stop you) but I ignored them and went faster while gritting my teeth. Pain in both feet! Suddenly I entered Hollywood Studios and my mp3 player kicked up the song “I Can Go The Distance”. It was mile 9! I had made it! I would not get swept! I was grinning from ear to ear and fighting back the tears.

My little friend came up behind me and said “Remember me?”. We congratulated each other and walked the last ¾ mile together. The last ¼ mile I really couldn’t run. I pushed, grinning like an idiot, until I saw the finish line. I began a slow trot, looked for my family in the stands, saw them, fought back more tears, said a prayer of gratitude, crossed the line, and gave Goofy a huge hug. I DID IT! WE did it! My Father had kept His promise and had helped me along the way. You guys helped me along the way. My family helped me along the way.

It wasn’t until the next day when I saw the prophet’s words from conference…
“The difficulties which come to us present us with the real test of our ability to endure. A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish?”

I chose to have faith in His promises and finish my race. I know with Him ALL things are possible. So, don’t give up my friends though the trials of life befall you. You can go the distance.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm Back and Ready For More Races! PART 1

Hi there! I can't believe it has been three months since my last post. It has been an adventure for me, folks! I have learned a ton about recovering from injuries and doing everything it takes to learn how to heal properly. I should have gone to another podiatrist but quite frankly I didn't have the money. Instead, I prayed a ton and searched the internet, and asked the advice of fellow injured runners. But I am pretty sure you do not want to hear that part of my adventures. So, we will start with the beginning of my adventure with The Expedition Everest Challenge at Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida  back in May.

My teammate and fellow Princess Leah plus
my great friend and her daughter. I am
the one hanging onto the back of the plane.
This was my most challenging race I have ever competed in. Not because I didn't have my head in the race but because I had no feeling in my entire left leg for a good portion of the race! Everything started out fine. In fact, it was a really cool beginning. That day was the unofficial Star Wars Day at Hollywood Studios. Way off in the distance we could see the fireworks for it as we stood in our corrals waiting for the anthem to be played. Then, as the trumpeter played, I started quietly singing the anthem to myself. I am sure I wasn't the only one because soon the people around me joined in and then everyone was singing. I have no idea how the trumpeter felt but it was an awesome moment for all of us. And then we were off.

God bless my sweet friend who was running with me. She had no idea what was happening towards the 1 1/2 mile mark in the race. I think she maybe thought I was tired. On the contrary! I was running great (for me) and was happy. But then my toes began to go numb. By the time we hit the hay bales my entire foot went numb. By the time we hit the entrance to Animal Kingdom my ENTIRE leg was numb...and a bit painful. I started walking and trying to stretch. I tried shaking my foot. I tried loosening my laces. I tried pushing through it and running. That part was painful. Have you ever tried running on a numb leg? Weirdest sensation because it hurts and it is numb at the same time. So, I finally started praying hard. "Please help me figure out what to do to relieve this, Father. Or take it away." Over and over again. 

Meanwhile, my poor teammate was encouraging me and telling me to run. I seriously just couldn't do it. By this time we were at the tire obstacle. Thank goodness there was a huge backup. First time I didn't mind a crowd in a race, ha-ha! I took that time to try to stretch again thinking perhaps it would un-pinch whatever pinched nerve was pinched (try saying that five times fast!). What did I feel? Nothing. Then it was my turn to go through. High knees! High knees! Suddenly, I felt the numbness begin to drain away. Like a cartoon it drained from the top of my leg and out of my toes. Sweet, sweet relief! That's when the thank you prayer began!

A hard earned medal!
From that point on I was able to kind of run. The earlier pain had exhausted me and the numbness kept trying to come back. Whenever I felt it starting again I started doing high knees. I know I looked like an idiot, but hey, it worked! The scavenger part was a little better. Overall the race was fun but disappointing at the same time. I was thankful that my prayer was heard, that the scavenger portion was fun, and that I got to stay and ride some rides until I was too frozen to continue. It was a really nice night temperature wise but the water from the rapids ride was like ice! We left to go back to the hotel shortly after.

And that is when my quest to figure out numbness avoidance began...


Monday, April 22, 2013

Shoes, shoes, everywhere there's shoes...

Ow....then numbness. My left foot suddenly went completely numb on Saturday's night run. Completely and totally freaked me out. I had never experienced this before! I ended up shaking my foot, then stretching my calf, and then shaking my foot again. About ten minutes later I finally regained feeling. By now all I could think about was had I re-injured it? I actually had a great run and only felt a mild twinge or two until the numbness set in after 3 miles.

When I got home I took a hot shower, stretched using my Foot Rocker, foam rolled my completely charlie horsing like crazy calf, iced that puppy, downed an Ibuprofen, and then put on my night splint. I of course then checked the internet to see what could have caused it. Number one reason was pinched nerve due to bad shoes. Then I began to think about it. I bought my Brooks Ghost 5s in November. Developed plantar fasciitis by January. And now that I started to run again my foot goes numb. I never had this problem in my Brooks Glycerin 9s. The Ghost 5s also felt a little tight in the toe box area. I knew I needed some expert advice and of course went straight to my running groups on Facebook.


I absolutely LOVED my Brooks Glycerin 9 shoes. But I knew they were ready to be park shoes when my knees began to hurt. So I purchased a pair of Ghost 5 and liked the weight. Didn't have knee pain. Trained in them for my half and the balls of my feet would hurt. I thought it just may be because of my weight. Ran the half in them. After the half I was sidelined for awhile with PF. Now I am running again. For the first time ever I went numb in my injured foot last night. Scariest thing when you have no idea what and why it was doing that. Looked it up. More than likely shoe related.

I looked up the new Glycerin 10 and can't see a visible difference between it and the Ghost 5.

Long story short, I may be shoe shopping tomorrow and perhaps selling some Ghost 5s, haha! Does anyone know of a brand that makes a shoe comparable or better than the Brooks Glycerin 9? Thanks!

Between my friends, Team 262, RacingTheDream@runDisney, For The Love Of Disney Running, and Team VICTORIOUS it looked like it really was my shoes. Other people had experienced the exact same symptoms. But just because that happens to you doesn't mean the shoe is bad. I think it just means that shoe is not for you. People were also very helpful with shoe suggestions and lacing suggestions. So many shoe suggestions! Which to choose? Today I tried on all of the brands they suggested and ran around the store to see which was best for me. I did do a little research first. One person suggested trying Mizuno's shoe finder. Brilliant! It was a great starting point. Check it out.
Mizuno vs Brooks

I strolled into Fit2Run wearing my work boots. I figured the best time to go was right after work when my feet were slightly swollen. Grabbed a pair of Feetures socks and a store clerk. I asked him for the Brooks Glycerin 10 and Mizuno Wave Creation 14. First, I tried on the Glycerin 10s. Felt like coming home. Very soft on my injured foot and felt good. Then I tried on the Mizuno (the version the fit site suggested I try). He did warn me it would feel stiff and it did. Felt like I was running on pavement with flip flops though. Not a bad feeling but not a comforting one either. 

Asics Nimbus 15 vs Brooks Glycerin 10
Then I tried on some Asics Nimbus 15. These were so soft. Like running on fluffy clouds! I thought I had found my new shoe...until my heel started to hurt. CRUD! They were pretty too. Sigh. Back to the bench I walked. I then asked him what other shoes he had that were comparable to the Glycerins. Down came the New Balance 1080V3 and the Saucony Women's Ride 5.

 The Saucony felt pretty good but my heal slipped up and down a ton. The shoe guy showed me how to fix that by lacing them differently. Really neat technique. So off I ran! Shins! Shins! Oh my gosh! My shins were on fire! That would be a no to the really pretty Saucony shoes. Sigh.I came walking back and he asked if I liked them. I told him my feet did but my shins did not. He replied that these were definitely not the shoe for me. So we opened the New Balance 1080V3 shoe.

New Balance vs Brooks
Oooooooooooooo. Fun shoe! Really light! Good grip on the track and was soft on my feet. But I wasn't really sure. So I tried the Brooks on again. All of the aches I now had from the other shoes started to quickly fade away. Back to the bench to try on the NB and Brooks at the same time. The NBs were lower and didn't feel as cushioned as the Brooks. But they didn't feel bad. So I went with my gut feeling and chose the Brooks. Deciding factor? The pain quickly began to fade with the Brooks but did not lessen with the New Balance.

My other deciding factor was that if I didn't like the shoes I could return them within 30 days and get a different pair of shoes no questions asked. So if these puppies fail me on the road I will try the New Balance. If those fail I will try a different style. I WILL find my shoes. Thanks again for all of your help my friends.

See you on the road or at the race!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A ridiculous beginning...but a beginning nonetheless.

"All great deeds and all great thoughts
have a ridiculous beginning."
Albert Camus
Happy Fools Day my fellow fools!
I decided I need more accountability and so I am writing this summary of my "workouts" for the week. Or as I like to look at it "my ridiculous beginning"! Now hold on and don't click off of the blog quite yet! I have a few important things to share. Some of them being Disney related. So sit back and get ready to check out my week of lame attempts to train.

Tuesday...I felt ridiculous and a little embarrassed. Here I was on the fit trail, walking slowly with occasional twinges, and being passed by both young and old as if I were standing still. But I was determined to walk once around the trail. Halfway through, my good leg (or so I thought it was my good leg) began to really cramp. I actually had to make my mind focus on making my muscles relax. It felt like I had never exercised a day in my life! But I was determined to train smart and so I swallowed my pride...kind of...and mentally shouted to everyone who passed "I really did earn this Tower of Terror Ten Miler shirt! I really am a runner...just an injured one." Oh well. I was there and I finished my lap and felt good about it. Man I have a long path to recovery ahead of me.

Wednesday...Well now. My foot was quite sore. I think it was the weather but I knew I needed to give it a rest. So I did!

Thursday...Still a little sore but I was determined to do something today. Instead of doing cardio I thought I better do some stretching. Perhaps that would continue to rehab my foot. Then I decided to pack for Disney instead. That is kind of a core workout, right? Bending, stretching, lifting my luggage, and whatnot. Well, we are calling it one anyway. Don't judge. Okay, judge but be gentle.
I'm a flying MONKEY!

Friday...DISNEY, baby! Aw yeah! After driving for three hours I made it to Orlando where I planned to do my cardio walking for the weekend. Walk, walk, stand, walk, walk, stand, stand, stand, walk, and eat. I certainly got my walking in. My foot didn't hurt too badly although we stood in a ton of lines. I felt like I had walked through several different countries by the time we made it back to the hotel. Yeah, I was at EPCOT. I have one recommendation for those of you who are fellow passholders. Definitely switch over to the new card scan system. It is pretty cool. Swirls and lights up green while making a bell sound when you scan your card and finger. Magical. 

Saturday...More Disney walking. We hit Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. My foot did well. It wasn't until hour ten that my foot started tweaking and hurting a bit. I stretched it and then found a ride that had a short line and a ton of sitting. That seemed to do the trick. 

All in all I think it was the perfect way to get back into an exercise routine. I believe the walking and standing helped my foot to gradually get used to being used for long periods of time. Saturday night I was even able to run to catch a bus and I DID NOT HURT! Ah, the magic of Disney. Oddly enough it boosted my spirits to know that I would be able to train and not further injure my self. I now know that I CAN run this upcoming race. I can still follow my dreams of becoming a regular runner. If you are nursing an injury and are slowly getting back into the swing of things I encourage you to keep going. Slowly but surely we will be stronger better runners. And like my favorite singing group at EPCOT crooned this weekend....

So keep on dreaming and believing my friends,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Trying Lots of Different Paths

"To get to the finish line, you'll have to try
lots of different paths."
Ambry Burfoot

Recently this quote took on a new meaning for me. I, my dear friends, have had to sit down and figure out some new paths for myself to get my injured little body across that finish line May 4th. As you may have previously read I was able to run and enjoy my first half marathon. That was back in January. You may have also read about my injury which caused me to drop out of the Foam Fest. 

Well, I am still healing from that same injury. Last week I had my final boo boo assessment and I was told to let it continue to heal and don't run until it quits hurting. I asked him about how much longer that might be. He said that when it quits hurting it quits hurting. In a sick way that reminded me of the joke "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." Doctor replies "Then stop doing that!".

Great for plantar fasciitis.
So exactly what can I do to train for a race coming up in 40 days? Well, I am cleared to bike, swim, yoga, use my Foot Rocker, and practice meditating until I can levitate across the finish line. But I have absolutely no idea when I can run before the race. So down a different path of training I must go. Cross training and faux running here I come! 

Speedo Hydro Resistant Jog Belt
"Captain Jack"
First, I called up my local Therapeutic Recreation Center pool and asked if I could water jog after work there. I figure if anyone would be up for rehabilitating someone it would be a place set up for the injured. They open up on Monday and I am more than welcome to water jog. They even said I could borrow a flotation belt. But because I will be getting well acquainted with the belt I decided to purchase one of my own. I have named it "Captain Jack". That way I can say "Captain Jack and I have a date at the pool today." So, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we will be getting in my training miles at the pool until it doesn't hurt to jog. Plus, I am trying to train myself to land midfoot and not heel strike.

I also keep reading about how important strengthening your core can be. Well, this here gal has plenty of workouts to choose from. My choice for the next 40 days will be the muscle building non-impact workouts from TurboFire. No, I am not a Beach Body coach nor am I endorsing the product. It is a fun workout for those who are not in the best of me at this point. I was in pretty good shape from doing P90X and Turbofire about a year ago but then a ton of things happened and I stopped cross training and strictly ran. Plus, I used food as a comforter and BLAM! Stay Puft Marshmallow Tina. I know the weight gain contributed to my getting injured. Now, just when I wanted to get fit again I can't do any high impact exercise. But I can pick the best workouts from my current library.

90 calorie chocolate pudding
cups are tucked away in there!
I am also going to add in the biking. Slow to begin with. My dad -- who is retired-- has volunteered to take me and my bike to work once a week. Then I can bike the 6 miles home. Isn't he great? And last but not least I am going back to eating healthy and trying my best not to use food as a comforter. I have gotten rid of all my favorite comfort foods in the house and have replaced them with healthy alternatives. I just have to retrain my cravings just like I am having to retrain my running stride. And I passed a test today. 

My car is in the shop and I am going to have to shell out $1200 dollars. Normally this kind of news would have me reaching for a brownie box and whipping up a batch to take away my blues. Today, I just made my dinner, ate it, and had a 90 calorie pudding cup to take away the bad mood blues chocolate fix. If chocolate works to take away the blahs after a dementor comes near I figure a low cal chocolate pudding cup will work to take away the food crutch. It did. Soon I hope to be able to just lace up my shoes and go running to kill the stress.

Well, my fellow injured and not injured runners... will my plan work and get me ready for The Expedition Everest Challenge in 40 days? Or will my team mate have to give me a piggy back ride across the finish line? I think I can do this with a little determination and a huge amount of patience with a slow progression towards healing while training. Plus, I know you guys will help keep me on track and give me encouragement and advise as needed. With that combination I am sure to cross that finish line!

Water jogging my way to victory,

Monday, March 18, 2013

FOAM FEST February 2013... Being An Athletic Supporter....

Our Foam Fest Team Name and Logo
How many of you have looked forward to a race for a few months and then had to bow out due to an injury? Yeah, it doth sucketh. The number one reason I was looking forward to this one was because it was going to be my first race with my nephew. This was his 17th birthday present from me...his favorite aunt. The number two reason was it just looked awesome. How often do you get to act like a five year old again? But I found myself sidelined with a heel injury. 

MY new team logo for MY shirt.
My heel started killing me about two days after the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Within two weeks (three days before the Foam Fest) I was sitting in a podiatrist office hearing the bad news. Achilles tendon in a rare spot, bursitis, bone bruise, and pre-bone spur. The cure? Three to four weeks in a boot and then heel lifts that would gradually decrease in height. Good news was it was treatable without surgery or voodoo witch doctoring. I was also assured I should be good to go for the Everest Expedition Challenge with plenty of time to train. Bad news...I was out of the Foam Fest.

I am basically being pushed forward
a little and trying not  to fall over.
I am the lime green one with
the freaking huge boot. 
I was sad but I was thankful that nothing had to be operated on. I was also thankful that I had friends who cared more about me healing than missing out on a race. I decided I wasn't going to miss out on everything though. I asked my niece Caitlin to run with her brother in my place. I would go to support my kinfolk and my friends. I also asked my friend Heather to keep an eye on my niece and nephew for me during the race. So Gimpy (me) was going to the races with her team "Rollin' with my Foamies". I wrapped my boot in Cerran Wrap and headed down to Miami. 

Look Auntie T! Foam.
TIP #1... Have something to do while they run.
 This was my first experience being a supporter and not a racer. I never understood how my family didn't get bored just standing around at a race waiting for a glimpse of me wogging by. But now I was in on the secret. Being a supporter is actually kind of fun if you have a job to do! My job was official team photographer.If I could find a position on the course (where I wouldn't be in the way of the official course photographers) then I would stand there and take photos. Because you are dedicated to taking photos of just one group you can get some really great shots! After seeing my photos after the race my friends didn't feel the need to buy any of the official race photos. So snap away if you aren't in the way!
Time to familiarize themselves with the
texture of the foam....or just play with it.

Before the race began my team decided to play with foam left behind from the start of a wave before theirs. I had a blast just watching them play around with it while I snapped photos. These are the kinds of moments the official photographers ignore. The foam had a really weird texture and didn't leave your hands wet like bathtub bubbles will. I thought to myself that maybe they wouldn't get all that wet but they would get muddy. I thought wrong.

A FOAM starting line!
And they're off!
Soon it was time for them to line up for the race. The start line slowly began to fill up with foam and the crowd began to jostle for position. My team became more giggly and smiley as the foam piled up. To be honest I did too. It was pretty cool. 3...2...1...GO! Through the foam they ran and were soon out of sight. Now it was my turn to race. Unfortunately I had about three quarters a mile to walk/hike to get to the giant slide towards the end of the race. I gimped along as fast as I could. Up a hill, then down a hill, then up a hill, then down a really dangerous gravel hill, then across a field, and then I was at the slide. I noticed the wooden walls were not too far away (about a quarter mile) across the field. Eh, I came this far why not go over there. Besides, I knew I would have enough time to gimp back to the slide because of the wait time to slide down. So I gimped my way over to the wall.

TIP #2... Cheer for other runners.
Here come my Foamies!
As you already know by now I love to high five race supporters and volunteers while I run by in my races. It gives me a boost of energy and it is downright fun to do. So I decided why not do that here? Except this time I would cheer for them while I sat on the ground. The hike over there killed my foot which made standing difficult. Too much too soon. So, I cheered and called out "I love your costume!" or "You got it!". But the best example of a support team I saw that day was a group of racers.

Up and over Foamies!
You can do it!
I knew that the Foam Fest supported Special Olympics but I was surprised when I saw a group come racing down the road. Talk about awesome people! I wish they would come cheer for us at Disney races or better yet compete in them with us. You should have heard them cheering each other on. And they stuck together as a team. They all patiently waited for the last one in their group to make it over the wall. Then they hugged, patted each other on the back, and took off towards the next obstacle before the giant slide. I kind of wish I had taken a picture to make an inspirational poster. Made me smile. 

But wait! Is that the neon colors of my Foamies racing towards me? YES! First my friends Amanda and Lara came racing up and over the wall. Apparently they decided to race each other. About ten minutes later I saw Michael come running towards me with Caitlin not far behind him. Up and over they went. About two minutes later my friend Heather and the two other members of our team came trotting towards the wall. Up and over. 

Gimp, gimp, gimp...over to the slide I went. Lucky for me there was one foam obstacle before the slide for them to conquer. This plus the wait in line gave me enough time to make it over to the giant slide. And I mean giant! 40 feet tall! I was proud of them all. Especially of my nephew Mikey because he is afraid of heights. Look at the picture! They look like ants up there! One by one (except for Heather's friend Robin who was also afraid of heights) came sliding towards the water. Heather (as seen in the picture) was the only one to actually splash into the water. The rest slowed themselves down and walked off of the ramp. It was so much fun to watch and take pictures. 

Michael finishing his first race!
And off they went! I knew I didn't have very long to get to the finish line. At least not with my foot starting to hurt. But dang it, I was determined to get there before they did! I personally think I should have gotten a medal for my epic journey back to that finish line. Remember that gravel hill I talked about climbing down? Guess what I had to do on the way back? That's right...climb back up. After that I thought I would be smart and cut across a field rather than stick to the road. Seriously folks. You should have seen it. Comedy of errors and volunteers on atvs watched as they passed me by. But that is okay. What doesn't kill you today makes you wish for death tomorrow.

The four horseman of the Apocalypse?
Naw, they just smell like horses.
I made it back in time to see Michael the mud monster come racing towards the finish foam. I was proud of him and he was too. Then I saw a sight that made my heart happy. My friend Heather made sure Caitlin wasn't left racing by herself. With the smell of horse pooh scented mud in their nostrils they came racing for the finish foam. One by one they crawled through the foam trying to get clean but grinning ear to ear. It was awesome.

You guys smell like a barn!

We found Lara and Amanda and had their foamie team picture taken as a group. In my heart I wish I could have run with them but I knew I had done the correct thing for me and my gimpy foot. I wanted to heal and be able to run another day. And I will. Meanwhile, I was reminded yet again of a fundamental truth. There is joy in serving others, there is joy in sharing other's happiness, and there is joy in simply being together doing something silly.

So, if you are sidelined with an injury might I suggest volunteering? I guarantee you will have a greater appreciation of those who cheer you on at your own races. And I know they will thank you for it. When you finally do recover go out and run a race or two where the joy is in the silliness within the race and not the personal record at the finish line. You'll wonder why you hadn't done it sooner.

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2013...Part 2...The Race!

2 a.m. ... and I am awake! I shower, squeeze into my compression gear and racing clothes, grab my niece and head out the door. I am so glad we got there by 2:45 because by the time the bus rolled around at 3:20 the line was long. And I mean long. We had to have at least 40 runners waiting behind us. Worst part was our hotel didn't have a dedicated bus for our hotel. It picked up Pop Century first and then us. We were just glad there were a few seats left.
We found seats!
Tip #1 - If staying on property definitely get to the bus by at least 3 a.m..
I found the people on the bus to be way more chatty than Tower of Terror Ten Miler. That bus was downright silent! Maybe everyone was just really pumped up and ready to go this time. I know I was! 

Now for us Floridians, the morning was downright chilly. I was happy for the longish walk to the Race Retreat tent. On the way to the tent the volunteers were grooving out to the d.j.. I caught them on video for you guys. So cute. We also walked on a red carpet through some Mickey Ear arches into the runner's area. Scanned the area and found the tent. Food and a chair were waiting for us! Woohoo!

Happy food = Happy runners!
The Race Retreat was completely worth it! The cocoa was creamy, the bagels fresh, cream cheese was nice and cold, and the variety of carbs and fruit was plentiful. The volunteers were visiting everyone and asking if we needed anything. Tink and her male companion (what was his name?) showed up while we ate. I am not a fairy fan so I didn't hop into that line. I would say we had about 45 minutes to relax, eat, and use the port-o-potties before they started telling everyone to head for their corrals. 

Line for the potty/the corrals path.
That was at 4:30 a.m.. Why do I tell you this? Because we didn't get to our corral until 5:15! Now this part was a little confusing. We went through our assigned entrance and into a sea of people. Seriously! In my opinion the cause of this was in the placement of those potties. We all had to cut through the lines for those things to get past the people. But hey, the crowd kept us warm! At 5 a.m. I began to worry because I wasn't at my corral yet. But then I looked at the thousands of people around me and knew that they would let me in.

Corral G port-o-potties
Light at the end of the
45 minute walk to the corral!
Tip #2 - ignore the lines and wait until you get to your corral to use the port-o-potty. I think what many of those potty people didn't know was that there were more just outside of your corral. Notice the very short lines in the picture.

Once we finally reached Corral G we had a bit of a wait.  We chatted with the people around us. We stretched a bit as we sat on the ground. We pretty much took the opportunity to rest while we could. But soon it was race time!

The video below is simply some highlights from the race. I was too busy concentrating all of my energy into keeping my niece's spirits up and my feet moving towards the end of the race to film everything. Also, some of it is bumpy so if you get motion sick watch with caution! Really , it is not that bad. Take a look.

This is not a constellation.
Fireworks behind us!
Oh how I wish I had gotten some video or even a photo of the official start of the race. The fire works were incredible! Not only were they in front of us but they were in back of us too. It was awesome. First, the wheel racers were off and then the 6 other corrals in front of us were off. Each corral had a unique set of fireworks to get them started. It is at this point that you can really take the opportunity to warm your legs back up if you are creative. From the start of the race until our corral start we had 35 minutes to kill.
Donald loves me...not you. Me, he's looking at me!

Now it was our turn. I knew that we were going to be doing a ton of run/walking so I purposely placed us in the middle of the pack. We were going to run for a minute and then walk a minute...which means a ton of weaving in and out of walkers for the first quarter mile.

Tip #3...if you know you are going to have a slow start or a short sprint before walking please stick to the middle or back of the pack. If you are a straight out walker might I suggest the very back. And preferably stay to the right with no more than two abreast. When a walking group stays in a pack four wide it makes it near impossible to run past them when in a tight space. Which leads to...

Tip #4...most walkers are courteous. Runners - If you need to pass simply yell out "On your ____!" Then as you pass simply say "Thank you!". Walkers - If you hear "On your ____!" please scooch over so they can pass. I am a run/walker or "wogger" -- as I like to call myself-- so I do both. Everyone be courteous and you will have a fun race.

Our starting fireworks!
Back to the race! The countdown ended and we were off! We began with a really good pace. I did have to giggle a bit though. I have never seen so many people start a race and within 100 yards dart into the woods to relieve themselves. So funny! The first mile I had my usual aches and pains in my legs but they always disappear around mile three. Between mile 2 and three they had the first character stop...CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow. 

Lame photo but it's
The Black Pearl!
I love that they played the theme music as we passed. Surprisingly enough it has a fantastic running pace tempo. Yeah, go check it out. We did not stop for that sexy beast of a man because we wanted to make sure our pace was ahead of the sweepers. Onward we ran. happened. A marching band playing the Rocky theme song! FANTASTIC! High fives all the way down as we passed.

Fellow band nerd passing
along good juju.
Tip #5... want an instant adrenaline rush? Run past the spectator's, volunteers, and roadside entertainment while high five-ing anyone who will high five you back. Not only will it make you smile but it makes them feel like they are there for a good cause. And they are! Thank you stranger high five receivers! I love you all.

Closing in on mile 3
and still smiling!

One man's forest is
another man's litter box.
Mile 3 found us running through the Magic Kingdom parking pass gate.We soon passed the racetrack and closed in on the second water stop. Again, I found myself passing a gang of roadside pee breakers. The port-o-potties were not thirty feet away with short lines. But I guess when you have to go you have to go. Who am I to judge? 

This is where a race turns into a steeple chase for those of us in the back of the pack. People forget to throw their cup to the side of the road. You have to be really careful running through this area. This is the first water stop I have ever had the misfortune of being hit on the head by a carelessly tossed cup. It was funny to me (the cup was empty) and the runner apologized. I have decided that if this happens to me in the future it is merely a good luck gesture from a fellow runner.

Did you know the monorail
has a horn?
As we neared the Contemporary Resort area we were given a surprise cheer. Did you know the monorail has a mac truck horn? I didn't know that but now I do! As it passed by overhead the conductor blasted the horn for us. Almost as good of a moral booster as a high five.

We get to run down
Mile 5 and we were running down Mainstreet U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom! I have to admit this was the beginning of me grinning from ear to ear and unable to stop grinning. I LOVE Disney and this was awesome. We made sure we avoided the trolley track. We ran through Tomorrow Land on our way to the highlight of the run... the castle!

The royal treatment.
Trumpeters on the balcony announcing our arrival!

This is the part where if you haven't watched the video you really need to scroll up and watch the video. Royal trumpeters began to play as we approached the castle. Moments like these are when Disney races become magical. This beat out all of the high fives I had gotten so far in the race. At this point the grin became an almost permanent fixture on my face. They finished just as I began to run through the castle. Of course I had to let out a "WOOOHOOO!". 

 At this point I looked at my watch and realized we had plenty of time to take pictures. My number one fear was getting swept. But we had kept up a really good pace despite shoe mishaps, checking on a runner who fell, and congested paths. 

We love Disney races!
Tip a pace that will give you time to take photos with your favorite characters. Also, the photo op in front of the castle is a must do. There is more than one photographer. This makes it a quick snap and go. Seriously, if I wasn't so worried about getting swept in my first half marathon I would have stopped for more pictures. I did however tell Caitlin that if I saw Princess Tiana I was going to stop and get the picture taken. Guess what? PRINCESS TIANA!!
Tiana -"Don't touch me slimy runner."
Me - "This is not is sweat!"
That didn't happen but it looks like
that is what she is thinking.

I said my fond farewells to my favorite princess and we were off again. We quickly ran through Liberty Square and then Frontierland. We were really sad to see that Splash Mountain was undergoing renovations. Little did we know we would be too sore to go ride it anyway, ha-ha!

Once we left the Magic Kingdom things turned not so magical. It was a long congested boring route from mile 6 to ten. I guess this was to be expected though. How do you top running through Magic Kingdom? You can't. 

Around mile 7 was when my niece began to struggle in a more visible way. At first she began cramping in her legs. She tried stretching. It helped a little. Then I suggested she try to just run it off. Up to this point we had been "wogging" with a little more lean towards the walk. This seemed to help a bit. Then she began to quickly tire. At this point I told her if she needed to leave me behind it was okay with me. "Run your race. Do whatever you have to do to finish." Off she sprinted. 

You may be thinking I was a terrible aunt at this point. No worries. Have you ever seen "Friday the 13th"? You know how the victim sprints off and runs for their lives? Yet no matter how fast they are Jason always comes strolling along and catches them. Yup. I was Jason. I always had her in my sights. She would run when I was walking. Then I would run and catch up. Then she would run. It was like a weird game of tag in the middle of a race. At mile 9.75 I finally jogged past her but quickly slowed down so she could catch up.

At that point she said she wanted to stick with me. I could see she was struggling. Mile 10 was the ramp up to an overpass. I told her to stay with me. We would walk up on the flat shoulder and then let gravity help us run down. Meanwhile, my mp3 player began playing "Dig A Little Deeper" from The Princess and the Frog. My goofy aunt side came out and I began singing to her. Then people around me joined in for the chorus. It was fun. At the top we passed by the army guy from "Toy Story". I looked back to say something to her and she was about ten feet behind me. She signaled that she would run down with me and we were off. That is when I lost her.

I slowed my walk and waited. Finally I saw her. She signaled to go on without her. Here's an insight into my niece. If you tell her you love her and how proud you are and that she can do this she will lose all strength and start to cry. If total strangers cheer her on she will put on a burst of speed. So I chose to go on without her knowing she wouldn't give up but afraid she may get swept.

The end is near but
where is Caitlin?
At mile 11 I was able to see her about 100 feet behind me. But  when I reached the last overpass I saw the dreaded sweeper vans. Or so I thought that was what they were. They were about a mile behind the last runners. Before that overpass there was a u-turn of sorts on the course. I passed by Caitlin and asked if she wanted me to wait for her. She shook her head and motioned for me to keep going. So when I saw what I think were the sweepers I got worried.

Mile 12 and I was almost to the finish. As I entered EPCOT I began to look behind me for Caitlin. Did she get swept? Should I slow down? I chose to slow down and only run when I saw a camera. Hey! I wanted "action" shots! Up ahead was another u-turn spot near the entrance to the worlds area. As I ran I saw her coming up the path. WOOHOO! I knew she wouldn't give up and I was so happy she hadn't been swept. I again stopped and asked if she wanted me to wait for her. This time she only had the energy to give me a slight no shake of the head. I ran for about 50 feet to mile 13 and waited. i wanted to finish with my buddy. As I waited (about two full minutes) the cast members began to change the course. I panicked. I thought for sure they were about to pull people from the race.

I knew she wouldn't want me to get swept so I bolted. We had a deal that should one of us get swept the other would carry on. But I felt so bad for her and hoped I was wrong and just paranoid. Onward I jogged. Soon I was passing underneath "Space Ship Earth" (that globe thingy) and passing by my good friend Karen and her family! She had finished hours earlier and had made her family go see me finish the race. Yay! I tried to tell her what was happening with my niece but she just yelled "Run girl!". So I ran.

One of the last surprises Disney had for us near the end of the race was a gospel choir. I couldn't believe I was about to finish my first half marathon with some energy left. I almost shouted Hallelujah at them. On I jogged. I could see the finish line. I began to search the stands for my family but couldn't find them. But at last I crossed the finish line.

I had done it! I had finished my first half marathon and didn't feel like death! I was so happy but worried at the same time. I walked to the volunteer handing out medals and had him place mine around my neck. That's right, no handing me my medal. Place it around my neck where it belongs. I was a half marathoner now!

But where was my family? Where was Caitlin? Did she get swept? I quickly got my finisher photo taken, grabbed my goodie box and water, and headed back towards the finish line. Who should come strolling up but Caitlin with a medal around her neck. She had done it! She wasn't swept and she hadn't given up. 

She really is happy.
Just one worn out 14 year old!

I asked her if she was okay and she said she was good. She had put everything she had into the last 50 feet and sprinted across the finish line. She also said she had high fived Donald Duck at the finish! I was so concentrated on crossing that line and finding my family that I had failed to see Mickey and Donald. 

Tip #7...notice Mickey and Donald at the finish line. You can have your picture taken with them.

So that is my recap of our first half marathon race at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was a blast. I couldn't imagine any other half marathon being as memorable or as fun as this one. I highly recommend this race to anyone with a goal to complete a half marathon. I would race it again in a heart beat. And just in case you were wondering if this would be her last race...Caitlin has decided she wants to run in a full marathon. I believe she can do it.

Click here for my "day before the race" Recap of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo