Race Report: Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On the first bus out of Pop!
As I mentioned in my expo post, I miss when the Wine and Dine half was at night.  It used to be so fun to start at ESPN, hit up a bit of Animal Kingdom, and then arrive at Hollywood Studios and run through the Osborne Light Show.  There was something so magical about turning the corner and just being completely immersed in Christmas lights and cheer.  It was a great way to start the last third of the race.

Then the race got moved to the morning, and with all of the construction in Hollywood Studios, the course has changed drastically, with the start moving to Magic Kingdom.  I wish there was a way you could actually run IN Magic Kingdom for a bit.  It’s like they taunt you a bit, brining you so close to the park, but then have you running away from it towards Animal Kingdom.

This race always has characters out dressed in restaurant or chef gear, and it’s fun to get prerace pictures with them.  We were able to get Donald, Minnie, and Mickey before we decided to jump in the bathroom line.  This seemed to be a bit of a mess.  there was a cue for the portapotties that wrapped back and forth and ended in the middle of the line of portapotties, rather than the lines that people usually form.  This wasn’t working well because there were often bathrooms left empty because you couldn’t tell from the middle if they were open or not.  It moved slowly and I don’t think this was the best thing.  Usually you can jump in line and get through relatively quickly prior to the race, but this time I was not overly impressed.  The castmembers were telling us there were available bathrooms once you went into the corral areas, but after being in line so long we didn’t want to get out of line in case it was just as chaotic in the other area, which still ended up being congested when we got in line there later.  I’m a nervous runner and usually have to use the bathroom A LOT before a race, so these long lines stressed me out.

I raced into corral A after they had already left the corral and walked to the start line.  I lined up at the back of the corral, which I’m not really used to, and tried to tell myself it would be ok, that I wasn’t going for a PR and it was okay if I got caught in some congestion.  Luckily, as the front corrals have become smaller in recent races, I really didn’t have a problem with too slow of a start or getting trapped like I used to.  I watched the usual announcers discuss the race, invite Minnie and Mickey up, and then send us on our way.  The fireworks at the start were awesome and we began our 13 mile trek around Disney.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like Disney did a better job of placing characters and entertainment on the course.  I never felt overly bored, which I have on some of their more recent courses as they have had to divert around various construction projects.  They had some bigger names out, like Tink starting the list of characters, though her line was already long when I passed by in the middle of the A corral, and I chose not to stop.

You didn’t get to Animal Kingdom until around mile four, and you only got to be in the park for about one mile, but it was cool to run through Pandora.  It looked pretty neat in the dark.  I was excited to see Rafiki in the park, and I stopped for a quick picture because there was no line!  I was a little disappointed at the lack of picture opportunities during this segment of the race, but it was still fun.  The course was pretty curvy at this point, and I noticed my pace dropped a lot while in the park, and this is also where my knee became a bit more noticeable, so I had to pick it up once we got back onto access roads and then the main roads.

Mile 5 looped around the from of Animal Kingdom and the parking lot, then 6 took us back to the highway. Miles 7, 8, and 9 all were pretty much on the main roads.  There were some characters and entertainment, like the Green Army Man who yells at you as you get closer to Hollywood Studios on one of the few hills.  I love when you see the Green Army Man because it signals that you are closer to Hollywood, and I like the course after you hit Hollywood Studios.

 

We spent a little time in the park, where they had some of their Christmas stuff up.  It wasn’t nearly as cool as before when it was the Osborne Lights, but it was exciting after being out on the roads for awhile.  As we went into the park, I noticed a “set” off to the side and a camera person, but no character.  I was a little disappointed, and as I started to pass it I suddenly saw Oswald coming out.  I cheered and turned around and quickly got a pick before continuing on.  Shortly after the Oswald stop I saw the Genie coming back out and counted myself lucky as I stopped to snag a picture with him, too.  You looped out of the park, as usual, and started down the walkway towards Boardwalk.  The walkway had these big green fences up, which disappointed me because I’ve always liked the view through that area, as it follows the waterway.  Luckily they eventually stopped, so you could see the scenery and get a breeze again.  There were a fair amount of spectators out as you neared the Boardwalk and circled around through the Beach and Yacht Club areas, which made it more fun.  One of the negatives about Disney races is the lack of crowd support because you spend so much time out on the roads, so that is probably one of the reasons I love the stretch from mile ten to the end, since it tends to have more spectators and things going on.

Once you neared the back entrance to Epcot, we looped around through the back area, and then came out and followed the marathon route around the countries.  Remy and his brother were out from Ratatouille, so I made a quick stop to snag a picture there, and then just enjoyed the trek through the countries and around the lake.  It’s always so pretty and there were cast members out cheering us on.  After the countries you loop up near the ball and head out a back way, towards the parking areas.  I was a little sad that the choir that usually sings around mile 13 weren’t there.  I always enjoyed them and they’ve become almost an expectation for me.  There was another group there that was good, I was just surprised.

The finish line area is always exciting.  I love that the announcers call out your names as you approach.  Confetti covered the ground when the first finisher crossed, which I was pretty psyched to hear was a girl!  I didn’t see any characters at the finish line, which I thought was weird because usually someone is there and you can snag a high five as you cross the finish line.  Instead I just celebrated as I crossed the finish line, though my race photos show some pretty creepy faces, which I’m going to not include in this post.

One of my complaints about RunDisney races is how far you walk immediately after the finish and how much stuff they give you, with no bag.  I walked pretty slowly through the chute because I knew my husband wasn’t too far behind me as I was tracking him through the runner tracking system on my phone.  I stopped and got some ice for my knee, which they strapped on quickly and sent me on my way.  As you continue to wind through the chute, you got a cooling towel, water, PowerAde, a banana, the coveted RunDisney food box, and THEN they stop you for pictures, so you have to put everything down if you want a finisher picture.  I feel like that should be sooner in the line up so that you don’t have to juggle everything, or they should have a bag they give you so you can actually carry everything without a struggle.

They make you keep moving through the chute, so I had to wait for my husband outside the finisher picture area.  They let us both go back in so that we could get pictures together.  Then we grabbed my bag from the bag check, which is quick and easy, and we went back to the merchandise tent to see what was left.  There was tons of stuff, but nothing new, so we went and got a picture with Chip and Dale and then caught the shuttle to go back to our resort since we had a breakfast reservation at Cape May at the Beach Club and needed to get moving.

Wine and Dine Half Expo Review: Changes galore

Thinking I’m so cool at my first Wine and Dine Half in 2012
I did my first Wine and Dine half in 2012 and have gone back every year since.  That year I had just gotten into running and was intrigued by the Disney races.  My in-laws had never been to Disney, so my husband and I decided to bring them down with us.  We stayed at All Star Music in a cute suite, and I got to see RunDisney in all its flash and glory, which obviously got me hooked.

This was back when you could register for RunDisney races a few weeks in advance, rather than getting on the computer right when the regi

This year
stration opened, praying that you’d get in.  I think my husband and I both registered for the 5k about a week before the race, which would be my husband’s first ever race and start his slow pull into running.  A lot of changes have happened since that year.  Overall, RunDisney became really popular, making registration stressful and forcing people to register nearly a year in advance.  This definitely could be a turn off to people, and it seems that race demand is in decline. RunDisney has already moved next year’s marathon registration back to April, versus the February it was this past year.  That’s helpful, particularly if you don’t allow for transfers, deferrals, or refunds, and makes it nicer if you want to try to make a more “last-minute” trip to do a race.

 

The Wine and Dine Weekend has also changed, now offering a challenge for completing the 10k and half.  When I started running it in 2012, it was the 5k on Saturday morning with the half marathon that night, finishing with a party at Epcot, where runners could stay until three or four AM.  There was something really neat about starting a race at 10 pm and running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot at night, but that has changed.  Now the race weekend extends over three days, with the 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday, and the half Sunday afternoon, with the party that night, which can be difficult to take off of work for another day if you are an out-of-towner.   This change, to me, has decreased the uniqueness of the Wine and Dine, and I think the fact that registration was still available going into race weekend shows that I am not the only person who feels that way.  However, I digress.

I brought up change because the expo underwent many changes for this race weekend, which were obvious from the start.  My husband went down early this year, and he texted me from the expo, telling me how different it was.  I didn’t really know what he meant until I got there.  First of all, the buses drop you off in a different spot, likely due to construction, but it seemed substantially closer than the old locations.  You used to walk a fair amount just to get into the ESPN complex.  Now it wasn’t so bad.  The first stop to get your bib was in the same building, but here’s where the changes started. When you walked in, going one way would take you to bib pick up, the other way would take you to a merchandise location.  There was always an area to get the coveted RunDisney race merchandise near bib pick up, but now it was in a different room.  As we walked to the race merchandise, my husband warned me how different it would be.  I couldn’t even fathom it when we walked in.

You used to be crammed into little areas with people pushing each other just to get to items.  I’ve seen people yelling, throwing things, and breaking things in order to get stuff.  Usually this behavior was more around Princess weekend, but I’ve seen aggressive shoppers during other weekends as well.  It was always drama filled.

This year the merchandise was basically in its own level of the arena, in a sprawling area where people could easily navigate and pick out the items they wanted.  There was a section of generic RunDisney stuff, an area for men and women apparel for each race, and miscellaneous drinkware, with the preorder stuff along the back wall.  I couldn’t believe it!  It used to be very stressful to get your merchandise, and this was so peaceful and laid back.  I was able to look at everything and really see it, instead of being jostled over items that were the most wanted.  People were milling around rather than rushing to get things.  I don’t know if the fact that RunDisney didn’t release any race merchandise previews helped, but it was a totally different atmosphere.  My husband had been there right when it opened Thursday, and we were both there right when it opened Friday.  There was no overcrowding or issues at all.  I also feel like they are doing a better job with ordering enough stuff.  There were a few things that sold out, but some of the more popular items were still available at the end of the weekend, such as jackets, Tervis mugs, and other race shirts.  I know this is a smaller race, but I was still so surprised by the positive changes.

After the merchandise and bib pick up, we still had to go to the other building to get the shirts.  They still have it at the back of the arena, forcing you to walk through the vendors to get there.  It’s good marketing, but still is a bit of a pain to have to go over there.  There wasn’t any race merchandise in this building like there normally is, so everything was much more spread out in there and made it easier to walk around and browse the various stalls.  We quickly picked up my shirt and shopped, before stopping for a drink to get the RunDisney cups that you can get when you purchase a beverage.  This time they were clear with glitter, and we’ve gotten a number of different colors over the years.  We were able to enjoy our drinks outside, people watching and musing over how much easier this expo had been than previous years.

So, while I discussed some changes that may not have been for the best at the beginning of my post, I do have to say that the changes made to the expo this time around are very positive.  Kudos to RunDisney for addressing a problem that has been building up for awhile now.  I hope that they use this system for marathon weekend.  I’ll report back for that one and let you know how that expo goes in two months!

 

Chicago Marathon Part One: Leading up to the race

My Chicago Marathon was a whirlwind weekend.  I left my school about two hours early in order to make a 5:00pm flight.  I arrived in Chicago at 5:48pm CT and utilized the rail system.  I had ordered a ventra card to use and paid for a special that they had for three days of unlimited use.  I really didn’t use it much, so I didn’t get my money’s worth, however I did love the cool marathon design that I got.

My husband and mother in law, who had gone down in the morning, met me at the train station and walked with me to our hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Chicago, a host hotel, and it wasn’t a bad walk, except that it was drizzling.  When we got to our hotel, I was pretty impressed.  It was very nice and a great location, particularly for the race.  I dropped my suitcase off in the room and we went and got in line for the bus to the expo.

That part was a little stressful.  It was almost seven at this point, and I know that buses didn’t run much longer.  One bus came back from the expo to drop off people, only to tell us that they weren’t taking anyone back to the expo.  The person manning the pick up told us that there might not be any buses going back to the expo that night.  We were upset because the program said they would be running until 8:30, and she told us that with people’s shifts, they would be stopping.  A couple people walked away and we were about to book an Uber with a stranger when another bus stopped.  We decided to wait and see what this bus was doing.  Luckily, it was headed back to the expo so we got on, feeling bad for those people who had left to take a taxi.  That was poorly done and I feel like there needs to be better communication so that people don’t have to be turned away again.

When we got to the expo I knew we didn’t have much time, besides the fact that I was exhausted, so we rushed through a bit.  It was really easy to get my bib.  They scanned the code on my packet pick up materials, then sent me to a booth where they got my bib ready.  I then had to walk through all of the vendors (well played) to get to my race shirt.  Everyone was super nice and it was a huge place filled with so many retailers, I wish I had more time to spend browsing.  My husband had gone that morning to get his stuff for the 5k, so he had looked around for me and bought a few things that he knew I would want.  I had taken advantage of Nike having their stuff posted early, so I had already ordered what I liked from their online and it arrived before I even left for the race.  My husband had grabbed me a regular pint glass, a super nice water bottle, and a stainless steel pint that day.  The only thing I really was looking for was a hoodie, and I found a nice one at The North Face booth that I ended up getting.  It also blew my mind how many people were wearing the race shirt.  We saw them a ton prior to the start of race.  I have always considered that a no-no, unless I somehow packed poorly and had nothing else to wear.  Maybe I’d wear something I bought extra for the race, but I would never wear the shirt.  It just seems to jinx it to me.

We returned to the hotel, leaving a few minutes before the expo closed.  We had a quick dinner from a place in the hotel and called it a night early.  I was really tired and my husband was running the International 5k the next morning, so he needed to relax a bit.  I’m really jealous that I didn’t run that race, too.  It looked like so much fun, but I had originally hoped that I was going to be in PR shape for the marathon, which it ended up that life decided would not be the case, so I hadn’t registered for it.  I really regret it and will likely do it if I ever go to Chicago again.

The Hilton Chicago was not a far walk to the start of the 5k.  My husband left to go there while my mother in law and I decided to hit up Starbucks prior to heading to the finish.  The Starbucks was swamped, with the employees saying they didn’t realize there was a race that morning, too.  Hopefully they keep that in mind for next year!  We made it to see my husband finish, but we got a little nervous waiting so long.

The finish for the 5k was awesome.  The runners come around a turn and come barreling towards the finish line, with an announcer keeping everyone pumped up and cheering on the runners.  There were runners from other countries running with flags and some runners in costume.  So many people had come out to run the 5k, and it was awesome to watch people run for the finish.  After finishing, the runners got an awesome medal and a cool winter scarf with the race on it.  It was a shame, however, that there was no other race merchandise for it.  My husband had looked for a shirt or something at the expo, as well as the finisher area, hoping he could get something to wear, but there was nothing.  I think that’s an untapped market.  I bet, with a race of this size, that they could sell a bunch of shirts for this race.

We went and got breakfast at a cute little street-side Greek café after the 5k.  It took a long time to eat and we watched a lot of people get up and leave because it was taking so long to just place an order.  We decided to wait it out and the food was really good.

After we decided to try and take buses to get to the aquarium, however the hotel didn’t give the best directions and we ended up on a bus going the wrong way.  We debated at that point if it was even worth going to the aquarium at that point.  I really didn’t want to be on my feet all day with a marathon the next day, and this experience was stressing me out.  We decided to get on a different bus, which still couldn’t get us there because they had started to close down streets.  It dropped us off as close as it could get and we walked the rest of the way.  When we got to the aquarium there were tons of people there, making us decide that it just wasn’t worth it to pay the cost of a ticket to go in and be so crowded.  We walked back to the hotel, realizing we should have just walked in the first place.

The Hilton Chicago did a pasta dinner buffet starting at 5pm on Saturday, so we went down around 4:30 to get in line for the dinner.  They said they weren’t taking reservations, so we sat down to wait, only for them to start taking names while we were sitting.  It wasn’t that big of deal, but they could have been a bit more organized at this point.  The restaurant is big and was able to accommodate all of the early bird runners, but it was confusing to everyone because some could put their names in and some were told no.  Once we were seated we went right up and the food was amazing.  They had several different pastas, lasagna, chicken, and great salad and dessert bars.  We got several rounds of food, rounding our meals out with yummy dessert.  Then it was time to go up to the room.

I had made the decision to book an extra room for the night of the marathon as I am a light sleeper and didn’t want to disturb anyone when I got up in the morning.  It was a pricey decision, but did end up being nice to be able to wind down how I wanted to and not inconvenience anyone.  I was still feeling gross from a pretty bad cold I was fighting and my knee and legs were stiff from walking, so I took a hot bath in order to try and loosen up a bit.  I set out all of my race stuff and lounged around, reading and going on social media a bit before turning off the lights around 8:30 pm.  I was anxious, but slept better than I had thought I would.

 

Stay tuned for part two!

 

 

Race Report: Strider Glider Quarter Marathon

 Race Information


I’m sure I’m a little biased as I am apart of the committee that helps to put this race on, but I always enjoy doing the Strider Glider in Lancaster, NY.  First of all, it’s a unique distance.  How many QUARTER marathons do you see out there?  Not many.  Second of all, our race supports a number of local groups, including donating a major part of proceeds to the Trinity Food Pantry and supplying scholarships to two cross country athletes.  I love that not only do we work to put on a good race, but we also give back to the community, donating everything that we make.  Plus we are a Buffalo Runner of the Year Race, or ROY race, which is a nice honor.

It seems like we’ve always had interesting weather for this race.  However, this year the weather was spectacular.  There was some sun and temperatures started off in the fifties, ideal weather for a race!  I think this helped us bring out a decent crowd, with 200 finishers.  We had a decent amount of preregistrations, with a fair amount of walk ups on race morning, which was my job race morning.  We had a nice giveaway this year, as well.  We always try to come up with something just a little different, and this year we did glasses with our three race mascots printed on separate ones.  They were wrapped, so it was a surprise which monster you received.  We also had some left to purchase, in case anyone wanted to complete their set, which a fair amount of people did.

img_3023
Zachary Liaros
The race starts at nine in Westwood Park in Lancaster.  You then turn right out of the park and snake your way to the Heritage Bike Trail, where about a third of the race takes place, before returning to the park.  We had a lot of volunteers manning the turns and there were a few fire departments helping us to close down the major roads, ensuring the safety of the runners and making sure everyone knew where to go.  We then have a nice little after party, which had sliders, mac and cheese, and a variety of other snacks, as well as various beverages, including some home-brewed beer made specifically for the race.  Race medals are given out for the top three in five year age groups, as well as trophies for overall female and male, as well as masters.  We also do raffle tickets for a variety of prizes.  Everyone always seems to have fun!

 

My Race Report

So I decided to run the race, even if it wasn’t necessarily the best idea.  I asked my PT, and he said it wouldn’t be the worse thing.  As the race got closer, I wasn’t quite sure how to pace.  My Chicago Marathon training plan didn’t include a lot of speedwork, and my most recent short distant race was a 5k back in mid-August.  Thus, I really debated what pace to shoot for.  Not only was I unsure of what pace I could maintain for 6.55 miles, but I wasn’t quite sure of how my knee would respond to more aggressive running.

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Thanks, Sarah Anderson!
Of course I got caught up in the excitement of the gun going off and threw down a 7:28 first mile.  I realized that probably wasn’t smart, nor was it the easy running that my PT was recommending.  So I held back, albeit not totally successfully and clocked a 7:59 second mile.  This had me a bit anxious as my pace in my last 5k, an admittedly poor race, was 8:10.  With 4.55 miles to go, it was probably smarter for me to hit a more conservative pace.  Plus, I was still nervous about my knee, which hurt a bit in the first quarter mile or so, but had eased up as I got moving.

I decided to shoot for 8:20 pace for the next two miles, and achieved an 8:18 and an 8:19.  I knew I was probably still going too fast for my knee and was a little torn.  I told myself I would do 9:00 for the last two miles, but that vow didn’t last long.  I soon noticed that I was going back and forth with a runner in my age group.  At times she was leading, then I’d lead for a bit.  I slowly began to pick up the pace, thinking about how I really would like to earn a medal.  I’m a tad bit competitive, okay very competitive, and I really love the medals from this race, so I started to creep up a bit.  I realized that this girl is someone I’ve raced during the summer, just beating her in one race by less than a second, and her beating me in another race by only a few seconds.  It might make me sound like an awful person, but this thought fueled my surge at mile 5.5.  I was afraid if I let her stay in front of me, that I would place fourth, just out of the medals.  So I began to kick way too early, really paying for it in the last quarter of a mile.  On my last turn I looked back and saw that she had fallen pretty far back, but that there was another girl coming and I really took off.  My last two full miles were 8:33 and 8:16, with my final .6 clocking in at 7:36 pace.

img_3020
Thanks, Darell McKenrick!
This race was really exciting for me for a couple of reasons.  I was really happy when I found I actually placed first in the race for my age group.  I was just hoping to place!  But this race also was kind of a mental break through for me.  I’d say for over a year I have had issues with keeping positive during races.  I’ll begin to doubt my ability to hold paces or be abimg_3010-1le to push at the end, leading me to slow down and get angry with myself after the races.  I was really excited that I held the paces that I was shooting for, even with little speed training, and I was especially happy that I was able to pick up the pace and work on trying to pass people, rather than doubting and giving up a bit mentally at the end of the race.  This was a great confidence boost after a string of rough races this summer, and I’m hoping that it continues on.img_2983

My knee has been kind of cranky since the race.  I iced it as soon as I was done, but it was a little sore that night.  The next day it wasn’t too bad, until I got kicked right in the knee while sitting at the Buffalo Bills game.  That didn’t really help.  I’ll stick to some treadmill runs and keep doing my PT so it will hopefully improve.  I’m looking forward to some more successful races in my training, leading up to the Disney Marathon in January.

 

 

Training week 1

The fall foliage is turning, however the humidity was still in full effect on Sunday.  The hubs and I did 5 miles, working on achieving negative splits.  

Monday and Tuesday consisted of easy treadmill runs because my treadmill is finally fixed!  It’s been over a month since I really have been able to use it.

Wednesday I was able to convince my PT to let me run a mile as my warm up instead of the elliptical, citing that I will run one after for my run streak, so could I just do it now?  He agreed as long as there was no pain and I got my 1.1 in to maintain my streak.

Thursday and Friday were easy runs on the treadmill.

Saturday was a quarter marathon race.  I was super nervous  for this run as I haven’t run short in a race since August.  I’ve also been super mental lately, doubting myself, and I feel this race was a breakthrough as I was able to push myself to a first place in my age group at the end, giving one final hard effort during the last mile.  


Sunday was another easy treadmill run, hitting four miles.  
Total mileage for 8 days: 30.9

Reflection on the week:  My legs are feeling pretty good after Chicago.  My knee is acting up a little bit after the race on Saturday, but overall it’s feeling pretty good.  Just need to stick with PT and make sure I’m diligently strengthening and stretching.

  My biggest achievement was the race.  I really did a nice job mentally, reigning in an over enthusiastic pace, controlling it, and pushing it at the end instead of holding back like I often do.  Looking forward to next week’s training, as miles increase and I start incorporating some speed work.  

Chicago Marathon Reflection…

When I found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon last December, I was so excited.  My mind instantly began racing (no pun intended), imagining the excitement of such a big race and the huge marathon PR I could get on such a big stage.  It was going to be epic.

However, life doesn’t always seem to go as planned.  I ended up getting a new job at a new school over the summer, while taking three online graduate classes during July and August.  My summer consisted of being stressed over interviews, writing grad papers for 4-5 hours pretty much daily, and really just trying to get my life together, which is not an easy task for an OCD planner like myself. 

Let’s just say my running took a hit over the summer.  I was running, but other life demands took their toll on me.  I also started noticing some knee pain in August.  Never debilitating, but just enough to cut back on some runs and to be a nuisance.  Then mid-August hit and I started my new teaching job, and with it, a whole new world of stress.  It’s good stress, because I really do love my new school and students, but stress nonetheless.  So while I tried to fit in runs during the beginning of the year teacher exhaustion period, I wasn’t always successful in doing so.

Then, of course, I got sick mid-September.  It wasn’t like the flu or anything.  I was never completely knocked down, though I did spend one Saturday sleeping for about twelve hours.  As I got bronchitis right before my last marathon, I became very paranoid.  I cut back on my running, missing my last long run before my taper and really not running much in the two weeks leading into Chicago.

Thus, I knew I was definitely undertrained as I lined up race day.  I stood in the F corral, eyeing the 3:55 pacers, my adjusted goal time that I had set over the summer when I knew that I couldn’t meet my original enourmous dream time.  I texted my husband, talking about running with them, but kind of knowing that it was not going to happen.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew it.  Plus, it was already 56 degrees, with temperatures predicted to approach 80.  I am NOT a warm weather runner, so that was weighing on my mind a bit.

The first few miles flew and I wasn’t far off of my goal pace.  However, I could already feel my legs at the 5k mark.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my low 9:00  paces.  I texted my husband around the 8k mark, telling him I wasn’t going to be able to maintain, and he encouraged me to slow a bit.   This is where my knee started to complain, and I added walk breaks through water stations.  By mile 8 I was hurting and my mind was overwhelmed by the amount of remaining miles.

I hadn’t realized how bad a hit my endurance had taken when I was sick and not really running, but I was feeling it heavily early on in the race.  My knee was angry about the pounding, likely having enjoyed its rest period while I was sick, and it expressed itself early on with pain.  Then the pain travelled up to my hips, and my shins began cramping.  My legs weren’t ready. 

It was mentally hard to run this race.  There were times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish.  I’ve never felt that much pain so early in a marathon, and I was worried that it was going to get to the point that I would need to stop, that my body was going to give out on me.  It was that unknowing, and constant reminder with discomfort and pain shooting through my legs and hips on each step, that made my race an inner turmoil for me.  I wasn’t sure how far I was going to make it, and that was killing me.

One great thing about the Chicago Marathon is the crowd support, and I truly believe that is a major reason I was able to finish.  As I passed the halfway mark and the temperatures began to climb, I noticed a lot more people start walking.  This race was impacting a lot of people, not just me, and that was a little reassuring.  I guess misery loves company, right?  But it was also during this time that I began to rely on the crowd cheering to help me through.  I purposely wore one of my Sparkle Athletic skirts, a super shiny one, to draw attention, and I achieved my goal.  Lots of people called to me that they liked my outfit, and that helped me continue on.

People lined the streets throughout the race, which was quite amazing to see.  Not only did they cheer, but the supplied things like candy, drinks, food, and even tissues!  All of these things were greatly appreciated.  My favorite was the people who gave out freezie pops.  I can’t even tell you how amazing that was.  It was sunny at this point and super hot.  I had salt caked to my face from the sweat (ew, right?).  Then all of a sudden someone handed me a red freezie, and my life got a million times better.  I don’t know if these spectators realize how great their actions were, their cheering or their supplies, but I know that they definitely helped me finish a difficult race and I am forever thankful.

I almost cried when I crossed the finish line.  I had really wondered if I would make it at times, and it was a relief when I hit mile 26 and I was able to pick up the pace on the turn and finish somewhat strong.  It was easily one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I plan on not making the same mistakes twice.  I learned a lot from this race.  I am running the Disney marathon in January, which I am now looking at as almost a redemption race, and I plan on throwing everything I can at this race.

I have gotten a coach for this race.  I’m looking forward to getting a training plan that runs much higher mileage, because I realized that my best marathon was off of a training cycle that had a number of 55-60 mile weeks, while this time I was around 40.  I also am hoping the guidance and accountability of a coach will help keep me consistent, finding time to make these runs work as I settle into my third month at my school and I feel that I have finally fallen into more of a routine there.

I have also started physical therapy.  I had my first appointment, and started a rehab program to help with my knee pain.  I’m obviously facing some muscle weaknesses and imbalance because I think my soreness from my first PT appointment might have been worse than my post marathon soreness.  I need to make cross training and strength a bigger part of my training plan.  I also need to stretch more as I was told my legs were pretty tight.

Hopefully with these steps, I can redeem myself in Disney.  I am still dreaming of a marathon PR, which would be right around four hours.  I’d be thrilled to break four.  I think if everything comes together, and if my PT goes well, I might be able to do it.  It’s a huge jump, but I’m going to throw everything I have at this goal.  I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I did with Chicago.  This is going to become a priority now that my life seems to be calming down and I’m ready to take it on.