After a morning full of awesome events, I (luckily) was able to rest and take a two hour nap.
I awoke with determination and excitement and confidence.
I was SO ready for this race! I was going to be lining up at the "Start" with more knowledge, more strength, more training, and more enthusiasm than I had had the first time.
I AM a runner! No matter how fast or how slow I run. No matter the distance I can cover in a single run. No matter the gear that I own. I AM a runner!
I was SO pumped up at this point. I got my running outfit on and looked in to the mirror and said "You got this!".
And then threw in a little Coach Taylor for good measure "Clear eyes, Full hearts, Can't lose".
( And, yes, I continued to say that to myself throughout the entire race. It is my favorite mantra.)
I ate my pre-race meal of a wheat bagel with peanut butter and sliced banana. I drank a cup of coffee. And I drank a bottled water.
I had decided to stop hydrating about two hours before the race. I had been drinking water all day - so, I knew I was good and hydrated.... I just didn't want to have to stop mid race to go to the bathroom like last time.
I also ate my pre-race meal about 2 1/2 hours before the start. And then took along some gel for extra nourishment.
I was pumped and ready to go....
I had to be at Epcot by 8:30 for race transportation to the starting point at Wide World of Sports.
My parents sent me on my way with hugs and love and encouragement and support. Bethany, Teddy, and Kev took me to Epcot. We had decided since the race didn't start until 10pm (my corral wasn't until 10:15) that they would hang out at the house until they were texted that I had reached the half way point. Then they would head up to Epcot for the finish.
(I LOVED that Disney was able to text my family my whereabouts during the race. The texts included my average pace so they could guesstimate when I would finish!)
My family (minus Bethany) chowed down on wings while they were waiting.....
The weather was ABSOLUTELY perfect!! 60 degrees and NO humidity! I couldn't have asked for a better evening to run. And speaking of evening... it is my favorite time to run. This race was meant for me.
The large crowds and bus transportation resulted in a pretty long wait... however, it took up the majority of the time and we arrived at the start with just enough time left to go to the bathroom and get in our corrals.
I was still feeling so good at this point. No nerves. Just determination. I just kept visualizing crossing the finish. I was ready to go.
And it also helped that texts, and emails were still coming through on my phone up until the last second. I felt like I had an entire army of motivation with me every step of the way.
I got in my corral and then realized that I had NO idea what pace I had signed up to run. When I initially registered, I had to give them an estimated time of finish. And since it was so long ago, I must have given them "worse case scenario" because when I got in my spot.. I was pretty much at the back of the 12,000 + people running. The only group behind me was the speed walkers.
I am able to run a 10 minute mile... but not able to do it consistently for 13.1 miles. So, I had trained to do 12 minute miles and that would include some walking. My plan was to run three minutes, walk 30 seconds, run three minutes... and so on. I wanted to save my legs and be able to finish strong instead of exhausting myself in the beginning and having to walk a lot at the end.
I ate my first Clif gel, turned up my music and got my head in the game.
The fireworks went off at 10:15 for my group. I crossed the start line at 10:18. I was running my second half marathon! I was beyond excited!
And then I realized that I had definitely sold myself short! Registering to run a slower pace meant that I was in a group that would be running a slower pace. I had been training to run much faster - so, I spent the entire first mile running up on the median through the grass....in the dark. It was not ideal.
It would have been better for me to sign up for a faster pace and then move back in the line if I didn't feel comfortable running at that speed.
Oh well, lesson learned.
The positive from my situation was that I didn't stick to my plan of run/walking consistently. I started out strong because I had to to get around my group and then continued to run strong because I knew that I could. I ended up running around most of corral C as well...in the grass again.
Then we headed in to Animal Kingdom.
Picture an already tight group running down a wide highway and then trying to squeeze in to a small-ish walkway with an even smaller entrance in to the park. Then add in the fact that runners were stopping abruptly to take pictures of the entrance and the Tree of Life and you get chaos and mayhem in your path.
I felt like I was in a live version of Frogger.
Animal Kingdom really slowed me down a lot. And I felt myself start to get really frustrated. But I just stayed focused on my form and kept on running.
I ended up running non-stop for 6 1/2 miles! We were on the back roads now headed to Hollywood Studios. It was time to re-fuel. And just as I was reaching for my second package of Clif gel... it flew off of my spi-belt and disappeared in to the night.
It seems the constant bouncing on my belt ripped the top off and it just couldn't hold on any longer.
I panicked a little.
And then decided that I would just have to get my energy from powerade. I have never had the stuff before and don't particularly care for sugary drinks. But a runner has to do what a runner has to do.
I was walking for 60 seconds at the beginning of the mile and then running the rest - with the exception of the water stations. I would walk through them... grab a powerade, drink it, then grab a water, drink it... then start running again.
It seemed to be working o.k.
My legs were still feeling great... but I was getting tired of having to dodge in and out of people as we were running through Hollywood Studios. I didn't understand why runners would not move to the right if they wanted to walk or to take pictures.
I thought about writing a book on running etiquette.
I would force every one that entered a Disney race to read it.
I reminded myself that I was supposed to be having fun! I was running a race - at night- through Disney. I thought about my family waiting for me at the finish. I thought about how proud I was of my self for participating in the race. I thought about every thing I was going to eat once I crossed the finish line.
Especially that vanilla/caramel cupcake. It was calling my name.
I saw the marker for mile 12 ahead of me.
I couldn't believe my eyes. I was almost finished. I had exceeded my expectations. I was in the home stretch. I started to cry.
I was determined to not get emotional during this race. I cry easily and I had been tearing up for months every single time I would picture myself crossing the finish. It didn't matter where I was... I would think about it and I would start to cry.
I even cried a little when Bethany and Dad crossed the finish in the 5K. I know how hard it is to set a goal, train, accomplish that goal, etc. I have had so many ups and downs and successes and opportunities. I thought about how far I have come. I thought about all of the support that I have.
I was about to FINISH a half marathon. And I was about to FINISH with a good time - far exceeding my original expectations.
I felt great. I felt strong. I felt ON TOP OF THE WORLD.
I ran past my favorite resort - The Beach Club. The mile 13 marker was in my view. MILE 13! I was almost finished.
I pulled out my phone. Dialed Kev. I could tell he had answered but I couldn't hear him because of all the cheering. I screamed in to the phone "I AM COMING!".
I ran around the corner and saw the finish.
I threw my hands up in the air and crossed the line with the biggest smile on my face.
I did it! I fist pumped. I jumped up and down. I shouted "woo-hoo" a couple of times. But I didn't cry. I had gotten it out of my system at mile 12.
A young girl came over and put the medal around my neck. I couldn't stop smiling.
I grabbed a water. A clif bar. And a bag of food. And went on the crazy search for my family.
The major issue with this race ... that I will go in to more detail about with a pros and cons post... was that Disney pretty much prevented any spectator support and finish line support. My opinion is that they did this to get more money for themselves by forcing family members to buy a $50 per person ticket to attend an after party where you could watch your runner on the jumbo tron.
I thought that was ridiculous. So, we didn't purchase any tickets. The good news is that they were able to see me finish - but barely. Like they were a mile away and saw a glimpse of me barely. But they still saw it... and we found each other without much trouble. (thank goodness for cell phones!)
My family is THE BEST!
I love this guy... he was SO happy for me!
Bethany was the photographer, Kev handler, navigator, and incredible support!
Still on cloud nine! So happy and still full of energy!
Oh.. and did I mention that I shaved 40 minutes off of my previous half marathon time!!! I ended up running with a 12.37 average pace. Pretty close to what I had predicted. Take out the poor choice of corral start and the issues with congestion while running through the parks and I would have probably come in under 12 minutes.
I feel pretty darn good about that! In fact, I feel GREAT about that!
As far as all of the eating that I was going to do when I finished.... I didn't feel like having much of anything.... let alone the free beer they were offering. All I wanted was water and water and more water. And I ate a clif bar.
The crazy thing was that I was still full of energy. Even after a shower. I had a hard time sleeping. I just kept replaying every thing over and over in my head.
I got out of bed much earlier than I expected. Still no soreness. Still feeling great. And ready to celebrate with my cupcake.
It was delicious.
And the best way to start the day's festivities. I was a half marathon finisher, after all... and I had some celebrating to do.