Pushing Out Of The Comfort Zone

For a long time, I have been a comfort zone kind of girl. I had my little bubble, I did a lot of things inside that bubble, things that I would call fun and things that I thought made me happy. But I’ve come to realize that being comfortable did not mean happy. Don’t get me wrong, even inside this zone, my life is pretty darn awesome. I am blessed in so many ways. However, I’ve always battled fears that kept me in one place, it kept me from true greatness. It meant the difference between having a good life and having an awesome life.

Fear is something we all deal with, whether we acknowledge it or not. We can call it keeping things calm, we can call it being cautious and safe. But the root of it is fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of rejection. I’ve always been afraid of things going wrong, so I stayed on the safe, well lit path, to avoid the things I was afraid of. This was my comfort zone. I was happy here, life was good. Things didn’t go wrong, I didn’t get hurt, my boat was sailing on calm seas. I wanted more though. It was last summer that I finally committed to having more. By more, I don’t mean more things. Not more money, not more possessions, but more life.  With the age of 30 quickly creeping up on me, I was no longer content with settling on a calm, easy life. I needed to say hello to my fears, tell them I was over them, and see what else was out there. This is when I made the commitment to run the Princess Half Marathon. I hadn’t started training yet, and was very afraid of failing, or something going wrong and keeping me from going or completing the race, but I closed my eyes and hit enter on registration day. This was the first step.

For months, even with training, I still battled the fears that I wasn’t going to make it, that I needed every outside force to help me finish. I needed a good corral, for an earlier start, with lots of space between the sweepers and me. That fear of failure still nagged at me. The excuses still got in to my head and kept me from training. I see it in a lot of people. Life gets in the way. We have kids, homes to run, jobs, illnesses pop up, bad days happen. For some people, these excuses are enough to stop, or at least to keep them from really giving it their all. They did for me for months. In the weeks leading up to the race, I saw many people discuss how life got in the way and they “couldn’t” train. I learned that these excuses are simply mental barriers and they aren’t a matter of can’t. They were simply our brains telling us to stay in the comfort zone, not to try, and not trying means you can’t fail. Towards the end of the year, I stopped letting the excuses rule me. I have 3 children and a husband to attend to, I have a house to run, I have a job that I work at from home. We dealt with illnesses, we dealt with bad days, days where I just wanted to sit on the couch and numb my mind in front of the tv or my laptop after the kids went to bed, days where my kids had been up the night before and I had gotten little sleep. But I was never going to get to where I wanted to be if I let those days get to me. There are so many people who deal with kids, home, work, stress, illness, no sleep and more and still get out there and run. There are people who are missing limbs or dealing with terminal illnesses, yet they still get out there and train, to add to their lives. If they can do it, so could I. So can you. On the days when I really didn’t want to take the time and burn the little energy I had left I made it a point to hop on my treadmill or head outside and go.

Every time I heard someone say they were worried about not finishing the race because they missed weeks of training due to “life”, I wanted to scream at them. Some people deal with so much more and manage, many more deal with life and still manage. It was an excuse, plain and simple, and in the grand scheme of things, a pretty lame excuse. Nobody lives a perfect, stress free life. It’s simply a decision not to let that become a mental barrier that keeps you from being as great as you want to be.

This realization of how much I have faced my fears and broken out of my comfort zone has made me proud. I stopped thinking about all of the things that could go wrong and I did it. I have applied this to other areas of my life, doing things I normally wouldn’t do because I was afraid, and it’s enriching other areas of my life. It’s also made me aware that I still do sit in my comfort zone, even when it comes to running.

I can run. I’ve proven that, by running a half marathon. I can go the distance if I want to. But I get there rather slowly. I noticed, even during my half marathon, that when I run, I don’t give it my all. I push for distances, but I haven’t gotten a whole lot faster. I’m not breathing heavy, if it’s not hot I’m not sweating. My goal for PHM was just to finish. I wanted to finish in under 3 hours and I accomplished that. With the rough weather conditions and my injury, I couldn’t really exert myself, but I can now. During training runs, and during the race, I stayed at a comfortable pace, and it was rather easy. But I don’t want easy anymore. I want improvement. I recently talked about the 8k I ran this past weekend. I pushed myself for this race, I was breathing heavy, I was sweating, I felt ready to puke. It was spectacular. I knocked a few minutes off my comfortable pace. Pushing myself past the point of just being comfortable was worth it. I see now that it’s time to really start pushing myself. I want to finish my next half marathon in under 2:30. It will be a hilly course, so I’m going to have to break out of the comfort zone again and start pushing myself more, especially during training. It’s the only way I’ll see improvement.

Truly living life and achieving greatness is a constant motion. Evolution and improvement is ongoing, and if you have the desire, there is no stopping point, you just keep climbing. I want to keep climbing. I finished my half marathon, but there is more beyond that. This line of thinking doesn’t just apply to running either, so I will just keep swimming.

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I Ran 3rd For Her

I’ve posted about #Run3rd before. I normally keep the babies taken too soon close to my heart for races, and this past Saturday’s 8k was no different. That is, until I was less than a mile in to my race.

The race was run through a very small college town. We ran through the streets of town, through neighborhoods and by houses. Many people came out to watch us race by and cheer us on, it was great. There was someone who stuck out to me, someone that really touched me and motivated me. I don’t know her name. We started up a tree lined street, and I saw her, there on the side of the road, watching runners with another child and her parents. She looked to be about the same age as my oldest son, 8 years old. She was in a pretty pink wheelchair, not a regular wheelchair, but one of the custom ones for a child who is in the chair permanently. Her legs were skinny and slightly bowed, a sign that they saw no use. She was on the right side of the road, I was closer to the left side when I saw her. I was moving faster than I normally was and seeing as I hadn’t had a real run since my half marathon nearly 3 weeks before, I was feeling it. I choked up almost immediately upon seeing her, and I began to check behind me to make sure I wouldn’t get in anyone’s way as I made my way to the right side of the street. I got very close to her and slowed my pace, and stuck out my hand for a high five. She smiled and extended her hand, as did the little girl watching with her. Now normally I’m a bit of a germaphobe and don’t high five people often when I’m racing. Usually I will high five police officers as I go by, because I very much respect them and their line of work. But this time was different, and she was delighted to have the attention of a runner.

I sped away with tears in my eyes. This little girl is a reminder of the gift I have been given, the simple gift of the use of my legs and the ability to run. I picked up my pace, continued to push on, finished my race in great time, and all because I was running 3rd for a little girl that would never have the chance.

This is motivation. There are days when we feel tired, when life has gotten in the way, when the routine of work, kids, family, mundane day to day life and stress clouds our head, and we just don’t feel like getting out there for a run. Think of all of the people who simply can’t do that, even if they wanted to. It really puts things in to perspective, and it makes it much harder to take our gift of running for granted.

Seeing The Difference

I love that I have kept decent documentation of my journey since I started. Yesterday, I ran my first real race since I ran the Princess Half Marathon. It was “only” an 8k(as if I’ve turned in to some kind of distance snob), but it was really the first real push I’ve given myself since the half and since I’ve started treating my ITBS. Since being diagnosed with ITBS a couple of weeks ago and taking more aggressive steps in getting better, I haven’t been training hardcore. I haven’t really needed to since my next half marathon isn’t until the end of October, but I do want to maintain between now and when I do need to start climbing into the higher miles again. However, trying to not only recover from an injury but build myself up so it doesn’t happen again has put a damper on my maintenance. I had to over a week off after the half from running, due to pain I had lingering after that race and the subsequent cortisone shot I got when I visited the orthopedic doctor, and after that I got back on the treadmill pretty slowly, with a lot of walking and only small running intervals, never more than half a mile at a time.

I was actually nervous going in to this race. I kept thinking “I did a half marathon less than 3 weeks ago, why am I nervous?” but it didn’t calm my fears. I had grand plans for my pace. I wanted to finish in 55 minutes, which was an 11 minute per mile pace. In the weeks leading up to the half, and during that race, my pace slowed because of the distance I was running and my injury. I don’t have exact numbers, but my average pace for the half was about 12:30 per mile. I was afraid the pace was a bit too fast coming off of my injury. But I was hopeful. I was dressed in my green, representing my favorite running group, the Pacebook Running Club, KT Taped up, and ready to run.

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Pre-race I ran into my favorite Zumba instructor Molly. I knew she ran races and it was a pleasant surprise to see her there. We began the race, and about half of a mile in, I saw Molly pass me. I challenged myself to try to keep up with her, I figured she was probably pretty quick. I managed to keep up with her for less than 2 miles, staying right behind her and keeping her in my sights. That’s when the hills started, and that’s when I started slowing down. I did notice a twinge in my knee but nothing terribly painful and nothing that slowed me down. The hills on the other hand, they were wicked, and they did slow me down. But I kept going. I was thrilled to cross the finish line in under 52 minutes, official time was 51:18, which was under a 10:30 mm pace. I met my goal, and then I killed it. I saw Molly at the finish line(she only finished about 5 minutes ahead of me!) and I thanked her for unknowingly keeping me on pace.

Reflecting on this race, I realized how far I’ve come. I looked back at the pictures I’d saved of my distances and times over the past 8 months. It was last August that I first reached 4-5 miles. Reading my comments on this picture, I was pushing myself and running this distance at over a 13 minutes per mile(with no hills, flat running). This picture was from an August 10, 2012 run:

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That was my farthest run at the time. Since then, I have climbed to being able to run 13.45 miles, and I have shaved about 3 minutes off my pace(for that distance), with hills.

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I’m proud seeing my progress. I’m looking forward to getting better and nailing my future goals.

I Have Been Sucked Into the Black Whole

The black whole know as runDisney races that is. I have to laugh at myself, as in the weeks before the Princess Half, I swore I’d never do it again. Not just another Disney race, but another half in general. Check it off of my bucket list, pat myself on the back, and move on with my life. I remember running with a couple of local girls in December and telling them after my half, they’d probably never see me running again.

But the race got closer. My training got more intense and steady. I already feared the PDD, or Post Disney Depression(look it up, it’s a valid medical condition, I promise). It’s kind of like Christmas. You look forward to it all year, and as time draws nearer and nearer, you get more excited. Then on Christmas Eve you can hardly sleep. But by 10 am Christmas morning, your presents are opened, it’s time to clean up and the reality of having to take down your lights and wait a whole year to do it again hits you.

The weeks leading up to the race were like that. At first I was excited. But as the days ticked away, my confidence in doing well grew, and my internet groups became more active with buzz about the race, I got more and more excited. I knew as soon as it was over I was going to miss that anticipation. That’s why, at the end of January, when I got an email about the Rock N Roll half marathon in St. Louis in October, I jumped on it. I’m originally from St. Louis, my family and my husband’s family live there, it would be a good excuse to visit. Let’s face it though, it’s not a Disney race. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard the RNR series is just lovely, and entertaining. I’m glad we’ll be able to go out and visit the families, the kids can see their cousins and spend Halloween with them. I have friends there that are running the race, someone who can help pace me for the PR I’m aiming for. But it’s not Disney. This reality hit me after I got back from this year’s Princess half.

Disney hooked me. I love that place on it’s own, but their races are just awesome. I had such a fun weekend. While I was down there, I decided to plan for the Princess half next year. My husband(a true Prince Charming) was on board and we’re going to make it a family trip. But it a whole year away. 12 months, 365 days, 8760 hours. That’s a long time to wait. Shortly after I returned, the internet boards began buzzing once again, this time about registration opening for the Wine and Dine half in November.

http://www.rundisney.com/wine-and-dine-half-marathon/

Looking at the date, it’s just two weeks after my half in St. Louis. We’re staying a week there, so we’ll return home(700+ mile trip) the weekend before that race. All that driving didn’t sound pleasant to me, but my interest was still peaked. I approached the topic with my husband, but he was firm on saying no, so I dropped the idea.

Registration day got closer and closer, until it opened today. Even after it opened, I had fully resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t possible for me. But where there is a will, there is a way. A little flicker of a flame started up when my husband came home from work. I touched on the subject again. I got a no again. I argued my case a little. It’ll be a short trip, down Friday, home Sunday, he won’t have to take off work, I won’t do the parks, I won’t do nice Disney restaurants, it’ll only cost about X amount of dollars. That’s when I got an “I’ll think about it.”. The flame grew. I argued my case a little more, even offered to make it my anniversary present, since it’s less than a month away. I wanted a new Coach purse, so hey, it works out the same in cost. Finally I heard the magic words, and I got the go ahead to register(Yes, I know, I’m super lucky my husband is pretty awesome like this, sorry ladies, he’s taken), and register I did.

So there it is, I’ve been sucked in by runDisney. I’m registered for the Wine and Dine half marathon. The night time race appeals to me(I’m not a morning person), and all kinds is featured after the race(since it coincides with the Food and Wine festival). I. Love. Food, so this very much appeals to me. I’m also taking it to another level with two half marathons in two weeks. I’m pretty stoked.

I #Run3rd For Them

Before the Princess Half, I came across something on twitter. It’s called the #Run3rd movement, and it was started by actor Sean Astin.

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http://run3rd.blogspot.com/p/real-mission-statement.html

It’s pretty simple. I run 1st for me. For my health, for my peace of mind. Running is my “me time”, somethings that many moms see very little of. It’s my time for quiet, to decompress, the be alone with my thoughts, to regroup and to just be in the moment, when days are filled with noise and chaos.

I run 2nd for my family. I run to introduce my young children to the world of staying active and fit. I run to make my family proud. I run to show them that you can accomplish anything, that you just need to set a goal and give every part of yourself to that goal, and you can make magic happen.

I run 3rd for the babies. #Run3rd is a simple dedication, making your runs, making each step count for something bigger, something bigger than you and your tiny part of the world. Without any knowledge of Run3rd, I was already doing this when I started on my journey last summer. Getting into the groove of a new routine can be difficult. It takes repeated effort to get past the mental barriers holding many people back from doing new things, including exercise. I was so set in my routine of not doing anything, and made excuses for why I couldn’t go out and run, or why I could only run X amount of time or for just X amount of miles. I had a long day, my head wasn’t in it, I was tired, I had work to do. But each day I made the conscious decision to get out and run, no matter what the hold up was. What did I use to drive me? Simply my ability to run.

I know from personal experience that the gift of life, and the ability to get out and put one foot in front of the other, is not something that is guaranteed. For most people, it is easily taken for granted. Many have not been faced with a major, unexpected loss. Sure, we lose grandparents, then parents, sometimes too early, but this circle of life is somewhat expected. We expect to lose our grandparents first, then our parents. We pass our hearts along to the next generation, our children. Our children are supposed to be a constant in life. Once they are born, we will watch them grow, and they will care for us when they have reached adulthood and we have entered into our golden years. Yes, we understand things go wrong sometimes, kids get sick, bad things happen, but it never happens to us, and we are able to go through life denying the reality of life taken too soon.

I lost my first son Chris, to SIDS, 10 years ago. The 10th anniversary of his death was on March 1, just days after I completed my first half marathon. He died when he was 2.5 months old. When he was alive, I never thought that anything would happen to him. That kind of thing happens to other people. I read about it, I cried a few tears thinking of other mothers who have to deal with it, but that wouldn’t happen to me. Then reality and life smacked me in the face, hard. I woke up on day and my baby was gone. When this happens, you enter a new reality, one where life(at any age) is fragile, is limited, and isn’t to be taken for granted. One where milestones, like first words, first steps, potty training, school, become so huge, because you realize what was taken from you. My baby boy never got to take steps. We all take our steps for granted. We walk around the house, we walk to school, we walk at work, we walk to the store, each step, lost in time, never to be appreciated. These are all steps my baby never got to take, and those steps are no longer lost, but they create a huge void. Over my journey as a baby loss mama, I’ve met too many other moms who also live without the steps of their children.

I started by using Chris as my motivation. I was not going to take my ability to walk and run for granted, I was going to appreciate this gift. With each step, over each mile, it was for him. I carried him with me, in my head and in my heart, taking him running, so his spirit and memory could experience what he never got to in life. Many times, his memory carried me through for that extra mile. It took me up that hill I really didn’t want to run up, it pushed me. Even at my half marathon, he pushed me. I remember, after I hit mile 12, my body was wearing down and I was in pain. I was walking and starting to feel defeated. But I was not going to be defeated, and I said to him, “Come on buddy, let’s go.” I finished the race running.

The desire to dedicate my miles has grown. I don’t just run for the baby I lost. I run for all of the babies. I take their steps for them, I savor them, I appreciate them. I take their memories with me, their names, their lives, and they live on. They are not forgotten or buried by time, like many parents feel they are after so many years have passed. I don’t just run for Chris, I run for Super Jake and Caleb, I run for Patrick and Ian, I run for Christian, I run for Gaven, I run for Christian and Kirra, I run for Stevie Joy, I run for Spencer, I run for their short lives and their everlasting memories. I #run3rd for them.

 

Listening To Your Body

Since the beginning of the year, I have been running somewhat injured in one form or another. When I really started adding on miles in January, my right knee started giving me a lot of trouble. It actually started in December when I bought what was supposed to be the correct pair of shoes for me, but by January it started getting worse. I finally realized it was the shoes(just goes to show you that running stores that “professionally” fit you don’t always know what they are talking about), and that I over-pronate badly and need a stability shoe. I switched up my shoes and was golden. For a week or two. Then the pain came back. But not in my right knee, in my left knee. I asked for advice everywhere, saw my chiropractor once a week. I was foam rolling, using acupuncture, salt baths, icing it. Each remedy was very temporary, and every Sunday, my knee would start hurting after my long run. I suspected it was my IT band.

Luckily(if you will call it luck), I knew how my body and knee reacted. I could run and run and run and run, and as long as I didn’t stop to walk at all, I would only be in minor pain. Walking made my knee lock up and it was very difficult to resume running. That was why I didn’t stop for pictures until the end of the Princess Half. I knew as soon as I stopped, it would be hard for me to continue running. Not wanting to walk, I skipped pictures. I would be kicking myself if I stopped for a picture at mile 4 and had a hard time running after.

When I got home from my Disney trip, still in some amount of pain(but not hobbling around), I immediately called an orthopedic/sports medicine doctor. It was time to quit working through the pain and fix it, especially if I’m going to keep going. I saw the doctor today. He took X-Rays(they turned out great), checked over ligaments and range of motion and came to the same conclusion, ITBS, or Illiotibial Band Syndrome. The IT Band is a large amount of tissue that extends from your hip down to under your knee, on the outside of the leg. It’s a very common occurrence for runner’s to have IT Band issues. Unfortunately for me, all of the “first steps” to fixing IT band issues have proved ineffective. So I got a steroid injection in my knee and will start physical therapy next week.

Now, with my knee feeling great(thanks to the shot), I can live pain free, at least for the time being. Right? Wrong. After the doctor, I had to stop by the grocery store with my two youngest children(life doesn’t stop for a sports injury you know). My toddler was at the end of her rope and she pitched a fit when I tried to put her in her car seat. She arched herself backwards, I lurched forward, and felt my back twist in a very uncomfortable way. Now after my orthopedic appointment, I headed to my chiropractor, so she totally ruined my fresh adjustment. My back has since started spasm and I’ll be back to visit my chiro again tomorrow. Awesome.

Now, with a knee full of cortisone and a back that is screaming, you’d think I’d be smart enough to rest right? Wrong again. Since my half over a week ago, I’ve done two two mile fast walks on my treadmill. I guess I’ve gotten used to being so active and I actually feel a bit blah not being at that level. So I got the grand idea to go ahead and try to brave Zumba tonight. As I’m driving there, my head is telling me “Hey, you! You need to rest. Your body is breaking. Stop, turn back, do not enter.” I didn’t listen. I made it through half of Zumba and I decided to leave. My back was still achy, and my knee had started to hurt again(something it shouldn’t actually do thanks to the numbing agent in the steroids), and I wasn’t able to keep up with the dancing. Not because of the pain, but because I was so mentally off from that little guy in my head, knocking on my skull and shouting, “Hellooooo, McFlyyyyy.”

I’m going to have to accept it for right now. I’m going to make myself that much worse if I don’t slow down. We all get there, and this has just been an important lesson that while I’m still rather young, I’m not invincible. I need to rest.

Wrap Up Trip Report-My Last Two Days at Disney

Ok, so more like one day, as I left Tuesday morning.

We got up Monday morning. Oh my knee! I guess I slept with it bent, and when I woke up, it was so stiff I wasn’t sure if I could straighten my leg and actually get out of bed. After a couple of minutes, I managed to get it straight. Once I got up and moving, I felt pretty good. A bit of muscle stiffness, of course my knee hurt, but the more I walked, the better I felt.

We hit Epcot after breakfast, Patty rode rides and I did a bit of shopping, and we met back up for a ride on Test Track. Before leaving, I got a quick picture with Goofy, thanks to a great Cast Member. I had missed out on Chip and Dale in the park, waited in line for 20 minutes, got to the front only to hear it was break time for those rodents. Was hoping to meet Goofy, and I hopped in line. The Cast Member told me he had 5 minutes left before he went for a break, but he suspected I could squeeze in and to go ahead and get in line. He was correct and I got my picture.

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Then we headed to Hollywood Studios. While this is a smaller park, it’s one I always want to go to, because I really like Rockin’ Roller Coaster and I LOVE Tower of Terror. It was time for a bit of lunch, and there is no better recovery food than a big turkey leg. Well at least I’ll tell myself that.

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We hit up Rockin’ Roller Coaster after that. It was Patty’s first time. I’ll spare the picture, but let’s just say the look on her face during the ride was priceless. After that, with Patty riding her thrilling ride high, so she was going to brave Tower of Terror with us. The wait time outside said 50 minutes, not horrible. Clearly that was wrong. After over 50 minutes, my legs stiffening up, we checked online and wait times had jumped to 100 minutes. Yeah, no thank you. We hopped out of line, Patty headed to Rockin’ Roller Coaster once more while I chilled. She ended up getting off that ride at the same time her sister(who decided to stay in line for ToT) got off of her ride. We had an early dinner reservation at the Magic Kingdom’s newest restaurant, Be Our Guest.

We met up with another friend at MK to head to dinner, but not before stopping for obligatory pictures with our medals outside of the castle. Or in my case, with Patty’s borrowed medal, because I didn’t bring mine with me.

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We got to Beast’s Castle right as it was starting to rain. Perfect timing! The outside and inside of Be Our Guest is just stunning.

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We were seated, the rest of the ladies ordered wine, I indulged in a soda. We ordered our food, and it came quickly. I got the pork chop and pomme frites(fancy speak for french fries). It was seriously the best pork chop I’ve had in my life. Delicious! Dessert is spectacular there as well, and we were even able to snag a couple of plates of the “grey stuff”.

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After dinner, we headed over to Space Mountain for a ride before we had to be back to Big Thunder Mountain with our fast passes. When we finished up with SM, it was coming in close to time for the Wishes fireworks show. We hurried over to BTM, because we thought it would be awesome to see the fireworks while riding the ride. We got on at the best time, and as we rode, the fireworks were going off in the sky right in front of us. Quite easily the best ride ever! So we did it again.

By this time, it was nearly closing time for MK, so we decided to head over to Epcot for their Extra Magic Hours(extra hours a park is open just for Disney resort guests). We rode Soarin’ and then I did a bit more shopping, before heading back to the resort so I could get packed up for my morning departure.

The following morning, I got up nice and early, packed up, headed down for breakfast and coffee, and got on my way. The beautiful weather I had enjoyed for the entire weekend was ending, and storms were heading up. I theorize that Disney knew I was leaving, and the skies were crying over my departure. Ok Disney, I get it, but you didn’t need to cry for my entire drive through Florida. The rains got pretty heavy, which made for slow going. Another 10 hour trip, and I was finally home. Winter had not left while I was gone, and it was(and still is) quite chilly here in NC. I was thrilled to see my kids and husband, and my not quite two year old was quite happy to have her mama back. This was also the beginning of my post race blues, and I’m already counting down the days to the Princess Half Marathon next year!

The Aftermath

Yes

Too true. While I never once felt like quitting during the race, there were times when all I could think was “Holy crap, is this over yet?” I was in rough shape when I finished. I sat near the med tent, pain shooting down my left shin, barely able to bed my knee, and an ice bag saran wrapped around it. I was hot, but I was cold. I felt like microwaved poo, just blah. That’s the only way I can describe it. I had nobody waiting for me when I crossed the finish line. My race buddies hadn’t finished yet, no family, no friends. Someone had handed me a medal and that was my pomp and circumstance. I was dead tired. But I had a smile on my face and a medal around my neck.

I view running a half marathon much like I do child birth. When you are in labor and delivering a baby, all you can think of is how awful it is and how you will never do it again. Then they hand you a perfect little bundle of baby, and it all melts away. This is why I’ve had four babies and I’m not done yet. This is also why I will run more half marathons. During the run, all you can think of is how awful it is and how you will never do it again. Then you cross the finish line, they hand you a perfect little shiny medal, and it all melts away.

I felt awful, I felt lonely. I hobbled over to grab my bag from bag check. I changed socks and shoes. I sat and snacked a bit. I hobbled back over to the massage tent. I brought my $20 with me with every intention of getting a massage after the race, and that I did. I stood in line and it was only about 5 minutes before someone had a table for me. This poor girl worked on my leg and IT band for over my scheduled 20 minutes. She felt bad, but she just couldn’t get the lower part to unlock, meaning my knee pain would persist. But it felt better. As I finished, Patty was finishing her race. We gathered her things and got in line for our bus to get back to the resort.

It only took ten or so minutes for us to get on the bus, but it felt like forever. I’m not sure what was going on, but I felt very over-stimulated. I didn’t want to chat, I didn’t want to be around people, I didn’t want to go and do. I wanted a shower and a bed. We had planned to go to a park after showering, but my mood didn’t allow for that. I showered, and had to drive over to a neighboring resort to pick up epsom salt that a local friend and fellow princess had picked up for me during a trip off property. When I got back to our resort, I immediately went to bed. I got a 2 hour nap and woke up feeling much better, and went to meet Patty at Epcot. When I got there I took a few pictures in front of the ball. The same ball that had tortured me so during the last mile and a half of the race.

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I was still limping around pretty badly, and felt a bit in a funk. I did run in to the founders of PbRC and stopped to say hi, and got a picture with our fearless leader, Tony. I met Patty and we headed to the World Showcase, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I did feel it enough for a picture in England.

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We headed out, as we had dinner at Ohana’s just a short bit later. That dinner was EXACTLY what I needed. We started our wait for seating at the bar, and Patty was kind enough to order a round of Lapu Lapus. Now I’m not a big drinker. I hadn’t had any kind of alcohol during the entire trip, or for months leading up to it for that matter. But this fruity drink is served in a whole pineapple, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.

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Dinner itself was fabulous. Lots of meat on sticks, chicken, steak, shrimp and pork. Lots of delicious sides. The dumplings were mind blowing. I ate and ate and ate, and made lots of inappropriate jokes about the amount of meat. We had a great group of girls around the table, and it made for lots of laughter. It was a great way to end the day. While we had ideas of keeping the party going after dinner, they quickly fizzled and we ended up back at our resort. I’ve never welcomed the sight of a bed so much.

Official Disney Princess Half Marathon 2013 Race Report

Yeahhhhhh! I know, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. How the weekend went is great and all, but let’s get to the good stuff…The actual race.

Now, the race starts early. Really early. Seeing that you have to get up, get ready, get to the buses, take a bus over, check bags and walk to corrals to get to that really early race start, you have to get up really, really early. I was told that buses fill up very fast, and the later you are in getting on them, the longer it will take to get on a bus and to the race area. Buses started running at 3 am, and we wanted on one ASAP.

So at 2:30 am, dark and early, the alarm went off. Normally I’d want nothing to do with getting out of bed, but race anticipation definitely helps with popping out of bed after less than 6 hours of broken sleep. We got ready. Running skirt and running tank top, check. Pigtails, clip in Minnie Mouse ears and headband, check. Compression socks and running shoes, check. Hydration belt, with water and gatorade, check. Gu and phone/camera, check. Most importantly, race bib, big check. I was ready. We left our room at 3 am and made the short walk to the bus stop. It was a good thing we left early. We were at the last bus stop, and buses were already nearly full by the time they got to us. The first bus came as we were arriving and it had room for 5 people. We didn’t get on. The next bus had room for 7 people. Again, we didn’t get on. A third bus came, with room for 10 people, and we were on, and on our way. It was a short 10 minute ride, a very quite 10 minute ride considering it was full. We got to our unloading area, and there is a quarter mile or so walk to the pre-race area. There are tents set up, merchandise tents, charity tents, large tents divided alphabetically to check your bags. In your race packet, you receive a large, clear plastic bag to put any post-race essentials you need in. I packed a change of socks, a comfortable pair of Nike flip flops and face wipes to clean my face off .

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We got to the pre-race area, where we’d be meeting a larger group of people, our Pacebook Running Club(known as PbRC from here on out). This is a great group of people on Facebook, from all over the country, who love the Disney races(and other races). I found tons of support and info from this group before the race. We were meeting up to grab a group photo and practice our mile 10 chicken dance(inside joke). We gathered and practiced our chicken dance. We got together for a group picture, and our group leader(and Run 3rd team leader) Tony told us he had someone special for us. Who? Sean Astin! He came over and gave us a great pep talk.

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Then he hopped into our group photo with us.

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After our photo, it was time to get into gear. We went through and checked our bags, and met up on the other side. We then got to enjoy the long lines waiting to use the port-o-potties. I consider myself to have a bladder of steel, especially seeing as I have carried and birthed 4 babies over the past 10 years. The last thing I wanted to be doing while running was to have to stop and go to the bathroom. Stopping really wasn’t on my to-do list, for much of anything. There is reasoning behind this. I have been having issues with my IT band in my left leg. It tightens up like crazy, and my knee hurts pretty badly. I can run and run, but the moment I stop, my leg seizes up and I can only walk, it causes a lot of pain to run. So things like using the bathroom and stopping for pictures during the race was not something I was planning on. So bathrooms done, it was time to start our walk to the corrals. It was a slow group, thousands of princesses(and some princes too) on their journey to their respective corrals. It’s about 5 am at this point. I would estimate the walk to corrals is about 3/4 of a mile.

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We made it to our corrals(party in Corral C!) and our wait was drawing to a close. Each corral is released 7 minutes apart. Disney has entertainment set up, large tv screens to watch and keep us occupied while we wait. The first corral to go are the wheelchair racers(my hats off to them, awesome hearing they are included!), followed by the elite corral(you know, the people who are faster than I could ever hope to be), and then the lettered corrals. Each corral is released with a countdown by the Fairy Godmother herself, and then fireworks at the starting line. It’s so exciting to watch each group leave, knowing your time is getting closer and closer. Finally it’s corral C’s turn. I knew I’d be heading off alone. The friends in my corral were going to be going slower, and stopping for lots of pictures, so I planned to set off as soon as I could. That’s exactly what I did. We got our countdown, our fireworks, then we speed up getting to the starting line(each corral has at least a few thousand runners, so you do have to wait a bit to start). I crossed the starting line, and I was off.

Now this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy for me. I’m a bit sad to say that I don’t remember tons about the race itself, little details aren’t there. Normally when I run, I get very connected with my surroundings and music, but not this time. There was a very disconnected feeling. Maybe it was how early it was, maybe it was how focused I was, maybe it was the decent amounts of ibuprofen I took before the race(huge no-no from what I hear, but I knew I’d need it). I do remember that I started crying about a quarter of a mile after the start. Not because of any pain, but because I tend to hold all of my emotions in over time, and they catch up with me at once. All of the training, all of the excitement and nervousness that had been building up for months, the fact that my time was actually there and I was doing it, it hit me at once. I laughed at myself for crying less than a half a mile into the race, and kept going. The first couple of miles are a bit boring. They did have people lining the road, a marching bad at one point. We ran up the road, and through the Magic Kingdom parking entrance, through the MK parking lot. I was doing well by my first 5k, right about 37 minutes.

Before hitting the Magic Kingdom, I finally remembered I had a camera with me, and that maybe it’d be nice to start taking pictures. I will note that it is pretty difficult to take decent pictures, while running, using an Iphone, while it’s still dark outside. So I have very few course shots before the sun came up.

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By this point, I was already drenched in sweat. I believe it was about 70 degrees at start time. Sounds lovely, especially in the winter, but throw in the 94% humidity, and it was kind of ugly. We run down next to the Contemporary resort, and through the back side of the Magic Kingdom, and finally hit Main Street USA. Now I’ve mentioned before that it’s pure magic every time I hit Main Street and see the castle. Well hitting that point, 5 miles in, with the street lined with families and supporters, it blows the regular old magic out of the water.

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Again, sorry for the blurry photos, but it was so hard to get a decent picture. We run down Main Street, then turn to run through tomorrow land. More of a blur for me, until we come through the castle and back down. They had photographers in front of the castle for pictures, but not even being 6 miles into the race, I didn’t want to risk stopping to wait for those pictures. I took a quick one myself, and kept on.

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The castle was lit up pink for us princesses. After this, we run down towards Frontier Land to head back out of the park.

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From here on out, things get a tad boring again. We run past the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian and back around the back of the race track we passed going towards MK. They did have more entertainment along the side, picture opportunities, but I knew I wasn’t stopping so I didn’t pay much attention, aside from noting the extremely long lines. At the halfway point, they had the music blaring, the 7 mile song as I’ve heard it called. This year, Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys was the song that got voted in. I. Hate. This. Song. I really think it’s a drab song as it is, and trying to dig deep and run while it’s blaring in your ear, just not cool. It slowed down my pace and put me into a funk. I know it was selected because it received the most votes, but it was really a poor song choice. I’m hoping next year’s pick will be better.

We get through the next few miles, I don’t remember much of it except the Gu station. I was still running, not hurting badly, but starting to wear down. I had hit one of the famous walls where I was just begging for it to be over. I approached mile 10, and this was a turning point for me. I was hitting double digits. I stopped at the mile 10 marker, did a very quick chicken dance(yes, I did the chicken dance on the side of the road after 10 miles, an official PbRC member). I was still doing okay in terms of my knee, and I started my trek up the first of our Florida hills.

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A Florida hill is just a cute way of saying an on ramp to an overpass. Halfway up there is a picture opportunity. He is an Army man from Toy Story. He has a microphone and is shouting words of encouragement, and telling us this is our last hill(he is a liar, I’m just saying). I made the choice to stop for a picture for the first time, as there were only 3-4 people in line and I knew it would go quickly.

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This was the beginning of my descent down into the pits of agony. I was sweaty. I was starting to chafe, which is something I’d never dealt with before. I had always scoffed at the notion of Body Glide, had never needed it. I regretted this decision, although I was chaffing in places I wouldn’t have thought I would, under my arm and on my back around the armhole of my tank top. I wasn’t out of breath or huffing and puffing, but I was starting to wear down, both mentally and physically. My knee was starting to hurt a bit more. My stride was horrid, I seemed to barely be picking up my feet at this point. But I kept going. I hit another minor “hill” at mile 11(I told you the Army guy was a liar), but I was still running.

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At this point, I kind of went into “screw it” mode. I decided to stop for pictures, and let what was going to happen with my knee happen. I needed a break. Between miles 11 and 12, I stopped for two more pictures. While I may have been sweaty, tired and hurting, at least I still managed to look really good in my pictures.

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It’s about this point that I see the Epcot ball. I was always told the ball meant “almost done” and I was actually looking for it, as a sign that my trek was almost finished. Now thinking about it, you have less than 2 miles to go when you see the ball. Less than 2 miles sounds like a piece of cake, but after over 11 miles, less than 2 miles take for-e-ver. This is when the major knee pain started. I tried to start running again and the pain was awful. I would walk for a bit, start running again, realize this was a bad choice, and walk. I made it into Epcot at mile 12.

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Now I’m thinking a quick jaunt around the ball and I can bring it home. Not at all. I am still limping along at this point. This is seriously the longest mile of my life(and according to my Garmin, the distance was actually well over a mile). We go past the ball, past the fountain and then all the way down to where the path ends at the World Showcase Lagoon. When I saw how far past the ball we had to go and then come back from, I literally said outloud, “Are you kidding me?” I was starting to feel defeated, but I was so close. I tried running again. This lasted a few yards and I guess I yelped loud enough, before coming to a rather abrupt halt(and I stayed to the right, slower folks/walkers, always stay far to the right!), that it concerned some people around me. One girl ran by me, turned around and asked if I needed help. I told her I was fine and she kept on. I finally rounded the cones to start back towards the ball, with less than a mile to go. This is where I dug down deep, and I told myself and the guardian angel I brought with me(my first born son, Chris, who died as a baby) to “Come on buddy, let’s finish this, let’s keep going.” I started running again. It hurt at first but I just kept going. I finally left Epcot and I hit the choir.

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They sing while we run/walk/limp and they mean almost done. No clue what they were singing about, but what they signified meant they were a choir of angels from heaven. I was coming up on mile 13, and still jogging.

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I was almost done! One more turn and I would see what I had been waiting for. The finish line. Normally during a race, when I see the finish line, I find a bit of extra energy and pick up my pace towards it. Not this time. I was spent, I was hot, I was hurting. But I was almost there.

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Donald and Goofy were waiting right before the finish line. I know some people stop and take pictures with them, but something seemed to odd to me about stopping less than ten feet in front of the finish line for a picture, so I gave Donald Duck a high 5 as I cruised by, and I crossed the finish line. 2 hours, 48 minutes and 28 seconds. I did it. Considering the weather conditions, me being semi-injured, and stopping a few times, I was very happy with my time. I got my medal and hobbled over to the med tent, to slather myself in BioFreeze and ice my knee. I was done, I finished my half marathon(well, 13.45 miles according to my Garmin watch), and I was left to bask in my glory. Well maybe I was basking in sweat and BioFreeze, but I’m going to call that glory.

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Disney Princess Half Marathon 2013 Weekend-Day 2

Going in to Saturday, we had grand plans. Patty had registered for the 5k that morning, but with the heat and humidity, she didn’t want to push herself, especially given the fact that she had done nearly 3 miles at the meet-up the day before. She suggested I do it instead, and I accepted the challenge. Fast forward to Saturday morning…yeah, that totally changed. The alarm went off at 5 am, and neither of us felt like getting out of bed. A quick exchange of words and we agreed to skip it, and go back to sleep.

When we finally did get up, we headed back to the Expo. Patty wanted to get taped at the KT Tape booth as I had done the day before. I decided to wander around. Before heading in, I did what any princess would do, and I met with my royal escorts.

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I headed inside and wandered around, doing my best to fight the shopping bug. The Expo has so many vendor booths, packed full of any kind of running gear you could imagine. I stopped by the New Balance booth and inquired about the runDisney New Balance shoes they put out, and only sell at the races. I had to fight with every fiber of my being to avoid buying a pair, knowing that certain death(or at least an eye roll, a sigh and the “Another pair of running shoes?” from my husband) would be waiting for me. I did find that NB had a wall with the name of every runner in the Princess Half. I found me!

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I continued to wander, seeking out any free food I could find. I mean come on, I’m getting ready to run a half marathon, and I’m in Disney, land of expensive food, I’ll take anything free I can get. This is about the time I hear a voice descend from the heavens, or probably the loud speakers, announcing that Sean Astin will be at the runDisney booth shortly. If you don’t know who Sean Astin is, well, shame shame know your name. He is an actor from the Goonies, Rudy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has run a few of the Disney races, and he was to be running in this race as well. Sean started a bit of a running “club” called Run 3rd. I’ll touch on that in a later post, because it’s something I connected with. He attended the meet-up, the meet-up I tried so hard to get in to, the meet-up I did just missed out on. Here was my chance. I scarfed down the rest of my free yogurt and tossed it, and hurried over the the booth. I did get to meet him, and chatted with him for a bit. Super nice guy, very down to earth, and just seems to connect with the story of each individual he meets. He is a great representative of runDisney.

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I was so thrilled. I made my way back to Patty and we said good-bye to the Expo. The Expo also said good-bye to us.

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We headed to Magic Kingdom, as we had dinner booked there that evening. This was my 6th visit to WDW, I’ve been to MK every time, and every time I enter Main Street, and my eyes meet the castle, it’s magic all over again. We headed over to check out the new Fantasyland. Walking around, I happened upon a character meet up. I guess I’m just a big kid inside, but I love pictures with the characters. I stood in line and got my picture taken with Gaston.

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Patty and I parted ways, and I continued my character hunt. I found Merida, the newest princess from Brave, and of course I hopped in line. I have a strong Irish/Scottish heritage, so I felt it was only appropriate for one Scottish princess to introduce herself to another. She was just adorable!

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After meeting Merida, I made my way across the park to hang out near the Liberty Tree Tavern, where we’d be having dinner. Patty met me, as did a new friend I met from a few of the Disney/running boards I’m on, Sarah. This was the perfect place for a pre-race dinner. I love this restaurant any time, so I’ll take any excuse to eat there again. But it really was an awesome meal. 3 different meats(protein!), mashed potatoes and gravy(carbs!), mac and cheese(more carbs!), rolls, dessert, just awesome.

Being that we had to be up the following morning at 2:30 am, and we had stuff to get ready, we called it a very early day. We headed back to our resort. I began my mad dash to prepare. Shower, make sure I had everything ready, double check a second time, and head to bed. Surprisingly I wasn’t terribly anxious. We went to bed about 9pm, I did wake up at 11:30 and got a little antsy, but that was mainly nerves about hurrying up and getting back to sleep, so I had enough rest(which in turn, kept me up longer). Race hour was quickly approaching.