Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My First Half Marathon

Almost a year ago I decided I wanted to do the Disney World Half Marathon. I talked it over with my husband to see what he thought and he was excited and said to go for it. So we registered and then training started.

For my husband this was not a big undertaking since he does triathlons for a hobby. For anyone that knows me knows that for me it was a huge undertaking. Being out of shape for so long has its challenges. I was cleared medically so the only obstacle in my way was myself. My husband was behind me 100%!

I wish I could say that I was always great at keeping up with the training. Life and my lack of willpower sometimes got in the way. With the help of my husband's trainer, Peter Sleight, he developed plans for me to work from and I got more serious during the summer.

But as luck would have it I injured my hip while running on Wells Beach in Maine which pushed my training back a lot. I basically hobbled my way through the rest of the summer, never being able to do a lot since the hip pain was always there.

My Fall training was a lot better, with outside long training walks keeping to 17 min/mi pace and running as much as I could handle, which was not much. I planned on race walking the half marathon anyway and would run as much as I could. The longest distance I was able to get in before the marathon was 6.5 miles, which is about half the 13.1 distance I would be doing come January 10th, 2009! A week before the race I came down with a bad cold. I was seriously concerned if I was going to be able to do it.

On January 7th we flew down to Orlando, delayed by yet another New England snow storm but we made it! It was a lot colder than we had anticipated. Coming down early worked out well to get a acclimated to the Florida weather and to have some fun. My husband and I had not been on an extended vacation together since my kids were 3 years old (they are 16 now!). We had a nice time poking around Disney at a leisurely pace. The crowds were minimal, with most people being from Europe and South America.

On January 9th we went to the Disney Marathon Series Expo at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex to get our race packets and to check out the vendor fair. It was quite a sight.

We picked up a few things and took some pictures with the race posters. It was beginning to sink in that the next day was the Half. My nerves were starting to kick in!

We had a fabulous pre-race dinner at Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian. It was time to head back to our room at the Beach Club Resort.

We had to be at the bus stop at 3 a.m. to go to the race Start area so we set the alarm for an obnoxious 2 a.m. and also arranged for a wake up call. Not that it was necessary since I could not sleep with all my pre-race jitters! I had arranged for us to be in the Race Retreat so we could have a place to sit that was enclosed and had breakfast and a separate amenities area. It worked out well given how cold the morning was! We were freezing. It was hard to imagine having to shed our jackets.

We stayed at the retreat until 5 a.m. and then left to walk the 20 minutes to the Start area at EPCOT Center Drive. The walk through the graveyard of exhibit pieces was interesting. Seeing all the equipment from past rides and displays was like walking through time. I remembered many of them. The Christmas Arches were there just biding their time.

Since this was my first race we were put into Corral F (the last one) which had a 6:15 a.m. start time. We waited for the race to begin. Bands played, the national anthem was sung and fireworks heralded the start of the race! People of all shapes, sizes and abilities were here together with us. It was quite a feeling! Everyone taking pictures, stretching, checking watches and waiting.

For the first couple of miles the course was pretty crowded. It was discouraging to see how many people were passing us. I never seemed to be able to find my pace which was normally quite easy for me. It took a few miles before I warmed up. My husband was cheering me on and making sure that I drank when I needed to. It was very hard to keep track of everything and I do not think I could have done it without him! I wish I could say that the course was easy. While Florida is relatively flat the overpasses and ramps seemed like mountains. Most of the course was quite boring, something I was not prepared for. Luckily there were people to watch who wore costumes as these ladies did, dressed as the Fairy Godmothers.

We tried to keep up with them but could not. They were seasoned marathoners and would be doing the Goofy's Challenge the next day. Goofy's Challenge is when you do the Half Marathon followed the next day by the Full Marathon!

Right before the Magic Kingdom was the first of the much dreaded sweep spots. For anyone who could not maintain the 16 min/mi pace you could be taken off the course and transported to the finish area. This was something that I did not want to happen! We made it past the first one by the skin of our teeth. We had made a critical mistake to stop at a rest area and lost a precious amount of time, 7 minutes! But we made it and continued on!!! Running through the Magic Kindom and EPCOT were the best parts. It was quite a rush running down Main Street and through the Castle over to Frontierland.

Seeing the back lots of MK and EPCOT was really interesting. I wish we could have seen more but could not take the time. There were many characters to see but the clock was ticking...

Miles 7 - 11 were the hardest for me. There was another sweep spot at mile 8 which we made with seconds to spare. I had some trouble with hyperventilating which was scary as I had never experienced it before. I also noticed that my feet were numb and could tell something was going on with my toes. But none of that was going to stop me. The next sweep spot loomed ahead of us at what rumored to be mile 10.5 or 11! It turned out that there were to be no more sweep spots when we reached mile 11 and then I was able to relax and enjoy the fact that I was going to finish my first half marathon.

Finishing the half marathon was a dream realized.

I am now starting my training for my next race which will be a local 5k which we will run as a family. I suffered no last ill effects of the race other than a couple of nasty looking toes and will surely lose some toenails which I have heard are over-rated! Seems to be a common side-effect of running.


Karen said...

I am so incredible impressed with you! What a perfect location for a first 1/2 marathon and to do it with Gerry makes it so special. How surprising that you didn't post the gnarly toe! said...

Great job, Pamela! I could have never done it. You've inspired me to get back to the gym. It's on the list of things to do this weekend.

Denise said...

Congratulations Pamela! I am proud of you! Now could you come over here everyday and get me off my butt?!? lol