(That's me in the black tank top mostly blocked by the guy in the green jacket. SMILING!!)
Here is my race report..
Saturday was a long day, so went to bed pretty early and hoped to fall asleep easily and soundly. This was achieved, until about 1 am when I woke up in anticipation and thankfully fell back asleep quickly. Mom and I got up at 3:15 to get ready and catch the taxi at 3:45. We had done basically the same thing the morning before (as mom did the half) so we were old hats by this point.
We got to the park right about 10 after 4, and walked to the starting point. I was really nervous and felt uneasy about the whole experience. I ate a few bagels on the way and took my Motrin to get ready. We hung out for a few minutes and took some pictures and established where we would meet should Mom not see me. Then..I was off to be herded into my corral!
I got back into the corral area and was surrounded by 17,000 of my closest friends. The organizers began to send us toward the yellow mylar balloons, promising porta-jons on the other side, saying we had about a mile to walk and needed to get going. So, while mooing, the crowd migrated to the balloons/promised porta-jons and began the trek to the starting point. I decided to keep my iPod off for this just to get the experience and I'm glad I did. I heard much interesting conversation - a guy hitting on a group of married women, a group of women complaining about the guys easy access to a natural bathroom, etc. - and it eased my mind a bit to get lost in the conversations of others.
We finally got to the corrals, and were herded into our correct ones. I was in Corral D, which would be the 4th heat to start, which was scheduled to be around 5:47 or so. I got into my corral around 5 am, so I stretched and sat and listened to the environment around me. I finally started to get excited. Sort of. They (Disney people) had a pretty good rapport going at the starting line and were doing their best to entertain the freezing participants. Finally, the wheelchair racers started and the fireworks started!
About 15 minutes after the first wave, I was ready to cross the start line. I had seen the pacer for the 4:30 mark, and made a promise to myself to make sure I stayed behind this person for the entirety of the race. I didn't want to start off too fast, and I didn't want to outdo myself as I was already nervous and worried about being able to do this or not. Right around 5:50 am, my journey began. I waved to the Disney people at the front, turned my book on my iPod on, and I was off!
There were going to be 22 water stops along the way, and I also had my water belt. I knew the importance of staying hydrated and began to drink within the first mile. I passed the first mile marker at around 11:07, with a smile on my face. My pace was perfect and I was on the way to completing my first marathon.
The first two miles were on what I called the 'Disney Highway' and took us into Epcot. The first water station came right around mile marker 2. I tried to run through it, simply picking up the water and attempting to swallow it quickly, and promptly choked. Because I didn't want to screw up my breathing, I stopped and walked through the rest of the station. From then on, I stopped and walked through every water station, taking my time and savoring the few moments I was taking. I never let my heart rate drop or let my pace drop too much, so I figured this would be a good practice for the duration of the 26 miles.
I had spoken with an experienced marathoner who said he began to eat within the first 30 minutes, and I resolved to do so as well. I had shot blocks and sport beans, so I began with the shot blocks. There was another water station after mile 4 which I did not feel the need to walk through, so I pushed on. Miles 5 and 6 were unremarkable - more running on the Disney Highways, as were miles 7 and 8. Mile 8 was pretty neat because we ran through some parking lots with different Disney features along the way (old cars/1950s Greasers and unicyclists). I was eating about every 30 minutes or so, which was something to look forward to in mile 9. Mile 10 was tough mentally as I began to realize I still had 16 miles to go.
Thankfully, mile 11 snapped me back into my race oblivion as we ran through Cinderella's castle and all through the Magic Kingdom. I took time during this mile to go to an actual bathroom instead of a porta-jon, stopping my watch and taking my time. We had been told before the race that there would be a 7 mile stretch between the Magic Kingdom and the next big incline, so I wanted to be sure I prepared myself for that. It was very interesting to run through the parks at Disney, but not so interesting running through the maintenance sections of the park. Thankfully, there were plenty of people lined up along the way for these long 7 miles, and a food station was right around the corner at mile 14 as well.
Nothing really to be said about miles 12 and 13. I think I may have taken a prolonged stop at one of these water stations to stretch and give myself a minute, but other than that, these two miles were pretty status quo. I was okay with my time at mile 13, though it was decidedly slower than what I would have been doing had I just been doing a half (2:21:02). Finally at mile 14, we had a food station! We got bananas and gu and water and gatorade, of which I took full advantage, eating an entire banana. We finally entered the Animal Kingdom around mile 15.5. I finally took off my long sleeved shirt around mile 16, and noticed the toes and balls of my feet were growing more numb than usual in my right foot. I was used to this happening in both feet after about 6 miles of any run, but this seemed to be much worse than normal. Around mile 17 I began to worry I would need to stop and walk and deal with this, and I thankfully arrived at a water station before I did actually walk. I took 3 Motrin at this point too (I think) in an attempt to alleviate the numbness a bit.
It was around mile 18 that I began to falter a tad. I didn't know how long the distance between the water stations was (turned out to be quite a bit), and I hit what is considered in Florida to be an incline (aka an on-ramp to a highway). I can confidently say I walked the majority of mile 20. I walked up the 'hill' and then, once comfortable, ran to the water/food station about a half mile away. I ate another half of a banana and drank some gatorade and continued walking a bit. I felt better after this and ran to the 2o mile marker (not too far away really). We then entered an out and back to get to mile 21, which turned out to be pretty tough. (Tough mostly because it was difficult knowing I would be turning around and looking at the exact same things in about 5 minutes, not tough because I felt badly.)
From that point on, we had a few 'inclines' which I felt comfortable walking so as to save my strength. My longest training run had been 20 miles, so I was expecting the dreaded 'wall' to hit at any point after 20. Two phrases would run through my head periodically, 'water station' and 'only (insert mileage) miles more, you've got this' which seemed to really help. Looking back, I think the 'wall' hit between mile markers 19 and 20. That being said, if that is the kind of wall I hit during marathons, I'm okay with it.
We ran through the Sorcerer's Hat attraction during mile 23, and then began to head back toward Epcot. I can't say I saw a light at the end of any tunnel, but I still felt pretty good. I didn't want to get ahead of myself and assume I'd be able to run, no problem, so I tried to keep myself in check and keep my body from going too fast.
Miles 24 and 25 were windy and we ran around a few of the resorts. Mile 26 was nice because we ran around the Beach Club Resort which looped around a lake. My watch decided to die right around 25.3 miles, so when I looked down to see how much I had left at what was probably 25.5, I had a dead watch on my hands. This was a bit frustrating, but I knew I really didn't have much left so I just tried to focus on finishing up.
After I came up to the mile 26 marker, I began to realize what I was about to do - finish a marathon. I knew my time would be around what I wanted it to be for the first one (I would have been happiest with 4:45, but anything under 5 hours was going to be acceptable). I began to speed up a bit for the last 2 tenths, honestly forgetting how difficult I'd heard these two tenths were. I finally came around the corner and saw the finish line. The official clock time was speedily approaching 5 hours, and I desperately wanted to beat even the clock time of that. I was unfortunately not successful and crossed the finish line at 5:00:14. I didn't mind those 14 seconds at that moment.
This was the best I've ever felt after finishing a race. I've raced and ended with grimaces on my face that could scare small children, but this time I wanted to (and did) finish with a smile on my face. I got my wrap and medal and a bottle of water and headed toward the food tent because I couldn't find mom in the stands. I had my picture taken with my medal and grabbed a muffin and orange and walked over to the Q-S stand to wait for mom. I finally saw her after a few minutes and really felt like I had run a marathon.
My body went into a state of semi-shock after I got to the hotel, and the rest of the day was spent hydrating and wondering if I would be able to fly home that night. Fortuitously, I began to feel better when we got to our gate at the airport, and we (for some unknown cosmic reason) were upgraded to first class for the flight back. I will fly first class always now. (Okay, maybe not, but wouldn't it be loverly?)
I'm not supposed to run until Thursday, and that's been pretty difficult today (Tuesday) as I am itching to get back out there. I am so happy this race is done, and I've decided to do the OBX full in 2012 (hopefully) as I think my body will forget the pain of doing a full by then. Hopefully at least.