If you are in a hurry, I will give you the short version:
I did it! I finished. I hit my goal of under 4 hours by running a Negative split. It was cold, painful but it was fun.
If you are still around, here's the full race report:
I set out for Florida three days before the big event. My direct flight to Orlando was perfect, on time, and comfortable. Everything was going smoothly. Everything except the weather! The high on Thursday was in the 50's. By sunset, it was approaching the 30's!!! So much for escaping the Buffalo chilly weather!
As disapointing as the chilly temps were, I am not one to let weather dictate my mood. I checked into my hotel and called family and friends who had arrived a day earlier. I threw my luggage into the hotel room, and hopped on a bus straight for the Disney Marathon Expo. It was a very cool experience. The Expo was huge, and had some pretty cool exhibits, inlcuding the KT tape booth. If you've been following my blog, you know during training I was struck with ITBS. A common but painful injury for runners, often times due to overtraining. I had purchased an ITB strap which is placed around the knee to provide support. It was not working well and I still experienced a lot of discomfort during my last few runs that week. I noticed the KT exhibit was offering free tapings of IT bands. This specific tape is allegedly used by professional athletes and the gentleman working the booth really sold it as a "miracle" cure to the pain. I agreed to have it taped up-- which he said would last through the race. Upon getting up off the table and walking around I did notice immense relief and was VERY optimistic that I was going to be just fine come Sunday.
I woke up early Saturday and made my way to EPCOT to watch friends cross the finish line for the Disney Half Marathon. It was very difficult navigating around Disney that day. Many roads were closed and it took me an hour to reach the finish line. I was super dissapointed I did not get to see Brian from " A Runner's Blog" come in. He hit his goal finishing under 1:30.. Congrats to him! Especially considering the weather was downright miserable. Record Cold with freezing rain... It really was like I never left Buffalo!
After enjoying a late and high calorie mexican lunch with my family, I returned back to my hotel room to get things ready for Sunday's marathon. The forecast called for a dry but VERY chilly morning, high in the 20's!. I laid out my MANY layers of clothes, gels, gloves, hats, etc., popped an Ambien, and was out by 8pm. The alarm quickly went off at 2am. I consumed one powerbar, and two cups of coffee. I met my fellow runners with Roswell in the Hotel lobby, after some photos, we hopped on the bus and were shuttled off to the start line. As any big Marathon, there was quite a bit of waiting outside, in lines, to get to the start. This normally would have been fine had it not been so damn cold out there. Many of us were huddling to stay warm. One of the big highlights of this moment, In the thousands of people there-- I did get to meet fellow blogger B.o.B. from Discom-BOB-ulated Running. She was not running but there to cheer on a friend. She is as beautiful in person as the photos on her blog.
After checking our bags, visiting the porta potties, we were off to the start. It was a long but nice walk. My pacer Brenda was keeping me excited and motivated. She was very concerned about my IT band but I still wasn't feeling any pain again, convinced this KT tape was making it all better.
By the time we reached the start and got in our corral the first wave of runners ( the elite gang) were off. The start was good but did not seem as great as last year's at least judging by the video I saw of it on Youtube. There were fireworks, and music, Video screens, and of course all the cast and characters of Disney. We were off... SLooooooooowly. I had wanted to maintain around an 8:30 to 8:42 pace. This was impossible for the first few miles. The road was packed with runners. Brenda said we were holding around 9 minute miles. This left me a bit frustrated at the time but now believe it was for the best, forcing me to slow it down and not use up all the jet fuel.
By the time we reached mile 6 it hit. Remember the so called "Miracle Tape" that was supposed to "wipe the pain away"?? Well, it failed. Miserably. My IT band was killlling, worse than ever. Luckily, I was carrying my IT strap, which I was told I would no longer need with the tape. We stopped at the next aid station, Brenda had to go use the porta potty, while I sat on the side of the road, stretched my IT band and wrapped the strap around my knee. The pain was awful but ironically walking seemed to make it worse, running made it feel a bit better.. Strange right?
We continued on, although in the back of my mind I feared my knee was just going to completely give out. It was easy to get distracted though by looking at all the wonderful "sideshows" they had along the route. The best part is around miles 10 and 11 when you run through the Magic Kingdom, zipping down Main Street USA and through Cinderella's castle, and then greeted by hundreds of screaming supporters on the side. By mile 12 our pace was picking up but we were still destined to hit the halfway point in just over 2 hours--- If I didn't pick it up I could kiss that sub 4 hour goal goodbye.
By mile 15 it all started to come together. The pain never went away in fact only became worse but thanks to tylenol and my very energetic pacer we began to sail. Each mile passed by VERY quickly, miles 20 and 21 outside Hollywood Studios were a bit boring. You run up one side of the road and down the other. The lack of distractions here made me realize the pain in my IT band was joined by major aches in both feet and legs. But I still did not "hit the after mile 20 wall" everyone talks about. Yes I was in pain, but not at all tired and by this point I had consumed just 1 energy gel. We zipped through Hollywood Studios. This last leg of the race was pretty cool. Lots of crowd support and great scenery. By mile 23 I was feeling the pain everywhere but we were holding our pace. Brenda and I were determined to finish this thing under four hours... At times, running 8:10 to 8:20 to get the job done. We passed miles 24, 25, and were greeted by the singing choir at mile 26. I could hear the crowd, see the finish, and at this point, the pain began to dissapear. I held back the waterworks but was feeling overwhelemed by emotion at this point. We crossed the finish line at 3:56:28!! I ran a "negative Split" running the second half faster than the first. I am still amazed by this. I have always lost it in the last part of any race.. But this day I had my eyes on the prize!
I greeted my family and friends, took pictures, picked up my bag, and then.. it was done. I was satisfied. Content. The hard work, weeks of training paid off. The experience was incredible-- unforgetable. I truly enjoyed running 26.2 and will absolutely run another... When, Where?? Thats for another post, another day. For now, I celebrate. Mission Accomplished!
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