I woke up just before my alarm went off at 2:30am. This would normally seem way too early, but I was sleeping by 7:30 the night before, so I was happy with seven hours of very restful sleep. I hopped out of bed, took a shower, and started getting ready. Besides having a sore throat for the past few weeks, I felt great and so full of energy. We left our room with our bagel in hand and headed to the buses around 3. Our hotel was very close to Epcot, so it was a short bus ride over to the parking lot.
We arrived at the parking lot and headed to the VIP tent. At Disney you pay for the VIP tent, which they call the Race Retreat. It is not cheap, but it is SOOOO worth it. It is a heated tent with seating, mats, food, porta potties, and changing rooms. If the weather is bad or you have to wait for someone at the finish, this is the way to go.
Sisters ready to run a marathon!
We met Erin at the tent and sat for a few minutes. We all took turns going to the bathroom and then checked our bags in the tent before heading out to the corals. We left the tent at 4:15 for what should have been a 20 minute walk to the corals. I would have to guess it took us about 45 minutes to get down there. We hit the porta potties one more time and Erin and I made it into the A coral with only about 15 minutes to go for the 5:35 start. I let her head to the front of the coral as I knew she had faster goals than me. I didn't want to be tempted to go out too fast so put myself in between the 3:25 and 3:35 pace groups.
The start at Disney is AMAZING. I have been at the same start line for 5 years now and I get just as excited to see the fireworks and characters as you cross the starting line. One goal I had for this race was to keep a smile on my face for as long as possible. I figured it is a lot of work to be in pain and smiling always makes me feel good even if I am not feeling happy. So I crossed that starting line smiling and was ready for an awesome race!
One thing to note with a 5:30 race is that is still dark outside. There is enough lighting on the roads so that you can see where you are going, but looking at your pace on your Garmin is not as easy. Because of this I was trying to run by feel for the dark miles and not keep up with the 3:25 group because that was too fast. The first few miles went by quickly when we circled Epcot. I told myself at mile 2, "This is your day!" HA! As soon as I said that to myself I laughed. Who was I kidding, thinking I was going to run a good marathon 2 miles into the race.
My first 6 miles looked like this:
My mile splits were faster than my goal pace of 8:08, but I really did try to slow myself down. When you can't continue to look at your Garmin, you have to trust that your legs are going at an OK pace. I figured it was the beginning of the race and hoped that as long as I wasn't approaching my half marathon pace, I would be OK.
After mile 6, you loop around on the highway and head towards Magic Kingdom. The first 2 miles on the highway are really dark and really boring. The entire race, I pretty much was running alone. I had people around me, but I was not in the tight pack that you feel in the further back corals. This is great for avoiding weaving and really allowed me to concentrate on my race. Mile 8 welcomed us into the Magic Kingdom property and I knew I was going to start seeing crowds. The spectators at the Transportation and Ticket Center were great, they always give you the boost to get into the park. At this point the water stops seemed to be coming at nearly every mile. I have a tendency to dehydrate easily so really focused on grabbing a Powerade and water at every aid station unless I had just taken a gel then I only grabbed a water. I was worried my strategy would over-hydrate me and cause me to stop to use the bathroom but it worked out great.
I knew mile 10 was coming up and that would mean a mat to send our split for everyone tracking me and also that we were entering Magic Kingdom. I actually considered slowing down even more before this as I didn't want you all thinking I went out too fast. :)
I guess my legs were not ready to slow down yet. At this point, I figured I was going to post a nice positive split marathon.
We entered Magic Kingdom and as always, it is impossible to not pick up the pace. Main Street was packed with people. I ran down Main Street and into Tomorrowland when someone kicked my heel nearly sending me to the ground. I stumbled a bit but just kept moving and headed into Fantasyland where I saw Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. I was tempted to get a picture as my daughters would have loved to see it, but I didn't know what lied ahead for me so I headed for the castle ready for the photographers on the other side.
Exiting Cinderella's Castle
I always seem to slow down as soon as I leave the Magic Kingdom as it is a long road to the Animal Kingdom. There was a relay this year that split off at the halfway point, but I barely saw anyone headed that way. The crowds were starting to build around the half marathon point and I was got a little scared that I had to run 13 more miles at this pace. I hit the half at around 1:45:30 or so. This was WAY faster than I had planned so I knew the 2nd half would lead to a slow down.
Split at the halfway point:
My splits tell the story, as does this picture from Hollywood Studios.
I was hot, sweaty, and completely spent. But I also knew I was so close to running an amazing marathon and if I could help it, I didn't want to slow down much more than I already had. I exited the Studios and saw the path where I fell last year. I concentrated on lifting my legs and heading onto that path without tripping.
I knew I had a 5k left to run and was trying to figure out what pace I could run and where that would put me at the finish line. I think all the math I did in my head during the race really helped keep the negative thoughts out. I was hurting but was constantly doing numbers to see what I could do. The path from the Studios on the Boardwalk was nice, but I just wanted to get to Epcot so pushed as hard as I could. I tried high-fiving as many people as I could as I knew I was basically done and I had made my goal. I knew I could run a slow final mile and still qualify for Boston so it was time to celebrate and enjoy that final stretch.
I entered Epcot and would pick up the pace and then slow down over and over again. I would pass someone and they would congratulate me and I would start yelling. Yes, I did celebrate for over 1.2 miles. Yelling out when you have a mile to go is not easy to do, let me tell you. :)
I finally entered the Mexico Pavilion and knew my final stretch was just around the corner. My calf muscle seized up for a second but I shook it out and tried picking up my pace. I continued to yell my way out of Epcot and rounded the corner to the Gospel Choir. If you have never done the Disney Marathon, I suggest you do for the choir. At mile 26, the choir sits there singing you in. I waved and thanked them and turned my last corner and saw that finish line.
The crowd wasn't cheering much but I did my part to get them going. I was cheering myself when I saw that the clock had 3:33 on it. I didn't know what my overall chip time would be, but my clock time was still an amazing time. I sprinted as fast as my legs could and crossed that finish line with my arms in the air.
And there you have it. I am now qualified to run the Boston Marathon in 2013. I walked around on cloud 9 on Sunday and am so excited to start my training for Boston after 2 weeks of rest.
Thanks again for everyone's support this past week. It really helped mentally to know that I had people following my race and that I would get to report back to you. The blogging/Twitter community has made my running that much more fun. And if you made it through this entire report, thank you.
It's time to start talking BOSTON!