On Friday morning, after seeing the kids off to school and making sure all arrangements to get them where they needed to be in my absence were in place, I checked to make sure I had my shoes, loaded up the rental car and headed out for my 8 hour drive to Disney. The drive was completely uneventful and quiet without the usual kid and canine chorus in the backseat although I did get a phone call from a friend telling me all my careful planning for kid activities went to hell in a handbasket since my daughter suffers from amnesia the minute I am farther than 10 miles away from her. Oh well!
I beat my sister to our hotel by about 10 minutes and got in the rather long registration line. When it was my turn to register, the woman behind the desk got a weird look on her face and disappeared with my license. Luckily the problem was that they were overbooked so they upgraded us to the Caribbean Beach Resort. Of course, given the run's early start time and our late-ish check in time, there was going to be no time to examine our upgraded amenities. We hopped back in our cars, drove to our new hotel, and checked in there.
We then immediately headed to the bus stop to catch a ride to the Expo to check in there. Neither S. nor I had trained the way we should have so S. was a little disconcerted when she saw our bus, thinking that it said R.I.P. as its destination. Would have been about right! (It actually said V.I.P.) We got to the Expo, registered for the race and wandered through the goods for a while before heading back to our room to spend some quality sisterly-bonding time together.
As soon as we got into the room, while I was still tossing things onto the table, S. was busily tearing a bed apart to check for bedbugs. Once she had declared it bug free, I immediately claimed the bed. Big sister status should count for something, right? She moved on to check the second bed as I climbed into the first one. As I was arranging the bedspread at the foot of the bed (she is skeeved out by bugs and I'm skeeved out by the idea of hotel bedspreads), I noticed that my blanket had hair on it. And not my hair. Almost woven into the weft of the blanket. I wailed about the foreign person hair on my blanket while S. just laughed and told me that it was karma since I'd stolen that bed from her in the first place. In the midst of us laughing about my disgusting, hairy blanket, mom called to check in on us. (I think she was more than a little nervous about us running the half, especially since we didn't lie and tell her we were in shape.) She was horrified by my hairy blanket tale and insisted I call housekeeping and get a new blanket. Meanwhile, S. was ever helpful and asked me if the hairs were pubes. (You'd never guess we weren't 12, would you?) Mom insisted that I could catch an STD from the icky blanket. S. and I howled with laughter and agreed that I was marinating in a stew of STD's right at that very moment. So I promised mom that I'd get the blanket swapped out and we hung up. Laughter before bed must be tiring because I fell asleep almost immediately.
We had set a wake-up call for 3:15am with the intention of being on the bus by 3:30 as the run started at 5:30. At 3:05, S. asked me if I wanted to sleep the last 10 minutes because she was awake and getting up. Yes, she was the sort of child who used to come into your room, pry open your eyelid, and ask if you were sleeping. Good to know very little has changed! Since I obviously wasn't going to get that last 10 minutes, I got up and crawled into my duds. We dragged ourselves out to the marathon bus (no longer R.I.P. buses) and got on. What was playing on the speaker system? The Bee Gees. Stayin' Alive. Seriously. I couldn't make this up if I tried!
We had agreed the night before that we weren't actually going to run together because I was in the corral ahead of S. plus she has this misconception that a 9-10 minute mile is *really* slow. I am under no illusions about just what slow really is. Slow, thy name is K. (who can pull off 9 minute miles only when properly trained and in shape). But not running together made it a little bit annoying that I hadn't brought along my iPod since I had been anticipating chatting throughout the run. I know, sick that I can contemplate 13.1 miles and chatting, but I did just admit I am all about slow so it's not really a very big feat. As it was time to move to the starting area, S. and I split up.
I have a slight issue with crowds so the 27,300 people at the race was a little much for me. To combat the willies, I pushed to the front of my corral so I'd have a little space. Unfortunately I ended up next to some people who had just met and were casually chatting about the race. The one guy mentioned the bus that collect the people who aren't keeping to the 16 minute mile pace. He was then asked if there were many people on the bus and who on earth could they be. His answer? Well, a lot of them are people who haven't trained for the race. It felt a like the universe was trying to bludgeon me over the head with my own stupidity. I scooted out of range of his very loud voice as I waited for the race to start.
I couldn't see the start line or the enormous screen while we waited for the race to start but I sure could hear the commentators as they interviewed people, talked to the amazing Achilles athletes, and introduced the live feed to Victory Base in Afghanistan where there was going to be a 1/2 marathon simultaneous with the Disney 1/2. Finally with a fireworks display, the first flight was off. 5 fireworks dsiplays later, my flight was off and I was heading into one of my most hair-brained ideas ever.
The Disney marathon is very well organized. Despite the insanely early hour of the start, there were Disney cast members stationed all over the course to cheer on those of us crazy enough to be running. There were folks in costume (and some in costume running the race too) and folks just wearing the Mickey and Minnie hands all giving up sleep to support us. Unlike my other half marathon (the one where I was in shape), I searched for and noted every last mile marker. Once I got past mile marker 3 still running, I was pretty pleased with myself. (It's always good to have low expectations for yourself; that way you can be assured of exceeding them.)
I valiantly plugged along, knowing that I was going pretty slowly. Between miles 1 and 2, I saw the first wheelchair athlete pass on his way back to the finish. I have to admit that I seriously wondered if he would be willing to let me hitch a ride back on his lap. I mean, he was clearly winning by a large margin as there were no other athletes close to him. He probably still would have won with my fat butt adding another level of challenge to his race. Another mile or less into the race, I saw the first elite runner zip past on his way back towards the finish. Someone running close to me shouted, "You're amazing" to him. Bless the employee or family member who shouted back in our direction, "You are too." I'm not sure I buy it, but it made me feel good all the same. A little farther on, I passed a woman holding up a sign that said "Sweat is Sexy." All I could think was that she'd never gotten a whiff of me because honey, in my world, sweat is only sexy from a distance; close up, it stinks.
Turning the corner to run up Main Street Disney was incredibly cool. Definitely the best part of the run in terms of scenery. The race is actually not in the parks themselves nearly as much as I had expected but given that I tend to be a look at the ground kind of runner, this was mostly okay (although the steep camber of two stretches of the race was incredibly rough). I noticed as I came to each mile marker that my mile pace was getting slower and slower. I walked through every water stop, sometimes taking both Powerade and water. My smallest toes on both feet started developing blisters at about mile 3 and each step was agony for a while until the nerve endings down there clearly just quit in the face of my utter intransigence in the face of their complaining.
At mile 8, my head beat out my body and I walked instead of running. I walked on and off from mile 8 to mile 12 depending on how loudly my muscles were complaining. When my lower intestine started rumbling ominously at mile 11, I picked up the pace for a while. At some point in there while I was walking, an older man (60's? 70's?) tapped me on the shoulder as he speed walked past me and asked if I was doing okay. When I nodded and smiled, he gave me a thumbs up and melted into the crowd in front of me. Not too much later, a woman about my age patted my shoulder and told me I was doing great. How incredibly pitiful must I have looked from behind to inspire two complete strangers to touch me and encourage me to keep going? I'm wondering if the fact that my hands swelled to look like I was wearing Mickey Mouse gloves inspired their concern? Or maybe it was because the back (and admittedly the front too under the race bib) of my shirt looked like I was entering a wet t-shirt contest? Obviously something about me screamed defeated at that point. Just before the last water stop, the muscles beside my knees started twitching uncontrollably, an incredibly odd feeling, so I downed yet another Powerade and forced myself into a run for the last stretch. I think I even sped up at the sight of the finish line because heaven knows I was just so pleased to be done. Knowing S. had smoked me and finished long ago, I collected water, medal, fruit, muffin, and diet Coke (you could eat for a week on what they give you at the end of a marathon) and wobbled off to find her at our "pre-arranged meeting place." She was standing there and I was sitting there and it took us both a while to realize that we were both there.
We shuffled over to the bus to the hotel and pulled ourselves on board. Since there were few seats left we split up. Some poor guy who had come to watch his brother run sat next to me and had to endure my funk cloud all the way back to the hotel. Once we got off the bus, I had to start excavating things from my running bra in order to unlock the rental car. It had seemed like a good storage spot that morning but when I pulled the wet and salty key out (after several other things including sports gels), it seemed like a less than good idea. S. started laughing about the next poor person to rent that particular car. From now on, I'm going to have to Lysol rental car keys before I touch them, all because I was gross. And you all will too now that I've planted the idea. You're welcome!
After a much needed shower, we got in our cars and drove to S.'s house where I promptly crawled into my nephew's bed and took a nap. I woke up with a massive headache and attacked it with drugs that had the added benefit of making my entire body feel close to human again. The following morning, I rolled out of bed and hit the road for the 8 1/2 hour drive home. I'm surprisingly not too stiff although the blisters on my feet still hurt. I am pretty certain that I won't agree to any more long distances without proper training but I'm thinking that these long races offer the perfect excuse to abandon the family guilt-free. Excuse me while I check my calendar to schedule the next one!
Oh, and yes, S. did smoke me. She ran the whole thing in 9:44 minute miles. Basically untrained. Brat.