Posts Tagged by blisters

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Recap – A Story of Strength and Solidarity

We’ve all had those races that are a struggle.  Either we are not prepared or the weather is bad or we are just not mentally in the game.  Jenna went into the Disneyland Half Marathon not feeling so great, but ended up persevering and finding new friends along the way.  I first met Jenna during the 2013 Princess Half Marathon Weekend and we have remained friends since.  Her positive attitude, infectious smile and ability to laugh during the difficult times make her a joy to know.  All of that is what got her and others through a difficult race. I dare you to not tear up by the end of this race recap…CONGRATS JENNA!

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Before the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon, I had a pretty strong feeling that this was one race I would not be finishing. I was undertrained, overweight, and had half-healed injuries. Two weeks before the race, I made one last attempt to get in a 10 mile run, but got a blister 6.5 miles into it, so quit after 8 miles. All of this left me extremely worried as race day got closer. I studied past results and run blogs obsessively. My one goal was to get to the other side of Angel Stadium, where I knew I would see the last sweep point.

I did the 5K on Friday and had a nice, fun run around the parks to settle myself down and enjoy the scenery without worrying about my timing chip. On Friday night, I watched the Magical fireworks show at Disneyland and heard the words “Wishes make your dreams come true.” No, I thought. Hard work makes your dreams come true. But if I had one wish, I knew what it would be.

On Sunday, I got to the race start just after the corrals opened. I was in Corral I, so I had plenty of time, but I wanted to get as close to the front of the corral to squeeze out as many extra minutes as possible.

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I had met a cast member in my corral on Friday night and Christina and I spent the endless time before our start chatting with her and trying not to worry.

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And then we were off!

I felt pretty good at the beginning, though I kept thinking about the 20 ounces of water I drank in the corral. My calves felt tight and my shoes felt loose, so as soon as we were in California Adventure, I stretched one and snugged up the other. One quick bathroom break in Cars Land and it was back to sticking to my intervals as much and for as long as I could.

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Along the way, I settled into a pack and chatted with people around me a bit. I got a piece of advice from one runner that would prove to be invaluable in more ways than I knew.

She advised me to breathe more deeply, from my diaphragm and gave me some techniques to help. It was great advice and just what I needed. I remember thinking, she knows what she’s talking about and she’s going about my pace. If I can keep her in view, I will finish this race. She was easy to spot in a mermaid patterned Sparkle Skirt, purple shirt, white ball cap and CamelBak. And this plan absolutely worked. There were times when I’d pass my mermaid runner. There were times when she passed me. But we were usually pretty close.

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Through the middle third of the race, I was acutely aware of my blister. Though it had healed in the week prior to the race, walking around Disneyland for three days before the race had brought it back and made it… angry. I’m pretty sure it broke sometime around mile six. So while I remember the Mexican folkloric dancers on Cerritos Avenue and the step dance crew on Lewis Street, I was way more focused on the pain in my foot.

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Soon, I’d reached the halfway point and the sea of signs cheering on runners (mostly from MousePlanet). I knew I didn’t have a sign there, but it didn’t stop me from making a muscle for Parker or cheering for the real men who were running in kilts. I was just so happy to see that spot! I was also happy to see my mermaid runner making a beeline for the Team MousePlanet support tent. Got a hug from Ken the Free Hugs (to end racial discrimination) guy, and I was off and trudging along again.

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Mile 7 found me totally distracted by the sheer number of flooring, kitchen and bath stores on State College Rd. A little voice said, “Drop out! Buy tile instead!” I think I was delirious.

Angels Stadium… Angels Stadium… It became a mantra for me. And at one point, I could see the top of the A. I tried to take a picture of the A. And then my music stopped playing and I couldn’t get my phone to work again. So I had to be stuck in my own head for the rest of the race. That is not a happy place to be when you’re rapidly approaching the furthest distance you’ve run in 18 months. (Unbeknownst to me, it started working again two miles later and took pictures from inside my pocket.)

I didn’t even notice when we passed the Honda Center, even though I was looking for it. I said out loud, “My feet feel like water balloons.” A passing runner said, “That’s really… That’s a really good… I know just what you mean.” My feet were so swollen within my shoes that I could feel the fluid in them and later discovered that my pinkie toenail sliced right into the swollen piggy that didn’t have roast beef.

I could see other runners struggling. There were the sisters dressed as the Potato Heads. There was the woman who was literally pulling her friend up the hills. There were all the people telling each other how much they hurt, as they kept walking, running and moving forward.

When we got on the Santa Ana Trail, I heard the dreaded sound: balloon ladies calling out, “We’re behind pace! Pick it up! Don’t slow down!” They were right behind me! I did what I could to get back to intervals whenever possible, but the trail was getting narrower and the pack was getting more confined. When we approached the bridge underpass and people realized that Angels Stadium was still on the other side of the Orange Freeway, you could actually feel people slow down in disappointed shock. Then the balloon ladies yelled again and it sent us scrambling down the hill.

The tunnel into Angels Stadium was wet, downhill and gritty, but you could hear the roar of the crowd on the other side. All of my exhaustion and soreness was no match for a stadium full of cheering Scouts! I high-fived every kid in reach! In the melee, I didn’t notice precisely when the balloon ladies passed me, but by the time we emerged from the tunnel out of the stadium, they were in front of me. And so was some guy running with a small broom. Oh, no! No, no, no! I didn’t come this far to get swept! I could see busses at the far side of the parking lot. I could see security guards.

I ran past them.

I don’t know how long after that they closed the last sweep point, but I was past it!

About a half mile later, I caught up with my mermaid runner, thanked her for the breathing advice way back in Disneyland and we fell into chatting. She said her name was Janna and she told me the story of her Tinkerbell Half experience. At some point on the route, she was shoved by another runner, stepped into a pothole and twisted her ankle. She didn’t finish. She was doing Dumbo this time, after months of loss and illness.

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Janna’s Feet From Inside My Pocket

“I just don’t want to get swept again.”

“Janna, we’re past the last sweep point.”

“What?! Where is it? Never mind, don’t tell me.”

“It’s almost a mile behind us. We are finishing this race.”

“I’m not getting swept? I’m finishing the race?”

She started crying in relief and I gave her a sideways hug as we kept walking.

“You are crossing that finish line if I have to human crutch you across it.”

From then on, the race was all about sheer stubbornness and solidarity. We stuck together the remaining two and a half miles: keeping an eye out for mile markers; keeping our feet going; keeping each other’s spirits up. At some point, when we were finally back on Disney property back behind California Adventure, a couple of high school cheerleaders danced alongside us chanting “WE’RE! SO! PROUD OF YOU! WE’RE SO PROUD OF YOU!” I grinned like an idiot. I was proud of us, too!

Finally, we were into the finish line viewing area and I could see my friends, F.J. and Andy cheering for me. They were in Corrals A and D and were showered and changed already! I hugged them and got them sweaty again. They told me how proud they were of me. I ran back to catch up with Janna. “There’s no time for hugging our people!” Janna said, right before she ran over and hugged one of her people.

I saw a sign that said “You look hot when you sweat!” and said “Darned right I do!” and started strutting down the approach to the finish line. The remaining, die-hard crowd went wild!

Then I turned to Janna and said, “You ready to run across that finish line and end this thing with style? Gotta look good for the pictures! “

“You know I am!” she said. We ran the rest of the way, dodging people going in for the hug with Mickey and Minnie.

Across the finish line, we had another tearful hug and got our medals (Half for me, Half and Dumbo for Janna!), then went our separate ways. I was off to gear check and medical (dry socks and ice packs were all I could think about), and Janna went to find her husband. We are now Facebook friends and I think of us as foxhole friends. Shared strength and solidarity are vital pieces of running gear!

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Race Recap: The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

We last left off as I was settling down for an all too short 5 hours of sleep.  I didn’t sleep all that well, as I never seem to do so before races, because I wake up every hour to check the clock and make sure I haven’t overslept.  When it was finally time to get up, my adrenaline kicked in and I got all my gear on, made sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, and made sure I had everything for Team Challenge.  We had to wear 2 wristbands during the race, one for the complimentary transportation and one for the admission to the wine tasting after party.  There was also a ticket on our race bib that entitled us to one engraved wine glass…didn’t want to pass that up!

Another thing I got for this race was a PaceTat, which is a temporary tattoo that gives you what your splits should be if you want to finish at a certain time goal.  They are really cool!  More to come later on this 🙂

The night before I had heard some commotion going on outside our door, but I didn’t check to see what it was.  When I opened the door to leave, I was met by a fun surprise.  My team members had decorated my door with a sign and streamers!!  What a great surprise!

I grabbed a half of a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter that brought from home and headed down to the lobby to meet the team.  The coaches did one last review of their race tips and we boarded the bus for the 30 minute ride to the race site.  The night before, Coach Janis warned us that there is a lot of grass and dirt at the site.  There were huge storms the day before, so there could be mud and the grass was sure to be wet.  She advised us to grab the plastic garbage bags from the wastebaskets in our hotel rooms to put over our shoes for when we arrived to protect our shoes from getting wet.  Brilliant!  Most of our team did this and we received a lot of strange looks when we got off of the bus, but later while waiting in line for the bathroom in the wet grass, everyone thought we were geniuses!  It really did help to keep my shoes dry and this is a tip I will keep with me for all future races.

Garbage Bag Feet = Dry Feet

The team gathered to do some warm ups and get some group photos in before the race.  We also got to here some last minute tips from Jeff Galloway, which was really cool!  This was my small runDisney tie-in to this race.  The event was held at Doukenie Winery and it is an absolutely beautiful setting, especially first thing in the morning when we arrived.  There are horses, ducks, a large pond and of course sprawling fields of grape vines.  It is truly breathtaking.  In fact, this whole area in Virginia is a hidden gem.  I never knew there was wine country there.

Sunrise at the Winery

Team Fairfield/Westchester!

Jeff Galloway sporting a lovely garbage bag to keep warm!

Before we get to the race, I do need to comment on the bag check situation there.  This definitely wasn’t a Disney operation…  There was a table set up for bag check and the volunteers were handing out white garbage bags and Sharpie markers to write your name and bib number on the bag.  They then took your back and put it in the (wet) grass behind the table in no particular order.  Yikes!  I was so thankfully Barry was coming after the race with all of my things so I didn’t have to check anything.  This must have been a nightmare to collect at the end!

At about 6:30 am, we headed down to the starting line, which was in the driveway of the vineyard where we waited and waited and waited.  For some reason the race was delayed by half an hour.  There were rumors floating around that there were still some buses heading to the site from the host hotels, but there was no official announcement.  There were no corrals or pace markers when we got down there, so the team just picked a spot about mid-way in the starting area and waited.  Since there was such a delay, many of the runners took this time to take a bathroom break in the vineyards next to the race start.  Let’s just say that the grape vines don’t provide much coverage and I saw a lot more of some female runners than I would’ve liked!

At the starting line…waiting

We faintly heard the starting bell at about 7:30 am and began to move.  While the start was pretty disorganized, I was kind of happy about the delay because it it gave Barry enough time to get to the race.  He was on one of the aforementioned buses.  He was waiting right after the starting line and I was able to get a good luck kiss in 🙂

So here I was running in Virginia.  I started off really well and was doing a 3/1 minute run/walk combo.  I was feeling great.  The course was beautiful and I saw some fun things along the way.  I almost took a detour to the Pygmy Goat and Miniature Horse farm and I found my new home…the Black Cat Manor!!  There were also a TON of Team Challenge supporters out on the course cheering us on, which really helped.

Around Mile 2

Gorgeous Farm Country

Pygmy Goats!

I need to live here!

Yes, things were going great…until mile 5.  This is when the gravel started.  We were told that there was only about 1 mile of hard dirt road with minimal gravel.  Oh no…this was 4 MILES of gravel and the road was very uneven.  I got numerous stones in my shoes, which I had to stop and take out and this also caused a very uncomfortable blister to form on the ball of my right foot.  I have never had blisters on the bottom of my feet before, but I also haven’t run on 4 miles of gravel before so we were in uncharted territory.  By the time I got to the end of this stretch at mile 9, I was not a happy camper.  I saw one of my coaches just before the end of the gravel and she helped push me through, which was a huge help.

Giant Gravel Hill = Hell

The last 4 miles went by fairly well.  My calves started cramping up towards the end, but I pushed though.  I was determined to finish the race in under 3 hours and I was getting very close to that not happening.  The gravel really slowed me down so I had to make up some time.  This is where the PaceTat really came in handy because I could compare the time to my Garmin and make sure I was still on pace.

As I was coming up to the end, I was surprised by an old co-worker who lives in the area and came to cheer me on.  This really picked up my spirits to get to that finish line.  Miraculously, I saw a group of my team members and my 2 coaches right in front of me and we all finished in one big group.  Coach Janis ran next to me right up to the finish line and yes, I finished in under 3 hours!  2:59:17 to be exact.  I sure know how to cut it close 🙂  I was so happy to see Barry right there at the end cheering me on and taking some great photos!  It makes such a difference to have a smiling, familiar face at the end after doing something so challenging.

Almost there!!

I did it!

Under 3 Baby!

After the race, we had to go directly to the Team Challenge tent to check in.  This is to ensure all runners are off the course and so the coaches for each team can come in.  This is also where I got my Team Challenge finisher pin and etched wine glass.  Then, my first priority was to get my sneakers off, deal with this blister and get my compression sleeves on my calves.  I found these awesome Blister Treatment bandages from Dr. Scholl’s that were phenomenal!  I highly recommend them.  After I got my legs squared away, it was time for some food.  Team Challenge hosted an after party for runners and their guests where we chowed down on burgers, grilled chicken, potato salad and fruit.  It was a great post-race spread.

Once I was refueled, it was time to check out the wine tasting!  We received these fun commemorative wine glasses that we were able to use in the wine tasting area.  There were probably about 6 different local wineries there offer a variety of wines.  I wasn’t blown away by the wines in Virginia, but it was a really good time.

Commemorative Wine Glass

Post Race Wine Tasting

Overall, this was a fun race experience.  Running with Team Challenge was an amazing and rewarding experience.  Plus, I’m really happy that I met my goal of finishing in under 3 hours.  The course was not my favorite and because of all of the gravel, I’m not sure I would return unless the course was changed.  It’s a shame because the area is beautiful and the after party was a lot of fun.  We’ll just have to wait and see.    All I know is that half marathon #2 is successfully under my belt and I can’t wait to do the next one!