Monday, January 09, 2006

My Disney "Goofy's Challenge" Report

Thursday, January 5th: Arrival at Disneyworld.

The flight down was easy enough and my intention was to get in a short run in the afternoon. Jenny and I decided to check out the expo and pick up our packets. It’s a good thing we did.

The expo and packet pickup area was already hopping by Thursday afternoon. We managed to get our numbers without much hassle, but it took so long that I never did get a chance to run.

Friday, January 6th: The day before

I had some meetings Friday, which ended up taking all morning, so there was no chance to run before the clinic Jenny and I were to give at 1:30. I was a little nervous since it would have been 3 days without running. But, there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

There were two Team in Training pasta parties on Friday afternoon and evening, so I didn’t get back to the room until nearly 10 PM. Our call for transportation to the start was at 3:15 AM, so getting plenty of sleep wasn’t going to be an option.

I laid everything out in advance, set the alarm for 1:55 AM [which would have been 12:55 AM in my brain] and tried to get a little sleep.

Saturday, January 7th. The Half Marathon

Race morning for the ½ Marathon was COLD. COLD. We were told we would be able to stay on the bus until nearly race start, but, something got messed up and we had to get off the bus over an hour before the start. I hadn’t brought clothes for sitting around and so ended up VERY chilled before the race started.

Something in my lower intestine was NOT happy Saturday morning. I’m not sure – still – what it was but I was very, VERY uncomfortable. The irritation also caused me to have to stop about every mile to water the flowers in Disneyworld.

I was having an awful race. Awful. I was struggling to maintain my pace and run/walk interval [3 minute run/2 minute walk]. But, there really wasn’t anything to do but keep going. I managed to hang in and finish the ½ in 3 hours and 8 minutes.

When I got back to the room and slept like a dead-man for 2 hours, then had to get ready for the Saturday clinic. Once that was over I got back to the room and “iced down” my lower abdomen. This is NOT all that much fun, but whatever was irritated was also inflamed and I had to do something.

It was like Déjà vu all over again on Saturday night, setting out a new set of clothes, pinning on a new number, strapping on a new chip. A very strange experience.

Sunday, January 8th. Marathon Day

The good news is that I was able to fall asleep by a little after 7 PM, so I actually did get a decent night’s sleep before the alarm went off at 2:25 AM Sunday morning. The better news was that they figured out the bus situation and we were able to stay on the bus until about 5:30. After that I was at the stage area at the start and was able to stay under a heat lamp.

As bad as Saturday was, Sunday was that good and better. I could NOT believe it. I started running with the idea that I would go as far as I could and then stop. I planned to alternate running for 2 and a half minutes and walking for 2 and a half minutes as long as I could and then walk as far as I could before the SAG bus picked me up.

Every mile I kept waiting for the wheels to come off, for my legs to give out, and for my day to come to a screeching halt. It didn’t happen. It just kept getting better.

I came across the half of the full in 3 hours and 7 minutes. I was stunned. But, I just put my head down and kept going. 20 miles into it I was still feeling strong, still on pace, and still on the interval plan.

By mile 23 I was certain that I would finish. I knew I had plenty of time to walk slowly and still beat the SAG bus. I got pretty emotional. My eyes welled up and I thought I my cry right there on the spot.

I forced myself to slow down and “enjoy” the final miles of this 39.3-mile journey and finished in 6 hours 15 minutes. I had run all three halves within a minute of each other. Unbelievable.

So, the question is; what are the lessons? The answer: I’m not sure.

The mystery of the marathon remains a mystery. Sunday was my 44th marathon, my 4th in the past 4 months, and yet I can tell you with complete candor that I have no idea what happened. I also can tell you that I have no idea what happened on the ½ marathon.

It’s part of why I’m so fascinated by the sport of long-distance running. How can you understand something that is so diabolically fickle? How can you grasp something so cunning and unpredictable?

I can’t. And maybe that’s the only lesson I need to learn. I will never understand. I will never truly master the art of marathoning no matter how much I know about the science of marathoning.

And the obvious question: will I do it again? I don’t know. Yesterday I said no way. Today I think probably not. But tomorrow?? Who knows?

Waddle on, friends.

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