Yesterday morning I had my first PT session in what I’m officially calling the rehab phase. After working on a few targeted muscle groups prior to the races last weekend, we’re now jumping in to working on several muscles. The biggest problem I need to address right now is the lack of firing in my core muscles. By running through pain, my muscles have become inhibited, forcing the surrounding muscles to take on extra roles. Before I can begin working on functional exercises, I must first rehab the inactive muscles and retrain them to activate. One of the key muscles I started on was the transverse muscle that connects your two hip bones. Initially the left side would slowly fire and then the right side would exhibit a delayed response and would twitch. Now, however, both sides activate right away and stay engaged! For the muscles that are progressing this way, I’m transitioning into improving their endurance while I start working on activation in other muscles.
I’ve chosen to see all of this almost as a game, and I’m pushing myself to work hard to reach the next level. Each time my therapist tells me I’m making progress, it feels amazing. And I’m doing all I can to hear those words at every appointment. I can’t wait to get running again (as a spoiler alert to the marathon recap coming soon, there may have been a portion of the race at mile 19 run at a 7 minute mile and my legs are ITCHING to see what kind of speed I can develop with a stronger body), but I also know how important this process is. I can feel the stability muscles getting stronger. I can tell that there are ways my back is getting healthier. And I can’t wait to see how all of that translates into helping me become a better runner when I can start running again.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon
It’s hard to believe it was just a week ago that we were out walking the Walt Disney World Half Marathon! And with the cold temps that have moved into DC (just in time for Inauguration Weekend…), I am wishing I was back in the 80 F weather right now.
Friday morning, Matt and I caught a direct flight out of DCA on JetBlue (seriously love flying JetBlue and even better that we can get $100 flights) and made it into Orlando in time for lunch. We stayed at the DVC property Saratoga Springs, so we had previously arranged to take the Magical Express from the airport to our resort. I worried we’d have to wait a while because the bus lines were pretty crazy, but once we made our way through the roped off line for our resort, we were immediately boarded onto a bus and on our way. (And I have to say that this was seriously the fittest group of people I have EVER seen at Disney World!)
About half an hour later, the bus dropped us off at Saratoga Springs. We checked in, dropped our bags with the bell hop, paid for our groceries (because DVC rooms are villas, we had a full kitchen and we placed an order with We Go Shop to get breakfast, dinner, and snacks for the weekend), and grabbed lunch at the resort before heading to the Expo.
We only waited a few minutes before boarding the bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where the Expo was held. We first headed into the Field House to pick up bibs for our moms and us. This was actually a really quick process, and after testing the B-Tags, we were on our way out. The rest of the Expo, where bag and shirt pick-up and all of the vendors were located, however, was a bit of a mess. It was in the Josten’s building, and the line just to get inside was insane!
I’m not sure that this photo even does the line justice, but the line wound all the way around the complex to the point that when you left the Field House, you basically had to walk away from the Josten’s building to get to the end of the line. It moved pretty quickly, but it was crazy. And this line was just an indication of how crazy it would be inside!
After making it inside, we made a beeline for t-shirt pickup and then picked up a few items including a visor for Matt before heading out. Just moving through the aisles was ridiculously difficult…but Friday was definitely the busiest day of the Expo (all half marathon and Goofy participants had to pick up bibs by Friday, and there were several marathoners there as well, adding to the congestion).
We had one other errand we needed to run before returning to our resort (we finally got a Tables in Wonderland membership!) so we took the bus to the Contemporary, walked over to Magic Kingdom, made our purchase, and then took the bus back to Saratoga Springs. It was a little bit of a round-about adventure, but saving 20% on all of our meals was definitely worth it! Once back at our resort, we grabbed our bags and dropped everything off at our room right before Melodie arrived. About an hour or so later, my mom made it in, so we sat down to a dinner of ravioli and garlic bread before stretching and bed.
Getting to the race
The half marathon starts at 5:30 am, and all participants must be on a bus to the start line by 4 am. We figured we’d be ok by getting on a bus around 3:30 so we left the room a little before, stood in line to get on a bus, and almost immediately hit traffic on our way to the start. This is when my anxiety usually starts…I always freak out about making it to the start of a race on time. Bag check was supposed to close at 4:30, but it was already later than that by the time we actually got off the bus.
Fortunately we were able to make it through bag check quickly, made a quick bathroom break, and then began the ~1 mile trek to the corrals. There were so many people trying to get down the narrow pathway at once, we ended up doing a lot of start and stop, which was really difficult on my knee. Eventually we made our way through a narrow gate, which was the source of most of the congestion, and were finally able to pick up speed to get to the start. We were in corral G (out of H), so we had about an hour to wait before our corral started after the race officially began. Fortunately that gave us just enough time for one more bathroom break before making our way into the corral in time for us to start moving.
Eventually we made our way up to the start line, and with a burst of fireworks, we were off!
Walt Disney World Half Marathon
The course for the half marathon made its way up through the Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, back down behind the Speedway, looping in through Epcot for the final mile, and finishing in the Epcot parking lot.
Fortunately it was still dark out when we started, but it was also incredibly humid. It didn’t take long for the temperature to start rising as we made our way through the first miles. I had noticed during the second or third mile that my knee was starting to bother me a bit, so I put the ITB strap on and caught up with our group. I was worried for a while that the pain would increase from a 2 to a 3, at which point I had said I would drop out of the race. Tears kept springing to my eyes as I thought about not being able to finish the half with my mom and MIL (I had cried to Matt the day before with the same anxiety), but I kept telling myself I needed to be smart. I decided to see how my knee felt around the Transportation Center (I wasn’t really sure how I’d get back to the start of the race if I stopped walking before that), which was about mile 4, but my knee had loosened up before we reached it, and I kept going, happy my knee was feeling so well. (I think the start and stop of making our way to the start line had a big impact on my knee.)
By mile 5, we were just outside of the Magic Kingdom, and the sun was rising. The course was the same one we ran for the Princess Half Marathon in 2011, and I was excited for my group to experience the back lots of Magic Kingdom the way I had two years earlier. Coming in on Main Street, there is so much excitement in the park! Most of the course for Disney races takes you out on roads that connect the parks, and there aren’t many opportunities for spectators (though Disney does try to have characters and other entertainment for you along the way, which is much appreciated), but once you get into the parks, the crowds of spectators and sites all around you create an incredible energy!
After looping through Tomorrowland, we walked through Cinderella’s Castle, and of course took a minute to pose for the best photo of the race!
We took off for Frontierland and headed out of the back side entrance behind the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts. This stretch is one of the toughest parts because the course is incredibly narrow (we could barely fit 2 across with all of the people around us), and it’s where we really started to feel the sun. Without a doubt, miles 7-12 were the toughest of the race. There were long, uninterrupted stretches of freeway with direct sunlight as the sun climbed higher and higher into the sky. We eventually passed behind the speedway and reached the point where the Cliff Shots were supposed to be handed out…but they had run out and were packing up the tables. While I’m not a fan of Cliff Shots (I like the blocks a lot better), I think it was really discouraging to my mom to see that. With 2 artificial knees, she walks every race she enters, and she always worries about making the time cutoffs. Seeing that they were packing up the tables didn’t really help with that because I could tell she got anxious right away again.
By mile 10, we were starting the turn towards Epcot by taking a big on-ramp turn to an overpass. The road was tilted (which was really tough for both my mom and me) and I could feel the sun and course taking a toll on my mom. A huge blister was forming on the bottom of my toe, and I kept trying to drown the pain by encouraging my mom. When we made it to the top of the overpass, I could see the sweeper vehicles just starting to make their way up, and I got nervous. Once the road flattened out, I gave her some food for some energy and made her take some Powerade and water. It all helped a lot and she was able to pick up the pace again towards the end of mile 11.
Around this point there’s a short out and back before you make your way over the last overpass into Epcot, and my mom began to share my hatred of out and backs in that moment. We eventually made our way over the final bridge (and when I couldn’t see the sweeper vehicles yet, I was breathing a little easier) and into the shaded areas of the park.
The entrance into Epcot is through the side employee entrance, and it was a lot of fun to see the Epcot ball from that view. My mom had told me she’d finally feel like she was going to finish once we passed mile 12, and as we entered the park, I fought back tears to tell her, “The last mile is going to be your victory lap. Soak up every moment of this mile and appreciate every face cheering you on. In less than 15 minutes, you will never be able to say you aren’t a half marathoner again.”
To describe the pride I felt watching my mom, a woman who 1.5 years ago was relearning how to walk on new knees, as she walked the final mile is impossible. Both my mom and MIL had doubted themselves before the race, and watching them realize their potential was absolutely incredible!
We reached the turn around to head back out of the park, and I think we all felt elation. It was hot, we were all sweaty, and more than anything, we were all ready to earn our Donald medals! We hit mile 13 and the church choir (which is a very welcome sight) and had just .1 miles to go! I told my mom to soak it all in and I could see tears welling up in her eyes as we crossed the finish line in 3:38:18.
After the race
After crossing the finish line and receiving our medals, my mom and I darted for the medical tent to get ice wrapped on our knees. I was incredibly grateful both days that they had the medic tent so well set up to do this!
Knees attended to, the celebration began!
We picked up our food boxes and made our way to bag pick-up. But before we could get on the bus to go grab lunch, Matt and I had a little surprise to welcome our moms to the half marathon club .
We surprised them with their very own Disney World 13.1 car magnets and Minnie-polka dotted 13.1 Sweaty Bands!
After a delicious lunch at Kona Cafe, full of carbs and protein, the recovery process began for round 2 the next morning!
Your Turn: Have you ever run the Disney World Half Marathon? What are your favorite aspects of racing? Have you ever dressed up for a race before?