Saturday morning I woke up around 7:30a and immediately started drinking water. For breakfast I made myself two eggs scrambled, a piece of bacon and a sweet potato. I also had a protein pancake since I had some batter left from the pancakes I was making for my Peanut Butter pancake sandwich I would have the next morning.
Kim picked me up around 10a and off to Orlando we went. We stopped at Starbucks along the way for some coffee and arrived at the ESPN World Wide Sports complex around noon. This year they changed the set up of bib pick up. Normally you’d pick up your bib in the HP exhibition hall but this year they downsized the expo and put the bib pick up along the back wall of the expo hall, located just across the courtyard. The reason for this was because due to the fact that it was the 25th Anniversary so all the Disney merchandise and commemorative items had its own exhibition hall.
After Kim and I picked up our bibs and shirts we met up with Nicole and Becky. We took some time to walk around the expo. Kim and I both wanted to stop by the SPI Belt table to pick up separate pouch attachments to hold all of our fuel, chapstick and phone. From there we headed over to Fit2Run so Nicole could buy some nutrition and I wanted to say hi to my BRF Montana who was working the expo. Right next to her register they had the kiosk of the Goodr sunglasses, with my Fit2Run discount I just had to pick up a pair!!
Once we were finished at the expo we walked over to the Disney merchandise hall. We each wanted to pick up an “I Did It” shirt and scope out all the other gear and apparel. In addition to the shirt, I purchased a new visor! I was hoping to get a 26.2 magnet for me car but all they had was the 13.1. Oh well, I know what’s on my shopping list next time I go to Fit2Run!
Afterwards we headed over to Panera to get some lunch. I ordered the Steak and Arugula sandwich with the French baguette on the side. After lunch we headed over to the hotel to check in and get our stuff ready for the morning. For dinner that evening we went to Texas Roadhouse. I opted for a basic grilled chicken breast with no marinate with a side of green beans and a plain sweet potato.
The next morning came all too quickly. The only downside to Disney races isn’t the super early start time but ideally how early you have to be there. They would like to have participants in their corrals 30 minutes to start but before all that you have to work, walk over to the Runner area (wait through bag check first, if you have one) plus wait in line for use of a port-a-pottie. Thankfully Disney always has plenty of those so the line is only a few minutes, from there you have probably a good 10-15 minute walk to the start chute.
We were in our corral just before 5:30am and then Corral A was off. It was just about 6am by the time we reached the start line. I must admit the jitters really hadn’t hit me yet, but I did get a little emotional and teary eyed thinking about the 16 weeks all came down to the 26.2 miles that lie ahead of me…then we were off.
Immediate upon taking off from the start line you are greeted by a big sign that says “Run 26.2 miles, Gain 9.4 ounces” with a picture of the medal. I definitely let that fuel my motivation to get through this run.
Just after mile 1 we peeled off the course to start removing our “throw away” layers. I rid myself of my outer pants but kept the gloves and my sweatshirt just in case I needed should we need to walk. The first two miles the path was rather narrow and I definitely bumped elbows with several other runners. Right around the mile 2 marker we passed a runner who was down and seeking medical help, my heart hurt for her. This part of the course was leading up to the big Magic Kingdom sign where you pay for parking. This road has had some serious construction going on and I think Disney failed to put out more lighting along that stretch of the route as the roadway was very unsteady.
As we neared the sign I snapped a quick photo of it to send to Montana to let her know how far out I was. She was inside Magic Kingdom, spectating the race. Mile 3 and 4 went by rather quickly. By mile 5 we were at the entrance to Magic Kingdom and excitement started to build again. There’s nothing like coming through the entrance and seeing hundreds of spectators along Main Street cheering you on. As we neared the castle Kim and I kept our eyes open for Montana and thankfully we were able to find her in sea of people. We stopped over in Tomorrowland so Kim could use the bathroom (real bathrooms!) while Nicole and I peeled off some of our top layers.
Running through Magic Kingdom itself was about a full mile and then the excitement died down as we neared the part of the course I was least looking forward to, the distance from Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom. This is a good solid 6 miles of back roads. To add to it as we left Magic Kingdom, I start having some pain in the ball to my big toe in my right foot…what the heck? Never experienced that before, but looking back I attribute it to the unsteadiness of the route in the first few miles. The surface of the roads being uneven, to running through gravel and grass, etc. We pulled off around mile 6 so I could stop and stretch my foot which thankfully helped.
As we picked back up on the course we all tried to remain positive and find humor to get us through this long stretch of the course. Around mile 12 we peeled off so Kim could get some Biofreeze, my knee was holding up pretty good so I opted not to take any. It was here that the volunteers started handing out bananas. Though I never actually trained with a banana while running, I took one just to take a bite out of so I had something “real” to chew on.
Animal Kingdom was about a mile and a half (mile 12 1/2 to mile 14) of the course. The park had just opened to the public so the sea of spectators started to build. Since the park had also just officially opened this meant that the rides were open. If you didn’t know this, when you run a Disney race as long as the park is open and you have allotted yourself enough time to finish the race, you can jump off course and go hop on a ride and that is exactly what several runners did as we approached Expedition Everest. As for us, we did not want to chance that.
Between miles 15 and 16 we pulled over to the side for a quick stretch, then as we neared mile 16 which was up a big overpass I told the girls I wanted to walk up to take it easy on the knee. Running down the decline was no problem but once we hit 17 Kim had to peel off the course again to stretch her calf. She battle this same issue at the same mile when she ran the race last year. She said she felt like she was going to tear something so I told her I would walk with her. I didn’t care about my finish time, all I wanted to do was tackle the distance. As we worked through mile 18 Nicole had Kim try some smaller strides which helped her. It was a bit of a challenge for me to slow my pace and my stride to stay with them and it actually kind hurt at first but I finally fell into the rhythm within a quarter mile.
Just feet after mile 18 out of no where my stomach cramped up to the point it hurt to run and even walk. Thankfully we were approaching real bathrooms inside the ESPN World Wide of Sports so I could try to take care of some business but the line was several ladies deep and I felt bad making Kim and Nicole wait but they were patient with me. Soon enough we were back on our way, Kim had mentioned that last year ESPN was her least favorite area of the course while Nicole said it was her favorite so I had mixed emotions going into it, but it was actually kind of fun. We got to run on a track and through a baseball field and we must have passed three or four high school bands playing so the emery level was high.
We did stop again at the medic tent between miles 19 and 20 so both Kim and I could get some Biofreeze, yep I was starting to feel it in the knee. Though I made it to 19 which is pretty dang good considering the pain flared up anywhere between miles 13-17 during my training. I told the girls I would run/walk until mile 20 but then I would move forward with just 100% walking. I wanted to keep the knee in the shape possible so I could give mile all upon mile 26 to the finish. Nicole was also starting to feel some pain in her knee but only when we were walking. At about mile 20 1/2 she carried on ahead of us.
As we were leaving ESPN we saw the balloon ladies entering, which means we had about a 3 mile buffer and with 5 1/2 miles left we were in good shape. For those that are asking, who the heck at the balloon ladies? They are a group of ladies, three I believe, and they start after the very last person crossed the finish line. They each carry a big balloon in the shape of Mickey Mouse and they maintain a 16:00/mile pace. If you fall behind them you get swept off the course and you don’t finish…yeah no added pressure or anything…
Any who we were feeling really good about our buffer window. Mile 21 and 22 weren’t too exciting, and at this point by mile 22 I hit my longest distance yet! Just before mile 23, the entrance to Hollywood Studios, my stomach cramped up yet again. I was not happy, I had never had an issue like this before and I used the same fuel strategy like I did on my training runs. The only think I could attribute it too was the bite I took of a banana at two separate stops, or the main factor I believe is Powerade. I did not train with any electrolytes during my training, I always had just water. With Powerade having fair amounts of sugar content combined with the sugar in my Stinger Waffles and Cliff Shot Gels I think my stomach was revolting against me.
After making a quick pit stop I tried to keep the energy up but as near mile 24 I was feeling the aches and pains all over the place and I just was ready to be done with this race. Kim did an awesome job of trying to keep the spirits up but trying to engage me in a conversation by asking me the cheesy Disney jokes posted along this stretch of the course. Unfortunately I wasn’t being to social, as I had mentally checked out, but she was patient about it.
The park that felt like took an eternity to get through was EPCOT because of course that’s where the finish is. The mile 25 marker was all done up and was represented by the race being the 25th anniversary which was cool. At this point in the race runners were peeling off to get a beer since we were passing all the different countries. With the sight of Spaceship Earth ahead of me I knew the finish line was not much farther. Once we rounded the corner to the mile 26 marker a big smile was plaster on my face, ‘this is it, this is really happening, I am .2 away from becoming a marathoner!’ The only true photo I wanted along this course was the mile 26 marker and I got it!
After a quick photo we set out for the finish line, Kim asked if I was ready to run and I told her not yet. The energy was slowly picking back up but everything below my lower back was in pain. Then we rounded one more corner and there was the crowd of spectator and just beyond them the finish line. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in and I fought with every last bit of energy I had, Kim’s calf started tightening up on her so she fell back but yelled at me to keep going. I could also hear another voice in the crowd screaming “Go Krystal Go” and I knew subconsciously it was Montana but my legs were moving too quickly for my brain to catch up with them.
I had so many emotions going through my head and then I crossed the finish line where immediately I turned around to wait for Kim and busted into tears. I did it! I am officially a marathoner!! After Kim crossed the finished we collected our medals and headed over to the runner recovery area for hydration and collected our fuel boxes before heading over to the reunion area to look Becky and wait for Montana.
After getting some photos we took the “cool down” walk over to the car and bee lined it for Olive Garden for some grub. After burning over 4500 calories I was entitled to the biggest cheat meal…a nice, warm bowl of Chicken Gnocchi soup, a big bowl of Chicken Alfredo with 2.5 bread sticks – yum! After lunch Kim and I made the drive back home and that night I had the best 11 hours of sleep in my bed!
Training and running this marathon taught me even more about myself and what I am capable of including my limit of distance running. I am happy that I took on this challenge, and am glad that I made the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon my first and only full marathon. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family and friends. I also had the best training partners holding me accountable and made my race experience a memorable one!
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