Thursday we headed off the airplane and it was the first time on a plane for the kids. I was nervous for them but they were excited and LOVED the take off. Descending was not as fun for my little one but it quickly passed as they realized we were in Florida!
Walking up to the Castle for the first time
Driving the race car with Poppa...(notice Poppa almost having a heart attack with a three year old girl at the wheel.)
Jedi in training vrs Darth Vader (my son's highest point of the trip - absolutely)
So much to see at once...
We arrived on Thursday and left on Tuesday. I went into this event with the full intention of completing a marathon, raising lots of money for the Joints in Motion and having a fantastic family vacation. I had no expectations of the marathon and although I had some hopes for a finish time, I was not prepared to sacrifice my other goals to do it. We'll get to that later...
Friday was the run expo and the reception where I spoke to the team. I was happy with my speech and I think it came off ok?? I have no pictures of it but I understand the chairperson of the team took quite a few so I am sure I will get some sent to me. It was more emotional than I had thought it would be and at the end when everyone stood up and was clapping - I had myself a short but thorough breakdown. This whole experience has been pretty overwhelming so it was worth a few minutes of weepy! After a few moments all was well and we headed off to dinner and to the expo!
First let me say that Disney's Wide World of Sports was pretty cool. The expo was very spread out so you got your number and chip at one spot, walk, walk, walk, climb stairs, out door, across path, walk, walk, walk and head into place where you get your t-shirt and kit, walk around and into expo. At bit confusing but there were no lines despite the thousands of people. Having the expo over several days probably helped. Bear in mind, I have little to compare it to so my standards are low. However, I didn't get much time to wander around the expo because I had my whole family with me but I did manage to get a cool sweater to commemorate the event. The T-shirts were also really nice - and long sleeved.
The next day was Saturday when they were having the 1/2 marathon. This is where things start to get a little different then I would normally do (and probably most of you would do). I had a lot of debate about how to handle the days coming into the marathon. The brain in my head said I should lay low and perhaps hang around the pool for the day. My husband and parents agreed to take the kids into a park so I can cool out. I had already decided that this was not going to happen. I did not come all this way with my family (for my daughter) just to let them have all the fun and miss out of the faces of little kids in the happiest place ever! The day before I had stayed at the Animal Kingdom for only 1/2 the day because I had to head out to my reception and expo so I didn't want to miss anymore. So...I went to the park with kids and we had a FANTASTIC time for our second day in the parks. We didn't stay late but we had a fun day none the less. I did everything possible to stay off my feet as much as I could and my husband did all the chasing around and getting of things. Thankfully, the lines were short or non-existent so this was not a concern. We were back at the hotel by 4pm and had a quiet evening.
Sunday morning we had to be up by 2:45 for the bus to pick us up around 3:15 (yes, that is AM). Of course I was up at 1:30 with nerves and concern for the alarm waking up my children. (Lesson 2 on the things I will do differently next time is not to stay in a room with my husband and children the night before. Again however, I wouldn't have changed it this time). On the bus and the nerves are really setting in now. There were so many people at the start line and it seemed so crazy that all these people were up so early! The line ups for the port potty's were not too bad but after already having thousands of people through them the day before for the 1/2 marathon - they were NASTY. Really nasty.
We got into our corral and waited and waited...I was nervous but not too bad. The start was fantastic with lots of TV screens and speakers so everyone could see and hear what was happening. The fireworks went off and off we went! When I say off we went, I mean that we started our slow crawl toward the start line and waited at least 15 minutes before we could start running.
Lesson Three in my first marathon - how to maneuver around crowds during a race. This is where more race experience would have come in handy. Thankfully, I had a very experienced team mate who helped me out with this. It was easy to get trapped in a corner or forced back to accommodate others. The first 3 or 4 miles was through Epcot and the space was a bit tight! In this race, the first few corrals started at a different location and then we all merged together at mile 4. It was really cool to look around - especially since the park was closed but there were lots of employees and of course characters to greet us!
After exiting Epcot, we began the first of three long stretches of highway. I was feeling really great and keeping up a solid 4:50 - 5 hour pace. Lots of people stopped to get pictures taken with characters but the lines were long and I was not about to give up any more time. Of course I had to pee and I managed to sneak into a men's washroom before we exited Epcot. I noticed that a lot of people (not just men) dropped their drawers wherever it seemed natural and did what they had to do! This also applied to the BioFreeze and the Vaseline (let's just say I saw my fair share of things that will stick in my head a bit too much if you know what I mean).
The stretches outside of the parks where on closed highways which were OK first thing in the AM. The temp was still cool and energy was high enough for it not to be a problem. Heading into the Magic Kingdom at Mile 10 was AWESOME! There were tons of people (even though the park wasn't open yet). I had told my family not to try and find me during the race because it would have been hard to cart around the kids but then I sort of regretted it when I saw so many people cheering on their friends and family. However, lots of people shouted out my name and people from the Joints in Motion team were great about being out on the course with a large t-shirt on a stick so they could be found. I ran through the castle - THE castle! It was fantastic. Lesson Number 4 - learn where the photographers are likely to be so that you get a great shot. I was nearly tossed into the moat (if there was one) with people trying to get their picture done by the several photographers on the other side of the castle. By the way, all the race pictures aren't available until Friday so we have to wait - that is a bummer.
We left the Magic Kingdom and got back on a highway headed to the Animal Kingdom. Again, we saw some great characters and passed lots of cool cheer teams. We headed into Animal Kingdom at around Mile 16 and at this point, I was starting to hurt. This was the first time (among many) that I started to have doubts about finishing. I was really hurting and it was getting hot and about 3 hours had nearly passed. Up to this point, I had kept myself entertained chatting with others around me and reading the many, many great shirts and signs people were wearing or holding. I was totally enjoying the creative costumes and the number of people who wore tiaras, funny hats, fairy wings.. My favourite shirt that I saw said "This is my first marathon. If you can read this, you aren't going to finish either!". I thought that was great. I saw that girl near the end and gave her nice boost for finishing! Going through the Animal Kingdom I got a bit of boost because I love it there and I saw a wedding proposal! It was really cute and there was lots of cheering for them. As we came of this park and headed out the highway again - the worst part of the entire race.
Miles 18-22 were hands down the worst part of the race. At this point, it was very hot, I was sore and exhausted. There was nothing to look at but asphalt and I was tired of reading people's shirts and signs. There were fewer spectators and I had already released my teammate from my slow pace and let her carry forward. I wanted to quit very badly and if I could have found a way to do it with some dignity I would have. Then I came across a woman who was feeling much the same way. She let me use her cell phone to call my family and then her and I ran together for next several miles. I picked up the pace as did she and we got a bit of second wind as we approached mile 22 coming in Hollywood Studios park. This was fun because we went through the centre and the parks were open and busy now. Power Rangers jumped out at us and I think this is where we saw Captain Jack Sparrow?? I can't remember now.
Outside of this park we went past a fancy resort between Mile 24 and 25. I was feeling better and now I knew I was going to finish it. At this point, a sub 5 hour was out of the question and I found myself struggling to get a sub 6 hour! I had myself a brief moment of contempt for my lost time earlier on and tried picking it up to make sure I didn't go over 6 hours. As I came into Epcot I was REALLY hurting and when I saw the sign for mile 25 and fell apart. The whole experience was catching up with me and fact that I was just over a mile away from the end had me totally overwhelmed. I kept thinking, the end of around the corner, around the corner and where is my family??? Finally I saw them just as I came up to the Mile 26 marker.
From what I understand, one of the Joints in Motion people took pictures of me when I ran up to my family to give them hugs. I was a total wreck but this point so I am sure those are really pretty. :( I am sure she will send them along and I will include them a second post called the "the Good, the Bad and Ugly". :)