Thursday, March 13, 2014

Walt Disney World Marathon 2014- A race recap 2 months in the making. :)

I am extremely lucky.

Some people have "Bucket Lists" of things they want to accomplish. I have two Bucket Lists- a regular life one and running one. They are both relatively short lists, but they continue to grow as I am able to cross things off and strive for more adventures. After crossing off Run a marathon and Run on a Hood to Coast team in the last 3-4 years, I have added Participate in a Ragnar Relay, Run Hood to Coast on a Nuun Hydration Team, and complete a RunDisney event. I was able to add a RunDisney event to the DONE column in January! Thanks to the support of my husband and my Running Friend, Holly, being willing to join me, I completed the Walt Disney Marathon on January 12, 2014. I had hoped to write a race recap much sooner, but I will do my best to recall the highlights from the incredible weekend!

Holly is a teacher and limited on how much time she would be able to take off for the marathon weekend. She was able to take off Friday and Monday, so we flew out early Friday morning for Florida. With the time change of 3 hours and the 3,000+ miles between Portland, OR and Orlando, travel east is an all day ordeal. We had a stop in Houston and arrived around 7pm that evening- too late to attend the Expo on Friday to pick up our bib  and race swag. We had a chance to check-in at the hotel and grab dinner in Downtown Disney (pasta of course!) and try to get to bed at a decent time. Our body clock's were 3 hours earlier, so this was tough! We woke up Saturday morning (with the help of an alarm), had breakfast in our room (bagels and peanut butter we packed in our suitcase), and hopped on one of the first shuttles to the Expo. As we waited for the shuttle, we witnessed many people returning from just running the Half Marathon which had taken place at 5:30am. They all looked a little stiff and sore from the run and then sitting for the ride back to the hotel. We knew that would be us the next day, too!

The Expo, located at the Wide World of Sports Complex, was well organized and relatively quiet. Most of the weekend participants had to have picked up their packets prior to Saturday morning if they had run the 5k, 10k, 1/2 Marathon, or completing the Goofy Challenge (the 1/2 and Full Marathons back to back) and the Dopey Challenge (all 4 events back to back in 4 days). I'm sure the Expo was PACKED the previous 4 days. Luckily we picked up our packets without issue, Holly was able to change the size of her finisher shirt easily, and there were plenty of runDisney race merchandise still available (something I was a little worried about considering we were attending on the last day). I was able to get a wine glass, shirt, runDisney lanyard, and pin for my collection. I was proud of myself for staying in budget and not going too crazy buying stuff I don't need... and yes, my husband would argue that I didn't need the wine glass, lanyard, and pin either. :)

After the Expo we went back to the hotel to drop off our stuff and made our way to Magic Kingdom for a few hours of exploring. We wanted to ride a few rides (Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at least) but not overdo it by walking around too much. We had an early morning and long day ahead of us on Sunday. We were done at the park and back at the hotel by around 6:30pm.

We were able to enjoy another great pasta dinner (a Marathon Special that the hotel was offering), take some melatonin, and get to sleep at a decent time. Although it doesn't seem to matter how early you go to bed- an alarm set for 2:30am is nuts no matter what! Holly and I are similar in wanting to be as prepared as possible beforehand and not wanting to feel rushed on race day, so we worked out well as destination race partners! We were blurry-eyed on the shuttle, but enjoyed another bagel and peanut butter breakfast in the room, I had my Spark, and the hotel restaurant opened early for the race and Holly got her coffee. Everyone was happy!

After getting off the shuttle there was a bit of a walk to the bag check area, but it was all very organized again. We used the port-a-potties just on the other side of the bag check area, and then began the long trek to the corrals. Holly and I were in different corrals, so we said our Good Lucks! and goodbyes. There was still quite a bit of time until the first corral would go off at 5:30am, so I hung out towards the back and used the potty once more. Somehow I was placed in the very last Corral- P. What?? I know I'm sort of slow, but I'm not THAT slow! Some people in the corral around me were talking about a possible glitch with the time verification and also that if you didn't have a qualifying full marathon time from within the last year you were placed in a last corral. I didn't have a full time, but my half marathon time of 2:12 shouldn't have warranted a last corral start... anyhow, I started nearly dead last.

The first wave we off at 5:30am sharp with a countdown by Mickey Mouse himself and big fireworks. They did a countdown and fireworks for every single corral, with means we watched 17 other countdowns before our own. (Wheelchairs, elites, and corrals A-O). I crossed the starting line around 6:40am... over an hour after the first group and with only about 150 people behind me. There were over 19,000 runners who completed the marathon, so the fact that I started at the back of almost all 19,000 of them is pretty crazy to me!! It also means that I passed almost every runner that crossed the finish line after me at some point. Yikes! Sort of makes up for the slow time I ran it in. :)

Now is where I finally get to the actual race recap part... I tend to be long winded, sorry! And thanks for sticking with me!

I enjoyed so much about the race- the atmosphere, the frequent medical and water stations, the route through all 4 parks, the characters along the way, etc. What I didn't like was starting the back and dealing with all of the walkers and run/walkers I encountered. I find value in the finishing a marathon by incorporating walking, but the course was extremely narrow and the field of so many runners was so big that I spent WAY too much time trying to steer clear of walkers and those who would stop abruptly to begin their walk portion of the Galloway method. Even when they would put up an arm to indicate they were stopping, there was very little time or room to get out of the way before they just stopped in the middle of the pack. I nearly ran into SO many people because of this and started out MUCH slower than I wanted to as a result. It's nothing I can control now, but I had very colorful commentary running through my head about the hundreds of walkers I passed for the first 7 miles or so. It thinned out after that, but I was already running SO much slower than I should have been it was tough mentally to get back on track.

Hands down my favorite part of the race as running down Main Street in Magic Kingdom and through Cinderella's Castle. I stopped and took a few selfies and asked a spectator to take my picture, but I regret not stopping to have my picture taken in front of the castle. Oh well. I have the memories! After running through Magic Kingdom, we ran along the Raceway, which is where I had to stop for my first potty break. I got right back on track (pun intended) after the potty break and ran along access roads to the Animal Kingdom. This is when I really hit my stride and felt really strong for the next several miles. I found my marathon "Happy Pace" (somewhere around 10:50/mile, and I finally put in my headphones for a music boost just as I left Animal Kingdom- right at about the 13 mile point.

I spent the next 5 miles in marathon bliss. No crowds, happy pace, music... and then almost exactly 18 miles in, I began to cramp up SO horribly that I doubted whether or not I would be able to finish at all. It started on the inside of my right leg above my knee and spread from there to my other leg off and on, both my calves, and into my feet at one point. I felt like I was hydrating and such pretty well, so I'm not sure what happened. Whatever it was, it was miserable and my per mile time dropped drastically to about 12:30 min miles for the last 8 of the race. At least I was able to stay consistently slow, right?? As the cramping flared up, I decided to turn on my Nike+ feature on the phone so family and friends could cheer me on via Facebook through the APP. I NEEDED and greatly appreciated the extra boost from those cheesy little cheers in my ears!

The Walt Disney Marathon is unique in that it's the only runDisney event that runs through all four Disney World parks... something I thought was SO cool. Until I was too miserable the last 4 miles to really enjoy running through Hollywood Studios and along the World Showcase in Epcot. I HAD to stop and use the bathroom again at mile 22, just before entering Hollywood Studios. The line was long, one of two port-a-potties was so disgusting that it was for standing pee'ers only, the other one was out of toilet paper (we used paper towels from the hand washing station), the stop took almost 6 minutes.... and I was cramping even worse when I tried too start running again. It took every ounce of my being and every motivational song on my playlist to get me through. I remember all the cheers along the Main Street in Hollywood Studios, the boardwalk to Epcot, and along the World Showcase, but I'm sure I looked as beaten down and miserable as I felt. SO not how I wanted to end my 3rd marathon and first runDisney event! I was so overwhelmed and proud of myself for sticking with it that I was crying almost as soon as I crossed the finish line. I must've looked pretty pathetic because a volunteered offered me a hug- and I gladly took it! I feel bad for her and how horrible I must've smelled! The medal around my neck, getting a finishers picture, collecting my water, Powerade, and food is pretty much a blur. I was also feeling bad for how long Holly had to wait for me at the finish since she started 4 corrals ahead of me AND she's faster! :)

Overall, I finished slower and less strong than I was hoping for- but, I FINISHED! Woo hoo!! My "official" time was 5:20: and I can be nothing but happy about it. I'm still on the fence about a 4th marathon! Maybe I'm meant to stick to half marathons.

After meeting up with Holly, we caught the shuttle back to the hotel, showered changed, and made our way to Hollywood Studios in search of food and BEER!! We found both, rode Star Tours a couple of times, and then decided to head over to Epcot to end our day. More beer in England and a little walk around the World Showcase and we were ready to call it a day. Whew!

Holly flew home the next day, and I stayed an extra day to enjoy the parks. Considering Rick and I just took the kids to Disney World last summer, I think it will be quite a while until we go back again. The bonus day was just enough of a Disney World fix to get through the next few years!

Thanks for sticking with me and my marathon recap! Look for my Heartbreaker Half Marathon recap coming soon... and by soon, I mean hopefully in the next couple of months. :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

First Day of School: 2013

 Our kids are getting too big, too soon! We officially have a 2nd grader (Riley), a 1st grader (Tyson), and a second year pre-schooler (Cooper), and I couldn't be more proud of them! Fortunately, they are all still in the "I love school" phase.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Mother of All Vacations

30 days,
28 states,
8,184 miles,
over 4,000 photos and video clips,
and more memories than we can count!

From June 15 to July 14th, our family went on the road trip of a lifetime. Many of our friends and family followed our journey on Instagram and Facebook, but I wanted to make sure and document it on our blog as well... even if it is 2 months late! (If you're on Instagram and missed our trip, you can look up all the photos I posted on there under #thamesfamroadtrip2013)

First stop was a visit to the Tri-Cities to see family and do a little swimming.

Setting off on our big adventure

We made a quick stop in downtown Spokane for Zips (yum!) and to let the kids stretch their legs. It was a beautiful day on the river.

 Our next big stop was simply amazing... a Bucket List item for sure!

 After Mt. Rushmore we stopped at a Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells. The kids had a blast!

Next stop: Chicago! Complete with authentic Chicago pizza, a room with a view, the Navy Pier, and a great run along Lake Michigan.

We couldn't drive to New York without visiting Niagara Falls... simply breathtaking! One of the highlights of a trip FILLED with amazing experiences. We got soaked on the Maid of the Mist and took a ton of pictures.

Our ultimate goal in this whole road trip was to get to Paradox Lake in the Adirondacks. A full week of relaxation with some great friends and an incredible view. Lots of swimming, games, fishing, naps, and laughter.

After New York we made our way south to Washington D.C., Williamsburg, and Jamestown. It was hot, humid, and we got rained on A LOT... but, we had fun seeing some historic landmarks. I even got a chance to run around D.C. early one morning before the kids woke up.
 (Soaked after getting caught in a downpour walking to the White House. We took a detour to the American History Museum.)

Williamsburg and Jamestown

Last major stop on our tour of the United States... DISNEY WORLD! What?!? So much fun!

We stopped by Daytona Beach on our way to Orlando.
 We parked the van right on the beach- how fun!

 Disney World!!
 Getting wet on Splash Mountain.

Our trip home was scenic. We enjoyed the trip, but we were also very happy to see the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and our house! 

 Mother Nature gave us quite a show with thunderstorms on our drive.
 More hotel swimming... the kids became quite the confident swimmers throughout our trip!
 The kids and I even got stuck in an elevator when the power went out at the hotel. It wasn't for very long, but it was still scary! (And dark... that light was from the camera flash.)
 The Snake River at Twin Falls.

I know this was a picture heavy update, but that is just a fraction of the photos we took in those 30 days! I can't even think about trying to put together a photo book (or 5!) of our adventure. Give me another couple of months. :)