Monday, November 14, 2016

Running on Empty (I finished Lumiere's Challenge!)

"Go all the way with it. Don't back off. For once, go all the goddam way with what matters."
--- Ernest Hemingway

Well, I did it. The race that I've been blogging about for seemingly forever is now done, and I finished it. And someday, I shall write about it in a way that will be enjoyable to read. Today is not that day. Today I write to express my frustration and whine about still existent pain. And while I'm immensely proud that I finished this race, I'm so sad about how it all turned out.

For those of you in the dark about what I'm talking about, the race I completed last week was called Lumiere's Challenge - a runDisney challenge race which requires participants to complete a 10K and a half marathon in the same weekend (Saturday for the 10K; Sunday for the half). When I signed up for this race in the spring, I thought it was a totally doable challenge. I had run one official half marathon, and completed two other half marathon distances for fun. I had several 5K and 10K races under my belt, and I still had 7 months to train. But things don't always go as I hope and plan for them to go... Training runs get missed; work pressures trump personal goals and personal matters trump everything in-between. Alas, I really gave my training 110% in the last three months, and felt confident about my races for the weeks leading up to race time.

Exactly a week before my race, I got sick. I kept trying to talk myself out of it (ha ha ha) but I was genuinely sick. I couldn't swallow, had difficulty breathing, and couldn't muster up the strength to run more than 3 miles. I had planned that week as a taper week so it really shouldn't have been the end of the world. In typical Becky fashion, however, I let my mind get the better of me and landed in Florida with none of the confidence that I left with in California. I was scared.

My final training run on Thursday went ok - it was hot and muggy in Bonita Springs, but my pacing was on-target. I felt good after my run, and my illness had completely left me. Still, I felt uneasy as I went out for my 10K on Saturday... smart enough to know not to push it, but fearful of going too easy. While my nerves made the first three miles a challenge, miles 4-6 were a breeze. I was perfectly on pace, took my time taking pictures with other runners and the scenery in Epcot, and even ran into a friend I made via Instagram around mile 5. I finished the race feeling pretty good, and a little less fearful of the half that was to follow. 

And then came race day...

Nothing seemed to go right leading up to my half marathon. I didn't sleep well at all the night before, slept in later than I liked the morning of, and hopped on a bus that went the totally wrong way to the starting line. I didn't take the time to eat or drink anything before jumping into my corral, and started off faster than I should have after the gun at the starting line. While the first mile went ok, the next mile was a struggle, and my nerves got the better of me and I had to stop to dry heave on the side of the road by mile 3. Once I collected myself, I felt better... and I finally found my groove around mile 4. Miles 4 and 5 went through Animal Kingdom - a beautiful park with more entertainment than I had seen all day. I felt confident as I waded through the crowd here, even passing the people I had been using as pacers up to that point. I grabbed water at the water stop, and I felt really good...


I'm not sure what happened. I may have tripped on the curb, but a fellow runner said it looked like I fainted. Regardless, I fell. AND I FELL HARD. When I finally snapped out of the haze I was in from falling, I discovered I had a shattered iPhone screen, a badly scraped and bruised left hand, a very swollen and badly bleeding right thumb, two skinned knees, ripped pants, a torn shirt, and a very sore foot. A fellow runner helped pick me up and tried his best to clean me up and keep me away from the crowd. I'm embarrassed to say I was hysterical. I really hope I said thank you (I'm pretty sure I did?), but I just wanted to crawl into that gutter and cry. He helped me for nearly a mile until we reached the medical tent where the volunteers were encouraging me to stop my race. This was near mile 7, meaning I was nearly 1/2 way through with the race. I thanked them but begged to continue... "Just let me see what I can do." 

The next three miles were a combination of ugly crying and limping. Those poor volunteers... every single one of them cringed as I approached for water or Powerade. I don't blame them. I looked more like a zombie from The Walking Dead than like the colorful, bubbly characters typically found in a runDisney race. The next medical tent was at mile 10. The bandages on both of my hands had fallen off by this point, blood smeared into my shirt as I held my thumb against it. I limped into that medical tent and asked if they could wrap my hands instead of slapping a bandaid on, and they complied. Again, they asked if I wanted a medical escort (they were concerned that my thumb was broken and I may have fractured my foot), but I again asked to continue. "I'll hate myself if I stop now."

Shortly after this point, we headed up a cloverleaf leading us on to the final stretch into Epcot. This cloverleaf is highly feared by runDisney regulars for some reason... I only found the banking to be challenging since my foot was hurt, but the elevation wasn't bad at all. As I crossed the road I had just passed, several people around me pointed out that the "balloon ladies" weren't far behind (these are the official race pacers, and are assumed to be the last people in every race before the sweep). There were about 30 people that I could see behind the balloon ladies, but I knew the buses were close by. As soon as I acknowledged that thought in my head, the buses and a police car pulled forward, collecting everyone blocked behind. It was so emotional watching this. Despite my good start and better corral, my injuries had me very close to being in those people's position. Sure, they'd still get their medal... but those in a challenge like me wouldn't get their challenge medal(s), and to be so close and not get to finish would have been heartbreaking!

I silently wept but picked up the pace after witnessing this. A much older lady encouraged me to run down the ramp with her, so I did. It hurt like hell, but I did. My foot was killing me, and I was starting to chaff where my pants and shirt had ripped. We went over one more small overpass before Epcot, and again this lady encouraged me to run down with her. I power walked through Epcot in tears. I couldn't believe I was actually going to finish this half marathon! I came around the last corner just before the finish line and was greeted by a joyous gospel choir. Something about seeing them glow in their warm yellow gowns and hearing them sing songs of praise lifted my spirits, and I started to cry with joy. I had less than a fifth of a mile to go, so I decided to run it. Every single step hurt, but I ran to that finish line. And then I cried again. 

I collected my three medals and headed to the bus. (I earned a medal for finishing the half, a medal for Lumiere's challenge, and a third medal for Coast-to-Coast for running two half marathons in two parks in one year.) I was exhausted, sweaty, dirty, and in tremendous pain. I wanted to celebrate, but I also just really wanted to go home. I threw the medals in my bag and limped my way to the bus. A couple of ladies got on the bus shortly after I did, and I heard one whisper to the other that it looked like I must have been swept. I kind of giggled at that... if they only knew! And I finished with them, not behind them!

It's been a week and a day since that race, and I'm still in a bit of pain. I went to the doctor last Tuesday and nothing was broken. My thumb wasn't as bad as it looked - a chunk of my thumb was torn off, my nail was bent in half, and I sprained it, but none of that requires a cast or surgery. My left hand has mostly healed. Both knees are still very bruised and very swollen, but the foot pain comes and goes. I'll walk ok for a while, but I end up limping by the end of the day. I'm the very definition of a hot mess, my friends! But I'll live. I did the elliptical for about 30 minutes tonight. It hurt, but it didn't kill me. I think I'll stick to yoga for the rest of this week, and try to get back at a normal workout routine next week. We'll see. 

On a somewhat funny note... I actually did try to look up pictures from both races on the runDisney page. My 10K pictures were all there, and weren't bad for the most part, but not a single picture of me exists from my half marathon. My guess is that Disney wants to pretend that their zombie racer never existed! LOL. I kind of wanted to see how bad I looked (based on the gasps I got from volunteers at water stations, I'm guessing I didn't look great), but I thought it was funny that Disney deleted them. Oh well!

Anyway, I really will try to do a better overall recap of both races with pictures later this week. I just needed to vent a little bit about this race since I'm still in pain from it. I'm very proud of myself for finishing this race, and am proud of the progress I've made in the last two years. I missed running, and while I doubt I'll ever be a real runner like I was in my 20s, I'm happy to be back at it again. It's never too late, and you're never too old, my friends. 

Until next time... Cheers!


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