Try Again Tomorrow: The Disney Marathon Race Report

I am struggling with how exactly to write this post and pseudo race report. I wanted to let it sit for a few days to see if how I felt changed at all, and like I thought, it certainly has changed.

If you did not already know, I had my first DNF at the Disney Marathon last Sunday. I went into the race knowing that with my injury issues and training as a result that it was a distinct possibility, but there was always that slight hope that once race day came I would be able to gut through it. In the days leading up to the race I felt pretty good. I had no soreness in the calves or feet, so toeing the line was never in doubt. Even that morning when I woke at 2 AM for the 3 AM bus ride I felt pretty good. The weather had warmed up a little (it was in the 40’s just days prior) so when we left it was 55 degrees with a forecast of hitting 78 by noon. I was feeling pretty confident that I would be OK.

I have never had a race go south as quick as this one did. My plan was to go out VERY easy, and I did that, holding myself back on the run portions to try to hit the 16:00 pace mark on the nose. Mile 1 was at 16:15 so I was close to that, with the further plan on starting to go a bit faster after mile 3.

Ah, Mile 3. What had started out as a good feeling and strong legs quickly became sore feet. I run 3 miles with a local running group twice a week and never have this happen, so when the pain started coming on at the 5k mark I was surprised. I thought to myself “well, maybe it’s just an anomaly and it will pass” so I kept the 16:00 plan in place a little longer and adjusted the push until after the Magic Kingdom, which was Miles 5-7. ┬áThinking back on it now I realize that I had been on my feet more or less since 3 AM, so I am sure that was a factor.

But the pain did not go away. It got worse. I adjusted my stride to almost a shuffle which felt better for a little bit but starting getting bad once more. I had done an 8k just two weekends prior and had no issues, so this was very frustrating for me. I hooked up with another Team in Training runner from Ontario who was having similar issues and we tried to gut it out as far as we could. I knew there was a sweep spot coming at mile 8, and I had resisted looking back to see if the “balloon ladies” (note: this is the Disney version of sweepers. They start with the last corral and maintain a 16:00 pace and as long as you stay in front of them you are OK. They tie balloons to themselves so you can see them coming.) had come into view. At mile 7.5 I looked and sure enough, there they were, about 500 yards behind me, and right in front of them was Jennifer, who was having her own issues.

Having run Disney before I knew what was immediately ahead of us after the Kingdom. A long stretch of highway, about 5 miles, leading to Animal Kingdom, and I knew I was not going to make that distance, so I walked back to Jennifer and told her I was pulling out at the buses, and thought she probably should too (she didn’t, as is her style, but also dropped about 4 miles later, but that’s her story to tell).

Allowing myself to get on the bus wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I knew it was the right call, and as I sat there with the others who had been pulled I felt OK with it. I was not surrounded by other large people. All body types and levels of fitness were represented. The story holds true that on race day anything can and will happen. I was OK with the decision.

I was OK with the decision.

I WAS ok with the decision.

If I had written this right after the race the ongoing theme would have been those 6 words, but the more I thought on it, and the longer it set in, the more I realize that I am not OK with it by any stretch. It pisses me off. And yes, I know I had underlying issues that led to this, and I probably should not have even attempted it, but DNF’ing sucks, I don’t like it, and it will not happen to me again.

I am working now with Meghan Collins Fanning of Zendurance Now (www.zenduranceNow.com) with the hopes that we can figure out a way to not let this happen again. She is already looking at my current status and guiding me to “start over”. As hard as that is, I know she is right. Many of the issues I have are related to my weight and trying to push myself to events that I am not quite ready for yet. I have never had a DNF until this weekend, but although I had finished every race up to then, I never was as strong as I should or could have been. I did just enough to get to the finish line. And “Just Enough” is no longer good enough. She wants me back in the weight room, which I love (as a side note), and working on form and strength. I think she is what I need at this point as a guide, and what Jennifer needs as well.

I have also come to the notion that perhaps, because of my size and health issues, longer races like 140.6 or marathons may just be too much for me, at least at this point of my training. I was chatting with the other Meaghan (notice the spelling is different) and she threw some very good knowledge at me (I told her I was stealing what she said, so no plagiarism is going on here). We had been thinking about the marathon and how running and the marathon can be like nutrition and veganism. So many people think vegetables are good, so veganism must be the pinnacle of nutrition. Running is good for you, so I need to do a marathon do get the most benefit from running. When really both are on a bell curve, which looks different for everyone, but going all the way to veganism, or all the way to the marathon, isn’t ideal for most people’s health. There are outliers, people who thrive as a vegan, people who can do marathons and ultra marathons without harming their bodies, but for most of us there’s a spot on that bell curve that falls well short of no animal products and a spot on the running curve than falls well short of a marathon. She pointed out how good I have been doing at shorter runs recently (the 3 milers, the 8k, etc.) so what if I adjusted my goals to PR at a 5k this year? Or get a PR at a Sprint Triathlon or at St. Anthony’s? Maybe a 5k under 36 minutes? Or under 30 minutes??

As I sit here, my first full day in my new position within the county, having no computer connection to the network so having way too much time to ponder these things, I am looking at the motivational pictures they hung in my office prior to my arrival. The one to my left is called “Believe and Succeed” and the saying under it states:

Well …. tomorrow is here.

Let’s try again …

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