Three weeks ago I ran the Disney Marathon Relay. This was the mack-daddy - THE goal race - with my running partner and I each running one half-marathon. Having run the Savannah Rock-N-Roll half in November, I was confident I could do the necessary miles to finish the race. I continued to train after the November race, keeping up with all my long runs, but with a new, lingering soreness that had me worried. It wasn't a severe pain or anything, but just a nagging soreness I felt with every run. A soreness I believed should have disappeared within a week of the November race.
So in a last-ditch effort to have myself in top running condition for race day, I opted to try an ice bath, as I've heard they can help draw out soreness post-race and prep your muscles pre-race.
Holy frijoles it was cold. Getting in the bath was the worst part, but once I was in and settled, it really wasn't so bad. I sat there for 20 minutes until the ice had melted, and then got out to pack for our trip, hoping the bath had done the trick.
I don't guess I'll ever know for sure if the ice bath helped, but it definitely didn't hurt because I had a really good race. With this race I had two goals - I wanted to beat my time at the Rock N Roll half (although I'd done absolutely no speed work to accomplish that goal), and I wanted to finish with strength.
Disney does a great job organizing the races, with excellent race support at the start/finish line and at every mile. But the one negative about Disney races - they start EARLY. I see the logic - they want to get a majority of runners through the parks before the park visitors surge in the gates. But when my alarm went off at 2:55 a.m., I was not feeling excited to race. I was feeling sleepy and grumpy.
We hopped on a bus to the staging area, and my mood did not improve. It was around 3:30 in the morning, pretty chilly, and there was a DJ trying to pump up the race crowd with the throbbing bass of club music. Rather than energizing me, it made me want to take the bus back to my hotel and my pillow.
But thankfully, there was coffee at the staging area, and once I had my bagel and caffeine (as far away from the thumping bass as I could get), I was feeling better.
The race began at 5:30 a.m., with each wave of racers sent off under a sky filled with fireworks and flames.
The miles began ticking by and I felt pretty good. The course was a real mixed bag - running through the parks was AWESOME, but in a span of 13 miles, the parks are very short. There was a lot of running on back roads, through parking lots, on overpasses and other areas that were less than stimulating. Thankfully, the parks made up for it. Running through Magic Kingdom was my favorite because it is a place full of good memories for me. I couldn't help but feel happy to be there, even though it was mile 11 and I was tired.
In the Rock N Roll half, I had wanted to run the last mile without walk breaks, but was just too tired and had to walk. At the Disney race though, I was feeling pretty good coming up to mile marker 12 and was determined to run through to the finish. Without meaning to, I'd run the first half of the race more slowly than usual just because of the thick crowd of racers. But I think that may be why I had some extra fuel at the end. I ran that last mile and even sprinted to the finish.
And happily, I beat my Rock N Roll finish time - barely. I am nothing if not consistent! My Rock N Roll time was 2:43:50. My Disney race time was 2:43:08. My relay partner did very well (she's much faster than I am!), and we finished in the top 25% of women relay runners, so yay us!
I had planned to spend the rest of that day relaxing and recovering in the hotel room while Lee and Camille toured Animal Kingdom. But thankfully, I felt strong enough that I just grabbed a quick shower and met them at the park for a day of walking around and riding rides. Maybe that ice bath did help after all!
It was a good race. The only negative is that, now that it's over, I have to figure out what's next. That Disney race had been a goal of mine for 9 months, a motivator that got me out of bed and into my running shoes even on days when I didn't want to run. Thankfully, in the three weeks since that race I have been faithful to my three-day-a-week running schedule, but I do feel a little adrift without a specific plan to follow.
But a plan is beginning to form. I would like to be a little faster, so I think this spring I will focus on improving my 5K distance pace. Then come summer, I'll probably launch back into my half-marathon training program in preparation to run the Rock N Roll half again in the fall. And maybe that spring speed work will help me improve my half-marathon time by more than 42 seconds.
So last night I ran a 5K to get a new baseline 5K time. And I got to run that 5K with Lee, Nikki and Andrew - a HUGE plus! It's a post for another day, but hopefully one day soon.