Running: The WDW Second Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

IMG_2071eAs soon as I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon, I knew that I wanted to do another.

Life got pretty crazy after my first half-marathon. I flew back to Virginia and started a new full-time job. I took a few months off from running, but I still signed up for the second The Dark Half-Marathon when registration opened in August. I started my training back at square one doing Couch to 10K to get me eased into the walk/run intervals. I did pretty well in Fall but definitely didn’t train as much as I wanted in the Winter. I thought it was hard to run with a baby in a jogger stroller, but it is even more difficult running with an active toddler who does not want to stay in the stroller.

My main running time would be on the weekends when my husband Darin and I would take turns watching Layla while the other ran. I would try to do lunch time or after work walks, but it didn’t always happen. I underestimated how hard it can be to make time for myself while working a full-time job and having a toddler.

entertainment

I was pretty nervous on race day. We hadn’t done any races since the first The Dark Side Half-Marathon, and we were in the last corral. We were actually in the second to last corral during the first Half-Marathon, so the pressure was definitely on this time to stay ahead of the balloon ladies. I had only seen them from a far distance last time, but this time we started in a mini-wave only minutes in front of them. I looked at Darin and said, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me.”

beforerace

The race started, and even though I had used the bathroom three times before going to the corrals, I drank a lot of water (later I would realize I actually drank too much water) and knew that I wouldn’t be able to comfortably run until I used the bathroom again. Thank goodness we at least had a mini-wave in front of us because that allowed me to take a much-needed bathroom break at mile 2. The balloon ladies caught up thanks to the long bathroom line, and I took off running as soon as I jumped out of that porter potty. I accidentally left my husband behind because he was being sweet and waiting for me. Oops. The balloon ladies passed him, and a couple people around him were already quitting. I called him to let him know I had started running right away out of fear of that Death Star balloon getting too close, and he easily got back to me.

The race went really well the next few miles. My muscles were warmed up, and I was fully completing my runs and walks at an excellent pace. Every mile, the pace keepers would announce how far ahead of the balloon ladies we were running. We were getting farther and farther ahead. Running through Animal Kingdom was an amazing experience, and Darin and I high-fived as we reached the half-way point several minutes ahead of the balloon ladies.

And then things quickly started going downhill for me. My hands were throbbing and becoming very swollen. My legs and body felt great, so I pushed through. Once the sun was fully out, the heat and humidity took its toll on me. At the water stations, I would pour water on myself. I started occasionally feeling dizzy and nauseous. Thankfully, Darin and I bought running pouches so I had a granola bar and energy chews to snack on. Those helped, but not enough. Eventually, I could no longer run and just maintained a power walk. Darin was fantastic and kept track of our pace and the looming balloon ladies.

Finally, we reached Hollywood Studios. I knew that if I could make it to Hollywood Studios, then the excitement and cheering should push me to the finish line. Seeing the 10-mile marker made me smile even though I was in pain and feeling incredibly ill. Our time in Hollywood Studios was brief, but the cast members on Hollywood Blvd were in costume and cheering us on. Running through The Boardwalk is kind of a blur, but I loved all the people out with signs and encouragement. I high-fived many costumed 501st Legion members. I wanted to cry when we reached Epcot because I was so close but yet so far away. I actually started doubting my ability to finish the race. Darin tried to make jokes and keep me motivated, but I couldn’t even talk. I did enjoy seeing all the cast members in front of the countries, waving flags, and cheering. When I finally reached Spaceship Earth, I breathed the slightest sigh of relief, and it wasn’t long before I had the finish line in my sights.

duringrace

Darin and I held hands as we crossed the finish line. And after getting my medal, I went straight to the medical tent. I had heat exhaustion and salt depletion. My hands were so swollen that it hurt to move them at all. They gave me cool rags, ice packs, Gatorade, and chips. They had me lay down and told me to try not to drink water for a while because I needed to retain salt. Everyone was amazing, and now I know what to do and not do to prevent salt depletion in the future.

Overall, the race was harder for me than my first Half-Marathon because of the heat exhaustion and salt depletion that I endured. But, at least I didn’t fall down and hurt myself like last year. I am incredibly thankful that I completed the race. I don’t think I would have been able to finish without the love and support of my husband who practically dragged me through Epcot.

medal

I still have two bruised purple toenails and some tightness in my shins, but I am eager to get back into running again once I am all healed up. Eventually, I will be able to complete a Half-Marathon without collapsing at the finish line. We plan on signing up for The Light Side Half-Marathon (January 2018) as soon as registration opens, as well as doing The Dark Side (April 2018) again so we can receive The Kessel Run medals. Darin even wants to do the challenge (where you complete the 10k on Saturday and the Half-Marathon on Sunday), but I will just stick to conquering the Half-Marathon for now. He wants to be able to actually RUN during his 10ks and then be the supportive husband doing slow walk/run intervals with me during the Half-Marathons.

Thank you, Nola Nerd Couple for letting me tell my story about this year’s The Dark Side Half-Marathon. Hopefully, I can report again from California and give my take on The Light Side. And maybe one of these days I will be able to complete a race without complications or Death Star balloons haunting looming behind me…

Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Welcome our new guest blogger, Cristina’s sister, Cara!  You can read about Cristina’s inaugural WDW Star Wars 10K race here.

For a long time, I had a dream of doing a half marathon in Disney World.  When they announced the first Star Wars half marathon in Disneyland, I really wanted to do it.  But then I got pregnant and only wanted to lay on the couch eating McDonald’s.

I had my beautiful baby girl in June 2015.  I did not have an easy pregnancy and was barely active.  I was even on bed rest the last month of pregnancy.  I also ate A LOT of McDonald’s because it strangely was the only thing that didn’t make me nauseous.  I had a lot of work to do afterwards to get back on to a healthy lifestyle.  When the Star Wars half marathon was announced in September, it was just the motivation I needed.  My husband said he would do it too, and on September 29th we officially registered.

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Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

One of the top things I nerd out about is Star Wars. If you’ve read this blog for long, I think that becomes apparent very quickly. So when Walt Disney World said that they were starting a Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, I was stoked. Star Wars and Disney and running, three things I love! When tickets went on sale in September 2015, I immediately purchased a half marathon bib. I figured that I had all the way until April 2016 to train and that there was no way I was missing the inaugural run. My sister and her husband decided to buy half marathon bibs as well and my other sister and her boyfriend bought 10Ks. My mom, stepdad, and grandparents decided that since all of us kids were going, that they were going to come as well. Now we had a full on family reunion coming up in April!

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Running: Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

Kurt’s point of view:

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Expo

Hanging out at the Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Expo

When we planned to run the Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon (previously the Mardi Gras Marathon), we developed a training schedule. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…well, you know how it works out. Swollen and infected lymph nodes, pink eye, two separate cases of an upper respiratory infection, and, worst of all, a debilitating case of sciatica decided to rear their ugly heads. And that was just with me.

Needless to say when we lined up early morning March 4th, we were not ready. Our only goal was to finish.

We started out okay. We had a plan of running for about five to eight minutes followed with a walk of three to five minutes and then repeat. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to work either. After a good three miles at the pace we wanted, we realized, for various reasons, we had to walk the rest.

Not that made it easier.

Every step made my feet feel as if it was coming apart at the seams. My fingers were swelling. I was starving. Cristina felt even worse. Yet, we were determined to finish.

By mile ten Cristina was in utter pain. I could see her considering quitting. She didn’t. She kept on going. I’ve never been more proud of her.

When we got to the finish line, we did do the one thing we planned. Running is something we do together as a couple, so it only made sense to hold hands as we crossed.

Looking back at all the problems we had training for this half marathon, we could use them as excuses. But that’s not how I see it. They are badges. Each one of those things could have made us not show up for the race. But we did.

We might have finished in the bottom 1%, but WE finished. And when you think about it, that’s all that matters.

Cristina’s point of view:

Back in July of last year, Kurt and I decided to start c25k (Couch to 5k) for about the 5th time. We were determined to make it work this time. During our first couple of “runs,” after 30 seconds, I was literally gasping for breath. Kurt had to give me his arm for support as I felt my lungs struggling for air. By October, I could run for about 20 minutes straight, at least a mile, though not at a fast pace or anything. We ran 3 different 5k races, including one in Disney World, and were really excited about it. Thinking we were on a good pace, we decided to book a half-marathon in New Orleans at the beginning of March. We were confident we could finish this in under 4 hours, maybe even under 3 1/2.

Boy, were we ever wrong.

Little did we know a host of problems would plague us, everything from the flu to sciatica, and many more in between. For two weeks at a time, at least one of us would be out of commission, and even though we should have continued training alone, we didn’t want to leave the other one suffering at home.

We should have trained!

While Kurt was very nervous at the half-marathon and whether or not we’d finish, I was still confident we’d finish in a decent time. The day of the race, we awoke about 3:30am to try and get to Poydras in New Orleans a little after 5am. Though it was an extremely chilly morning, we dressed lightly because we knew running would make us sweaty and hot. After we got there and grabbed some free breakfast of bananas and bagels, we went back to the car to wait until it was closer to start time, as it was so cold!

Finally the sun had risen and it was 6:30am. We got in corral 23 (out of 25) and anxiously awaited for the start of the race. After what seemed like an eternity, 7am rolled around and we started moving; however, since we were so far back, it was a little after 7:30am before we even reached the finish line. After a brief speech and countdown, we were off!

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

Right after getting our medals at the Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon

We started off at a nice pace. Jogging down the streets, making our way to St. Charles Ave, we saw hats, mittens, sweatshirts, even nice jackets thrown all over the place. I knew it’d get hot, so I was glad for the loose pants and breezy shirt I had on. Even though I had used the potty right before we lined up, I guess all the nervous energy was making me have to go again. A little ways down St. Charles is a McDonald’s, and I saw other runners leaving it…perfect! I ran up to the 2nd story of it and ran back out in less than 5 minutes. We got to the 5k mark at right about 50 minutes…and spending around 5 minutes to take my potty break meant we were running around 15 minute miles…so far, so good!

We started to slow down a bit at the 5 mile mark. As we made the u-turn to start running the opposite way down St. Charles, we saw that there were still plenty of people behind us. We were near the end, but no where close to the actual end of the race, where the tail car was, ready to pick up people that couldn’t go on.

When we reached mile 6, Kurt’s feet and hips started to hurt. We slowed down a bit more, and I felt the need to potty again. My bladder didn’t like all this running, which was weird since I never had to pee very much during my training. I hit the Porta-Potty up at mile 7 and we finally reached the end of St. Charles, and started to walk toward Magazine St, where we’d eventually hit Decatur St. in the French Quarter.

By mile 8 my feet felt like I was walking on glass. I had never actually trained beyond 6 miles, and my feet were just not happy with me. As we’re walking through the French Quarter, passing Jackson Square, seeing the street art and hearing the live bands, watching the people waiting for Cafe Du Monde, I would have given anything to be with them instead of enduring the pain in my feet. Right after mile 10, we reached Esplanade Ave. From here, it was a straight shot to NOMA, where the race ended right behind it in City Park. As we got slower and slower and more and more people passed us, my worst fear came true.

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Medal

Rock N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Medal...I'm proud of this one!

Right after mile 11, the tail vehicle came behind us to pass us.

At this point, I was literally crying while I was walking. My feet have never felt such pain. My stomach was cramping big time. All I wanted to do was lie down on the median and take a nap in the grass. I could care less about finishing this race. As that vehicle came up and asked if we were okay, every fiber of my being wanted to hobble into it and be whisked off to the finish line.

Yet, somehow, some little voice managed to convince me not to. That at some point later that day, or tomorrow, or next week, I was going to regret not finishing the race. That the only people left with us so far back were much, much older people, and they were still walking, still struggling to finish, and not giving up. And I knew I couldn’t either. So I just let that tail vehicle pass us and focused all my energy on making it to that finish line.

At mile 12, there were some more Porta-Potties. Now, I’m not going to go into details, but let’s just say this was NOT a pleasant moment for me. But I knew I could not walk one more painful mile with my stomach cramping the way it was. I was so desperate, I was about to randomly knock on some door along Esplanade and beg to use their bathroom. When I emerged from the Porta-Potty, I did feel tremendously better. And that last mile, at around a 23min/mile pace, actually went by in a blur. Oh, seeing all those half-marathoners and marathoners being finished from as far back as the French Quarter did not help my ego any, but when we turned behind NOMA, saw that finish line, and crossed it holding hands, it was one proud moment.

Because even though the odds we against us, we didn’t give up. We got those medals. We completed a half-marathon, even if we didn’t break any records doing so. But hey, we were NOT last! Very, very, very close to it, but still, not last. And next time, because there will be a next time, we’ll make sure we put in the proper training BEFORE we sign up for another race. And hopefully, finish it in the 3hr 30min time frame I was hoping for!