If you read the comments on my last post on the Wild Half, you may have noticed my friend Charrissa saying that she knew how this story ended. And while normally I would think about two races a week apart as separate events, in this case I think she’s right, this is one story for me. And as the title suggests, it’s one with a happy ending. But that’s getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back to the beginning.
Noel and I flew out to SoCal, land of sunshine and weather wimps on Wednesday night (more on the weather wimps later). It was a 6pm flight, so we got in fairly late–about 10pm PST or 1am EST. I basically faceplanted into the bed upon arrival, stopping only long enough to set an alarm so I could get up and run around the resort in the morning, since marathon training never stops. I got up the next morning, did a lap and a half around the perimeter of Disneyland, the proceeded to forget about running for the next two days. I spent a ton of time on my feet park touring, drank lots of delicious adult beverages and ate tons of junk.
[typical example of prerace fuel]
And in my mind, this was all okay. The whole summer, I had mentally prepared to treat the Disneyland Half as just another long run, since my primary purpose for being their was to finish and collect my Coast to Coast medal. I had even offered to pace Noel. Why wasn’t I racing? Because I had just figured I would be exhausted from Wildwood and traveling (and I was) and that my legs would be dead from 3 days of pre-race park touring (they were). Before a normal race I would get lots of sleep and rest my legs, but since this was my first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice a minute of it, even for a race.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning, when we headed for the Expo, that I started to worry a bit about how much time I was on my feet. So we made a plan for the rest of Saturday–we did minimal walking around California Adventure, opting for shows, parades, and anything else with a short line and a chance to sit down. After an acceptable pre-race meal at Storytellers Cafe, we popped into Disneyland for a Moment with Mr. Lincoln, then did the full circle on the train. We were in our hotel room by 8.30, and I think I was asleep by 9.15.
We slept until about 3am, since we were planning to be out of the hotel room by 4. We were staying on Harbour Boulevard, across the resort from the start, so we figured that would give us plenty of time to arrive by 4.30 and get in the corrals by 5. And it was plenty of time–probably too much time. Noel and I parted ways just before 5 to head to our corrals. Very soon I found myself in an almost empty A corral. I took a seat on the curb and watched as people that I assummed were MUCH faster than me filled in. Yes, I was negative talking myself pretty badly, telling myself that I didn’t deserve to be in A after my horrible performance the week before. Finally, I found a few people to chat with to distract myself, and then it was time to start.
The course for Disneyland is much different than the Walt Disney World Half marathon, mostly because only about 4 miles of the whole race are on Disney property. As we started off looping the resort down Disneyland Drive towards Katella, I felt like I was moving at a reasonable, maintainable pace for me–9.30. But shortly before the second mile marker, I realized I had picked up the pace and was now closer to a 9mm. I chalked it up to the excitement of being in the California Adventure park. Shortly before the 5k mark, I realized that my pace had dropped again, but I had seen my Dad and I was running through DISNEYLAND? Surely that must be the reason, right? I would certainly slow down once I was out of the park and on the (reportedly) boring streets of Anaheim, right?
Wrong. I left Disneyland and headed on my meandering journey towards Angels Stadium and my pace just kept getting faster. I was holding mile splits that were closer to what my 5k paces had been this summer. And the miles literally started to fly by. The day was cool, the sun was rising over the mountains in the distance, and I started to really enjoy the experience. When I hit the 10k mark in 56 minutes, I started to get excited, because I knew if I could keep this up, I could have a REALLY good day. But mentally I told myself to calm down and not get ahead of myself. Because I had faded at the end of good races before. So I needed to focus on here, not what could be. And I zeroed in. I sang along with my iPod (yep, I was the girl singing Lady Gaga to herself behind you). I enjoyed the mile of classic cars lined up in the Honda Center parking lot.
And then we were over the 15k marker. I looked at my watch, and saw 1.21. I knew at that point, that unless something really bad happened, I would have a PR, and I would probably finish in under 2 hours. I looked up, and suddenly we were in Angels Stadium, probably one of the single coolest race experiences of my entire life. We ran around the warning track of the stadium, and the entire first baseline was filled with people who were cheering. And then they put your picture on the Jumbotron and announced your name. I felt like a freakin rockstar!
After leaving the thrill of the stadium, I knew we were in the homestretch. We hit the mile 10 marker and it was pretty much a straight shot back to the resort. I was starting to feel tired, but apparently not too tired, because my fastest mile of the whole race was mile 12, in 8:24. Yes, my mile 13 was slower and I literally thought I was crawling, but I kept reminding myself that I wanted a sub 2 hour half, and I wanted it bad. But literally, I felt like I was slogging–one foot in front of the other. Yes, it was actually a 9:05 pace, but it didn’t feel like that!
And then, I could see the finish line. I could see the clock, and it read 1.56. I was really going to do this thing. I got emotional. And when I crossed that line–in 1.57.29–I was in shock. Total shock. A summer of hard training, and not only had I PRed, but I had broken my long standing goal to break two hours, and I had done it with time to spare. Redemption. Sweet, sweet redemption. I can’t quite describe the feeling of knowing that not only had I broken that goal, but I had also had such a comeback from a horrible race the week before. One week, 20 minutes off my time. Not too bad.
The look in that picture above. That’s joy. It’s disbelief. It’s pride. My faith in my ability to do anything I set my mind to restored. I can’t fully describe the feeling, but I’m still high on it, almost a week later. And now, back to the hard training to get ready for Marine Corps!
And I know this is already a really long recap (and I didn’t think they could get longer than the Wildwood recap!) but three more things. One, the pixie dust was really in the air that day, because Noel also had an awesome race, taking nearly 25 minutes off his time from the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Way to go Noel, I’m so proud of you!! And two, many thanks to Charrissa and Derek, who are the reason I have all of these fantastic pictures for this post. Three, many thanks to my awesome Dad, for flying across country to support Noel and me in this race! Dad, you’re the best!!