"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Mad, Motivated Mission!

It was somewhere between passing through the bag drop zone and settling into the starting corrals, that I was reminded of a quote I had read earlier in the week from a book entitled The Happiness Project; “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I had realized it sooner” (Colette). Like most first time marathoners, or at least what I assume of most first timers, this moment was really pretty awesome. I wanted to absorb everything; the sights and sounds, the fellow participants, how I responded throughout the course ……. everything. But more importantly, I was determined to “realize” how much fun this experience was, right then, in the now, and enjoy it. To appreciate today’s blessing of health and opportunity, and not wait until it is only a blur of a memory to realize how much I took it for granted. It was a small mental adjustment, but I really think it set the stage for an excellent run.

Fast forward 7 days to this wrap-up entry. Having been set on “taking in” the full marathon experience, I am left with vivid detail of several aspects from the weekend event. I have tried to convey those observations throughout the following pages in the most concise, yet descriptive manner possible. Again, as with the training summary blog, this post is as much a document for me to reference in the future in regards to what worked and what didn’t work, as much as it is for others. But, if you are reading this, I do hope you find it to be an informative overview, a useful tool in your own marathon preparation, specifically if you are considering a Disney World run, or at the very least, an encouragement for whatever your next breakthrough goal might be. Enjoy.

Saturday, 1/8: Christy and I had arrived in Orlando on Friday night late and checked into an airport hotel. Despite differing opinions on a final run before the big day, I decided to go “all in to the end” with the Hal Higdon training plan. This meant that I did go for a very slow (12:00 pace), very short (1.5 miles), jog on this morning. I cannot tell you how good that felt. Despite the taper weeks and the associated rest, my legs did not feel near as strong as I had been led to believe they should feel. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was the 5k New Year’s Day race that I pushed hard, but whatever it was, I was getting a little nervous. This little jog around the hotel was exactly what the running doctor ordered. Legs felt so much better after that.

We then checked out and bused over to the All Star Movies Resort at WDW and on to the Expo at Wide World of Sports. The Half-Marathon finishers were everywhere by this time and that’s probably when it sunk in that the countdown clock was down to hours, not days! The Expo was extremely well organized and there was no waiting whatsoever. Unlike previous Expos that I had gone through as part of the Rock-n-Roll series, packet pick-up was very quick, without any wait or long lines; packets, shirts, spectator information, chip confirmation, etc. Very easily in and out within thirty minutes if you wanted to completely skip the seminars and vendor booths.

Speaking of skipping the Expo walk-arounds, I was starting to hear the little Paul Brantley birdies telling me the key was to get off my feet for the rest of the day. So a compromise; Christy and I sat on the floor and listened to Jeff Galloway talk about his Walk-Run-Walk approach and take questions (this subject could be an entirely different post). We grabbed a pasta lunch and headed back to the resort; naps and playoff football.

After dinner, (yes, another plate of pasta), it was back to the room and time to answer the lingering question that I had been going back and forth on for most of the day; “What time do you think we should set the alarm?” So, following a lengthy discussion between myself and I, the morning plan was established:

• Alarms (2 of them) and wake-up call set for 3:00 a.m.
• Roll-over eat ½ bagel with peanut butter and drink ½ bottle of water
• Alarms (2 of them) set for 3:15 a.m.
• Dressed and headed to bus at 3:30 a.m.

Plan – check. Chip and bib attached – check. Watch and iPod charged – check. Time for bed, 9:00 p.m. – check.
First few hours tossing, final few hours resting – check and check!

Sunday, 1/9: Goooooooodddd Morning Orlando! Alarms are going off, peanut butter bagel is extra tasty and before you know it we are walking through the lobby and headed for the bus. My original concern with the buses stemmed from the S.A. R-n-R ½ where my brother and I took buses from the downtown hotels. The lines went for blocks and blocks. We spent so much time waiting in the bus line at 4:00 a.m., that I didn’t want to repeat that. No worries. Disney had us well taken care of (don’t forget they are in the busing business). Walk right on, no wait and a 20 minute ride over.

I always enjoy the pre-race vibe. It can be a local 5k Gobble Jog or a mega-Marathon, but this is always a favorite part. From the time you get on the bus until the very moment that the starting gun goes off, it’s a unique feeling that comes from being in that crowd. There’s the shared camaraderie that is built not only on the pending race, but in the similar interests and common passions. And in this case, there is a respect for the months of training that practically everyone there has undergone.

I also always get a kick out of the conversations that go on around me in pre-race. There are the nervous “Chatty Cathys” that go on and on about their lack of sleep or the type of shoe they wear or how the Moon Pie 10k went last month. That’s ok. It does help to keep your mind relaxed, as long as they aren’t looking for any return conversation. Then there are the semi-elites that are talking about PR’s, race goals, how Boston training is going. Those tend to be more inspirational eaves-dropping conversations. Lastly, there are, and were, comments that make you really wonder or even chuckle a bit. For example, while walking to the starting line, I picked up the following from a group in front of me:

Runner 1: “Is this your first marathon?”
Runner 2: “No, actually I coached the Canadian National Marathon team at one time and try to run a few a year now that I am retired. You’re first?”
Runner 1: “Yes. It will also be the farthest I have ever run”
Runner 2: “Oh, that’s ok. Don’t worry, most plans won’t ever have you go more than 20 or 22 miles before you race. I’m sure you will do great”
Runner 1: “Thanks. I hope so. I tried to follow my boyfriends training plan for me, but we only got to 10 miles as our farthest. He said the same thing as you, that you don’t have to do the whole thing to be ready. I sure hope he was right.”
Runner 2: “Uuuhhhh…..well, be careful out there today”

One thing was certain, I had no desire, nor reason, to be over-confident about my race before we even started, but ..... I was now pretty sure that I would no longer finish 17,000 out of 17,000. I would at least come in at 16,999!

Pre-race: (Here’s where it becomes more of a “what to expect when running Disney” document)

We arrived at the Epcot parking lot to a sea of buses, incoming cars and hundreds of attendants. As we made the walk to the race central area (probably ½ mile or so) one of the attendants best described the scene as the “river of runners” that were marching by moonlight through the empty lots.

Race central was already rocking and rolling at 4:15 a.m. Live music, characters mingling throughout, and a very orderly process for bag drops. In fact, probably the best set-up I’ve ever seen. The “runners only” entrance to the starting line area passed through this zone. Every 20 yards was an entrance separated by last name. Walk through, hand off bag and move to pre-start holding area for about 20 minutes.

At exactly 4:45 a.m., the mass march to the starting corrals began. We walked along a back lot road where old trolleys, jungle cruise boats, food carts and trams come to rust. About a mile, and 20 minutes later, we came out near one of the main roads around Epcot. We also came out to what must have been one port-a-jon (paj) for every two runners. Rows and rows of them. Paint them yellow and you might as well been in an Iowa cornfield! However, note to self: once you clear paj alley, there are no additional ones along the corral area. Hence all the chaotic jumping over net barriers to cross back to paj’s as the race start neared.

Anyway, I get to Corral B just after 5:00. The race starts at 5:34 and my wave starts at 5:39. It was the perfect temperature; 40 degrees to start and warming up to 55 by the time the run ended. I had a sweatshirt that I would take off as the race started, but other than that felt pretty good. Only exception is that I should have had gloves. The temp itself was not so much the issue as to getting water on them from the water stations and turning a little cold - minor discomfort, no worries.

So, I had about 30 minutes and I decided to leave the corral and make my way back to the paj’s. Didn’t so much seem a necessity, as it was more of a ritual. Because I was coming back from a different direction I arrived to a few that were not used at all. Are you kidding me? Unused paj’s this close to race time, much less no lines in sight! Once inside I decided to go ahead and treat it as my own personal locker room. It was warm and to this trimmed down guy, it really seemed spacious. About every 5 minutes I would take a peak outside just to make sure there was still no line, but there never was. So I stayed in what I would later refer to as my “Porta-Palace” to within 10 minutes of the start! I re-Glided, applied another bio-freeze packet on the knees (just in case), put down my pre-race GU, locked and loaded the iPod and got back to the Corral with 5 minutes to stretch out the calves. (NOTE: Lesson learned on why paj’s were not overly crowded ...... more people use the bushes! YES, can you believe it. Even at WDW, there is absolutely no modesty amongst long distance runners)

One other trick I had picked up and decided to try was to drink a regular soda right before the start. I filled a water bottle with ½ of a regular Coke (yes, that’s right, Disney is a Coke resort! Not happy, but it would do for why I needed it). Having not had any caffeine for over a week and very little sugar over the past 24 hours, this swig of soda provided a pretty good jolt.

Runners ready – START: The wave began to move and from within 30 feet of the starting mat, you could feel the warmth from the overhead flamethrowers. Fireworks were going off, Donald Duck was on the mic, music was blaring; it was “GO TIME”.

I quickly peeled off the sweatshirt, started up Willie Nelson & Steven Tyler on the iPod, prepared to hit the start on the Garmin and just as all of us in the corral moved from a stroll to a jog to a run in order to time the start just right, an unfortunate, unthinkable and possibly ominous misstep occurred. I unintentionally clipped the heel of the guy in front of me and his shoe must have flown twenty feet off to the side as he kicked forward. I felt bad but the rush was on and we were going through the start whether we wanted to or not, with or without shoes. I just kept wondering if his shoe actually crossed the timing mat, and thus started his clock. Or, did it fly off in front of the mat and he could easily put it on and and have a clean start. I just hope he doesn’t start his post-race blog with “Had I not lost 4 minutes at the start due to some guy stepping on my heel, I would have had a PR today.”

MILES 1 – 9: Other than the shoe episode, the start was good. (So maybe it was only an ominous start for that guy?) I consciously elected not to weave in and out over the first few miles in an attempt to pass slower runners and pick up time. I had heard that 26.2 is far enough to run, there was no need to make it 27.2 miles today. I did move one lane over in either direction as I could and spent a little time on the grass. I typically always run the sides of roads and maintain a outside view of the course. I did the same for most of this race. As you can see on the splits chart below, mile 1 was definitely the slow going mile, but in the long run it probably helped me in the pacing and relaxation category.

The first few miles took us around the parking lots and roads in the Epcot area. Then we ran back through the gathering of spectators. It was very cool. Into Epcot there was a spot where spectators were beside you and up a ramp. I think I quickened my pace by some 10-15 seconds a mile every time we went through a large, extended cheering area.

As to time and pacing, I made a major mistake on the pacing group process. Apparently, the 4 hour pace group that promises a 3:59:59 – 3:58:00 finish is not in the same starting corral as the guy (ME) that submitted an estimated finishing time of 3:59:59. I was actually in the 3:40:00 - 3:59:59 corral. As we started, I looked beside me and saw the 3:50:00 guy. I looked back and it was sort of like the scene in the movie, Titanic, where those guys are locked in below deck and the water is rising. My 4:00:00 guy was behind the next wave barrier and I couldn’t go back to him. I had lost my pace group before I had even established a pace! Oh well, it was now up to me, my Garmin and We Will Rock You to stay on pace.

We head into Epcot and around the countries, then back out. We have completed about 4 miles and I have almost caught back up from the slow first mile pace. Feeling great and ready for my next GU. I had decided to make the refueling process simple and take a GU every 4 miles. I ended up establishing a pattern with water stations in that I would take water for two stations in a row, then a PowerAde at the third. I also ran all stations without any pause to the pace. Seemed to work for me, but again it was cool and I was well hydrated from the week. Oh, and one last water station observation. In true Disney fashion, there were at least as many cup picker-uppers at every station as there were volunteers handing out water. I promise you, I don’t think a cup stayed on the ground for more than 10 seconds all day. It was amazing! Additionally, I am usually a 75% field goal shooter when it comes to disposing of cups on the run out of the water stations. But with all these guys picking them up as soon as they hit the ground, I tried even harder to save them a few pick-ups. As I recall, I went somewhere around 12 makes out of 15 trash cans for the day.

The sun started to come up around mile 7 and I was running at about a 9:00 min pace. Around mile 9 we were getting close to the Magic Kingdom and the sun was up over the lake there. It was a definite marker as I felt great and the warmth was thawing out the fingers a bit. I kept telling myself to run my race and keep it smooth. I would at least reach the castle in good shape and we would see how it goes from there. Still thinking about 3:59 or maybe, 3:58.

MILES 10 – 18: As we approached mile 10 and the Magic Kingdom (MK), I turned to the guy that had been at my pace for a half mile or so and said, “Alright, here comes one of the reasons we decided to run this thing today. Enjoy it.” Little did I know that it really would be a highlight to the race. You enter MK just to the side of the front entrance and then head down Main Street. Because of the trolley tracks, they limit the runners to half of the street. It makes for a tighter path and a lot of energy is felt as it becomes much louder for the entire length of the street. For a moment it brought back the rush of coming onto the floor at Matador Gym with thousands of screaming Matador faithful (ok, maybe not that many, but it sure seemed like it back then). I also knew that Christy was trying to get over there by the time I arrived, but with so many people, would I even see her? But, about halfway down the street, there she was. Camera in hand and an encouraging smile through the crowd. It would be the only time I saw her, but it was really nice.

Throughout the course there were photo ops everywhere. Runners would veer off toward a character and a waiting photographer would snap a shot and the runner was back on course. The only time I even considered this was in the MK as we came past Buzz Lightyear. I thought, “you know, Stadtmueller would really appreciate me getting a shot with Buzz and thinking about him.” Unfortunately, (or fortunately), there were always lines and it just wasn’t worth those precious seconds. Sorry Stadt.

“Did Tammy McClure just pass me?” (Seriously, I did a double take). Then, not a mile or two later, “Was that Paul McClure?” Thinking back on this, I rationalized that either A) Yes, the McClures ran today. They run everywhere else, so why not here at Disney, B) the delirious phase of the race was hitting much sooner than I would have imagined! Oh well, I still know my name and I clearly recognized that a spectator I recently passed did yell “war eagle”, or C) the fact that a majority of those around me are extremely fit and have been doing this for a while, probably means they all start to look alike. In other words, the McClures just must be the model marathoning couple! I’m telling you, four hours of running will lead to think all types of thoughts and hold various conversations with yourself.

Out of MK and onto a long stretch of open road. You will read some reviews that complain about the roads and the fact that you only really spend a few miles inside the parks. However, I would argue that you go through all the main spots in the parks and the roads really allow you to spread out some and settle into your pace. They were scenic, there were spectators and there were more than enough stations (21 water stations alone). It was on this stretch that I passed the halfway point with a 1:57:00 time. I had 3 minutes in the bank and felt great. Mr. Brantley taught me that I had better feel like I have just started when I get to 13.1 or I might be in trouble. The real halfway point for a Marathon is mile 20. Well, I didn’t know what mile 20 would hold, but at 13.1 I felt like I had just started. So far, so good. In fact, so good, so far, that I took a chance with a banana. I had never eaten one during training, but it seemed like the right thing to do in between GU’s . A great call. Refreshing and no issues at all with digestion. Onto the second half in good shape on fuel.

From the midpoint forward I decided to go for a 8:50 pace rather than a 9:02. A slight adjustment, but I figured it would give me another two minutes and maybe, just maybe, bring me home around 3:55. The remainder of this section was fairly uneventful. I used a few folks to pace off of and follow, but I don’t think I used anyone more than a ½ mile the entire race. Just ran my race and stay focused. I did start to notice some serious race-ending injuries along this stretch. Mostly looked like hamstrings or heels. A lot of stretching and limping for some along the side of the road. You always feel really bad for someone that gets hurt during the event after having worked so hard and made the effort to attend. The other thing that came to mind here was that there were a lot of what you would consider “fit and runner looking bodies”, that I was passing left and right. Me? Really? But on the other hand, there were also a lot of what you would call “unfit and non-runner looking bodies” that were passing me. Moral of the story is that anyone that follows a plan can do it!

MILES 19 – 26: Another philosophy that I had picked up and decided to use for this race was that for miles 1-10, I would have fun. Miles 11 – 20, I would stay focused and concentrate on nutrition, pace and technique. And for miles 21 – finish, I would think competitively, against myself and others. As I approached mile 19 I started to think about this shift in mindset for the final stage. Unfortunately, I was also experiencing the first discomfort of the day. My knees were starting to feel like they did at the end of the 20+ training runs. Not sharp pain, but a “locking up” sensation. The good news was that we were going up the steepest incline and as we started to go back down, about ¾ miles later, the pain went away and never came back (of course, not until later than night!)

We also entered Animal Kingdom at about this point and by far the worst surface to run on of the day. Because of the various theme sections to the park, much of the path is not even. There are more rolling features to the sidewalks as well as overhanging branches that you had to watch out for while running. Not my favorite run through, but it was also pretty quick. I did grab a banana since it seemed to go down really well at mile 13 and again, a good call. Went down well and seemed to refresh the legs a bit.

I exited and we were heading to Hollywood Studios! I was approaching Mile 22 and had been told to really go for it from that point forward. I was currently looking at being ahead by about 5 – 6 minutes and figured that worst case I could stumble home with 11 minute miles and still beat my goal. So I picked it up and tried to hold on!

By the time I had reached this stage, I was taking note of the signs and messages that had been present along the course. The most popular sign from spectators was “Pain is temporary, the Pride lasts forever.” Probably saw that at least a dozen times. There were also some clever Disney themed signs from spectators, one that made me take a second look had informed the runners that around the corner they would find a water station for which they could “GU or _____ “ (insert name of Tigger’s buddy here). Of course, the back bibs of runners were often inspiring; verses, quotes, in memory or simply just messages. One I recalled said, “My 37th Birthday, My 38th Trip to Disney, My 39th Mile”, a reference to her running The Goofy, or 1/2 marathon on Saturday and the Full today.

As uplifting as these signs and banners are, and they definitely are, this was the section of the race that self-motivation was at its strongest. I found myself staying fairly reserved early on. Telling myself to “run your race”, or “keep it smooth”, or “pace, Dave, pace”. Most of this occurred inside my head and was only evident to others by the movement of my lips and the universal hand signs for staying calm or settling down. But now, as we moved toward the final stretch, my self talk became more audible and, in some cases, was intended for both myself and others. There was no pre-race script for what I would say, so I went with what worked for the moment and made the most sense. So, the last several miles consisted of multiple outbursts of “Finish Strong”, “No wall, Dave, no wall” and “It’s only a 5k, that’s all it is”. By the final stretch I felt like I was screaming, and maybe I was, but I just kept going with any affirmation regarding the fact that we went through, past, over that wall. We had knocked it down. It never existed. I may have even said something about “no stinkin’ wall today, we got this guys!” And finally, as we ran the boardwalk area of the Yacht Club, I turned to a group of youngsters on my right and said, “You know, this old man just might make it home”. To which one of the young men said, “No doubt bro, we got it today!” Maybe I should wear a mic next time, huh?

One interesting note inside Hollywood Studios was the effect, (either real or perceived, but doesn’t matter which), that a couple of small chocolate bars had on my finish. I came around the corner and saw a lot of Hershey bars flying. I said what the heck and grabbed a couple from a volunteer. I first put away the Krackel bar, and practically choked on the dryness and what I called Krackely texture. Then I went for the original chocolate bar. It took about 30 seconds and I felt brand new! I started seeing an 8:30 pace and wondered how low I could go. My only concern with the faster pace was the potential risk of pulling a hamstring, but there was no indication that I was in trouble there, so I kept at the 8:30 or less for the final 3 miles. Chocolate, the miracle drug!

FINISH! It finally dawned on me at mile 26; the secret of running the tangents. I knew you would always run more than 26.2, and was expecting to run between 26.3 and 26.4 because of the way that courses are laid out and measured from the shortest distance. But mentally I was struggling at why each official mile marker seemed to take longer and longer to get to once my watch showed I had reached the next mile. Duh! So when my watch showed 26 miles it seemed to take forever to reach the official marker. (Official markers are large roadside billboard size signs with electronic clocks for every mile). I started worrying about my watch being off and then it came to me.

The real reason I was concerned is that at mile 26 (on the watch) I had decided to go as hard as possible. So when I didn’t see the marker I questioned that decision. But it did eventually show up and it allowed me to run a 7:30 +/- final .36 mile and thus pushed my final time even lower.

Yes, it’s true what they say; there are emotions that start to rise up when you see the finish line of your first marathon. For me it was equal part the excitement over an unbelievable time and relatively easy run, AND thinking back over the previous 660 miles that had led to this final 100 yards. Exhilarating is the word that comes to mind. I hadn’t thought about crossing the line, but there is something about lifting our arms in accomplishment that must be instinctive in most of us. I don’t recall thinking about putting them up like that, (although I do recall letting out a bit of a victory shout), but the pictures don’t lie.

Upon crossing the line, the medal goes on, the smile stays on and the cold PowerAde never tasted so good. I made my way through the bag pick-up and was really anxious to see Christy at the ‘H’ reunion tent. So I waited, and I waited, and I waited. Realizing that I had been talking to a guy from Chicago for more than 30 minutes and it was now almost 2 hours since my race ended, I became a bit worried. Anyway, long story short, always make sure you have your meeting place clearly spelled out before the race. Christy waited inside one tent, while I waited outside under the other tent. I even went to the ‘V’ tent in case she got mixed up on last names / maiden name! Something I would do under the circumstances, but not an indication of what she might do. She wasn’t anywhere I looked. So, we made our ways separately back to the hotel and met up there. Another lesson, go ahead and pack your phone in the bag you drop. I didn’t have one and despite everyone that was eager to allow me to use their phones, I just don’t know Christy’s number; it’s on speed dial!

Playlist: Much consideration was given to the playlist selections for this run. I was very pleased with the timing and motivation that the final list provided (see attached). As mentioned elsewhere, Willie and Steven have started off every single training run that I have had over the past several months and it was fitting to begin there. Other highlights from the playlist include:

• As the sun rose over the main Lagoon, a perfect Sunday morning selection, Lord, I Lift Your Name on High, was inspiring Sunday worship music
• I had intended for We Will Rock You to be used to pick my pace up to the right cadence. I never dreamed it would be used to SLOW me down!
• The Notre Dame fight song played as I ran down Main Street – really cool.
• When I had almost reached mile 14 before Total Eclipse of the Heart came on, I knew it was going to be a good day
• One change, I should have put The Lion Sleeps Tonight more in line with when I went through Animal Kingdom!
The final two songs were Born to Run and Chariots of Fire to the finish line – perfect
Definite pick-me-up songs that I still recall: John the Revelator, Dig a Little Deeper, Hurts So Good, Come On Eileen, The Holy Highway, Low Budget, Sweeter as the Days Go By and as just as we exited a section of the grounds and out a large gate, Thunder Road seemed as appropriate as ever!
Only bummer was that I finished before a couple of really good ones, especially Aggie War Hymn

As you can tell, I am big believer in the motivation and meditation that music can provide through a run. For this event I kept the volume low enough to still experience the crowd and the entertainment, and to hear any volunteer instructions. I couldn’t imagine running without it and there seems to be an increasing acceptance of this position for many of the fast runners. Use it, if you used it in training, just keep it low or in one ear, etc. That said, I cannot overstate the importance of spectators and entertainers along the route. I still very much hear and appreciate those cheers.

Post-Race: The endorphins continued to mask any pain or soreness through most of the afternoon. We returned to the room and I took an extended ice bath. Although, honestly, it was the first one I had taken where I had a full tub of cold water and a bucket of ice, and it didn’t feel cold at all. It felt wonderful. Thirty minutes eased any knee pain and the slight ankle twinge that I started to experience around mile 20. I felt no different than when I had completed a 15 or 16 mile training run. Until ............. we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner and started to walk around. Still pretty good with just a slight soreness. In fact, I tried to jog out the soreness. That lasted about three steps. Definitely not advisable to move any faster than a slow walk. Anyway, we sit down for dinner and after sitting for about a hour and a half I tried to get up (emphasis on “tried”). Whoa! Help! What just happened? I managed to stand and as we were walking out the door the knees began to ache and I got very tight. Still very fortunate to not be in any additional pain.

The bed felt so good that night. Although for the first few hours the outside of the knees (IT Band?) were killing me. 800 mg IB started to kick in, but it took until around midnight. I also get night sweats after extreme endurance activity. Same thing occurred. Until around midnight. After that, it has been slow going on the stairs all week and a very slow easy 1 mile run today, and the road to recovery has begun. If this is the worst that it gets, I’m in for making this a career. Very fortunate.

Final Thoughts: In short, when I started back on September 6th, I could have never imagined that; a) I would complete the training and actually finish the Marathon, and b) even if I finished it wouldn’t have gone so well and I would not have had so much fun. I chose the perfect first time event for me and the perfect time of the year to train. Decisions relative to staying at Disney (only $75 / night for All Stars), taking transportation rather than driving and eating on site, were all right on. No regrets. There are only a few items that I would have done differently throughout this entire process. They include:

- Do not race hard a week before the marathon
- Ensure the pace group leader is actually in my starting corral
- Wait towards the back of my starting corral / wave; stall a bit if possible. It is better to have open road in front of you, even for just 50 feet, then to take off in the in the middle of a packed-in group
- Take my cell phone to the race and put in the bag
- Wear gloves for sub-50 temperatures
- Work on a better diet with no caffeine for entire three weeks of taper

I really think these are the only corrections. I plan on putting them to test for the October 30th Marine Corp Marathon in D.C. As of today, I would like to run with the 3:50 pace group and see about reaching for that 3:45 time. A long way to go from now to then, but we’ll see. I will also be soliciting, pleading, begging anyone out there that can / wants to run the October event to make it a group effort. If in the area, maybe some partnered long runs, if not, then at least some shared training correspondence and encouragement. I really enjoyed the time with Christy as part of this past weekend. From the support directly before, during and after the race, to the shared experience of all three days. I think she had almost as good a time as I did! In fact, Christy and the girls are likely going to make this a family weekend in October and we would love to meet anyone there.

I am now retiring the mantra “A Mad, Motivated Mission”. It served me well and will reside within the archives of past mantras; “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up”, “Run with Horses” (Jeremiah 12:5), “Wings of Eagles” (Isaiah 40:26), and “If not me, who, if not now, when?” So, I am open to a new one; any ideas? The training officially begins June 27th!

Lastly, I truly appreciate everyone’s tips and encouragement. I am hopeful to be able to pass along some of each to all those other runners out there. In fact, this life list event is now in the books and it’s time to spend more energy rooting all of you on for a while. I honestly believe that for as long as I am blessed with the ability and the desire to pursue running, I have a responsibility and a God-given purpose to build up and encourage fellow runners. By way of both longer term relationships, and casual race day interactions, my passion for running allows me the opportunity to bring smiles, lift spirits and help motivate those that share this passion. I’ve even thought about a Jeremiah 12:5 group that keeps in mind our greater goal to “compete with horses” by avoiding the pettiness in this world that can “wear us out” or “cause us to stumble”. Imagine the adrenaline of running with horses, on a spiritual and physical level! With that in mind, I close with a quote from distance runner Richard O’Brien:

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too”

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