Thursday, January 17, 2013

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

You would think that a cast member would get tired of the sights and sounds of the Walt Disney World Resort or , better yet, would never participate in a marathon in the place where she works week in and week out.  Well...if you think that about would be incorrect.  The magic of this place and the fact that I work in the Happiest Place on Earth still leaves me speechless at times.  This weekend, the Magic of these races left me that way...

You would also think that since I was unable to participate in my planned Goofy Challenge would have made me depressed and sad.  On the contrary.  The challenge made me realize that I was not ready for the 39.3 miles of running and I had not trained properly for that mileage.  Add on top of that that I had just completed the Ragnar Relay the weekend before and I had to "pick my battles" as a wonderful Ironman and orthopedic surgeon once told me.  What was more important..??..Ironman...or completing this challenge.  So I made the forgo the Challenge and do just one race...the Disney Half Marathon.

Up at 245AM...I remember times I use to come IN at 245am....I try to be quiet as I get dressed to head out of our Disney Vacation Club condo at the Bay Lake Tower....but out of a darken bedroom I hear "Go Cutie Go"...even in his husband was cheering me on.

By 430AM, we are at Epcot thanks to the Disney Monorail that zoomed us through the early morning fog.  Staying in our condo was my brother in law Tom Daly, and our friends Alan Leach, Kim Leach and Christine Lively.  We all have different goals for this race.  Tom and Alan will finish this race before the sun comes up....and me...heck I just want to finish.

I make it to my corral and I am nervous.  I start thinking about my first half marathon here almost 8 years ago and how I couldn't believe I was going to go 13.1 miles under my own power.  As I stood there realizing this would be my 38th half marathon (I think) and my 6th Disney Half, it was hard for me to believe how far I have come in 15 years.  From barely being able to walk around the block to doing half marathons...I am blessed beyond measure.

The fireworks explode....Donald Duck gives us the go and we are off.  Its a cool morning..and Im feeling a bit tired but ready.  The first 3 miles pass in a flash...and I am amazed.

By mile 5, Im looking for my hubby at the Contemporary Hotel and before I can look twice, I hear him screaming for me.  I cross two lanes of traffic and a median to get that hug and kiss....Ive been racing towards that all morning.

As we made the turn through the backstage area, I enter the Magic Kingdom and down Main Street.  100's of people (maybe more) are screaming along the sidelines...and I am again in awe of this place.  The joy that this place creates really gets to me.  I turn off my Ipod and take in the sights and sounds that I have seen before but it never gets old....Im RUNNING down Main!!

The Castle is pictures here...and then its off out the back gates and on to a very narrow one lane of road to head back towards Epcot.  This is the only part of the course I hate....UNTIL you see the firemen...then all is right with the world.

At mile 7, I start looking for my friends Mike and Vi.  Have I mentioned how blessed I am with great and wonderful friends who come out often to cheer me on.  I scan the crowd for Mike's straw cowboy hat and I find him...we exchange a joke or two and Im on my way..7 miles in the bag.

Out on to the highway, I have learned NOT to look too far gets to me.  It makes me feel like the course is getting longer so I turn up my Ipod and just GO.  Mile 8 and 9 are always difficult...but I push through.

We make a hard right turn off the highway and are met with an incline and a banked ramp going up to another highway...and this is where I start to hurt and lose focus.  My right heel that I broke last year starts to ache...and then it really really starts to hurt...and suddenly I wonder if Im gonna finish.

At the top of the ramp...I see Epcot...and the doubt disappears...because....honestly....this is my second home.  How could I not cross the finish line where I park my car for work everyday!!!!!!???

We make it into the Epcot parking lot, and for the first time in the whole race, I relax.  No matter how far ahead of the sweepers I am (and on this day....I was WAY ahead of the sweepers thanks to a high corral number start), I worry...A LOT.  But in the parking lot, I know, I am truly going to finish and better yet, I am going to enter the park where I go to work the Living Seas.

As I enter the gates, I see a large woman in a wheelchair with a simple handmade sign that read "Im a total stranger...but Im so proud of you".  It made me cry.  Not many in my family understand my desire to do endurance events....I rarely hear "Im proud of you" from them...they think Im this just struck a cord with me.  I also thought for a moment how that could have been me in that chair...still over 300 again.

As I see the Living Seas, several of the folks I work with are cheering and cheer me on towards the was an awesome feeling.

With less than 1/10th of a mile to go....I hear that amazing husband of mine screaming "Go Cutie Go"..just as I had heard it several hours before.  I cross the finish line with the same gesture I always use...pointing to the sky and reminding myself that God has a reason and a purpose for me.

My friends Mike and Vi along with Steve helped me to the car.  My foot was swollen and was painful but not terrible.  I hobbled along slowly with a weary smile on my face.  There will come a day when I am unable to do these things....but today wasn't that day....and I am grateful for my slow and steady effort to make it to the finish line....let's hope it isn't my only finish line this year!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Run, Drive, Eat, Sleep, Repeat...Ragnar!!

Ragnar Florida Keys 2013

Run, Drive, Eat, Sleep, Repeat...Welcome to running a 200 mile relay race with 2 vans, 12 friends and one incredible set of scenery from the not so nice sections of Miami to the incredible sunsets in Key West.  

I have had the honor, privilege and ability to be doing endurance races for 13 years....but NOTHING...absolutely NOTHING compares to the event I experienced this weekend.

I had never heard of Ragnar...never even considered doing one until one night aboard a cruise after completing various races during the Gasparilla Running Festival that Kim Leach along with a cast of many others began the discussion..and the group you see above was born.  What a long strange trip it was from simply creating a team to actually suiting up, grabbing a vehicle and hitting the road.

We had people who had to drop out due to work issues ... and in those difficulties we found some very special people in Lesley Laing and Will Cheeseman.  These two veteran Ragnarians guided the rest of us through an incredible experience that included heat, humidity, fast legs, injuries, slower than normal miles (that would be me) and the ultimate joy of crossing the finish line.  

There are some endurance events that I have tried and would NEVER do again (MUDDY BUDDY and Adventure racing to name a few) but I have to say that Ragnar challenged something very personal in was truly a journey very similar to the journey I have experience over the last 15 years with losing weight.  It had its drama...its anger...its frustration....its joy....its beauty and ultimately...its triumph.  I would definitely put it up there with triathlon...but my first love is the swim bike and run...and needless to say...I have a special goal to shoot for this  year as Ironman approaches.  For now, however, Ragnar has stolen my heart as did the people who raced with me and were patient with me and my lack of speed.  I was blessed beyond measure with those who took the time and their talents to get us to that finish line that has often eluded for each of them....let me say thank you...

Amy Speer
Sandi Fuller
Tom Daly
Lesley Laing
Kim Leach
Christine Lively
Martha Centeno
Will Cheeseman
Mike Auld
Rene Centeno 
Alan Leach

Support Crew:
Mike Speer-Driver
Steve Daly-Driver
Barb Centeno-Navigator
Vi Auld-"Van Mom"

And to all those via social media who prayed for our safe arrival in Key West...we thank you...I never lose sight of the importance of divine intervention :) I begin my journey towards Ironman...I tuck this experience away as a good lesson in endurance..I think Im gonna need it!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

I love a new year.  It holds the promise of dreams realized and the potential for so many wonderful things to happen.  It's a clean slate.  I remember going out and buying a new calendar book and being excited about the crispness of the pages...or better yet...receiving my new refill for my Franklin Planner.  Oh the wonderful goals I could attain with these tools....I know...Im a geek.

So instead of those crisp clean pages and setting up that Franklin Planner, I have joined this century with an Ical and an iPhone reminder list.  My online calendar has already begun to fill with race dates, workout plans and ... most importantly...that special date circled in red......noooo it's not my 50th birthday (although that will be a red letter day)'s November 2nd Ironman Day.

I enter this new year achieving one goal that has not happened in years...I made it through the holidays with a weight LOSS and not a gain. Since November 8th 2012, I have lost 22 pounds.  I can't say that I am dong backflips at that number (I wish it were more) but its definitely a "check" in the "W" column for me.  Most holidays include way to much food and sweets...but this one had a feeling of control...a sense of "Im worth more than that"...and THAT has not happened in a very very long time.

So many people wish everyone peace and prosperity in the new year...and I DO wish that for all those that take the time to read my rambling words...but more importantly to me...I hope that you will achieve your dreams and that you will attain those goals that have gotten written on your "reminder" list or the races listed on your calendar. I hope that your calendar will be worn and tattered by the end of 2013 because you have crossed off that "to do " list and your goals and dreams have been realized. And above all...I pray that each of you will find that joy and happiness and love that we all yearn for...and I ask that you pray for me as well as I enter into a year that will challenge my abilities and push my limits...

Happy New Year everyone.