Monday, September 12, 2011

Half-Marathon Part 3 - In which nearly 2,215 people don't finish the race, but I do!

Warning - more pictures ahead. And some words.

I left you all at mile 6, with me making a dorky video about my progress so far. I was still going (pretty) strong, despite the sun beating down on me and the fact that I was facing another 7.1 miles. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were also suffering trying to achieve the same goal. There were many times on the course that I wanted to yell out encouraging, fun things like "Who's having fun?" and "How is everyone doing - let me hear you yell!" and "We all rock!" but, unfortunately, I was too embarrassed to do it. I wish I had had the nerve.

Mile 8 took us through the parking lot of the Honda Center, where the Mighty Ducks play hockey. While most of the first 4 miles were on Disney property, as well as the last 1.1 miles, the rest of the race was on the streets of Anaheim. We ran by a lot of strip malls, over train tracks, and through an industrial area. All of that was pretty ho-hum, but I didn't figure that it was much different than any normal half-marathon. I have heard that the Disney World races are completely on Disney property, since that resort is so much larger, and that because of that there is a lot more of that "Disney-feel" and entertainment to the runs. Which would be awesome, but I still felt that this race was a good one.

Around mile 7 I started getting texts - since I use my iPhone for my music when I run, every once in a while I would hear a chime letting me know I had a new message. Turns out my hubby had put out a Facebook post encouraging people to text me, especially between 8 and 9, to cheer me on. It was so sweet, and every time it dinged I got a new burst of motivation and inspiration. He would text me funny things, and friends and family would encourage me to keep going.

Between miles 8 and 9 we ran along the Santa Ana River Trail, which really made me laugh. Here is what the "river" looked like:
You could see the bottom of the ditch (I guess it is a river bed?) and the whole thing was obviously man-made. The reason I laugh is because I am from Northern California, where we have lots of river access, ad our rivers are natural and beautiful and lush. I run on the American River Bike Trail all the time. I would have considered this river more of a reservoir. Whatever.

Ahead in the distance I could see our next destination:
 Can you see it in the distance?
 Angel's Stadium - coming up!

I have to say, before the race, I knew we were going to be running through the stadium, and while I thought it sounded cool, it didn't really mean anything to me. I'm not a huge baseball fan or anything, so I thought it was just something to break up the run a little. I was wrong.
 Headed through the tunnel into the stadium

 As we came through the tunnel, I could hear the roar of the crowd inside. It echoed down to us, and this wave of excitement hit me. I felt like an athletic superstar with a stadium of people cheering for me. I was running, ducking around people, wondering how they could be walking at a moment like this. We were on the outfield, running through a stadium, something people don't normally get to do, with excited fans cheering us on. Move it people! I ran around the corner, and looked over in the seats, and had the best surprise of my day:
 That guy in the grey shirt and khaki shorts, pointing at me? Yeah, that's my hubby. I had no idea that he was going to be there - I actually thought he wouldn't. It was a fantastic surprise - it put more pep in my step and really gave me a boost. It was awesome.
After we headed out into the parking lot, I shot another video. I am looking distinctly more red, sweaty, and exhausted in this one. And don't you love the frame it freezes on?

By the time we hit mile 10, I was really starting to wonder how much longer this was going to take. 10 miles was as far as I had ever run during my training, the furthest I had ever run in my life, and now was the time to run the last 5k to finish out the race. It was at least encouraging to see the signs for Disney Way, and to start seeing signs for the parks. At this point I had to just dig deep. I thought of all those people who donated money so that I could make it down to the race, all those people who had so much faith in me and my journey and wanted to see me meet my goal. I knew I owed it to them as well as myself to finish as strong as I could.

Tower of Terror in the distance - I knew we were closing in on the end.

 One mile to go!
 The back of the new "Cars Land" they are building at California Adventure

 Unfortunately, this Genie didn't have any ability to grant my wish to be done already

The last mile, I thought about my kids. I thought of how I want to be a good example to them, to show them that we can do hard things. That we can do anything that we want and set our minds to, and that their mom is capable of big things. Thinking of them, and also getting texts from my hubby that said "Be strong Morgan" and "I'm so proud of you Morgan" kept me running that whole last mile.
 It's blurry, but it's there - the Finish line!
Just before you crossed the finish line, Minnie, Chip and Dale, and Goofy were all lined up to give high-fives and clap. I moved to the side where they were just so I could high-five them - I may be a dork, but I earned it!
Self-portrait immediately after crossing the finish line - I was so happy and proud of myself!

Let's bask in this moment for a bit. It was amazing. It was unbelievable. Last year at this time I was starting to train for my first 5k, and I didn't think I could even finish that. I would never have thought that I would be running a half-marathon. No matter how slow I was, I finished what I started. After twelve weeks of training, and 13.1 miles of sweat and (mostly happy) tears, I finished what I started. It was a wonderful feeling.

However, shortly after this, things went downhill alarmingly quickly. After crossing the finish line, I was handed a "cooling towel," which was a terrycloth towel in a package that resembled those portable baby wipe packages. I got my medal, picked up a water bottle, and headed down the line, opening and wiping my face down with the towel. The area funneled you past the medical tent, to the food, and then out through lettered tents (corresponding to your last name) into the family reunion area. I stopped in the medical tent to look for ice and pain pills. The ice was being replenished, and there was a line. 

I was anxious to get out and find Jon, who was supposed to be waiting in the reunion area after watching me finish on the big screens. So I got a handful of this stuff called Bio-Freeze and slathered it on my calves. Then I wiped what was left on my had onto the towel. Moments later I wiped my face, which was streaming sweat. I grab a bagel from the food line, and simultaneously realize that something I've wiped on my face had menthol in it.

I tend to have allergic reactions to menthol. Those Icy-Hot patches, Ben Gay, anything like that gives me itchy, swollen patches of skin. I panic as I realize it is all over my face, and I am having visions of myself all puffy and itchy through my afternoon at Disneyland. I realize that it was in the Bio-freeze, and try to wipe it off with the towel, or at least the portions where I hadn't already wiped the gunk off my hands. Meanwhile, I am still being funneled through the line, I have my hands full with a bagel, water bottle, towel, and who knows what else. I figure my best option is to find Jon, so I go through the appropriate tent and start looking. 

Now, at 6'7", my hubby is not hard to spot in a crowd - a fact that I have always been grateful for. And yet, as I am looking around, I can't see him. I find a nearby table with an open corner and set down as much as I can so I can focus on cleaning off my face. I pour some water on the towel and keep wiping my face, which is stinging a bit. Finally I decide that I have gotten as much off my face as possible (and my skin is feeling a bit tight and shiny like I just had a chemical peel.) At this point, I am starting to feel nauseous, and can't manage to swallow any more bagel. I trash it and grab the rest of my stuff and renew my search for my husband. I can't spot him anywhere, and so I manage to wrestle my phone out of my arm band so I can text him and find out where he is. Only I am in a complete dead zone, and can't get a message or call out.

Hot, sweaty, tired, nauseous, face burning, and feeling abandoned, my high just plummets. I finally manage to get a text out, asking Jon where he is, and get one back saying that he is still trying to get in and park. He isn't there and didn't see me finish. Things are not looking so rosy through my eyes anymore. I look around for a place to sit, hopefully in the shade, but there are no chairs anywhere and the sun is brutally bearing down on me. So I leave the reunion area and shuffle over to the road (which is closed) where I know Jon will be walking once he is able to park. I feel dizzy and sick, so I sit down on the curb. 

After 20 more minutes (and many failed texts) I get up and stand under the only shade I can find. I finally see Jon looking for me, and wave him down. At that point, any joy that I wanted to share at my finishing has been sapped by the events after crossing the finish line, and all I want is to get back to the car. Which it turns out is parked at the far end of one of the top floors of the garage. As we are walking out there, I realize that I need at least one post-race picture with my medal, but I have tears in my eyes and just can barely muster a smile. Hence the picture below in all its ugly glory:
I stumbled back to the car, at which point it took us another 20 minutes to get out of the garage. Jon told me his story, which basically was that since so many roads were closed for the race, he got stuck coming back from the stadium to the park, along with everyone else trying to get back to the finish line. We had set it up through the race website for Jon to be texted at different points along the race, and he told me that he was crushed when he got the text saying I was finished and he hadn't even made it to the parking garage yet. It was a low point for both of us. He could have parked at our hotel and walked over in less time, if he had known. I told him he needs to write it all up so that in future years, people watching their loved ones race will know what not to do.

He got me back to the hotel, put me in the shower, and then went and bought me a chocolate milk. By the time I drank that and was dressed, I was feeling better. We prepared to head back to the park for our day at Disneyland (crazy, I know, but it was the only day we had!) As soon as we got in, we ate lunch (Jambalaya for me - yum!) and soon I was ready to walk the park and ride some rides. We ended up spending 12 hours at Disneyland, just taking it slow in the crowds and riding and eating. It was a great ending to the weekend. But I paid for it the next day when I couldn't walk so much as hobble. 

I don't normally put magnets or stickers on my car, but I earned this one!

Overall, it was an amazing weekend, and I would do it all again. Previously, I was fairly certain that this would be the only half-marathon I would ever do, but during and even after, I realized that I am not done. Now all I can think about is doing another one, and trying to improve my speed. I am planning on trying to get a group of people together to run the Disneyland half next year, but I am also going to pepper the coming months with some as well. Finishing my training and the race proved to me that I can do this - which is why I signed up for the run to begin with. Achieving my goal has been an amazing experience for me, and has given me more self-confidence. And I can honestly say that if I can do this, anyone can. So does anyone want to join me?


  1. It looks exhausting, but it looks like you had a lot of fun and that you felt great after completing it!


  2. Morgan, you should be so proud of yourself for finishing what you started!! And sorry after the finish line was the worst part - I've been to the Chicago Marathon to cheer on friends and family and it's nearly impossible to be where you want because of all the people.

    If I lived anywhere near you I would be so in!! Maybe I'll have to train for a race here that's the same day as your next race.


  3. I came here from Biz's blog and read all three parts of your half recap - CONGRATULATIONS!!! What an awesome feat, and to do that race all by yourself? Brave girl. Plus? You walked around Disneyland AFTER running 13.1 miles? Dang! Color me impressed!

  4. Your Half sounded like fun! I'm glad you made it. To get faster you need to do some speed training. I did mine once a week at the high school track. You can find lots of plans online if you google it. I just need something else to do besides running. I think my body needs a shake up. I love running so I'm not going to stop much. Jillian.... how I've missed her. I have a dvd from Bob I'm going to do too. It was tough the last time I tried it so I'm excited to try it again.

  5. Great job! So inspiring! Sorry about the allergy attack. I'm allergic to EVERYTHING so I know what you mean. I'm doing WDW in january and trying to convince the fam that I should go for coast-to-coast too. If so, I'll def run with you!