07 March 2014

26.2 with DONNA recap

I was super pumped for this race weekend.  #CorralG's own Marcia is the Social Media Butterfly for DONNA, and she had gotten almost all of us to sign up for either the half or full in Jacksonville.  We missed Jeannie, who was down at Princess weekend getting her Glass Slipper, and Cindy, who has moved back to Switzerland, so we're all going to have to head across the pond to race with her!

In case you missed my post about fundraising for this amazing race, 26.2 with DONNA was started by Donna Deegan, a three-time breast cancer survivor, in 2008.  Since then, the race has raised over $3.5 MILLION to help finish breast cancer. 70% of proceeds raised go to Mayo Clinic, where groundbreaking research is helping to find a cure.  The remaining 30% go to breast cancer patients, so they don't have to make a choice between cancer treatments and groceries.  I set a pre-race goal of $500, and I have exceeded that goal.  The great thing about 26.2 with DONNA is that we have until March 31 to continue fundraising, and I have decided to double my goal because of my experience.  You can donate here.

Donna and the Butterfly leading the pack
Thursday night I flew down to Jacksonville after work and was picked up by the gracious Butterfly.  We headed over to Mellow Mushroom for some eats, before heading back to her place and finishing some prep work for the #runDONNAmeetup that was happening Friday morning.  I was super excited that I was going to be able to attend this fabulous meet up with founder Donna Deegan and Olympic gold-medalist Joan Benoit-Samuelson.  We got up early Friday morning to head to Starbucks and get ready for all the guests to join us at One Ocean Resort.  The group gathered, and we had some great motivational words from Donna and Joan before heading out for about a 3 mile run through the neighborhood - our first glimpse of the race course.  It was a little chilly with the wind coming off the ocean, but the humidity was also high.  It was a great morning for a run!  I acted as unofficial photog for the morning, snapping photos of the group in action.  After the run, it was time to get cleaned up and off to the expo!  Marcia had official Butterfly duties to attend to and I was working the 110% booth.

Together Again! Linzie and the girls
Later in the day, Jill and Jen C arrived from Atlanta, and shortly thereafter scooped up Linzie from the airport after his multi-plane hop across the country.  We were thrilled to be back together again - and only a few more hours until the rest of the group arrived!

Saturday morning, Marcia and Linzie headed out early for the 5K.  I enjoyed sleeping in a bit, and then heading over to the expo with Jill and Jen, again spending some time working the 110% booth.  Around lunchtime, the rest of the gang arrived (well, almost all of them...).  Joe and Kasi got in, Jen P wrapped up a PR at the Inaugural Enchanted 10K and drove up, and Adam arrived with Princess Caitlyn and a few other Chambos!  Kira and her mom had to stop for lunch and a little retail therapy, so Kira missed out on our photo shoot for the afternoon... It was great reconnecting, even briefly, and we were all looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

#CorralG at work.  Photo credit: Michael Kelly
It was a whirlwind day, and soon enough, it was time to head back to Marcia's to get ready for the evening.  We bumped into Kira and her mom arriving just as we were leaving.  Luckily, they were staying right around the corner, so we would see them all again soon enough.  Marcia and Linzie were heading to Mayo for a fundraiser's dinner, and Jen P and I were lucky enough to be invited to tag along.  It was so amazing hearing from the lead doctor on the research being done at Mayo to finish breast cancer, as well as from the many teams raising money in honor and memory of loved ones. We had a great, scientifically proven, pre-race meal for runners.  The rest of the gang was back at M's cooking up a fabulous pasta meal, and while we weren't eating with them, we were eager to get back and catch up with everybody.
Family Time!
Photo credit: Marcia Barton

All too soon it was time to say goodnight, and get ready for our big races in the morning.  Adam and the Jens would be tackling the half, while Joe, Linzie, Marcia, Kira, and I would be facing 26.2 miles.  Everybody laid out their race attire, and we headed to dreamland.

Ink n Burn Ambassadors ready to ROCK!
Alarms started going off at 4am - such a great sleep-in compared to a Disney race morning!  We were up and moving, grabbing breakfast, and making sure we were all ready to be out the door promptly at 5.  Marcia was leading the pack, knowing what needed to be done to avoid any stress once we got to the race start.  We caravanned over in three cars and were soon passing over the bridge that would be momentous later in the day.  We parked, and then most of us stayed in the car for another 45 minutes, not wanting to venture out into the chill of the morning just yet.

The day was set - temps would start in the low 50s and climb into the 60s.  There was a chance of rain, but it was supposed to hold off until about 3:00, plenty of time for us to run the race and get home.  We finally headed over to the start village, making a stop at the ports-potties before one last group shot.  We ran into some of our other favorite people, including many of the race ambassadors and our own Krazy Aunt Krissy! Kira wanted to maximize her time, so she headed off to one of the earlier starting corrals with Krissy.  The rest of us lined up in our start corral.  The plan was intervals of 2:30 running, and 1:00 walking.  I had debated about sticking with the group, or pushing out on my own intervals of 3:00/0:45, like I'd done in training, and trying to hit my 4:45-5:00 hour finish.  I'd had great training, and felt good, but I decided I would at least start with #CorralG, so keep me from going out too fast, and then see how things went.  I sent my interval timer for my intervals, so that if I decided to head off on my own, they'd be all set.

Start line #CorralG selfie!
There was a slight delay, but around 7:40, we were off.  We stuck together, with Marcia chiming her famous "running" and "walking" calls for us.  We had a blast through the early miles, and since the half course and full course were the same until around mile 7, Adam and Jen were running with us too.  Jen kept leading the pack, and we had to wrangle her back in.  But she was having a GREAT morning, and she finished with her another PR for the weekend.

The weather was still perfect - slightly overcast, humidity not too bad.  Course conditions were at green.  I realized as we were driving over that morning that I had brought some energyBITS with me, but no other fuel. I decided I would just rely on the course fuel, not really knowing what it would be or how often it would be available.  It turned out they had Gu, which I know I can tolerate, and made sure to grab a couple packs each time we passed by.  Around mile 5 I took some energyBITS, and made sure to take water and Gatorade at each water stop.

Photo credit: Jen Pelham (leader of the pack)
We headed on to the beach around mile 6.  We all ran together on the beach for about a mile - Linzie finally got to see and touch the Atlantic Ocean, and Marcia found her word (strength) that she had signed at the expo.  Around mile 7, Adam and Jen headed off the beach to loop back towards the finish.  From there it was Joe, Marcia, Linzie, and me.  We came off the beach and ran through some neighborhoods.  Marcia mentioned this was where she fell apart the last time she ran the full, and she was searching for redemption today.  I was starting to notice the pain in my foot - a few weeks previously, I had foolishly run into a manhole that was sticking up.  My pace started to slow, and I was very glad that I had my friends, and wasn't trying to tackle this race on my own.

After we made the marathon turn around, we started to notice that the course had gone yellow.  I mentioned to Linzie it may have been because of the humidity.  We didn't notice too much difference in the weather, so we kept on.  Joe and Marcia were slowly creepy ahead of Linzie and I.  Linzie was also having a rough day, having his own fueling issues.  I kept up taking gus as they were offered on course, tucking some away, but didn't really have a consistent or set fueling plan.  I started to get slower.

Somewhere around mile 17 or 18, Linzie and I totally lost Joe and Marcia.  They just got too fast for us.  Linzie was getting a cramp, so at one point we stopped so he could stretch it out.  The stretching helped, and we were back at it, although at this point, neither of us had an interval timer for the "right" intervals, so we were just sort of making things up.  At mile 20, they had a great brick wall with a 20 crashing through it, and on the ground it said "break through the wall!"  I didn't have a mental wall at that point, but I was glad for the restroom break.

We noticed at the next course sign that the course had gone red.  Around mile 21 it started sprinkling. I started yelling to the sky, "shove off," which is (for some reason) what I say when weather rolls in that I am not happy to see.  Linzie confessed that he had NEVER run in the rain - the benefits of living in SoCal, I suppose.  While I had run in the rain before, I had never run in cold rain, and I had always worn a rain jacket when I'd been out in it before.  That day, I was dressed for the other forecast - the 50s-60s, overcast forecast.  I was NOT prepared for rain.  Especially the rain that we got for the REST OF THE COURSE!

Yes, it kept raining on us for the NEXT 5.2 MILES!  It was not fun.  It was not even bearable.  Linzie and I spent some time seriously struggling those last miles.  We got angry at the weather.  We got angry at our respective races.  But we were so grateful to have each other.  We each confessed that had we not had one another, we would have quit.  That's right - it was that bad, quitting crossed my mind more than once.  We came up the ramp and on to Butler Blvd - the last stretch before the finish. Across a bridge.  And at this point the course had gone BLACK!  Yes - black.  According to USATF rules, a course goes black when there is "Cloud to ground lightning within 5 miles and those exposed to the elements need to be out of harms way." (thanks to official race meteorologist and husband of Donna, Tim Deegan for this clarification)  Linzie and I were coming up to the bridge at this point.  We had no idea what black meant for those of us on the course.  We were walking at this point, but we were determined to get to the finish.  

Photo credit: Sport Photo
As we finally crested the hill on the bridge - the one we'd driven over earlier that morning - Kira came running up and PASSED us!  So not fair - she had so much energy that had been sapped from us through the rain.  She kept going.  So did we.  As we started down the hill, we saw the ramp where we would head down to the finish chute - and we saw buses coming up the ramp to take participants off the course because of the conditions.  I wasn't sure if they were going to pick us up - I was determined, at this point past mile 26, that I was not going to miss out on my finish.  They drove by.  We were SOAKED through, my feet were squishing in my shoes.  Every fiber on my body was full of water.  Linzie and I made the turn into the chute.  We tried to run, but it was too hard.  We gave up running, and walked across that finish line, holding hands, knowing we may have been conquered that day, but we still beat 26.2 miles.  

As we came through the chute, there was Jill in her poncho, ready to whisk us away.  She had an urgency in her voice, and we just followed her.  Out of no where, Adam also appeared, wrapped in his mylar blanket.  The photographer wanted to take our finisher photos, but we just wanted to get out of the rain.  There was no food, no water, no gatorade.  Not even medals.  As we came up to the hospital, Katy Perry came on my iPod (yes, I'd been listening to music the whole time - and so thankful to neighbors who handed out ziplock bags as it started raining).  I shouted out the lyrics - "this is the part of me that your NEVER gonna EVER take away from me."  I was a marathon finisher.  This wasn't my best, it wasn't my worst time.  But it was HARD.  It was the hardest 26.2 miles I've done.  

As we were coming across the bridge, I said to Linzie, "I'm so glad this race is finishing at a hospital, because they are going to know how to take care of us."  And when we got inside, that was the case.  I immediately took off my shoes, and instructed Linzie to do the same.  Then made us walk around so we didn't cramp up.  The medical team brought in all the "patients" they had been working on out in the runners village.  I asked if they had warm blankets, and while they didn't, they did start grabbing sheets and towels to help wrap people in.  I had been smart enough to pack an entire change of clothes in my check bag, so once that showed up, I headed off to change.  Linzie went into the medical area, where they gave him those dry sheets and towels to wrap up in.  Somehow, Adam had managed to find medals for us.  We were ready to be done with this race.  It was a little chaotic, but the DONNA team did their best to care for us in the worst situation.  This was the first time it had ever rained for this event, and their contingency plan went into effect.  Everyone was taken care of and safety was the number one priority.  We were held in the hospital until the major weather passed, and then we headed back to Marcia's.  She had to stay and help with the situation, which we totally understood, but our post-race plans were out the window.  

We got back and showered, got warm, had some leftover homemade meatballs and spaghetti, and unfortunately had to get on the road.  Linzie was flying out at 6:55, and Jill and Jen C and I were heading back to Atlanta.  Jen P and the Chambo clan were driving back to Orlando, through the worst of the storm.  It turned out there were tornado warnings and 80mph winds in the neighboring county to the south, so the race crew made the right decision in going to black on the course.  

It wasn't the race I wanted.  It wasn't the race any of us expected with the weather going crazy.  (and I hear something similar happened at Little Rock this past weekend as well)  But we were all safe, and we were able to be together.  This race solidified in me the power of friendship.  If it weren't for Linzie, I'm not sure I would have pushed on those last few miles.  

This race also showed me determination - I saw back bibs on course proclaiming honor and memory for aunts and sisters, moms and daughters.  I saw survivors on this course, showing cancer who was boss.  And I saw, the Mayo dinner, what our efforts to finish breast cancer are doing.  This was a horrible race for me, but a wonderful opportunity to see what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it.  

And so that, my friends, as long of a recap as it was, is why I am upping the ante and pledging to raise another $500 for 26.2 with DONNA.  To help finish breast cancer.  And to show that no matter what, we can accomplish our dreams.  


Julie Franklin said...

Wow great recap Katie. What a fun looking race both the course and with your buds. Racing with besties is so much fun! Thanks for sharing.

Mizunogirl said...

I did this race last year and loved it (the half) all except for the lie on the beach. The weather this year was insane. I am so glad that you and your pals came out OK.