After my first 1/2 marathon last year in Vegas caused the blogosphere/twitterverse/commenttrollers to erupt into a sea of complaints about mismanagement, course crowding, walkers blocking runners and other nonsense, I fully expected every other race I’m ever in to be a breeze. While I actually had a great time in Vegas, I know many people did not. I was mulling over that as I dodged a group of six rather large fairies walking side by side as best they could on a sidewalk big enough to hold four pretty standard sized humans.
I will repeat, I had a great time in Vegas. I saw the problems and realized the logistical problems of 48,000 runners on the Strip. I also knew big changes (like moving the race to night) meant big kinks to work out. I also would have had a great time at the Wine and Dine Half, had something not come up. More on that later.
Although registered together, R and I were placed in two different corrals (the last two). He didn’t look at his bib until race day to notice this issue. As we walked around the holding area, he said, my corral is full of scared first-timers and giant sickly looking people who probably won’t finish. He walked into my corral with me and we started together with all the other people who didn’t have an official race time (under 2:45) to place them higher. No one questioned or stopped him, even though we did walk directly by two volunteers directing corral traffic. Yup, about the same corral management as Vegas.
For about 7 of the 13.1 miles, I felt like I was in a large slow moving herd. Instead of just straight walkers, which there were a few, it was mostly interval runners, working at 1/1 or 2/1 pace. Just when you’d start to move around someone, they’d start slowly jogging, never in a straight line and you’d be blocked again. Why can’t people run or walk straight? Don’t they know that walking diagonal across the course takes longer? I know this is because we started in Corral E, as the last three non-time proof corrals were packed and full of walkers. I had much better movement in Vegas personally. I had to dodge walkers and slower runners and people taking photos, but I never got stuck.
Blame that on the impossibly small sidewalks. Yes, sidewalks! About 18,000 runners and walkers herded through standard size sidewalks. While it was not often we hit these 1/4 mile slits, the sidewalks were bogged down with the walkers and interval walkers, chatting away. You heard a lot of beeping and suggestions for walk breaks. On some of them we dodged people, while others we were just blocked in and forced to walk really slow.
There were six bathrooms every mile and a half or so, and real bathrooms in the parks. Although there were lines and volunteers to provide control at the porta potties, most people just skipped the line, cut and made the rest of us wait longer. Which brings me to my personal issue: I woke up that morning with what I thought was a bad cold, but progressed right into an actual flu. I needed a few extra bathroom breaks.
I woke up at 5 a.m. (not by choice) with a sore throat and slight nasal congestion. I could barely swallow. I tried to go back to sleep for the next several hours, but just tossed and turned. Armed with water bottles dosed with Nuun, I made my way to the Cheese Seminar at Epcot’s Food and Wine. By the time that was over, I was achy and sore. My eyes were watering. My nose was clogged. I was thinking allergies at this point.
Back at the room, I took a nap. That’s about when the fever really took over. I should have stayed in bed. Instead, I pulled on my running clothes and headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. I felt like I’d been hit with a truck. Having obsessively looked at several articles on Runners World and Active.com, among others, about running while sick, I figured I had about half of the symptoms that called for avoiding running. By the time we hit the corrals 2 hours later, I had all the symptoms on every checklist! I avoided the topic of my flu by discussing how my outfit (too sick to wear costume) didn’t match.
Figuring a med tent was in my future, and okay with that, I decided to run until I couldn’t breathe or got too dizzy. The first fireworks went off and I prepared myself mentally. 22 minutes later when our fireworks went off, I waited for my rush of endorphin. Some excitement. Anything to propel me forward. Instead I was met with a stuffy nose, a pounding headache, chest tightness and an incredible since of fatigue. That was about three steps over the start line.
It was slow. For the first couple of miles, I couldn’t tell if the pain in my shins and shoulders were from running or just part of the general aches and pains of the flu. I was exhausted by mile one. We started on a 4/1 interval. Slow. Easy.
Around mile 7, the dizziness kicked in full throttle. I was wearing a tank top and capris and felt as if my whole body was on fire. My eyeballs burned. R touched me and confirmed I was hotter than normal running temperature. We took a walk break (and I started on my bathroom breaks). I had decided holding it all in at least wouldn’t dehydrate me as quickly! We slowed down to a 2/1. I didn’t feel tired from running, but I knew that if I was going to finish and not kill myself in the process, we had to take more breaks.
It was painful how slow we were going at times. At one point, some speed walkers passed me in chef’s outfits. I vowed to at least beat them. I did. We also leapfrogged with two women in green tie-dyed shorts the whole race. We beat them as well.
R and I crossed the finish line together, holding hands. His first half marathon complete. I’m proud he finished. I’m sure he would have done awesome had I not dragged him down.
We didn’t stop to take photos with any characters. I was afraid I would get them and others sick, and R was afraid if we stopped that we wouldn’t finish. My Garmin said we kept a 13:56 pace including bathroom breaks and full on stops to blow my nose or hack up a lung. Race official time puts us at 14:20. I’m happy with either. I finished.
I felt like death during the race. I didn’t hit any walls. I could breath fine. My legs felt strong. I wasn’t dehydrated. I was just alternating between fever and chills, achy all over (in my bones) and was so very dizzy at times. My vision blurred around mile 2 and I never looked back…
Then we hit the end, grabbed our medals and tried to head to the after party. It took another two hours to get through the crowd, find a bathroom, get one thing to eat, wait for the bus, and get back to the room. Back to a Vegas comparison. In Vegas, the slow death march started inside the Mandalay Bay as runners and spectators mixed with Michael Jackson attendees. I had already had plenty of time to grab food and relax a little. At the Wine and Dine Half, the slow death march started right after the pictures. It was excruciating to be stuck in the lines: a line for the after race drink, which you had to walk through; the line for the changing rooms, which had to be dodged; a line for bag check into Epcot from the runner’s area (Yes, they stopped and checked everyone’s bags picked up from bag check); and then a line for the bathroom. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to any of the Team #runDisney meetups!
I’m sure had I not been feeling like my head was in a vice, I wouldn’t have noticed how excruciatingly slow it was to move through the runner’s area.
To kind of make it that more awesome, they put the buses for the runners at the Charter bus area and not the bus pick up area directly in front of the park. As we made our way in the herd to the buses, runners yelled at Disney Cast Members and volunteers because there were no buses back to THEIR hotel. I wanted to shout, you should have picked a host hotel then you’d have a bus. I just kept my head down and headed to the bus amazed at how Disney really brings out the anger in some people.
As you can tell, this was not a happy run for me. It was not fun. It was not a good time. It sucked. Although not as bad as I thought. I didn’t get swept. I didn’t have to clock out at a med tent. I made it to the end. I took it slow so I wouldn’t make myself sicker than I already was and I prepared myself for my next race.
I’m going to kick ass in Vegas compared to this! And it wouldn’t be a post if I didn’t ask you to donate towards my next 1/2. I’m not just going to kick ass, I’m going to some Crohn’s & Colitis bootie too! I’m very, very close to my goal of $10,000 with about 2 weeks left to fundraise!!! http://www.active.com/donate/seaLV12/kmacris
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the stuffiness is cleared up and the fever gone, but I still hurt in my bones. I am exhausted from within. A plus: my calves and feet don’t hurt one darn bit!