Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Amazing Race!!!!

Well Folks, I apologize for not blogging more frequently as I led up to the big week of my first marathon. It has been a crazy week, and I have meant to blog, but the circumstances of life just got to me, and unfortunately, I was unable to. What I have decided to do is recap you from Friday when I got to Orlando, and let you in on the whole weekend.

I left work at about 1:30, picked up my daughter at school and went home to pack up the car and head out for our marathon trip to Disney. By the time Adryana and I got home, Arjay was still sleeping, so we didn’t want to wake him up, just so we could go to Orlando earlier. I decided to get the car packed, take a little nap and start hydrating myself for the big race on Friday (more on that later).
We got to Orlando a little before 6, and we got checked into our hotel. By the time we got settled in, we were starving. We decided to go to the local Publix and pick up some treats and fruits for the kids, get me some water and PowerAde (as that would be the choice of drink that we would use on the course) and get some dinner to bring back to the hotel with us. We got pasta, in order for me to load up with carbohydrates in my muscles. Food was good, and after that we got ready for bed.

I couldn’t sleep well Friday night, knowing that the race was so close. I woke up at around 3 am, and heard the buses outside that were transporting the half marathon runners for the early Saturday morning race. I was so excited and I couldn’t fall back asleep for over an hour. The realization that my big day was just one day away was overwhelming. Later on in the morning, we went for breakfast, and then headed over to the marathon expo, so I could get checked in to the race and get my chip timer, Disney shirt, and bib. The expo was unbelievable!!!! There were so many vendors, so many people, and it was just so much bigger than anything that I have ever been associated with. All the races I’ve ever done were on such a smaller scale than what this was all about. I just tried to soak it all in (while keeping myself hydrated in the process). Once we got back to the hotel, Chris called to let me know he just arrived with his family in Orlando, so I went and met up with him and his family. Later on that night, Chris and my family went out to dinner and we did our little pre-race marathon eating thing. As we finished eating, my parents arrived in Orlando, and met up with all of us. We all went over a game plan of where everyone would be during the race to watch Chris and myself. My parents decided to see me start the race at 6:00 am, and then watch me at mile 4, mile 9-10 at the Magic Kingdom, and at the Yacht Club in Disney World. Kerry, Katrina (Chris’s wife) and the kids would meet up with them at the Yacht Club, which was mile 24. We said our farewells to everyone around 9:00 pm, and I went back to the hotel and tried to get some zzzz’s. That didn’t work too well, as the excitement surrounding everything made me anxious. Didn’t actually sleep until after 11 pm and I woke up around 1 am. I just figured since I can’t sleep, I’ll just continue to keep hydrated and make good use of the time.

I actually feel asleep again at about 2:15 am, and slept until the alarm woke me up at 3 am. I was ready to roll!!!! I got myself ready and Kerry woke up, gave me a goodbye kiss, wished me luck and I was off. I went out to the bus in front of my hotel, which took me to the starting area of the race. I met up with Chris and a friend of ours from Saddlebrook, and checked in my baggage. We had to be at the area around 4 am, so we had some time to spare. Our friend from Saddlebrook had not trained much for the marathon, and didn’t have any time goals, but to attempt to finish. As you know, I had time goals of under 4 hours and so did Chris. I drank some fluids as we were conversing, and used the potty. We finally got ready to go into our corrals (that’s the gate area where you start the race). The place was packed!!!!!! There were so many runners (18,000 entered the marathon), it was just insane!!!! About 5 minutes before the race, Disney did a fireworks display, which was incredible. We were so excited!!! I can’t believe it… the time is here… all that training is going to finally pay off!!!!!
When the starting gun went off, Chris and I were probably 6 minutes from the front of the pack, so we didn’t start until 6:06. We were ready to go and started off at a comfortable 10 minute pace. We really didn’t have a choice, since there were so many people in front of us…. We just had to wait until the hoards of runners cleared. I was ok with that as I wanted to go out slow and not get too excited and start out too fast. I saw my parents about ½ mile after the start and I was so excited to see them. Chris said that my dad had a look on his face, like he wanted to jump over the fence and start running (more on that later). Once we got past mile 2, Chris and I split off and I tried to get into my comfortable race pace. It was still pretty crowded, but I was able to get some of the miles under 9 minutes. The first part of the race went through Epcot, and they had everything lighted up…. It was awesome!!!!! At mile 4, I saw my parents and I waved to them and pumped my fist in the air… I was so happy to see them again, and I blew them a kiss and continued on. There wasn’t as much fanfare after mile 4, so I wanted to start focusing on getting into my running groove.

As I started to scroll around in my watch, I noticed that my heart rate was at very high levels!!! I was at 180 beats per minute at the 5th mile… which is extremely high for me. I just figured that maybe the excitement of everything was making my heart beat fast, so I decided to not look at the watch anymore. But at that time, in the back of my head, I knew something wasn’t right. I continued on and again saw my parents as we got closer to the magic kingdom at mile 9. I gave them a hi-five, and I was like nearly jumping for joy!!!!! I was just so pumped at that point!!!!! Right after I did that, my left calf muscle started to cramp up….. I was like, “what the heck is that? Ok, don’t pay attention to it, just keep going” Well, I wish I could say that it went away but it became more and more severe…. It happened again, about 2 minutes later, and then it happened in my other calf, then my quads and hamstrings. I have never experienced anything like this before in my whole lower body. I started to panic, and I didn’t know what to really do… should I stop for good? Should I just stretch and see if it goes away? I decided to do the latter, to no avail. I was in major trouble. I was hydrated, and taking my energy gels….what did I do wrong? Why was my body doing this to me? You have to remember that I have performed 18-22 mile runs, 4 times since training for this marathon, and never experienced anything like this. I decided that I should start to walk for a few minutes, hoping that it would go away, and that I could continue with the race. Unfortunately, it all got worse….pain that was almost unbearable every time I attempted to run, even at a shuffling pace.
It was my worst nightmare coming true. People started to pass me left and right and there was nothing that I could do. I started to walk and stretch, and about 10 minutes later, Chris caught up to me. He was extremely concerned, realizing that I had stopped running the race, and assessed the situation. Chris, or should I say, my guardian angel, tried everything in his power to help me continue the race. He tried to massage my legs, stretch me and even walk, but everything got worse. I ended up having to go to a medical tent and have them take a look at me. The nurse told me that I was suffering from hyponatremia (which basically is water poisoning, or too much water in my system). She asked me if I wanted to be removed from the course… and I said no. She advised me to only drink PowerAde, not to touch anymore water for the rest of my time on the course. I took her advice and proceeded on. I wanted Chris to continue on and run, but he would not do it… he wanted to stay with me, figuring that at some point I would be able to start running again. Unfortunately, it was not working. I was at mile 14, having already walked 3 miles and realizing that I could be in for a long day. I had to decide what to do at that time… the thought of calling it a day came into my mind… for like 2 seconds. And then I realized, I have to finish….. and the reasons I gave myself were…
1. Shane told me to have 3 goals… make one of them to finish, by any means.
2. Zack, click here
3. I’m just so darn stubborn, there is no other way I’d do it.

Chris decided to stay with me and not continue on running. Unbelievable!!!! I really didn’t want him to, but I realize that he felt as though my well being was more important than him finishing in any particular time… I so much appreciate his friendship, and he always shows how much he values me as his friend, but never more than today. Chris, what you did for me today…. I can never repay you for that!!! Thank you so much for sacrificing your big day for me. It really meant a lot. (I wonder if Disney will give Chris an honorary sub 4 hour marathon for his heroic efforts with me today?) He earned it!!!!
The tough part was watching everyone pass me…. From Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, 60 year olds, 70 year olds, dead people….. you name it…. I was done…. My body failed me… and my pride was broken, like it had never been broken before. I’m supposed to be the fitness guy… so many people say they are inspired by what I do with Therafit and my running, and the weight I lost… and I felt like I just bombed it. Actually, to cap off the nightmare, one of my Therafit patients saw me during my low point in the course, and cheered me on (but I’m wondering if she was like…. My trainer is so slow!!!” My wife, my mom and dad, and my kids were waiting for me to pass the finish under 4 hours, and I was lucky if I could reach mile 17 by that time. We tried to call them from one of the medical tents, but they didn’t pick up(because they didn’t know the number). Remember that friend of ours from Saddlebrook that had no goals for the race? She caught up to us and passed us, but before she left, she let us use her cell phone, so we could notify our family on what was happening to me. After that I walked and attempted to run, but every minute or so after running, my body would cramp up and I would have to stop.
Fast forward to mile 24, we finally reached the Yacht Club after 5 hours and 10 minutes and we finally saw my parents, including Kerry and the kids. Kerry dropped what she had in her hands and hugged me and told me how proud she was of me and to continue to press on. I have to admit that I got a little emotional, because she was still so proud of me, even though I stunk it up!! Adryana said the same thing too… But here was the thing that just did it in for me. Kerry and my mom saw that I was in pretty bad shape, but they both knew that I didn’t come this far not to finish… so they told my dad to do something!!! So my dad came over the fence, put his arm around me and told me, “Son, I am so proud of what you have done… let’s go finish this together… (I’m sorry but I’m actually tearing up as I write this). My dad put his arm around my shoulder and basically helped my shuffle the last 2 miles of the marathon…. So many people started to cheer me and my dad on that I was overcome with emotion again. After about a ¼ mile, I was severely cramped all over and I was literally jogging on my toes!!! Emotion carried me through and I was able to shuffle about a mile without stopping. Eventually I had to stop, but within 2-3 minutes I started again to run, and I ran with my dad’s hand around my shoulder to mile 26. As we attempted to cross the finish line, I held my dad’s hand up and we crossed over together…. Words cannot describe the feelings I had at that moment, and realizing that my father was so proud of me, and that he willed me to the finish. It was the best Father-Son moment we have ever had, and it was the most priceless thing that we have ever done together. And for that reason and all the reasons I talked about earlier, this was my most amazing day I have ever had with running, and that is why it will always be known as “The Amazing Race” to me.
So here are the things (in no particular order) that were reaffirmed for me today.
1. The marathon is like life…. You can prepare all you want for something, but you never know what may come your way. Your character is based on what you do when everything comes unglued. I learned that I am mentally tough when I want to be.
2. There is nothing like family. They love you when you are at your high, but they love you even more when you are at your lowest of lows. Don’t ever take them for granted… (I love you Kerry, Mom, Dad, Adryana and Arjay)
3. Chris is a gem… we have known each other for years… very rarely can business and friends work, but our relationship is the exception….
4. I’m doing another marathon….. Stay tuned!!!!