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The Dark Side Half-Marathon 2018

Well, it has been quite a week since participating in The Dark Side half-marathon on April 22nd.

In many ways, this was my best half-marathon yet.  But, I still consider myself a beginner running so there are always things that I am learning.  Unfortunately, I became extremely ill after the race, but it actually didn’t have much to do with the race itself.  My daughter and sister have also been fighting this illness.  It has been a week, and I am still fighting horrible congestion, coughing, sneezing, etc.  Starting on Saturday the 21st, I felt exhausted and nauseous, but I didn’t think much about it since I had woke up early to watch my husband during the The Dark Side 10K, plus doing to Disney World can be exhausting.

I woke up feeling excited on race day for the half-marathon, but I was also definitely starting to feel sick.

Again, I didn’t think much of it.  I had woken up at 3:00 AM and was hanging out in the Magic Kingdom parking lot around 5:00 AM when I took my pre-race selfie.  Of course, I was exhausted.  It was early, and I was about to run 13.1 miles.  There were thunderstorms on the forecast that thankfully got pushed back to the afternoon, but there was still the ever present Florida humidity.  Darin and I started in different corrals because by some stroke of luck, I was placed in corral F while he was in corral H (the last corral).  He said that he started the race directly in front of the balloon ladies.  Talk about intimidation.

Starting in two corrals in front of the balloon ladies definitely gave me some confidence.

Plus I had been training pretty consistently.  I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in the miles due to shin and calf pain after my 8 mile run, but I still ran frequently.  After my 8 mile run, I had decided to give myself time to heal and not over-do it.  I also finally decided to try out KT Tape and that was life changing.  That definitely helped me heal, and I basically put KT Tape all over my legs the night before the race.  I had absolutely no pain before the race and very minimal aching during and after the race.

This was my first time starting a race without Darin by my side.  When the fireworks went off for my corral, I was filled with excitement and adrenaline.  By the time Darin started, I was already past mile 1.  I knew I had a decent lead on the balloon ladies.  This was the first year that I did not hear a single mention of the balloon ladies, besides a few fellow runners wondering if we were still far ahead of them… and the answer was always YES.  That was a great feeling.

Of course, I had my fair share of issues on course…

Darin and I were sending text message updates to each other so that we would eventually be able to link up.  He started off the race running (under a 12 min mile), and I was doing run/walk intervals at a slow 15-16 minute mile.  By mile 3, I started feeling extremely sick, and actually had to run off to the grass a couple times due to nausea.  We reached mile 4 at the same time.  We both texted “4” to each other, and I saw him a little ways in front of me.  I told him that he passed me by, and he turned to wait for me.  He asked me how I was doing, and I replied, “Not so good.”

I was already drenched in sweat and feeling queasy.  He took my hand and told me to take my time.  I threw water on myself at the next water station, took very small sips of water of powerade, and decided to ignore my intervals.

When we reached Animal Kingdom, I took out my AirPods and we tried to stay with the 3:15 pace group.  I was feeling motivated through Animal Kingdom as it is one of my favorite parts of the race.  I smiled at all the photographers and slowly started feeling better.  Once we left Animal Kingdom, I decided I couldn’t keep up with the pace group and just wanted to walk.  Of course, it was a brisk walk, and I would occasionally feel motivated to run.  I would say, “I can run to that sign.  I can run past the group of onlookers.  I can definitely run while the photographer is taking my picture.”

Those brief runs were worth it.

I love my photos this year.  Last year, I literally looked like I was going to collapse at any second.  It was rough.  You can read about my experience last year on Nola Nerd Couple’s blog:  Running: The WDW Second Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.  They also featured my very first half-marathon on their blog: Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.

This was the first year that I was smiling and posing during my photos.  My hands did start to swell again this year, but it was not as severe as last year.  Once again, I dealt with salt depletion, even though I had energy chews, a granola bar, minimized water intake, drank powerade, and took precautions.  Next time, I will need to bring salt pills with me.

Running through Hollywood Studios and Epcot is THE BEST way to end a half-marathon.

When we reached Hollywood Studios, I was filled with so much happiness.  I still had 3 miles to go, but the castmembers and park guests were so motivating.  One of my favorite guests was an older couple at the entrance to Hollywood Studios holding a sign that said something along the lines of, “A stranger cheering you on.”  I wish I could hug everyone that stands along the course cheering.  It really is motivating when you are feeling completely exhausted.

To me, reaching Epcot is one of the biggest milestones of the race.  Besides, actually crossing the finish line.  I definitely cried as we ran (okay maybe walked… unless there was a photographer!) around the World Showcase and passed the 12 mile marker.  All the many castmembers standing outside the countries while cheering, waving flags, ringing bells, and clapping… it is amazing.  By this point, I was in a lot of pain in my feet and thighs (won’t go into the nitty gritty details but DO NOT under any circumstance wear boy short underwear with fitted leggings).  Thanks to KT Tape, my legs were okay.  I was so happy when we reached the 13 mile marker that I decided to run the last .1.  This was a first for me.

We crossed the finish line holding hands, happy to have just completed our 3rd half-marathon!

And then I made a pretty rookie mistake.  The volunteers asked if I needed a chair.  I said yes, thinking I needed to sit down.  They offered my a wheelchair, but I just smiled and declined.  I walked over to the self care area and sat down on a bench.  Sitting down was my mistake.  As tempting as it is, you should continue walking (unless you need medical attention!) to slow down your heart rate.  I should have just continued walking to the food area and replenished my body with salt as my heart rate slowed.  Instead, my heart rate and blood pressure slowed too quickly.  I felt dizzy and started blacking out.  A couple volunteers rushed over to me, but I couldn’t really see or hear what was going on.  They brought me a wheelchair as I tried my hardest not to pass out.

After taking my into the medical tent, they checked my vitals and brought me food and powerade.  I quickly started feeling better and was anxious to leave since it was freezing inside.  I was inside the medical tent for a much shorter time than the previous year, and Darin took a picture of me to try to convince me not to do anymore half-marathons.  But, I think that if I would have kept walking then I would have avoided this trip to the medical tent.

Overall, I am happy with this half-marathon.

I do not plan on signing up for another one in the immediate future, but I am definitely wanting to start running again.  Once my awful chafing/burn heals, my illness goes away, and I return from my cruise, I am going to get back to running.  I want to try doing intervals more in line with how the pacers run, and maybe try really staying with one of the pace groups next time.  I have learned so much from each of these RunDisney half-marathons, and I feel so grateful that Disney holds these amazing races.  Every castmember, volunteer, park guest, and fellow runner have helped me earn each of my medals.



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  1. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple

    May 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Woohoo!! Sounds great! Hopefully I can complete it one year. I’m shooting for 2020, but if I start training now, I could potentially do it next year!

    1. Cara

      May 9, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      I plan on restarting my training this weekend. I want to go back to square one and try out the 30/30 intervals.

  2. Vivian

    May 9, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    How awesome! I’m actually a bit jealous. I’ve been running off and on for a few years and have difficulty with my breathing. I have a hole in my septum which keeps my breaths from being deep. I’m pushing just trying to get back to a 5k but hopefully I’ll re-train myself. Great inspiration.

    1. Cara

      May 9, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Thank you! Run/Walk intervals was the way to go for me. Not sure when my next race will be, but this weekend I plan on restarting my training from Day 1.

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