Ultra Training part one

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It’s been a while since I’ve really had anything to post but I think it’s time to get back behind the keyboard and document this process called ultra training. It’s new territory for me, and from the reactions I’ve seen across social media, it’s not familiar territory for very many people. A few months ago I decided to jump into the ultra world when I saw a race advertised that looked too good to pass up. When I signed up for the race, the hardest part was deciding between the 50-mile and 100-mile distance. Seriously, I was just seconds away from clicking on the 100-mile option for my first ultra, but I opted to play it safe and chose the 50. Now race day is less than 3 months away and I’m getting into the meat of my training.

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The lighthouse in Ponce Inlet

The race I’m training for is the Daytona 50 (part of the Daytona 100), which is a point-to-point race down the east coast of Florida. The 100 starts in Jacksonville at 6am, while the 50 starts in Marineland, FL at noon. The finish line for both races is on the beach in Ponce Inlet after circling the second biggest lighthouse in the country. 50 miles…. sounds like an enormous undertaking, but by race day I will have devoted close to 9 months getting myself ready for it. This post covers part of the experience, and once I get caught up then I’ll try to be a little more timely with my posting.

My training started in March with a long stretch of heart rate training. You can see my updates here, here and here. Much of the heart rate training was done on the treadmill simply because it was easier for me to track progress if as many factors as possible are consistent from day to day, and being inside was my way to control the weather differences. In May I started bumping up my long runs and my weekly mileage, first hitting 40 miles per week in early May and 20 mile long runs on July 23rd. By the time it’s May in central Florida the heat and humidity are already off the charts (even before dawn) so I continued most of my long runs inside while moving about half of my short runs outside. Here’s the reasoning: I needed to stay outside regularly in order to stay used to the heat and humidity, but I found it difficult to make it to 20 miles or more in those conditions. Knowing the troubles I experienced in my six marathons I felt that becoming comfortable with the distance was top priority and I could move the long runs outside if/when it cools down. I also kept one 5-6 mile run inside every 10-14 days for a progress update on the heart rate training.

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Now for the fun part: On August 27th there was an opportunity for anyone registered for the Daytona 100 or 50 to run part of the course as a group run. There would be aid available on the course to help out as well. Even though the selected part of the course covered in this run is not part of the 50-mile race, I signed up and made my way to St. Augustine on the 27th, parking at the designated end of the run. We carpooled up to Jacksonville and started our run at the race’s actual start line. I quickly learned that I was the only member of the group with no ultra experience. There was good motivation to do well on this run since my car was parked 28 miles away. The bad part of this experience was that the start time was 9am. In August. In Florida. It was 82 degrees and cloud-free when we started running. Here’s the part where running more outside would have been beneficial.

I ran fairly conservatively (I thought) through Jacksonville, around 10:10-10:40 per mile. Since my long runs for the past three months had been in the 9:30-9:40 range and I had done so much heart rate training, I assumed that taking this run about a minute per mile slower would be about right. You know what happens when you assume, right? By the end of the 4th mile I was averaging 165 bpm and peaked over 170. I still have 24 miles to go and it’s going to get hotter? I’m in trouble. For the next couple of miles I stayed with someone who had run this course last year and was taking walk breaks. I’m not a run/walker, more of a run until you’re dead and then walk as needed, but I needed to find a way to survive this run. We were doing 5/1 and after 3 miles of that I slowed it down even more and let the veteran run ahead of me. Mile 8 was 14:03 with 14:46 at mile 9.

This was exactly why I wanted to do this run. Not to destroy myself physically, but to learn what’s working and what’s not. The hard part is going to be applying things I’ve learned about running in August to a race in December, assuming that it won’t be quite as warm. So I continued down the road under the impression that this road would never end. Around mile 12.5 I saw a friendly face, Dave Krupski’s (race director) wife. She was at the edge of a parking lot with a cooler full of water, Gatorade, some snacks and ice. Lots of ice. I explained to her that I was struggling with the heat and she said that they weren’t worried about how long they’d be out there and that I should keep going as far as I could. I started through the parking lot and just before crossing the bridge onto the beach I spotted a couple of showers intended for rinsing off after being in the ocean. I spent a good 30 seconds letting that water cool off my head, and soaking the rest of me pretty well.

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Sunscreen wasn’t working, still 2 hours to go!

Next up was the bridge to the beach. There were quite a few people walking on the bridge and most of them looked at me like I had lost my mind. I wasn’t prepared to argue. Onto the beach I went and headed south. The sand here was very well packed and was almost as firm as running on the road. After the first quarter mile there was no one on the beach in front of me as far as I could see. And the sun was still blazing away.

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Hello? Anyone there???

 

I’ve been in a place during a marathon where I was physically spent and questioning my ability. After about 2 miles of beach isolation, seeing no one in front of me and no one behind me I was in a place mentally that I had never imagined. I was not only considering giving up the run, but dropping out of the race as well. This was crazy. And it looked like it would never end. I was just about out of food and each mile was taking about a year. From miles 12-16 I ran only mile 14 in less than 15 minutes. Mile 17 took me over 20 minutes. I was seriously out of gas. At about 18.3 I saw Dave’s wife again, waiting next to another cooler. I explained my situation and again she gave me some positives to look at and told me that the tide was on its way in so the course was being adjusted back out to the road (we were supposed to stay on the beach until we finished, mile 28).

 

I let her talk me into continuing over another bridge and back to the road. She said that the next cooler was 4 miles away and if I was still in bad shape that I could wait at that cooler and Dave would take me back to my car. I regretted my decision after about 5 minutes. The sun was relentless. I kept up a pace of one minute run and one minute walk as best I could. About 2 miles after I got back on the road I started wondering if a person would find me before the vultures did. I needed to stop and kept hoping that Dave would drive by. Eventually he did, just before I got to that cooler, just before mile 22. He asked how I was doing and I replied with “front seat or back?” I packed it in and gave up for the first time ever. As we drove Dave said a lot of things that I will try to remember and incorporate in my continued training for the Daytona 50 and beyond. Dave would know what works and what doesn’t after all, he’s run 25 races of 100 miles or more, including Badwater twice. The thing that Dave said to me that stuck with me the most…. If you can last 5 hours in this heat you’re doing well. Apparently the same training run last year had two finishers out of about a dozen people.

Final numbers for the day: 21.93 miles, 5:06:57, end of run weather:

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Racing season is coming to a close

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As much of the northern half of the country is looking forward to the warmer weather and the beginning of racing season, highlighted with next Monday’s Boston Marathon, those of us in the sunshine state are saying goodbye to racing season. Yes, there are a few races available May through September, but not many comparatively, especially if you’re looking for distances from half marathon through ultra. Overnight lows of 70 degrees-plus for 3-4 months straight pretty much eliminate the possibility of long, competitive runs.

As I look back on the past six months I see a number of highlights, and overall a season that I am happy with. My first race of the season was the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL where I posted my current PR for the 13.1 distance. I had set a goal time of 1:45 but finished in 1:48:19, beating my previous PR by just 38 seconds. Still, it’s a PR and a great start to the season.

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Marine Corps Half finish line

October’s other race was my second running of the Lighthouse Loop Half in Port Orange, FL. Severe anxiety and stress joined me at the starting line that morning, and after three miles at a pace that would have given me that 1:45 time my heart rate was over 185. I backed it down, took some walk breaks, and finished in 1:59:00.

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Lighthouse Loop Half bling!

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Space Shuttle medal #2 from Space Coast marathon

Thanksgiving weekend I ran my fourth marathon and grabbed my second PR on the Space Coast Marathon course (first was my first ever marathon, but still). I bettered my 2014 time by 16 minutes, but still did not have a good handle on the 26.2 distance. Even with 20 and 22 mile training runs, getting past 17 miles in the race is something I struggle with, and have always gone to walk/run by that point, if not before. Goal number one for the remainder of 2016 is to become better at the 20 to 26 mile distance. I will run a marathon without stopping to walk. If I can’t then that 50-mile race will be a long December day.

 

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Finishing marathon #5 in Cape Coral

2 weeks later I drove to Cape Coral, FL for another marathon, hoping for the nice cool weather we had race morning the previous year. At the start of the race it was 66 degrees, but by the finish we were in the low 80s. This definitely did not feel like December! The paramedics were treating runners just past the finish line by the time I got there. Again my first 17 miles went pretty well, but at that point I switched to a 1/1 walk/run and finished in 4:50.

 

 

 

 

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Disney bling! Everyone needs some of this.

January brought me two races, both at Disney World and both in the same weekend. I elected to “only” do the Goofy Challenge this year, where last year I finished the Dopey Challenge. My plan was to run a steady half between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile in order to save something for the full the next day. Mission accomplished on the half (2:07:14) with very even splits. The full, however was the most difficult of the six marathons that I’ve done. On that race day the run/walk intervals started as we were leaving Animal Kingdom, or around mile 13.5 for those of you not lucky enough to have run this course. Goal time: 4:30, actual time: 4:57. Still, it’s six marathons attempted and six completed.

KIMG0763February brought me a couple of races, starting with Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. Beautiful morning for a race and I finished about 66 seconds behind my 13.1 PR. Happy day! The next day I ran a virtual 10k with a couple of friends. We completed our 6.2 miles at Disney’s Boardwalk area (hotel area between Hollywood Studios and Epcot). The pace was nice and easy which was fine with me!

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Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

Two more races during March: First was Best Damn Race Orlando half marathon which I ran with a friend. She was recovering from strep throat so the goal was to finish. Mission accomplished. Later in March I ran my first relay event – the Sarasota Half with another friend. I was somewhat disappointed with my time for the 6.9 miles that I completed, but I achieved two PR’s that day. My first relay half (automatic PR) was done in 1:57:08. I also achieved a heart rate PR – when we sprinted for the finish I hit 196 bpm, breaking my assumed max HR of 192.

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Sarasota Half Relay with my teammate Krissy

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UCF Storm the Campus AG award plus U, C, and F medals

April will finish with 3 races, although only one is complete. The third annual Storm the Campus 10 miler was my 50th race since my first race on November 1, 2013. I was trying to break 1:20 for ten miles, but finished in 1:22:20, good enough for second place in my AG. Races 2 and 3 for the month will be this weekend as RunDisney heads back to the parks in Orlando for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I’ll be running the 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Can’t wait to run in the parks again!

After the Star Wars races this weekend I’ll be doing 6 weeks of heart rate training, where none of my runs will take me above 140 bpm. I’ll also be increasing my weekly mileage slightly from about 33 to around 40. After that I’ll continue to increase my weekly mileage and my long runs throughout the summer, peaking at 58 miles per week in 4 runs per week by mid-November. After a 3 week taper I’m running my first ultra, a 50-mile oceanside run from St. Augustine to Ponce Inlet on the east coast of Florida. Yes, I have a goal time already for this and no, I’m not ready to share it yet, but you can bet it’s not what you’d expect for a first time ultramarathoner.

Best of luck to all of you as you enter your racing or training season. There are plenty of PR’s still to be had out there – grab yours!

 

Don’t do this during a race

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There is definitely a learning curve when someone decides to take the plunge and start racing. There really are a lot of things that you need to learn in order to make the most of your experience, and in some cases, make it through the race. For example, I had been a runner for just a couple of months when I ran my first half marathon. I had never run more than 10k, and I had only done that twice (once was the day before the half). I remember asking my friend Steph about the concept of eating while running, how to do it, what food would be available, if I should stop to take in the food, etc. Of course, this conversation took place in the starting corral so my options were limited.

If you’re not familiar with the answers to these questions then you may not know about a handful of other topics that I witnessed during my marathon a week ago. They may seem so obvious to an experienced racer that these items might get overlooked when a veteran gives a few tips to a new runner. For example, be aware of where you’re going on the course. I’ve run 44 races and have yet to find one that is without a challenge or fifty within the course itself. Some have you going on and off of sidewalks, running on the road and then on a trail, running alongside traffic, or even running on 100 year old brick streets in downtown Orlando. In last weekend’s race there were 30-inch tall orange cones set up about 100 feet apart which were meant to mark the left edge of the racing lane. At least one runner didn’t see one of these cones, ran into it, and was knocked to the ground. She was about a tenth of a mile into the race with several hundred racers behind her. Luckily she was not seriously hurt and was able to keep going. Tip: Look where you’re going!

Three other things that I noticed during this race were all done by the same runner. “Jerry” went out pretty quick, though the first time I saw him was when I passed him around the 1.5 mile point when he slowed to a walk to catch his breath. He soon passed me back. Then I passed him again. I didn’t catch him every time he walked, but I did pass him for good around mile 4. It was the eighth time that I passed him. I’m hoping that this was a new racer mistake and not his racing style. He finished his half in just under 10:00/mile pace and the reason I know this is because he wore his bib on his butt (mistake #2). Most racers that you pass (or pass you), you never know their number because they wear their bib so it is visible from the front. This is so racers can be identified in race and finish line photos. Unless someone was taking pictures of Jerry’s butt, all of his free race photos will remain unidentified.

Jerry’s third mistake happened at a water stop. He grabbed a cup of water from one of the volunteers and quickly drank it without stopping then crumpled up the cup. He held onto the cup until he reached a trash can set up by the volunteers, then threw the cup on the ground right next to the can. Really? It wasn’t like he missed, he practically laid the cup on the ground next to the can. Please remember that these races would not happen if it wasn’t for the volunteers that support them. We don’t need to make their jobs any harder.

The final tip that I have for you also deals with the water stops. In any race longer than 10k you should be hydrating during the race. If you can’t run and drink at the same time then walk for 15 seconds and drink. Last week’s race was very hot and humid with temps in the lower 80s by the time I finished, and half of the marathoners were still on the course when I finished. Right at the finish line I saw paramedics working on someone who had finished just before me. I’m guessing it was some form of heat exhaustion just because of the weather. Even if it wasn’t, the reminder is a good one: consume fluids while you’re running long distance.

What other things have you seen runners do during a race that are easily avoidable mistakes?

Training confusion

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It’s amazing to me how little you need to know about running in order to be a runner, yet there is so much to learn if you want to progress in your running. I have learned from the dozens of mistakes I made last year and am making 2015 a better year in terms of progress made. Of course part of the knowledge gained includes the idea that I can train better and improve more by sticking to a training schedule more than a race schedule. I’m nearing the end of a 90-day stretch without a race and I must say that I’ll be happy to see it end.

At the same time I’m wishing that I could start this training cycle over. After a very specific training run this weekend I started doing research as to why I am seeing the results that I see. I ran 15 miles in a controlled environment (aka indoor treadmill) with the hopes of determining my ability to hold marathon pace on tired legs. I ran 8 warm-up miles at an easy pace and then switched to my goal marathon pace of 7:48 per mile. What I found was that my legs had no problems holding that pace, but my heart and lungs couldn’t keep up. After just 5 miles at MP I had hit a heart rate of 180. That’s a total of 13 miles for the day and I’m at 94% of my max HR (192). I backed it down to the easy pace for another two miles and called it a day, frustrated to say the least.

With my data at the ready I began to search for ways to improve my aerobic conditioning. I had made the assumption that as your body becomes able to handle the demands of running longer and faster, your entire body would adapt. Apparently this is not the case. I found several sources that told me about the Maffetone-180 idea and that building your aerobic capacity is possible, but it needs to be done before your training cycle and could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Um, my first marathon of this season is 70 days away. I did not find any other ideas for building aerobic fitness, but I did see where this method can help some athletes lower their resting heart rate to insanely low numbers, resulting in much more ability to keep a lower heart rate while running at faster speeds. This is what I need. This is not when I need to find out about it. Why do I not hear people mention things like this when they talk about their training routines? Is there some other way to accomplish the same thing (that I also have not heard of)? Will my heart rate adjust in the right direction with enough training or do I need to incorporate the Maffetone-180 idea into my plan for next spring?

I’m so confused……….

Running with a Timing Device

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Maybe you run for the fun of it. Maybe you’re training for your first race. Maybe you have a definite time goal that you are striving for in a goal race that’s not too far away. Just about everyone who runs uses some sort of timing device to give them an idea of how their run went.

Some people want to know only the distance that they’ve run. Some only want to know how long they were running. And some want to know every possible detail, including distance for warm up, stats on the intervals that just cost a lung, time between intervals, cool down pace, distance, and time, heart rate, elevation change, or even the ability to compare this week’s long run to last week’s long run. How much information you desire may steer you toward one device or another.

For those that only want to know the amount of time that you spent running, I suggest you consider a watch 🙂 If you just want to track your distance then there are dozens of apps that you can put on your cell phone that will do a reasonably good job. Most use a single satellite and will give you a good approximation. What I have found is that the Runtastic app shorted me a tad on the mileage, mostly by cutting corners shorter than I had run them. Conversely, the Map My Run app seems to pad the mileage on the corners just a bit so I ended up with a few extra hundredths on short runs. No big deal, you say? Consider all of the turns in a full marathon. Using the Map My Run app during the (certified) Disney Marathon in January, I apparently ran 26.9 miles instead of the traditional 26.2. The difference here is a very big deal when you’re attempting to pace yourself, either so you hit a goal time or to avoid over-extending yourself and burning out.

I also tried Runkeeper for a run or two, but found the voice reading back my mid-run stats to be annoying. If you think that using a phone app is sufficient for your needs, there are a bunch of reviews online. A couple other popular candidates to look for are Nike+ and Strava. Many of the apps are free to use (with ads) and upgradeable with extra features and fewer ads.

Like I said, I’ve used three different phone apps, and at that point in my running career they served their purpose. I am now doing more interval training and working with a HR monitor so I have stepped up to the next level. I debated moving up for quite a while because, like many of you, cost is a big factor for me to consider. I asked several runners who have been at this longer than I have and considered several options. In the end I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 310XT. It is not the latest and greatest product that Garmin offers but it does what I need it to do and more. And it is more affordable because it’s not the latest and greatest.

When I run with the Garmin I typically use the chest strap in order to monitor my heart rate. This is probably the biggest difference between a watch-type GPS device and a phone app GPS device. And it has made a huge difference in my training. I wore the Garmin and strap during a recent 5k where I achieved a PR and ran so hard at the end that I literally felt like I was going to fall down. From that race I learned that my maximum heart rate is 192. Using the old-style generic formula (220 minus age) I was led to believe that my max heart rate was 174. Huge difference there! And that difference gives me different heart rate ranges to train in for different paces. If you think you might want this feature be sure that the model that you purchase includes the strap – not all of them do! I also like the wireless transfer of data from the watch to my PC – it will upload the data to my Garmin page while I’m still wearing the watch.

I’ll let some pictures do the talking for some of the other features that come with using a Garmin, with a couple of side notes. The screens shown below are completely customizable. I set them up this way because it works for me – you can choose different data to look at, set up 1-4 screens, and set up 1-4 fields on each screen. I also have mine set so that every mile becomes a new “lap” so I get different data for each mile. When I do intervals I can begin a new lap for each interval and for each recovery period.

Screen 1 includes total time, last lap pace, total distance, average pace.

Screen 1 includes total time, last lap pace, total distance, average pace.

Screen 2 includes current lap time and distance, current heart rate, average HR

Screen 2 includes current lap time and distance, current heart rate, average HR

Screen 3 includes calories burned, average speed (mph), and time of day

Screen 3 includes calories burned, average speed (mph), and time of day

2 minutes after ending the run the watch displays recovery heart rate

2 minutes after ending the run the watch displays recovery heart rate

This model of Garmin is typically available on Amazon and eBay for under $150 including the chest strap. Bonus… it’s waterproof because it’s designed to be used in triathlons. Yes, you can program it to switch from swim to bike to run with the push of a button. Garmin (and other companies) have newer and perhaps better products, but some of them can run in the several hundred dollar range. If I had to guess I’d say the newer ones a probably a little lighter. This watch takes a couple of runs to get used to because of the weight, but it took me less than a week to get used to and I haven’t worn a watch at all since the 1980s. I’m also a big fan of Garmin’s use of multiple satellites, which makes it more accurate than the GPS phone apps.

Once the data is uploaded wirelessly to my PC, I am able to look at each split for time, distance, max HR, average HR, elevation change, and many other details. I am also able to see graphs of elevation change, speed, and heart rate for the entire run. IN other words I am able to analyze every aspect of the run and even look at a particular piece of the run that seemed really good or really bad.

Graphs of elevation, pace and heart rate

Graphs of elevation, pace and heart rate

Some of the data from a recent run. Too much to fit in one pic

Some of the data from a recent run. Too much to fit in one pic

I have only been using a Garmin for three months now, but I would highly recommend it to anyone that is looking to take their training to the next level. Have questions? Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Race Discount – Echo Half Marathon

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Better than two months of 2015 have passed already. Before you know it summer will be in full swing and (finally) nobody will be complaining about all the snow that they got. Here in Central Florida the snow isn’t an issue and we’ve been running all winter. So maybe you’re looking for one more really good race to end the spring running cycle. The Echo Half marathon is just what you need.

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2014 Echo Half medal

A year ago I heard about this race and thought the same thing that you’re thinking right now… A half marathon in June in central Florida? Are you crazy? Honestly I just wanted a race on my calendar to work toward and September was too far away. I ran the Echo Half and was pleasantly surprised. The course was almost entirely run in the shade on a newly paved trail through the trees along the East Central Regional Rail Trail in Volusia County. Because of the extra shade and the smooth, relaxed environment I was able to put up a PR at this race as well. A 16-minute PR. That’s not meant to be a brag, but rather to give you the idea that the conditions were better than expected for the first weekend in June.

Running on the Volusia County trail system

Running on the Volusia County trail system

I have been chosen by Jennifer at Final Mile Race Management to act as an ambassador for this year’s race, a position that I nearly begged her for. Of the 28 races that I ran in 2014, I am only returning to 4 of them in 2015 and the Echo Half is one of them. Not only is the race one of the best that I’ve seen, but the proceeds from the event go back to the trail system in order to help maintain where we run. It’s a win-win! This year’s race will once again start in Osteen, FL and end in DeBary and there will be free shuttle buses to take you back to your car, after you eat #AllTheFood of course. The race is set for June 7 at 6:30am and there will also be a 5k race that will begin in DeBary at 7:15. If you’d like to learn more then you can visit the official race website here. As an extra incentive (plus a big thanks for reading all the way through this) you can take $10 off of every half marathon registration by using the code BILL10 before you checkout. I look forward to seeing you on June 7th!

2015 Echo Half medal preview

2015 Echo Half medal preview

Believe you can

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There are plenty of times over the past year that I can remember thinking that if I could just put in a little more effort, a little more work, then I might see some results that would make it all worthwhile. I’m still fairly new to the sport – about 14 months past my first 1.8 mile, 25 minute run/walk. In that time I have run 28 races, from two miles to 26.2. I have been determined to reach a series of goals, many of which (I have recently been told) were unrealistic for someone of my age and experience level. In a couple of cases I have even managed to sideline myself by being overeager. I become frustrated when I am not showing improvement and upset with myself when I cannot reach a goal. It’s who I am.

Live it every day

Live it every day

I am a 45-year-old average guy who happens to run. I finished 2013 with 70 miles run for the year and will finish 2014 somewhere around 1,300 miles. Motivation for me is simple: I believe I can do better and am willing to do whatever I have to in order to get better results. My next big goal is to complete the Dopey Challenge during the Walt Disney World marathon in January. I will push myself as hard as I need to and will complete this challenge or they will carry me out on a stretcher. Motivation comes easy for me.

6 medals for #DopeyChallenge

6 medals for #DopeyChallenge

What if motivation to run and push your limits is not so easy? I know several runners who don’t worry about their race results, their best times, or trying a new distance. I know other runners who are convinced that they have already found their peak and have little left to achieve. Reading about someone who is easily motivated is not going to change anything.

Many of us have heard about the Wings for Life World Run, where runners in 32 countries raced at the same time in order to raise money and awareness for people who cannot run for a variety of reasons. Some of us also know someone who runs with some sort of injury or disability and find motivation in their story. Still some of us don’t get out there like we want to, or just don’t seem to have the desire to put much effort into it. Perhaps learning about someone who has more than enough excuses to stop running (or should never have started) is enough to make some of you pause and remember how lucky you are to be able to run.

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As I mentioned, the Disney Marathon weekend is fast approaching. Some people will be in awe of the grandeur of the event. Others, like Fredison Costa (who I was lucky enough to meet today) will be basking in the limelight, looking for the marathon win. Many will be attempting to defeat a personal challenge such a Dopey, Goofy, a PR, or a new distance. One person will be writing the conclusion to one of the biggest chapters in her life’s story. Her name is Gelcys, but she goes by Cheetah. Yes, Cheetah, as in the fastest land animal on the planet. She is not, however, attempting to win anything or break any speed records. She is attempting to defeat her own body.

Gelcys AKA Cheetah

Gelcys AKA Cheetah

Gelcys has a very long and painful story which you can read about for hours through her blog found here. The short version of her story is that she discovered at a young age that she had Scoliosis. Surgery and steel rods in her back corrected much of the problem, and then a car accident reversed all progress that had been made. More surgeries ensued with the end result being that more than a dozen doctors told her that she could not be a runner. Her back would not stand up to the beating and her lungs could not support running as her spine actually curves into her left lung. She finally found one medical professional that believed that she could learn to adapt and teach her body to accept running through determination, a great deal of care, and a few hundred rolls of KT tape.

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I ran the Wine and Dine half marathon at Disney a couple months ago and remember what a mess I was during that race. Nothing went right: the rain, wrong shoes, forgot my water bottles, stomach issues, AND I went out too fast and burned out early. The next day I learned that this race was “the most EPIC race” that Gelcys had ever completed. She faced the elements and her demons and ran the half marathon, without stopping, to a 16-minute PR, breaking 3 hours for the first time. A couple of weeks ago I ran the OUC Orlando half marathon and met Gelcys after the race. This was just four weeks after Wine and Dine. She wasn’t going to rest on that fresh PR. Nope, she beat her Wine and Dine time by 9 minutes. Remember, over a dozen doctors told her that running in her condition was not possible. She, her husband Alpha, and her PT believe she can do whatever she sets her mind to.

Whatever it takes to get it done.

Whatever it takes to get it done.

Pretty motivating, yes? It gets better. Yesterday she finished her final big training push for marathon weekend. Is she going to run yet another half marathon? Is she thinking about the full marathon? Yes. And yes. This incredibly strong and determined woman is taking on the Goofy Challenge and will be running a half marathon on Saturday, January 10th and then a full marathon the very next day. Her last big push included a 12-mile run Saturday followed by 20 miles on Sunday. This woman is serious about proving that she is not handicapped, but handi-capable.

Goofy is the goal!

Goofy is the goal!

While I will be pretty focused on finding a way to cross the finish line four times in four days, a part of me will be finding even more motivation on two of those days. I’ll know that not far behind me will be an iron-willed woman battling with her own body, fighting with every ounce of energy she has just to prove to herself that she can do what no one thought she would ever do. Cheetah will complete the Goofy Challenge!