Friday, March 16, 2012

Goofy: A Challenge Half Done

I talked a bit on Facebook and online about my experiences at Walt Disney World and The Goofy Challenge but I never blogged about it. Part of why that happened will be clear as you read further.

To recap: The Goofy Challenge is something that happens at WDW every January during the WDW Marathon Weekend. Most people run either the Half Marathon or the Marathon. A certain Goofy population does BOTH. This is a real thing that Disney sponsors. You sign up for it and you get an extra medal and an extra t-shirt. (Why isn't it called The Dopey? Maybe because there is an unofficial Dopey -- people who sign up for the Goofy Challenge and also the Family Fun Run 5K that happens on Friday.)

Of course, you have sign up for these things well in advance. I'd been planning to do this race starting in 2010 when a friend proposed it and encouraged a bunch of us who frequent the OH Exercise & Fitness forum to do it as a group. We were coming from all over the country to do one or both races. I registered at the time the race was half full and I bought airline tickets in the summer (found a killer deal, too). 

So by the time I broke my brain, I had paid for everything but the actual Disney Vacation package. And it was all either completely or mostly nonrefundable.
At the time we had to pull the trigger on the vacation package, I was already not not training. But it was only two weeks since my accident and I was sure I would be back in the saddle soon. Plus, I'd just gotten a job offer so Mr. Mac and I figured money wouldn't be an issue. But we were wrong on all counts.

By the time the vacation rolled around, it was clear I was not doing this race. We looked into cancelling the entire trip but we would have gotten so little money back. Plus everyone (but me) was so excited about going to Walt Disney World.

So we went. I figured I didn't have to do the race. I could just vacation. I set out with the goal of coming back with my head completely cured. I would go to the parks as little as possible and I would lounge by the pool the rest of the time and just rest, rest, rest.

The first flaw in that plan appeared when we got to the resort and I already had a mild but persistent headache from the noise of traveling. Then I found out our resort had no jacuzzi! The weather was good for running around theme parks but it was a little cold for pool lounging. Especially with no jacuzzi to jump into to warm up periodically.

The next day, I went to the race expo to pick up my race packet. I figured, I'd paid for it so why not? Reading the race guide and meeting my friends for dinner got my really jonesing to do the race though. According to the guide, they had sweepers that would pick you up if you fell behind the 16 min mile pace. Also, you could go to any aide station and they'd call someone to pick you up. I figured that I'd come all this way and had done a lot of training and I really wanted a medal to show for it. I also figured with no having run for over two months

I decided to do it.

That morning was freezing and I was not dressed for standing around in that weather. Plus, the crowd noise bugged my head. I didn't have a full-blown headache but I had "discomfort" -- more of a nagging "pay attention to me" feeling. However, once the race started, I was fine.

I was so fine that I was able to run as fast as I had been in my training! Plus, my head didn't get worse for the first two hours of running. I was so excited! And really happy with how my fitness level  hadn't deteriorated as much as I thought it had. But just after the two hour mark, my head did start to get worse.

It would back down if I walked so I alternated walking and running. By three hours into the race, I was pretty miserable though. My head bugged and my legs were killing me and I was completely beat. I was definitely beyond my fitness level.

I looked into getting off the course but I had run fast enough that I was pretty far ahead of the sweepers. I considered asking for help at an aide station but I also only had three miles to go and enough time to just walk the whole thing. So I decided to go for it.

I finished the whole thing, got my medal, and went back to the hotel to rest. I took a short nap and went to meet my family at Hollywood Studios. This was the first time I hit a theme park since we had arrived and it became super-clear that the theme parks would be the death of me.

Every day I'd go to a park with my family and every day within two hours my head would be killing me. Nothing I tried worked. Even going back to the hotel room -- I think I spent half the vacation in that damn room -- didn't help that much. It helped a little but by the end of our week there I was walking up with a headache.

What really scared me, though, was the impact on my memory. I couldn't concentrate and I couldn't remember things. I would start to write a blog entry in my head and realize I didn't remember what day something happened or what I did at certain parks. I went from being ecstatic at how well my run went (considering everything) to being scared to death that I'd done permanent damage to my head.

Luckily, once I got back home, and out of the noise, my head went right back to where it had been before I left. But it took a few weeks and during that time I not only was dealing with memory issues, but I couldn't concentrate enough to write a blog entry of any substance.

Then I was at the US Figure Skating Championships and completely preoccupied with that and after they were over, it was just so long since the race that I just put off writing about it even more.

But I'm in a good place now and I did want to fill in that gap in my narrative. Plus, I wanted to talk about the consequences of what I did.

In terms of the head, it didn't seem to do anything permanent at all. I actually had worse trouble the time I decided after two days of no head issues to do a 10 minute run. For two weeks after that, I had a headache, not discomfort but a real headache, at least once every day. So I ran a Half Marathon and it hardly bothered me at all but I ran a mile and it set me back two weeks? There is just no rhyme or reason to this particular type of head injury!

But I am still bummed that I didn't do the entire Goofy Challenge. I'm also bummed because I wanted to get a "Coast-to-Coast" medal. All I would have had to do to get it was to run a race at Disneyland this year. That would have been dead easy and cheap too as we can drive there. I was going to do their Half Marathon weekend and combine it with Mr. Mac's birthday celebration.
However, I am not signing up for anything until my head is better and I am training full-time and that race has already sold out. I don't think there is another in this calendar year either.

So I guess that means I'm going to have to go back to WDW, both to do the Goofy Challenge for real, and so I can do a race at WDW and Disneyland in the same calendar year. Not sure when I'll actually do this. Hopefully next year.
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