Friday, March 1, 2013

Brandie's Princess Half race report

Submitted by Brandie Garcia @BrandieCakez

Reflections on the Princess Half 
and Getting my Coast to Coast

Travel: I woke up Friday morning at 4 am which gave me just enough time to clean up my mess from packing the night before. Got my puppy Koda up, walked, fed and some extra one-on-one cuddle time before I left. I’ve always maintained that if I ever were to become homeless, I’d leave the Bay Area. Why? Well, because the cold here is bone chilling! I’d much rather take negative degree temps in Colorado than anything under 50 degrees at home. Needless to say I was leaving home looking slightly like an Eskimo and I had shoes and socks on (this is a big deal because being a California girl I am for the most part in flip flops or bare foot). My best friend Keira and her mom came to pick me up. I said goodbye to my 90 year old grandparents who wished me luck and told me they knew I could win!

Arriving in Florida, I had never seen so many lakes and bodies of water when looking out of a plane window in my life and I found myself scanning the waters for a gator! We landed at sunset which was breath taking, and I couldn’t wait to get outside! We walked through the airport to our pick up location still inside the airport, we were finally being escorted to the bus that was taking us to our hotel (Disney All Stars Music) the doors opened to let us out of the airport for the first time OH MY GOD!!! The air was sucked out of the world and all that was left was sticky hotness and the first thing I thought about was wishing I had worn flip flops! We got to the hotel, changed, grabbed our stuff and jumped out the door to go over to Epcot.

Surprisingly we adjusted really well to the time change. We spent the entire next day in the theme parks, enjoying it all. Anticipation of the race was getting to us. We decided to call it an early day because we needed to get a good dinner in, a relaxing swim and to bed early. Well, we both have worked with kids for years as swim instructors and are very comfortable interacting with and playing with kids of all ages. I swear kids have to have some sort of radar that lets them know which adults are fun to play with; either that or we have a sign across our forehead that reads “kid friendly” or “will play with kids” because everywhere we go where there are kids they find us. One little boy swam over to us (we were in the coolest pool ever, shaped like a guitar) and asks us to play monkey in the middle boys vs. girls. Before we knew it, we were running an in-pool kid babysitting/tiring your children out program with 8-12 kids! They had us swimming way past our bed time!

Race Day!

Pre-Race: I was so ready for this race! Very nervous for a handful of reasons: first time to Florida (I always get anxious about a flight to somewhere new about a week or two before I leave, which is funny because I love flying), first time to Walt Disney World and my first ever Coast to Coast medal. Not only that, but I was going to be running with team captains Tony (whom I had yet to meet in person) and Sean Astin (who was also going for his Coast to Coast and my 3rd overall run with him). Keira was also running for her C2C despite an injury and not being a runner. She’s such a trooper for agreeing to sign up for her first and last ever half marathons with me (Tinker Bell and Princess). I was anxious about not making it to the meet up on time, but surprisingly we had no problem getting up and on the bus or to the drop off.

We walked in and I looked at the map Tony had posted about where to meet, and the map and the actual physical location didn’t look the same, so I almost freaked out but we figured it out. I saw #run3rd signs and found Tony. I introduced myself and we posed for a picture and did introductions all around. Tony was doing a joint meet up for his group Pacebook Running Club (PbRC) so there were a lot of new names and faces which was exciting! I had a handful of people come up to me and say “Hey, you’re Brandie!” This was the first face-to-face experience of many I would have that day for #run3rd to come into play. A few people took the time to come up and introduce themselves who had sent me dedications, and it felt really good to remember what that dedication was once they said their name or twitter name; the look on their face that I remembered their dedication was heart warming and priceless I wish I had a Polaroid camera and snapped a picture of them at just the right moment! I spent the whole last day at work writing down all the dedications trying to fit it on a piece of paper I could put in my arm band.

All of the sudden I hear Tony say “Sean is calling!” and everyone around us got excited and you hear the whispers move through our huge group of people. Then all the sudden he was right there and all the people erupted in cheer, it was exciting! Sean did his #run3rd motivational speech and BAM just like that Tony announced to line up for a picture and suddenly I was surrounded with people with PbRC logos and signs. I looked out and saw other #run3rders on the backside of the camera so I walked out of the picture because I thought it was maybe PbRC picture only. Tony looked at me and goes “what are you doing? Get in the picture!” So I sat down right where I was. I felt bad because Keira was following me and I was running around aimlessly for a second; everything was happening so fast I had no idea what was going on.

Pictures were over faster than you knew, Tony and Sean were up taking a picture together and one of them said “#run3rd Captains picture” instead of cheese! And they turned around, saw me, and I said “HEEEYYY! You forgot me!” So then they had to do it all over again. Then Sean and I took a picture together really quickly and then he was gone! Just like that, and everyone was off toward their corral! We were in E, and that walk should have been factored into the distance of the run. Once we got to our group we sat down. I hadn’t used my phone or checked my playlists yet because I didn’t want to run down my battery before it began. We sat and enjoyed the interviews and watched as the fireworks went off for each of the corrals ahead of us. As ours was approaching takeoff, I start searching for my “just keep running” playlist which was GONE! I frantically try creating a new one as fast as I can but everything was happening too fast and I couldn’t add the songs fast enough. Then the Fairy God Mother worked her magic and the next thing I knew we were off!

Race: The first part of the race was awful; my music was gone, my mood was ruined for another reason and it was hot and humid, my calves were on fire. Then I started to question what in the world I was thinking. Maybe I should have run a little the day before to try to adjust to the altitude and humidity difference. I was in a negative thought cycle and I realized it right out the gates. I needed to shake it off so I decided that I was going to walk this pain out of my legs and most importantly I was going to put myself back in check.

I started to think about #run3rd and all of the amazing people that I had met through it. How my friend Beth couldn’t walk more than a few yards when she first started her training and she was out here trying her hardest. I started to focus on all the cute costumes around me and admiring the work people put into them. I started to think about my best friend Danny who was murdered a little over a year and half ago. When I told him I signed up for the inaugural Tink Half he laughed his contagious laugh (my favorite sound in the world) and told me I was bat shit crazy but that if anyone he knew could do it, I was that person. He was so proud of me and I hadn’t even run it yet. I thought about that last time I saw him and he told me that his lungs were now operating at 30% and he didn’t know how much time he had left (he had cystic fibroses). But that never stopped him from living life in love to the fullest every day. He told me that if he can run 2 miles with 30% lungs away from the cops (inside joke fictitious story we shared) I could run a half marathon. That conversation put me at ease then and I often revisit that memory of our last goodbye, I love you, and see you soon to see his face one last time. Bruises by Train (which is our song) came on my headphones, then If I Die Young by the Band Perry immediately after. This is the song that Danny had told his brother to play at his funeral. It felt like he was there right next to me telling me to pick it up and run for him because he can’t. I #run3rd for cystic fibrosis!

I was enjoying the race now, taking it slow. I’d rather start slow and finish strong than push too hard and get an injury. I thought about my other #run3rd captains and remembered Andrea’s recent blog where she said “See now a lot of people are going to go out too fast. They will crash and burn toward the end.” Tink was my PR 3:15 and I took pictures with all the characters except for one! I knew that if I didn’t have that need to pose for pictures, I would be on time for my usual time at home (where there aren’t characters or thousands of other people) 2:35-2:45. I decided that if I wasn’t going to be running that I should create new goals now that my C2C was just miles away. I heard people start to cheer and I see the first place runner go by- WOW! Then the second and the third, and I was thinking to myself I should just ninja across this field and take off running from there, LOL!

I heard “Hi Brandie!” from my right hand side and I stop my embarrassing rocking out to my music dance I’m doing and pull out my headphones and say hello back. Smiling back at me was Lauren who complimented me on my tutu and wanted to thank me for being her inspiration to get out and put her past behind her. She’s now focusing on changing herself from the inside out. That’s so amazing! We chatted and walked together for a while, and it was exactly what I needed. Here is this amazing woman who said I was an inspiration to her inspiring and uplifting me to get out there and do better. So off I went after we said our goodbyes and good lucks, and I started my run/walk method as if it was a brand new race.

The second third of the race was all meshed together for me. I realized that I was sweating like I was in a bikram yoga class. I’m not use to this humidity at all, but a lot of the other women are drenched in “liquid awesome” as I like to call it as well. My app told me I was back on my usual pace and it felt good. I began to remember each and every dedication I had on the piece of paper tucked in right behind my phone. Suddenly I began to realize that I was suffering from some major chaffing from my shorts and legs that I didn’t anticipate. I spent a lot of time at each medical tent trying to apply enough Vaseline to stop the annoying pain to no avail. I finally had to stop at mile 8 to be wrapped; the girl was really nice but after I took off running I realized my right leg was perfect but my left was losing circulation quickly. I tried to work through it, but had to stop to rip it all off; on to the next medical tent instead of mile markers! That the last time I wear soccer shorts in a race in Florida stickiness again without running shorts under.

Finally, the last third of the race I was back in action. I felt like a rocket because I wasn’t burned out, injured, exhausted, or tired in the least! I had an abundance of energy left in me still that I wish I had had in the beginning. I was 2 minutes under my usual mile pace which felt so good. I stopped at a water station and retied my shoes and began my minute walk. I heard a girl tell the bike medics that she wasn’t feeling well; they told her to walk up to the next tent about 100 yards away and they would take her back to the beginning. They kept moving on ahead to advise that a runner not feeling well was on her way in to stop the race. About 20 steps after they left her I notice she starts to stagger her walk, and then she begins to fall! I take off in a sprint to get behind her just in time to catch her shoulder and get my arm back behind her head before she fell. I was afraid I wasn’t going to reach her and she would hit her head on the pavement, luckily my arm caught majority of the impact. The girls around us ran ahead to tell the medics while I stayed with her while she regained consciousness. It was amazing to see all the people stop their race to help and offer snacks, water, or Gatorades. Before I knew it the medical team was there with a truck, swooped her up and sped her off.

I had a few miles left at this point and I decided to dedicate the last stretch of this race to that girl, I didn’t hold back. I was pushing hard to cross that finish line. She had come so close, I had come too far this race physically and mentally to give up now. It was all a blur, not because I was over working, but because I was so focused on the finish line that I was in runner’s mode auto pilot. It was over faster than I thought it would be, I had my Princess medal! I was looking for my C2C medal but they were no where to be found. In the Tink Half the C2C medals were immediately after the Tink medals, but here in FL that wasn’t the case. I finally spotted the sign and medals in the distance and I booked it to the lady awaiting to hand one out. Just like that I was posing with my medals for a picture and off to find Keira.

My new goals are as follows:
  • to run 1 half marathon/month
  • to run an extra half marathon so my total rounds up to my lucky #13
  • to run 13 5k or 10ks
  • and possibly do the escape from Alcatraz swim with Keira! I figure, if she can run with me… I can swim with her!
This experience was not my best run, it wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but it was definitely the most memorable and touching race I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. Running or walking next to people who would recognize me from the #run3rd meet up picture, making new friends with PbRC runners on the path, people holding #run3rd signs in the cheer sections, and fellow runners cheering me on when they would see a #run3rd sign on my back.

It’s not about how fast you are, how good you do, or what place you finish. It’s about enjoying yourself, making friends, creating memories, and being able to look back on the race and saying “hell ya, I’d do that again in a heart beat!”

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