When you wish upon a star

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

While most of my focus had been on the Marathon Weekend there was another important aspect to last week’s trip — it was my first venture into Disney World.

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect. As I wrote before the trip, never did the idea of going to Disney World thrill me with childhood excitement. Nothing at all against Disney, it’s just that it was never a childhood dream of mine to go there. It would never have shown up on my bucket list.

Perhaps that the drawback of the bucket list. You limit yourself to things you already know you want to do.

As a member of the sports media the mere presence of ESPN doesn’t excite me. After all, I know a lot of people who work there and run into ESPN crews from time to time. And yet, having the marathon expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex was, well, cool. It reinforced the athlete part of the weekend, the notion that we are all athletes if we give ourselves a little credit and take the opportunity.

The ESPN Disney site hosts tournaments of all kinds — from basketball and volleyball to track, soccer and softball. Often, collegiate conferences will host their championships at Disney, giving their student-athletes a unique experience.

On Friday, the site hosted a series of children’s races — from a 100-meter dash for 1-3 year olds up to a mile for older kids. Since our friends had a 3-year old in the race, we made our way over there and got to see Cassie run her first competitive event. (If by competitive you mean running with other kids alongside their parents and getting a medal at the end. Which, in my book, counts. Especially if you’re 3.)

While there, I had the chance to meet the Mouse himself — yes Mickey showed up for a little bit and the crowds were off some place else, allowing me to get my picture taken with him. He actually gave me a kiss on the check, then kissed my hand. And even for someone who is an indifferent Disney fan, well, that was something completely unexpected, something which put me back into what we often call our childhood state.

The next two days were spent in race mode — preparation, race, recover, repeat. But during those days Mark talked to me about going to one of the Disney parks on Monday. Our flight didn’t leave until the evening, giving us time to hit a theme park. Plus, in a first-year promotion those who completed the marathon received one free admission to a park on Monday. That gave us one free pass.

Still, I wasn’t sure.

“You can’t come down to Disney and NOT go to a park,” Mark said. “I think you’d regret it. We should go to one. You pick.”

I wasn’t sure what my resistance was about, but I knew that Mark was right. So I decided on Magic Kingdom for the essential Disney experience.

We had run down Main Street during the half marathon and then through Cinderella’s Castle. This time we strolled. We stopped and looked. We both wore our race medals and were congratulated by Disney people and fellow runners.

We wandered around and found ourselves in a line for the ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was a herky-jerky roller coaster with a mining theme that included an oink-ing pig at one point. That made me laugh out loud, for a while, and immediately I settled in.

We went through Pirates of the Caribbean and climbed the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, the later of which is kinda boring and not recommended for those who just ran, say, a marathon or half marathon, or both.

We went through “it’s a small world” — the quintessential Disney ride with it’s lazy boat ride, technicolor brightness, feeling of sugar everywhere and a slight helping of culture stereotyping. It’s days later and that song is still stuck in the back of my brain.

Our final adventure of the day was Space Mountain. And let me just say this: Space Mountain. Best. Ride. Ever.

When you enter Disney World there is a saying from Walt Disney which implores you to leave behind today, leave behind your reality, and enter into this world of fantasy.

The gift for some is respite from their world of reality. But upon returning home we can be more than refreshed. We can have awakened the creativity and fun and adventure — what we often call the child in us — and start living our dreams with a new sense of energy and excitement.

Yes, Disney can be more than just about the Mouse or a theme park. They are merely tools to bring you back to a place of personal authenticity, the place inside of you from which you live your best life.

The race, the vacation, doesn’t have to completely end. It’s just the beginning of something new.


Spectator report: Disney Marathon and Goofy Challenge

•January 12, 2011 • 1 Comment

“You don’t have to get up,” Mark said as we relaxed, trying to fall asleep to a particularly sad and disturbing double episode of House. “You can sleep in.”

I appreciated the offer, but there was no way I would miss the start of the race. Mark had endured early hours to spectate and serve as sherpa for my summer triathlons. Granted, I don’t think any of those required 2:30 a.m. wake-up calls on two successive days. But I wanted to be there to support him, support his friends, Greg and John, who were also running and take in part of the Disney Marathon experience as a spectator.

Upon waking up at 2:30, however, I kinda wished I had decided to stay at the hotel and take a later shuttle over to the start. I had unusual dreams thanks to the House episode (I don’t recommend watching a drama where a character dies a slow and painful death the night before a race) and my quads were quite sore from my half marathon experience the day before.

But I was up. I was fed. And I knew I could purchase coffee at a concession stand near the start line. Let’s go.

Mark continued to curse his friend, John. See, John was the one who dragged them all into the Goofy Challenge, which involves running the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. John went and registered for it. And the boys, well, they couldn’t let that pass without joining him. But on race weekend, the thought of running 39.3 miles, well, it no longer sounded like as much fun to them. “I hate John” became the pre-race mantra.

True confession time: I was a bit jealous. Yes, there was no way I could physically have done the marathon with my foot issues (and now developed chaffing issues) but I was envious of Mark and his friends going out there to try this ridiculous challenge. I wished I could be part of the race, challenging and pushing myself.

We made our way to the start line. The weather was a bit chilly — temperatures in the high 40s. I was bundled up in layers and holding on to hand warmers for dear life. A send-off to the three silly boys and it was time to find a spot to stand and wait for the start. My morning would be spent hanging out with members of Greg’s family — his wife (Mary), 3-year-old daughter (Cassie) and father (Dad).

The worst part of spectating is waiting for the start of the race. It was cold. It was dark. It was boring. I’d look down at my watch convinced 15 minutes had passed. Nope. Only three. I have always respected those who come to watch me (or their loved ones) at a race. This starting experience allowed me to be even a little more grateful.

They started the race on time and we cheered as the runners streamed by in indistinguishable packs.

After that, it was off to the monorail and a spot between mile 12-13 outside the Polynesian Resort. Once there we had to make a decision — cross the median in order to be right next to the runners or stay on the far side which was a bit of a distance away from the actual race. The caveat was that crossing the median for a better view meant we would have to wait a significant amount of time to recross the street and continue back to the finish line. We took the risk and crossed the median.

The elite runners were just passing through by the time we arrived and the special treat at the halfway-ish point of the marathon was the presence of Donald Duck and Goofy. Before the rest of the runners came through, Mary and I took our pictures with the characters. Crossing the street? Already worth it.

Mary had brought along a cowbell. I brought along my big mouth. We cheered runners heartily. This is my favorite part of spectating — cheering wildly. I saw a woman wearing a University of Massachusetts shirt and (being the good Atlantic 10 family member that I am) yelled “GO UMASS!” A smile crossed her face. That? Was worth it.

The best part of our location was that we stood a few yards ahead of the Disney characters. To see these serious-looking, tough, strong male runners get the biggest, most genuine grin on their faces at the sight of Donald and Goofy (and later Mickey and Minnie) was truly priceless.

Eventually we started to see our crew. Mark passed through first and I got a high-five. Greg passed through next, giving a wave to his daughter.

Then, I spotted my friend Walker. I knew she was running the Gooffy Challenge with her younger sister but didn’t expect to see her. I called out to her. She spotted me and came over to stop and talk to me.

“Have you seen Michele?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, a bit baffled she had stopped in the middle of the race to talk to me. “She might have come by but I didn’t see her.”

“This is not good,” Walker said in a deadpan tone which, frankly, was a bit amusing. “We were supposed to run together and I went to the porta potty and forgot to tell her where to wait to for me. I ran back half a mile to try to find her but couldn’t.”

She started to jog off. “If you see her, tell her I’ll wait for her at Mile 2o!”

I started looking for Michele. I never found her. I hope Walker eventually did.

Next up was John, who spotted us before we spotted him, and we gave him a hearty cheer.

Now, time to try and find our way back to the start. We calculated pace (OK, MARY calculated pace. I attempted no math) and we figured it would be close to getting to see them at the finish. We ended up making friends with an older woman and her husband in line for the monorail and became their family for the five-minute ride, which bumped us up to get on the Disney transportation system sooner rather than later.

Mary, Cassie and Dad sprinted from the monorail to the Mile 20 mark. I took one running step and felt major discomfort in my right foot. No running for me. But I did a quick hobble and got to the fencing just in time to see Greg run past.

I searched for Mark, who needs to pick out a different favorite running shirt. He runs often in red. Everyone wears red. It made scanning the runners for him somewhat exhausting. But there he came, around the bend. I shouted: “GO MARK!!” I was joined by Mary. I waved my arms furiously. He was looking around but listening to his tunes, he missed us.

“I guess Mark didn’t need your help,” one of the other spectators offered. We laughed. It’s funny because it’s true.

Somehow we missed John passing through, but he finished just fine. All three of the guys did. And after the race, they no longer hated John.

Later that evening, Mark and I wandered around Downtown Disney both wearing our finisher’s medals. We soaked in the congratulations, though I thought Mark’s accomplishment was so much more worthy of praise than mine. I tried to sweep aside those thoughts of worthiness and as I did, I became inspired by the Goofy Challenge finish of Best Boyfriend and his pals.

Somewhere, sometime soon, I’ll have my own goofy challenge. Not one that revolves around performance, but one that exists solely to see if I can do it.

Race report: Disney Half Marathon

•January 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

This was not the race I had planned.

It was not the race I had trained for or prepared for. It was not the race I wanted.

But sometimes we get stubborn in what we want. We get focused on getting things in only one way, one form. And the universe,well, it just doesn’t work that way every time. Often, we need to be open to the gift around us. What have I been asking for? Really asking for? And what did I get?

No, this was not the race I had planned. Thank goodness.

Welcome to my Disney Half Marathon experience.

Let me walk you through it.

Readers of my blog will recall that for the past two weeks I have been fighting some plantar fasciitis in my right foot. While it had been healing, the ultra prudent thing would be not to run a 13.1-mile race. For the record, my coach would have rather I spectated, but understood my desire to start the race and attempt the finish line.

So I went through an internal debate the day before the race. How do I approach the race? Do I try to go hard, perhaps set a PR? Do I just plod through it?

I knew this much: A. I wanted to start so I would start. B. I would listen to my body. C. I wanted to enjoy the experience.

Marathon Weekend at Disney isn’t just about distance running but about going the distance on unusual sleep patterns. The race began at 5:30 a.m. Runners needed to be in their starting corrals at 5 a.m. While there was free shuttle service from the resort hotels to the start at Epcot, Best Boyfriend Mark and I still needed a 2:30 a.m. wakeup call.

Even for an early riser such as myself, that was God-awful early.

But the morning went smoothly. I woke up, did some yoga (sun salutations), drank my Starbucks Via coffee (a holiday gift from Mark) and ate my oatmeal. Getting to the start was easy as was bag check and the bathroom lines. (This, as must runners will attest to, is very important).

The walk from the start/finish area to the actual starting corrals is about half a mile. For some reason, the walk took forever with bottle necks in seemingly unusual places. The procession included me, Mark and friend Greg. John, the other member of the running crew, had yet to arrive to the start as his shuttle driver apparently got lost on the way from the hotel to the starting line. This, I’ve been told, is not unusual for John. It’s why the guys like racing with John. He absorbs all the bad luck karma out there. But he rolls with it rather well.

Mark decided to start back in Corral B with me and the pre-race company was nice. Starting temperatures were in the low 50s  — a pleasant change from the 20s in Buffalo but still a bit cool to stand around in for 45 minutes. We bought throwaway jackets at the race expo on Thursday, quite the fashion statement you can see, and it helped keep us both warm through the first mile or two of the race.

And now the race.

The countdown, the fireworks, the starting gun.

I was feeling pretty good. I was feeling really good actually, running at slightly above a comfortable pace. That first mile marker comes up rather quickly I think how good this all is.

We run along some highway on our way to Magic Kingdom. To our left is a hot-air balloon shaped like Epcot Center. Then we see part of the Hundred Acre Woods in the median. Then, oh dear, I have to pee.

And so starts the internal dialogue. Do I really have to use the bathroom? Should I go? Should I wait? Why didn’t I check the map to see where the bathrooms were on the route?

In the fourth mile, I hit the port-a-johns and out I go, through a crowd of volunteers and fans singing along to Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again.” It was energetic and fun and while not stopping to twist myself, I danced a bit while I  ran, clapped my hands and started singing. It was a pretty good lift to my spirits and now with an empty bladder I was ready to go, make up some time from the bathroom stop and see if I could keep my sub-10-minute mile pace.

(Insert a musical interlude, in case you need a pick-me-up today.)


The best part of the course wound through Magic Kingdom and the best part of the pre-dawn hour was seeing the park’s Main Street light up, bright and colorful and fanciful. We ran through Cinderella’s Castle and it was just a beautiful sight. The characters were out in full force. Fans were cheering. For a mile or two, I was a superhero.

Unfortunately, by the time we exited Magic Kingdom I had developed a problem worse than the stiffness in my right heal.

It was my inner thighs.

They had started chaffing.


Wait just a minute. I am not a newbie runner. I have done training runs and races in this bright pink skort I’m wearing. I applied Body Glide to all the appropriate body parts, including my legs.

What the heck is going on here?

I will spare the details, but suffice it to say, that chaffing hurts and when it involves your legs, which are in constant motion, well, it just … keeps … getting … worse. This was not magical.

What happened? I have no idea. But it slowed me right down. And the slower pace actually gave my foot time to stiffen up again. Luckily, there was no real pain, just some soreness and stiffness, but couple that now with razor-looking cuts rubbing against each other on my thighs and that nice solid run, that hope of at least a PR, or close to it, was gone.

At Mile 7, I cried.

I pulled over to the side of the road and walked for the first time in the race. In trying not to cry, one often makes the actual crying worse, sounding as if you might be hyperventilating. A woman slowed down to ask if I was OK. Bless you dear woman. I waived her on. I would be OK.

It was time to refocus.

What was I hear for? To have an experience. To enjoy the race. To celebrate the fact that I could run. To do something new. Really, what benefit would I get from pissing away the rest of the race just because I wasn’t going to have a great finishing time?

And so, the last four miles or so of the race became a run-walk experiment. I picked out landmarks and gave myself walk breaks. I listened to the people around me. I heard two people talk about running the marathon the next day as part of the Goofy Challenge. I bowed to them. Well, not literally, but I did do the homage motion with my arms and told them I bowed to them.

Along course I saw Mickey and Minnie Mouse and gave out high-fives to the spectators who lined the course. I watched other runners dressed in costume. Tinkerbell was a popular ensemble. So were any type of mouse ears. There was music nearly every mile. I found two aid stations offering sticks of Vaseline, which I eagerly took to soothe my aching thighs. All of those things made me smile.

The last mile, well 1.1 miles, was all about running. Didn’t matter how slow it was, I was determined to not walk after Mile 12. My legs were heavy. I wanted to be done. The course wound around back into Epcot. We were met by two characters I don’t know. One looked like Beaker from the Muppets. It wasn’t him, but I pretended it was. Somehow, that made me feel better.

Mile 13. Time to run as hard as I could manage to the finish line for the final tenth of a mile.

My legs were heavy. My breathing was hard. My thighs were screaming and my right heal, well, thanks to the other issues, I didn’t even think about my heal.

Instead I kept running. Finish strong, I thought, and I crossed the finish line in what turned out to be around my average half marathon time — 2 hours and 12 minutes.

And then I found the rest of the group.

Greg had run faster than he wanted. Mark ran a slow pace by his standards, but finished strong and happy. John, who made it to the start of the race after all, ran a solid time as well. All three of them were attempting to pace themselves since they were part of the Goofy Challenge and running the marathon the next day.

Me? I only did a half marathon, was not pacing myself for the Goofy Challenge,  had a mediocre performance and a mysterious chaffing incident. I felt a bit inadequate around the guys.

Then I looked down at my hands, which still bore the words of the day written in bold black sharpie. On my right hand, my place of strength, was the word FINISH. On my left hand, my happy place, was the word REDONK.

I had looked at them throughout the race. “Redonk” is a form of “redonkulous” — a term used by my friend Jessica in place of “ridiculous.” The term makes me smile and frankly, running a major race a week after the holiday season ends, a race which requires waking up at 2:30 in the morning and a race that included enduring foot issues and chaffing, well, that really is just a bit “redonk” isn’t it?

And finish … that’s what I did.

Did I run the race? Did I finish? Yes and yes.

What else was there?

Really. I got exactly what I wanted. During my training for the race, my running became stronger as I set PRs in nearly every distance, increased my speed and endurance. The Disney race on the calendar kept me motivated through the holidays and change to cold weather. The Disney running experience was a hoot seeing costumed characters along the course and experiencing a new place.

Most importantly, I got to spend time with good friends doing something I love. This was what I brought myself around to after the breakdown at Mile 7. And while the immediate post-race was a bit pouty, after a shower (which was painful with the chaffing) and a nap, the wisdom inside matched my expressions on the outside.

So, it wasn’t the result I was expecting.

It still turned out to be the race I had planned.

(Still to come this week: Cheering on the Goofy Guys at the marathon, the Disney Marathon Weekend Experience and the Magic of Marathon Monday.)

Disney Half Marathon: A first look

•January 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The full race report and travel report (along with photos) will be coming soon.

But until then, some early thoughts after running the Disney Half Marathon on Saturday:

1. Heading into the race, I was dealing with plantar fasciitis in my right foot. For the record, my coach would have preferred I didn’t run, but knew that with the amount of work (and amount of money) put into this event, I would want to at least try it.. The agreement was that I would stop running if I felt any pain. But my goal of a sub-2 hour marathon was long gone, both with trying to be mindful of my foot and with the mental game of ping pong of how I should run. Never underestimate the amount of energy your mind can use up.

2. While I love Body Glide and use it often with good results, it failed me by Mile 4 on this run. My inner thighs started to chafe. Badly. If you’re a runner, your immediate reaction probably was a sympathetic recoil. If you’re not a runner, trust me, this hurt me more than the tightness in my foot.

3. The race began with Best Boyfriend Mark and my first three miles were great. Then nature called me to duck into a port-a-potie. Then my thigh chaffing was starting to bother me. Then my foot, while not in pain, was feeling stiff. By Mile 7 I pulled over to the side of the road, started to walk and cried a bit. Within a tenth of a mile I had let out fears, my disappointment and judgement.

4. The last half of the race involved much walking — something to embrace. The sun was starting to rise. And while the magic of the parks had pretty much been finished (much of the course is on highway and access roads) I embraced the experience. Objective goals were no longer important. Enjoying the race, the fact that I was able to run at all, the fact that I was at Disney and among so many people who believed in the magic of the venue, well that kept me in the moment.

5. My final time: 2 hours and 12 minutes. While not verified, I believe that is my second fastest half-marathon to date. Not bad considering I surrendered to the walk-run for the last four miles (though, for the record, I ran the final 1.1 miles). I listened to my body, remembering it has much wisdom to share with me — like the fact that magic often comes in subtle, subjective ways.

Finding my Disney magic

•January 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

True confession time: Disney World does not excite me.

This is not to say I am anti-Disney. Nor is it to say I’m not excited and curious and really looking forward to this weekend’s journey to Orlando, Fla. and the wonderful world of Disney Marathon weekend. But I don’t ever remember being overly jazzed about Disney World. I was more a Muppets girl (and yes, I realize that Disney acquired the Muppets back in 2004, but they were separate during my formative years). Nothing at all against Mickey and Minnie and company. I liked them and all, but there was something about Kermit and Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear and of course Gonzo the Great.

Maybe it comes from not being an amusement park girl. While the idea of amusement parks was enticing, I’m much more of a county fair kind of girl. Heck, I don’t even remember dreaming of a Walt Disney World vacation. I was more interested in Cooperstown, Toronto, the Reading Rainbow van and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

But that does not mean I’m devoid of the Disney spirit.

It’s just that my Disney spirit is a bit outside of my generational scope.

Somewhere in the television universe during my youth lived reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club. Not the slick 1980s version but the original back-and-white versions my mother grew up watching. Also inherited was an album of songs from the Mickey Mouse Club. For some reason, this is the Disney that caught my eye. And my ear.

To this day I can sing some of the odd-ball songs from the original Mickey Mouse Club.

Today is Tuesday. You know what that means. We’re gonna have a special guest. So get out the broom. Sweep the place clean. And dust off the mat so the welcome can be seen. (ba-dah-dah-dah) Roll out the carpet. Strike up the band. And give a little hip-hooray. (Hip Hooray!) Wiggle your ears. Like good Mousketeers. We’re gonna present a guest today. ‘Cuz Tuesday is guest start day.

I also know a few verses of the “Talent Rodeo,” the theme of Friday shows, but I’ll save that for my friends in Orlando. And don’t forget the sign-off:

M-I-C see ya real soon. K-E-Y why? because we like you! M-O-U-S-E

Ah, never did I claim to be typical either in my youth or my so-called adulthood.

But now, the excitement of traveling to Disney is starting to grow. Hey there! Hi there! Ho there! How many sayings and songs from my childhood can I trot out this weekend? After all, it doesn’t have to be all about the Mouse. Who says I can’t spontaneously burst into the theme song from Reading Rainbow?

And now that some logic starts to kick in … if Disney purchased the Muppets, might I actually get to meet Gonzo? Or Kermit? Or Miss Piggy?

Hmm. Perhaps I’m starting to understand the wonder of Disney.

The occasional occurrence of stupid things

•January 5, 2011 • 1 Comment

Stupid things happen.

Like the time my math skills failed me and my decree that  “4 + 3 = 6” drew the amused look of Mark. (Note to self: Never attempt to do math on the fly in front of someone who has left-brain tendencies.)

Like the time I wrote “Heart” instead of “Hart” trophy in my mobile Facebook upload of pictures from the NHL trophy exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. (I really could use a personal copy editor.)

And like the time when I set my alarm for 6 PM instead of 6 AM, hence missing my chance to join my friend Sue during my treadmill run on Tuesday.

Some days I don’t know where my mind is.

And those days are actually gifts, because if I don’t keep track of my mind, it has a tendency to run the show on its own. When my brian takes over, when I start living too much in my own head, it’s a dark, dangerous place to be around — for me, for friends, for loved ones, for wildlife in the area, for the guy selling me coffee.

My latest brain cramp led me to struggling through five miles on the treadmill alone, placed me in a panic that my heel will never feel quite right again and tried to convince me that my worth, both to myself and others around me, was based in my performance rather than my existence.

Whew! Glad I caught that one in time.

There’s an old story I tell myself that revolves around worthiness, about believing that I will only be good enough for (insert desired feeling or status here) when I have (insert level of achievement here). It’s a story that no longer rings true for me. Only problem is, sometimes my mind tries to repackage the story in something shiny and see if I’ll bite again.

As I prepare for the Disney half marathon, the notion of breaking the 2-hour mark has faded. My body has spoken. It doesn’t want to focus on results. It wants me to enjoy the trip. It wants me to ignore the destructive games my mind plays which tries to weave a tale if I don’t have (and obtain) some competitive goal tat my quality as a human being would be equivalent to that of the subprime mortgage industry .

No. My body is reminding me I want something different. It’s time to change the way I look at the weekend. I choose to embrace the experience, not judge the performance. I chose to live it rather than evaluate it.

After all, on my list of intentions for 2011 were to tackle new challenges, to go new places — and those challenges and new places may come in an unexpected form. Part of the challenge is to give up judging what it is that I want by some external standard.

Yes, this minor injury setback may be a gift indeed, along with the occasional occurrence of stupid things.

Refocusing: Setting new goals for Disney

•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My injuries have always come with interesting stories. Two years ago, it was a concussion after whacking my head against a soap dish in the shower. This past April,it was strained ligaments in my foot after an awkward jump into the Offats Bayou causing my ankle and foot to swell and turn colors the day before  the Memorial Hermann 70.3 in Texas.

But this time there is no good story. Nor any outward symptoms to photograph. Not even a shot of my muddy feet (see accompanying photo) after some entertaining stumbles on a trail run.

This time, the injury that has slowed me down is annoying, silent and frustrating. Welcome to the world of plantar fasciitis.

It’s a common injury among runners (so says the entry at the Mayo Clinic website) and the most common cause of heel pain. In basic terms, it is the inflammation of a band of tissue in your foot. And the best way to heal the heel in this case is to rest it.

Which is never good news for runners.

Where my injury developed is a mystery. My plantar fascia may have been aggravated during the Boxing Day 10-miler, running a hard distance in the cold and with some rather significant hills. It could have come earlier. But there was definitely a stabbing pain in my heel after that race and my coach put the breaks on my running.

Instead, I rested then did some easy biking and swimming. I did home remedies of rolling frozen water bottles under my foot and took to the oh-so-fashionable attire of wearing sneakers with my work clothes.

And my heel started to feel better. There was no more pain first thing in the morning. My foot no longer felt stiff. The last run I did, on the treadmill (softer surface) with no incline (easier pace) took me five minutes for my foot to “warm up” then felt fine the rest of the 4.5 miles.

I felt confident that my coach would give me a green light for this weekend’s half marathon at Disney.

Ah, but I was wrong.

Coach told me his story — how he had been on a long training run, developed heel pain, was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and didn’t recover for months, keeping him out of the Olympic Trials. He told me stories of athletes who have battled plantar fasciitis for months, even years, and how the inflammation can become chronic.

This is not the time to make my body mad at me.

Even if it means scrapping my goal of trying for a sub-2 hour half marathon at Disney on Saturday.

My head understands this. My heart even gets it. But there still is disappointment. And mostly there is a feeling of being lost, wandering without a competitive goal. Even races which were “training” races, there was still a goal, even if it was a race or two down the line.

This was pretty much the only race confirmed on my 2011 docket. What was I to do with this now?

I sought solace in friends in the running community and received great advice from Vicki Mitchell, a former elite runner and current coach at the University at Buffalo:

The key to making this more meaningful to you will be to have a purpose for the half marathon.

Yes. I need a new purpose. It’s not about my time. It’s about the experience. And there are ways to make the experience meaningful, even if I’m not ready to crush my time goals.

The suggestions from Vicki included:

  • Have an objective goal that is pace oriented – aim to hit perfectly even miles after the first couple of miles, when the crowds have thinned out and there is running room.
  • Have a focus goal – at key points, such as every 5k, have a focusing goal.  Example, check your breathing rhythm, count your stride rate, do a self-check to see if your shoulders are relaxed. Make the focus goals form oriented so you are still benefiting your body even though you are not racing for a fast time.
  • Do some people watching.  At Disney, there are sure to be some characters along the way to give you a laugh or two.  Carry your phone and take a few pictures a long the way!

And so this week, my workouts will be a chance to ponder some new objectives for Disney, for the experience I want to have, to let go of the sub-2 hour goal, let my body heal and focus on what it is I can achieve this weekend.