My husband aka personal videographer extraordinaire just finished our recap video for the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon. Scroll down to the bottom if you just want to watch the video and don’t want to read my rambling.
To sum up, I think this may have been the best race yet. Here are 8 things that I absolutely loved about this year’s Disneyland Half.
The weather! After last year’s humid nightmare I was praying for relief this time around. The uncharacteristic humidity we experienced in the weeks leading up to the race had me so nervous. Mother Nature pulled through. The morning was pleasantly overcast (which is a runner’s dream), not too hot, not too cold, and just a teeeensy bit of humidity to make sweating actually feel good.
Roomy corrals. I don’t know this for certain, but I feel that they must have added more corrals this year and designated less people in each. The past couple of years our corral has been so overcrowded (probably largely due to earlier corral starters moving back to run with friends which is allowed but makes the back corrals overstuffed), that we actually got bumped into a later corral. No runner likes that. You want to start as close to the A, B, C world as possible. This year we had plenty of room and no bumpage.
Plenty of water. Last year was the first time ever that the course ran out of water at some stops. I blame the insane heat and humidity but it left me woefully unprepared and dehydrated. Super bummer.This year runDisney obviously stocked up. No lack of water on the course for me.
Our costumes! My favorite ever. I simply love Rapunzel, and Flynn Rider is definitely the swooniest Disney dude since Prince Eric. Perfect for a pair of running newlyweds. Plus, thanks to Rapunzel, I developed a new item for Whimsy Do. Flower braid-in extensions.
New race shirts. FINALLY runDisney created gender specific (in cut only, not style) race shirts for the Disneyland Half. The new shirt fit like a dream, and the color is super cute. Love it.
Our first race as a married couple. Enough said 🙂
This marked my 10th half marathon. How did that happen!
Fancy dinner. The day after the race Brad and I spent our requisite day of celebration in the parks. Since this year marks something special, I thought it was finally time we checked out Carthay Circle. So elegant. So delicious.
And then of course there were a few downsides.
No cheerleaders. This was the first year ever that my Mom and Dennis weren’t able to make it down for the race. They are always there to cheer us on, and they usually run one of the events themselves, but due to scheduling it just didn’t happen this year. We really missed them but they cheered from afar.
No Disneyland dream pool. For three of the years we’ve run this event we splurged on stays at Disneyland resort hotels. We’ve now stayed at all three, once each. My favorite hotel is the Grand Californian for its rustic beauty, but the Disneyland Hotel Pool has everyone beat. It’s an absolute dream. Huge, festive, and has a truly thrilling waterslide. Not to mention the proximity to Trader Sam’s and all the tiki drinks you could ever want. It’s the best and I missed it. This year Brad and I stayed off property. Pool was sub-par, and no tiki drinks. Though we did have an amazing two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen.
Foot pain. I’ve been running for a while in Newtons. While I love them for anything up to 6 miles, I learned through this race that any mileage over 6 my feet can’t seem to take. Around mile 7 I developed serious shooting pain in my left metatarsal. I was actually concerned I may have a fracture. Of course I ran through it, like ya do, and the pain ebbed for a while. At mile 11 it hit me again to the point I actually had to walk. That definitely threw off my flow for the last three miles. I had been on track for a PR before that happened :(. There’s always something to keep that elusive PR just out of reach. I guess it was an educational moment. I now know that I’m going to need a bit more shoe for the marathon. Did someone say more shoes? Ok if I must.
Those are the only negative points I can think of and they weren’t super biggies. Everything was pretty much just incredibly fun, celebratory, and relaxing as usual. Once again I’m left looking forward to Disneyland Half Marathon 2015. But first, we have to get through the WDW Marathon. *Gulp*
I didn’t realize this until my husband pointed it out to me a couple of weeks ago, but the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon marked my 10th half marathon completed. I can’t believe it! I ran my first 13.1 miles at the 2010 Disneyland Half. How fitting that my 10th be at the same event. Full circle. Warm and fuzzies. MILEstone.
In honor of my 10th half marathon-iversary, I thought I’d pay homage to the distance. It’s a great race. I started to think about why I love it so much and as I brainstormed it occurred to me to loop other folks in on the discussion. I’m a member of a fantastic Disney nerd running group on Facebook called Team #runDisney. It’s an amazingly supportive and enthusiastic group of runners. From novices to elites, everyone in this group comes together to share the love of our sport. So who better to answer the question, why do you run the half marathon, than my brothers and sisters in arms (or legs) over at Team #runDisney. The following is a mash-up of their answers as well as my own. I give you:
10 reasons to run a Half Marathon.
It’s all well and good to say you’re going to run 20 miles a week (or whatever), but let’s be serious, you won’t. You’ll get home from work and you’ll feel all tired and sludgy and give in to the couch calling out to you. Couch says “Hey you, yeah you whose derriere I love so much when it snuggles up on me with a glass of wine and a bag of hot Cheetos. Come put your feet up and watch the new episode of Scandal. It’s far too late and that wine is far too delicious. No need to run today.” That’s what the couch says. You can’t listen. You need something to pull you away. Sign up for a half marathon. Paying that kind of money to run a race will keep you motivated to keep going, keep training. Seeing that countdown widget on your phone everyday will remind you of what you promised yourself. Accountability. Plus, I just used wine and hot Cheetos in the same sentence. God help me.
All about the bling
Yes I realize it’s just a cheap piece of metal made for 10 cents somewhere over seas probably by an exploited labor force. But man, I can’t help it, I love my medals. How many instances in life do you get a well-deserved medal placed around your neck for something you accomplished. There’s a reason there’s an established saying “they should give me a medal ” when you bust your butt for something. In this case, they will!
Set an example
Whether it’s your kids, students, nieces, spouse, or co-workers, you have the incredible opportunity to set an example for someone around you. At a time when the dangers of obesity are finally starting to sink in, we’re all having healthier discussions about body image, and nutrition often takes center stage in the national debate, thank God that it seems like the world may be getting healthier. Maybe? Hopefully? The truth is we don’t know if all these studies and articles and dialogues are actually doing anything. What I do know is that I’ve had at least three people tell Brad or I directly that our running habit inspired them to get active again. That’s amazing. If something I’ve done changes one person’s life for the better, worth it. Actions speak so much louder than words (coming from the girl who writes a BLOG! *facepalm*).
Runners raise a shit-ton of money. Millions of dollars every year. In doing so they take the opportunity to educate their friends and families about causes that matter to them. They provide living proof that positive change begins with doing something for yourself but it can’t END there. Change must be paid forward. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is Sean Astin’s #run3rd campaign. It sums up the philosophy perfectly. Run 1st for myself. Run 2nd for my family. Run 3rd for YOU. Of course “You” being an embodiment of whatever dedication compels you forward; be it a cause, a loved one, a memory, a statement. Give it away, be a part of something bigger. Make effort meaningful. Running does these things. Cool, huh?
With a capital F! Ok people, I’m not saying you should gorge yourself or anything. That would totally undermine the point I made above about setting a healthy example. But I’m not gonna lie, food tastes waaaay better after you just ran 13.1 miles and know that every single calorie has already been burned off. Most of the time of course you should be healthy and mindful of what you put in your body. Well, actually, all the time. Yes we should be mindful of that all the time. You should see how mindfully I down a chocolate milkshake and stack of buttermilk pancakes with a side of hash browns after I run a half marathon. In all honestly, I’m telling you, when you run consistently you just don’t have to stress about food as much. I never used to be able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight just thinking about a few extra calories. Since I’ve been running really consistently I don’t think about it, and I don’t gain. Admittedly, I haven’t lost weight either, but I’m ok with that. The relief of going to the grocery store and just buying what my cravings tell me to buy is so freeing. (News flash, when you get out of diet mode and listen to real cravings, you’ll probably crave healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and protein. True story). But let me repeat my main point, eating WHATEVER you want after you just ran a half marathon is a gift from above.
Fits into your busy schedule
Brad and I just started training this week for the Walt Disney World Marathon. I have to admit, looking at the training calendar I can tell that from here until January running is going to dominate our weekends. Once we get over 14 mile runs, you’re talking about carving out at least 3 hours of straight running every Saturday. That’s *just* the running. That doesn’t include warm-up time, cool-down time, and recovery time. Running over 14 miles is going to knock us out the rest of the day, and we’ll be doing it about 10 weekends in a row. Bye bye social life! Don’t get me wrong, I’m so excited for the challenge and am committed to making a social sacrifice to get ready for Disney World come January, but let me tell you the great thing about a half marathon. It’s challenging, quite challenging, requires a good amount of training and consistency, but is not SO challenging that it dominates your life. You can train for a half marathon without neglecting your family, and while maintaining a social life. And at the end of it all you’ll still feel so accomplished after running that race! It’s the perfect distance for we amateur athletes who still want lives.
Running a half marathon can provide great incentive to travel. It might be hard to convince your spouse to fly across the country for a 5k or even a 10k. The half marathon is that magic distance. Your family will be so impressed by your effort and dedication to the challenge, they will readily jump on board to fly to Boston so you can run the inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. Tempt them with a Duck Tour and lobster rolls and you’ll start to see that half marathons can be the markers on your traveler’s map. And you won’t be SO beaten up after 13.1 miles that you won’t have any steam left to enjoy your surroundings. A marathon could put you out of commission. A half marathon will leave you feeling celebratory and revitalized with some extra calories to spare (see point #5). Half Marathons have taken Brad and I to Monterey, Big Sur, San Diego, and of course Disneyland!
I’ve always gravitated more toward solitary sports than teams. Does that make me a creeper who doesn’t like people? I don’t think so. It’s just that team sports give me so much anxiety. Too much pressure!. However tennis, swimming, cycling, running. I can get behind all of these. The funny thing is I feel more supported by my fellow runners of the world than I ever did on a team played in school. Perhaps because we don’t compete against each other, we compete against ourselves (talking about non-elites of course). I run to beat my own time, not someone else’s. I don’t disappoint anyone if I can’t finish a race. No runner (me) has panic attacks about letting the team down. This leaves 100% room for positive camaraderie with my fellow runners and no where is that more apparent than at a half marathon. Thousands of eager athletes willing each other to succeed. I want them all to succeed so bad! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried hearing the stories of what my running friends have overcome in their journeys. We share tips with each other, we swap horror stories, we salute new PRs and we comfort epic disappointments. Seems like almost every major thread I read on Facebook is chalk full of dissent, argument, and trolls, except for my running groups. They are a virtual haven. In my running groups I can’t say I’ve ever come across a single troll. I may extol the virtues of the solitary athlete, but I’m not-so-secretly dependent on my “team.”
Running is cheaper than therapy
There are many ways to maintain positive mental health; and running does it for me. The half marathons that I run every year keep an attainable but challenging carrot dangling out in front of me. I have something to look forward to which is always good for joy-making, and running after that carrot gets all kinds of fancy endorphins pumping through my blood and brain. Training will give you built-in “me time.” It will clear your head. It will help you manage stress. Half marathon training is honestly the best prescription for mental stability I’ve ever undertaken. Half marathon = happiness.
Admit it, someone at some point in your life has made you feel incapable and bad. Whether that person was a bully, a pesky relative, or yourself. Someone made you think you couldn’t do things like run 13.1 miles. Oh the satisfaction of proving someone wrong. Run a half marathon because someone at some point told you that you couldn’t. Run a half marathon because you need tangible proof that any dream is catchable.
To finish, I want to share some quotes from the Team #runDisney thread that inspired me to write this, and continues to inspire me keep on runnin’. (Please apply (sic) to all typos, these comments came from the grammar vacuum known as Facebook). I hope you can feel the inspiration oozing from your computer screen, onto your desk, and down into your feet! These people have overcome and accomplished some amazing things. If they can do it, so can YOU!
I love running with people who are running their first half marathons and getting to share the experience of something I really love. It’s amazing to see all the emotions they go through and to be that voice of confidence and encouragement.
I run because I was told I couldn’t. And 8 years later, when I ended up in a wheelchair, I switched to a racing chair because running had become part of who I am. And it’s taught me way too many things to list…
Running ten miles on a Saturday morning means nachos for lunch don’t count!!
I had a stroke about 6 years ago and I run because I can and I know it’s a luxury!
Easier than a marathon and more challenging than a 10K. Just the right distance and I always feel accomplished at the end.
Because people look at me and say, you don’t look like a runner……
I run all distances for fun… 5Ks and 10Ks I want to go fast. Fulls require focus… With the Half, I can be a bit more casual and enjoy the race from start to finish.
Sometimes I don’t have a lot of control of many things in my life -but I always have control of me. It empowers me to stay strong through uncertain times.
I signed up for my first time last year because I can’t seem to accomplish my personal goal at work and needed to know that nothing could hold me back from what I wanted to do if there was no one in my way….
To raise money for a local charity and in honor of a friend who used to run marathons but died of brain cancer two years ago.
I took 20 years off of Running. Last year my son started Kindergarten. I wanted to set an example of exercise. I started with the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas last November. When November rolls around the weekend of the Disney Avenger Race I will have run 9 half marathons in a year’s time. If someone told me last August that I would have run 9 Half Marathons I would have said they were crazy. Yet 5 down, 1 this weekend, then 3 to go!!!
Most of my life I have been a big guy, a couple years ago lost over 100 pounds. I remember how excited I was when I ran my first mile without stopping for the first time in my life. This will be my 2nd half marathon. I don’t run because I can, I run because all my life I couldn’t.
I started running three and a half years ago after my son passed away following a car accident. That’s why I run to honor (him). He was a country runner and rugby player in high school and we had planned to someday do a half marathon together. I’ve done many half marathons and I have three or four more planned in the next 6 months. I run to feel close to and honor him. That’s why I run.
I find a different kind of fulfillment when I run halfs. It’s changed me inside letting me know I am strong and (can) accomplish anything!
I had a rough childhood, survived a relationship that could have ended my life, and emotional struggles from it all. My boys don’t know all this from my past, but I want them to know that strength comes in many forms. Maybe getting that medal is physical validation of what I conquered internally. I also love that I can have them see me run and we can have a family vacation together at our favorite place on the planet. Double bonus!
I started running a few years ago. Did the Disney World 5K at Animal Kingdom and it was amazing!! I cried at the end!! Jumped straight to Half Marathon and was hooked… still cry at the finish!! LOL
For the amazing feeling you get when you finish the race. That natural high lasts for days and carries over into your normal everyday life!
Why you ask… “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… We must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I have been remiss. I failed to post a recap of my favorite running weekend of the year so far. This May 4th (May the Fourth be with you), Brad and I ran with cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, rhinos, and one very friendly camel. Cool, right?? Can you believe it?! I wish it were all true, but the spirit of the sentence is right. We ran the San Diego Safari Park Half Marathon.
I love an excuse to go to San Diego. I’m not sure how it got the nickname America’s Finest City, but it’s kind of true. There’s just “something” about it. San Diego has an appealing quality. Coronado is a dream. La Jolla is a paradise. And Gaslamp is a blast. Enough about the town though, let’s talk about the race.
Saturday we drive to Road Runners Sports to check in and get our bibs and bags. We pick up our shirts, sign our waivers and yeah, whatever. That is all fine. A race packet pick-up in a huge running specialty store though? Quite a sly trick there, race planners. Like luring a kid into a candy store, or an ax murderer into an ax store. Oh the temptation. This store is awesome.
Seriously this store has me in its grip. I almost make it out alive. Just as one of the shoe sales reps almost coerces me into a new pair, he begins to tell me about their policy that you can return running shoes for up to 60 days after purchase (or was it 90? I can’t remember) no questions asked, no matter how much you’ve worn them, for a full refund. Now I’m sure even non-runners can understand the value in this. You just really don’t know about a pair of shoes, ESPECIALLY running shoes, until you get them on your feet and spend a day (or a run) in them. No matter how much you half-heartedly jog around the store as if that’s actually providing you with useful information, until you’ve got those shoes on your sweaty swollen dogs for 5 miles or more, you don’t know if they’re really right for you. So this whole 60 day return window is AHmazing. I love this store. Anyway, I digress. The point I mean to make is that this concept has me wondering, what happens to all of those sad unwanted shoes? Poor lost shoes. I ask the guy, “You can’t resell them right? So what do you do? Do you donate them?” Well well well. I’m glad I asked. Turns out they DO resell them, heavily discounted, and only in this store. The guy leans in close to give me the scoop. “Actually, you head around back, see? At’s what we calls our lightly-loved shoe department, see? We cleans ’em on up, gives ’em a second chance at life. Head on back, ask for my boy Maurice, he’ll hook you up.” Actually he didn’t talk like a 1940s gangster at all, and there was no one named Maurice; but the lightly loved shoe department is a very real place.
I scoot on over to Brad who is seriously considering a purchase of some Hoka One Ones (Brad’s nursing plantar fasciitis and will do almost anything at this point to cure it, including buying new shoes that aren’t from Ross). I lean in close to Brad’s ear and give him the scoop about the secret lightly-loved department behind the store. We hurriedly make our way outside and around the back. At first we don’t see anything but more of the industrial strip mall we find ourselves in on this warm San Diego day. I’m feeling like this sales guy mobster was giving me the runaround. Then, all of a sudden, there it is. A wall of the most heavily discounted first class running shoes I have ever seen. It’s basically heaven.
After spending much more time and money than planned, necessary, or budgeted, Brad and I pull ourselves away from the lightly loved shoe department with a pair of Hokas for me (how did I get roped into the Hokas? Well they look like mermaid shoes and they were on sale. What do you want from me?), a pair of Hokas for Brad (that super stuffed cushioning felt darn good on his pf), and a pair of Newton Gravitys for Brad as well (Newtons are so flippin’ expensive so to find a pair of practically new ones for 75% off is hard to turn down. I convinced him).
So there we are, two running nerds in our matching Hoka One One shoes, waddling out of the running store two big bags heavier than we intended. No regrets. I love a good bargain. And we love our new shoes.
Enough about shopping, let’s get to the race.
We raced! Add another Half Marathon to our growing list. The San Diego Safari Park Half Marathon is tops in my book, but there are some things you need to know. Contrary to my perhaps misguided preconception you will not be running with or near wild animals. I guess I’m so used to Disney races where I know you’ll get to run as many miles as they can squeeze in the parks. I assumed this, being an entertainment park, would be the same. It didn’t occur to me, of course, that 8,000 or so loudly thumping heavily breathing runners might sound like a stampede to a sensitive wild animal and oh, I don’t know, spook them? Yeah, you don’t really run near the animals. Duh. Makes total sense.
Most of the race is through beautiful nearby Escondido, and truly, it is beautiful. And not without animals! We run alongside lots of cows! As you approach the Safari Park you run up a hill. The most intense hill I have ever seen on a race course. Seriously, it is like a joke. It is as if someone plopped Runyon Canyon smack dab at mile 8 of a half marathon. Funny right???
I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story of our lovely run. There is one more thing I wanted to mention about this event, but I hesitate because I don’t want to end on a sour note. I’ll just write it out and then think of something nice to say after so we won’t end on bad terms, k?
They ran out of medals. As I cross the finish line I am handed what looks like a laminated backstage pass. At first I think, oh, these are the medals? Well, I guess times is tough at the old Safari Park. But then the volunteer explains to me that they have run out of medals and I would receive mine in the mail in 4-6 weeks. Ugh. Listen, that’s fine, I get it. I’ve dealt with many events and I know that logistical nightmares happen. The wrong number of this get ordered, or the vendor sends that to the wrong address, or whatever. It still completely sucks, and in that moment I am very disappointed to say the least. I’m not one of those runners that gets super into the “bling” as they say, but I do enjoy a good medal. I enjoy what it represents. However the ONLY time I really enjoy my medal is the day I run the race. That’s the day I wear it around my neck proudly and wait for people to yell Congratulations so I can shoot them a coy smile and say Thank You So Much. I can’t do that 4-6 weeks from race day. I could, but I’d be kind of a dummy.
That’s all I’ll say about that. It was a major bummer, I was unfairly bitter about it for approximately three hours. I currently do not blame the Safari Park in any way (we’re cool Safari Park), and I’ve let it go. Things happen. Moving on.
I promised I wouldn’t end on a bitter note so here are some other things, and these far outweigh the medal debacle. Included in your race entry fee is FREE admission to the Safari Park for the entire day (hear that Disney?? FREE!) which is the coolest thing ever. It’s a truly beautiful park; a “zoo” that you can feel at least half way good about. Did you know the Safari Park used to be the breeding facility for the animals that would end up at the San Diego Zoo? That’s why there is so much land and it resembles as closely as possible the animals’ natural habitat, to keep the animals healthy, calm, and in the right mood to get it on. Someone over the years got the idea to open it up to the public. Isn’t that cool?
Also, we saw a cheetah run y’all. Up close and personal. Did you know cheetahs can reach speeds of 70 mph? Next time you’re SPEEDING on the freeway (cause 70 is SPEEDING you guys), think about that. A cheetah running on the freeway could get a speeding ticket. We saw a cheetah run. So. Cool. I actually cried. I’m totally not kidding. I choked up. It was an amazing sight.
All around it was an incredible weekend. I love San Diego, I love my husband, I love running, I love animals. All these things at once. Can’t go wrong. Definitely doing it again next year (if nothing else to get back to that lightly-loved secret 1940s mobster shoe store! Shh!).
And now, the actual best part of this post, the video. Enjoy!
Hi there! If you haven’t heard, I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. This means I’m going to have a lot more time and focus devoted to my writing. I’m so excited! While I compile all of my new though currently scattered thoughts and plans for future posts, I want to share with you the latest from the greatest Brad Light, my one and only. While I document the written account, Brad has the visual component covered of our journey to Tahiti. The latest offering is a video recap of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon which we ran in January of this year (2014). Judging from this awesome video, you’d never know I was completely and utterly exhausted! Well, you kind of get an inkling that I’m hurting from the brief and blunt interview at the end. Just speaking my mind 🙂
And no, Brad is not dressed as a dinosaur or an alien shark. He’s the Crocodile people! Tick Tock!
Did you run the Tink Half this year? How did it go?
This past week I made some bold moves on the internet. I started threads on Facebook about the perhaps most contentious discussions of the moment: vaccinations, breastfeeding, and Woody Allen. I figured I’d bring the controversy to my blog. There are many topics to choose from: stretching vs. not stretching before a run, Gu vs. gummy bears, how much water is too much water, and of course everyone’s favorite controversy, barefoot running. I’d like to touch on all of these subjects eventually; stir up the runner’s pot a bit. Today however I embark upon a quest to understand the misunderstood. To set the record straight. To defend the maligned, the convicted, the discredited. Today I write in defense of lactic acid.
This subject may not be as interesting to anyone you as it is to me. Sooo, sorry about that. I merely want to share my revelation. I will say that my allusions on social media to writing this article have been met with keen interest from fellow runners so hopefully my painstaking research will shed some light on a mysterious topic. Much more mysterious than I even could have imagined.
Living in an age where we’re making eyeglasses with computer screens in them and talking about using nano robots for microsurgery, I just assumed that we had a pretty decent handle on the basic chemical functions of the body. I was wrong. Of course we know a great deal, but so much is still a mystery. We can land a robot on Mars, but we can’t quite get to the bottom of lactic acid’s processes in our body. And I’m not just talking about me and my effort to understand. I’m talking about the established medical community. I’ve spent the past week reading warring medical journals online. The tete a tetes between disagreeing doctors is nothing short of hilarious.
After diligently researching the subject by reading countless medical journals, I feel confident that I understand what’s going on with my body when I run.
You read that right. I read medical journals. This right-brained theatre major who took anatomy senior year of high school because chemistry was just too hard for her, read articles in the American Journal of Physiology titled things like “Biochemistry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis.” I felt like I was reading another language, but it was an incredible exercise for the brain. My brain felt like my legs do after a half marathon!
I’ll link to all of my references at the bottom of this article if you’d like to partake.
On to lactic acid. First, let me take a step back for a moment. I had a rough run at last month’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Despite feeling fairly trained and ready to race, about 5 minutes after crossing the finish line I felt that I’d been hit by a truck. I learned that much of this was probably due to sleep deprivation, but others advised me that I was also displaying symptoms of lactic acid build-up. I’d heard that before. We’re runners. We’ve all heard that and thrown it around ourselves. “Oh, that’s lactic acid.” Eeevil lactic acid. I hadn’t given it much of a second thought before, but I felt so frustrated by the outcome of the Tinker Bell race that I began to question. Why? Why, when I need my body to do everything it can to throw me a bone in a strenuous situation, why would it create a substance that would make me feel like I was dying? I thought I’d do a little research and find a simple answer. I was wrong.
Lactic acid has become a catch-all to describe an incredibly, INCREDIBLY, complicated set of chemical processes in the body. The truth that I think I’ve begun to uncover is that lactic acid is not guilty of all that we attribute to it.
First of all, here are some myths that need busting:
Lactic Acid is responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
Lactic Acid causes cramping
Lactic Acid can be expelled from the body through sports massage
Lactic Acid causes long-term muscle fatigue
Lactic Acid is a waste product
Lactic Acid is your worst enemy
These are all untrue. In fact lactic acid is created to help you. I’ll explain more on these misconceptions in a minute but first, a science lesson. To truly harness the power of lactic acid in your training you must understand how it works in the body.
*Disclaimer* What I’m about to describe is an incredibly complicated chemical process and I’m basically boiling it down to a very simple few steps. So all you O-chem students out there don’t write me letters about how I didn’t accurately represent the Krebs Cycle. I know I know already. Just trying to keep it simple.
I drew. I channeled my inner Allie Brosh and I drew some accompanying diagrams to aid this science lesson. They are crude and awful, but hopefully helpful. Like I said, right-brained visual thinker over here.
We begin our story. It’s a tale of an unsung hero, saving our muscles from collapse when the world around us begs our demise. This world we’ve entered is a world of exercise.
When we exercise, our bodies need energy. Well, our bodies ALWAYS need energy just to live but specifically we need a lot when we exercise. That energy comes in the form of ATP, which shall henceforth be represented by this magical ATP butterfly.
We create ATP in our bodies either Aerobically or Anaerobically. When we’re just walking around and sitting and sleeping and eating and living our normal lives, we create ATP Aerobically which means, you guessed it, with oxygen.
During Aerobic creation of ATP, our bodies break down GLUCOSE through a process called GLYCOLYSIS. Through that breakdown of GLUCOSE we meet our next player in this story, PYRUVATE. PYRUVATE is the gatekeeper to our metabolic process, doling out the goods to make ATP. He shall henceforth be represented by this purple helper monster.
Pyruvate then enters a process called the Krebs Cycle which is way too complicated and chemistry-y for me to go into. Basically what you end up with is ATP. Yay!
Since it’s an easy run, the kind where I can carry out a conversation the entire time, my body is going to produce ATP mostly through Aerobic Metabolism:
And then the ATP gets used up and recycled to begin the process all over again. It’s very efficient and miraculous. Good job body!
But we’re athletes. They aren’t all easy runs. So what happens when we want to push it to the max?
Oxygen gets harder and harder to come by (you know that feeling of asphyxiation when you sprint?), and yet our bodies don’t give up. We kick in to Anaerobic Metabolism.
In that scenario, our body still needs ATP. We begin the process of GLYCOLYSIS to create PYRUVATE. Because we’re kicking it into high gear and using all of our oxygen, we can’t keep up with the demand for ATP via the Krebs Cycle. So instead PYRUVATE creates… LACTIC ACID! Hurray! You’ve been waiting for her to make her entrance.
Good ‘ol lactic acid then gets turned into LACTATE. Now here is where our real star is born. All this talk of lactic acid is misleading, the real actor in this whole scenario is LACTATE. Henceforth LACTATE shall be known as this pink superhero monster:
LACTATE is able to fill in the gap where OXYGEN left us hanging and continues the process to provide our bodies with much needed ATP for exertion. Thank you LACTATE.
Like any good superhero, he has his nemesis. Enter: HYDROGEN ION. HYDROGEN IONS are also known as CATIONS, which lets be honest is an incredibly cool name for a super villain. Enter CATION!
So here’s his story. The breakdown of Lactic Acid to LACTATE yields a build up of HYDROGEN IONS in the body. In the aerobic process these HYDROGEN IONS get balanced out and the body maintains a neutral pH; but some things get a little hanky in the anaerobic process. LACTATE, as useful as he may be to our ability to sprint and push ourselves, is left wanting when it comes to fighting HYDROGEN ION aka CATION. And so with all of these free HYDROGEN molecules floating around in the body, our muscles are left with an unbalanced pH, i.e. an acidic environment.
This acidic environment is sometimes referred to as Lactic Acidosis or Muscular Acidosis. THIS is what is happening when we feel like crap during or right after a hard run and we curse the name LACTIC ACID. What we really should be shouting is “Curse you CATION!!!”
So yeah, despite LACTATE’s best efforts to help us and give us energy to keep running, wicked CATION has turned our muscles into his own personal acidic wasteland. A wasteland known as Muscular Acidosis. The symptoms of Muscular Acidosis are:
Irregular Heart Rate
Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
All LACTATE was trying to do was get us our ATP when we ran out of OXYGEN, and sneaky HYDROGEN ION busts in there and causes all the problems and then blames it on LACTATE. The injustice.
In a very elementary nutshell, that is why our bodies produce LACTATE (or Lactic Acid if we want to go back to using the more umbrella term) when we run. The moral of the story is that, although the by-product can be incredibly uncomfortable, LACTATE is there to help us perform under strenuous circumstances. LACTATE helps push our bodies beyond the confines of pedestrian oxygen and tests our mettle. He may not be the hero we always want, but he certainly is the hero we need.
He cannot work alone however. In order for LACTATE to work efficiently, we need to work together. This is where smart training comes into play.
LACTATE is an elusive superhero. He leaves us almost as quickly as he arrives, and luckily takes his nemesis HYDROGEN ION with him. Within approximately one hour after a strenuous workout all of the LACTATE in your body will have been metabolized either by the heart, the liver, or even through your sweat. However that can be an uncomfortable hour if you’re in a state of Acidosis. So what we need to do is to make sure that our bodies don’t produce LACTATE faster than we can clear it. It’s like a game of Dr. Mario. You always want to make sure you’re clearing out those pills faster than Dr. Mario is throwing them at you. If you get behind, suddenly there’s a major build-up and you die. It’s just like that, except for hopefully not the dying part.
Now I will list the main steps we must take to make sure we’re using LACTATE to benefit us.
There is no doubt that the better shape you’re in, the better off you’ll be, so take your training very seriously. The better the shape you’re in the less LACTATE your body will need to produce in order produce ATP, and thus the less likelihood of a build-up situation where you can’t clear it as fast as you’re making it. Being in tip top shape is like playing a Beginner Level of Dr. Mario. Easy peasy and fun. To GET in this kind of shape you’ll need:
You have to GET in really good shape. You have to GET really good at Dr. Mario. So what you need to do is train at a high level. When we’re talking about Lactic Acid tolerance, we’re talking about OBLA training. This stands for Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation. In OBLA Training you will run as fast as you possibly can while still maintaining an Aerobic environment. You’ll be at that threshold before your body crosses over into Anaerobic mode. What this does is keeps your body at that level where lactic acid production is *just* below lactic acid clearance. So you can push yourself athletically without evil CATION taking his grip. This is key because the more you exercise at the OBLA level, you’ll slowly start to increase where that threshold is and you’ll be using lactate as efficiently as possible without entering that Lactic Acidosis territory where your muscles stop working and you feel like you want to vomit. OBLA Training is like playing Dr. Mario at EXTREME DIFFICULTY and being REALLY good at it. Those pills are coming down fast but you’re *juuuust* able to stay ahead of the game and clear them out. Sorry if these metaphors are getting old but the Dr. Mario thing really works for me.
To me this may be the most valuable of all, and often the most difficult to accomplish in a race environment. If you’re in a situation where your body is producing a lot of Lactic Acid, the more you keep moving and breathing the quicker that Lactic Acid is going to clear from your system and the better you’ll feel. So if you’ve got yourself in a pickle where you have too much LACTATE and his nemesis HYDROGEN ION, give yourself another half mile or so to cool down with an easy jog. As I said, this can be hard during a race because once you cross that finish line you find yourself in a sea of people and photos and medals and spectators and BLAH. Cooling down is basically not an option. What I now know happened to me at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is I pushed it reeeeally hard the last two miles because I’m dumb and stubborn. I was already at my max and then I pushed it beyond and produced what I’m sure was a shit-ton of Lactic Acid during those last two miles. I then crossed the finish line and BAM! It was like hitting a brick wall at full speed while driving a truck full of flammable liquid. Kaboom. CATION took hold.
In training this isn’t a problem. Run your scheduled distance at your planned level of exertion, then jog for another half mile or so to cool down. Do some gentle stretching, some walking, and some deep breathing. In a race this is harder to do, but I have a solution. Let’s use the half marathon as an example. What I recommend is, if you want to push yourself, make sure you do it by mile 11. At that point you really should use mile 12 and 13 to run your comfortable half marathon pace, and use the last half mile to really cool down, whether that’s a gentle jog or even walking, depending on your level of fitness. I know that sounds so unappealing when all you want to do is BURST through that Finish Line, but let me tell you from experience. When you’ve got Lactic Acid build up in your body, that line is an illusion. What it really is, is a brick wall. Don’t be fooled.
Let me get back to a few of those myths I listed at the beginning of the article. Most of them should have been dispelled throughout, but just to make sure we clear LACTATE’s good name:
Lactic Acid is responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
FALSE – as I mentioned earlier, Lactic Acid is completely cleared from the body within 60 minutes of finishing exercise, so there’s no way it’s responsible for the soreness you feel 24 and even 48 hours after your run. Lactic Acid has an alibi! She was busy being metabolized into glucose by the liver!
Lactic Acid causes cramping
FALSE – mysteriously enough, there is no scientific consensus as to what causes cramping. Most scientists agree however that it has to do with lack of oxygen to muscle tissue. Since Lactic Acid is created to fill in the gap where oxygen is left out, essentially trying to help by continuing to create ATP, it doesn’t contribute to cramping. Essentially they are separate issues in the body.
Lactic Acid can be expelled from the body through sports massage
FALSE – studies have shown that athletes who underwent a sports massage after a hard workout displayed the same levels of LACTATE remaining in the body as athletes who did nothing after their workout. Still, if I were the latter athletes in that study, I would’ve certainly felt like I got the short end of the stick. There’s no doubt that massages are awesome! Just not gonna help you clear lactic acid.
Lactic Acid causes long-term muscle fatigue
FALSE – see first myth. There’s nothing long-term about Lactic Acid.
Lactic Acid is a waste product
FALSE – for shame! Everything that LACTATE does to keep our engines burning and we dare to call him a waste? Sorry LACTATE.
Lactic Acid is your worst enemy
FALSE – hopefully everything I’ve said in this article has shown you that this really is not true. Though that HYDROGEN ION aka CATION sure can be a stinker.
In summary, Lactic Acid is your friend. Lactic Acid is the mother of LACTATE and LACTATE is your hero when you want to excel your physical fitness to the next level. LACTATE continues production of ATP, is an excellent source of liver glycogen, and like all good heroes, he knows when to leave. He arrives when PYRUVATE raises the signal, does his job, and is gone within the hour. Unfortunately we can’t have a superhero without a supervillain, and CATION fills that role nicely. He tags along with the production of Lactic Acid and makes LACTATE look bad. His free floating Hydrogen Ions turn our comfortable muscles into an acidic wasteland known as Lactic or Muscular Acidosis. But his grip is weak. As LACTATE makes his exit, CATION is dragged out with him, leaving our muscles where they belong, in a pH balanced environment. He may not always get the credit he deserves, but for all of you ambitious athletes out there, LACTATE is a special little chemical hero.
Last month I ran the Tinker Bell Half Marathon to kick off the 2014 race schedule. I pretty much had a terrible time. I mean it’s Disneyland and Neverland and family fun times so all of the elements of fun were there but when it comes to the running, I had a terrible time. Due to circumstances sort of beyond my control I got a total of 6 hours of sleep in the two nights leading up to the race. That’s 3 hours of sleep the night before a half marathon. I don’t recommend it.
I love waking up with Brad on a race day. While making coffee, Brad makes jokes about how painfully early it is and I flit around the hotel room like a demented fairy, getting nervous for the impending 13 miles ahead. But this morning I just felt tired. SO tired. Deliriously tired. It was difficult to flit around. Pixie dust meter on empty. The thing about waking up at 3:30 am to run a half marathon is that no matter what time you went to bed the night before, you’re always going to be tired. Looking at your alarm clock at 3:30 am will always make you very very sleepy. So on this particular morning I didn’t register that I was more tired than usual. I just felt a malaise. The thought that entered my head was “I’m not really feeling it.” That thought is kryptonite to someone who’s about to run a half marathon. You have to, at the very least, feel it.
We got dressed. I decked out as Smee and Brad my Crocodile (the hat for the Croc being the culprit for my staying up until midnight. Stupid Krazy Glue!)
Stumbling out of our hotel room at approximately 4:15 we make our way to the starting line. The energy surrounding me is as per usual for a runDisney event. Electric. Thousands of runners surround me, many seemingly first time half marathoners. I’m excited. I am. A detached sort of excited. I register my detachment and try to brush it off. This is exciting! It is! Next to us I see a runner dressed as Rufio from Hook. How awesome is that?
5:00 am approaches. The national anthem is sung. The singing of the national anthem usually brings a tear to my eye. This morning it does not. Fireworks ignite the air. The announcers inspire. All of the elements of a fantastic runDisney morning are there and all I can do is continue to suppress the little minion in my head repeating the mantra “I’m just not feeling it.”
Ever feel like you’re in a fog? Like you’re going through the motions of your life, surrounded by things that should make you happy yet they fall upon numbness? Like you have a front row seat to observe your life from the outside? Inside you feel, just, nothing? I’m fortunate that I’ve never been seriously or clinically depressed, but I’m told the sensation is similar. If that is in fact the case then I can tell you that running 13 miles through Disneyland at 5:00 in the morning on 3 hours of sleep is much the same as being clinically depressed. Add to the mix some guilt. Guilt for not being happy at a runDisney race (it feels like sacrilege). Guilt that I paid so much money to run an event that “I’m just not feeling.” Guilt that I coerced Brad into running the same event. Though luckily Brad looks pretty happy. Brad appears to be having a good run. Phew!
Around mile 6, about the time when I’m just wishing the whole damn thing would be over, I start to panic. Am I falling out of love with running? Am I falling out of love with Disney? Are runDisney and I going to have to break up??? No!! Sheer panic. Why do I feel so terrible? Why isn’t Tinker Bell making me happy? What is this malaise? Why am I not feeling it? I still had not put 2 and 2 together that 3 hours of sleep the night before miiiiight contribute to my lack of excitement.
Brad runs with gusto. He is, as I said, having a great race and clips along at a good pace. I can’t hold him back in my fog. He takes off around mile 9 and continues on to have a fantastic final 4 miles. I just try to make it through.
There is one characteristic emotion of mine that can’t seem to be anesthetized, no matter my state of exhaustion or malaise, and that is my lovely stubbornness. Even though I’m tired and struggling and should really just take it easy if I ever want to enjoy running again, for some reason I decide that I want to finish in under 3 hours. I push it hard the last few miles to ensure that will happen and I cross the finish line feeling, for the first time, pretty damn good. What I soon discover is that since I hadn’t really been feeling anything the entire race, not excitement or joy or determination, I mistook these final emotions (extreme pain) as “pretty damn good.” I suppose I was just relieved to be feeling anything. Since a popular runner’s motto is “my sport is your sport’s punishment” let’s just say it’s not uncommon for a runner to mistake pain for pleasure.
I cross the finish line, find Brad, take our picture, get some water, and feel relieved the race is done. About 10 minutes later I feel everything a runner dreads. Nausea, extreme exhaustion, dizziness, chills, irritability. Damnit. My stubbornness caught up with me. Lactic acid comes rushing in.
Somehow I make it through to the other side of this episode. We find Mom and Dennis and head to Denny’s for breakfast. The thought of food makes me feel like I want to die whilst vomiting, but Mom insists that it will make me feel better. I suspect she’s right so I go with them to Denny’s even though all I really want to do is collapse. Mom orders me a chocolate milkshake and you know what, it was like magic. That magic guilt-free chocolate milkshake I downed at 8:00 in the morning perked me up and settled my tummy. Ice Cream really is the answer to everything. Best chocolate milkshake ever.
After breakfast we walk back to the hotel for a much needed nap, and now that my brain feels a bit more attached to my head I can start to think clearly again. I start to ask questions. Why does this happen to me? Why is it that sometimes I have a great race and sometimes I feel like shit? It can’t just be training. I’m actually pretty well trained for this race. Why does lactic acid seem to attack me only on some runs, and takes pity on me others?
By this point I’d gotten smart and realized that sleep deprivation no doubt played a major role in my malaise. After the milkshake cleared my head I had a light bulb moment and said “Ooohhh. THAT’S why I wasn’t feeling it.” Amazing it took me that long to figure out. I took this as a comfort, knowing that it’s something I can control. Next time I’ll just get more sleep. But this lactic acid question lingered and bothered me. I don’t feel as though I have control over its presence in my running. It seems to rear its ugly head when it wants to, other times a sleeping dragon. After our nap I set out to do some research on this evil foe. I want to understand how lactic acid really works in the body. Why in the world does our body produce anything that would make us feel so terrible right at the time when we need our body to work FOR us, not against us? The answers I found astounded me.
I discovered that lactic acid is actually meant to work for you, you just have to know how to use it. Mind blown. Suddenly I feel like if I can understand this villain of mine, perhaps we can be allies. It’s just as Honest Abe Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Lactic acid and I are about to become bffs.
I’ll impart my research on lactic acid at a later date. Before you roll your eyes, I promise that it’s interesting! I’ve got more studying to do however before I can write a worthy article. As far as Tinker Bell Half Marathon 2014 goes, I found myself in a foggy runner’s malaise and turned it into a teachable moment. And that’s why I run. Because although I briefly panicked that running and I were falling out of love, the great thing about a healthy relationship is that you can always work it out. Running and I, we’re working it out. We’re learning about each other.
Sunday afternoon I went for a breathtaking 5 mile run on the beach. I pushed myself. I philosophized. I worked through some mental cobwebs that had been bugging me. I felt centered. I felt grateful for my feet.
In an effort to prove I don’t hold a grudge, even if that grudge is against myself, I want to state publicly that despite the heartbreaking loss of a new PR, the Big Sur Half Marathon that Brad and I ran last November was, in a word, incredible. It is definitely my new favorite race after the Disneyland Half Marathon. They had so much entertainment on the course. Many cheerleading groups from the local high schools turned out. In addition they stationed a different musical group at just about every mile marker. Impressive! We encountered some new age artists, a tribal drum circle, a classical pianist, bluegrass quartet, jazz band, and some good ‘ol rock and roll. The music and the cheers were rivaled only by the dramatic and romantic northern California coastline, which we ran along practically the entire race. I really look forward to making this trek up to the gorgeous central coast an annual running tradition.
In reflecting on the event, I also realized I never posted here on the blog the AMAZING video that Brad put together of the race. Sorry Brad! I know I shared it on other social media platforms, but I can’t believe I forgot to enshrine it here where it belongs, on Running to Tahiti. So here it is, our beautiful weekend on Monterey Bay.
(Oh, by the way, just so there’s no confusion, many of you are probably wondering, Why does she keep talking about Monterey when it was the Big Sur Half Marathon? Well, it’s actually only called the Big Sur Half Marathon, but the entire race takes place in Monterey and Pacific Grove. The event is put on by the same organization that does the Big Sur Marathon, and I guess they want to keep their titles consistent. The FULL name of the event is the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, but who can type such a long title over and over again. Not I. Anyway, that’s that, carry on)