2012 was definitely “the year of races” for me. It started when I was still living in Kansas City and signed up for the Heartland 39.3 Series, which was 3 half marathons within 4 weeks. I was so nervous thinking about this challenge at first, but little did I know it would be the beginning of a crazy year of running. A few other races just kind of “slipped” themselves in my schedule and I ended up running 8 half marathons, 2 Ragnar Relays, and 6 races ranging from 5K-5 mile distances from January through October. It was fun, but busy!
I spent the late fall and early winter training for the grand finale of 2012 (which didn’t actually happen until January of 2013) – the Disney Goofy Challenge! Goofy is the half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday. Crazy? YES. Time consuming training? You bet. Worth every minute? OH YEAH!
Training for Goofy was almost as challenging as the race itself. Even though this would be my 3rd marathon and I didn’t have a time goal, it was 39.9 miles in TWO DAYS! I knew I needed to fit in some mileage and back-to-back weekend long runs to pull this off successfully. Oh, and did I mention I also work full-time, teach BodyPump and TurboKick classes 3-5 times a week, and I enjoy having a social life from time to time? Talk about a training challenge!
I gave myself 20 weeks in my training schedule for Goofy, knowing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years fell within that time and knowing that with my crazy schedule I’d need a couple “buffer weeks” to work around things. Plus I live in Iowa, and you aren’t guaranteed to have nice outdoor running weather after November!
I sat down with Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan and set up my tentative 20 week plan. I picked this one because it had back-to-back weekend runs, which I knew were going to be crucial to training. My training buddies and I wanted to do three 20+ milers as well and this plan had that too. I marked out what days I was scheduled to teach my set classes, when my friends could do long runs, and tried to work my weekday mileage and rest days all of that.
As you’d probably guess, week by week my training plan was modified. I subbed an extra class here, I cut a run short/added in a run there, my weekday mileage was a mess! Luckily, I was getting in some solid cross-training and my weekend mileage was staying fairly on plan so I still felt pretty confident overall. Plus the weather was staying fairly nice so we were still training outside for the most part! We had managed to complete a 20 mile and a 23 miler in November and were so excited Mother Nature was on our side!
Then December came and she decided not to play nice anymore.
I spent the last six weeks of training mainly on a treadmill. I didn’t get my last 20 miler in, but I did manage to get some 8 and 12 mile back to back treadmill runs in during those weeks. (Yes, those were brutal.) Honestly, I don’t think I even got my “worst case scenario” mileage in some weeks, but I did what I could. Normally, having this happen in training the last six weeks before a race would have freaked me out and send me over the edge with pre-race anxiety. But not this time!
Teaching while training was extremely difficult for me, but I think it also had a huge impact on my success. I know cross-training is really helpful in training, but I’ve always pushed it aside in the past. I even stopped lifting weights while training for my first two marathons, which is a huge no-no! Teaching forced me to cross-train, and even though it took away some of my running time, I believe it made me more balanced overall, made me confident in my fitness level, and helped increase my overall endurance.
Even though I didn’t make all my weekday mileage, I did really well sticking to my double weekend runs. I think this was crucial in getting my body prepared to run the back to back races. I even ran back to back half marathons in October as "training". It wasn’t always easy, and it called for a lot of early bedtimes on Friday and Saturday nights, but it was worth it.
I knew just finishing the Goofy Challenge would be a huge accomplishment, so I tried to make that the first and foremost thing in my mind when I’d get frustrated or nervous with my training. I was in this for the experience. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the “I race for fun!” runners, but when it comes to a Disney race – you race for fun!! Seriously. You get to run through all the parks, you can stop and take pictures with characters if you choose, there are so many people in costume, people on the sidelines, entertainment all around – Disney puts on a pretty dang good race! If you don’t go there to enjoy the experience, you’re wasting your money, in my opinion.
Key thing to remember with training: Life happens. All you can do is roll with it, make the best of it, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to the finish line.
Training for and running the Goofy Challenge was definitely the biggest physical test of my life so far, and even though it didn’t all go as planned along the way, I am very proud of my experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Okay, maybe I’d trade it for DisneyWorld… maybe.