This is it: I’ve arrived to the coveted taper in my training for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon in Disneyland! And it’s not just a race: it’s the first leg of my Coast to Coast Challenge!
Speaking of challenges, there are a few that come with training for destination races, specifically when they take place in your off-season. The thought of a little get-away to somewhere warm and sunny in the middle of a dark and dreary winter sounds like a fabulous idea, right? Well, it can be…so long as you are prepared for the asterisk accompanying said fabulous idea: WINTER TRAINING REQUIRED.
I am no fair weather runner. I run in the bitter colds of winter, the winds and rain of spring, the heat and humidity of summer, and then I savour my reward with the cool, crisp temperatures of fall.
What I do not run in: ice storms, frost quakes, flash freezes and record-setting low temperatures. ALL of which I have experienced in the past month. Yep, Mother Nature is on a bender and her wrath hit hard during the peak of my training cycle for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon. Have you seen Disney’s Frozen yet? Well, they didn’t need to animate it. They could have filmed it in my backyard.
There is nothing unique about my lament. There has been an army of Disney runners training through this vicious winter in preparation for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 8-12), Tinker Bell Half-Marathon Weekend (January 16-19) and Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 20-23). The pros of running Disney? There are many, but a big one is an escape from winter. The cons of running Disney? Training through said winter.
I am an outdoor runner. I run outside because I love to breathe the fresh air, feel my feet hit the earth, and soak up the sun. I have worn a path in my favourite running routes along Lake Ontario where I can see and smell the water, enjoy the little pops of colour of the sail boat masts in the distance, notice the ducks and geese as they splish and splash, search for the ferry heading out to Wolfe Island, and check out how quickly the wind turbines are spinning on any given day. I always notice other runners and nod hello, wondering how far they are going and what they might be training for. In short, I love to crank up the tunes and set off on foot to cover some serious distance that is sure to stimulate all of the senses. Just give me a road.
What I do not love: running in place on a treadmill. Going nowhere. Seeing no one. The treadmill has always been a Plan B, parked in the basement and used only when I absolutely have to for shorter weekday runs. I share this so you will understand the gravity when I say that the majority of my training for Tinker Bell has been done on my treadmill – gasp!
This includes not only the shorter maintenance miles, but also the epic long runs. We’re talking 2 hour+ runs of sheer mental torture. This is never how I would plan to train, but this Canadian winter has come screaming in, burying my beloved running routes in snow and ice. With my Coast to Coast fast approaching, and knowing that I had to train safely to get myself to the start lines injury-free, I had no choice but to shut up and get it done. On the treadmill. Shudder.
Some people love the convenience of the treadmill. You can watch TV. You can refill your water bottle as needed. There is a bathroom nearby. If you are training for a race in a warmer climate, running indoors can also help with that acclimation. And yet, for me at least, treadmill running is much harder than running outdoors. I never really get into a zone or lose myself in the run. I stare at the numbers ticking by. I run more slowly. I sweat more quickly. Every step requires more effort. There were days I spent more time procrastinating the run than it would have taken to just get it done! It has taken a new level of discipline and mental strength to finish this training cycle strong.
A few things have helped me survive and tolerate these training runs along the way. It has been a great opportunity to experiment with different fueling strategies – if something didn’t sit well, I could hop off (actually, I may secretly have hoped things wouldn’t sit well so I would have an excuse to do just that!). I could have multiple water bottles at the ready, taking full advantage of not needing to stop for a refill. I watched some motivational movies like Hood to Coast, Spirit of the Marathon and Running on the Sun. I also watched seasons of old favourites like Beverly Hills 90210 (Brandon or Dylan?) and Felicity (Ben or Noel?) – don’t judge me. You do what you have to do.
I found that I couldn’t do just one thing for the whole run. So if I started with a TV show, I would switch to a podcast at some point. Or throw on the music. Or BBM with my friend, Laural, who was doing the same darn thing I was (not sure who was cursing more loudly). Anything to break up the monotony while watching the numbers climbing higher than I ever thought I’d see – or ever wanted to see – on the treadmill.
And when I’d get discouraged or bored or tired or just want to get off and give the ‘mill the middle finger, I’d focus on the single piece of paper in front of me: a full-page advertisement for the very race I was training for, which I squealed upon discovering in my Runner’s World magazine. You can run, you can run, you can run. Yes I can, yes I can, YES I CAN.
I have no idea how this very challenging training cycle will translate to my run in California. What I do know is that I am excited to run in short sleeves and in shoes without Yak Trax. To run outside again on clear pavement with no trace of ice or snow. To strap on the fairy wings and fly along the course. To meet up with friends in my first group costume. To join thousands of other women in the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a female revolution. To chase a dream and run to Neverland because I can.
Have I done enough? Am I ready for this next adventure? We’ll find out next weekend when I toe the line to officially earn my wings. Faith, trust and pixie dust.
This post is part of the Virtual Blog Hop about all things Tinker Bell! This is your “one stop shop” for all information regarding Tinker Bell Race Weekend from fairy bloggers all across the land! Together, we have you covered from training to finish line and everything in between, such as where to stay, what to wear and how to get that perfect race day photo. Happy reading!