I just got back from Orlando where I ran the Dopey Challenge last weekend. Before I went, I spent a lot of time researching questions I had and decided that once I got back, I would write a blog post so that future runners would have an easier time than I did.
1. Sleep becomes a luxury.
I’ve done runDisney races before, and knew the 3 AM wakeup calls are rough—but when you’re doing Dopey, you get so nervous about getting up on time, whether or not you can do it, and fighting sensory overload from the parks that it’s hard to get the sleep you’re used to having at home. Plus, if you’re not on Eastern Time, you’ve got to adjust to a time change on top of all of that.
If you’re coming from the West Coast, come early. We did a stint in Virginia before heading to Orlando, and not only did it ensure that I had warm clothes with me (see #5), but it also allowed me to be adjusted to an East Coast bedtime before Dopey started. For during the challenge, plan on naps—and prioritize them over meals and time in the parks.
2. Train for the miles you put on your feet in the parks, too.
This was almost my downfall. I was trained for the races (for the first time!) but neglected to plan for the effect that going to theme parks every day would have on my legs. The first day, I didn’t wear my orthotics, and even after fixing that problem, I could feel the tightness in my calves from standing in lines. From Wednesday to Saturday, I had over 50 miles on my legs—before toeing the start line of the marathon. By mile 20 of the full, my legs were toast, and I developed shin splints for the first time in my life.
Walk for at least three miles after each run during your Dopey simulation. It will help your body be ready for the extra stress. It’s also not the worst idea to walk two miles before any of your Dopey simulation runs—on half and full marathon days, I had 5000 steps before I even got to my corral.
3. Disney quick service food can, and will probably, make you sick.
Runners typically eat a pretty clean diet with little processed food—I eat a pretty salad-based diet, myself. However, Disney makes it hard to eat like that while on property, and you may struggle to get the nutrition you need while you’re there. I was so sick by the end of the day Friday that we took a Lyft to the outlets so that we could find food that I could keep in my body. Believe it or not, McDonald’s set better in my stomach than Disney quick service food.
If you’re going to eat on property, stick to traditional restaurants and avoid quick service like the plague. If you have to do quick service, stick to things that would have the minimal amount of preservatives. (Think simple sandwiches, pizza, and vegetarian items.) If that’s not palatable, there are several Panera locations close to Disney property.
4. Bring running clothes for all weather.
Every year that there’s been a Dopey Challenge, there’s been at least one day that’s been cold or rainy. In this year’s case, expo day was raining/sleeting and Thursday and Friday below freezing. When planning your costumes and packing, make sure you have options for if the temperature drops. Otherwise, you’ll be joining the horde shopping at Wal-Mart or the outlets in search of warm layers.
5. You can be swept until you’re on the Boardwalk.
If you’ve runDisney before, you know about the balloon ladies. If not, the balloon ladies are super nice volunteers who help keep the official 16 minute/mile pace for Disney. They start at the very back of the last corral, and you just need to stay ahead of them to be allowed to finish. Disney can pull you off the course at any point if you are behind pace or are struggling, but most runners consider the last major sweep to be when you’re “safe.” For the WDW Marathon, that point is when you cross onto the Boardwalk in front of the Swan and Dolphin. Some people in my training groups got swept at mile 24—so make sure you’re training with keeping pace in mind.
6. Have a spectator.
This was my first race with a true spectator. My husband met me along the course three times before the finish to take my non-throwaway layers, to give me something to look forward to during the run, and to cheer me on. Outside of marathon day, he was instrumental in curbing some bad panic attacks, keeping me positive, and most importantly, guiding my 3 AM stretch sessions every morning. If you’re doing Dopey—or even just the Marathon—for the first time, I can’t begin to express to you how important it is that you bring a spectator with you.
7. Race retreat is totally worth it.
On the morning of the half marathon, I was questioning if it was worth it—I was able to get into the expo early, but by no means was that worth the extra money I paid. Being able to sit on a chair, have my shin splints iced, and enjoy some chocolate milk in air conditioning after the full marathon was totally worth it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that I got a private pep talk from Doctor Strange before the Marathon either. If I were to do all of this again (which I probably won’t!), I would only buy race retreat for the full marathon.
8. Don’t over plan.
I had grand dreams of character breakfasts and adventures around the parks that were traded in for extra naps and the shows like Country Bears Jamboree by Thursday afternoon. Each time you cancel a sit-down restaurant reservation, you get charged $10/person, so overplanning comes with a price tag. We were lucky and had a cast member waive one of our fees when I got sick, but we still had to pay for our Tusker House cancellation on the morning of the 10K. And it doesn’t just include breakfasts—we canceled two of our four dinner reservations in favor of going to bed earlier and eating offsite.
Today was supposed to be the last Monday before I ran a marathon. I should be excited and tired of spaghetti. Instead, I’m munching on carrots and writing a blog post about my adventures with a sort-of broken ankle and the most comfortable pair of workout shorts I’ve ever owned.
To tell this story, we first must travel back in time to April 21—I was still looking forward to running the Big Sur 21-miler on April 30. I was going entering taper-land and Greenstyle creations opened their tester call for the Moxi Shorts—so of course, I applied.
I make no effort to hide how much I love Greenstyle and its Angelyn, and this isn’t my first adventure testing for them. Part of what makes Greenstyle patterns so great is the care and devotion Angelyn puts into making sure the pattern is perfect before releasing, which is why it took a month of testing to get these shorts perfect.
There were a lot of adventures along the way--especially for the plus-size testers like me. I'm picky about the shorts I wear. In normal shorts, I have adjust between reps, if I can wear them to work out at all—thigh chafing is the worst. In an early stage, Angelyn and I had a conversation about potentially dropping the size 16 and 18 from the pattern. I am so grateful she didn't because the end result is by far the most comfortable shorts I've ever worn.
The inseam is long enough that my thighs don't rub, and there's enough room in the legs for my quadzillas (Thanks, CrossFit!). They are easy to adjust based on what your body needs: if you have a muscular bum, the pattern shows you how to adjust for that, as well as if you have skinnier thighs. (You lucky duck, you.)
Despite my love of these shorts, I only made two pairs of shorts during testing—which is about what I make during a normal weeklong testing period, let alone one that lasted a full 30 days. I promise I have a good reason: the same day testing started for the Moxi Shorts, the Sort-of Broken Ankle Adventure began.
You see, over the past month, I’ve had an X-Ray, an MRI and two sessions of physical therapy, all trying to figure out what's wrong with my ankle. Depending which medical professional you talk to, I either have a fractured talus, a talar dome or gnarly tendinitis. No matter what the cause, I’ve been unable to run for a month and missed out on Big Sur and the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, and will be missing Mountains2Beach on Sunday. I’ve spent the last two weeks re-learning how to walk and discovering that I have a lazy right foot, hip, and glute that must be re-taught how to function.
As you can tell, it’s been quite a month, but a symmetrical one. Both the shorts and my ankle need continual adjustments and made major improvements. While an arduous process, today makes it all worth it. Today, the Moxi shorts are officially released—and I get to go on a short run for the first time in a month to test out the ankle, with my PT’s blessing of course.
When it was time to sew my final pair of shorts, I knew what I wanted the final outfit to look like—months ago, I decided I was going to run Mountains2Beach in a Moana-inspired outfit. Since I already had the supplies, I decided to sew the outfit with the Moxi shorts. After all, while I have to relearn how to walk and run, I’m still determined to run a marathon.
Want the Moxi Shorts pattern for yourself? Grab it here (Affiliate link).
During my yoga class yesterday, my teacher asked us, “What is your body telling you today?” While she asks this same question frequently, I usually don’t listen to her or my body. I go through class doing what I feel I should do, rather than what my body tells me I can do.
But yesterday was different.
Yesterday, I listened to the story that my legs and feet were telling me. They reminded me of my falling over during a box jump two months ago and showed me the scars of my determination to connect five double unders consecutively. My feet whispered that they haven’t had a break in a long time, specifically pointing out the black toenail I have from a race in December.
The most important stories my legs told me yesterday, though, came from the arch and ankle of my right foot. Last Sunday, my ankle gave me stern warning to stop by seizing in pain while I was doing food prep. My arch and calf joined the fray on Monday and by Wednesday, I had a knot in my calf the size of a golf ball. Hours of stretches and massage by me, Hunter and my massage therapist followed and by Friday, the knot was gone. I set out on a 3-mile run on Sunday to determine how I was feeling. I only made it two-thirds of a mile before my ankle screamed at me to stop.
This all led me to yoga class yesterday, where I dejectedly sat on my mat, heard what my legs were telling me, and set my intention: It will be okay.
Some of you may recall that a year ago, I dropped out of the Big Sur Marathon and made it my goal to finish the 21-Miler this year. The race is on Sunday--I think you can probably guess where this is going. I went to the doctor earlier this evening and was told that I can’t run for at least two weeks and need to complete a round of physical therapy over the next four weeks.
In short: although I’ve spent the last four months of my life devoted to training for the race, I can’t run Big Sur this weekend.
Obviously, I’m disappointed and sad, but I know it’s for the best. I’ll lose Big Sur, likely the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half in May, and possibly the Mountains2Beach Half on Memorial Day weekend (I had already downgraded from the full I was training for two weeks ago). However, as sad as this makes me now, it’s nowhere close to how devastated I would be if this injury made it so I can’t run the Dopey Challenge in January. After all, while I’ve been working towards Big Sur for months, I’ve been working towards the Dopey Challenge for years.
I bought this bracelet a few weeks ago from Etsy to where during Big Sur to remind me of the things I’ve overcome since last year’s race. When it finally got here yesterday, it became clear that this bracelet wasn’t just a reminder of how far I’ve come, but that I can keep going. I can keep going through the Spin classes I’ll have to force myself to in the coming weeks. I can bear modifying every CrossFit workout that’s programmed for the next month. I survive doing running workouts on an elliptical. My boss said it best today when I told her: “I hope you won’t stop. You get so much out of running.”
I want to close this out by saying thanks to everyone who supported me in this journey over the past year. I know I’ve been absent on social media for the past few months and don’t post much, but trust me, I see what you say and it motivates me. Thank you for the advice, the guidance, the motivation and the kindness. Thank you to those who have listened me whine when I was sore, those who forced me to train through a historically rainy winter, and those who have accepted the fact that I now have donut leggings that I will wear around the office.