Hi, fellow Disney fans!
Welcome back to my magical little blog! At long last, I've officially curated a list of my so-called "Dopey Lessons"! Upon many requests, here is my first (of many) DOPEY posts!
As many of you know, runDisney fans everywhere were glued to their computer, mobile device, and/or template, on May 12th, 2020. WDW Marathon Weekend registration opened to the general public on May 12 at 10 AM EST / 7:00 AM PST. Within the first few hours of opening, runDisney managed to sell out yet another magical race weekend. Hats off to the mouse!
I already have quite a bit of FOMO, because WDW Marathon Weekend is just every bit as magical as a race weekend can be (in my humble opinion). Last year I was able to register myself for all FOUR marathon weekend races, which made me officially DOPEY. It was a weekend I'll cherish forever, and an experience that I'll certainly never forget.
The infamous Dopey Challenge, is known far and wide to all runDisney aficionados, as THE quintessential runDisney experience. For those of you who aren't as familiar with The Dopey Challenge, it is a four day series of races including a 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, and full marathon run on consecutive days. It takes place at Walt Disney World Florida, typically in the beginning/middle of January. For those of you who don't enjoy doing math, the miles add up to 48.6 over the course of four days. I'm assuming this is why it's called The Dopey Challenge. :)
Last year when I signed up, registration day was on April 16th, 2019. This year, due to the recent pandemic and the uncertainty of the upcoming race weekends, runDisney decided to push back registration for many of its races, and even ended up canceling Star Wars Weekend (April 17-April 19, 2020).
It's crazy to think that just last year at this time I had just recovered from my third knee surgery AND start training for Dopey on July 2nd. I underwent my arthroscopic meniscus repair on June 10th, and was absolutely dreading the beginning of training. As a former collegiate athlete, I had pushed past my limits before, and I was worried I'd once again land myself on the sidelines with an injury. Which leads me to my first Dopey Lesson...
Lesson Number 1: Know Your Limits
The summer months I used to train my body back into running were some of the toughest. I had regained almost full range of motion in my knee, but my surgery leg was still not quite up to speed. On the days I had off from running, I trained smart. I didn't run on days when I didn't need to. I sacrificed my favorite kind of HIIT workouts for low intensity strength training, or kicking my legs from end to end in the swimming pool using two water noodles.
Ultimately, I didn't push further than what my body could handle. That's mentally the hardest part about training for an endurance event such as Dopey. Your mind says "I can do more" but your body will be saying "I need my rest".
The funny thing about training is, the hours you spend running aren't all that matters. The hours you spend in recovery allows your body to adapt to the physical stresses you place upon it during your training runs.
Fun fact: running causes actual physical damage to your muscles. It physically stresses your body. Lets say you push your body to run 15 miles one weekend and were majorly sore after, because CONGRATS, you've never run that far! Here's what I like to think of it as: totaling your bod. That's right, like totaling a car. You've taken on damage, stress, and have taken a hit. Having said that, would you drive your totaled vehicle the day after it's been put through the ringer? I sure hope not.
You have to imagine your body in ways that make the most sense to you. My car analogy helped me, because on certain days I could feel my legs getting heavy, my head getting light, and my heart giving out. My first instinct was never to push because of fear of failure, but to try again tomorrow and be better because of it. I needed repairs. Running on fumes just wasn't the answer. Catch my drift?
Avoiding an injury at all costs requires knowing your body and taking care of it. End of story.
Lesson Number 2: Designate a hydration station
Another major part of recovery is hydration. Water flushes toxins out of your body and transports nutrients to your cells in order to help regulate your body temperature and pH balance. Keeping your hydration in check is a great way to restore your damaged muscle tissue, and speed up your recovery process. Your muscles are made up of 75% water, which means when they become dehydrated, your protein synthesis (which builds and repairs muscles) will be substantially slowed. The easiest way to recover quickly, is to keep your water intake in check.
Once I had my training schedule mapped out, I made sure to keep my house as a designated "hydration stop" during my longer runs. Not only did this make me stop and get a drink, but it also allowed a little time for rest and to pretend as if I were waiting in line for a character stop. :)
I've gotten used to not running with water, however, I do have a hydration belt in which I purchased a few years back at the Princess Half Marathon Expo. I don't mind using it for shorter runs, because I honestly don't like wearing anything that gets jostled on my hips for too long. I'm very particular about anything I wear on my legs and hips, but I know bringing water bottles along for a run work for many runners!
Another great way to hydrate when you stop at your "hydration station", is to grab a nuun hydration tablet! When you sweat, your body is losing vital minerals and electrolytes that need to be replaced for healthy and optimal performance. Nuun drink tablets do a great job at keeping you happy, healthy, AND hydrated! On days when the warmer weather would set in, I would quickly pop one of these little tablets into my water and get back to my run feeling rejuvenated.
During each race of Dopey, I stopped at almost EVERY water station. I alternated between Powerade and water the entire time. Please, do NOT skimp on hydration. Teach your body to love water. Know how to differentiate cravings from lack of hydration. Know when your muscles cramp or feel fatigued, that it's your body's way of telling you it needs more H2O. Implement hydration stops or stations (really whatever you want to call them) into your runs to keep you on your feet and prepared for race day(s). It's also nice to be able to stop at home to pee, just sayin'.
Lesson Number Three: Share your Journey
Somehow I have an Instagram account that seemingly blew up overnight after I had one of my pictures featured on the runDisney Instagram account page. My @fitfabdisney IG was never meant to become influential, however, now that I've conquered my first Dopey Challenge I hope to inspire more to take part in this amazing feat.
Prior to having almost 2k followers, I really just wanted to document my journey during my Dopey training as something to look back on in awe. Never would I imagine it to become a space where fellow runDisney lovers would reach out with amazing questions and congratulatory messages. I'm so thankful I can be of ANY assistance to my fellow Dopey's out there!
With that being said, I obviously have more to come on Dopey Lessons, but I wanted to make this 3rd and final lesson of this post very clear. Document your journey. Journal your food. Record your voice saying "I can do this". Screenshot your best runs. Screenshot your worst runs. Take hold of your health and well-being. Commit to a training plan. STEP INTO YOUR POWER (true fans will know). And most importantly, be there to motivate others who aspire to to become fellow Dopey's one day.
In retrospect, I wish I had documented more of my time spent training. I love looking back on selfies I took while running through the changing seasons. I still pull up old workouts, meals, and running logs every now and then because I love seeing my progression. You will too. Just know that every journey is different, and I thank all of you for wanting to be apart of mine!
ChEARS to the Dopey 2021'ers!