CF Fighter Ryan Grass Runs Disney’s Dopey Challenge

January 18, 2017 9:42 am

Ryan Grass 4Think for a minute what would it take to run 48.6 miles in 4 days if you are healthy? Now what would it take to do this if you had a chronic lung disease, say Cystic Fibrosis? Most people just look at that and think there is no way I could do that. But for thousands of people every year they do it in early January as part of Run Disney’s, Dopey Challenge, at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. So what is the Dopey challenge? The Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, Half Marathon on Saturday, and a Full Marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. Now to add to it you have to be on a bus by 4 A.M. every day to make the 5:30 A.M. start time. So how many are ready to pay hundreds of dollars to run not to mention travel expense to Orlando? So I look at all of this and decided why not try it for the challenge after all I was thinking I will have ran at least two Marathons by then, and during training I will have completed a 5k, 10k, and Half marathon on consecutive days so why not. So back to the first question of what would it take to run this healthy? I wish I would know but I don’t have that option but to understand what it would take to run it with Cystic Fibrosis. So what is it like, well it is hours of training and running then hours of treatments and all this when working a full time job and working 40 hours a week. So I look at this and welcomed the challenge of this endurance event.

One thing Cystic Fibrosis has shown me is that live can through you curve balls. So you have to register to run this event the in February almost 11 months before the event itself. Which is great that gives you plenty of time to train and Ryan Grasswork up to all the distance for this. So when I finished my first marathon in May of 2016 I took a second and thought about what was coming in January and all I could think is what was I thinking. Then through the summer I continued to train for my second Full Marathon for October 2016. I continued to work on fuel strategies and try to figure out what would work so I didn’t have the same debilitating crash I had in my first marathon. Then in August just as I was to hit the peak of training two of the best thing that have ever happen to me and my wife did. We were able to adopt twin newborn girls, talk about a curve ball. It became a decision to run or not run the second Full Marathon as my training became very minimal. But the decision was made quickly that we wanted are girls to start before they even can remember seeing that things are possible. As I ran my second Full Marathon I hit the wall early around mile 15 of the run. That is when I realized that I may need to work with my CF team to see what would help me with the nutrition. After talking to them we decided it would be best for me to be on Creon to help with absorb the need nutrition from the food I was eating.

To say I went into the weekend of the Dopey Challenge under trained was an understatement. But my family and I made it to Disney on Tuesday, thanks to my mother in law. Wednesday we went and picked up are race bibs, shirt, and race bags. Thursday morning alarm went off at 3:30 A.M., Florida time which is just way too early to get up and start a day especially running a 5k at 6 A.M. Starting the 5k I was in corral A, yeah I am more of a front of the pack runner. When I started I just kept telling myself “take it easy 48.6 miles in 4 days.” I finished the 5k with a solid pace and was happy with the result, 0:23:29 official time. The next morning 3 A.M. alarm goes off because all the other races start at 5:30 A.M. Again for the 10k I was placed in Corral A. I started the 10k with thinking still have a long way to go so take it easy. As I ran the 10k it was feeling good and when I finished I realized I may have went a little fast, 0:45:40 official time. I was wondering, did I just run my legs out and was I going to be able to finish the weekend. Then on Friday night the worst news we could get, the half marathon was cancelled due to weather. Glad to see runners and race staff safety was at the forefront but what to do? So I decided that as soon as the rain cleared out I would run 13.1 miles at the resort on their 1.7 mile trail. That comes out to 7.7 times around but I was there to do this and nothing would stop me as this is the attitude I take toward CF. So I finished the 13.1 around 11 Saturday Morning at was nervous on what was going to happen the next day my time was 1:37:55 according to GPS.

Ryan Grass 2A cold front had moved in on Saturday which is what pushed the weather in that cancelled the half marathon. We woke up to below freezing windshields in Florida. Thankfully we had friends that were able to get us some pajama pants to keep the legs warm till the start, and a stocking cap for my head. I already had a sweater that I was going to throw as we got ready to start the race. For this race I was placed in Corral B which I was okay with I knew it would help slow my first half of the race down. When we started in the darkness it was easy to stay focus on the task at hand. I just started with a pace that I felt comfortable with and well ran with it. As I started to calculate my pace later in the race I realized that I was on the edge of a 7:30 per mile pace which would easily give me a Personal Best in the Marathon. I realized at mile 12 that I was under that pace because the clock time was at 1:30:00 which started when Corral A started the marathon. I continued on to mile 14 and then the stomach started to push back something I had experienced in my previous marathons. I was able to run throw this until between miles 17-18 and then I had to make a pit stop. After that I started running again and was able to get a good pace going but something never felt the best so I started to run/walk the reaming miles. I even stop for a few character photos that were available on the course. There was no lines so I figured “why not have fun.” As I approached mile 22 I realized that I still had time to make a new PB but would have to push myself just a little so my run pace picked up and my walk breaks became shorter and as I turned the corner for the finishers shoot I looked at the clock and realized I was about to get a PB on the marathon, 3:36:35 official time.

I did not mention much about CF through this as I live my life to where I define CF it does not define me. What extra did it take to do this with CF? A 30 minute treatment each night, two puffs on inhaler before the run, countless piles (vitamins, antibiotics and Creon). I also have learned that the typical on course refreshment is not enough so I carry my own water bottle with Gatorade, with added electrolyte pack to add sodium and potassium. Two gel packs for miles 9 and 18, and energy blocks for miles 3, 6, 12, 15, 21, and 24. Yes it is very structured but it makes training easy so my fuel strategy matches on race day. For a half marathon I will carry energy blocks for miles 3, 6, and 9. I will have a gel pack on me and evaluate between mils 6-9 to see if I need it or not. This is just to show that the impossible is possible. And despite any other things you might be against such as CF you can still do what you want.

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