My Journey to the Dopey Challenge

Carlos FernandesDopey ChallengeLeave a Comment

Star Wars 10K

So how did I decide to compete in such a crazy race as the Dopey Challenge?  

Well, it was just about 1 year ago that I began thinking of competing in my first long distance race. I was on the Disney website, as I often am, and saw that there was going to be a Star Wars half marathon at Walt Disney World. Now I am a big Star Wars fan and an even bigger Disney fan, and I thought it would be an awesome experience. Dopey Challenge

I knew that my muscular and cardiovascular strength would be able to handle the race, but my hesitation in signing up came from the fear of not being able to finish due to the nerve damage in my legs. I have a degenerative lower back, and because of that, I have a lot of pain and loss of feeling in my legs. About two years ago I had my last big flareup and lost all of the strength in my right leg below the knee. Since then about 50% of the feeling has come back, but with every step my right foot wants to roll over and it puts pressure on my ankle and the outside of my foot.

So all of this was running through my head, what should I do? I really wanted to do it, but would my leg and back hold up? And then I realized that this might be the last chance I ever have to do a race like this. My back is not getting any better, and even though I strengthen the muscles supporting my spine on a daily basis, there will come a day where I will not even be able to consider a race of this length, so I signed up!
dark side banner
Now for most Disney race weekends, they offer more than one race, for the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon they offered three, a 5K, 10K and a half marathon. If you ran in the 10K and the half marathon you were entered in the Dark Side Challenge, so you got an extra medal. I signed up for all three! I always like challenging myself and this way I would get four medals.

After I decided to sign up, I called my family to see if there was anyone else interested in doing the races with me. My girlfriend, Tasha and my Sister, Rebecca signed up as well.

Despite all of the recommendations that I received from people about the need to train for a long race, I just continued to do my normal workout routine. After all, I am a fitness professional, and in good shape, I can handle 13.1 miles, Can’t I? So for the next six months it was business as usual, hopped on the elliptical 3 times per week and weight trained 5 times per week.

Six months later my sister Rebecca, my girlfriend Tasha and I all went to Disney for race weekend. Rebecca and I were running in all three races and Tasha was doing the 5K and 10K.

IMG_1272Day one was the 5K, Day two was the 10K, and day three was the half marathon. Now the first two days went about how I expected, not too difficult, but fun. Many of the runners, including myself, dressed up like some kind of Star Wars character, the whole race experience was a blast, and it wasn’t until I was finishing the 10K that I realized I had not even halfway completed the race that I was to run the following day. This half marathon might be a bit more difficult than I expected.

So I met my sister at the start of the race around 4:30 am, and we made our way to the corrals, and around 6:30 the fireworks went off and our corral was starting, off we went. As in the first two days, Rebecca and I began speed walking, and for the next ten miles, we switched back and forth between speed walking and jogging and we were talking the whole time. I can’t tell you the last time that I had that much time together with my sister, and because of the time with my sister I look back at this race as one of the best experiences of my life. We had so much fun together, it was like we were kids again, joking around, taking selfies with characters, and laughing throughout most of it. I was feeling on top of the world, and then we hit the start of mile 11.IMG_7106

My legs began to tighten up, if I tried to jog, I was quickly slowed by the cramping in my quadriceps, every time I looked around there were people hosing down with biofreeze, I briefly thought of doing the same thing, but wondered if I was going to be able to keep moving if I stopped. My sister who actually trained properly for the event was not feeling the pain like I was. Despite my body telling me to stop, I continued on.

What an amazing feeling it was when we crossed the finish line. I was truly proud of what I had just accomplished and grateful to have raced along side of my sister.

I was sore for the next couple days, but I couldn’t help but think about how much fun the race was. Was I hooked on long distance races? No, it wasn’t the actual race, but more the challenge that I had overcome.

Dopey Challenge

So all of that back story has led me to the present. I have been thinking about doing another race since the Star Wars half marathon, but just wasn’t sure what race to do. Me being the Disney fan that I am, I am very familiar with the races that they have at Disney, and a few days ago I began thinking about challenging myself a little more than I did the first time. It is funny how as I was thinking about doing another race all of the same feelings came flooding back, a nervous excitement of doing something that I have never done, and scared that my leg and back would not be up for the challenge.

So a few days ago after browsing the Run Disney website and seeing that there were still spaces available for the Dopey Challenge, I started asking a couple friends and family members if they would be interested in running the Dopey Challenge with me. Unfortunately no one else felt the same enthusiasm for 48.6 miles that I did. So I will be doing this race solo.
Dopey Challenge
Much like the Dark Side Challenge, which consisted of a 10K and a half marathon, the Dopey Challenge consists of multiple races, by entering the Dopey Challenge I will have to complete a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon in four consecutive days. Sounds like fun, right? This will be a difficult task, but a challenge that I have accepted.

So why share all of this with you? For a few reasons, but mainly because I am excited about it. As you read earlier, I have never competed in a race of this length, and I am not naturally a distance athlete. It has always been difficult for me to lose weight and very easy to put it on, so I played to my strengths and got into a power lifting and bodybuilding lifestyle. I am 6’3” and weigh roughly 275 lbs, and when you factor in my back and leg issues competing in the last leg of the Dopey Challenge, a 26.2 mile race, will probably be one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.

The key to my success will be my ability to stick to an exercise program without compromising balance and enjoyment in my life. If I am unable to do the things that I really enjoy, then what is the point of doing this at all? After all, life is about love, family, friends, and peace, and I am not willing to sacrifice that.

So I am going to document my journey to the Dopey Challenge, and share not only my training, but the rest of my days as well. My hope is that you will gain the will and the means to overcome any difficult challenge that life puts in front of you.

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