Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Goofy Challenge Part I - 2013 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

A lot has happened since I ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon last year (at least in my running life).  Since then, I've run another Half Marathon and beat my PR by quite a bit and run my first Full Marathon.

Well my friend Phil (not his real name) and I decided that just running a half or a full marathon wasn't enough... we thought we'd do both... yep, we're F^%&ing Goofy!

(Read the rest of the recap after the jump)

The Days Leading Up To the Race(s)
In case you don't recall December 2012 and January 2013, we are (were) in the middle of one of the worst flu epidemics in at least a decade, and Minnesota (where I live) has been hit particularly hard.

The Running Daddy household was not spared from the epidemic... and not only were we hit, but the timing of our own personal flu outbreak was particularly awful.  (It's no coincidence that all three of the articles I linked to about the flu "epidemic" above were published within a week of when we left for Florida).  My darling two-year old daughter was the "Influency Mary" in this little fluid-escaping drama... as she got sick for the first time on the Saturday before we left.  Yep, in the middle of the night, about 6 days before I was supposed to be in that crowd of people you see above starting to race under fireworks, I was being vomited on by an adorable little pre-schooler.  It was a blast... and during the middle of the night, I turned to my wife and said, somewhat prophetically "You do know WHEN this means I'll be getting sick... right?"

Flash forward to Thursday evening (the day before my wife, my sun, my now perfectly healthy daughter, and me were to be getting on a plane) and my stomach started making an unpleasant gurgling that eventually decided it needed to exit my digestive tract post haste (and, in my case, it wasn't going to take the same route that my daughter's fluids exited her stomach... nope, they went the other way).1  Anyway, I went to the local Target and loaded up on Imodium (which was nearly sold out, again indicating the extent of this epidemic) and probiotic yogurt.

That night.... sucked.  I spent equal amounts of time sitting on the toilet and shivering violently thanks to the fever I had developed.  But, the tickets had been booked months again, my training was complete... and damn it, WE WERE GOING TO FLORIDA!

The trip to Orlando was relatively uneventful (except for the part where I thought I'd left my wallet, ID, and credit cards at the security checkpoint, when I'd really just put it in my suitcase (which I never do, and I don't know why I did it then)).  We arrived on time, grabbed our rental car, installed the car seats (well, I installed the car seats) and we drove to the house we were sharing with Phil and several other of our friends (by the way, if you are vacationing at Disney, I HIGHLY recommend doing so with other people, particularly if you have little kids and at least one of the other families you are staying with also have kids... it makes the entire experience more enjoyable and easier to manage).  Then Phil and I went and picked up our packets.

And through all of this, my stomach was still doing nice little gurgling backflips and I had to make semi-regular stops to the rest room.  Not exactly a physical state that is conducive to running long distances.

Wake Up, Pre-Race Preparation, Travelling to the Race
Like last year, I set my alarm for 3:00 AM because, once again. Phil and I were not staying on Disney property and could not rely on the transportation provided by Disney to get to the race staging area.  Before leaving our house, I drank a lot of water and ate another probiotic yogurt to help calm my stomach.  I still felt pretty bad thank to my little flu friend, but I figured I had paid for this race, so I'm damn well going to run it.

Also once again, Phil's parents came along with us to spectate (which was insanely nice and insanely insane... my own wife didn't get up to spectate this thing (and I don't blame her), but these people have now done it twice (soon to be three times) to watch their son do it).

The pre-race staging area was pretty much exactly as I  remembered it from the year before.  Lots of people just sitting around chilling, but a lot of people jumping around to the pre-race DJ (songs from this year's DJ include "That's What Makes You Beautiful," or whatever the f%$k it's called, by One Direction and "Call Me Maybe," by Carly Rae Jepsen... so that's the kind of crowd I'm talking about).  What is wrong with these people?

Once again, we dropped our bags and were supposedly making our way to the starting corrals, but instead we just stood there, crammed in like sardines, while we were NOT allowed to start walking down there (even though we could hear announcements from the DJ saying "FOLKS! Start moving over the corrals!").  Eventually, whatever race official was holding us back opened the floodgates, and we made the long walk to the start.

Then we stood around for awhile again listening to an announcer try to sound really chipper at 4:30 in the morning (actually, he succeeded at being really chipper, so there's that).  They also interviewed Joey Fatone (if you remember the 90's at all, you'll know who that is... if you don't remember, he was in N*Sync, which is now known more as "where Justin Timberlake got his start) ... who was also running the Goofy Challenge.2  Then, it was time to start.

Mile 1
Phil and I decided to run together for the Half, so we started out together for the first few miles.  He knew I was felling kind of crappy, so he let us go pretty slow to start with.  The first few miles of the race are pretty uneventful, and the first mile is especially so.  Any spectators are waaaaayyyy on the other side of a divided highway so you can't really hear them.  The only "entertainment" in the first mile is a high school marching band that looks like they are not giving one tiny fuck about being there at 5:30 in the morning (and who can blame them?).  Not much to report.

Mile Split: 10:40
Total: 10:40

Mile 2
Another pretty slow mile.  At least there was some entertainment that we could start to see (some guys "flying" some big kites to Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" and the set up for Jack Skellington).  We also pass through the car entrance to the Magic Kingdom:
Otherwise, this mile was just as uneventful as the first.

Mile Split: 10:14
Total: 20:54

Mile 3 
Yet another mile with not much to report.  At one point, Phil had to use the restroom (from all that pre-hydrating) and I walked while he did so, so that is why this mile is a bit slower than the first two.  Let's see, what else... we turned off World Drive and into the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Mile Split: 11:09
Total: 32:03

Mile 4
We finally hit a checkpoint (the 5K mark) and I was actually starting to feel a bit better and not so much like I was being ridden by the flu monster.  Mile 4 weaves through the Magic Kingdom parking lot and up to the Ticketing & Transportation center.  It is also one of the first places where there can be a lot of spectators cheering you on, which is pretty cool.

Mile Split: 10:28
Total: 42:31

Mile 5
This time I had to stop for a restroom break (also because of pre-hydration).  Thankfully, the Ticketing and Transportation Center has restrooms open for racers!

Mile 5 is also where there is one of the few "hills" during the Half Marathon, when you pass under the Water Bridge next to the Contemporary Resort.  Like last year, there was someone on top of the Water Bridge with GIANT Mickey Hands clapping and cheering.  This time around, Giant Hands was pretending to be a DJ (or maybe he was really being a DJ) and pretending to hold his headphones to his ears with his GIANT HANDS!  I believe for the Half he was playing "Gangham Style" at this point.  I did a little bit of the horsey dance.

Mile Split: 12:11 (with 1st bathroom break)
Total: 54:42

Mile 6
Mile 6 is the best mile of the Half Marathon, because you get to run through Main Street U.S.A., and it is where the absolute BEST crowd support is.  Phil's parents were here, and I actually spotted their big Mickey Ears signs with "Go Mike!" and "Go Phil!" on them.
Not a great picture (MOUTH BREATHER!)... but its somewhere in the Magic Kingdom, so there you go.

After Main Street, we ran through Tomorrowland and into the very front part of Fantasyland to run through Cinderella's Castle.  Once again, the photographers failed to get a good picture of me in front of the castle... but I stopped further down to grab the following pic:
Shut up!  It was really humid!
There was also one more bathroom break in here (this time thanks to my friend, Mr. Flu).  That's why this split is particularly horrific.  Phil and I got separated here (he also stopped for a bathroom break, but he didn't realize I'd stopped too, so he kept running... no biggie.  I was just holding him back anyway).

Mile Split: 16:00 (with 2nd bathroom break)
Total: 1:10:42

Mile 7
Because of the slow split in Mile 6, and because I knew I wasn't going to be able to go too much faster thanks to my illness and the incredible humidity (near 100% humidity), I decided to start getting pictures with characters (so they'll be a few coming up).  First up, Jessie and Bullseye from Toy Story (2 and 3):

And the line for Cinderella and Prince Charming wasn't too bad:
Yes, she has Crazy Eyes.  But you try looking sane after having to be in makeup at about 4 AM and then stand next to sweaty dudes for a few hours.
Shortly after meeting Cinderella, the course leaves the Magic Kingdom, and then it's time for the most boring mile of the course... through the dark back road that leads back to World Drive.  However, because I was running considerably slower than last year, it was actually starting to get light by this point, so it wasn't as bad (so being slow has some advantages).

Mile Split: 12:41 (with Jessie/Bullseye and Cinderella photo ops)
Total: 1:23:23

Mile 8
Just after crossing the Mile 7 mile marker and running into Mile 8, we passed the Grand Floridian Resort, where I spotted Mary Poppins, Bert, and a Penguin:
Do you see that damn penguin trying to cover me up?  Bastard!
Then we passed by the Polynesian Resort where Lilo & Stitch were hanging out:
I really thought both Lilo and Stitch would be shorter.  Oh, and hang loose, bra!
 It was nice to have these short breaks built in to every mile... especially since it was humid as all get out during this race.

Mile Split: 13:05 (with Mary Poppins and Lilo/Stitch photo ops)
Total: 1:36:28

Mile 9
OK, we're getting into the home stretch here... and by about this point I knew that even though I felt sickish (although better than when I started), I was going to finish this race.  Mile 9 is pretty uneventful as far as scenery goes... we just continue along the other side of the Magic Kingdom parking lot, past the NASCAR race track, and the mile ends just before merging back onto World Drive.

Somewhere along the way, I ran into one of my favorite Disney characters ever, and from probably my favorite Disney movie:
He had just told me "I didn't know this was a triathlon!" followed by a magical rim shot.  The dude's weird.
And then back past this giant banner (at least 30 feet tall) that showed Mickey, Donald, and Goofy running (which you could see on the way out at a bit before the Mile 3 mile marker).  It was pretty cool:

Mile Split: 12:21 (with Genie and Giant Sign photo ops)
Total: 1:48:49

Mile 10
Mile 10 is the final mile along the divided highway of World Drive,

These models were arranged in order of sexiness, starting on the inside and moving out.

No Split (I forgot to hit the "Lap" button on my watch)

Mile 11
Mile 11 starts with the biggest "hill" of the race (the cloverleaf exit ramp that I ranted about last year).  This year, I don't remember being as bothered by the slowpokes taking the inside track as I was last year (maybe I was one of those slowpokes?).  At the very top, I decided to take a picture with the Army Guy that I decided to pass by last year.

Clear, I'm a born military man.  Look at that salute!
It was just past the Army Guy that I saw the best shirt that I saw in either race... "This was an AWESOME IDEA 6 months ago!"  That is exactly how I was feeling thanks to Mr. Flu and the humid weather.

Mile(s) Split: 25:22 (12:41/mile) (includes Captain Jack Sparrow and Toy Soldier photo ops)
Total: 2:14:11

Mile 12
I started to pick up the pace slightly after passing the Mile 11 mile marker because I was getting close, and I just wanted to be done.  This section of the race includes a very sharp U-Turn with announcers where you can yell out where you're from and (if they hear you) they'll say your hometown into the microphone.  I shouted "Minneapolis" and I was heard.

After the U-turn and going up the other big "hill" of an exit ramp (which actually did feel pretty steep this time around), I spotted Phineas & Ferb.  Phil has said in both years of this race that the only characters he wants a picture with is Phineas & Ferb but he's notorious for not stopping in races, and I knew he wouldn't here so close to the finish... so I stopped (even though I had never seen the show before, although I have since) just so I could show him my picture and make him jealous.

Perry the Platypus must have been off fighting Doofenshmirtz.
Shortly after chilling with my main man Ferb, I saw Spaceship Earth off in the distance and grabbed a quick picture.  Nothing special, just thought it looked cool.

It looked particularly sparkly that morning.

Mile Split: 11:23 (Includes Phineas & Ferb phot op)
Total: 2:25:34

Mile 13
Now is was time for my last "push."  I knew there wouldn't be any characters left, and that this was a nice flat part of the course (just weaving through the front part of Epcot) so I picked up the pace a bit (or at least as much as I could)... and as you can see, I recorded my only sub-10 minute split of the entire race (not bad for the last mile).  Oh yeah, and I got this lovely picture taken of me:

See, I told you I was running at some point!
Then it was time for one of my favorite parts about the Disney World runDisney events... the Gospel Choir singing you home!
Hey, we just met you!  And this is crazy!  But the finish is right there!  So keep running, maybe?

Mile Split: 9:54
Total: 2:35:28

Last 0.1 to Finish
Then it was time for the last push to the finish line, where I pretty much went all out.
I am genuinely surprised that I had such a good picture
Oh well... it sort of looks like I was running.

Mickey and Donald were really, REALLY excited to meet me.

Split: 1:00 (about 8:30/mi)
Official Time: 2:36:28

So, my time was more than 40 minutes slower than last year, and more than 45 minutes slower than my PR, but I genuinely enjoyed this race.  I could have done without the humidity and I definitely could have done without the flu (more on this in the full Marathon recap), but considering the situation, I actually was pretty pleased.  See?

Taken before I realized I was only 1/3rd done with the insanity.

Coming next, [SPOILER ALERT!] the hell of the full marathon.

1 I'm sorry for the graphic nature of this portion of the post, by the way, but I'm painting a picture here).
2 Fun fact, I beat Joey "the Fat One" Fatone in both races. This isn't to brag or anything... it's just to show that I did, in fact, beat someone.
3 It may seem weird to be excited about this, but not having to use a Port-a-Potty during a race is actually pretty awesome.

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