Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Goofy Challenge Part II - 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap


So here we are... the "Challenge" part of the "Goofy Challenge."  The Full Marathon.  So gather round people, wherever you may be, and admit that this Challenge is totally crazy, and accept it that soon I was miserable.  If your time to you is worth savin', then you better read fast, or this will take all day, for the recap it is a comin'.1

(Read the Recap after the jump)

Half Marathon, Saturday Recovery, and the Night Before
I'll spare you all the gory details of the Half Marathon, since you can read about them in that race recap, but just as a refresher:
(1) My new best fried, Mr. Flu, was still hanging around for most of the Half Marathon race.
(2) My final time was considerably slower than my previous Half Marathons, partly thanks to Mr. Flu, and partly thanks to getting pictures with characters.

After the Half Marathon was done, Phil (not his real name), Phil's parents, and I went back to the house we were staying at for some breakfast, a shower, and some rest.  When I got back, I learned that Mr. Flu wasn't just MY new best friend, but that he had also gotten real chummy with my son.  He had a nice little fever going and was pretty miserable.  So much of the day was spent trying to help him feel comfortable (e.g., by trying to force him to take children's Imodium, which he would fight EVERY SINGLE TIME).

Other than that, it was a pretty chill day.  Mr. Flu was still visiting me pretty regularly, so I still had dehydration worries, and I had some trouble really eating too much at dinner (I felt nauseated for most of dinner, which sucks because it was lasagna, which I love).  Then it was off to bed at a ridiculously early hour (7:30 or so).

I'd like to say that I fell right asleep, had a wonderful night's sleep, got up right when my alarm went off feeling refreshed and revitalized and ready to race!  In fact, I'd love to say that.  But my night was nothing like that.   In fact, it was a horrible, horrible, horrible night.  First off, it took me awhile to get to sleep (not really a surprise considering how early it was).

Second, since my son was sick, we had decided he should sleep in our room rather than in the "boys room" with the son of one of the other couples staying in our house because we didn't want to get their son sick.  Although he slept mostly fine, he woke up at least once because he needed to take a trip to the bathroom courtesy of Mr. Flu.

Third, I needed to take several trips to the bathroom thanks to Mr. Flu as well.  This, by itself, wouldn't be THAT bad (at least I'd gotten used to it over the past few days), but I was also starting to feel sicker in other ways.  I felt a little congested, had a pretty bad headache, and my lymph nodes were swollen and really, really sore.  I figured my body wasn't so much trying to tell me something as it was trying to scream it at me.  I felt so bad at midnight that I basically had resigned myself to my fate of not running the marathon and not finishing the Goofy Challenge.  I told myself that if I didn't feel considerably better when I finally woke up, that I wasn't even going to go.

Well, my alarm went off at 3:00 AM, and I did feel a bit better.  I felt pretty dehydrated (not good for a marathon) and for some reason I had this weird sharp pain under both of my collar bones from sleeping in a weird position, but otherwise I felt better.  My headache was gone... my lymph nodes and throat weren't sore any more... and I was able to take some Imodium to help keep Mr. Flu at bay.  I decided to at least TRY to start the race knowing that I could take it very slow and drop out of the race if needed.

I also became very adept, very quickly at "The Mathematics of Not Getting Swept," which went like this:
  • My initial race plan (before I got sick) was to run approximately 10:00 to 10:30 per mile, hopefully averaging around 10:15/mile or so, which equated to about a four-and-a-half hour (4:30:00) marathon.
  • The WDW Marathon requires you to maintain a 16:00/mile pace (just under a seven (6:59:30) hour marathon).  So, just based on the pacing requirements, I had an extra two and a half hour cushion to work with to account for a slower running pace and liberal amounts of walking
  • Also, I was in Corral B, which started at around 5:40 AM.  There were still six more corrals after me (C, D, E, F, G, H), with the last one starting at about 6:20 AM.  That gave me an extra 40 minutes to work with (since they had to let Corral H have their shot at 16:00/mile before they started sweeping people).
  • All in all, that gave me at least seven and a half hours (7:30:00), or about 17:10/mile, to finish this race, get my Mickey and Goofy medals, and crawl home to die.
So, I set a new, relatively modest goal of trying to reach the Mile 20 marker within about four and a half hours so that, if needed, I could literally walk the entire last six miles (which at a slow to moderate walking pace of 20:00/mile would take about two hours), and I would still make it to the finish before getting swept.

This was my mental state BEFORE even getting to the race.  WHEEEEE!

Pre-Race and Start Line Area
I won't bore you with the details about the staging area.  It pretty much was exactly the same as last year's and this year's Half Marathons, some DJ playing a bunch of music and trying to get people pumped up (and some people peppy and chipper enough to get all pumped up at 4 in the morning).  The only nice thing is they were much better about getting us to the start corrals than they were at the Half Marathon.  This time around, they made an announcement really early (maybe around 4:15 or 4:30, shortly after we arrived at the staging area), that Corrals A and B could start walking over to the start line, with the later Corrals to come later.  There was no press of humanity trying to all get to the start at the same time.

After getting to the start, Phil and I sat down just outside the entrance to Corral B (Phil was in Corral A, so we weren't going to be running together this time).  There was a LOOOOONNNNGGGGGG time before the race was going to start (at least 45 minutes), and I still felt like total garbage and there was no way I was going to stand in the corral for that long.  It kind of sucked, but I just tried to get comfortable, not focus on the weird pains under my collar bones and the fact that I felt slightly nauseous and all cotton-mouthy.

Eventually it was time to pop into the Corral and get going.  So, here I go?

Mile 1
The first mile was spent almost entirely assessing how I felt to see if I really wanted to keep doing this 25.2 more times after this mile.  I also got water and Powerade at the first water stop of a race for the first time ever (thanks to my Mr. Flu-inspired dehydration) (This may have been in Mile 2, it's hard to remember).  I also believe that somewhere in Mile 1 or 2 was the first medical tent, where I stopped to grab some Tylenol to help with the pain at my collar bones.

The first mile wasn't anything special... but it wasn't terrible, and I ran the whole way.

Mile 1 Split: 11:10
Total: 11:10

Miles 2 and 3
Somewhere during Mile 2, I decided that my first goal of the race was to run until I crossed the 5K checkpoint.  First, running that 3+ miles would give me a good indicator of whether I would be able to keep going for the whole race.  Second, it would be a spot where I could walk for a bit to keep myself feeling fresh (it was pretty damn humid during this race too, so I was already sweating buckets).

Another couple boring miles down, but I ran the whole time.
Mile 2 Split: 11:11 (total: 22:21)
Mile 3 Split: 11:00 
Total: 33:21

Mile 4
I made it to the 5K marker (which I thought would be a checkpoint like in the Half, but I was wrong).  By this point, I was actually starting to feel better (probably from the Tylenol taken back at Mile 1), but I decided I should walk a bit anyway.

This part of the course goes by the backstretch of the Richard Petty Experience race track, and it was light up very bright and I could hear "Life is a Highway" playing (the Cars movie version, not the original).  That made me feel a bit depressed, since I was only about 3 1/3 miles into the race, and I could see shadows on the fences of runners going by what would have been about the 8 3/4 mile mark (where I knew I wouldn't be for about an hour).  Oh well... I had chosen to run this very slow just to finish.  Let those speed demons sprint through the course.

Mile 4 Split: 12:14
Total: 45:35

Mile 5
The first eight miles or so of the full marathon course are identical to the Half Marathon course, so this may sound familiar.  Mile 5 is the section where we pass through the Ticketing and Transportation Center (TTC), and then pass under the water bridge in front of the Contemporary Resort.  I believe I took another quick stop at the TTC restrooms before going under the bridge.  I'm sure I walked a bit going back up that hill, but otherwise, I think I ran this whole mile.

Mile 5 Split: 12:39
Total: 58:14

Mile 6
Once again, Mile 6 is one of the best parts of the course because you get to go through Main Street U.S.A. past the best crowd support of the race, and you can see Cinderella's Castle lit up like a birthday cake.
Mmmmm... cake.
Then it's just a quick jaunt through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland before popping through the Castle.  For the Marathon, they had King Mickey and Queen Minnie to take your picture with, but the line was about 30 runners deep, so I didn't get a picture with them.

But the official photographers did!
I know I walked quite a bit at the very beginning of this mile, and I ran pretty slow the rest of it, so the mile split is pretty slow here.

Mile 6 Split: 13:53
Total: 1:12:07

Mile 7
Since I was running slower even than the Half Yesterday (and because I started further back in the corral), it was starting to get light right around the beginning of Mile 7 and the sun was pretty much up by the time we exited the Magic Kingdom... and the heat and humidity started to increase immediately.  Just before leaving the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom, I had to walk again because I started to feel a bit light headed from the sudden perceived increase in temp.  Somewhere around here, I decided to get at least two waters or a water and a Powerade at every single water stop (even though I normally would only get one or none and alternate).  I knew this was going to be a long haul (with what turned out to be another four and a half hours of running/walking in the heat), and if I was going to die, I was determined that it wouldn't be from dehydration.

Mile 7 Split: 12:23
Total: 1:24:30

Mile 8
This was my fastest mile of the entire race, and the only one that was a sub-11 minute (just for reference, my normal long-run pace is in the 9:30-10:00/mile range, with long races in the 9:00-9:15 range, or even as low as 8:15-8:30 if I'm well trained).  I think this was partly the case because this section of the race is slightly downhill (not much, but enough that you can tell you're going faster).

Not much else to report.  My body was starting to get used to the heat (although it would obviously get much hotter later), but other than that it was just putting one foot in front of the other.

Mile 8 Split: 10:54
Total: 1:35:24

Mile 9
Finally, something different than the Half Marathon course.  In Mile 9, we veer off the main road and into the Walt Disney World Speedway (aka, the Richard Petty Experience).  This involved going down and then back up a steep tunnel underneath the track and then running out onto the track itself (although it seemed to be an interior track on the infield rather than on the banked track itself).

Since this is a NASCAR track (or at least simulates a NASCAR track), it is a full mile around the track, so we were running around this thing for awhile.  And along the way, I ran into Mater:
First name "Tow"
And his good buddy Lightning McQueen.

You know he's thinking "I could finish this so much faster than you."  McQueen's an asshole.
Finn McMissile (or whatever the heck the British car from Cars 2) was there as well, but I wasn't wasting my time for him.

It was kind of cool running on the track, but I could have also done without it.

Mile 9 Split: 13:37
Total: 1:49:01

Miles 10, 11, and 12
After the race track, we turned off the Half Marathon route for good and made our way down Bear Island Road toward Disney's Animal Kingdom.  This is a long, boring, occasionally smelly stretch of the race that I would say was the worst section of the race course if it wasn't for the Death March that Disney race organizers call "Osceola Parkway."

As part of this section of the race, we run by a water treatment plant (according to the signs near the plant, Walt Disney World reclaims a ridiculous amount of water, which is cool... but it doesn't make it smell any better) and I believe some kind of composting area.

Somewhere along the route, I ran into Peter Pan and Wendy.  I have a soft spot for Peter, as my son dressed as the Pan Man for Halloween last year.

I guess I didn't know Peter Pan was a freaky, no-soul ginger.  And Wendy looks way older than 12.

Mile 10 Split: 11:27 (total 2:00:28)
Mile 11 Split: 13:07 (total 2:13:35)
Mile 12 Split: 15:20 

Total: 2:28:55

Mile 13
Just before the Animal Kingdom was the first "food" stop (I think there had been a Clif Shot passed out before here, but this was the first actual food).  Bananas.  I took one, and after a couple bites I almost threw up (which is weird because I've never had problems eating during long runs).

Then it was time to go into the Animal Kingdom through a back gate.  I've only been here once before, and it seemed kind of nice.  Early on in the backstage area, there were some handlers with live animals, which was cool.  There were also lots of Cast Members back there cheering us on, which was nice.

The park itself was OK, but kind of uneventful.  Nothing was open yet, and there weren't many people in the park (just a few Cast Member cleaning up).  I think we passed near the Tree of Life at some point, but I don't remember seeing it.

Mile 13 Split: 11:24
Total: 2:40:19

Mile 14
The Animal Kingdom continued into Mile 13 and we crossed the halfway checkpoint mat just past the main entrance to the park.  The only thing I really remember is that right at the Halfway point, it felt incredibly humid and I ended up walking for an extended period (probably one of my longest walking breaks of the entire race) as the course wound through the Animal Kingdom parking lot.

After coming out of the park, while crossing the parking lot, I saw Mickey and Pluto, and I was damn sure going to get at least one picture with Mickey.

Hey, Mickey!  How about you pay attention to the guy who waited in line instead of waving at the girl running by?
I believe this was my slowest mile of the race (or perhaps one slower where I walked some and had an extended bathroom break).  Like I said before, I walked for a long time after the Halfway mat (probably for at least a half mile) and then I got my Mickey picture, so it took some time off.

Mile 14 Split: 19:11
Total: 2:59:30

Miles 15, 16, and 17
Just after coming out of the Animal Kingdom parking lot we crossed past the Mile 14 marker and excited onto Osceola Parkway, which is the WORST part of the entire race... a three-mile stretch in the hot sun with no shade (it was about 8:30 in the morning when I started this stretch and probably about 9:45 when I finished it... the sun was all the way up and beating down on us, and the humidity just wouldn't quit) rolling up and down overpass hills.

Considering how much this section TOTALLY SUCKS, it is appropriate that we started it with THIS GUY:

He's saying "Shhh.  Be quiet while I jab this shovel in his throat."  I still don't know how I was able to get up.

I don't know how bad Osceola Parkway is when it isn't in the upper 70s or 80s, but during this race, it was absolutely miserable.

For me, there were two parts about this stretch that were really demoralizing:
  1.  For almost our entire section running along Osceola, there were signs that said that ESPN Wide World of Sports was "JUST AHEAD."  Of course, it was "just ahead" if you were driving in a car.  If you were running with the flu, it was about 45 minutes away.
  2. Just after passing the Mile 16 marker, there is a section of Osceola where you see the part of the course running the other direction out of ESPN WWoS.  You even see the Mile 21 marker (if you are stupid as me and turn around to look at it) just before the course turns off onto World Drive to head up to Hollywood Studios.  Seeing all those people who are 5 miles ahead of you (and who also looked just as tired or even more tired than you feel) sucks.  And you have to watch these people that are WAAAAYYYY ahead of you for an entire mile.
It was somewhere in mile 15 or mile 16 where I decided to adopt a "run 3/4 mile, walk 1/4 mile" plan for the remainder of the race (with a plan to eventually shift to a "run 1/2 mile, walk 1/2 mile" if it got bad toward the end).  I still felt pretty bad thanks to Mr. Flu, but I felt good enough that I could mostly run, but with walking breaks to cool off.

Also, somewhere in Mile 16, I decided I should start taking pictures of the Mile markers (because they are huge and pretty cool).  I wish I had been doing that for all the markers.  Oh well.

About halfway into Mile 17, we turned the corner into the entrance of ESPN Wide World of Sports, so at least there was a change of scenery.  We were also given sponges that had been soaked in cold water, and that felt pretty awesome (although then there were sponges that runners had just thrown all over the course for at least the next two to three miles.
Mile 15 Split: 15:12 (total 3:14:42)
Mile 16 Split: 13:48 (total 3:28:30)
Mile 17 Split: 13:00
Total: 3:41:30

Miles 18 and 19
All of miles 18 and 19, and most of Mile 20 took place in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex (first time this year), which is actually a pretty cool facility.  This included running between soccer fields (with high school soccer players actually practicing on the fields, which was kind of cool), past baseball and softball fields and tennis courts, and even onto the Track (nice and springy, which felt AWESOME with my feet already feeling the 18 miles I'd already been on them)

I actually kind of liked the WWoS.  There was some shade from trees and stuff (a welcome change after the continuous glaring sun of Osceola), but there was also a nice breeze while running through it (obviously this was just chance, but it seemed to be a nice cool breeze while on Osceola I felt no breeze at all).  The only complaint I have for ESPN WWoS is it required a lot of weaving as we turned around the various fields.  But honestly, I didn't mind this that much.

Mile 18 Split: 13:38 (total 3:55:08)

Mile 19 Split: 14:50
Total: 4:09:58

Mile 20 (and the Mile 20 "Spectacular")
Mile 20 had the most to "see" of any mile since the race track.  It started off with a giant Mickey hot air balloon:
That would be a fun balloon ride.
And then we made our way into the baseball stadium, which is where the Atlanta Braves play their spring training games.  There was also pretty good crowd support in the stadium, and they put us up on the Jumbotron.  This all might have been fun and motivating if it hadn't been so hot and humid.

Damn, it was hot!
Anyway, we ran around the warning track and underneath the big right field fence (which provided some shade as made it much cooler, even if it was only for 50 meters or so.
Who has two thumbs and had this picture taken before he could show them?  This guy!
After the stadium and a run through the parking lot, I knew we would be coming up to Mile 20.  runDisney had been touting this big huge "Mile 20 Spectacular," and Phil and I had been figuring since this was the 20th Anniversary of the Disney World Marathon that this "Spectacular" would be, you know, a spectacle.  Would it be fire dancers?  Dudes juggling fire?  Running through giant hoops set on fire?  Something with fire?!

Nope, we got a few giant puppets of secondary Disney characters:

 OK, "secondary" might be a bit harsh, but it isn't like these were the Big 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto), or Cinderella, or Snow White, or any single "lead" character of any Disney movie for that matter (I guess Mike Wazowski and Genie are kind of "leads," but they are still really the sidekicks to Sully and Aladdin, so still no dice).  Don't get me wrong, they all looked kind of cool... but it just wasn't as BIG as I thought it would be.  Oh yeah, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were there too.
Not waiting in that line either.
Oh well, at least the Mile 20 mile marker was pretty awesome.

Mile 20 Split: 13:49
Total: 4:23:47

Mile 21
OK, disappointment over, now where do we get to go?

Awwwww man, back out onto Osceola Parkway!  Come on!

Oh well, at least this time I was in the group of people that were five miles AHEAD of the people going the other way.  The race organizers also put up a bunch of small signs with just silly stuff on them (for some reason the only one I can remember is "Why are there interstates in Hawaii?").  There was a sign every 30 meters or so, so there were probably at least 15-20 of them.  I don't know why, but these signs were at a perfect part of the race.  Many of them were funny or thought-provoking enough that I was able to keep going (despite the rapidly-becoming unbearable heat/humidity)

Mile 21 Split: 16:06
Total: 4:39:53

Mile 22
The only things I remember about this mile was (1) there was another Toy Story soldier on the on ramp between Osceola and World Drive, and he was telling people "If you're walking, you aren't working hard enough.  Give me some push ups!"  And some jackass dudes were doing push ups; (2) on World Drive we were squished into one lane (because the parks were open by this point, and World Drive had to be open so cars could drive in); and (3) we had to climb another steep exit ramp right before the Mile 22 marker.  Exciting recap, no?

Mile 22 Split: 13:18
Total: 4:53:11

Mile 23
Mile 23 takes place almost entirely in the "backstage" area of Disney's Hollywood Studios.  The best part of this stretch was running through a tunnel that had fans blowing cool air on us.  It was awesome.

Check that, the cool tunnel was the second best part.  The BEST part was just after entering the back lot of the park, there were volunteers handing out tiny little Hershey's chocolate bars.  Apparently, running for 22+ miles in heat and humidity makes chocolate taste EXTRA delicious.  It was probably the best chocolate bar I've ever eaten.

Unfortunately, it was around this time that the Imodium that I had taken before the race (to keep Mr. Flu at bay and to keep any restroom breaks limited to Number 1... again, sorry to be so freakin' classy) wore off and I had to make a pit stop.  I guess it's a good thing this happened when I was in a park.  Anyway, I had to walk (running would have been dangerous) until I found a rest room, and then I obviously had to stop for the restroom to... um... "rest."  Because of this, my split for this mile is by far my worst.  Meh. 

Mile 23 Split: 23:22 (Includes restroom break)
Total: 5:16:33

Mile 24
OK, we're nearing the end of this thing!  After passing the Mile 23 marker, we ran out into the front part of the Hollywood Studios park, which was open by this point.  Thankfully, the guests in the park were actually pretty understanding and didn't get in our way at all (at least when I was running through).  Hmmm... I don't really remember much else about this mile.

One of many pictures where the photographers caught me walking.  Jerks.
 Oh yeah, I walked some more... but I had been walking 1/4 of every mile since Mile 16.  I've always liked Disney Hollywood Studios.  It's kind of an underrated park in my opinion.

See, I did run some!  Also, BUBBLES!
After leaving Hollywood Studios, we took kind of a back way to the Disney Boardwalk area (I think this area including shopping and a bunch of swankier Disney resorts).  I remember seeing quite a few people who had already finished the race and were wearing their Mickey medals.  This was simultaneously motivating and demoralizing.  I also texted Phil right before the Mile 24 marker (because I knew he would have been finished for about an hour at this point) to say I was two miles out and that he should tell Goofy to get ready.

Mile 24 Split: 13:10
Total: 5:29:43

Mile 25
Mile 25 continues through the Disney Boardwalk area and past some really swanky resorts (like the Beach Club, which looks like a ritzy New England style resort... something on Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard) and then into the back side of EPCOT in the World Showcase.  We entered the World Showcase at the United Kingdom before hitting the Mile 25 marker.

Mile 25 Split: 14:19
Total: 5:44:02

Mile 26 to Finish
Mile 26 is a mile that, if you were feeling good and had run a well-managed race with enough energy to finish strong, could be a totally awesome mile.  You run around almost the entire World Showcase Lagoon (just skipping Canada, but who really thinks about Canada when they are at Walt Disney World?).  First you hit the UK (as mentioned above), then France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico, before turning up into Futureland.  Just before the transition from World Showcase to Futureland, I saw Duffy Bear.  We had bought a Duffy Bear as a gift for our kids last year when we visited Disney, so I knew I HAD to get a picture with Duffy to show them that I met THE Duffy.

My kids love their Duffy Bear!
Then it was a quick jaunt up past Spaceship Earth before stopping for one last photo op at the Mile 26 sign!

You're damn right I'm stopping for a picture here!
And then it was on to the Finish Line. 


And possibly MORE important, a DECENT finish line photo!
Split: 15:57 (approx. 13:05/mi)
Total: 5:59:59 (no joke... my official time was ONE SECOND under six hours)

I'm not going to lie, I literally started crying when I crossed that damn finish line.  I trained soooo much for these races, and then to almost miss out on running them because of that bastard Mr. Flu... and then to go through what turned out to be an insanely horrible race in the heat and humidity WITH THE FLU, made finishing this ting pretty darn emotional.

Anyway, after those ninjas came in and cut up all those onions (which I could thankfully hide behind my sunglasses), I collected my Mickey medal, grabbed a luke warm water bottle and chugged it.  Grabbed a luke warm Powerade and sipped it while I walked to the Goofy tent to pick up the Goofy medal.
So, would I do the Goofy Challenge again?  Not anytime soon.  The amount of time it takes to properly train for that bad boy is somewhat oppressive (particularly when you have little kids and a spouse who is a stay-at-home parent and who isn't really that keen to have you take off for a two hour training run on Saturday and a three-to-four hour training run on Sunday).  Also, the thing is really, really hard.  Sure, if I hadn't been sick with the flu and if the weather hadn't been so hot and humid, it probably wouldn't have been nearly as bad... but it still would have sucked hard.

BUUUUUUUT, I also really don't want this incredibly negative experience be how I remember this event and this accomplishment.  Even though this particular race sucked big time, I am still really proud of myself for setting a really high goal and achieving it.  Soooo... I'm thinking I'll take a few years off, maybe run a couple half marathons and a lot of 5Ks and 10Ks in that time, and maybe regroup for the 25th Anniversary WDW Marathon and try to be Goofy again (spousal approval pending).

1 That's a pretty terrible Bob Dylan parody, huh? I wrote that just for you.

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