Thursday, January 12, 2017

Race Recap: State #11: Florida

Race: Walt Disney World Marathon
Date: January 8, 2017
Official Result: 6:00:37 (moving time: 5:30:20) 

My Disney Princess
"Orlando!" Exclaimed the ~5 year old boy sitting behind us on our flight as we touched down early Wednesday morning ahead of Sunday's full.  I wish I could say I equally shared his excitement as we whisked ourselves directly to the ESPN Sports Complex to get all our race packets straight from the airport. But I was worried I would be exhausted before even reaching the start line with all the things we would be doing in the four days leading up to the race. We took advantage of the timing to make this a big family vacation with my sister Ann Marie's family since the kids were still on winter break in the week leading up to the marathon weekend. She and Mae had meticulously coordinated our families' vacation over the last few months and had left very few moments to waste.

Coming down from Chicago besides my sister's family, who was staying on property, we also shared our off-property town house with a few fellow Ragnarians and former co-workers, Dianne and Annie, who were running their first half and first full respectively.  This helped bring the costs of staying in Florida way down, and made our stay way awesome, since they have been good friends for many years now.  I highly recommend renting through All-Star Vacation homes, as this was our second stay with them and their accommodations both times have been top notch.  Their website pictures are exactly what you get when you arrive. Blaine and Liz were also in town from New Orleans to run the appropriately named Goofy, where runners take on both the full and half.

The walk from the parking lot to the Expo was all my batteries for my GoPro gimbal could handle, and it abruptly died and couldn't hold a charge for the rest of the trip. So much for my family home movie. We arrived just as the Expo opened at noon and although the lines were long, it moved quickly.  I effortlessly picked up my bib as well as the kids' bibs and shirts while Mae split off to get her bib and shirt which was in the next building.  We met back up and checked out the merchandise to get my shirt, but since we had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom at 2 pm, we didn't spend much time at all there and went straight to the park.

After two trips to Magic Kingdom and about 45k steps the last two days, Friday had arrived, which was the day of Mae's 10k and the boys' Mickey Miler and Maya's 200m dash. I drove Mae to her 10k at 4:15 am for her 5:30 start time and slept in the car until 7:00 when she was expected to cross the finish. I got a feel for the magnitude of this weekend since all the big races were set up to begin and end here and walked around while waiting for Mae to finish. She did great despite her nonexistent training and we made it back to the house before the kids were even up.  After breakfast we took the kids to their races at the ESPN complex and had a great time watching all of the kids there run their races. Both boys broke 10 minutes for their mile and Maya was the first girl to cross the finish for her race (4th overall)!

Avocado Margarita
The rest of the day was spent at Epcot and after going on Soarin' a guy pointed at my Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon shirt and said, "Hey I ran that!" We talked about the race for a bit and both agreed that the headwind sucked.  Later that evening we were having an amazing dinner with Annie and Ann Marie's family at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot when the news broke - because of the presence of lightning in the area and lack of cover on much of the course, Disney decided to cancel Saturday's half marathon race.  I felt so bad for Dianne who had gone back to her room earlier to rest up. To their credit they provided one of four options to the half runners: 1) registration refund in the form of a gift card, 2) Two one-day park hopper passes, 3) Deferment to any future Run Disney half race, 4) Entry into Sunday's full. To our amazement and gentle coaxing Dianne chose option (4) and decided to run 26.2 on less than two days notice.

Brown Derby Wagyu Burger
After spending a rainy Saturday at Hollywood Studios we stopped by Target and grabbed what we needed for a spaghetti dinner featuring Mae's homemade sauce.  I also picked up a Disney shirt as a souvenir slash extra layer to run in as well as a knit hat and gloves from the boys department since the forecast called for wind chill temps in the 20's. All the runners must have already cleaned out all the adult sized winter wear. I wasn't feeling well after a bit of day drinking at the Brown Derby for lunch (the Wagyu burger is hands down the best. burger. I. ever. had.) followed by a Star Tours ride that made me feel every year of my age... At least my steps were down to about 13k for the day. After being treated to a nice homemade dinner though I hit the bed around 8 pm and was out cold until my alarm got me up at 2:30(!!) in the morning.

Staying warm before launch
After dreaming about having to run a race that would take me all the way to Wisconsin, Dianne, Annie and I left the townhouse a little after 3:15 am, and the GPS had us orbiting the park several times due to the road closures.  We pulled into the lot around a half hour later and I elected to stay in the car as long as possible and said goodbye to the girls since they wanted to check in their gear bags and get into their corrals.  Annie submitted her half marathon time and was placed in H, I submitted nothing and was in J and Dianne was assigned to K. I went back to sleep in the back of the car and woke up around 4:45 and headed out to the race entrance. I spent a few minutes huddled around a propane heat lamp as temps were in the 30's with a bitter wind and I listened to a veteran dole out some sage advice to a first timer and also spent way too much time in line for the porta potties - the locked one in front of me never opened up. Picking the wrong line is my special talent. My jaw dropped when I saw two young, very cold Asian women shivering in nothing but tank tops and short running skirts, their bare midriffs exposed pass by. I don't think they packed properly for this trip, or lived to make the start.

Lines for character pics
It was another half mile to get from the gear check and security entrance to the start line corrals, and the walk was a nice warm-up. But once I got there even as the race got underway at 5:30 it was still a bit of waiting until we got rolling. Each corral was sent off on their way in 5 minute waves by Mickey Mouse himself and their own set of fireworks. I was able to find Blaine and Liz who were also in corral J and I considered putting on a pair of sweat pants that were hung on one of the side barriers since my legs were cold. There were lots of reminders to toss the mylar blankets before starting since they interfere with the chip timing. I saw a few Bank of America Chicago marathon blankets being cast aside. 

Finally the J corral was off and running and I got a quick lock on the satellite this time with my new Garmin Forerunner 230 watch. The battery on this is incredible; and was lucky to have it delivered in time just before our flight.  I made a deal with Mae that I can buy it as long as I don't say anything negative during the whole trip! The first five miles running through the darkness were a bit unremarkable. There were a few characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow and Lightning McQueen but the lines were so long I decided to run past them. I just focused on holding a 12 minute mile no matter how slow I thought it felt. The most memorable part of this first stretch was running through the parking gate where I almost knocked over a runner in front of me who stopped to take a picture without giving a warning sign.

Activate Beast Mode!
So there's a third way to get into the Magic Kingdom besides the Ferry and Monorail - you can get there by footrace! The scenery really picks up as we entered the Magic Kingdom at mile 5. I really felt some good vibes running up Main Street with the cheering crowds and Cinderella's castle still lit up as the sun was yet fully out. The pace of the runners drastically dropped all around me as the course narrowed and phone after phone was pulled out by all to record the experience. After Main Street we veered to the right through Tomorrowland and in the blink of an eye we ran through all the other lands before looping back to run through the castle back to front. I stopped to fall in line for a picture with The Beast, and met a few other runners from the Chicago area, namely Hindsdale and Naperville. We talked weather and how great the temps were this morning. There was also an opportunity to pose in front of the castle but the line was a bit too long for me. I really liked how at each photo op was manned by a professional camera as well as a second person that took your picture with your phone. I'm used to seeing maybe three or four photographers along any given marathon course, and this race had over fifty spots, easy.  But it seemed like every time I saw a photographer they were always changing something on their camera or taking someone else's pic. Just have to be at the right place at the right time I guess. I know they missed me running through the castle - and I considered turning around and trying again!

After leaving the kingdom, miles 6-11 were set on tree-lined service roads between the parks which occasionally had a character here and there, and bits of trivia. I learned there were 167 miles of private roads on Disney property. I had put only 8 miles of training runs on my new NB 1080's and during the 80k steps I took over the last 4 days I felt a hot spot on the top right side of my foot. I started to feel it, but it was nothing too bad. Miles 10-11 had an out and back, and on my way back I saw a guy cut that mile from the course. That put a sour taste in my mouth. But that was quickly forgotten as we came up on a display that had many retired vehicles from rides of yesterday.

As we entered the Animal Kingdom approaching the 13.1 mark, I got to take a few pictures with some of the birds that lived there. I also got to see the hangar where they keep a bunch of floats there, and they had a dragon out for us to see. It was great getting a glimpse of things behind the scenes that you just don't normally see. I got a pic with Timon from the Lion King and took a selfie with the Tree of Life. I didn't think I was going to make it back to this park so I took in as much as I could while I was here. 

I was getting texts from Mae letting me know that they were in
the parking lot after mile 14 and I didn't want them waiting too long for me, so I decided to skip the line for the Expedition Everest ride. Plus I had just crossed the timing mat for the half already and didn't know if I would mess up my timing if I went back over it to go to the back of the line.  Now I regret not going on it - how many chances will I ever get to go on a freaking roller coaster in the (literally) middle of the race?

Exiting Animal Kingdom had us wrapping around the parking lot and I spotted my family across from a team of drummers. I stopped to hug them all and it gave me a nice energy boost. Out of all the amazing views I had already experienced, seeing them was the best part of the race. I love seeing them on course.

There was what I thought was going to be a quick out and back shortly after mile 17, but when I peeked at the mile marker going the other way it was mile 21! We turned into the ESPN Sports Complex and our route took us through many of the 30 fields they had there, including around the track and the baseball stadium, where upon exiting I had to pull my shoe off and dump out the loose gravel that had gathered in there. As I crossed Mile 18 I pledged to not stop running until Mile 19, but that plan was ditched as I saw there was a line for a picture with Minnie and Mickey. It was at least a 10 minute wait, but worth it. When I got to mile 19, I pledged to not stop running until Mile 20, but that plan was ditched as I just had to get a picture with Goofy, as well as Joy and Sadness.

As we neared Hollywood Studios near mile 22 there was a relatively steep ramp we had to run up which broke many runners' gaits to a walk. There was a green army man barking orders at us to make it up the hill over a PA, and even made a runner to do some push ups. As much as I loved seeing that, I didn't want to do push ups so I made it up to the top as quickly as I could. At the park I fell in line to get a pic with Oswald, but when it was almost my turn he had to leave for a few minutes for an undisclosed reason. Nooo! At least I got to chomp down on a full sized pack of Crispy M&M's that were graciously being handed out while I was waiting.

The run through Hollywood Studios was very quick and before I knew it we were in the Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Club resorts. I had never been to this area before and marveled at how picturesque the scene was. I want to go back! I also chuckled at a man holding a very un-Disneylike sign saying "Keep going, almost there! (that's what she said)"  Almost all the other spectator signs I read pretty much just said "Just keep swimming."

It's OK Sadness, I love you too!
Since we didn't have much time to spend at Epcot I really enjoyed my loop around the World Showcase at mile 25. I honestly didn't want it to end. I high-fived every cast member and spectator I could and stopped to take so many pictures. The golf ball was getting bigger and bigger, and my race was coming to an end. I had paced myself perfectly, never felt any cramps, and even though I was walking about a quarter of the time in the back half, never felt like I hit a wall.

The Boardwalk
I couldn't believe how much energy I had, and as I turned the corner to the finish and saw the crowd I had enough juice to take me across the final 100m with a sprint finish.  Without crumpling to the ground in a ball of cramps! My watch clocked me at 12.6 mph and I raised both arms in victory across the finish line. A volunteer medalled me and I got my mylar blanket and box of goodies (gogo squeez, some nachos, an oreo cookie and a few bananas). I met up with Annie who finished almost an hour before me and hung around the finish with her until Dianne, Blaine and Liz finished minutes within each other. I was so happy to see that all my friends had finished their first full, especially Dianne who was only trained for the half. Amazing! I also was able to find Blaine and Liz, the latter who is convinced this is her first and last full.  I guess we'll see... Blaine will be running the Little Rock full later this year so now he has a benchmark.  Good luck guys!

Congrats Annie and Dianne!
I broke my daily steps record with 70809 that I previously set at the Marine Corps Marathon since we spent the evening having dinner at Blaze at Disney Springs and checking out all the shops they had there, but not before celebrating our achievement with a glass of champagne back at the townhouse.

Congrats Blaine and Liz!
This course is easily the best race for helping you forget that you're actually running a marathon. Even though 20 miles of the course takes place on their service roads and parking lots between the parks, they peppered the course with so much entertainment and characters that there was always something to look at or listen to.  Obviously this is not the place to PR, but if the marathon is a one and done bucket list for you, then Disney would be the place to do it... and it would be a PR no matter what time your finish is. I thought I would be completely bonked during the race because of all the stuff we did leading up to it, but it may have had the opposite effect. This may be a great year for running if this race was an indicator of things to come!

Registration: $191.88
Flight: $147.99 (Frontier down, Spirit back up, excluding bags)
Car Rental: $39.34/day for $196.71  (Avis)
Gas: ~$15
Townhouse (7664 Fitzclarence): $150.95/day for $754.75 (our share)


My sister Ann Marie and our families.  A true sibling rivalry!

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