4

2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – Marathon

This is the third post for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. Checkout my recap for the expo, 5k, and 10k here and the half marathon here.

Rocking that Dopey Challenge medal in Magic Kingdom!

The marathon! Not only is the marathon my favorite race distance, but the Walt Disney World Marathon is one of my favorite courses and easily the most magical of them all!

Pre-race stuff

I set out my clothes and got to bed nice and early for the marathon. I’m pretty sure that even with my 3:25am wake-up, I still got seven hours of sleep. Pretty good! I would have probably gotten even more if I didn’t spend forever the night before worrying about what to wear.

This year’s race was cold. Okay, not cold for someone who lives in New Jersey, but cold for a race in Florida. The starting temperature was around 38º with 15-20mph wind. At home, this isn’t really that bad. In fact, with a race temperature that was predicted to be around 40-44º for most of the race, this is just about perfect racing conditions to me. Minus that wind, of course.

But, this wasn’t home. I wasn’t just walking out my front door and taking off like I normally do when I run in the cold. I had to wait around in that cold for the race to start. This is bad enough for most races, but runDisney races are exceptionally bad with how long you have to wait before the race. First, you have to deal with taking a bus to the starting area which means waiting for that and leaving extra time, just in case. Then you have to walk close to half a mile from the bus to the staging area with the bag check. THEN it’s another 20ish-minute walk to the corrals. Add in leaving time to hit a porta-potty, meet up with friends, and get into the corrals before they close without having a close call—like I did for the 5k—and you’re talking 60-90 minutes of being outside before the race. Not bad when the weather is nice, but brutal when it’s cold.

After a lot of back and forth regarding shorts vs crop tights and short sleeves vs long sleeves and throwaway arm warmers vs real arm warmers, I opted for Oiselle Distance Shorts (basically my standard issue marathon shorts), my Chicago Marathon short sleeve shirt, and Oiselle lux arm warmers as my race outfit. Prior to the race, I kept on a pair of loose joggers, the cotton t-shirt from the Disney 5k, the Dopey Challenge long sleeve we got this year, and a couple mylar heat sheets (one as a skirt, one for my top).

The final outfit. Took a lot of stress to finalize on this.

When my alarm went off, I was surprisingly awake and ready to get up and go. I gobbled down a Clif bar and drank some water, but I was trying to be conservative with how much I drank. I know hydration is important even when it’s cold out, but I also knew I wouldn’t want to be dealing with hitting porta-potties any more than I needed to in the cold. I quickly got dressed and Ellen and I headed out to catch the bus. Luckily, there was one waiting for us and we were able to get right on without waiting out in the cold! The ride was quick and so was the walk to the staging area. There was only a short line to get through bag check. It was cold, but it didn’t yet feel super cold.

We hit up the standard We Are Awesome Runner Friends meeting spot and chatted it up with the group. Everyone was cold, especially Nathan who lives right near Disney and isn’t used to the cold at all. Our friend Lauren came by to visit for a minute so we could get our group photo, but then she went back to the heated VIP tent like some kinda jerk! *insert me pouting here*

Eventually, it was time to check our bags and move out. When I pulled my joggers off, I literally screamed as the cold touched my bare legs. It was not pleasant! I quickly got my mylar heat sheets all tied around me and dropped my bag off. The walk to the starting area was the standard runDisney affair and all I could think about was hours from then when I was nice and warm again. Though, I did question if I’d ever be warm again. We were lucky to find some short lines for the porta-potties and took care of business—I must say, this was a minor feat in itself with all of the heat sheets and layering to deal with.

I got into the corral with plenty of time to stand and wait around. I just did my best to stay huddled up with myself. For some reason, Disney put me in corral E which isn’t really where I belong. I hate saying that and sounding like I actually care or think it matters or compare myself to other runners (I really don’t), but I was corral C last year and the time I gave was within the corral C range (and faster than the one I gave for last year). Plus, I’m a 3:28 marathoner. Still, I didn’t care too much since I wasn’t planning on racing. In fact, starting in corral E probably matched up much more with my plan to run just around a 4-hour marathon.

2017 Walt Disney World Marathon starting line

Really hard to get a good selfie of the starting line here with this lighting.

Anyway, time flew by pretty quickly and it was time to go before I knew it! Which was good because I was violently shivering! While I had seriously debated if I could actually run while keeping the heat sheets tied around me, I ditched them as the corral before us got going. The announcers said they might interfere with the timing mat and I knew they’d just annoy my anyway. Some runners did start with them on though! They looked hilarious while actually running!

The first 10k

The corrals ahead of us went quickly and there were no mini waves so the corrals to off started with little delay between them. Amazingly, the moment I started running, I forgot about the cold and was totally fine. In fact, from race start to finish, the weather was a complete non-issue for me. It was basically perfect.

I started things off easy and focused on keeping myself steady. My plan to stay just under 4:00 meant my target pace was around 9:09.

I clocked in my first mile at 8:57. A tad faster than I planned, but not too shabby at all. The important thing was to just stay controlled in this first mile and set a good tone for the race going forward. Just past the first mile marker, I ripped my throwaway shirt off Hulk Hogan style. Just tore it right down the front like a total badass! We can ignore the fact that I had pre-cut the neck to make the hole bigger and easier to take off during my run.

Most of the way to Magic Kingdom was quiet and uneventful. I think runners were still pretty cold and the cheer sections on the highway were a less filled than normal. One thing I noticed was the lines for photos were really short. This was a trend that continued the entire race and, after the first two or three of them, they were never more than five or six people deep—most were like maybe one runner. This was shocking to me. It was cold out, which I suspect was a big reason for it, but with the half marathon having been canceled, I’d have expected Dopey and Goofy runners to be upping their photo game. I didn’t stop for any of these early photos myself, though.

As we passed the fourth mile marker, my pace was pretty steady. My legs were okay, but not as good as I would’ve liked (pretty sure I say this in every marathon recap I do). The section right around here is where the second big cheer section is (if you include the one on the highway going into the Magic Kingdom) and it was fantastic! The cold did not keep people from being out here and getting their NOISE on! It was such a nice surprise to see these amazing people out there.

Just after we sailed through this cheer section, I stopped at a bank of porta-potties for a quick pee-pee break. When I came out, I took a moment to take off my long sleeve top and neatly tie it around my waist nice and tight before I started running again. This made for a longer stop than planned, but it beat having to pull it off and tie it while running. It also meant less risk of losing a headband or something in the process.

Once I started moving again, I still felt like I had to pee. I felt this the entire race. I knew I didn’t have to, but I never stopped feeling like I had to pee. Ugh!

As we made our way past the 5th mile marker and into Magic Kingdom, I couldn’t believe how quickly it felt like this had come up. Main Street U.S.A. was packed and loud, just like always! So much excite! I didn’t stop for any selfies here like I usually do because I wanted to just focus on my running. But as we came through Tomorrowland, I saw Buzz Lightyear with only a short line waiting for him. I hopped in line and then he promptly walked away. WTF BUZZ! I decided not to wait for him, but I did see Patrick as I took off to leave again. Just a little ways up, I made up for it with a photo with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Tweedles!

Then it was through Fantasyland, both new and old, and Cinderella’s Castle—I stopped for a photo, of course. Coming through Frontierland, I stopped for a quick shot with one of the Country Bears and then got back into my rhythm as we passed the 10k marker.

This is an important photo!

A quick jamboree!

By this point, I had only taken water once. I knew it was important, but I didn’t want to risk spilling it all over my face or getting my gloves wet with the temperature where it was. I know my body and knew I went to bed hydrated so I kept my water breaks to about three throughout the course of the race. Instead, I used the water breaks to thank all of the volunteers for being out there.

I love this photo coming out of the castle.

Through the first 10k of the race, I had lost just about 3.5 minutes to my pee break and photos. Hardly anything for a Disney race!

10k to 13.1

The section between the two Kingdoms is always a tough part of the race. It’s nearly 10k and, unlike the section between Animal Kingdom and ESPN, you’re still early in the race and needing to stay controlled.

I stopped for a few photos along here with the characters that were out. There were no lines so it hardly cost me any time at all.

He’s big. He’s bad. And he’s a wolf.

My mile splits were a little erratic through this section of the course as I fought with my body wanting to pick it up a little and my brain knowing I shouldn’t, especially since my legs were feeling tired already. I was nice and warmed up and started pulling my arm warmers down. I wanted to pull them off completely, but I was afraid I’d need them after Animal Kingdom while on the highway with nothing blocking the wind—I tried to figure out which way the wind would be blowing there and thought it would be a headwind. My fear with pulling them off is that they’d be a pain to pull back on when I needed them again. So I just left them pulled down to my forearms.

I’ve never taken a photo with Genie before!

Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope!

Glitchin’ and wrecking’!

These guys!

These hippies replaced the RV hillbillies I love 🙁

There used to be a section of the course here that lapped around the Disney World Speedway, but the Speedway doesn’t exist anymore. Last year, there was a new out-and-back section added around mile 11. It was a boring stretch of plain road just to even out the miles a bit. This year, the out-and-back was in the same place but went out farther than last year. I wasn’t surprised by this when we hit it, though. I knew there would have to be some section to make up for the changes in Hollywood Studios caused by the construction of Star Wars Land (I really hope they don’t call it Star Wars Land when it’s done).

My first half splits. I had my watch in manual lapping mode and lapped it on each mile marker so this should be pretty on point.

The weird thing about this though was, from mile 11 on, all the mile markers were moved from where they previously were the last few years. It wasn’t a lot, but up until the 23rd one, they all came up a little sooner on the course than before. It was actually a nice surprise at times.

Anyway, the section between the two Kingdoms flew by way faster than it ever seemed to before. Maybe it’s my growing experience with this race (5th time running it), who knows? My only complaint here was the RV hillbillies that I always loved to take photos with were gone. Instead, they were replaced with a couple of hippies with an RV. Not the same!

Sadly, the animals that are typically out as you approach Animal Kingdom were MIA this year. My guess is it was just too cold for them. This was disappointing, but understandable! We made our way into Animal Kingdom and through Africa and Asia. Asia was nice this year with the construction fencing from last year being gone now.

We hit the halfway mark and I checked in with my watch. 1:59:22. Right on schedule! I knew most of my photo ops were behind me and I was picking it up so I wouldn’t have much trouble negative splitting if my untrained legs didn’t bonk.

Feeling good through the halfway point!

13.1 to 20

We came out of Animal Kingdom, passed the 14th mile marker, and then came around to one of my favorite photo stops, the graveyard! This year, I went for a zombie style photo, but it didn’t come out as well as I’d have liked.

Zombie Amy! Spooky!

Mile 15 came right up after that and the rest of these highway miles ticked off like nothing. Unfortunately, I didn’t see one of my other favorite photo ops, Phineas and Ferb, along this stretch where they typically are.

As we made the turn towards ESPN Wide World of Sports, I was feeling pretty good and my splits had dropped down in to the low 8s. As we entered into Wide World of Sports, I took my second gel. Typically, I take one every five miles, but I only ended up taking two this whole race. I just wasn’t really feeling like I’d need them.

Wide World of Sports has a ton of turns, but they’re not too bad if the course isn’t crowded and you’re not trying to PR. We did our lap around the track and then into the stadium with lots of energy. Heading into the stadium I passed Joy and Sadness! And there wasn’t a single person in line! I had to snatch that photo up!

Joy and Sadness from Inside Out

Joy and Sadness!!!!

Stadium lap.

I was feeling good as we crossed 20 miles, but I was starting to feel like I had to poop a little bit. I had done some mental math through this section and realized if I kept going as I was, a 3:45 finish was possible. It was going to be close, but I could push for it.

20 to 23

This is the last quiet section of the course and the section I consider to be the last part you have to worry about.

Coming out of Wide World of Sports, we hit a wall of wind in our faces. This was the only part of the race where the wind was even something I noticed, but it was stupid.

As we passed 21, I was starting to tire a lot, but that was probably more due to the fact that my pace dropped into the 7:40s for this whole section rather than stay steady where it was in the low 8s.

This section also features the last two hills of the course. The first of which is probably the worst one of the whole race. It’s really not that bad, but it’s a highway onramp so it’s banked and a big wide turn. This is the point of the race that I always think of as the “just gotta get past here” point.

After nearly a mile, we hit that second little hill which was smaller than I remembered. After that, we made our turn into Hollywood Studios! Nothing but fun from here on out!

Mile 24 to finish

As I mentioned above, the Hollywood Studios section was different this year because of the construction. This year, we entered over by Fantasmic…ish. The course followed some of the walkway between Sunset Blvd and where the amphitheater is and popped us out behind Tower of Terror where the ride lets you out. The park was open by now so you could have taken a quick detour to the Twilight Zone, if you wanted. From here, we ran down Sunset Blvd to Hollywood Blvd. This was actually a really cool change to the course. As much as I LOVE Streets of America (RIP), this might be even better.

After we got back onto Hollywood Blvd, the course was the same as ever. We exited by the front of the park and made our way over to the walkway along the river towards the Crescent Lake resorts and Epcot.

By this point, I was passing runners left and right, but I was ready for the race to be over. As we approached the Beach and Yacht Club, I started looking for Danielle who was cheering outside of our room. We spotted each other at the same time and as I flew on by, I yelled “I gotta poop!!!” at her. The people around her didn’t know how to handle this.

Second half splits. Picked it up quite a bit!

The section along Crescent Lake quickly ended and I was feeling exhausted, but powering through with what I had left in me. I really was trying to get under 3:45! Of course, the Boardwalk along the Beach and Yacht Club here is where the “you’re almost there!”s started. Oof. I must have heard it a dozen times before even getting into Epcot. Seriously, folks, don’t say this if the finish line isn’t within eyesight.

As we turned into the World Showcase, I knew the 25th mile marker was just on the other side of the UK Pavilion as we crossed into France. I lapped my watch for a 7:29 mile here and told myself it was just 1.2 to go.

The countries ticked off as we traveled around the world on our way to Mexico and then into Futureworld. The final bit. As we passed under Spaceship Earth, I looked for the 26th mile marker and lapped my watch for a 7:21. I was shocked I had just run my fastest mile of the day with how I was feeling for the last couple of miles.

Epcot Futureworld

Futureworld! So close!

We exited the park and there was the beautiful finish line staring me down. I heard my name called by the announcers and then sailed across the finish line.

3:43:29!

Post race

Last year, I dry-heaved at the finish and thought I was going to throw up for the last 10k. The year before, I thought I was going to shit my pants for the last 10k and thought it was all going to come out the moment I stopped running. This year, I didn’t feel either. I had to poop, but it wasn’t an emergency…yet. Whew!

I collected my marathon, Dopey, Goofy, and half marathon medals (runners of the challenges got their half medal here) and then stopped for some photos before hopping on a bus back to the resort. Now, my body has collected itself a little and that poop was ready to come out. I barely got back to the room in time. It was a real photo finish!

I look like a mess, but I’m pretty happy here.

Chip'n'Dale!

Chip’n’Dale!

After I got in the shower, I was dismayed to find out that I had forgotten to put Body Glide on my lower back to protect from my shorts’ waistband. Oiselle’s Distance Shorts are great for marathons because of their three pockets, but their waistband will fuck you up if you’re not careful. While I did put Body Glide on my thighs, I had also forgotten to do under my bra, but that somehow escaped unscathed.

That night, we met up with the We Are Awesome Runner Friends group at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge where we pigged out on delicious food and PRed in milkshakes. And Lauren drank two liters of Diet Coke.

This is a lot of meat. Yikes!

It was Patrick’s birthday!

Final thoughts

I’m really, really happy with my time for this race. Not only was this a 16.5 minute course record for me, but I negative split by 15 minutes. And this is my second fastest marathon since transitioning. If I hadn’t run Chicago back in October, this would have been a PR.

I had a lot of fun with Dopey this year. While doing four races over four days that all start at 5:30am is stressful, these races are a lot of fun and really enjoyable.

First, you bite your pretzel…

…then you drink your beer!

Finally, one additional change that Disney made this year was to start using their own photographers for race photos. No more MarathonFoto. The great part about this is it enables you to add them to your Disney PhotoPass and they start showing up pretty quickly after the race. My guess is Disney is using a lot of facial recognition software here to pull this off, which also explains how I have some photos where you can’t see my bib at all. But the best part about this change is that Annual Passholders get their PhotoPass photos for free so FREE RACE PHOTOS!

Finally finally, I ran the entire Dopey Challenge, all 48.6 miles, with my phone in my hand. I don’t typically run with it and being an iPhone 7 Plus, it’s too big for any pockets so it had to stay in my hand. Anyway, it wasn’t an issue at all until two hours after the marathon when it fell out of my jacket pocket and the screen cracked. ACK!

Wait, one more finally! I really loved the medals from the races this year. The retro style of the marathon and half marathon medals was fantastic!

2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge medals

These are good medals!

And when you’ve run 48.6 miles, you get as much ice cream as you want! Gimme that Dole Whip!

3

2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – DIY half marathon

This is post two of three for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. Checkout my recap for the expo, 5k, and 10k here.

No disappointment here!

So this was the weird day of this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. We’d been watching the weather all week and knew it was going to be rainy. I don’t mind running in the rain if it’s not too cold, but thunderstorms were in the forecast, which…is a problem. runDisney had been sending out tweets that they were monitoring the forecast and would make a decision accordingly. We all had our fingers crossed that the thunderstorms would miss us or the timing would work out.

Unfortunately, at around 7:30 on Friday night, runDisney put up a post on Facebook stating “out of an abundance of caution” they were deciding to cancel the half marathon. I was shocked. As far as I know, they’ve never had to cancel a race before and it felt really early to be making that call. I understood their decision, but I didn’t have to like it!

I was literally snapping this Flat Amy pic when I got the cancelation notification!

Everyone was bummed. Twitter and Facebook immediately went crazy with people reacting. In the end, runDisney made the right decision. They had to think of the fact that they wouldn’t be able to evacuate all of the runners from the course if there was lightning in the area and also about their volunteers setting up throughout the night. As it turned out, it did lightning in the area throughout the night and continued well into the morning. It was the right call.

I have to give runDisney a lot of credit for how generous they were. Runners were offered refunds in the form of Disney gift cards, park tickets, entry into another runDisney race, or the option to run the full marathon the next day. Surprisingly 1,500 runners took that option! Dopey and Goofy runners are getting automatic refunds via electronic gift cards. And everyone got/gets their medals.

Still, many of us came to run and I didn’t feel right taking a medal for a race I didn’t run or taking Dopey and Goofy medals when I didn’t do the full challenge. This where things actually started to get fun. People started making all kinds of plans to run on their own. Some woke up at the same time they would have otherwise, others opted for a little extra sleep first. At first, doing laps around resorts sounded like it was going to be kinda miserable, but I’m stubborn and wanted to take part.

The half was the one race Danielle was planning on running so she still wanted to run too. We slept into just a little since we could and then got out there for our own half marathon. We were staying at the Yacht Club which is one of the Crescent Lake resorts so pulling this off was really easy. We did laps around the Boardwalk and out and back to Hollywood Studios. Each lap was just about 2 miles and quite scenic.

Just doing our thing!

When we got outside, there were already a bunch of other runners and the number of them just kept increasing throughout our run. Many even had their bibs on! It was amazing and there was so much camaraderie among everyone. Having that many people out there running at the same time almost made it feel like it was still a race! Some people even came out to cheer! At other resorts, people started setting up water and aid stops for runners.

Throughout the run, there was lightning that we could see in the distance, but it was never right over us. The good thing about where we were running was we had shelter most of the way that we could have ducked into if we needed. The rain held out for most of our run until about ten miles in, but it was so humid and warm out that it felt great! At one point, we got a pretty decent downpour going and it was probably my favorite thing ever!

Figured that the day that was 70º in the morning was the day the race got canceled.

We ended up doing our DIY half marathon in 2:00:29 and finished right at the lighthouse with huge smiles on our faces! It was an incredible experience, possibly even more fun than the actual race would have been. I’m so glad we decided to go out there and do it. By the time we were done, I had a huge smile and zero disappointment about the race being canceled.

All done! We perfectly nailed it so we finished exactly here.

7

2017 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge – pre-race, expo, 5k, and 10k

What better way to start off a new year than with a weekend full of racing in Disney? For the second year in a row, I ran the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. It’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over the course of four days. And it’s a fantastic and wild event! After last year, I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore. It wasn’t because of the running, it was the walking up at 3:30am four days in a row thing. Yet, here we are.

Training

My training was, as has been trend for the last few years, not great. I ran an amazing marathon in Chicago in October, but then have been plagued with near-injury stuff since then. I was able to keep just enough fitness through the last few months to feel confident going in that I’d be fine to finish, but not enough to be feeling good.

The longest run I’d done since Chicago was a 15-miler in early November. And then I DNSed both the Philly Half Marathon and Philly Marathon because of my ankle. Since then, my longest run was just 13 miles and my ankle has been hurting off and on.

Expo

Danielle and I woke up at balls o’clock in the morning for a flight down to Orlando on Wednesday. With all the early nights you have because of the races, you need to maximize your time down there so we always take an early flight. After we hopped off Disney’s Magical Express and checked in at the Yacht Club, we got right on a bus over to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo.

When we rolled up, it was a MADHOUSE! There were swarms of people and it was totally unorganized. The expo for Marathon Weekend is always a little crazy, but this was the worst we’d ever seen. The line just to get into the building to pick up our race bigs was queued back and forth on itself a few times. Luckily this went quickly. Unfortunately, the line to get into the Jostens Center, where the actual exhibitor booths and pick up for the half marathon shirts are was even worse. It wasn’t organized at all. For a place that deals heavily with queue management, Disney really didn’t do a good job here.

Once we finally got into the expo, we did a quick lap and then got the heck outta there. Though, on our way out, we did run into my friend Julie who wasn’t just running her first Dopey, but her first marathon ever!

5k

The morning started off with a 3:30am alarm that I wasn’t ready for at all. I just wanted to sleep forever. But I dragged myself out of bed and threw on the clothes I had laid out the night before. We were sharing a room with our friend Ellen who was also doing Dopey for the trip so her and I got our stuff together and headed off to the bus.

5k Flat Amy

The nice thing about the 5k and 10k is the start is a lot more sane than the other races. You start near where the pre-race staging area and bag check are, rather than a 15 minute walk away like the half marathon and marathon. This lets you get there a little later.

It was chilly out. Not so much by my standards for running, but for Florida. I still wore a tank top and shorts, but I’m used to being able to just walk out my door and start running, not having to wait around for and hour and a half before running.

Love these people!

We met up with a bunch of my friends from the We Are Awesome Runner Friends Facebook group and took the first of our group photos before heading off to the corrals. My friend Nathan and I waited too long to go into the A corral and almost didn’t make it. They were closing it off as we were walking up and then forced us run to catch up to the back of the corral, which had already been walked up to the starting line. It seemed unnecessary to make us run to catch up considering there was still 20 minutes before the start, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Anyway, I was fine with starting in the very back of the corral as I wanted to run nice and slow, but Nathan’s coach wanted him to tempo the race.

Disney World 5k starting line

The starting line

The 5k started with “mini waves” which is something I’ve never seen in a race before. Rather than just let each wave go, they broke them up into smaller groups. Part of the corral would go, then two minutes later, another part, and so on. Our corral was broken into three mini waves. It sounds confusing and awful, but it was actually really nice. We were spaced out a lot more on the course and the start-of-the-race stampede was greatly reduced.

So much happy

I kept things nice and easy. I had no desire to push myself hard right off the bat. At about the halfway point, right after we got into the World Showcase in Epcot, I caught up to my friend Jeff and we ended up running the rest of the race together while chatting it up about running and races.

Maybe a little exuberant for a 5k finish, but it’s Disney World!

I crossed the finish line right at 29:00 on the dot, grabbed my medal, and made my way over to the bus. The medals this year were surprisingly nice. In the past, the 5k medals were a rubbery plastic, but this year they were actually medal. A nice little surprise!

2017 Walt Disney World Marathon 5k medal

Quality medal!

10k

Friday morning started off much the same. We didn’t leave quite as early so we had less time to wait around. But there was a bus waiting for us when we walked outside so we still ended up at the starting area nice and early. We took another group pic and then we headed off to the corrals again. This time, we didn’t cut it as close with the closing of the corrals!

10k Flat Amy

Patrick was a playing card! No idea how he ran in that!

I had walked over to the corral with Nathan and Aimee from our group and we hung out in the back of the corral before the start. When the race started, we stuck together for the first two miles, while passing Jeff along the way. After that, I pulled back a little and let them go on ahead. Again, without the training under my belt for Dopey, I didn’t want to push it.

Classic Amy face!

More Classic Amy

Amelia Gapin and Pluto at 2017 Walt Disney World 10k

Pluto!

I kept things nice and comfortable and had some fun. The race was over before I even knew it! I kind of regret not stopping for many photos, but I was running nice and comfortably and just wanted to keep my rhythm. I cruised across the finish line with a 56:26.

After the race, I waited in a loooong line to get a photo with Dopey and then sprinted off to just barely make it on a bus before it pulled away.

All-in-all, the days 0-2 of the Dopey Challenge were relatively uneventful and low key. Not bad!

Amelia Gapin with Dopey

Hanging with Dopey!

14

2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

Look at all these medals!

Look at all these medals!

I’m going to try to do a recap of all of the runDisney Dopey Challenge in a single post here. We’ll see how this goes, but I’ll try to keep it short.

This was my first time doing the Dopey Challenge–if you’re not familiar, it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon over four days in Disney World. I’d done the Goofy Challenge, just the half marathon and marathon part, three previous times and the half marathon by itself once before that. So I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going it.

Training

My training was pretty weak, much like how most of 2015 was. Looking back, it was much better than my training was for the 2015 Goofy Challenge, but I came into this race with 300 fewer miles in 2015 than I ran in 2014. While my training was short (we’ll call it nine weeks) and overall mileage was much lower than I’d like, if you just looked at the last two weeks, you’d think I was in good shape. My peak week was 52 miles with an unplanned-but-totally-felt-amazing 20-miler. This is what I held onto going into the race, knowing that I felt great running 20 miles when I had planned 15. Not to mention that last year’s Goofy Challenge went really well with less training so I was feeling like I’d at least have fun and not struggle too much. I mean, with this being my eight marathon and my goal being “have fun,” I felt like i had the experience and attitude to overcome short training.

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is my weekly mileage in the second half of 2015, ending with the week including the Dopey Challenge. Not sure why DailyMile split the week spanning 2015 and 2016 into two bars on the graph, but weeks 53 and 1 are the same week. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Pre-races

I made the trip down to Disney with my wife and our friend, Ellen. We flew down on Wednesday and promptly went to the expo. We didn’t actually spend much time there because we wanted to get a little Magic Kingdom time in before calling it an early night.

5k – 27:39

Because the 5k starts a little later than the other races–6am, as opposed to 5:30am–we got to “sleep in” a little until 3:45 before getting up to head to the buses. Unfortunately, there was a major bus issue and we waited for over 40 minutes for any bus to come at all. Still, we had plenty of time, but it was definitely annoying!

Flat Amy for the 5k

Flat Amy for the 5k

Ellen and I quickly hit the porta-potties and then hopped in the corral. Before we knew it, the race was off!

Knowing it was just the first of four races, we kept things nice and easy and just had fun with it. It was over in the blink of an eye!

Before the 5k with Ellen

Before the 5k with Ellen

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10k – 57:36

My wife joined Ellen and I for the 10k with our slightly earlier wake up time of 3:30. Other than a slightly earlier wake up, our morning was much the same as the 5k was. While waiting in the corral, an old radio station friend, Jaclyn, found us to say hi. I hadn’t seen her in probably close to a decade at this point, many many years before I even thought about transitioning, so it was nice to see her.

Flat Amy for the 10k

Flat Amy for the 10k

Once the race was off, Ellen and Danielle (my wife) took off and left me behind. I didn’t mind too much, I just was going to do my own thing. But after a minute or two, I found myself right next to Ellen again. My wife was no where to be found. It turns out that she ran an accidental PR and was 29th overall and 5th in her age group. Typical.

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

Before the half marathon with Danielle!

The 10k really wasn’t much different than the 5k except for the fact it was raining a bit. Nothing too bad, though. Besides, I love running in the rain! For real, it’s my favorite.

Wet.

Wet.

With about a half mile left, we passed Phineas and Ferb and you KNOW I had to get a photo with them. Ellen kept on running and after two other runners rudely cut me in line before I could get my photo, I took off at a 6:15 min/mile or so pace to catch up to Ellen before the finish line. Probably not the smartest thing to do.

Phineas and Ferb!

Phineas and Ferb!

And almost as quickly as the 5k was over, so was the 10k! I had planned a 60-minute even 10k, but ended up running a bit faster and finished with a 57:36, which was still well within my “taking it real slow and easy” range.416807_216760450_XLarge

After the race, I showered and ran over to the Boardwalk for a meetup with Lauren, Patrick, Nathan, Amanda, and a few others.

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Eat Up Tweet Up!

Through the afternoon, my calves were feeling really tight. While I attributed this to just being on my feet a lot while in the parks, I was pretty worried about it and tried to rest them as much as possible throughout the day. We called it a day pretty early, around 6:30 or so, and I spent some time stretching, foam rolling, and ice bathing my legs to make sure they’d be good to go for the half marathon. Even with all of that, I was able to get to bed by 8:30!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Ice bath! Brrrr!

Half Marathon – 2:14:02

Waking up at 3:15, my legs felt a little better. They were nowhere near where I wanted them to be, but there was some improvement. The weather was warm, around 60º and very humid, 100%. I met up with a few of my #runchat friends before getting in the corral, but I was a little nervous about how tight my legs were feeling.

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Half Marathon Flat Amy

Ellen, Danielle, and I all started in the corral together, but as soon as the race started, we got separated. They were off and I was left behind on my own. I didn’t mind too much as I prefer to run alone, but I would have preferred to plan that from the start so I could have started in my own corral and had slightly shorter waits for photos.

Fireworks to start the race!

Fireworks to start the race!

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Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom!

Tomorrowland!

Tomorrowland!

My plan for the half was to take it extra, extra slow. I stopped for a quick pee break in the first mile and then just took photos and had a good time. At one point around mile three, I had almost caught up to Danielle and Ellen. I was maybe 20-30 feet back from them, but then I saw Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph and needed to get my Sugar Rush on a photo with them. The line was super long though and I waited for a solid five minutes. Still, it was worth it!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

Vanellope and Wreck-It Ralph!

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It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

It was SO foggy all race. I promise you Spaceship Earth is behind me here!

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Serious high five at the finish!

Most of the rest of the race went by uneventfully. I kept things slow and easy and took a bunch of photos. I just had a lot of fun with it. I took water and ate a gel, two things I don’t normally do in a half marathon, but I wanted to help my body get through and be ready for the marathon. When the race was over, I was so soaked in sweat that I could wring my tank top out four or five times and water still poured out of it like it had be dunked in a bucket of water.416807_217027044_XLarge

After the race, I tried to follow the same course of action as the previous day, rest my legs as much as possible. We had dinner at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios–I had a beer, which is something I’ve never done the night before a marathon. After dinner, it was pouring rain, but we still walked all the way back to Beach Club, where we were staying. With my calves being a worry, this wasn’t the smartest idea, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As soon as we stepped foot out of the park, I took my sandals off and walked the rest of the 1.3 miles back barefoot in the rain. It actually felt great! I really enjoy feeling the ground on my bare feet.

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

I looked ridiculous after the half marathon

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

Like, really, I looked ridiculous

When we got to the room, I followed the same routine as the night before, stretching, foam rolling, and ice-bathing. Got to bed around 8:30 again. Perfect!

Marathon – 3:59:51

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

Walt Disney World Marathon Flat Amy

We went with another 3:15am wakeup, but I felt great when I woke up. My legs were feeling good and I was awake. The weather was about the same as it was for the half, but without all the fog. Danielle wasn’t running the marathon so Ellen and I quickly got dressed and made our way to the bus. I, again, met up with a few #runchat friends before the race, which was a little too much energy for Ellen, she headed off to the corral early. I got a huge hug from Lauren Bailey…twice! And I made sure to photobomb my friends Erin and Katherine (thanks Christina for making sure I got in it!).

When I got in my corral, I was lined up just behind the 3:45 pacer, a little fast for the level of training I put in and being the day after a half marathon. And that gets me to my race plan, I should probably tell you about that because it was a really good race plan for the training I had and for being the last day of Dopey. I planned a 4:30 finish, taking water at every stop in the first half and Powerade at every stop in the second half, gels every five miles, walking all hills and water stops, and taking all the photos. And, of course, not pooping my pants like I was 100% sure was going to happen last year. So that’s a pretty good plan going into a race as I was and I had been planning that for a couple months. Well, because Race Amy thought she was SOOOOO much smarter than Last Couple of Months Amy, I told a perfectly good race plan to go fuck itself for no reason whatsoever. I stood there in my corral and revised my plan to be no walking and 4:15 or better. Because I’m smart. Yup. </sarcasm>416807_217458443_XLarge

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Totally taken before I was ready!

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When the race started, I tried to still keep some control over my pace. I was in the C corral so I wasn’t exactly surrounded with slow runners. I let them pass me and kept on a reasonable pace for my new 4:15 goal. As soon as I started running, my legs went from feeling good to feeling like crap, though. Figures.

I kept things steady and just enjoyed myself–the theme of the whole weekend. I took some photos here and there, but didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for anything.

Going through Magic Kingdom, I was feeling okay and running a little ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed the course changes to include New Fantasyland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.416807_217945231_XLarge

With Disney World Speedway not existing anymore (I can’t believe how quickly that tore that thing out of there!), the trip from Magic to Animal Kingdom was back to the way it used to be prior to the 20th anniversary course changes. I actually didn’t mind the removal of the Speedway from the course, but it would have been nice to have something else in its place to break it up a little besides an additional out-and-back down a random road. Also, the relocation of the RVers messed me up a little. They’re one of my favorite parts of the marathon and I was keeping an eye out for them to take my annual selfie with them.

Again taken before I was ready!

Again taken before I was ready!

I was feeling good when I got to Animal Kingdom and, as I crossed the halfway mark, I was ready to take on the second half. I hit 13.1 at 2:03:52, way ahead of schedule for 4:15. So, I decided, “fuck it, I’m going for sub-4.” Because, again, I’m smart. I started doing some math in my head on how to run the second half in a 1:56 and then started slowly taking my pace down into the mid-8s. I also started taking Powerade at water stops from here on out.416807_217583363_XLarge

I was pretty damn sweaty at this point. I didn’t feel dehydrated, but my clothes were dripping sweat. When I stopped at the graveyard for a photo, I wasted close to a full minute trying to unlock my phone and, eventually, gave up. I was just too sweaty. So sweaty, in fact, that that was the last time I ever saw my phone’s screen turn on. More on that later.

Definitely my favorite photo!

Definitely my favorite photo!

The graveyard photo op was the spot last year where I decided to stop holding back and just let myself go and it felt like a good place to start thinking about the same this year. There were still 12 miles to go, so I couldn’t just let it all go, but I didn’t feel like I needed to be in conserve mode anymore.

I grabbed a gel at mile 15.4 where they were handing them out. I had taken my 0, 5, 10 mile ones on plan, but had held off the 15-mile one. I ended up not finishing this one, my stomach actually wasn’t into it, despite it being my preferred flavor and brand. I didn’t take another gel after this and only took Powerade every other stop.416807_217586448_XLarge

Heading towards ESPN Wide World of Sports and the 17th mile marker, I was starting to feel it a bit. I was still okay, but I was not looking forward to the three miles in Wide World of Sports, which are full of turns and generally feel like eternity. Though, I did end up slightly picking up the pace in here. I also took a banana, but tossed it after one disgusting bite. I hate bananas.

This looks like a baseball card photo!

This looks like a baseball card photo!

I got my name called in the baseball stadium which was nice and got this amazing photo of me looking like I belong on a baseball card. I hit mile 20 on my way out of ESPN and did some mental math, I had 55 minutes to go 10k for a sub-4 finish. Basically, I just had to keep the pace I’d been running and I’d be good. It was time to head to Hollywood Studios!416807_217535962_XLarge

As I started into the big banked onramp where the Toy Story army men like to hang out (in between the 21st and 22nd mile markers), I was starting to feel real tired, but I knew what was ahead of me: the energy and crowds of Hollywood Studios, the walkway to Epcot, and then the World Showcase. I had this.

Unfortunately, my stomach wasn’t feeling super awesome. I knew I was going to be dealing with some nausea for the rest of the race, but I wanted to just stay as strong as long as I could. Miles 22 and 23 were my fastest at 8:07 and 8:10, but my stomach was getting worse and my legs were starting to get pretty tired and sore. I don’t typically have stomach issues while racing, but I have had them before so I knew what the last few miles were going to be like. I knew I was going to have to slow it down a bit and was hoping I’d picked up enough time to still stay under four hours, but I was already starting to feel like I was going to have to let it go…not unlike Elsa.416807_217663099_XLarge

As I came out of Hollywood Studios, I knew my nausea was only going to get worse, but it wasn’t too much farther to go. I crossed the bridge from Boardwalk over to Yacht Club and knew I’d be coming up on where my wife was cheering soon, but I needed a short walk break for my stomach. I was really trying to hold it down. I started running again after a few seconds and passed my wife right where she said she’d be on a bench in front of Beach Club. As I ran by, I yelled “Ice bath! Ice bath! Ice bath!” Channeling my inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (you know, when he yells “Sandlot! Sandlot! Sandlot!” at the end of the movie while running from The Beast). I really wanted that ice bath. <- Never though that’d be a sentence I’d say!

After I rounded the corner into the back of the World Showcase in Epcot, I knew it was going to be a fight for that sub-4 finish. I was down to a run/walk thing to deal with the nausea and eventually gave in and realized I’d be more like a 4:01 or so. I was doing the math and looking at the clock and knew I was losing too much time with the walking.

When I rounded my way out of the World Showcase and into Futureworld, I was determined to run the rest of the way. I knew I had a fighting chance to go sub-4. Then…I took my final walk break just after passing Spaceship Earth and accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen. <Judi Dench> Or so I thought…</Judi Dench> something came over me and I decided I was going to run the rest of the way as fast as my legs would go even if I threw up all over myself. I picked it up and made a break for it. I knew it was going to be a buzzer-beater and, when I got within sight of the clock, I gave it everything I had left. I couldn’t believe it, but I snuck in at 3:59:51! Not bad! I also stopped immediately and bent over about to throw up. A volunteer came running over to help me to the side and held a bag for me, but I ended up keeping everything down.416807_217774363_XLarge

I had SO much fun with this race! I feel like I always do. Unfortunately, I took my phone-which was in a plastic bag-out of my pocket to tweet about my great race only to find that the screen wouldn’t turn on. I sweat so much that I shorted out my phone…not the first time I’ve done this. So I spent the next three days in Disney World with no phone.416807_217927185_XLarge

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I really couldn’t be happier about going sub-4 for this race. That’s my third fastest marathon since transitioning and my fastest Disney Marathon by 24 minutes. I’m also now four-for-four with negative splitting this race. If only I could do that in any other marathon!

Look, after you've done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Look, after you’ve done the Dopey Challenge, a Road Mickey is necessary

Overall thoughts

Dopey was great! I had a lot of fun and found it really not that hard to do all the races. However, I don’t know that I’d do it again. It wasn’t the running. The running was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. Dopey is just tough logistically. It’s a lot of extra running stuff to pack (two pairs of running shoes instead of one, etc), a lot of early nights and early wakeup, and a lot of saving your legs instead of enjoying Disney World.

I was really pissed about my phone. Not so much because of the cost to replace it when I got home, but more because I just didn’t have it for taking photos and I felt super disconnected and helpless for the rest of my trip. I also ended up losing some great shots from the first half of the marathon: a selfie with Mr Skellington, my selfie with the RVers, the turtle with a race bib outside of Animal Kingdom, and the starting fireworks.

14

Motivation is tough, a running update

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

Accidental twinning with the wife for our run together

There are currently 54 days until the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and I couldn’t be more excited to take on the Dopey Challenge for the first time. I’ve done the Goofy Challenge, a half marathon and marathon on two consecutive days, three times, but Dopey ups the ante by also throwing a 5k and 10k into the mix.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be going into this weekend not really prepared for the races I’ll be lining up for. Much of this year has mirrored last year for me with running ups and downs, mostly downs from May on, so I certainly won’t be going into this race after crushing a few 60-mile weeks. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a couple 45-mile weeks in, but even that will need to be done carefully since I haven’t been running high-mileage since May.

Last year, the races went much better than expected and I had a lot of fun. Most of this was due to smart race-day strategy and not caring about time. I’m weary of expecting the same outcome this year, but I can be hopeful and use the time between now and then to put in as much work as I can.

I’m starting to get myself pulled back out of my latest-in-a-string-of-many ruts, but motivation is still tough. Yes, I love running itself, with or without races. My mental health needs it. Still, that’s rarely enough to just roll yourself out of bed at 5:30am for a pre-work run. That said, in the last couple weeks, I’ve been able to get my body back on track for the early wakeups and I’m back to pre-work 8-milers–one of my measures for how running is going. I’ve got a few strong weeks of running going now and I’m starting to feel great again.

But this is kind of where things get a little weird this time around.

Typically, I have a loose plan in my head for multiple races down the line. My upcoming race is first priority, but I always have an answer to “where will I go from there?” Things almost always change, but no race is ever the finish line, it’s just another mile marker. Even goal races and PRs are mile markers. They’re not an end goal, just a part of the journey. Qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon? More mile markers. I’ve got sooooo many plans and running goals for after that!

Normally, I’d have plans for where I go after this race for added motivation to keep up the hard work. Everything builds on top of what you’ve done and my next race or two should build upon training for this race. That’s typically the plan, before reality and life get in the way, at least.

The problem right now is there are no plans after Dopey. There can’t be plans. After this race, I’ll out from running for anywhere from six to sixteen weeks. No running at all. Nope. None. Insert puke emoji here. This period of time is going to be real rough for my mental…and physical health. Depending on where in that range I come back, I might be starting from basically zero. Even at the short end, I’ll have lost just about anything I do leading up to Dopey.

manhattan sunrise

I’ll miss the view on my morning runs while I’m out

While I have some hopes for what I’ll be able to do by the end of 2016, that’s all they are right now, hopes. I can’t plan anything because I don’t know how long I’ll be out. Will I be able to race a fall marathon? Will I be able to run a fall marathon at all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m basically going into a black hole.

Coming back to the present, this makes it hard to really push myself now for Dopey. This isn’t a foundation to build upon, it’s kind of just it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get myself on track, but on those mornings when it’s really hard to get myself up to run, what will be the motivation? Even injury prevention is kind of moot at this point. Insert another puke emoji here.

Both last year and this year were rough for running, but I think I’ve got a bit of a handle on what caused that and I really believe I’ll come back super strong late next year, but there’s little I can do now to affect that and it’s kind of driving me nuts.