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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.

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.

10

2015 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

I can’t remember the last time I was this unprepared to run a race. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been this unprepared, to be honest. Since early July, the longest I had run had been 13.1 miles. For months, I’d run anywhere from 10 to 25 miles a week and recently I started throwing in spin class once a week. That’s just enough to be prepared for a half marathon, but not enough to actually earn a solid time. It’s certainly not enough to run a marathon. And it’s definitely not enough to run a half marathon and a marathon on back-to-back days.

So what does one do when they’re not anywhere near where they should be to complete a half marathon and a marathon in the same weekend? They do the runDisney Goofy Challenge. That’s what.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Flat Amy ready to go!

Flat Amy ready to go!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon morning started much like most runDisney races do for me. I cursed my alarm clock at 3am and rolled myself out of bed and into my race day clothes. I shoved a Picky Bar in my mouth, grabbed my apple slices from the fridge, and made my way out the door to catch a 3:45 bus down to the starting area.

Once I got there, I quickly met up with my friend Danielle who was conquering not only her first Goofy, but also her first marathon. We chatted for a bit and then I dropped my bag off and bumped into my Twitter buddies Heather and Nathan who were doing something even dumber than me, the Dopey Challenge–add a 5k and a 10k onto the half marathon and marathon. After a few minutes of standing around in the the cold, it was time to get into my corral and be prepared for the nice and early 5:35am start.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Waiting around for the start!

Time went by surprisingly quickly in the corral and then it was time to go–in typical runDisney fashion with fireworks, of course. Knowing that I really had no business running a marathon the next day, I knew I’d have to take the race extra easy. I set my goal at an easy 2:15 so I could just take my time, take some photos, and have fun. The few 13.1 milers I’ve done in “training” recently were all around 1:57 without too much effort so I knew this shouldn’t be too hard on my legs.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon start

Gotta love runDisney starts!

Less than a mile into the race, I stopped at a bank of porta-potties to let out a quick pee that I’d been holding. From there, I stopped quickly for a photo here and there, but just kept my pace nice and easy.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Stilts.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Main Street Magic Kingdom

Main Street USA

Somewhere before the 5k mark, I ran into my friend Melody who was doing Dopey. She had a faster goal in mind than I did and, though she had started a corral back from me, had caught up and recognized me from behind. We ran together all the way to Magic Kingdom and down Main Street before I lost her after I stopped to take a quick photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Cinderella's Castle

What up, Cindy!

By this point, I had picked up my pace a little from where I was, something I would continue to do throughout the race, but I was feeling fine as we made our way through Tomorrowland and into Fantasyland. After running through Cindy’s castle–which had been taken over by Anna and Elsa–I stopped for another photo in front of the castle, this time with one of the official race photographers.

Making my way around to the sixth mile marker and then out of the back of the park next to Splash Mountain, I was simply enjoying things and having fun. Except for the last mile, the rest of the race is kind of boring from here. You’re on back roads between Magic Kingdom and Epcot and there isn’t a ton going on. There is a bit of entertainment, but not quite enough for this stretch. Though, there was a DJ playing “Shake It Off” on repeat which made me think about great this song still is.

Somewhere around mile nine, I ran into Patrick, whom I had just met at Wine & Dine two months ago. We ran together for a bit before I pulled my pace back a bit to save energy for the next day. From there to the finish was pretty uneventful. I kept it steady and cruised in for a 2:08:07 finish. A bit faster than planned, but it happens.

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Phineas and Ferb

Best race photo EVER!

After the race, I quickly hopped on a bus back to the resort to get ready for the day in the parks. I wanted to get right out there so I wouldn’t have to feel bad about making it an early night.

Walt Disney World Marathon

Marathon outfit

Marathon outfit

Marathon morning started off similar to the day before. Though, as I started to spread the peanut butter I brought with my onto my bagel, I noticed it had expired months ago so the peanut butter and half my bagel went right into the trash. This left me with less pre-race nutrition than I would have liked. I ended up with half a plain bagel, some apple slices, a Larabar, and a Cliff Shots gel. Could be worse, but still not ideal.

My real worry was that I was somehow sore from the day before. Not terribly sore, but I felt it in my quads. Sure, I wasn’t really trained for a marathon, but I shouldn’t have been sore from a half marathon ten minutes slower than the 13.1 milers I’d been doing every week without pushing myself. It wasn’t enough to make me think I should pull a DNS, but it was enough to have me concerned.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon start

Some more fireworks to start off day two!

This time when the race started, I made sure to pull it back even more on the pace and I, again, stopped inside the first mile to pee. Given my soreness at the start, I decided I would walk all hills and walk through each water stop. And since the weather was going to get up into the 70s, I planned to take water at every stop anyway. My goal was to, at worst, get to the halfway point before falling back to a run/walk effort and, at best, make it to mile sixteen before that happened. I fully expected a lot of walking in the last third of the race. I figured shooting for a 5:00 finish gave me plenty of time to walk as much as I needed in the second half of the race.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope

Glitchin’ with Vanellope!

I stuck to this plan pretty well, but my pace was a lot faster than planned. Even with all my photo stops, through the first third of the race, I was keeping about a 10:35 min/mile average which was about as slow as I could get my legs to go at the time. The problem was I was kind of having a blast out there. I was just having fun and not worrying about much. Okay, that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that I kind of had to poop…and was starting to feel some thigh chafing show up.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Magic Kingdom

Oh, hey, Magic Kingdom

As we made our way into the Speedway after Magic Kingdom, I started eying up the porta-potties. I didn’t want to have to do it, but I knew what needed to be done and went for it. I think I lost about three minutes or so in there. After that was taken care of, I stopped at the next aid station to throw some vaseline between my legs to ward off the chafing. Despite both of these things, I was having all kinds of fun out there. I had a HUGE smile on my face and couldn’t stop feeling totally in love with running.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

My favorite RVers!!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Quick little jamboree! And, yes, that is indeed vaseline on my camera lens.

Finally, the temperature started to rise a bit more and I broke out into a heavy enough sweat for my thighs to be able to keep themselves all lubed up and free from chafing. And it was around that time we started to make our way into Animal Kingdom. The fun thing about starting a race sore is you completely lose all ability to accurately judge how your legs are holding up through things. I hadn’t run an inch of the race without feeling at least some soreness and things had only gotten marginally worse so I was pretty happy with where I was. In fact, I was otherwise feeling really good.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

I made a very cute friend on my way into Animal Kingdom!

We ran through Animal Kingdom and as we passed the halfway part of the race Samwise Gamgee passed me on left. Not someone dressed like him, it was Sean Astin. This was my second runDisney event I’d run with him (not with him; you know what I mean). The first was the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland back in 2013. Though, that time I passed him. He ran just in front of me for a few seconds and then stopped to walk and I never saw him again.

Anyway, like I said, I was feeling pretty good and my pace was slowly picking up. I was pretty much in heaven…which isn’t exactly where you’d expect someone in my situation going into the race to be. I had about 18 minutes banked for the second half of the race to keep under 5:00.

After passing the fourteenth mile marker, I got up to the graveyard photo op and just had to go for it this year. I waited in a line as about ten runners ahead of me took their photos and probably lost a good two or three minutes, but I didn’t care, my photo was great and totally worth it!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 14 just KILLED me!

I was afraid that laying down on the ground to take the photo would be the end of me. After standing there for a couple minutes and then having to stand back up from the ground, I figured my legs would be done and that would be that. Instead, this is where things got weird.

I got up just fine and then, I don’t know, I just kind of started to go for it. My legs were feeling good and I was passing runner after runner. I knew I still had a lot of race ahead of me so I tried to pull back a bit, but I really just wanted to go. At mile sixteen, where I had hoped to make it before needing to walk, I was starting to really feel in my element. My pace was getting down into the low nine-minute-mile range and I stopped taking water. Oddly, I felt completely hydrated, much more so than when I started the race even.

Coming around into Wide World of Sports, I couldn’t have felt better or been happier…except for the fact that I had another poop brewing. I didn’t want to stop again, though, I was feeling too good. So I squeezed some cheek and motored on while continuing to pass runners through the narrow parts of the course in Wide World of Sports. With 10k to go, I was in the zone and kicking ass. Instead of stopping to poop like I should have, I decided to “go for it” a little more. At this point, the race was really on. What was going to come first, the finish line or my poop?

I rounded into Hollywood Studios after somehow missing the 22nd mile marker entirely and turned it on a little more. I’m running out of ways to say how good I was feeling, but I really was. My legs were saying “Go! Go! Go!”

Coming up on the 23rd marker, I did some quick math and realized at my current pace I was going to score a WDW Marathon PR. Though, I’ve only ever done WDW Marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge and, therefore, never raced it, this still seemed like a pretty big deal to me. Back at mile 20, I thought I would be close, but a minute or two over. Here, I knew I just had to keep it steady.

But I didn’t keep it steady. I picked it up some more. It’s weird, I know, but my legs were only slightly more sore than when I started the race and, somehow, not tired at all. I was at mile 23 of a marathon I shouldn’t have been running at all, I shouldn’t have been feeling good. I shouldn’t have been able to pick it up. It shouldn’t have mattered that I took the first half of the race really slow and easy. I should have been struggling. I wasn’t.

Mile 24 came in at a brisk 8:07, just a hair slower than my goal marathon pace from back in April. I flew through Hollywood Studios like I had a rocket strapped to me.

Coming down along the river behind the Boardwalk, I was doing my best to get around people in the cramped space, but I was still flying. Only problem was, I was really struggling to hold the poop in. I was squeezing my butt as tight as I could and just praying to not shit my shorts. This and the crowdedness of the course here caused me to lose a little time, but I was still putting down an 8:30 min/mile.

I don’t know why I did it, but I grabbed a Twizzler from a girl handing them out behind the Boardwalk. I took a few bites and then tossed it. Unfortunately, as I was chewing it, it slid into the back of my mouth and I started choking on it. Luckily, I was able to deal with that without having to slow down. Almost ruined everything, though!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Mile 25.5 and nothing about that smile is fake.

Coming down along by the Beach Club, I was still passing runner after runner. Some spots got a little tight and, rather than slowing down, I decided to just hop over some of the cones around the trees. I flew around into the World Showcase and would have been really flying if I didn’t have to poop so badly. Though, I was still running an 8:30 pace. At this point, I didn’t think I was going to make it to the finish without pooping my pants. I strongly debated stopping real quick, but I wanted that PR bad so I kept on squeezing. I was 100% convinced that the moment I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I was going to crap all over myself. It wasn’t going to be pretty.

Quick high-five from Mickey!

Quick high-five from Mickey!

I made my way around the World Showcase, through Futureworld, and out of the park. The finish line came into view, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it. I high-fived Mickey in my last few steps and crossed at 4:23:21, a four minute WDW Marathon PR. And, of course, my GI immediately felt better. I grabbed my medal and felt on top of the world.

After the race, my legs felt the best they ever have after a marathon. They were sore as heck, sure, but I was walking just fine and not even in the same ballpark of soreness I usually feel. The next day and the day after, I still was significantly less sore than normal.

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon and Goofy Challenge

Obligatory hardware photo.

Thoughts

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon

Seriously, happy as a clam. Not even a clam…all the clams. Every clam.

Sure, 4:23 is not a fast marathon for me when you look at my faster times, but this was a race that should have been difficult to finish at all given how much I had been running. Even though the last eight months of running really sucked for me, I still racked up 1,504 miles I 2014 and I have to believe that really came into play here.

Every marathon has a story behind it. Every one is unique. Just looking at my marathon times in chronological order can tell you that. 3:24, 4:58, 3:08, 4:27, 3:44, 3:48, and 4:23. All of these races have their own story. Different goals, different training, and different takeaways. This marathon was my third slowest, but it slapped me in the face and told me to quit my whining. It told me to get my shit together and start pushing myself for real again. It told me to believe in myself. And it reminded me of what I’m capable of.

You really have to love running to do the Goofy Challenge and I’ve struggled with that a lot for the last eight months, but I just can’t doubt that anymore. I am in love with running. After the New Jersey Marathon last year, I wrote about what I learned from that race and I wrote about how much I love the marathon. This race reminded me that I just simply love running too. I couldn’t have had a better and more fun time out there running it. I had a huge smile the whole time and loved every second of it. I only wanted it to end because of the whole poop situation. Otherwise, I was in heaven.

I’m not making any definite plans yet for this year, but I want to get out there and get my shit together again. I want to work hard. I want 3:30 to be a reasonable marathon goal again.

0

2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Marathon – 4:27:06 (pre-HRT)

The full marathon, all four Walt Disney World parks, the most magical of marathons and the middle and last thirds of the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge. And with 2013 marking the 20th running of the Walt Disney World Marathon, things were extra special! There was even a new course to enjoy!

After the half marathon the day before, I made sure to keep things easy on my body. I ate plenty of carbs, drank plenty of water, and made it a short day in Epcot. Though, we decided to make an unplanned trip back to the race expo. With my wife’s issues with her foot we thought maybe giving some KT Tape a shot might help. Since they were taping people up for free, we figured even if she didn’t wear it for the race, she could wear it for the rest of the day. I even decided to get my arches taped as well since they can be problematic for me from time to time. I also wanted to get a new shirt to wear for the race. Normally, I’m a very big stickler for the nothing new on race day rule, but with the temperature breaking 80 with 100% humidity again, I wanted a cooler (and lighter colored) shirt than I had brought with me to wear. I was hoping to grab a 2013 Goofy Challenge technical shirt, but they were all out of my size so I opted for “just” a marathon one. I made sure to give it a once over to check for any possible problem spots for chaffing, but everything looked good!

With marathon day starting at 2:15 am, just like half marathon day, it was important to get into bed early and get plenty of rest. I didn’t mess around with this and made sure to be in bed before 8pm again. When the alarm went off, I was ready to hop out of bed and get started with the pre-race routine. I looked over at my wife and asked her how her foot was doing, to which I received the surprising response of her saying it felt totally fine. Go figure. We quickly got ready and out the door to the bus for the ride over.

Since we caught a bus surprisingly quickly, we had plenty of time at the starting area to hit the bathroom and find our spot in the starting corral. With my wife still not sure about how her foot would hold up, she didn’t want to set any particular goals other than taking it easy. We decided to line up closer to the front of the corral, but not start with any pace groups.

And just like the day before, after a few blasts of fireworks, we were off!

Disney World Marathon startThe first few miles of the race were very uneventful. At first, it was mostly just dealing with the crowdedness before the runners spaced out a bit and figuring out how to best handle the banking of an early highway off-ramp. We opted to run up at the top where the ground was flatter, but that meant a bit more running overall. As we neared the second mile marker, we saw the 4:30 pace group, but didn’t make an effort to catch up to them. We just kept on with our own pace.

Just like with the half marathon, I knew it was important to take liquids at every stop so we made sure to take at least Powerade every time.

As we made our way into Magic Kingdom for my second run down Main Street, USA in as many days, we were both feeling pretty good. We were past the narrow spot where my wife got pushed last year and the crowd felt like it had thinned out a little more than in past years. As usual, Main Street was full of energy! Great early race boost!

As we made our way through Magic Kingdom, we planned to move to the right side of the course to make sure we could get some good photos coming out of the castle. Our plan worked perfectly, there were a ton of photographers on our side ready to snap us!

By the time the were on our way out of Magic Kingdom, my wife’s GI issues were starting to cause her some problems so we stopped at the next bank of porta-potties real quick. Luckily, there were about fourteen of them so there was no wait and we were off again in about three minutes.

Now it was time for the long trek to Animal Kingdom, but this year the trek was broken up. This section is usually around ten miles down back roads which can feel a bit grueling during a marathon…even with all of the entertainment on the side of the road. However, new to the course this year was a lap around the Richard Petty Driving Experience race track. Going into the race, I was a little worried about this since race tracks tend to be highly banked in the turns, but the course stayed along the inside where things were still flat. While the track wasn’t overly exciting, it was a nice way to break things up between the two Kingdoms. Unfortunately, my wife was still having GI issues and needed to make another pit stop (see what I did there?). This time, there was a short wait, but we were off again in around three minutes.

Around this point of the race I was actually starting to feel a bit fatigued and I wasn’t too happy about it one bit! We were only at mile nine! I started to question running under two hours the day before, but there wasn’t much I could do about that at this point. I was hydrated and everything, but my legs were feeling a little more tired than I wanted them to. Even though I’m a much stronger runner than I was a year ago when I did Goofy, I ran the half seventeen minutes faster and, with us on target for a 4:30 finish for the full, I was going to finish the marathon 28 minutes faster than the year before. There was really no reason to be surprised, I guess.

After another three uneventful miles, we were approaching Animal Kingdom. This year, the race gets to the park about four miles earlier so it was a slight tease, but running through the parks is the best part of the Disney World Marathon so it was a welcome sight! Of course, the parks always fly by and, just like that, we were back out onto the roads between the parks in what felt like no time. As we made our way away from Animal Kingdom, the wife and I reminisced about the horrible blister she had pop on this section of the course last year. But none of that this year, she was feeling pretty good and my legs were doing okay. I was feeling about the same as I was four or five miles back so I took that as a positive.

At this point, we were getting ready for the last change to the course, a big lap around ESPN Wide World of Sports and the special 20th mile surprise spectacular. Interestingly,  we weren’t even at the 17th mile marker when we passed the sign at the entrance to Wide World of Sports. I wondered how they were going to fit so much course back there, but I quickly found out. There was a lot of looping back and around. Eventually, we made our way onto the baseball field for a lap around the outside of the field with a big crowd cheering in the stands. Lots of energy in here, but my wife was again having problems with her GI so we stopped right after we exited the field for her to take care of things again. While she was in the porta-potty, I did some quick math to realize we were still on pace for a sub-4:30 finish if we kept the pace we had been running. My legs were feeling up to it and she was doing okay so we kept on with our pace.

As we made our way out of Wide World of Sports, we passed through the 20th mile surprise which was, frankly, a bit underwhelming after all the hype that was made about it before the race, but with just 10k left to go, we were locked into the run and focusing on the last leg of the race.

Shortly after the 21st mile marker, my wife made a comment about a girl we passed by saying that she looked a lot like our Twitter friend Krissy Murphy. I wasn’t paying attention, but her suspicion was quickly confirmed as Krissy ran to catch up to us and say hi! We ran together for a minute and then she dropped back to continue with her easy picture-taking pace. I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was to finally meet her on the Walt Disney World Marathon course since Disney and running are the things we tweet back and forth about all the time. In fact, just a year before as we were getting ready for (and tweeting about) Goofy was when the Twitter friendship began!

With just four miles to go, we were in the home stretch and we knew it. My wife tends to be quite the finisher and started to pick things up a bit. Despite the fact that I was feeling more fatigued than I was last year, I was still up for a faster pace to the finish so we went for it. I let her pace us the rest of the way as we entered into Hollywood Studios. She powered through the course passing everyone in front of her and I just did my best not to lose her through some of the narrower parts where I had trouble finding the space to actually get around people.

We exited Hollywood Studios and made our way down along the river towards the boardwalk. As we ran down the boardwalk, we started to approach the 4:30 pacer and I encouraged the wife to blow by him and leave him in the dust behind us. With a sub-4:30 finish guaranteed at this point, we focused on getting to the finish. We left the boardwalk and entered the World Showcase in United Kingdom pavilion to a wall of energy. The countries ticked by quickly and, before we knew it, we were blowing by Spaceship Earth and on our way out of Epcot with the finish just a few hundred feet ahead of us.

We crossed over the finish line with our hands held for a solid 4:27:06 finish, less than a minute away from my wife’s marathon PR! If not for all of the bathroom stops, she would have crushed her PR. I estimate that she lost just under ten minutes because of them. But even aside from that, she wasn’t running at 100% effort. Taking both of those into account, I think she could be close to four hours without much more additional training.

All of the Powerade, water, energy gels, and candy along the course put together with a good night’s sleep really made a difference. I was feeling really good. I was feeling pretty hydrated and my legs felt much better than I expected them to after they started to fatigue so early on.

While I was a bit sore, I couldn’t help but notice how much better I felt than I had after every other marathon I’ve ever run…and even a couple half marathons as well. I was impressed with myself and it really shows how far I’ve come in a year. Even though our time was way slower than my PR (by more than an hour), I still completed the Goofy Challenge almost 50 minutes faster than I had the year before!

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2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (pre-HRT)

Goofy-4As if running 39.3 miles once wasn’t enough, I enlisted myself to take on the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge again this year. For those not familiar with the race, it’s a half marathon one day and a marathon the next. And both run through Walt Disney World! Last year, I combined both races into one recap, but I think that got a little long so, this year, I wrote two separate posts to recap each separately. You can follow through to each one below.

2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Half Marathon – 1:58:00

2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Marathon – 4:27:06

Just like last year, the Goofy Challenge and the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend as a whole was a great experience. Lots of fun! This year marked the 20th running of the marathon so there was a completely new medal to commemorate that and it was heavy! It’s a beautiful medal, so beautiful, in fact, that I had a tough time deciding which medal to wear to the parks afterwards. I wanted to wear my Goofy medal to show off my accomplishment, but the new Mickey medal was too awesome to leave back in the room. I ended up wearing the Goofy medal around my neck with the Mickey medal on the back of my camera bag.

runDisney updated the course to mark the 20th running, as well. This year, the course included the Richard Petty Driving Experience race track and ESPN Wide World of Sports. Both additions were very welcomed and helped the make the time between the parks much more enjoyable. They also went with handing out a little box of food to finishers of both races instead of individual food items. When you’re trying to make your way through the finishers’ area while gulping down as much water/Powerade as possible, getting some nutrition into your body, and tweeting/texting/Facebooking/whatevering about your accomplishment, hands come at a premium, so having everything in a box helps a lot!

With two Goofy Challenges under my belt, I’m torn about doing it again next year. I love doing both races and getting three medals, but it’s a big commitment and has a sizable effect on how you can enjoy a large portion of your trip to Disney. The reality is that I’ll probably do it again soon, but we’ll see!

Coming up over the next few months, I’m planning to run two half marathons and another full marathon in the Spring. I’m considering one of the half marathons and the full marathon being for the NY/NJ Challenge. After that, the wife and I are planning on taking on the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland. This time it’s just the new Disneyland 10k and the Disneyland Half Marathon so it’s a much easier challenge than Goofy. Still, it comes with a bonus medal for doing the challenge and it will earn us the Disney Coast to Coast medal! That’s SEVEN runDisney medals in one year! Finally, I’d like to put a fall marathon into my schedule, but I haven’t really put much thought into which one yet.

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2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Half Marathon – 1:58:00 (pre-HRT)

Half Marathon start

With only two theme parks and just thirteen point one miles, the half marathon is the easy part of the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, but being that it’s the first race of the two, it can really make or break your weekend. The key to getting through the Goofy Challenge in one piece is to take this race easy.

After getting down to Orlando and picking up our race packets, we kept Friday simple. With no park passes for the day, all we had planned was just to head on over to the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports and then some relaxing at the hotel. I think we were even asleep by 7pm, which is good because race day starts with a 2:15am alarm to get us out of bed. When we woke up, my wife was complaining that she was having some pain the arch of her foot. After toying back and forth with what to do, she decided to go for it and we would just take it extra easy. But as we started walking out to the bus stop, the pain was a bit too much and she made a quick decision to sit the half out so she could rest up for the full marathon. It didn’t seem worth it to risk having to sit marathon race out. Losing my running partner for the race hit me a bit hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about her the entire time. I knew she was back in the room beating herself up over it. After months of training, it’s a huge blow to have to make a decision the day of the race to not run.

After a short bus ride, I was in the Epcot parking lot and ready to make my way over to the starting line. For some reason, I was in the B corral even though my previous race times put me well into the A corral for both races. However, since I was planning to run with my wife, I didn’t bother having my corral changed, so it was a B corral start for me! My real concerns at this point were with my wife’s choice to not run and my shoe choice for the day. I decided to run in my New Balance 1600s, marking the first race longer than 5 miles that I wasn’t running in my Vibram Five Fingers in over two years. I’d only even done a handful of training runs over thirteen miles in them over the course of the last six months, but I knew that they’re easier on my ankles…even if my performance is much better in the Vibrams.

After the twenty minute walk to the starting area, I got into my corral and did what warming up I could manage in the space I had available. While I was doing that, I saw the Galloway pacers for a two hour finish making their way through the corral up to the front. Since I was going to have to pace myself without going too fast, I figured running with a pacer might be a good idea so I followed them up to the front and stuck with them. My wife was looking to do a 2:05 finish and that’s what we trained for so a two hour finish seemed like a good target for me to aim for. Unfortunately, because it was a Galloway pacer, this group would be following Jeff Galloway’s run/walk program. I had no interest in that so I planned on just trying to keep steady when they started walking. Not having my wife with me definitely threw my whole race plan off!

Half Marathon startAfter a blast of fireworks, the first wave was off and just a few minutes later it was time for my corral to go! As usual, the race started off pretty tight with a lot of people packed in despite the wide road road for the first mile and a half. After we got moving, I spotted the balloons for the 2:00 Clif Bar Pace Team just up ahead and I knew this was a better group for me to run with. Even with a marathon coming up the next day, I knew that I could easily expend the energy to quickly catch up and then park myself with them, but just before I caught up to them I saw a member of the Oiselle Team and struck up a quick conversation with her. Since my wife just made the team, I figured I’d ask the girl if she knew her. It turned out that her and my wife had talked a bit via Twitter and had planned to try to meet up. Since she was running while injured, she was keeping her pace super slow and I fell back quite a bit from the pace group I was trying to catch up to, but I wasn’t too concerned. After a couple minutes, I left her and made my way back up to the pace group. I decided to just go for it and pick my pace up to my normal race pace for about a quarter mile or so to get up to them quickly. Since my pace was around two minutes/mile faster than theirs, it didn’t take me too long to catch up!

Once I got with the pace group, I parked myself there and didn’t budge from the pacer’s side. Knowing that the temperature was going to be approaching 80 by the time I finished and the humidity was around 100%, I wanted to do everything I could to be smart and make the half marathon as much of a net-zero for my body as possible. I took Powerade at every stop except for a mile before the finish and I even ate an energy gel around mile seven or eight. For a half marathon, this was complete overkill for me, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

As the race rounded into Magic Kingdom for our run down Main Street, USA, I could feel the energy of the crowd. This is always the best part of these races. Knowing that it would be really easy to be swept up in the energy and lose the pacer behind me, I took extra care to keep my pace under control and stick right next to the pacer. As awesome of the energy of running in Magic Kingdom is, I was still thinking about my wife and missing her by my side and I was a bit worried she wouldn’t be able to make it out for the marathon. I think this helped keep the adrenaline down a bit so staying on target wasn’t too hard.

After a quick run through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Cinderella’s Castle, and finally Fontierland, Magic Kingdom was done and it was time to make the trek back to Epcot. This portion of the race can be a bit boring as it’s just back roads without too much to look at. Still, for a more seasoned runner, it’s not too bad. We’re used to that kind of thing.

At the mile eight water stop, I lost the pacer behind me somewhere. Worried that I might slowly end up picking up the pace without him, I took extra effort to really bring my pace down to let him catch up, but when I looked over my shoulder, I couldn’t see him. I practically felt like I was walking, but I didn’t want to risk anything. I still have no idea how I could have lost him so badly in the span of just an eighth of a mile or so, but it happened. Eventually, right at the ninth mile marker, he caught back up to me and I playfully asked him what took so long. Once I was back with the group, I was able to get back to the rhythm I’d been running with all race and things felt more natural again.

By the time we got to the eleventh mile, it seemed like there was only one other runner left with the pacer and me. As we approached the last hill of the course, we could see the sun rising over it with Spaceship Earth just off to the right and, with a layer of fog still over everything, it was a very beautiful sight to see! After a remark about the beauty by the pacer, I mentioned to the other guy running with us that the hill we were approaching was the worst of the race, but that it’s nice and flat afterwards. I think I may have freaked him out a bit, but he powered up the hill and left the pacer behind. I ended up doing the same and, with just around a mile and a half left to go, I let myself have a nice strong finish. I picked up the pace slightly and left the pacer behind for good.

As I made my way into Epcot towards where Future World and the World Showcase meet, I was disappointed to the see that the big Christmas tree had already been taken down. This is when it hit me that I hadn’t seen any of the Christmas decorations in Magic Kingdom either. Usually, these are still up for Marathon Weekend.

From here, the course doubles back on itself a bit before making its way out to the parking lot. I kept my pace nice and steady and finished with a nice 1:58:00 time. This was a bit faster than I had planned prior to race day, but I felt great. Taking all of the water throughout the race really made a difference. I was insanely sweaty, but I wasn’t too dehydrated feeling. And most importantly, my legs felt good. I hung around just past the finish line so I could wait for the pacer to shake his hand and thank him for keeping me on track. Then I quickly got my medal and made my way through the finisher area. This year runDisney opted to hand out little boxes filled with food instead of a bunch of individual things. This makes life a lot easier and eliminates the struggle of holding everything while also trying to eat and drink it all post-race.

Since I was eager to get back to my wife, I didn’t waste any additional time. I hopped on a bus back to the hotel right away, I didn’t even stop for a post-race photo! To be honest, I was still really bummed that she couldn’t run and didn’t really want much to do with anything other than getting back to her.

Overall, this half marathon was probably the most controlled that I’ve ever run…which is important when you have a full marathon the next day!