Monday, January 14, 2013

Race Recap: Disney's Goofy Challenge

It is no secret that I'm not a fan of Disney races. Now that I have first hand experience with a race longer than a 10K, I can confirm that these races are absolutely not worth the price of admission. I should have just taken Dad's word for it, but you know how we humans don't believe it until we try it ourselves. I can see the appeal, in theory, but the few highlights of Disney magic did not outweigh the negatives for me. I'm glad I came back for it though to run with my Galloway buddies. We had so much fun in our color coordinated outfits.

My Orlando Running Group, Sole Mates AKA Crazy Mates because all of us are doing Goofy. First up was the half marathon on Saturday. I took it easy and ran most of the way with my Orlando Galloway running group. It was a lot of fun, but that had more to do with the people than the course. Running down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and seeing Cinderella's Castle in all it's lighted glory was cool, but that was it. The course was basically an out and back to the castle along highways. The last 5K was awful due to the heat and my right leg (inner lower leg just above ankle) started hurting towards the end. I took a quick ice bath at the hotel, refueled at Sweet Tomatoes, then took a nap. We went for a quick dinner at Macaroni Grill then I was back in bed by 8 p.m.

Crazy Mates! Sunday morning I woke up for the marathon in pain. I taped it and hoped for the best, but I was really worried about it. I questioned if I should even start the race, let alone if I'd be able to finish, but I figured that it was probably just tight and it would loosen up in time. It finally did, somewhere during the 2nd half, but it got replaced by pain on top of the ankle on the other leg (likely an overcompensation injury). So from the very first step, I was in pain. I knew what I had to do if I wanted to finish this marathon, so I sadly let my running group go and ran my own race. I knew running this alone in the heat would be tough, and at that moment I wished I had my headphones, but I'm glad I didn't because it forced me to truly experience the race. I had my P&S camera, so I set out to make the most of it. Since it hurt more to walk or start running again, I didn't follow a specific running interval and just jogged at a comfortable pace for a few minutes then waked for 30-60 seconds and on all the hills. The weather was actually cooler than Saturday for longer than I expected, but towards the end the sun came out full force. The pain was at bay thanks to some Tylenol and lots of biofreeze, but I really struggled with the heat and I could no longer run without shade, so that became my new run/walk interval.

Start line fireworks Start to Magic Kingdom: The first 5 miles are on the highway and parking lots leading up to the Magic Kingdom. They have a few characters, photo ops and music along the way, but it's fairly boring. As I was nearing mile 5, my friend Christine found me. This was her first marathon and I was thrilled to see her. We chatted while we walked and ran together for a few minutes,  then I let her go not wanting to slow her down knowing I would not be able to keep up. Then I saw Ric leading the 5:15 pace group and I ran with them for like a minute before I quickly lost them. As I neared Cinderella's Castle, I looked for Jason. He took my pic got my sunglasses, then I was on my own again.

Entering the Magic Kingdom parking lot Before running under the castle Near the castle (by Jason)

Speedway: Less than a mile through the Magic Kingdom, and we're back on the parking lot/roads for 2-3 miles on our way to the Speedway. This was a new part of the course, and it was pretty cool running around the track with all the classic cars and the "characters" from the movie Cars. Up next was another 3-4 miles of back roads through their water treatment plan (really?) on our way to Animal Kingdom. This was boring as hell, but at least there was some shade. 

Riding Expedition Everest Animal Kingdom: As soon as you enter the backlot of Animal Kingdom, there is basically a petting zoo on the side of the road. Instead of standing in line to get your picture with a character, there were cast members holding all kinds of wild life for you to pet or take pictures with, including birds, goats, and a big snake -- I ran away from that one quickly. My friend Eric told me he was DJing just before Everest, so I looked forward to that. On my way there I debated if I should ride Expedition Everest. I knew I'd never run this race again but I was worried about wasting too much time since I was going so slowly. After I saw him and gave him a hug, it was a really nice pick me up and I picked up the pace a bit. As I ran pass Everest, I saw runners running in and that the wait was only 5 minutes so I went for it. It was amusing how we were all running through the queue. Once we got to the loading zone, we only had to wait a few seconds for the loaded car to take off then we were on the ride. Even though I don't love this ride, it was the highlight of the race and I'm really glad I did it. We ran out as soon as it finished and I had a second wind, which was unfortunately quickly squashed because the next mile or so was on a very narrow sidewalk and I was forced to walk.

ESPN Wide World of Sports: The next 2-3 miles suck because they are in the highway with the blazing sun, but around mile 16.5 I ran into Carol and Debbie at the medical tent. I was so happy to see them that I almost cried and the next 3 miles flew by as I ran and chatted with them. Then I lost them during a potty break just before the stadium. I just wanted to keep moving to not stiffen and figured they'd catch me because I was moving slower, but then I really had to pee so I sped up in hopes of finding a potty and being out before they caught up. As soon as I went in, I saw them run pass me. When I got out, I could see them in the distance but I simply couldn't catch them because we were now back in the sun and running up an on-ramp. Running around the stadium was a nice touch and shady. 

Tigger! 20 Mile Celebration: Since this was the 20th anniversary, they had a special arch way mile marker at mile 20. There was Disney music playing with characters along each side of the road and Minnie, Mickey and Pluto up on stage. I stopped and waited in a short line to take took a picture with Tigger then went in search of my potty break. My biggest complaint about this race is why isn't there Disney music blaring out of every speaker along the course. They have frequent entertainment, but a lot of it is DJs or speakers playing pop music. I think it would add so much more to the experience and magic if there was Disney music the whole time. 

Hollywood Studios: Mile 20 - 23 was the worse part because it was all on the highway on our way to Hollywood Studios and the sun was blazing. My stomach started to hurt every time I tried running in the sun, so I walked until there was shade again. Once I entered Hollywood Studios, I saw some familiar faces volunteering and I started getting emotional. Then I saw Donna, called out to her, and she ran to me and gave me the biggest hug. That opened up the flood gates. Mile 23 was also the candy station, which I had been looking forward to all day. I checked my phone after this and noticed a text from Tracy and Scott that were visiting the parks and were out on the course waiting for me. I tried to compose myself but once I saw them I started getting emotional again. They took my picture and we hugged as I choked back tears, and as soon as I ran off I broke out in a big sob and cried all the way to the boardwalk. I wasn't sad, just tired and overwhelmed by all the support and relieved that I was going to finish this race and make the cut off. 

Boardwalk: I knew this section well as I had volunteered here many times before and I knew that my parents were here somewhere. I kept looking for them and wondering where they were. I finally saw them just before the last bend to go into Epcot. I once again choked back tears as I hugged them and then started sobbing as soon as I ran past them and into Epcot. These were certainly tears of joy and relief as I was now only 1 mile from the finish line. 

Mile 26! Freaking finally! Finish: I was beyond relieved to finally see mile marker 26. I walked up to it so I would have the strength to run the last stretch to the finish. As soon as I turned into the finish shoot, I saw Jason and threw my hands up in the air then made a kill me know gesture lol I slowed and finally stopped for a second because I wanted a picture of the finish line, then ran it in and threw my hands up in the air as I crossed. I burst into tears again and was so happy to be done. I got my Mickey medal, which is beyond amazing, then staggered over to the Goofy tent. My Galloway group was there volunteering and I was so happy to see them. I hugged Laura through more tears, but I was also all smiles. Carol and Debbie were also there, so we took some pictures together before I made my way to the Galloway tent to reunite with Jason. 

My favorite bling. It's much more impressive and bigger in person. Post-Race: I was convinced the rest of my Galloway group was gone by now since they had all finished 30-60 minutes before me. This thought had made me really sad during those last few miles, but as I neared the tent I saw Chris, Katrina, Todd, Brenda and Omar! I was so happy to see them and had to really hold back tears. It meant so much to me to see them there and it was a special treat to see Omar since I had missed him on the course. After a ton of pictures, Omar offered us some Mimosas and we toasted our accomplishments then went to Unos to refuel and compare notes about the race. 

Final Thoughts: Even though the marathon was really tough for me, I'm glad I did it and finally got to experience this first hand. But never again! I made the best of a bad situation and ran smart to avoid further injury and finish before the cut-off. Today both injuries seem fine and I just have the typical post-marathon soreness. This race does have some moments of Disney magic that I enjoyed (Main St, Cinderella's Castle, Speedway, Everest, Stadium), but that is such a small percentage of the race that it doesn't make up for all the highway running and congestion almost the entire race. I may run a half at Disneyland someday and come back and do another half here for the Coast to Coast medal, but I'll have to think long and hard before making that decision and need lots of peer pressure. 


Lizbeth Lieberman said...

I'm not a disney fan either and really didn't like the half course AT ALL. Never again. LOL

Lizbeth Lieberman said...

Loved your race report and how you pulled through. You're one of my heroes!

George Potter said...

Yea, I'm a total Disney whore but the races? Meh. The Wine & Dine was cool but there were chunks where you wondered if the RD was already deep in the cups. A 20,000 person marathon with several sections of single track? REALLY!?! It sounds like you had a great experience though. It's always about the people. The fun isn't in running against people, it's in running with them.

Redhead Running said...

I'm so with you on this, I've never done Disney before for the same reasons and only did it this year because I got a bib off Craigslist for way cheap. I only did the half and that was enough for me! Sure the castle is fun but that's really all there is the rest is just access roads. Boring. I'm sorry to hear you had so much pain to contend with on top of the heat, I hope you are resting up!!! Also, how random is it that neither of us ever ran Disney when we lived there but both did it this year? LOL!

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