Sunday, January 9, 2011

Disney Goofy Challenge - Full Marathon Race Report

This morning the alarm went off at 2AM and once again it was time to get ready to race.  I went through my usual routine and ended up in the Disney parking area near the start at 3:20AM.  I laughed as I sat there as sitting in Disney parking lots at 3AM waiting to race was beginning to become a habit!  After going through the pre race routine yesterday for the half marathon I knew the drill so this time I stayed in the warm car a lot longer.  Once again my timing with the drive was good as cars started pouring in right as I arrived.  Around 4AM after finishing my coffee in the car and getting my things together I headed to bag check and through to the other side where the holding pen before heading to the start line is for all the runners.

Ok so part of distance running is dealing with GI issues...    and if you don't want to read about that then you may want to skip this race report.  Rest assured however there will be no details...   I just feel compelled to say that its a subject this post will adress.

So after bag check I head to the port-o-jons.  I've been struggling with this part all week.  My body can handle racing at 730am and easily have time to go through my morning routine and go to the bathroom before I race.  Running is murder on the stomach so not taking care of things ahead of time rarely ends well.  The problem with races that starts at 530am and waking up at 2am a few days in a row and sleeping at weird times of the day is that your body clock gets VERY confused.  And it becomes uncooperative.  Before the half I had no joy and by the end of it I went right from the finish line to the port-o-jons.  At the start of the full I had no joy.  So I'm sitting in a port-o-jon at 4AM hoping for joy...    at 4:20 I gave up and went back into the holding corral.  I was really nervous that I was going to have some serious GI issues in this race.  It was NOT a confidence booster heading towards the start of the race...

As I sat there in the holding pen my mind started to panic.  I couldn't go to the bathroom, did I run the half too fast yesterday?  were my legs going to hold out?  what about my hamstring?  my PF?  Should I have worn my other sneakers?  Holy crap...   what was I thinking racing a full after a half?  Should I try and PR or is that stupid?  can I even go sub 4?

so as an aside...     the night before I started feeling pretty good.  My legs felt ok and I started to dream about going for a PR today.  So I put together this race plan.

-Start the race running 8 minute miles (aiming for a 3:30 finish)
-If I feel ok after three miles at this pace then keep running that pace and see what happens
-DON'T get attached to the thought of a PR
-If those first few miles feel rough then instantly switch to the goal of going sub 4.
-And if they feel really rough then my only goal is to finish the race no matter how long it takes me.

That was my plan and I felt pretty good about it.  My main goal was just to complete the goofy challenge.  Everything else is gravy and I kept telling myself to be honest with myself early in the race and slow way down if need be.

So I sat there in the pen talking myself out of going for a PR.  At this point frankly I had almost convinced myself I was going to poop myself in no mans land a mile from the nearest port-o-jon at mile 16.  The thought of racing a marathon without going to the bathroom ahead of time is the stuff of runners nightmares.  So after a while of all this going through my head they opened the pens and we started the half mile walk towards the start corrals.  Fortunately the walk took my mind off of the race and mostly I focused on how freaking cold it was!  It was 40 degrees.  I was wearing a hat, gloves, a throway long sleeve shirt over a long sleeve tech shirt, and running tights.  I was COLD.  Not freezing, but still damn cold.  It was breezy during the walk and I started to shiver.  At times uncontrollably.  Not good!  So now I'm worrying about if I'd worn the right clothes for the race as well.

When we get to the corrals I find a place at the start of corral C which was my assigned corral.  The way they do the races there is that its all by chip time.  So you wait in your corral and they start the A corral.  Then they let the B corral walk up to the starting line and a few minutes later they start them.  In turn as thats happening my C corral started walking forwards as well till it was our turn to start.  I was thrilled it was finally time to start this silly thing.  Worried...  but much happier to be moving forwards so I can start to warm up.  I got a spot directly at the front of my group before we started and as soon as the gun went off I went out hard to stay in the front and clear road.  Me and two other guys all did the same thing.  It wasn't long before the three of us were way out in front of our corral group.  We joked that it almost felt like we were leading the race since the other group of runners from Corral B was still several minutes in front of us.  Then I dropped those two guys and caught the back end of Corral B and started running my way through that group.  Many times I had to run in the grass to get around everyone.  I wished I had started in an earlier corral.  Oh well.

The first three miles went by fast for me.  My splits for the first three miles were 7:49, 7:49, 7:47.  PERFECT!  especially considering I was weaving my way through the crowd to find clear road or other runners going the same pace.  I felt good too. Hmmm....   maybe this wasn't going to be awful?

Miles 4-6 were also good and were all at 8 even pretty much.  I was right on pace and checking my garmin often to keep things together.  These first six miles went by really quickly.  I was excited but I knew the race hadn't even started yet.  I took stock.  My legs felt good, my heart rate was fine, I was warm now and feeling comfy and I was holding steady.  So far so good.

Then things started to go downhill.  Miles 7-10 were the hardest for me emotionally and mentally.  Everything started to fall apart.  I started to struggle and it shows in my splits which were all suddenly at 8:30s and I COULDN'T get myself to run faster now matter how much I tried.  So I decided at this point it was time to change gears.  My legs were tired already.  I was tired already.  This goofy challenge is crazy!  What was I thinking?  I was slipping in pace already by mile 10 and I knew that I would slip further as time went on.  So I switched gears and came up with a new game plan.

I set a goal for miles 10-13 to just relax and run whatever pace my legs wanted to run.  No looking at my garmin allowed.  Lets just run free for a few miles and see what happens and then take stock again.  So I ignored the watch, relaxed and mentally prepared myself to switch to goal number two which was just to try and go sub 4 hours.  I had visions of slowing down so much as time went on that I wouldn't be able to even go sub 4.  So I started to mentally prepare myself for that as well.  That mental preparation is important.  You can't finish a marathon and be dissapointed in yourself.  Thats just wrong.  So you have to prepare yourself for various outcomes both before the race and during the race.  So thats what I focused on for those three miles.  Well that and how much my legs hurt.  They felt dead and unresponsive and heavy and I felt TIRED.  I was a bit whiny and sad during these miles...

Then I looked at my splits.

8:08, 8:09, 8:20.

That last mile had a few hills in it so that explained the extra ten seconds or so, but I was running freely at 8:10s by the looks of things.  Hmm....   maybe I could hold onto a PR?  I just had to run faster than an 8:22 average and my current average on the garmin was 8:09 and holding.  So at the half split I started to do math.  The problem with garmins and marathons is that they track how far you've run, not where you are on the course.  When you run a marathon you run around people, around obstacles, and through water stations etc.  However a marathon course is measured by tangents and straight lines which you just don't run.  So after 13 miles you are actually off.  In fact most people run an extra half mile during the course of a marathon.  Point of all this is that you have to look at your total time at the halfway point and do the math based off of that and not what the garmin thinks is your average pace.  So my half marathon split was pretty much at 1:46.  I knew I couldn't hold that on the back half but I just had to stay ahead of 3:39:22 to PR.  So I needed to run as close to 8s and possible for the back half and see what happens and take stock again at mile 20.  At this point I still didn't think a PR was possible on legs this tired but I was willing to try.  After all trying made the time go by faster.

Miles 14-20 went like this.
8:04, 8:15, 8:16, 8:11, 8:09, 8:12, 8:22
I was holding on to it!  I knew I was slowing down a tiny bit but I was holding close enough to still be within cautious striking distance of a PR.  At mile 20 I started doing math.  Again I realized I had to hold as close to 8s as possible to do it.  I was hoping I could slow to 8:20s or 30s and that would be enough to just make it but I was afraid I'd hit the wall at mile 23 or so and I wanted to allow for that so I just ran as hard as I could.

I have a high tolerance for pain generally.  Especially when running.  Today however was on another level.  I've had discomfort when running.  I pushed really stupid hard at a short distance race to go fast and that hurts too.  But today was something entirely different.  For 26 miles today I pushed my legs beyond where they wanted to go.  I FOUGHT the pain with everything I had.  My brain was literally SCREAMING at me to slow down.  Then BEGGING, and then WHINING at me.  I refused to listen.  I just kept thinking that pain is temporary, and glory is forever.  So I fought it.  And then fought it again.  Every single second of the race was spent concentrating on it.  Those last six miles however were the strongest mentally I've ever been.  My body was falling apart.  My legs were failing.  EVERY part of me wanted to stop.  I saw people taking walk breaks and I so badly wanted to join them.  I just wanted to walk...   just a little PLEASE???   NO!  I fought it and fought it and fought it.

Miles 21-23 went like this.
8:00, 7:56, 7:59

HELL YEAH!  I was holding even 8s!  I was EXHAUSTED and falling apart but I was holding 8s.  I did the math.  I just had to stay sub 8:30 at this point to PR.  I was so afraid that I was going to explode at any minute.  I knew I only had minutes to lose if I fell off pace and its VERY easy to lose a few minutes in three miles when you are falling apart.  So again I fought onwards...

Mile 24! 7:59!

I was holding even 8s!  My face was screwed up in a ball of obvious pain.  Spectators looked at me and shouted encouragement at me.  I especially loved the ones that read my name off my race bib and yelled it out.  I was struggling...  I desperately wanted to stop.  I knew I was only two miles to go but the negative thoughts just kept coming again, and again, and again.  Stop Stop Stop!!!   You can't do this!  Let it go!  Relax!  Just walk it in!  That guy over there is walking... its ok.  Look how happy he looks walking!  NO!!!

Mile 25 8:13

Ok I'm slowing a tiny bit.  Its ok.  Just one mile to go.  Focus on the one mile.  Some quick math had me thinking I had 12 mintues to run 1.2 miles and still PR.  I was worried I was wrong though.  What if I was too tired to do math.  Was I going to PR.  Can I stop?  Can I please stop?  Pretty Please?  NO!!!

My legs were on FIRE at this point.  Just intense pain with every single inch of forward progress.  I was a mess.  But I fought onwards.

Where the hell is the mile 26 sign?  I swear I've run 4 miles since mile 25 and I still haven't seen it!

FINALLY!  Mile 26!!  8:03

.2 miles to go!

You round the corner in Epcot at the mile 26 sign and suddenly you can hear the crowds cheering at the finish line.  I did it!  I did it!  Its over!  I can almost stop running!!!  OMG I want to stop!  Soon, soon I can stop!  I can't wait to stop!

OMFG!!!!!  I JUST PR'D THE GOOFY CHALLENGE!!!!   3:35 and change!!!!!!  I did it!  I knocked 4 minutes off my marathon PR the day after running a half marathon!!!!!!!  I threw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish line.  I wanted to cry from exhaustion.  I was SPENT.  They say you should leave it all out on the race course and have absolutely NOTHING left at the finish line.  Today I was as close to nothing as you can get without tipping over at the end.  I gave this race absolutely everything that I had.  I am so incredibly proud of myself today.  I pushed myself today through a giant wall of pain and persevered.  I refused to give up no matter what and I think I take a lot of pride in that.

Through the chute and they put the Mickey Mouse marathon medal around your neck.  And then the fun part.  Theres a special line for the Goofy Challenge finishers to get their second medal for completing both races.  There are many Disney volunteers and employees handling this portion and every single one of them gave me warm congratulations.  It was great and they were fantastic!  I was so fricking excited when they hung that goofy medal around my neck.  I'd done it.  I not only finished both of those races (plus the 5K!) but I PR'd the marathon!  I was grinning from ear to ear!

After that I ate a ton of mini cliff bars, a banana, a muffin, two waters, and a diet coke.  Man that was good!  I was hungry!  Then I picked up my bag and spent five minutes trying to sit down on the ground so I could open the bag and get my phone out to call the girl.  I was so excited to talk to her and tell her I PR'd!  I was pscyhed she answered the phone.  After that I changed clothes and then got some medal shots with all three medals and hung out for a bit and enjoyed the festivities and then went back to my hotel room.

By the way...  you may be wondering why there is no description of the race course, what theme parks I ran through, what entertainment was out on the roads.  Well there's a reason for that.  I was too busy being focused on fighting through the pain to notice.  Seriously...  I hardly remember the course at all.  It was there, and it was great running through magic kindgdom again and if I were to run it slower and fresher it would be super fun and enjoyable.  But today was just not that kind of day.....

Just standing up in the shower in my hotel room took incredible effort.  I was EXHAUSTED!  I also had a stomach ache the size of texas.  So I layed down in bed and prompltly passed out for a four hour nap.  I was TIRED!

This afternoon I spent a little time in Downtown Disney buying some presents for friends and walking around for a bit to loosen my legs up a bit.  And then I passed a bakery and realized my stomach was feeling ok.  So for lunch I had a GIANT peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie, and a GIANT oreo looking Chocolate Fudge cookie which was like an Oreo on steroids with some sort of fudge/mouse type filling.  Hell yeah!  I deserved it!  And now I'm back in my hotel room contemplating whether or not to go out for dinner, or to just order pizza and order up a movie.  Which I think is quickly winning!

In other news...  my visit to my folks has gotten postponed due to them fighting off the flu this week.  So...   now tomorrow I'll take advantage of the free theme park ticket to all marathon finishers and spend the afternoon and evening in Epcot and stay one more night here at the hotel before heading north back to Rhode Island starting tuesday morning.  Apparently theres also a nasty storm going across the southeast tomorrow so its better to wait on the drive anyway.

I want to take a special moment here to thank all of my friends from Tri-Newengland and elsewhere who were fantastic in showing their support and encouragement from afar on facebook as I went through the Goofy / "Dumbo" challenge.  Their words of encouragement, congratulations, and support as I went through the three races made me feel fantastic and made it all worth it.  Its hard racing all alone out here in florida by myself.  And getting all that support from afar makes it all the more enjoyable.  So THANK YOU! to all of you that read this blog, that comment on facebook, or offer encouragement and inspiration to me.  I appreciate it!

Next up tomorrow...  a  day of rest... some time at Epcot, packing up the car, and a post about the Goofy Challenge experience as a whole.


  1. Wow Congratulations! And still standing under the staggering weight of all those medals.

  2. Thanks Cindy!! Standing was the easy part. Walking however is still proving to be very challenging!