Saturday, January 8, 2011

Disney Goofy Challenge - Half Marathon Race Report

So today the real fun began.  Yesterday was just a little fun warmup with the 5k, but today the real challenge started.  Here's how it went.

I tried really hard last night to get lots of sleep.  I went to bed at 6pm knowing that I had to get up at 2AM.  I pretty much just laid in bed all night starting at a mix of the ceiling and the tv.  I finally fell asleep around 10pm giving me a grand total of 4 hours sleep.  When the alarm went off at 2AM I was in total disbelief and very confused... but I forced myself out of bed and started my morning process.  I'd laid out EVERYTHING the night before so it was really more of an assembly line.  Make coffee, eat two balance bars, shower, get dressed, grab my bags and get in the car.  I was on the road at 2:45am headed to the start area.  I did not come across any real amount of traffic but because they close some of the roads for the race getting to the start area took me a lot longer than the day before so I pulled up at 3:20AM just about two hours prior to the race.  In the end this was perfect timing as far as I'm concerned as traffic picked up quickly and I know I would have been all stressed out had I gotten there any later. 

When you arrive you are coralled into the pre-race area which is a giant parking lot with tents all around it with various functions such as merchandise, concessions, the DJ stage with the giant video screen, a GIANT bag check tent divided by last name into at least a dozen different zones each with 12 or more volunteers in them, and about a billion port-a-jons.  I have to say Disney has their race organization down.  Its a very slick operation.  Way better than any other race I've ever done.

So I decided I'd check my bag right away and get that done so I walked in to the T-Z chunk of the tent to do that.  All the volunteers started clapping and cheering.  I was very confused...  apparently I was the first T-Z to arrive and they were excited.  Actually all the volunteers were super fun and cheery as were all the park employees out helping or just out cheering.  So with that done I went back to the car to stay warm as it was a bit chilly.  I was definitely much better prepared this time thout with a throw away shirt on.  Temps were around 48 degrees.  Perfect for racing!

Around 4AM I left the car again and headed back to the start area and sat down and listened to the DJ for a bit and people watched as I tried to stay relaxed and off my feet.  Not long after that we were herded to the other side of the baggage claim tent into another large area filled with a water station, another billion port o jons and a big fence holding us there.  This was the holding pen where we waited for them to tell us to walk to the start corrals.  So we sat there till 430am and then they opened the gate and we started the long walk to the start.  Its always great fun being a part of all that nervous energy and I stumbled into a conversation wiht a triathlete from singapore whose done some full and half iron length tri's and we chatted for a bit which was nice.
The walk to the starting corrals was a good 1/2 mile but eventually we made it there.  In order to run Disney you have to have a qualifying half and or full marathon time.  Basically they want to know you can do it in under six hours so they can open the parks without delay.  I used my FIRM 1/2 Iron half marathon time which got me a ticket to Corral A which was the front corral!  Woohooo!  There were at least 8 corrals that I saw and they start each one six minutes apart.  A lot of the course can get somewhat narrow at times so they have to spread us out a bit.  But I was psyched to be in corral A and get to start first.  However I didn't want to do anything stupid and go out too fast with the fast pack of runners so I stood at the back of the corral and let it fill up with people in front of me. 

So all along the start corrals they have giant video screens.  And heres where the really amazing part happened, or really sad part, or happy part, or all of the above.  Disney and the military had organized a half marathon to take place in Bagdad at the US military base there at the same time as the Disney one.  So they had a live satellite feed of that base and interviewed one of the commanders there.  It was fun to think that our forces were lining up to race at the exact same time as us halfway around the globe.  And then they brought this Mom and her 5 year old daughter on stage.  She was running the half marathon today.  And so was her husband... In IRAQ!  So they put him on camera in Iraq and his wife was able to say hello to him.  They both had Garmins and agreed to run the exact same pace so they could run together at the same time on opposite parts of the world.  And then they handed the mic to his daughter who said "I love you daddy!" and I swear the whole crowd started crying.  Me included.  I'm sorry but there is just NOTHING more sad and fabulous at the same time as a 5 year old telling her father halfway around the world live that she loves him.  A deeply touching moment and certainly made me appreciate all of the sacrifices that our service men and women go through every day to keep us safe.

With that and the national anthem done it was time to start the race.  So with some fun fireworks and pyro going off we were off and running! I quickly realized I'd picked the perfect spot to start in my corral.  I was hoping to end up running somewhere around an 8:30-9 minute pace to go sub 2 hours which was my only goal.  I did want to take it easy though and save something for tomorrow's full marathon.  The first few miles of the course were not all that interesting.  They mostly had us running around various Disney roads that go between the parks.  However they were filled with marching bands, and cheerleaders, and DJs and bands and it made the whole thing good silly fun and made the time go by quickly.

After a few miles the course entered the Magic Kingdom which was great fun to run down Main Street and then through Cinderellas castle and then out through tomorrowland before once again hitting the back roads.  There were lots of people cheering on main street which was really fun.  I bought a bigger pocket for my fuel belt at the expo so I could carry my small digital camera and take some pics...  but it sucks in the dark.  So all my shots came out like this one...

Still...  it gives you an idea of the fun of running down main street at 6AM in the dark!  At the end of the Magic Kindgom section I was happily holiding 8:30s and I pretty much settled into a groove at the pace for the rest of the half.  My legs felt good and my foot was behaving so that was nice. 

After Magic Kingdom we went out on the highways again for a long time.  We went over a few overpasses which served as the only "hills" on the course.  They had the Toy Story Green Army men there ordering us to march up that hill!  It was pretty funny and I was amused at the people (probably local to flodida) complaining about the "hills".  I found them super easy and passed loads of people going up them.  Speaking of people I found a nice group of people all grooving my pace and we sort of stuck together.  We all exchanged the lead here and there and never spoke but it was nice to find someone heels and just park yourself behind them and stop thinking and just run for a while.

At this point we were around mile 9 or so and the sun finally started to think about rising.  Actually the sunset was really pretty and I meant to get a photo but the best view of it had a gas station right in front of it ruining the photo op.  And then I forgot all about it!

There were more marching bands and DJs and lots of cheering along the course even out here on the highway so that made those miles fun.  Somewhere around mile 10 we doubled back on the course and you could see the walkers were at around mile 3 or so.  Their wave started a good 30+ minutes after mine and at their pace they still had a long way to go.  But it was fun to see them headed out as we ran by going the other direction.  I felt really good at this point and just started counting down the miles till it was over.  And I was ceratinly ready for it to end as I was already thinking about the full marathon in the back of my mind.

The course then winds its way into Epcot and around the giant golfball again before heading into the same finish area as the 5K the day before with an ever bigger crowd of people today.  You could hear the cheering from quite a ways away which was great as you knew the finish line was just around the corner.  I'd help back the whole race and by now I wanted this thing over so I really poured it on and I ran the last mile at just over six minutes.  I was ready for it to be done!

I crossed the finish line and headed into the GIANT finish area.  There was a huge assembly line of food and water and powerade and all sorts of other stuff.  I ate a banana and some protein bars and then walked around for a good ten minutes to stay loose before starting to stretch.  I stretched for about 15 minutes and then had a quick photo taken before heading back to my hotel to start my recovery plan for the full marathon.

So before I stiffened up I headed right back to my hotel room to start taking care of recovery.  I decided this was as good a time as any to take my first ice bath and it would do a lot to reduce any inflamation and set my legs up for a quick recovery.  So I filled my tub with a bunch of ice and cold water and then timidly stepped in.  OMG it was cold!
I set the timer on my phone for twenty minutes and killed the time shivering and posting on facebook.  I was VERY happy when that twenty minutes was up.  After that I took a quick cold shower to wash up and then dried off and started the next phase.  I put on my Zoot recovery tights (which work wonders!) and a compression top and laid down in bed.

The compression gear helps encourage the blood in your legs to circulate better and therefore speeds the recovery process.  I've worn these tights after every large race or long run effort and they definitely work.  I'm a big beleiver in compression gear in general actually. 

So wrapped in compression gear I got into bed and spent the next four hours napping and watching TV.  At that point I got up and I knew that I wanted to get a quick walk in to loosen up.  So after a look at the weather for tomorrow I decided to go back to the expo and pickup a couple of items to make things a little more comfy on the race course.  So I bought some arm warmers and a thinner hat than the ones I had with me that was super cheap so I can chuck it if need be.   You see the problem with starting a race before the sun comes up (and starting it at 5:30) is that theres a giant temperature shift with the sun rise two hours into the race.  So today in the half it wasn't bad as the sun rose right as I was finishing.  (most of that race was in the dark!)  But with the full marathon I'll be out there for four hours so halfway through the temps go from 42 degrees to 50 degrees which are very different for me clothing wise.  I still haven't decided what I'll wear yet but thats next as soon as I finish this post.  So I walked around the expo, found what I was looking for, and then headed back to my hotel room.  I was pleased with how loose my legs felt.  My recovery plan seems to be working which is great.  We'll see tomorrow morning how I feel.

So next up... The Full Marathon!  This should be interesting!

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