Saturday, January 17, 2009
The thing about Disney is that the race winds through each of the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom). Since it winds through each of the parks, the races starts and finishes before the parks actually open which, as you might guess, is QUITE early. The start time itself is not all that much out of the norm for races (5:50 AM); however, you are warned of race day traffic more than a few times by the race directors meaning you leave the hotel early or miss the race. If you stay on property, the last bus to the race start leaves at 4:00 AM. Yes, 4:00 AM. As we were staying off property and had been given a healthy fear of the traffic we left the hotel at 3:30 AM. Yes, 3:30 AM. I did not come all this way to miss a race because of traffic.
Rewind to the night before...
We had the pre-requisite pasta dinner and birthday party at the Rainforest Cafe and got back to the hotel room by 8:00. By the time I assembled everything I needed for the morning it was probably 9:00. Too excited to sleep... Toss. Check to make sure both of the two alarm clocks are set. Turn. Toss. Turn. FINALLY, sleep! (not sure what time it finally was as I was asleep). Awoke at 1:15 AM for no apparent reason. There was no getting back to sleep. I am going to guess I got about 3 hours of sleep pre-race. I am pretty sure that is something that is recommended by all the good training plans. or not.
I get up at about 2:30 and start getting dressed. Eat a PB&J sandwich and drink more water (I believe I drank about 1,000 gallons over the course of the week). Wake RW up so he can get ready and we head to car at 3:30 AM. We arrive at the race start at 3:50 AM - TWO hours before the race. There was no traffic. Oh well. As a birthday treat, I had a ticket to the Race Retreat which is a tent with private bag check, port-o-lets, breakfast pre-race and brunch post-race. Easily the best $$ ever spent. No line for bag check (or retrieval), a changing tent so you don't have to try and manage all that in the port-o-let and almost no line for the port-o-let. oh and massages too! Anyhoo... spent some time in there then we decided to go sit in the car and listen to the radio. The time went really quickly. From the parking area, there is about a 1/2 mile walk to the start line so that killed some time too. Some pics taken in the race retreat:
Around 5:15 AM, I say goodbye to RW and leave him to entertain himself for the next 5-6 hours while I make the walk to the start. I easily found my corral and waited for the start. Little bit nervous. Trying not to think about the fact that I will be running continuously for 5 hours. That just seems crazy.
My view from the start:
The crowd presses forward and heads over the start line and we are off! I had 5 or 6 GU gels in my running belt and was immediately annoyed by the weight of them. In my training runs, I always left the gels in the car so never actually ran with them. I know, I broke the rule of preparedness... I make a quick adjustment to situate the weight on my hip and problem solved.
For the first part of the race I am just taking it all in and trying not to go to fast. I had been warned not to use it all up in the first half. It was dark but there was lots of music (I opted to leave the IPOD at home which was a good choice in retrospect). The first park we entered was EPCOT. You can't really make it out here but it was all lit up and lots of music played throughout.
In between the parks, there are all kinds of people cheering, bands, cheerleaders and the like. Here are a few of those scenes. I particularly like the big pink K sign. (it was not made for me but I'll claim it)... The spectators were GREAT! Everyone had their names on their race numbers so as you are running by they are shouting your name. It really helps in those later miles. :)
Note the blur of speed. ha.
so you get the idea... The next park we made our way through was the Magic Kingdom. This was around mile 10 or so. As you can see by the multitude of pictures this is where I REALLY get off pace by stopping for the photo ops.
Space Mountain leading up to the park entrance
turning the corner onto Main Street
Coming out of the castle
After leaving the Magic Kingdom we hit the halfway point. I was feeling good, trying to remember to take a GU gel every 4-5 miles. There were waterstops almost every mile and medical stops almost as often. They were handing out vaseline, tylenol and handfuls of biofreeze at the med station. The biofreeze was in the huge buckets and the volunteer just scooped it out to give runners a handful. I had never seen that before so all the vaseline application amused me...
There was quite a stretch between the Magic Kingdom and MGM (or so it seemed). A lot of backroads and scenery. The sponsor Sharpie and put up signs to entertain the runners. The signs had little sayings, kind of like the burma shave signs. Example, "if at first you don't succeed, maybe skydiving isn't your thing". HA.
Somewhere around mile 22ish, the wheels started to fall of the cart. I have several theories as to why, maybe too many stops for pictures, maybe not enough long runs in training (I had been playing catch up big time since the stress fracture and didn't get in as many long runs as I really needed), maybe just too much walking the previous days sightseeing. Whichever way it happened, around mile 22 I honestly thought I would not be able to finish the race. My knees were in agony and I could not run more than a step or two without pain. At that point I thought if I can make it to the med station someone is going to have to drive me back. It was that bad. After about a mile, I got to the med station took a handful of biofreeze and soldiered on. (there was no way I was going to come this far and not finish this thing!). The biofreeze seemed to help a tiny bit. Next stop was the Animal Kingdom. I continued my walk/run through the park.
When we first entered, they had a variety of animals out - I guess they were from the petting zoo?
Obviously my hobbling did not interfere with my picture taking :) From there we, headed to MGM a little more running than walking at this point but was not moving fast.
From there it was a walk through some of the resort area and then back to Epcot. Some scenes from mile 25. At this point, I had managed to start running again. Slowly. oh well.
Very appropriately, at mile 26 there was a church choir. All I could say was Hallelujuah!
One of the grandstands at the finish... the best sight!
Happy to be done. Not happy with the time but I didn't exactly focus on the race as evidenced by all the picture taking. :)
After a brief stop to have my knees wrapped in ice, I picked up my Mickey Medal.
Waiting in line, I met up with one of my friends (Wendy) who also ran the race. She was waiting for 2 of our other friends who had not crossed the line yet. We exchanged some quick congrats and I met up with RW who had been patiently waiting for me in the family reunion area for the last hour. We got in the car and managed to get back to the hotel without much traffic which was nice since my knees were DYING. Quick stop at BK for some food of course!
At the hotel, I took a quick shower then soaked in the whirlpool for a bit. Took a nap and was good as new a couple hours later. I only had the slightest knee pain but no muscle soreness after the race at all which was a little surprising. RW and I went out to Downtown Disney for a meal later that night to toast my accomplishment. I was surprised how many people go out and about afterwards wearing the medal.
Disney was such a great experience. There was just enough activity to keep you distracted for most of the 26.2 miles. It definitely did not feel like I was out on the course for 5+ hours. Such a great time - I would definitely do it again! If you do go, take your camera. They have official photographers but if you want a pic with the characters, you have to have your own camera. I have been back a week now and am back to normal. I felt like I could have gotten right back into my workout schedule the day I got back. I had no pain or soreness at all. I did force myself to rest for a week - finally got back to the gym today to start prepping for my next race :) What will I do when I turn 50???