Race Report of the Disney 2010 "Dopey challenge," also known as the "Goofy Challenge."
. . . or, how I managed to enjoy a marathon for once. Despite getting snowed on. In Florida. Did I mention the snow? In Florida?
On to the report. Keep an eye out for "Tai's Disney Race Tips(tm)" so you'll have an upper leg on anyone (else) stupid enough to run 42.4 miles over a weekend!
If you didn't know already, the Disney World Marathon weekend is made up of three races:
A 5K Friday, a Half-Marathon Saturday, and a Full Marathon Sunday. If you run the Half and Full on Sat/Sun, you earn an extra medal for completing "The Goofy Challenge."
If you run ALL the races (so the 5K as well), you have done the UNsanctioned-by-Disney, "Dopey Challenge," or as it is sometimes known, "The Dumbo."
So the flight to Disney departed on a Thursday. I had a slight bit of concern over reportedly super-cold temperatures in Florida, but didn't give it much thought (NOTE THE FORESHADOWING HOLY CRAP ALREADY I'M LIKE HEMINGWAY).
The flight didn't land in Orlando until a little after 5:30pm. This was a little later than I'd hoped for, but, Disney has this service you can sign up for, wherein Disney will (this is true) pick up your luggage from baggage claim, and deliver it to your ROOM, using "Disney's Magical Express." When you use this service from Disney (slogan: "Buy More Stuff!") you never see your luggage, it just gets delivered from the airport to your room, while you are on a separate shuttle bus to your hotel.
This leads us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #1:
---The "Magical Express" is neither.
First, it's a big ol' bus, as in, one of those "Grey Line" giant types, but with way less retirees, and way more children (although, if you think about it, the percentage of people who crap themselves remains the same).
It also has a video player and many monitors. So, they naturally run videos, right? I bet you think they run a continuous video of . . . Disney movies? Nope! Disney TV shows? Nope! Try: An INFOmercial about how smart you were to choose Disney's Magical Express, telling you crap you already know (such as, "Hey, you know how you're on board this bus with no luggage? What? You left it at the airport? Ha! ha! You cretin! It's about to be eaten by US Customs Guard Dogs! Ha! ha! No, just kidding, we're delivering it to your room! What? You KNEW that? Well, we're going to tell you that same thing 37 more times in this 5 minute loop, just in case!"
That's the video. Verbatim, because I got to watch it for almost an hour.
This is because, even though they grouped us by hotel, and even though we got on the "Magical EXPRESS to The Contemporary Hotel," we still had to travel to 2 other hotels first. Total trip time on the bus? 42 minutes. Maybe in a world where you wait 2 hours to ride Space Mountain, 42 minutes constitues "Express."
We arrived at "The Contemporary," which is one of the original Disney hotels, and I think was the first one that had a Monorail sailing right into the building. In particular, in this one, the Monorail sails over the heads of folks in the (many) in-hotel restaurants.
Which brings us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #2:
---If you're going to Disney to run these races, cough up the extra dough, and stay in a hotel with a MON-O! (Wow, I just came up with a great jingle, I'm just like Don Draper, except for the good looks, smoking, and no women throwing themselves at me). The Monorail in the hotel is a MUST if you're running these races (or if you have a small child who takes afternoon naps). I'll get to the reasons why the monorail is important when we get to the races (no, really, we'll get to them!).
So the hotel room was nice, except for . . . no bags. But really, it otherwise had all the comforts of home (except for those comforts packed and put into bags, which, were probably still on the airport luggage carosel, being targeted by the aforementioned US Customs Guard Dogs for wee-wee'ing).
When the bags DID arrive, it was far too late to head to packet pickup, and time for bed. The races are ALL at insanely early start times.
Friday was the first race day. The 5K. Let's get to it:
While I'd missed check-in/package pickup for the 5K on Thursday, unlike any of the other Disney races that weekend, they DO allow you to do late pickup of your stuff for the 5K.
This leads us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #3:
---PICK UP YOUR 5K STUFF LATE! There is NO line on Friday morning. There are ONLY happy volunteers. Way too happy for being awake in Florida at the crack of dawn in sub-freezing weather. Yes, you'll miss out on the Expo, but you can get that crapola on Friday or Saturday.
Onto the race:
Friday (day of the 5K) Wake up time: 5:00am
Temperature at wake up: 31 degrees F. Temperature at race start: 35 degrees F.
So I woke up from a dead-to-the-world sleep, checked the temps, and realized I was only really prepared for ONE day's worth of cold weather (out of the three races), because (FORESHADOWING PAYOFF) I hadn't really checked the weather that carefully. I mean, how cold could it get in FLORIDA? So, I made the executive decision that, this only being a 5K and all that rot, that I would NOT throw away the extra sweatshirt I'd packed (normally, you wear some throwaway clothes on a cold-morning race start, and they donate the clothes to the homeless). In this case, the homeless would have to wait a couple of days.
So I went sprinting out of my hotel towards the bus that was to take me to the race (no monorail for the 5K). With luck, there were THREE buses out front! Woo-hoo! I went running up, so I wouldn't miss the first one, when a driver said to me, "Sir, are you wanting to to go the race?" Um, well, yes, I explained. "Ok," he said. "I'll take you."
I got on the bus, and this is what I saw (actual photo):
So apparently I could have slept in a bit later? Either the runners got their packets on Thursday, or I would have a chance at a top-10 finish! (Assuming a race field of 8 runners)
We (meaning, the driver and me) headed off to the race, not before stopping at a couple more hotels. At this point, I'd like to describe the 2 primary groups of 5K racers I
encountered, who DID get on the bus:
1. Hard core "Dopey" racers, doing the 5K just to have done every race, and
2. People dressed in costumes that were complex enough to pass not only Disney characters, but for ANIMATED Disney characters.
Sure, I was running Dopey, but I'm hardly a hardcore runner. I barely trained for my first two marathons, just missed sub-4 hours at Richmond, and was basically doing Dopey on a lark. This meant I fit into neither group, and we'll get to why this is an important distinction in a second. Suffice it to say that you had folks who REALLY got into the fact that they were at DisneyWorld, and have clearly consumed the yummy Disney Kool-Aid, complete with accessories.
The Disney 5K races of Marathon Weekend are always themed around a Disney movie, usually one about to be released on DVD. One year was the Lion King re-release, I am sick about missing the one around time time of "Cars." The movie for my year, was "Up," which I hadn't seen at the time.
There's not a lot to do pre-race, except you COULD stand in line to meet the fat kid from Up, and the Ed Asner-voiced Old Man as well:
I passed. The line was HUGE. Plus, if anything, I wanted to meet the Doggie, and I didn't see HIM. Humph. So after I got my stuff, I went to the race start, which was about as populated as my shuttle bus:
7 minutes and faster per mile,
7-9 minutes per mile,
10-12 minutes per mile,
12-14 minutes per mile, over 14 per mile + walkers.
For a 5K race, I'll run about 8:20-8:30 per mile, but I knew I was supposed to hold back since I, you know, still had 39.3 miles more to go AFTER this race. The trouble was, this is how many people were in front of me not long before the race start (different picture):
Then, fortunately, a smattering of folks started to file in around me. We'll call these, "The Uber Runners of Doom Who Fear Nothing(tm)" This bring us to
Tai's Disney Race Tip #4:
---Wear some kind of clothing that exhibits that you are, in fact, capable of running a race.
However, make sure the clothing is from a HARD race. As in, "I ran to the Moon and back, and all I got was this t-shirt. But at least it wicks." If you don't have clothing from a SERIOUS race, then for the 5K, seriously just wear something nondescript, and be ready to be looked down upon.
Remember, I'd gotten there REALLY early. And I was wearing shorts. But they were Marine Corps Marathon shorts, and I had a Parks Half Marathon hat on. So, as I stood there within sight of the starting line, as runners started to file in around me, I noticed they were wearing stuff like "JFK 50 Miler," clothing. Some sort of Texas "50 mile + 50K" jacket, and there were LOTS of references around me to "Badwater." (Note for nonrunners -- this is the race out in the USA Western desert, where the runners have to cover 100+ miles, but they run on the white stripes of the highway, because otherwise -- this is true -- THEIR SHOES MELT).
It takes a lot to make someone who has run a FEW marathons feel inadequate -- WHILE WAITING TO DO A 5K.
Anyway, I'm standing there, and people start asking each other about their shirts/hats/commemorative satellite dishes. All of this is to show each other that that they had previously run races on broken glass, while punching themselves in the groin, covering distances comparable to those travelled by Magellan. One of them took a shine to me, and wanted to engage in showing me how Awesome he was, while we stood there, shivering, waiting for the 5K start:
Uber runner: "So. Where's the Parks Half Marathon?"
Me: "Oh, it's in Maryland. A nice little course. Fast. Not too hilly at all."
Uber runner: "Aw, hills are good for you. Makes running worth it."
Me: "Hills make me want to shoot myself."
Uber runner: (thinking I'm kidding) "Ha! Ha! Right! Yeah, the higher the better!"
Me: (attempts to figure out way to feign heat stroke in 30 degree weather)
Uber runner: "So, what, are you signed up for the half tomorrow as well or something?"
Me: "I'm doing the Dopey."
Uber runner: (Pause, not quite believing me) "Oh. Planning on any ultras this season?"
Me: "Hey! Are they serving Michelob Ultra at the finish line this early? You bet! Ha! Ha! Um . . . ha?"
Uber runner: (politely nods at me like a first grader has just told him a knock-knock joke)
He then proceeded to take off, and then put back on, his "I ran 50 miles for the fun of it" race jacket with about as much subtlety as Paris Hilton exiting a limo (simulated photo):
Anyway, I looked around the growing tight pack of runners in the corral I was in, NONE of whom were inching up to the "fastest" corral in front of us, and tried to decide how I was going to explain to people that I decided AGAINST the 5K portion of Dopey, for the sole basis that I didn't want to be a member of the Uber Runners Club anymore.
People were STILL talking about their ultra races. Who even KNEW there were so many water stops on the way to Pluto?!
At one point, I said something like, "I dunno, I might make this my last marathon, and give triathlons a go."
You could seriously have heard a pin drop. My "buddy" uber runner sneered. I distinctly heard, from elsewhere, a chortle.
"Bah," said Uber McRunRun. "Too much bike maintenance. Even on the swim, your goggles can fog up. With running you just go." He DID have a point about bike maintenance, but don't you need to know other technical running stuff if you're, you know, going to run up Mount Everest naked?
Through all of the front-of-the-pack posturing, the folks in the back of the pack are whooping it up like crazy. I kept hearing laughs, cheers, even CHANTS (seriously? What do you chant in 33 degree weather? "LET'S SET FIRE TO THE PEOPLE IN THE FRONT!" is my guess).
Anyway, those folks were in more complex costumes than a week's worth of Lady GaGa at an awards show, they're singing . . . and they're laughing at the hosts up on the stage making jokes . . . about us in the front.
Hosts: "Hey -- who here is running ALL the races this weekend?" We at the front cheer . . . only to be interrupted by the host saying --
Hosts: "What is WRONG with you people?!" (People in the back of the pack point and laugh)
(Uber runners sneer, then set themselves on fire so they can run fast and put out the flames)
Meanwhile, I'm continuously taking my sweatshirt on and off (it's over my race number, on another shirt), but I can't decide what to DO with it. Toss it now? What if it's cold tomorrow and Sunday? I'll need it! I can't wear it during this 5K, because it will cover my race number, and I'll get no pictures! I can't put my number ON my sweatshirt, because then I'll get frickin' hot. Wait! I know . . . I'll carry it. Like a dork. And decidedly not Uber. Because, I should point out, I counted FIVE Uber Runners with backpacks, as they didn't even plan to go back to their hotels at 7:30ish in the morning -- they'd just brought their stuff for the day, and were going to run the 5K with it on their backs. This included my "buddy" Uber Runner, who said, when I asked about his backpack, "Ah, it's just a 5K, I want the extra weight to make this a challenge." Because, you know, just running the 5K FAST isn't a challenge enough, apparently. As if hearing my thoughts, he said, "I plan to run after this race anyway."
Finally, at this point, we must pause. To acknowledge one of the folks from a little farther back in the pack, who was brought up on stage. He was in full costume, as the fat kid from "Up." Meaning, he was a grown man dressed like a Boy Scout in shorts. Holding a little triangular pennant. He was introduced as the fat kid's "little brother," (I still don't know the kid's name in the movie) and I seriously thought they were doing schtick at first.
Hosts: "So . . . (fat kid)'s little brother - what's your name?"
Larry: "Laaaaaaaarrrrryyyyyy." (At this point he's kind of turning his upper torso from side to side, slowly. It's like he's being almost . . . shy. Like a little boy. Somewhere, Michael Jackson is REALLY pissed about being dead, and Catholic priests are fighting to get a flight to Orlando.
Hosts: "Are you here to earn a merit badge, Larry?"
Larry: (giggles) "I have ah-very-one ahl-reeeeady" (giggles)
I put my sweatshirt back ON, because I had the chills, and not from the cold. This guy was just another racer. So I had a choice of sitting up front with gravel-eating braggards or with Grown Men In Boy Scout Uniforms. I didn't have to decide which to choose, because before I knew it, the race was about to start, and the wheelchair races were given the initial get-go.
At that point, I realized several things:
1. There were, at most, about 15 people standing in front of me. For the ENTIRE race field.
2. I had (stupidly) put my sweatshirt back on, and fastened my Garmin OVER the wrist.
3. My shoes were untied (no, really, they were).
So, having spent time listening to Fasty McRunRun, I'd lost any opportunity to go through a mental checklist. I couldn't just rip off my sweatshirt. It was locked on because of the wrist-Garmin, looking like this, which I've reproduced here:
Just as I was realizing ALL of this, there's a "GO!" followed by LOTS of fireworks. I went down faster than Lee Harvey Oswald doing that Final Perp Walk.
First, I started to furiously tie at my shoes, while Uber Runners around me launched themselves into low earth orbit. "GAAAAH!!!!!!," they all shouted, propelling themselves over and past me, "WE ARE RUNNING AN UNTIMED 5K FUN RUN, AND WE WILL THRASH ANY WHO STAND IN OUR WAY! GAAAAH!!!!"
Suffice it to say, I was practically tying my shoes while sitting ON the metal fence to my left to keep from getting jostled. While down there, I saw some amazing race shirts/jackets/commemorative cinder blocks fly past me. So I tied my shoes, and then ripped my sweatshirt off, forgetting it's position on the OUTSIDE of my sweatshirt sleeve, which yielded this result:
I was left with this long, tubular extension (of an entire sweatshirt) on my left hand. I furiously grabbed at it, and practically CHEWED it off of my wrist, so I could get to my Garmin, and hit the "start" button as I crossed the start line. But by this point, I was in the thick of some of the costumed fun folks. Right THEN, I heard it:
"Hey, great job Larry! Keep it up!" "Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks! *giggle*"
I took off at a dead sprint.
The 5K race itself is really wonderful. It's only in Epcot, but it's pre-opening, so you have the entire park to yourself, along with a couple of thousand(?) other runners. Running the "Nations of the World" was really fun, because for me, Epcot is about as far out of the U.S. as I like to travel. Seriously, not that I'm super xenophobic, I just like my comforts of home. For a while there, when all the stories of drug cartel killings were happening in Mexico, I couldn't walk by a Chi-Chi's without hyperventilating.
So, I ran, carrying my sweatshirt, and generally looking as dorky as I expected:
That's my camera in my right hand, and the omnipresent sweatshirt in the right. Oh, and I'm wearing "will run for beer" gloves. Uber.
But . . . SMILING! Because I was definitely NOT an Uber Runner of Doom, but also because I had left Larry in the dust. I was actually moving along at a good clip, even for someone carrying a camera, and a sweatshirt.
Anyway, after losing a full minute at the Great Start Line Screwup of 2010(tm), I managed to run the thing in 25 minutes and change, which turned out to be my best time for any 5K. At least it would be, except this was an untimed (unreported) Fun Run -- just don't tell the Uber Runners that! I gladly accepted my (rubber!) medal.
I headed back to the buses, getting my bags from Bag Check (a seriously very well-run system), and hopped on a bus. Again, there were pretty much only Uber-runners on the bus, as the costumed folks were still line-dancing their way to the finish line, loving every second of it. The runners on my bus talked to each other about the next day (while they tried to figure out if they could pull the bus with their teeth -- you know, to make the whole Friday 5K experience a "challenge.").
At this point, my Race Report will take a Short Dramatic Turn. All good stories are supposed to have low, serious points, right? Sure, this isn't a good story, but it will have one anyway.
For this, I'm referring to Friday evening. The night before the Half. Easily my lowest point, and candidly, one of the all-too-often-times I've been gripped with dread. I had blown WAY too much time on my feet that day, post-race.
This bring us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #5:
--TAKE A NAP. REST. You are NOT there to conga-dance with Goofy, Mickey, Harpo, or any other person in a rubber mask (insert your own easy joke there). You HAVE to rest.
Because that's the dirty secret of this weekend -- you get a LOT taken out of you. The distances are only half the course (dramatic pause for THAT pearl, thankyouverymuch!). The punishment you inflict on yourself also comes from being on your feet too much while you're there. I mean, you're at WDW: You want to see sights, right? BAD MOVE.
I hadn't napped during the afternoon (HUGE MISTAKE), and after walking around the Magic Kingdom, I was tired. But by then, when I still needed to get my Race Materials and Bracelets for the Half and the Full, I had my first inkling of fatigue, and of not really making this easy on me.
This is the real difficulty of doing Dopey over Goofy -- you lose an extra night's sleep, and it's an extra day of fatigue when the lack of sleep, and extra fatigue are the LAST things you want before you tack on another 39.3 miles over the 3.2 you'd just gotten up at the crack of dawn to run that day.
So I found myself at the Expo on Friday evening, when I still had to get up at 3:30am for the Half the next morning (that's not a misprint -- Disney demands that everyone be on a Bus/Monorail by 4am so as not to be late). The Expo was nice enough. When I got there, I noticed that Dick and Rick Hoyt were giving a talk:
But no time to sightsee. I had to get my crapola, and hustle back to the hotel to sleep.
The Half/Full measuring system at Disney is simple enough, but effective. They give you a Silver Bracelet, which you wear (even in the shower) until you finish the Half. If/When you do finish the Half, and you're signed up for the Full, they cut the Silver one off, and give you a Blue Bracelet. When you comple the Full, you can prove you've run "Goofy" (remember, the 5K portion constituting Dopey isn't sanctioned by Disney). Here's the bracelets:
Anyway, I got my bracelets, got my race numbers for the Half, and the Full, and then realized it was nearly 5:30pm. Still no dinner. At least 45 minutes back to the hotel on another bus, and then bed. Ugh. So I went and hauled myself to the little cafe area, and sat down, alone, to east some pasta. This was easily my biggest moment of self-doubt. I was down, depressed, and plenty worried. I couldn't even get a hold of my daughter to talk to her at all that day (she was out to dinner with her mom and her mom's boyfriend, so no contact with for me).
I was bone tired, hungry, and generally knew that I didn't come close to the fitness level of the Uber runners from that morning, all of whom would be doing the Half (and the Full) the next morning. I really had NO idea what was going to happen to me at the Full. I mean, I knew I could do a Half with little challenge, but really didn't know how my body would react the day AFTER that, as my total weekend mileage started to hit the 30s and beyond.
I actually sat there, at the table, and said out loud, "Maybe I bit off more than I can chew on this one." If you've ever seen me eat, isn't an easy task. I just didn't know what was about to happen to me.
This gets us to Saturday morning. Dramatic turn over, just a little of the personal doldrums/angst, but not enough to derail me by this point. Especially getting up at . . .
3:30am for a race!
Saturday (day of the Half)
Wake up time: 3:30am
Temperature at wake up: 26 degrees F.
Temperature at race start: 28 degrees F.
Remember -- this is FLORIDA.
So I woke up, took a few minutes to come to, and when I finally pushed aside the curtains, I looked outside, and said to myself, "Wow. It's raining really SLOWLY this morning." That was when I realized - that's not rain falling from the sky.
It was snow.
In Florida. It was SNOWING in Florida.
Have I mentioned it was snowing? In FLORIDA?
Anyway, as I added layer and layer to myself, I passed on bringing a camera, since the pictures --I-- took were so dark at the 5K, and I didn't want my camera frozen/waterlogged. Off I went. I hit the monorail by 4am, right like they asked, and it wasn't a super long ride to the start, which is near Epcot. Folks were all in pretty good moods (including the ones around me who mentioned that they had gotten up at 2am (!!) in order to get to the starting line in time).
Packs of people were huddled under large floodlights, which were scattered along the way to the starting line, shining down. They stood in the floodlights for WARMTH, like they were little Under-Armour-wearing bugs.
This brings us to some good news:
The good news: The snow stopped by the starting time.
The bad news: It had turned to sleet.
This bring us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #6:
---Disney will SWEAR up and down that you have to be on a bus/monorail by 4am, for a 5:30-6:00 starting time (I was placed in one of the faster corrals for the Half/Full, so I was looking at pre-6am starting times). I understand why they do. They have to move a zillion people from hotels, parking lots, bus areas, and probably Jupiter, all to the starting lines.
So they tell you that you have to get there EARLY. For the Half, I believed them. I was on the Monorail by 4am, zipping over to Epcot, with a bunch of all-too-tired Goofy and Half-only runners. I didn't do bag check, since I was right nearby at the hotel, and just stood at the starting line.
And I stood (and stood). And, let me make this clear: Stood. In Florida. Where it was snowing/sleeting.
I was in place well before 5am, watching the snow slowly turn to sleet, wishing I was back in one of the floodlight pods of people.
Anyway, there I was, in the snow, er, sleet. In Florida. Where it was, to be sure, snowing. And sleeting. I tried to keep warm as best I could, but there's not a whole lot you can do but stand there and shiver. Meanwhile, the poor saps who drove were STILL in traffic headed to parking lots (why the heck would you stay off-site for this event? Because you WANT to get up at 1am and then run a marathon?).
So all this is to say that if you stay on-site, particularly at a monorail-based hotel, you can likely earn yourself back some time in the hotel before you have to leave for the start line. I suspect the worst case scenario is that you start farther back in a corral.
Thankfully, the Half started, and we shuffled along. I knew that the key for this race was to run ridiculously slower than I would normally run a Half.
So I did something I've never done in a timed race before: Deliberate, planned walk breaks.
These are perfectly acceptable things to do for runners, with one slight issue for the Half: It was sleeting (psst! In Florida!). So the longer the race took, the LONGER you're out in the elements, exhausted from getting up ridiculously early. The course was nice enough, taking us from Epcot through the Magic Kingdom, with LOADS of crowds in the parks themselves.
Still, it was a difficult Half, not because of the distance, but moreso because of the lack of sleep, the weather, and the sheer need to SLOW THE (blank) DOWN. Which isn't your instinct, when it's frickin' freezin out there.
In all honesty -- I absolutely NEVER got warm on my race. Normally, for cold weather races, you'd of course expect to shed your hat, gloves, and maybe even a layer as you run. But in this case, I never went fast enough to run, and just kept feeling cold. Meanwhile, you're getting sleeted and rained on, and there were a few water stops where the water contained (this is true) frozen bits inside it. Even the "Gu" they handed out was hard, like jolly-rancher candy-hard, and wasn't really consumable, unless you warmed it in your hands as you ran.
Let's talk about the course itself -- the course is quite NARROW at times, which makes it even funnier, when you're running along from Epcot, about to enter the Magic Kingdom, and there's an automated voice saying, "Warning: Course narrows in the Magic Kingdom." Um, how much closer are we supposed to run together? Initially departing Epcot is marked by numerous instances where the road gets VERY wide, but then narrows down to a noticeably smaller degree, often a single lane of highway. There really weren't many times during the Half that I found myself somewhat alone. The parts of the race in between the parks do expand out quite a bit, even to the point where you might find yourself running on a 3 or 4 lane road.
There were marching bands, cheerleaders, and other entertainment (including a LOT of Disney characters, at least in the parks). You could stand in line to hand a volunteer your camera, or sometimes they'd have an ASI photographer there was well to take your picture. I passed on any posed shots, figuring the Half was going to take me long enough running it slowly, and I was FREEZING the whole way.
Day finally broke. I am SUPER excited I brought my sunglasses (so I could wear them on my head for 13 miles). I'm nearly finished at this point, because the course takes you back to Epcot for the finish.
This is me, not being happy about being in Florida. Where it was snowing.
And finally at the end. Soaked. Cold. But glad it's over, and in possession of my Donald Medal. Two races down!
Race completed: Half Marathon:
Finishing stats: 2:21; Top 34% overall finishers.
For the Dopey Challenge, or Goofy Challenge, as you hit the finish line, you're herded to a "Goofy" tent, where your silver bracelet is cut off, and a blue one is immediately put on you.
This signifies that you're in the middle of the Goofy challenge, and that you've met the first goal. But I REALLY wanted to keep that silver bracelet. It meant a lot to me, because I'd been wearing it for half a day anyway, and I hoped to keep it for the shadow box I was making. The woman cut it off, looked at me and said, "Do you want to keep it?" I practically cried and kissed her. So I got my blue bracelet, and headed back out into the sleet.
This brings us to "The Bus Ride Home of Doom"(tm).
You might have noticed my lovely gloves. They read, "Will run for beer." I heart them. At least, I did. So I finished the Half, got my medal, and basically just tried to get out of the wind, the sleet, and the freezing rain. Yes, it literally "pre-cip'd" all over me for the entire 2 and a half hours. I was SOAKED. I was COLD. And I was in absolutely NO mood to stand around shaking hands with Chip, Dale, Zeppo, or whatever idiot in a rubber suit was calling himself. Because THOSE guys were WARM. So I skulked my way along the finishing grounds to the shuttle buses back to the various hotels. When I finally found the bus destined for my hotel, I watched it . . . drive off. More than half empty.
So I stood in the (new) line for my (not-yet-there) bus, clutching my space blanket around me like I was Hester Prynne at a Witch Trial.
A bus finally showed up, and I climbed aboard, soaked cold to the bone with melting snow, sleet, and rain. I threw my gear in the chair to my left (leftover Gu, my "run for beer" gloves, and my bracelet), and tried to get warm on the bus.
With one problem -- the air conditioning was on. As in, "the bus was blowing cold air." So, at this point, I realized I was:
1. Going to die.
2. In Florida.
3. Of Hypothermia
4. While on land.
5. INSIDE A BUS.
I figured that a death like that is not typical for Floridians, so at least that was something.
It was a race against the clock while the driver took the (maybe) 30 of us on this bus to our hotel. Except he got lost. A Disney driver got lost, at Disneyworld. Maybe the snow got in his eyes?
Regardless, he pulled up to a hotel (not mine), and announced that he was going back to the race finish, and that there was a monorail there for those of us who wanted to get to a hotel he hadn't reached yet. So I leaped up and bolted for the door. Without the stuff on my left seat. My cut, silver bracelet. My gloves.
I made it all the way up to the monorail when I realized everything was driving away from me (all I had was my space blanket, and the medal around my neck). Ugh. However, because this IS Disney World, EVERYTHING (including my bracelet, which meant the most to me) was returned to my room later that afternoon. Disney workers are magical, even if they're not really adept at driving around their own theme parks.
I went to bed early again, and was still pretty worried, but figured that it couldn't get much colder. It was Florida, right? How much worse could it get?
Temperature at wake up: 24 degrees F. (WTF?!)
Temperature at race start: 26 degrees F. (coldest start ever)
Have I mentioned this was all in Florida?
A little wiser, I'd slept in this morning, then gotten up, put on what seemed like EVERY article of clothing I'd owned, and headed downstairs to the Monorail.
I checked my medals (yes, I brought the 5K and Half Medals with me) at the bag check, and made for the starting line, which was alarmingly close to the front.
This bring us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #7:
The Disney Races are typically a slow field. I say this because I was placed in "Corral C," and the Corrals went up to, and past "Corral H." I was WAY up front. This is actually a good thing, because the Disney races include a lot of newbie runners, who will really run along cluelessly, 3- and 4-abreast. While wearing costumes so elaborate they might contain Walt Disney's DNA.
Anyway, pre-6am, the elites, followed WAY too quickly by my wave, got the gun, and off we went:
I then added the sweatshirt that had served me so well for 2 races to the pile donated to the homeless, here at the start of the 3rd race:
I waved to "The Big 4" as I hit the starting mat. 16+ miles down, another 26 to go, and this year-long planned event would be over:
There isn't much to show by way of photos for the first portion of this race. It was really dark, and I was pretty quiet. I just wasn't sure when the proverbial wheels were going to come off as I passed the 20 mile mark --for the weekend-- at mile 4(!) of the marathon. But the crowds, including the cast at the Magic Kingdom, and "Main Street USA" were ridiculously supportive:
Above, you can see we are heading into Cinderella's Castle. I was REALLY ticked that, after stopping for a photo in front of this place by the ASI photographers, it turns out it didn't get recorded. Grrr. It wasn't helping my stress level. Plus, I was seriously FREEZING. Hat stayed on, gloves, layer and layer. No rain/snow/sleet today, but bitter cold just didn't warm me up, and I wasn't about to test how much faster I could go with so many miles still to cover. But, finally, I started to sense that I was going to get through the day:
It was so cold that morning that I saw numerous people sliding at water stops, and unfortunately more than one person took a spill from the ice on the ground. When I got back to my room, I found that I had Chocolate Gu FROZEN to my face.
This one is my favorite:
I also stopped for a less iconic-one, or at least less smoochy:
I hadn't even SEEN "Up" at this point, but I was in love with EVERYONE by the last 5-6 miles of the race:
I had a great picture with Mike Wizowski, the green
It was the happiest I'd ever been, for what was EASILY my slowest marathon ever.
I'd never had so much fun running such a slow race in my life.
Finishing stats: 4:48; Top 38% overall finishers.
Overall Goofy Challenge Stats: Top 7+ hours total, top 36% overall finishers.
Overall Dopey Stats: Probably dead last, based on the idiots who were up at the front of that 5K with me.
In fact, this bring us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #8:
The course is NOT boring. Except for the parts where it is. Here's what I mean by that.
The course DOES take you through all 4 of Disney's parks:
(1) The Magic Kingdom,
(2) Disney's Animal Kingdom,
(3) Disney's Hollywood Studios, and
But, there are significant stretches between each park where the road either narrows, and you run in a pack, or where you basically are just on a highway to the next theme park. Those CAN be boring at times. They do give some entertainment along the way. I came upon "The Florida Polka Society" at one point post-Animal Kingdom, and they did NOT take my suggestion for "Lady of Spain" very well -- apparently, that's music for accordion poseurs.
I also came upon 2 "lost tourists," who had maps, cameras, and ill-fitting shoes, asking all the runners for directions. I said to the lady, "You look just like my Aunt Nancy -- except her mustache is darker," to which she replied "Don't you be funnier than me!"
So Disney tries, they really do. I got a hearty salute from Capt. Jack Sparrow, when I called out to him (folks were in line to take pictures with him), and because your name is on your bib, people are constantly calling encouragement to you. All that's great. You just have to be prepared for some VERY slow, boring stretches in between parks. And is a little quiet contemplation so bad when you're on mile 35? Anyway, the chute between mile 42, and the finish line at mile 42.4 was marked by a choir singing and generally making sure that you were about to experience one of the most spiritually uplifting points of your life -- finishing something you'd trained a year to do.
But, again, I was done. So it was time for copious picture taking and animal smooching and THIS is why you bring your 5K/Half Medals to bag check, which is NOT far from the finish line! If you think ahead, THEN you get to have:
The next day, Monday, was time to walk around the Magic Kingdom. It's cultural at Disney that on the day after the races, you wear your medals.
42+ miles later, you bet your bee-hind I did!
I remain profoundly grateful for the support as I trained this past year, and was so happy to finish, even if I'm not uber.
It's an incredible series of races, and one that makes you feel oh-so-proud of being oh-so-Dopey.
In fact, this bring us to Tai's Disney Race Tip #9:
--Have fun. It's the Happiest Place on Earth. You run for the love of it (at least, you better).
--Have fun. It's hard NOT to, even when you're running deliberately slow and getting sleeted on.
Maybe I'll try the challenge again another year. It can't snow on me twice, right?
Thanks for reading this nonsense,