Thursday, January 31, 2013

Walt Disney World Half Marathon & Marathon (Goofy Challenge 2013)

I haven't talked much about running at all lately and here we are at a race report.  I've been dealing with injuries since my marathon in November.  They were serious enough that I knew the Goofy Challenge was the last thing I needed to put my body through.  I thought about calling the airline and resort to see what type of bullet I'd bite if I canceled the whole trip.  And then the very next day Disney sent me my final trip documents and the excitement of going to Disney itself was too much.

My injury issues get worse the farther I go and I feel worse after a run than before (pretty much the opposite of the knee issue I battled right before the marathon).  Those two things are usually signs you just need to stop.  Getting worse the farther you go is terrible news for a marathon.  Feeling worse after a run than before is horrible for something like the Goofy Challenge.  I was willing to give up the half but was invested in finishing the full.  I was pretty sure I could get through the full marathon but wasn't so sure I could hobble through it the day after a half.

The Half Marathon

I flew to Disney armed with two race outfits but wasn't sure what I was going to do about the half.  I picked up my race packet and still didn't know.  I laid out my race outfit for the half and still wasn't fully invested.  I set my alarm for a 2:30 am wake-up and still wasn't 100% sure I'd wake up and do the race.  To add insult to injury I had a slight head cold when I arrived at Disney and I wasn't sure if that would worsen and make the marathon a no-go.  The only reason I did the half was because I woke up at 2:20 am before my alarm and didn't feel the need to fall back asleep.  If I was up anyway I should just run, right?  If I had been awakened from a deep slumber at 2:30 am with the need to hit snooze, I probably would have skipped the race.

In order to prevent my leg from combusting I decided I would walk 0.5 mi of every mile the entire race.  I stuck to this plan the whole 13.1 miles.  There were plenty of times I wanted to extend the run segment but I kept repeating to myself, "You may not have been out here at all!"  There was no point in finishing faster or running farther.  Just experiencing the race was my reward today and I had to save myself for the marathon.

My leg was tight the whole way but overall I felt pretty good.  I even walked from miles 12.5 to 13.0 of the race.  It was so hard not to run but I just kept repeating my mantra of the day and kept myself contained.  I finished with an amazing PW of 3:07.  But I got my Donald medal and got to experience one of my great running loves of Disney races.

The start!

My first view of the Castle is always during the half. Love.

I have now done 11 Disney races and find myself not needing to stop and take photos with certain characters.  Not a huge Disney Princess fan so bypassed the monster line for this photo-op.

Not me, but the cast member I gave my camera to thought this group belonged to my camera so I got a freebie.

The last time I ran the half I brought my sunglasses along and never needed them.  Left them at home this day, but being out there so much longer could have used them.  Pirate photo-op I skipped on the left.

Crossed the line, got my Donald medal and immediately went to the med tent to get ice for my adductor injury.

Walking so much, I finished the half feeling as if I hadn't gone for a run at all.  I got back to my hotel room and did a series of yoga stretches and stuck my legs up the wall while I iced my groin again.  I usually hit up Animal Kingdom after the half for a short amount of time and then go to Downtown Disney to watch a movie and stay off my feet the rest of the day before the marathon.

One thing I didn't take into account is that my legs are not used to so much brisk walking.  I also walked very quickly for fairly long distances after the race because I almost missed the showing of "Finding Nemo the Musical" that I wanted to catch and then was running late to the movie show time I had wanted to catch (in case you were wondering, it takes about an hour to get from Animal Kingdom to Downtown Disney via resort transportation).  There was a little niggle in my left leg Saturday evening after the half from the brisk walking, but I wrote it off as something that wouldn't give me any trouble (ha!).

The Marathon (#37)

I woke up at 1 am and couldn't fall back asleep.  Bleh.  I got out of bed about 3 am and had that awesome deja vu feeling that always comes with the Goofy Challenge.

My strategy for this race was to take a walk break every 2 miles or so and then see what happened.  For 6 weeks before the Goofy Challenge I hadn't run more than 19 miles in one week.  Read that again and weep with me.  I knew eventually the lack of training was going to catch up with me but I figured I'd enjoy the day and my favorite race.

This sign always cracks me up.  Nothing rational about running a marathon.  I also get goose bumps when I see this.  Those lights ahead mark my favorite race start.

I told myself to soak in the start.  I love this race so much and I don't get to be here every year.

The race started and I felt amazing the first 13 or so miles.  My leg was actually feeling pretty good and unlike the day before I was allowed to run.  For the first time in a long time I felt like a runner again.

They changed the course this year.  We ran around the race track and had lots of what I'm sure are interesting and cool cars to look at (not a car fan).
I may not know real cars, but I appreciate the Pixar themed ones :)

I actually stopped to get a photo with these two, realized they were just NOT cute, and snapped this and moved on.

I have no idea if this is Disney related, but they had Christmas music playing, and you know I am a sucker for that type of thing.

Running in Animal Kingdom.  I had made it a goal to ride Everest during the marathon this year.  With the course change I was in this park before the park was open :(  Major sadness!!

Direct sunshine made its debut here.

There has been a lot said about the weather at Disney World this year.  I believe the start temps were in the low 60s and the highs were in the low 80s.  Don't get me wrong, it was warm out there.  But the heat just didn't seem to bother me.  Sometime in Animal Kingdom I remember stopping for a photo-op and being amazed that my tank was totally soaked through.  But I wasn't feeling like I was wilting in the sun which is a little odd since I am a total heat weenie.  Perhaps it was my slow as molasses pace or perhaps it was the 5 Bikram yoga classes the week before.  Who knows.  Yes it was hot but I don't think it slowed me down much.  I don't know who I've become because I actually enjoyed the warm weather for park touring the week after the race.

Waiting for a photo with Daisy and Minnie

At about mile 14 after Animal Kingdom, that little niggle in my left leg from all the walking started to shout at me.  And it started shouting loudly. It hurt to run.  It hurt to walk.  It hurt pretty sharply and badly and I had a brief moment of despair at the thought of having to go another 10+ miles on it.  I started stopping at every med tent to put Biofreeze on it.  I am not sure if it helped but it certainly didn't hurt things.  I suppose that is the nice thing about doing a race 5 times.  Even though I had never seen the inside of a Disney med tent on the course, I knew exactly what supplies they would have at all of them and I knew they would be frequent.

Almost my turn for Pluto and Mickey!

Another change to the course was a run through the Sports Complex.  Two big thumbs down.  So boring.  So many turns.  Bleh!  I actually prefer the old out and back with Disney entertainment which is saying a lot.

I did appreciate the soft track surface.  My left leg felt a little better on it.

They copied what you do at the Disneyland half and you ran through the baseball stadium.  Except this isn't a "real" stadium so who really cares?  They had promised a "Mile 20 Spectacular" which I thought was this stupid run around the stadium.  I was overrun by my friend, Jill, after this and we were both not impressed.  The way they had hyped it up, I was expecting characters in pyramid formations and confetti.

So it turns out, THIS was the Mile 20 Spectacular.  Still a let down though I suppose to see the classic characters out is sort of a treat.
I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Forward progress.  Sometimes it seemed to feel better if I ran.  Sometimes it felt better if I walked.  But it always hurt.  I used to wonder about those people you see limping at the end of marathons -- yeah, that was sort of me.

Hallelujah, almost to the finish!
I got a high five from Mickey as I crossed the line!

Finished with a course PW of 5:39.  I got my marathon medal and for a nanosecond got slightly emotional that I had made it with my leg feeling the way it had for so long.  Then picked up my Goofy medal and got my left leg iced.  My right leg that had given me so many problems before the race had actually felt better during the full marathon than the half.  Go figure.

My left leg hurt so badly after the race I was actually concerned I wouldn't be able to walk back to the food court to get myself dinner later in the day, much less go to the parks after the race.  I took a short nap and when I woke up it felt a lot better.  It hurt when walking but if I went slowly it was manageable.  By the next day I could walk normally with just a slight twinge, and by the day after and ever since it has been 100%.

The marathon medal was special for the 20th anniversary and it didn't disappoint.  The Mickey head spins and reverses to a black-and-white Mickey and the inner ring spins and has two Walt Disney quotes on it.  Personally, I am a fan of the Mickey head-shaped medals of the past and that is the only way this thing could be better.

Spinner action

On the new course changes:  Not impressed. I miss the old days of running through Epcot in the very beginning of the race.  Now you get spit out onto the freeway portion and there is just nothing going on until the Magic Kingdom at mile 6.  Also, it is pitch black when you hit Magic Kingdom which makes getting photos with the castle really difficult. I already mentioned that Animal Kingdom is still closed when you run through so gone are the days of riding rides there.  I wasn't so impressed with the run around the car track but it wasn't terrible since they brought out stuff to look at and had music playing. I hated the run around the Sports Complex.  Also, my internal rhythm of the race was upset because we were hitting certain points so much sooner than usual. I'm used to it being a certain mile when I hit a certain point and that was all thrown off.  I felt like it should be mile 17 but wait, we're only at mile 12.  Boo.

Things also felt much more crowded.  I haven't looked into actual numbers but things just felt so much more congested.  There was a LINE over half a mile long to get into the expo.  I have never experienced that at these races before.  The half more-so than the full was also pretty cramped.

The expo is the building on the right.  That is a line I'm standing in to get inside.

My major beef with Disney races has always been, and still is, the fact that they do not have gender-specific shirts.  I have issues with race shirts that only go down to a woman's small so you can imagine what happens to me when the sizes are unisex.  To add more fuel to my fury is this:

You'd think in a race where the majority of runners are women they would cater to that demographic.  I have three more tech shirts I would love to wear but don't fit.  Thanks, Disney.

Given how my leg has been the last couple of months, I am grateful I was able to finish these races. I love them and to sit out would have hurt my heart.  That said, the last few times I have gone to Disney I have always just sort of stuck the races into my schedule almost as an afterthought. It has been a long time since I purposefully trained for a Disney Marathon.  I think I got into this rut because I never go for a time at Disney since I always stop for character photos and the weather is such a wild-card.

People would congratulate me on the Goofy Challenge after the race and I didn't feel as if there was really anything to congratulate me about.  Anyone can finish a marathon if they go slow enough.  Doing a marathon when you are undertrained and injured is at best stupid and at worst disrespectful of the distance and the people who actually worked for the accomplishment.  I'm obviously guilty of this and it isn't something I care to do again nor do I feel warrants back patting and congratulations.

I decided that the next time I'm back at Disney I'm going to pencil it in as an actual event to train for.  Not an afterthought a week after a goal marathon (see 2011) or a month after running marathons back-to-back (see 2010).  In 2005 it was my first marathon and I trained for it and was so thrilled when I finished.  In 2008, I trained specifically for my first Goofy Challenge and was so incredibly proud when I pulled it off.  I want to give this marathon some respect for a change. I won't ever race it because I can't help taking photos with characters and quite frankly it is a horrible PR course (26.9 per my Garmin people.  26.9!).  But I'd like some decent training in my legs and to push the pace a little when I am actually running.  Perhaps a sub-4 Disney?  That would be lots of fun.

I haven't decided yet if I'll do the Goofy Challenge the next time I go to Disney.  To be honest, even though I have done it 4 times I am not a fan of it.  The first time I really wanted to do it.  Ever since I only keep repeating it because I figure if I'm flying all the way out to Florida there is no reason to not do both races and get to participate in two Disney events.  I may decide to just do the marathon the next time or maybe I'll do some real Goofy training and see how much I can push the pace in both races.  To be determined...

You can check out my previous Walt Disney World race reports here (2010) and here (2011).


Becka said...


Same on the Disney shirts. I got XS and they MIGHT have fit, but are somehow tight ONLY in the forearm, and loose everywhere else. Lame.


Sorry you didn't get to ride Everest. You must not have been slow enough :( I rode and it was The Best.

Hope you are feeling better soon, injuries are the worst.

Layla said...

The shirts boggle my mind. Don't they have any female distance runners on their staff?! Weird.

Anyway, congratulations on making it through both races with your legs still attached! I want to do the Goofy Challenge one of these days, and your race reports just make me that much more determined to get there.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Hope you get to heal up now!

SF Road Warrior said...

Hey, you finished!! And with crazy injuries!! I know something about that now, so I appreciate the whole getting emotional at the end thing.

(And I have to admit, that is a pretty cool Mickey medal.)

Anonymous said...

From a 4-time Disney Half and 1-time Disney Marathoner, great post! My last one there was 2005 and, wow, I never saw an expo line a quarter as long as this year!? One question, what do you mean by "not a "real" baseball stadium?" It is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves! :)

naomi said...

There is no one I know that loves Disney more than you do so I'm glad you were able to finish both races. I still can't fathom running these races on back-to-back days. The fact that you did it injured is very impressive!

EndorphinBuzz said...

Nice work finishing, you are really determined!

I just saw that the Dopey challenge is now official for next year (I remember reading about it from you the first time around when you did it unofficially!)

Thinking about making the trip, will let you know if I do :)

PS: Sorry for not keeping up with your blog, I'm glad you are still running :)