My pelvis still feels achy (I believe due to pregnancy issues vs. the stress fracture) sometimes so I was hesitant to do back-to-back long runs that serious Goofy prep demands. I think only once I actually trained for Goofy doing back-to-back long runs so I knew base marathon training was enough to get it done. Due to scheduling issues I once did a 16 miler followed by a 10 miler the next day, didn't combust, and deemed that an adequate test for Goofy. I also continued the pattern of cutting back my long run distance every other week to play it safe.
During Goofy training I also finally got brave enough to do stroller runs all around Golden Gate Park. I was nervous about the longer hills (and also being so far from home with a toddler) but after doing my training wheels hill on the west side of the park over and over and over I decided to venture into the park. I am so glad I did! I get to do my old running routes and don't have to repeat segments.
|I used to do that triangle loop (about 1.3 miles) at the top over and over and over. The bottom leg of the triangle is uphill and I called it my "training wheels hill"|
This was my sixth Disney Marathon and my fifth Goofy Challenge. This race has changed a lot through the years of my participation -- some things good, some things not so good. I'll break down the weekend by days mainly for my own benefit down the road of remembering how I spent the time.
I caught a red eye out of San Francisco to Atlanta and then connected to Orlando. The flight took off at about 11pm and I was mighty tired at that point. I rarely sleep well on flights but can usually count on 2 hours or so on a red eye. I think maybe I fell asleep for 10 minutes the first flight. Probably less. That was unfortunate. Luckily I was in and out of sleep the second flight so got a little over an hour there. But I landed in Orlando extremely tired with a long day (and weekend) staring me in the face.
I caught the Magical Express out to my hotel on Disney property. I've come to love Pop Century as my home base at Disney. I waited a little too long to make my hotel reservations this time around and had to cobble together three different reservations in order to get all the days I needed at Pop for the marathon weekend. I was told they would try to get me in the same room the whole time but there was a possibility I would have to check-in and out of rooms twice while I was there.
When I checked in I was told that they had managed to get me in the same room the whole time (HUGE relief) but that I was still technically on three different reservations so should call to make sure they were aware of this and I shouldn't have to vacate the room each time. No problem!
I headed to my room, got settled, and got ready to go to the expo to pick up my bib. I hopped on a bus headed to the expo at Wide World of Sports. There were a ton of cars trying to get into the facility which surprised me since Dopey runners had to be there two days earlier and I thought that would mitigate a lot of the high traffic on Thursday. I later learned that the kids races were being held which explained the large amount of traffic.
It was a lot of fun to watch all the kids streaming in and I took this video to send to my husband (with some note about how maybe our son would have fun doing this if it interested him in the future).
One way the race has changed over the last decade is that the expo is spread out over three different locations at Wide World of Sports. I think the last time it was in two buildings. It was originally all crunched into one building. They made me take a photo with my bib for the Goofy Challenge. Previously you had a wristband you had to switch out after the half to prove you did both races but they have since change the system to photo comparison.
Another change: GENDER SPECIFIC RACE SHIRTS! My biggest gripe about Disney races, hands down, was the fact that they still utilized unisex shirts. And this was despite the fact that the majority of the runners at their events are now female. I have never gotten a shirt from a Disney race that fit me well. But the shirts this year fit me great and I'll wear them all the time.
I wound through the expo but wasn't too impressed with anything this year. It felt like there were less outside vendors than usual. I did pick up a Headsweats hat but one item is definitely the least amount of loot I've picked up at this expo. None of the official race merchandise was tantalizing, either. For all their designers Disney race merchandise is usually lackluster and just plain ugly. Champion is the official apparel brand of the event and their stuff is just not great quality either. Champion had their own booth set up with some cute designs: the running Mickey, Run/Sleep/Repeat with Mickeyeqsque pictures, Run your Ears off, etc. But all of these designs were on Men's clothing. The Women's selections were horribly gender-skewed and girlyfied which was insulting: Girls run the world (with Minnie Ears) and a few others I have apparently wiped from my memory.
I headed back to my hotel to drop off my stuff and then headed out again to hit up the parks. I always save the Magic Kingdom (my favorite) for marathon Sunday so I headed over to Animal Kingdom. Another change to Disney World in general since my last visit: Fast Pass+. Before you had to get fast passes from kiosks by attractions but now you can pre-book them in advance of your visit. You are limited to three in one park for any given day. Once you use them up you can select one more at a time. I am a little mixed about this new system. One on hand it does cut down on criss-crossing all over the park, but it also squashes any possibility of flying by the seat of your pants on any given day. You can also adjust your Fast passes from an app on your phone which is great but all the main attractions are probably booked up before that day even arrives so in a sense there is little flexibility.
I hit up everything I wanted to at Animal Kingdom (including the most amazing black bean burger with fries at my favorite counter-service restaurant by Dinosaur) and debated whether I should head back to the hotel or go to a second park for the day.
The biggest crux of being at Disney for races is that you have to balance time on your feet with not being stupid for the races. Going to a park involves walking to and from transportation which is usually a trek from the park itself. In the past I would go to Orlando for a full week for the races but with being a mother and leaving my husband to play single father this weekend, I was only there this year for a little over 4 days. This meant I had to be selective about how I spent my time in the parks. My least favorite park is Epcot but I do like visiting about three attractions there. I figured I could jet over there, knock out my favorites, and then cross Epcot off my list on Day 1!
I was exhausted at this point (I walked off the plane at 9:30 am Orlando time after not sleeping all night) and had a half marathon the next morning. But I love me my Disney parks so an Epcot visit beat out sanity. I was actually nodding in and out of sleep on Spaceship Earth but was happy to get all my Epcot good feels finished. My goal was to be back at the hotel by 7 pm so I could be asleep by 8 pm. I don't remember exactly but I'm pretty sure I wasn't back until after 8 which pushed getting into bed to 9:30 or even 10 pm by the time I got my race stuff all ready to go.
I had a message on my room telephone from the front desk. I called them and verified that I would be in the same room the next day and that my magic band (another new thing, you wear your room key on your wrist) would not need to be rekeyed the next day. I was told I would be fine. I verified that I would not need to make this call to the front desk the next day and was told I was set for the rest of my stay (sinister foreshadowing).
DISNEY HALF MARATHON
In case you weren't aware, Disney races require you to wake up insanely early. The last time I did this race there was a huge line at the bus to get to the race and also horrible traffic to get to the staging area. I decided to play it safe and try to get to the bus shortly after 3 am (I used at aim for 3:30 am) I set my alarm for 2:40 am. That is 11:40 pm California time. Luckily with my horrid sleep the night before on the plane I pretty much crashed as soon as I got in bed. I woke up at 2:40 am bright-eyed and bushy tailed which totally surprised me. I usually nurse my son around 7 am so decided with the time change I wouldn't pump before the half. The race starts at 5:30 am which meant I would be done by 8 am which is only 5 am California time.
They must have improved the system from the last time I ran because there was zero line for the bus when I arrived. I hopped on board and made an unremarkable trip to the Epcot parking lot. Another first was a security checkpoint before entering the staging area. They had one side for runners without bags and a longer line for runners with bags. I didn't have a bag to check so went through the without bags side but I learned the next day that my Fitletic belt qualifies as a bag and I should have gone through the bag line. Oops.
Another new development was character photo-ops in the start area! They had four stations set up. I grabbed a photo with Pluto and then Chip & Dale. I skipped Daisy and I think Dopey was out for the Dopey runners. Then I found a nice place to sit and hunkered down for the long wait. It was a little chilly and I was happy for the heat sheet I had brought along for my throwaway. They have a great DJ in the area and I stayed by the stage to be entertained for as long as I thought wise. There is a half a mile or so walk out to the start line from the staging area.
|People waiting for the Daisy photo-op at the start|
I got to watch five fireworks shows as each corral before us was released. I heard that they were not letting late comers enter corrals up front once they had been released. So if you were a B corral runner and B wave had left, they were making you enter the masses much farther back. I thought this was dumb. If they have a bib with a letter that has released, let them enter at the front. There were several panicked runners running along the fences trying to find the entry point. As we headed closer to the start I passed a guy sitting on the ground surrounded by medical bikes. I saw that his knees were both really bloody. I assume he tried to hop the fence and ate it. A man next to me said, "Oh gosh!" in such a way that made me think maybe there was more blood than just his knees. I can't recall what type of bib he had on, but I couldn't help but think that if he were a Dopey or Goofy runner much bigger dreams may have died hopping that fence. So Disney, let people enter at the front if their corral has already released!
|The start line and Donald wishing us a great race|
One thing that being a repeat participant has done to me is I am much pickier about stopping for photos. If I already have a nice photo with a character I may not stop anymore. If I don't know or care about a character, I don't stop anymore. I can't say for sure if there were less than usual characters out, I'm leaning towards there being a few less than I remember, but I only ended up stopping for four photos (not counting castle photos). It was foggy and overcast and really nice running weather for a non-racing effort. It might have been in the upper 50s? I love running in the 40s but not when I am taking my time and stopping for photos.
My strategy was to take it easy and walk a little bit every mile or two. I carried a very small bottle on my Fitletic belt so had planned to utilize the aid stations heavily. As usual, I was having a total blast. It has been three years since I've run this event and I was soaking it all in. One disappointment -- the first real bathrooms come up at the Ticket and Transportation Center and I was counting on ducking in there as we ran by. But they had fenced off the area and had a cast member standing by the entrances telling runners there were portapotties further down the road. Boo!!
Soon enough were in the Magic Kingdom which is hands down one of my favorite miles in marathoning. Turning the corner at Main street, seeing the castle, and having all the people cheering can't be beat.
I may be wrong, but I don't think I am -- I am fairly certain that in the past they had the rides running during the marathon even though the park was closed. So Dumbo was flying around and the teacups were spinning. None of that was going on this year. It made for a less festive feeling.
I don't remember when exactly, but sometime after Magic Kingdom my gut started talking to me. I thought my skipped pee at the TTC may be partly to blame so I ducked into a portapotty but that didn't help matters much. My happy mood was slightly dampened by the idea of needing a portapotty for something more urgent than a pee stop while out on the course. Because of this I cut out all of my non-aid station walk breaks the rest of the race. There went taking it easy for the marathon the next day.
Around mile 9 or so my left foot started to hurt. About 2 hours after my last 20 miler I had an ache in that foot that was so acute I had stress fracture fears for 24 hours. It cleared up the next morning but I met a friend at the zoo the day after that 20 miler and by the time we were done walking around it was just a little achy. After that I was really careful about not doing too much on it two days in a row. It tweaked here and there over the next two weeks but was overall cooperative. This half was the first time it really started to hurt during a run and I was really concerned about my ability to run a marathon on it the next day.
I kept telling my gut, "Just three more miles... Just two more miles... Just one more mile..." I was really hoping there weren't any good characters out in Epcot since I feared my body would think we were done if I stopped running and release the floodgates. I couldn't pass up Genie in his Goofy hat, though, and since there wasn't a long line I took the chance.
|This outtake meets RoadBunner anonymity standards. Also, you can see how foggy it was that day.|
I got my Donald medal, box of food, Powerade bottle, water bottle, wet towel (this is new) and went looking for my heat sheet. It was warm enough that I didn't NEED a heat sheet but cool enough that it would certainly have been welcome. I mainly wanted one to have to use as a throwaway the next morning. I had brought two from home but wouldn't pass up the chance to replenish the supply if they were handing them out. I didn't see any and figured perhaps the med tent had them if you asked. I asked some med tent people who said that Disney had switched things up today (I suppose vs. the 10K the day before) and that in order to get a heat sheet today you had to get a $5 massage in the massage tent. O-kay. No free heat sheet for me. Grumble on. This left a sour taste in my mouth because Disney events are not cheap and the least Disney could do is to hand out a heat sheet if you wanted one. Grumble off.
I went back to my hotel room (my magic band worked to get me back into the room, Huzzah!) and got to work on refueling, rehydrating, compressing, stretching, and legs up the walling to maximize my leg recovery for the full marathon the next day.
My goal for Saturday is always to not be on my feet at the parks all day. So I'll generally hit up one or two for a selective few stops and then head to Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs) for a movie in the afternoon. I had a fast pass for my favorite Disney Studios attraction, Toy Story Mania, before lunchtime. So I headed out to Disney Studios and was able to hop on the ride. I debated riding it a second time but the posted wait time was over an hour and I decided I would rather jet over to Animal Kingdom and catch a showing of Finding Nemo, The Musical (another huge favorite of mine). I did think about not going to a second park since staying off my foot was now front and center in my mind, but my love for the parks won out over common sense. After doing my Animal Kingdom top stops I headed over to Disney Springs for my movie.
In the past I learned the hard way it takes about an hour to use Disney transportation to get from Animal Kingdom to Disney Springs. First you have to take a bus to any of the hotel resorts. Then from a hotel you transfer to a bus to Disney Springs. In the past there were two bus stops at Disney Springs -- on on each end. I was horrified to learn that they had done away with the stop closest to the movie theaters. It is a far walk from one end to the other and I was trying to stay off my feet as much as possible. I learned you could now take a boat from one end to the other so jumped on this option when I got there. I had pre-bought a ticket to see "The Good Dinosaur." I was talking to someone who said they had heard it wasn't that great and I regretted not joining the masses and getting a ticket to the new Star Wars movie. I thought I could switch my ticket over if I got there before showtime. Long story short, the boat took FOREVER and by the time I got to the theatre the previews for my movie had already started and my window to ticket switch had passed. So with the boat, 1.5 hours to get from a Disney park to Springs.
After the movie I usually get a plain pasta dish from Planet Hollywood. But with the long commute back to the hotel I decided to just get on the boat and eat at my hotel instead. I think in the future I would consider getting a cab back to the hotel so I can get in bed a little faster. I managed lights out a smidgen earlier than the night before and set my alarm for 2:20 am so that I could pump before heading out to the bus.
I was not quite as chipper Sunday morning as I had been Saturday morning. Groundhog Day ensued as I got ready again and headed out to the buses. It was noticeably warmer Sunday than Saturday which did not bode well for marathon weather. I had brought a throwaway jacket as well as my heat sheet for Sunday's throwaways and probably should have sacrificed the jacket Saturday instead. It was a lot emptier at the start area when I got there and I secured a seat on some bleachers vs. sitting on the pavement.
The same characters were out this morning as the day before and I didn't bother to stand in any lines since I was concerned about my foot. The DJ in the start area was the same as the day before and he was great. He was getting people dancing at 4 am. He mentioned he would be there until 1 pm or something and I thought he was amazing to have that energy level two days (at least, maybe he was there for the 5K or 10K, too) in a row for so long.
I made the long walk out to the corrals again. They have done away with the traffic light sign that says, "Have a magical race" which I always loved seeing. I left a little earlier than the day before to enjoy the start line entertainment. I had learned the day before that once I got into the corrals the next jumbotron was so far forward I couldn't really see the action. There was a jumbotron right by the entrance to corral F so instead of entering I sat outside my corral to watch the screen up close.
|Enjoying the show by Corral F|
|Here we go again!|
The first 8 miles is more or less a repeat of the half marathon. The Magic Kingdom did not disappoint and I snagged a quick video running up Main Street.
Since the first few runnings of the marathon that I participated in, they have moved the start time back by an hour, I believe. This means that I now never run through Magic Kingdom in the sunlight. As I mentioned before it is impossible to get a photo with the castle in the dark and this has been a great sadness for me the last couple of runnings. Luckily a few years ago I got a great photo with the castle so I suppose I am good for the rest of my life.
Being in the dark also complicates people taking your photo. I learned the hard way after two failed character photo-ops. Cogsworth was out and I don't think I have ever gotten a photo with him so I stopped and that one turned out blurry because the cast member didn't realize there was a delay with the flash. Then I stopped for Briar Rabbit because, duh, RoadBUNNER -- and that one was also a major fail with the flash.
Major bummers. That is five minutes of my marathon time I'll never get back. I have to say I much prefer the days I carried my digital camera. Uncertain if I'll go back to that in the future vs. my iPhone which seemed to give people issues and was less convenient for me to capture photos or videos on the fly.
Just like the half I was picky about my character stops and hardly stopped at all this race. Plus with my two failed stops I was reluctant to chance whether the photo would even turn out. I only had five character stops the whole race (including the two blurry ones). I haven't gone back to look but I'm pretty sure I took 20+ photos in the past. There were definitely less characters out this year than in the past. Usually there are a quite a few inside and after Animal Kingdom, but this year Timon was by the entrance and there was not one more the entire Animal Kingdom area.
A major Disney marathon regret of mine is never stopping to ride Everest during the race. With the earlier start time and course changes Animal Kingdom comes about 4 miles earlier and an extra hour earlier on top of that and the park is not officially open when I run through. We got there around 8:15 am. The park opens at 9 am. Two girls by me debated stopping and waiting 45 minutes to ride Everest. They decided not to but I wanted to say, YES DO IT! even if I wasn't willing wait myself. If you start in a later corral or are slower you can still ride the ride but I am not sure that is worth dealing with the aggravation of starting farther back the rest of the race.
I did nip into a real restroom in Animal Kingdom that was right by the course. No lines, a flushing toilet, a sink -- luxury! I will say that even if you don't count real restrooms in the park, Disney has the most portapotties out of any race I have run. You never have to worry about that at Disney. They also have awesome aid stations. They came so frequently (about every 1.5 miles) even in the warm weather I skipped a few. They are run so well -- always Powerade first, followed by water, people yelling out what they are offering, and lots and lots of tables.
I gambled a little and only started off the race with two gels. I normally eat four in a marathon. There were two gel stops on the course and I planned to pick up gels at both of them. They also had two banana stops and I ate half a banana at each stop. In past years they had half bananas but this year they handed out a whole banana. I think that is a bit of a waste. I imagine most people didn't eat a whole one. But I guess it is one less things for the volunteers to have to do. Before there would be volunteers chopping the bananas in half.
When I entered Animal Kingdom the sun finally peeked out and I buckled up for a hot day. But sometime soon some cloud cover rolled in and that kept it from being a total bakefest. So humid yes, but not terribly hot which was a blessing.
The course had a major change from the last time I ran it in 2013. You used to run around a car track but they demolished that. So they added some extra distance in the parks and a new short out and back. They also still have the Wide World of Sports detour which I detest. DETEST. That was the most horrid course change to have happened since I started running Disney. A DJ outside Magic Kingdom was saying, "You'll enter Wide World of Sports and emerge two weeks later. Believe me, I was where you are last year. You'll think of me when you get there!" It wasn't very positive but it is so true. In my opinion Wide World of Sports is a monstrous out and back. Bleh.
|Do you see that horrible squiggle in the lower right, that is Wide World of Sports -- glorified nasty out and back.|
A few miles later I realized that I was really close to having a sub-4:50 finish. I always do this to myself. Realize at the last moment I am close to some sort of time and decide to try to make it. The time itself doesn't mean anything and if it had I should have known the pace beforehand. But as it were, I decided wouldn't that be neat, and picked up the pace. I did stop in Studios for a photo with Boo but was actually glad there weren't many other characters out to tempt me. Those last few miles I really felt like a marathoner again. You're tired, it hurts, it would be nice to stop... But somehow your body just keeps going and you don't stop. And you think wow, all that training really did work! And then you even find it in you to go a little bit faster.
I really put on the jets outside of Studios and into Epcot. I was running sub-9 at one point which felt like an absolute sprint on my Goofy legs. I told myself the only way I would stop would be if Remy was out for photos (my character unicorn). There was no Remy in Epcot. Then as I got closer to mile 26 I realized I was going to miss the sub-4:50 by less than a minute. Too late in the game to make that one. I reined in the effort at that point.
Donald was out giving high fives this day, and I crossed the finish line after slapping his wing. Same goodies collected as the day before and lo and behold there were heat sheets out! What prompted them to hand them out on marathon day, I don't know, but I grabbed one and used it to hold all my food since it was warm enough to not need one.
I went to the Goofy tent to get my extra medal. As I walked in they did check my photo against the one they snapped at the expo. But they didn't check on half marathon day. So I'll just say that the whole system was pointless. A great pleasure was receiving my Goofy medal from Michelle from The Mickey Miles Podcast. I had heard they were going to be volunteering at the Goofy/Dopey medal tent but it wasn't at the forefront of my mind at the time. When I looked up after she placed it on me I saw her hat which said, "Mickey Milers," and I got all excited and said something corny like, "It's you!" She introduced me to Mike who shook my hand. I love their podcast and that was a neat treat. I didn't want to bother them for photos but wish I had.
After some photos I made my way back to my hotel room. I was eager to get bathed, fed, and into the Magic Kingdom. I hobbled up to my room and my magic band did not open my hotel door. Are you kidding me? I hobbled over to the lobby and chose a line which was twice as short but moved twice as slowly as a different line I could have chosen to get the issue resolved. It took forever. I'm sure I smelled amazing and I don't think the people checking in even knew there was a race going on. I was getting cold as well but all my food was wrapped up in my heat sheet so I couldn't use it. Eventually they got it sorted but that was a huge annoyance, especially after being told it wouldn't be an issue.
I eventually made it to Magic Kingdom and really got my vacation started. There is something stressful about knowing you shouldn't be walking extra miles and yet not being able to sit down and stay still. I stayed until closing that night and was exhausted by the time I got to bed around 11 pm.
Monday: The temperature dropped 15+ degrees and it was downright chilly the rest of my vacation. One day too late. Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom
Tuesday: Quick nip into Magic Kingdom before my flight
(As someone who has visited the parks many times before, this shortened trip was enough to get all the highlights accomplished. I would have liked to have done Toy Story Mania a second time and there were a few attractions I usually visit I didn't have a chance to see at all, but overall I was happy with what I got done in the parks)
|Half (Donald), Goofy Challenge, Full (Mickey)|
|The marathon shirt was in the wash for the previous photo. The shirts FIT! I usually put the Goofy lanyard on the Mickey medal on marathon Sunday when I visit the park. I much prefer the Mickey medal but want the street cred of the Goofy :)|
This was the first year I ran Goofy when the Dopey Challenge also existed. Goofy is the half and the full on consecutive days. Prior to the official Dopey Challenge, there was also a 5K on Friday and people who ran Goofy and also did the 5K unofficially called it the Dopey. Disney is not one to leave money on the table and they created the official Dopey Challenge where you run a 5K, 10K, half, and full on consecutive days and earn yourself a Dopey medal.
It is my personal opinion that when comparing the Dopey Challenge to the Goofy Challenge it is not a physical accomplishment so much as a logistical and financial challenge. Dopey requires you to arrive 3 days earlier which means more time off of work and more hotel fees. It also costs an arm and a leg (vs. just the arm it costs to run Goofy). Financial challenge. You have to wake up early 4 days a row instead of 2. You have to figure out how to be at Disney on vacation and balance time on your feet with time off your feet. Logistical challenge. Running an extra 5K and 10K to me is just not that much more than Goofy. I hazard to guess that most Goofy runners will run about a 5K shakeout run on Thursday two days before the race anyhow. I ran 2 miles this year myself. I don't think an extra mile that day and a 10K the next day would have been that huge of a difference. I did the unofficial Dopey Challenge a few years back and didn't think it would prove anything to myself to add in the 10K.
So for me, it just didn't make sense to do Dopey. Does Goofy feel less special with Dopey runners around? Hands down, yes. There were twice as many Dopey runners as Goofy runners. Running "just" Goofy sounds cute to Dopey runners. Do I want to run Dopey one day? Maybe. I love Disney races and if I could carve the time out I think I would. I personally thought Disney jumped the shark with Dopey and I still think that. Definitely for longterm participation Goofy is probably where I will live.
A commentary on running just the marathon for time:
I had made it a goal to one day train specifically for Disney and try to run a sub-4 hour Disney marathon. No Goofy, just a decent, honest, working effort at the marathon. I ran this year imagining what it would be like to run Disney for time. Quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to anymore. With the change in corrals it could be hard to hit your effort level quickly. Disney is also impossible to run the tangents. There are areas of the course that are 4 lane roads and other areas that narrow down to three people abreast in Wide World of Sports. There is a lot of weaving for character stops. The curvy paths in the parks complicate things and the course probably runs "longer" than your typical marathon because of all of this. The weather at Disney is notoriously unpredictable. I've run it in sweltering 80 degree heat and I've run it when it was so cold the water was freezing at the water stops. I may still pursue this if there is a year running Goofy doesn't make sense, but I don't think it is a major bucket list goal at the moment.