Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon: 5h:13m:37s

(This event report is a team project with my sister. The reader will notice that her contributions are bracketed.)

A few months back I received a call from my brother-in-law John asking me if I would be interested in running the Walt Disney World Marathon with my sister Sarah. If I was interested in running with her, John was planning to register Sarah as an early birthday gift. I think it is pretty easy to guess what my answer to John was.

01.07.2011 Friday: Day of Travel

The 2011 Walt Disney Marathon was privileged to be the first marathon event that I flew to [though I did fly part way to Fargo]. I found very reasonable tickets from Branson, Missouri to Orlando, Florida via Atlanta, Georgia. My wife dropped me off at the Branson Airport early so she would not be late for work. For the second time I had the entire Branson Airport to myself. I shifted into vacation mode and enjoyed time with my NOOK and my netbook.

The flight from Branson to Atlanta was smooth. I had a window seat and when I was not reading a book on my NOOK, I enjoyed taking pictures of the awesome view.

When I got into the Atlanta airport I had a couple hours to spare between flights. I wanted to find my next gate first thing. I did find that a little challenging and therefore I got some bonus walking. I was ok with that because I wanted to get in at least a mile of walking for the day. After finding my gate I enjoyed lunch and more time with my NOOK. The NOOK was perfect for a day of flying and I found myself feeling very pleased with it throughout the day.

The flight from Atlanta to Orlando was another smooth flight. When I went to find my window seat a fellow traveller requested if I could change seats to allow a husband and wife to sit together. I concured, though I was a little disappointed that I was not going to be able to get any pictures out the window during this leg of the trip. The husband noticed my Fargo Marathon shirt and initiated a conversation with me about marathoning. He had completed a couple and hoped to do more in the future.

When I got to Orlando, Sarah had some difficulty finding me and eventually we decided it would be best for her to stay where she was at and I would find her. [Sarah: Yes, I must say that I have never had such a difficult time picking someone up at the airport. First I went to terminal A instead of B, then I went to departures instead of arrivals. And after I picked Rob up, I missed the toll road leading to my home and had to take a slow route down I-4. All I can figure is a bad case of “baby brain” caused by many all night feedings with Josiah because he wasn't pooping and was very uncomfortable.]

The rest of the day consisted of eating dinner and visiting with the Urichs.

01.08.2011 Saturday: Packet Pickup

On Saturday we got rolling at a nice easy pace. Dropped off David, Josiah, and John at a birthday party and headed to Disney World. Packet pickup was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Just as we arrived at Packet Pickup we noticed that Jeff Galloway was speaking. I read a couple of Jeff Galloway books when I first started this return to running journey and recommend his content to my sister. She really benefited from his content and was interested in meeting him and getting him to possibly sign a copy of one of his books. As he finished speaking my sister was second in line to meet him, get a picture with him, and get his autograph. [Sarah:I felt like such a teenage “groupy” moving quickly to side stage when they announced he would be coming down that side. When Rob returned to running two years ago, I also returned to running after 10 years in India without opportunities to do much exercise at all. I had one injury after another as I tried to build mileage without walk breaks. When Rob told me about Jeff Galloway, I read his book and decided to try one nine mile run with walk breaks. 8-2. I never looked back after that. I loved it and still do. And I am thankful to Jeff for teaching people how to go distances with less injury and feeling fresher.]

We picked up our packets and picked up Scott Griffith's for him. We caught that they actually gave us the wrong packet for Scott and we quickly got that rectified.

As I looked around I was shocked to see no vendors other than a Disney booth. We soon figured out that all the vendors were located in another building.

The expo room with all the vendors did feature an impressive showing, but it was a bit too crowded for my liking. The only bonus spending we did was on a couple 26.2 Bondi Bands.

After the expo we dropped off Scott's packet at his motel, ate lunch at Chick-fil-A, and visited a nearby Nike factory outlet store.

In the evening I enjoyed a 3 mile run with John (David scootered along), viewing a couple NFL playoff games, a spaghetti dinner, and an early bedtime.

01.09.2011 Sunday: Race Day

My alarm went off at 2:05 AM on race day, that is 1:05 my time.

After some preparations Sarah and I were on the road to pickup Scott and his oldest daughter Brittany at their motel.

We picked them up at 3:15 AM.

Because we arrived at Disney so early we didn't encounter any parking issues. After taking our first visits to the porta-potties we started the walk to the starting corrals. [Sarah:I was SO glad that there were so many toilets available in the start and all day long. Disney definitely knows how to accommodate large numbers of runners.]

The walk was packed with people and was moving slow. I was watching my watch because the race information stated that if we were not in our starting corral by 5 AM we would not be permitted to run. I had great difficulty imagining them stopping me from crossing the starting mat for an event that I had ponied up $150 for, not to mention the cost of my travel.

We got to our corral at about 5:05 AM and it was obvious that they were not turning people away, unless of course they were attempting to get into a corral that they were not assigned to. I was assigned to starting corral D and Sarah was assigned to E. I wanted to see if I could get us both into D as are plan was to run together. We got stopped and told that we could run together via starting in E. We jumped the fence for E and found a place to line up. [Sarah:It was a blast to have Rob with me all day. At the Start I already enjoyed his companionship. My husband is trying to get his running going, but this was the first time I had someone with me that I knew. And Rob, you rocked! What a friend! And what a crowd that was at the Start.]

The waiting went pretty fast. Sarah snuck in one more trip to the porta-potties. I took note of the fact that it was a bit unfortunate that access to the porta-potties from the starting corrals was very poor.

The wheel chair athletes got started at 5:30 AM, and then the first wave of starters got started at 5:35 AM with a very cool display of fireworks. After that wave departed we were permitted to walk closer to the starting line. The second wave of starters were sent off with another display of fireworks. We again were permitted to walk closer and it became evident that our starting corral was part of the third wave of starters.

[Sarah: I wanted to have something I could toss off after we got warmed up in the run, so my Mankato State sweatshirt filled the ticket this time. A tribute to my Minnesota memories.]

The Marathon

It was great to cross the starting mat and finally be on the move. Our starting strategy was to run the first .9 of each mile and to walk the last .1 of each mile based on my Garmin. This was Sarah's second marathon and I was hopeful of helping her get a new personal record for the distance. During her first marathon she was slowed down by a nagging knee so it appeared that if her body cooperated it would be a perfect day to take a few minutes off that time. I had written 11:20 on my hand as point of reference, as that was her final average pace for her first marathon.

As we got started I quickly realized that we had not done any rehearsal runs together, so I was really at a loss for what kind of pace would be best during our run segments. I decided it would be best to let Sarah set the pace for the first run segment and that would give me a point of reference for future miles.

During the first mile I noticed that we no longer had all the body heat around us that we had experienced when were were packed in at the start, i.e., I was cold. I was hopeful that as we kept moving I would warm up and I was hopeful that the sunrise would also warm things up.

Mile 1: 10:26

During the second mile I felt like we had found our pace and I was dreaming of us staying on it for the next few miles and maybe even dropping the walk segments over the last few miles. I also noticed how crowded it was at this pace for this event. Because everyone was pretty much running the same pace, I thankfully didn't feel boxed in.

Mile 2: 10:06

During the third mile we got to run through Epcot.

I was really enjoying all the support and all the cool sights. I noticed that Disney had left up some of their Christmas decorations.

During our walk segment Sarah and I fueled on our fruit snacks for the first time so we could be on a fueling schedule of about every 30 minutes.

[Sarah: I was really pumped. I loved the pace. I loved the fresh air. I loved the encouraging crowd. And I was glad for the garden gloves Rob and I bought at Walmart the night before. I could not believe one guy was out there in shorts and no shirt. Burr!]

Mile 3: 10:32

The fourth mile included us running out of Epcot and back onto the road where we had started. I believe at this point I started to feel pretty comfortable with the temperature but was still looking forward to the sun coming up. My sister seemed to be running strong and smooth and we were really enjoying the journey.

Mile 4: 10:20

The fifth mile was a good mile to just glide along as there wasn't much to see.

Mile 5: 10:27

Another good gliding mile.

Mile 6: 10:19

After we passed the mile 6 sign I opted to head to the woods to provide some fertilization. I was shocked at the volume of my output and was thinking in mid-output that it was going to require me to do some serious tempo running to catch up with Sarah before our next walk segment.

I enjoyed the tempo running and wondered what others might be thinking of me flying by them. I was very concerned that I might accidentally pass my sister, especially as I ran through an aid station.

[Sarah: I was wondering where Rob was. I figured he would take a quick pit stop and quickly catch up to my much slower pace than he runs. I finally stopped checking behind myself and enjoyed the sunrise light and pace.]

Thankfully just after the aid station I located her. It took me a little while to adjust my pace back to the pace we had established.

Mile 7: 10:35

During the eighth mile the sun was clearly rising and I noticed a Magic Kingdom sign.

I believe it was during this mile that I first recall my sister mentioning that her hamstring was bothering her a little bit. I was hopeful that this would quickly pass and I recalled that during my personal best marathon I had started with pain in my hamstring and a few miles in it stopped complaining.

[Sarah: My hamstring started talking somewhere in here. I wondered how it could be upset. Then I recalled that I had pulled it a couple weeks before and forgotten about it. Perhaps with the cold muscles at the start and the healthy pace, some remaining micro tears started to tear again. Not sure. I just hoped it would work its way out and wished I had stored extra ibuprofen in my fuel belt.]

Mile 8: 10:35

During the ninth mile we noticed some more efficient runners running the other way on Florida Way road. According to the map these runners had already passed the half-marathon split. The ninth mile had us running portions of the Magic Kingdom parking lot and it looked very familiar from my last trip to the Magic Kingdom in 2004.

I noticed a runner just ahead of us that looked very much like Judy Kleyman. Knowing that Rick an Judy spend their winters in Florida I started to think it might actually be her. When I finally got a closer look, I realized it wasn't Judy.

[Sarah: Yes, the walking backwards [my suggestion] felt like a knife slicing up my hamstring into my butt. Man, that hurt. The memory of it… naw, rather not. But I still hoped this thing would work itself out. Rob was great. He just kept saying encouraging words and let me set the pace, whatever I needed to do.]

Mile 9: 10:50

During the tenth mile Sarah metioned that her hamstring was getting increasingly concerning. I was still in denial and was hoping things would start to improve.

At one point she decided to try and stretch it and see if that would improve things. I noticed we had slowed down a bit, but I was thinking we would likley stay sub-11-minute-pace for a few more miles. I noticed Space Mountain and I was getting excited for the next section in Magic Kingdom.

Mile 10: 11:13

The eleventh mile through the Magic Kingdom was one of the most memorable sections of the course. As we ran down Main Street, U.S.A, the crowd support was awesome and the visual of heading towards Cinderalla Castle helped raise the energy level. This section was most familiar to me from my two trips to the park.

It was during this mile that we did our first character photo-op stop. Just as we arrived at the Castle, the Fairy Godmother was available to pose for a picture. [Sarah: I LOVED running through Magic Kingdom. I forgot about the hamstring for awhile and actually hoped some pixy dust or something would rub off on me with the Fairy Godmother. I felt a bit better coming out and was getting excited to return to the 10:20 pace. Hoped to anyway.]

Near the end of this mile Sarah jumped into an available porta-potty.

Mile 11: 11:45

Near the beginning of mile twelve we encountered Jeff Galloway. He was leading a group that was running 30 seconds: walking 30 seconds. Sarah wanted another picture with Jeff, and I was able to pull that off.

Sarah communicated to me during this mile that it felt like her hamstring pain was subsiding a bit. [Sarah: The pain in my hamstring was less and less and I could start quickening my stride again. I was pumped. I got to see Jeff Galloway and life was good.]

Mile 12: 12:00

During the thirteenth mile it felt like we were getting back on pace. We ran alongside a golf course and I noticed a Mickey and a Donald in golfing apparel.

Mile 13: 10:48

After the 13 mile sign I ran ahead to try and get a good picture of Sarah crossing the half-marathon mat. We crossed the half-marathon mat in 2h:21m:04s which is a mile average of 10:45).

At that time I was still hopeful we could stay just under 11 minute pace or right at it.
About 3/4 into the fourteenth mile Sarah's hamstring pain stepped it up a notch and she informed me that she was going to need to mix in more walking. I suggested she try some backwards walking and see if that would loosen something up. She tried it, and by the reaction on her face I thought we were done for the day. Thankfully she could still walk. [Sarah: We turned a corner and I must have turned that hamstring in just the wrong spot. The whole muscle seemed to ball up and then pop. I could not run. Rob did not waver in his encouragement that I could just walk until it felt better. I was very concerned I was not going to get up to even a shuffle again.]

Mile 14: 11:47

We started the fifteenth mile as walkers and I didn't know if Sarah would be able to do much more running. I felt the chance for her getting a personal record slipping away fast and I started to wonder if we might be walking the rest of the way. I started thinking of the bumper sticker: 26.2 miles, what could possibly go wrong?

Mile 15: 14:49

Coming into the sixteenth mile Sarah had found a shuffle that was less painful than her regular stride. I had given up on watching my watch and encouraged her to walk when she felt like she could use a walk segment. Coming into Animal Kingdom we encountered a First Aid Station and Sarah was able to get some Tylenol. [Sarah: Ah, Tylenol. As twenty minutes or so went by with a shuffle going, the hamstring pain dulled enough for me to keep shuffling. My toes were tight because I had to shift my gait to lighten the pain, but we were moving at least.]

Animal Kingdom had a real cool feeling to it and we were able to keep the shuffle rolling.

Mile 16 & 17: 27:04 (13:32 average)

I recall us throwing in a walk segment during the eighteenth mile but I noticed that Sarah was covering a lot of distance before she was wanting to walk.

Mile 18: 12:46

Near the end of the nineteenth mile we threw in a walk segment and I got a few steps ahead of Sarah. Just as I turned around to see her I saw another runner fall and slide across the ground. As he came up from the ground he was grabbing his chest and my first thought was that he was possibly having a heart attack. Sarah and I both stopped to check on him and comfort him. Thankfully he was not having heart issues but had grabbed his chest because he had landed on it. Sarah attempted to comfort him by showing him her road rash from a fall she had taken earlier in the week. When I noticed his Ironman tattoo I was pretty confident that he would recover and make it to the finish.

Mile 19: 12:41

During the twentieth mile the five hour pace group caught up to us and we attempted to keep them in sight. The Tylenol had taken the edge off of Sarah's pain and she was gliding along at a pretty consistent pace. Near the end of the mile I ran ahead so I could attempt to get a picture of Sarah crossing the 20 mile mat. We crossed the mat in 3hr:52m:25s (11:37 average). With 10k to go I was pretty confident that my sister could keep her shuffle rolling.

I enjoyed the twenty-first mile because we could see the runners ahead of us coming back along the other side of the road and I was able to cheer on some fellow Marathon Maniacs. Halfway into the twenty-first mile was the turn around and a huge JumboTron video screen where I caught a visual of us making the turn and noticed how bright my yellow calf sleeves looked.

Sarah and I decided we would make it the next mile sign before we walked and fueled again on some fruit snacks.

Mile 20 & 21: 25:30 (12:45 average)

During the twenty-second mile we conversed about it being ideal that we minimize walk segments and try to keep the shuffle rolling.

[Sarah: It is fun to read Rob’s descriptions of the marathon. I think I was so involved in keeping the shuffle going I missed some of the scenery he saw. I sure loved the entertainment Disney provided along the way and all the people cheering. Because our bibs had our names on them, people would cheer by name. At one point I heard, “You can do it, Sarah” five times in fifty meters. It was so encouraging.]

Mile 22: 13:10

With four miles to go we came into Hollywood Studios and that gave us a good energy boost.

Mile 23: 12:28

During the twenty-fourth mile things got a little crowded coming through Hollywood Studios and it was very difficult to stay next to Sarah. She kept getting stuck behind some struggling runners and it seemed to be slowing her down. I was wanting to push the pace a little, but I wasn't sure how she was feeling.

[Sarah: Here is where my endurance, pain or not, was tested. I have run this far four times in the two years I have been back into running. I could tell my body was fatigued now, not just hamstring and knee pain (knee started pain because of the compensation with my hamstring.)

I loved Rob’s sticker idea “26.2 miles, what could possibly go wrong?” I need to get that. I told Rob I need to run another marathon until I have one where my knee or my hamstring are not killing me. I am determined.]

Mile 24: 14:12

With two miles to go we ran through some very cool resorts: Disney's Yacht Club Resort, Disney's Beach Club Resort, and Disney's BoardWalk Villas. I was stocked on the scenery and really enjoyed running on the boardwalk. Somewhere in here I let out a very large belch and a couple nearby runners complimented my gas expelling skills.

Mile 25: 13:33

During the twenty-sixth mile I started giving my sister time estimations on when we would see the twenty-six mile marker and when we would be done.

[Sarah: “Almost there!” was the favorite phrase of many along the path. I was tired. Rob helped me by giving me the estimated amount of minutes to finish.]

Mile 26: 13:16

The last .2 was a breeze. Once the finish was visible and we encountered stands full of roaring spectators, we floated into the finish.

[Sarah: This rocked! Huge crowds, a Gospel choir, the end of a painful but BEAUTIFUL marathon with my brother. Rob, thanks for coming and running with me. It is a highlight of my life.]

.2: 2:48

Finish: 5h:13m:37s (11:57 average)

I very much enjoyed sharing this marathon with my sister. She did an awesome job adjusting to what her running system gave her for the day. The event itself was awesome. I was thinking around mile 22 that I was glad that John came up with this plan as most likely I would have registered for a different Florida marathon and missed out on this awesome event.

After the marathon we drove Scott and Brittany back to their motel, went back to the house, enjoyed Papa Johns Pizza and more NFL playoff football.

01.10.2011 Monday: Day at Disney World

Marathon Finishers were permitted free access to Disney World on the day after the event. We had a very enjoyable day of Disney fun.

Later that day I found out that my Tuesday flight home was moved to Thursday so I was granted two bonus days of vacation.

01.11.2011 Tuesday: Bonus Day One

On my first bonus day in Florida I enjoyed a 5 mile run with John and then we found a nearby disc golf course so I could introduce David and Sarah to disc golf.

A memorable moment was when I waded into some nasty swamp water to recover one of our discs.

01.12.2011 Wednesday: Bonus Day Two

On my second bonus day in Florida I enjoyed a 12 mile morning run near some very expensive homes. One of the gated communities I ran by contains one of Tiger Woods' homes. I was somewhat hoping to get hit by Tiger, but struck out on that one.

01.13.2011 Thursday: Heading Home

The flights home went smooth and I enjoyed sitting next to the Griffiths on both flights.

Next up: Marathoning on January 23rd and hoping to see what Rob-the-Racer can do.

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