Saturday, January 19, 2013
2013 Disney Half Marathon
Having just come off of a great performance for Wine and Dine, I was feeling great about my running and the fall weather was almost perfect here in Orlando. I figured that between Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, kids being home from school, and family obligations, I wouldn't be able to train consistently. So my plan when I signed up was to take it easy, enjoy the event, and get some pictures with the characters.
Of course plans change. Thanksgiving came and went and I didn't miss a run. Same with Christmas and New Years. On top of that, my training was going very well. I was hitting all my paces with a target pace of 8:30. Since I was within about 3 seconds of my 8:45 target pace for Wine and Dine, I felt pretty good. So In spite of a cold that made its way around my family around New Years, I was shooting for 1:52 with a secret goal of 1:50.
We were able to stumble on a really good rate at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and, after dinner with my parents at the house on Friday, we headed out to Disney to check in. The staff (as always with Disney properties) was extremely nice and helpful. The girl at the check-in counter was going to be running the half as well and was impressed when I told her I would be done by about 7:30 AM (always an ego boost when people are impressed by your time). About ten minutes from the house, I had realized I had forgotten to pack my gels. So after checking in, I went to a (somewhat) nearby store to grab some gels and picked up a new shirt for the race. Then we checked out some animals with the night vision goggles they have at one of the "savanah" overlooks (quite cool for sure). Back at the room, I laid out all of my gear and we managed to get the super-excited 5 year old to bed and I did everything I could to try to get some sleep before my 3:30AM wake up call.
I'm sure I slept, but not sure I slept much. The hotel phone was the first of my 3 devices to go off so I jumped out of bed and turned off the alarm clock (my phone went off about 10 min later while I was brushing my teeth). I geared up and popped a cough drop due to my lingering cold symptoms, threw my gEar bag over my shoulder, and headed to the bus.
I listened to some music on my phone on the relatively short ride from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Epcot and snapped some pictures on the way into the staging area. Unlike the Wine and Dine, the bag check is a pass-through situation so I checked my bag and rendezvoused with my Dailymile friend Craig C. for what ended up being a very long walk to the start. I had some good conversation with Craig who was doing the first leg of the Goofy Challenge (half Saturday and full Sunday) and said we our "good lucks" as we headed to our assigned corrals. There was some room to the side of the start so I did about a half mile warmup to get a feel for my pace and loosen up a bit before heading into my corral.
The problem with being in corral A is that there is a huge gap between the elite runners in the front and the rest of us mere mortals. That makes it hard to judge where to start within the corral. Luckily I found the 1:50 pacer and stuck around him while we waited for the start. He started off pretty slow due to the traffic and I couldn't stand giving those seconds up. I figured I would run on ahead and hope to never see him again.
The first 5k went well. I never felt too fast but managed just a few seconds behind my horribly-hot 5k race at the beginning of the summer. I skipped the first water stop but grabbed some water at the second one. I have gotten better at drinking on the run, but it still slows me down a bit. After mile 4 I took a gel and grabbed some more water. The first few miles are uneventful other than running through the entrance to the parking area where I high-fived a volunteer who was wearing giant Mickey hands. The course is pretty flat and open on the roads leading to the Magic Kingdom.
Next came the Contemporary Hotel and its underpass which goes under part of the lake. At the point where I wanted to attack the downhill, it got really congested and just couldn't cut loose the way I wanted. It probably only cost a second or two, but added some temporary frustration as I headed back up the other side.
As we headed into the Magic Kingdom, I started searching out photographers. Since I seemed to not get many pictures at the last Wine and Dine, I wanted as many as I could get. I took a good look at the castle and enjoyed the pre-dawn view with all the lights and high-fived the Mayor of Main Street. As we headed through the castle, photographers were lining the path and as I stuck out my hand to get ones attention, I heard an "are you kidding me" from behind as someone chose that second to pass. The video of me running out of Cinderella's Castle includes what was evidently quite the tussle as he was trying to pass me. It looks like I was trying to block him out but I had no idea he was there.
Just past Magic Kingdom came the 10k and the halfway point. Still feeling great, I thought about picking up the pace. After some prolonged self-negotiation, I decided to hold off for the last five. I popped my second gel somewhere after mile 8 and then got some more fluids at the mile 9 water stop. Somewhere around that point (I think it was after mile 9), I passed an amputee who had clearly outpaced me significantly. It sounded like he and his running partner decided to slow down so my guess is that he could have beaten me with one leg (for all I know he passed me later and I didn't notice). It was definitely inspirational. Also about mile 9 or so there was a really weird cold spot. I think it was maybe just a low spot that was a little foggy and cool. It has happened quite often on one of my normal running routes but this time it lasted so long I started to think something was wrong with me and I was having some kind of stress response. My breathing was OK and I didn't feel tired or like I was overexerting so I just kept going and eventually it warmed back up.
The last 5 miles, I decided to treat like a 5-mile tempo run. I figured if I could get down to my 8:15 tempo pace I could get in under 1:50. Up to that point I had been averaging about 8:25 but with a growing margin of error in my Garmin for every mile. I had seen the 1:50 pacer a few times but he was definitely pretty far ahead. My 5-mile tempo effort did manage to yield an 8:18, but then only 8:23. So then I decided I needed a 5k effort for the last 5k to have any hope of catching the pacer. Then came the overpasses. Mile 11 wasn't too bad, but mile 12 was brutal. After a relatively flat course, there were two large overpasses heading back to the Epcot parking lot. That meant 8:28 with a lot of effort. I'm pretty sure my form fell apart in mile 13 as I lumbered through Epcot. The route through Epcot is kind of an out-and-back with a little loop near the lake. I saw the pacer run by and had a last glimmer of hope of catching him. As my watch ticked 13 I knew I had about a quarter mile left due to the accumulated error of my less-than-optimal path. I accelerated through the 13-mile marker and checked my watch a little after to see that it had flipped from 1:49 to 1:50 just yards from the finish. Already running a 7-somehthing pace, I went into full-on kick mode when I hit the final stretch. There was a "kid" in front of me (ends up he was 14) and I passed him just before the finish line. Chip time - 1:50:50.
I'm not sure why I wasn't as excited this time as last time. I think I surprised myself before. I thought I could run 8:45s back then, but my training had been so tough and I spent so long running so slowly in comparison that I just didn't believe what the pace charts were telling me. This time, I was pretty sure I could do 8:30 so 8:27 wasn't so much of a surprise.
After crossing the finish line, I got my medal, grabbed my water and Powerade, and found a photographer for a "candid" picture of me with my new bling. Then I got my "offical" photo, pointing to my bib where my daughter had written "DAD" in crayon (I registered too late to get my name on it). I grabbed my snack box and a banana and headed to get my bag. I was hoping to come back and maybe get a massage since for once I wasn't in a hurry (wife and kid were possibly still asleep) but as I mentioned before, bag check was a one-way affair. As I walked toward the bag check tent, a volunteer called out my number to the volunteers inside (actually she was off by a digit somehow and had to call it out again). It was all very efficient and I think that is why I was so surprised that as soon as they handed me my bag, everyone in the tent started cheering. I was the only one in that tent at that time so they were all cheering for me. That was definitely pretty cool. I did not, however, fell cool when I tried to walk out the entrance of the tent and everyone started telling me I couldn't go back that way (no massage for me).
Another little personal cheering session occurred when I got off the bus back at the hotel. I was sitting in the front of the bus and I was the first one off. When I got off the bus, all of the hotel workers and guests burst into applause. It was totally unnecessary and totally awesome at the same time.
I picked up my older daughter from home, met my wife and little one for lunch at Sanaa, and spent the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom. Then dropped the family off at home and returned to the Disney area for some grub and a beer with a couple folks who had done their first leg of Goofy that morning. Finally collapsed around 8:30 at the end of a great day.
Chip Time 1:50:50
Clock Time: 1:52:09
1,241 of 23,126 finishers
179 of 1,608 men 35-39
977 of 9,998 men