Monday, January 25, 2016

RACE REPORT: GOOFY CHALLENGE 2016


Goofy Challenge:

Time for the Goofy challenge – a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full on Sunday!  I was fortunate to have this on the plan after the California International Marathon.  It gave me something to look forward to, and helped to prevent post-marathon blues.  It does truly exist, and it’s not that bad, not like real blues, but you do feel it.  The big event that you had been working towards for months and months is over, and even if it went well and was great, not having that something to look forward to anymore and not having a goal and purpose to work towards can make something feel like it’s missing.  So fortunately, I had this unique challenge to look forward to.  It gave me an excuse to truly take it easy after the CIM, too.  I absolutely didn’t want to get injured, since the Goofy was just a month after CIM. 

The Expo:

The week of the race, I just did a single run of 4.0 in 33:23, 8:21 average, on Tuesday.  I was at a warm hotel fitness room, and time went by slowly.  The rest of the week, just rested for the big weekend.  Drove to Charleston, to cover some distance on Thursday, and made the rest of the drive to Florida on Friday. 

Once in Florida, my parents and I hit up the expo.  Cigna was a great sponsor, offering cool, interactive freebies, like a photo booth, a 360 camera, blue screen running video, and professional caricatures.  The expo was very well-organized and fast… the only thing that they could possibly do better was making it more clear which building contained what, since they spread out the expo among four buildings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.   


We got to meet and get autographs and pictures with Jeff Galloway, who we had listened to on Mickey Miles podcast interviews in the car ride up.  Disney is a first marathon for many, since it’s fun and friendly.  My dad’s strategy for the race was the Run-Walk-Run, so it was very fitting to meet Jeff.  The merchandise was fun, but nearly everything was waaaay beyond my price range.  The race itself is expensive, too, but it is worth it… the experience that they put on is unlike that of any other race.  Back to the expo, we had to go through it pretty quickly, since we had to pick up my sister from the Orlando airport.  There were some surprise toll roads that we hit a couple of times, so we learned to be careful about the GPS route settings after a while.  The rest of the evening was pretty quiet.

Pre-HM:

Woke up at 3am on Saturday morning.  Lots of cars were making their way to Epcot’s parking lot.  My family walked me into the start area, we took some pics, then they left to make their way to Magic Kingdom to spectate at mile 5.  It’s great that they let people onto Main Street that morning for free, to watch the race.  We wouldn’t be going to the parks this trip, since my family thought that they would be too tired after running, so at least they got to experience the park in its glory together.  It was chilly, but bearable in a sports bra that morning.  It was really foggy, too.  I stood in line for the porta potty… there were a good many of them, but lines are unavoidable.  After that, I started the long walk to the corrals, which was maybe ¾ a mile.  They light it well.  At the corrals, they had giant lit-up balls, with letters A->P on them.  They went on and on.  I was glad to be up at corral B.   They had lots of photographers taking pics, a DJ, and guys on stilts.  


In the corrals, they had big screen TVs to keep you entertained.  The production they put on, with announcers, characters, and special guests on the main stage (which was next to corral A and the start), and the interviews that they had in the “party corrals” farther back were TV-worthy.  It was incredible how they could put on such a professional and well-made live production.  The party corral interviewer found interesting racers, like this one millennial guy.  His parents were in the corral ahead of his, and didn’t want to move back a corral in order to join him.  It was pretty funny.  They also had the womens marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe stop by – it was cool to see  her in person.   The time went by really fast, with the great entertainment.  Before I knew it, it was time to start.  For the start, they release one wave at a time, with each wave gettings its own count-down from Donald Duck and a fireworks send-off.

Donald Duck Half:

After the wheelchairs went off and corral A went off, it was time for corral B.  For the half, I was wearing my Mickey outfit with ears and giant gloves.  I think I started fast, with all of the excitement that they inspired with the characters and fireworks.  I wasn’t racing this for a PR, so it didn’t matter too much… this was a race to enjoy and be free and have fun in.  There were crowds on the far side of the opposite road cheering, then we started seeing different characters and bands… huge mechanical Sebastian lobster with a guy controlling it, hot-air balloon, guys on stilts, lots of random characters, Wreck it Ralph, Nightmare before Christmas or something.  

 It was cool to go under the Magic Kingdom parking toll both, on foot.   I messaged my family as I got closer.  We made our way to the Ticketing & Transportation Center.  We went under an overpass, where the tram typically takes parking lot people to the TTC.  On the overpass was a guy with giant lit-up Mickey hands… like hands the size of half a person, vs. my large but definitely not that large oversized gloves.  He was so funny, raising the roof with giant giant hands.  I’d raise mine back at him.  When I got close to him, he said to me on the PA system “did you wear those for me?  Because I wore these for you!”  Loved it!  There were fewer costumes than I expected, based on what I had heard about the Disney races on the Mickey Miles Podcast, but I did see some super heroes and a Monsters, Inc.  I loved the gloves.  At the crowds at the TTC, I high-fived so many people and riled up the crowds by pumping my hands.  I ran so fast in that section, energized by the crowds.  I did the same on Main Street USA, once in Magic Kingdom.  I saw my family as I ran by.  After going so fast by the crowds, I was breathing really hard.  We went through Tomorrowland, then Fantasy Land then the castle.  The castle was all lit-up, and they had photographers taking pictures for you.   


Went through Frontierland.  Backstage, they had the Peter Pan crew.  My dad had considered being Peter Pan for the marathon, so I took a picture with them and messaged it to my family.  The lines for the characters were short… 1-2 people in it.  I wasn’t particularly attached to most of them, so I didn’t feel too bad about skipping them and racing on, even though I wasn’t particularly going for a time.  


Since I had expended myself so much, the second half was tougher… just kept it up as best as I could.  I saw Goofy and Donald, so I had to stop and take a picture with them.  I had seen Stitch earlier in the race, and that’s the only one where I maybe would’ve liked to get a picture.  I guess since it’s not for time, anyway, I should’ve.  Eh…  Anyway, got to Epcot, working hard.  With the 5:30am start, my goal was to finish before sunrise.  The Monsters, Inc. girl (dressed as the blue-green with pink polka-dot monster with a tutu) was next to me, and I thought it would be fun to have another costumed person in the finishing picture.  I ended up sprinting ahead, though, excited about the crowds again.  I saw Mickey at the finish line and veered over to high-five him, before veering back to the middle for the finish.  Exhilarating.  So much fun, and unlike any other Half Marathon that I’ve done.  I loved running with the gloves and interacting with the crowds so much… too bad you can’t as easily wear gloves to every race.

1:42:02, 7:47 average.  My usual time is 1:36:XX.  I wouldn’t have wanted to go PR-pace, anyway, since I had to save myself for the next day.  Plus, my legs wouldn’t be able to PR 1 month after a marathon, anyway.  At the finishing area, you got a box of snacks, which were actually ok – craisins, tortilla chips with cheese dip, Builder’s Bar, oreos… stuff I wouldn’t mind eating as a snack.  I didn’t have any then, since I was looking forward to getting salt and protein and pickles, my usual post-race cravings.

Post-Half:

After the race, went back to the resort, to get showered and out of my wet clothes.  The resort's resident peacocks happened to be right by our door!


Then we went back to the expo, so that my sister could get her race bib.  It was a bit surreal the previous day, watching my dad get his bib… usually, it’s him watching me, and now, at age 60, he was doing his second race ever (1st was a 5K with me when I was in 6th grade), and his first marathon.  My sister got hers, and we did more Cigna stuff and went to different expo booths.   



I did get the reasonably priced Mickey Mouse Runner stuffed animal, after having so much fun that morning.  Wanted something to remember this fun weekend by.  I couldn’t wait to share the experience with my dad and sister.  They had a speaker series, but they didn’t really advertise the topics, so the one we happened to run across was the Champion brand sports apparel fashion show.  We were on our feet enough for my dad and sister’s legs to be a bit tired, so we went back to the resort.  

Pre-Full:

Woke up early the next morning, for the marathon.  I had a similar outfit, except I added a backpack to carry a bit of food, and the giant gloves (in case we got tired of them).  I ended up holding the GoPro in my hand, for the entire 26.2 miles.  After I had scratched up the case with rocks in Chicago, it was best to take video sans case, and I wanted it to be at the ready for capturing race moments, anyway.  It wasn’t that bad, holding it, actually, even during banana eating, Powerade drinking, everything.






We were in corral K, so we got to watch a bunch of fireworks… wheelchair, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J… and finally K (at least we didn’t have to sit through L, M, N, O, P.  The announcers would typically ask each corral who was doing the Goofy, who was doing their First Marathon, then they’d turn it over to their “conductor”, Mickey, who would say “ok, everybody, 3-2-1-go!” in his Mickey voice, then fireworks.   There were maybe 3-5 minutes between each corral.  It was great, for helping to spread things out… as it was, the race could be pretty crowded in the mid- and back-of-the-pack, so I can’t imagine how it would be without the spread-out corrals.  It had the effect of giving you a little extra cutoff time, too, since they started counting down the finishing cutoff time from the time that the last starter crossed the line.  It is tough for the backest of the back, though, because they end up getting the least cushion, when they’re already on the bubble.  There’s not much of a choice, though.  


 

Once we got going, I was surprised to see that they actually changed up the characters on course, for the full vs. the half… at least the vast majority of the time.  We got to the Magic Kingdom toll entrance and took a picture, which was special and fun.  My sister had to stop for a bathroom break.  We saw the giant hands-man again.  I had told my dad and sister about what he said to me the previous day.  This time, my dad was wearing the gloves and was loving it, too.  He’d raise the roof with his hands periodically, to match the big hands man.  The hands man noticed my dad, and this time, he said “Oh, I love your hands, man.  I put mine in the dryer and it came out like that once”.  I love the Hands Man!



By the time we got to Magic Kingdom, it was light out, so the castle looked much different than it had looked the previous day.  We did Tomorrowland, Fantasy Land, the Castle with Elsa blowing bubbles on it, Frontierland, and we did an extra section in Adventureland that the half hadn’t gotten to do.  The next part of the race, all the way through to Animal Kingdom at mile 13, was long and park-less.  







There were some characters, periodically, but otherwise, it was just lots of running.  With the run-walk strategy, I had set my watch to beep periodically.  We did 1.5 min run / 1.5 min walk for lots of the time… each time it was time to switch, I would say “Stella”, which was our code-word.  I had wanted something distinctive (vs. “go”), since many others in the pack would likely be using a run-walk strategy as well, and I didn’t want anyone getting confused… so… in 6.5 hours that it took us to finish, I must’ve said “Stella” 260 times, plus my additional comments like “get ready to Stella to the left” when I wanted them to start making their way towards the side for the walk portion, to stay out of the way of other runners.  Stella is the name of a family friend’s Pomeranian.  I think it’s also some character, whose name gets shouted in “A Streetcar Named Desire”… something like that, from what I gathered on an episode of Modern Family… so it was probably perfect.  They had bananas on course, and I gobbled up a couple.  I was hungry.  They had 2 banana stops, 2 gu stops, 1 wet sponge stop, and tons of water and powerade on course.


One fun thing... there were fake grave diggers.  One was kind of standing off to the side... I thought he may be slacking and bored in his job.  But he was actually in character.  He started chasing us, with his shovel dragging along the asphalt like nails on a chalkboard, running pretty fast.  It was funny.


At Animal Kingdom, they had real animals out there to pet and take pictures with… even crazy ones like big birds and huge snakes.  Animal Kingdom’s Africa and Asia sections feel like realistic cities, so it felt  more normal running through them (vs. Magic Kingdom).  It was cool to see Everest, though, even though it didn’t come out as much in the picture as it did in real life.  Animal Kingdom was open to park goers, so they had a specially cordoned off narrow path to the side, where they cheered as they walked between their rides.  We saw the Tree of Life, then exited.  

At mile 15, there was an overpass, which happened to be right above a McDonald’s.  And a spectator on the overpass had a big tub of fries!!!  It tasted so good… salt and oil… warm, too.  Fries have never tasted so good… it was a great surprise.  My sister loved it, too.  When we saw the mile 16 sign, I told my sister “yay, this is the furthest you’ve ever run before,” trying to make her proud of her accomplishment thus far.  She responded “that was 6 miles ago”, haha… she only did 10 miles for her longest run during training.  




At mile 19, we hit the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  We weaved around there a lot, with a lap around the running track (which I enjoyed) and the baseball field’s bases.  Apparently, it’s the least favorite part for many, since it felt like you weren’t making much progress when you had to do a full loop around something, without making much progress spacially.  My sister had her second stretch break. 


As we were exiting the complex, we saw the balloon ladies, who marked the cutoff time pace.  There were a couple of runners behind them.  Man, that’s got to be tough.  Behind them, there was the straggler bus, and then tons of cleaning crews already sweeping up after the massive water stations.  Organization second-to-none!  One of the runners behind the balloons was Sid Busch, carrying the American Flag.  There had been lots of controversy about it, I found out later.  Disney implemented stricter rules about costumes and props that you could bring, probably as a safety thing, especially given recent events, and they weren’t going to make an exception for him carrying the flag.  After lots of strongly worded comments on social media, they decided to let him go.  He’s a vet and does this to honor the fallen.  

 
After WWOS, a lot happens in the race.  Another bathroom break.  Saw an inspiring Achilles runner with blade legs.  My sister made a friend with a guy who started chatting her up.  At mile 22, we went through Hollywood Studios.  You start by going through a tunnel with lots of laser and strobe lights.  Then, you go through fake New York City.  For my sister, it was like running at home. 


  

 



This park was also open to park-goers, who cheered for the racers.  As we were running down the main thoroughfare in that park, we saw a Japanese lady who was enthusiastically waving and cheering at us, probably excited to see an Asian family doing the race… she reminded me and my sister so much of our mom, haha, with her enthusiasm… it was like having my mom there.  My mom was actually back at the hotel, since it would’ve been a long, long 8-hr day of waiting for her, if she had come.  



We went through the big Disney Resorts, like the Boardwalk… so close at this time!  There were lots of spectators giving out snacks like pickle chips, pretzels, Twizzlers, Smarties… when we asked our dad later what he liked about the race, he said the food.  My dad loves food and eats and cooks all day.  He pretty much had an all-you-can-eat buffet as we ran through the Boardwalk.  At one point, a held out a beer, and my dad started going towards it, but it ended up being for her friend who was behind my dad, haha.  





Finally, we got to Epcot.  As we went through the World Showcase, super majestic/epic music was blaring.  This was like the grand finale, passing country after country.  To exit the park, we went towards the Epcot Ball… a finale encore.  Then, the real final stretch, going by the gospel singers, then the grand stands.  The three of us held hands (with the GoPro still in my other hand), and we crossed the finish line.  Yay, they did it!  They got their well-deserved medals, and their food.  I picked up my Goofy medal after photo verification.  My sister was doing the post-marathon waddle as we took post-race pics and slowly made our way back to the car.  Yay!  






Post-Full:

After the race, they did a lot of sleeping.  We ended up not going to the post-race party… not too incentivized to go out again after being on our feet all day.  The next day, we did go to Disney Springs, for a pre-birthday day of fun, since we would be driving a lot the next day.  We visited a Boat Shop, Lego Shop (where they had a build-your-own-Lego person, where my sister made a nurse version of herself, me a backpack-wearer with a trophy, and my sister making one of her boyfriend with a hoodie and laptop).  We had lunch at Wolfgang Puck, per a friend’s recommendation, then Starbucks to make my mom happy, then Baby Cakes USA for vegan desserts for my pre-birthday.

We’re already planning for next year.  My dad is interested in other marathons, but for Disney, he may just do the half next year, as long as he can get a spot.

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