Honestly, I wanted to write more in yesterday's post. But, the Achilles International story really needed its own moment, so today's post will be a doozy. Hope you have your favorite beverage in hand.
Through my many years of doing the Dopey Challenge I've learned that the best chance for any type of strong running performance tends to be the 10k on Friday. The 5k is nice to settle back into racing (as I almost always refrain from any type of big mileage between November's Wine & Dine and January's Dopey), while the half and full races are all about staying alive. Therefore, I always make the 10K my "A" race.
However, pushing through the start line and nearly into two miles of the race, I knew I just didn't have it. It's not to say I didn't give it my all, but since 2016 had yielded the least amount of running miles ever (thanks a lot new bicycle), I knew my body was in no condition to put in an effort worthy of an "A" race. No matter. I still enjoyed the race as I always do, and walked away with a rather iconic medal pic.
Cigna Blogger MeetUp
As with previous weekends, I had been given an opportunity to meet up with my running pals, and fellow bloggers, at a Cigna hosted event dedicated to education on healthy living. Unlike past years, the event was to be a scavenger hunt at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but first we'd need to meet at the Grand Floridian and check-in.
Also as in previous events, my partners-in-crime, Linzie and Emelia and I got there early to prepare for the day's activities. Let me just say, what's the deal with the lack of open bars at 10a on a weekday? I mean, really!
Like clockwork, all my wonderful running friends made their way in the door amidst pomp and circumstance. Okay, maybe there wasn't any fanfare, but I swear I heard some pomp and/or circumstance. It's always great to catch up with my favorite peeps, Sarah, Kristin, Gayle, Kim and so many others.
At the Studios, we broke off into teams and traversed the park, trying to answer some mighty tough riddles, and even tougher physical challenges. My team, Donald Duck, was stacked with quality. For starters, Emelia, Linzie and I kept close, but we were also blessed with the wonderful Gelcys, my dear old Great Movie Ride pal, Andrea, and some additional game show pros.
The challenges and riddles were all health based and required us to do some crazy looking activities. But, hey if you can't be wild with your friends, then who can you be with? Across the Studios we set out, looking to find our answers and putting ourselves in some mighty precarious situations. Take for instance, Linzie had to roll a cracker from his forehead to his mouth without his hands.
The team also had to stack cups in sequence and time to get a check on our checklist. Everyone tried and failed. Not one to lose, I found a loophole in the rules that made the effort that much easier. Allowed? Yes. Ethical? Eh, it's a gray area.
The challenge ended in the new special events building next to Rock & Rollercoaster to where we would find out who won. We (drumroll) came in dead last. Oh, well. At least it was fun and educational. See for yourself.
When is A Half Marathon Not A Half Marathon?
After a few rounds at Misner's in the Grand Floridian, the group broke off to get ready for the next day's half marathon. Or, so we thought. Throughout the day there had been spotty communication about a massive storm rolling in that was planning to relieve itself on us runners just as the half marathon was schedule to start.
Later that evening, my wife and I were nestled in one of the many cozy fireplace nooks of the Wilderness Lodge when the runDisney fan section of the Internet essentially went batshit crazy. One of the resorts had posted a half marathon cancellation sign in its lobby and well, you can guess what happened next. Yep, all hell broke loose.
As you could imagine, social media exploded with all kinds of colorful conversation. Runners, who had apparently become meteorologists over the course of five minutes, debated with each other about what constitutes lightning, while others swore that this would be their "last runDisney race ever!" I took this opportunity to strengthen my Twitter game.
Now that we had a free evening, our dear friends Jen and Kim made a stop by the resort to visit us (Jen was looking especially stylish in her #MLO t-shirt) and we hit the bar for a much needed catch up on life. When we get together, a good time is always had.
At the end of it all, Disney did a pretty admirable job of offering choices to make things whole, which they were under no obligation to do. The choices were: a full refund in the form of a gift card, deferral to another half marathon, or a chance to run the following day's marathon. We took the gift cards, because Disney is expensive y'all. The only drag was that we had to go to Wide World of Sports the following day to pick up our gift cards and medals. Overall, the process was easy, but the traffic (and insanely inept parking crew) made getting out of the area an insurmountable nightmare.
But, let's get to Saturday morning. As expected, the heaven's opened and the deluge hit without warning, if we were out on the course it would have gotten ugly, so kudos to runDisney for making the call. But, as the sun emerged so did the runners. Apparently, some runners at the value resorts made a makeshift half marathon by doing laps around the resort. It's quite a commendable effort made that more magical by guests stepping out of their rooms to cheer them on. You guys definitely earned your medals, no matter if it was on the course or not.
I had a different strategy for the day, mainly because I was ill prepared for the massive cold front coming through later in the day plummeting the temperature to the low 30's for tomorrow's full marathon. So, my wife and I drove 45 minutes off property to a sporting goods store to stock up on gloves and hats, then making our way to the train wreck that was the expo to get our gift cards.
By the time I got back to the resort the sun was already low in the sky, but no matter, I laced up my shoes and hit the trails of Fort Wilderness to take on my half marathon. Sadly, I was only able to get in 4.5 miles before the lack of light made the trails dangerous and the cold started to cut into me. My wife and I agreed to tackle the half together the Monday following the marathon, so we'd earn our challenge medals.
Taking On the Goofy Challenge - In One Day
The icy grip of Sunday morning tore into me the moment I stepped off the runner's bus in the Epcot parking lot. The cold married with stiff 25 mph winds made the windchill feel like the mid-20's. Needless to say, not the most ideal running weather. The patio heaters Disney put out the night before were jammed tight with runners 10 deep on all sides giving an appearance of ants trying to get at the last piece of fruit dropped on the ground. I found some respite behind a tent and set about visualizing my race strategy.
There was no doubt I was going to blow up during the race. Since I had only put in about eight miles since November, the question wasn't if, it was when my lifeless body would be found after succumbing to the "bonk gods." But, having a strong base I knew the task of taking on the day's event was doable if I set my priorities correctly. But, knowing I was ill prepared, I abandoned my D corral assignment (my farthest ever corral for a Disney race) and joined the ranks of the F corral.
I decided to take an approach to this race the same way I had approached the Chicago Marathon, which was to take it easy and just have fun. What better way to cement that strategy than by getting a tap on my shoulder at mile four by my good friend, Casey. We spent the next mile catching up with each other on what's been new in our lives, breaking off just before hitting the Magic Kingdom.
At the MK, I found my wife and dished off all my warm weather gear. She, in turn stocked me up with more GU gel and a ham sandwich. That's right, a ham sandwich. Hey, it worked at Chicago, so my thought was maybe it would work here, too. She also hit with some bad news that she had not received any of my race updates. Nor had I or my mother, sadly I found out after the race my bib had not been registering my times. From what I could gather from the rD info booth, they had been using a new tracking company, and from firsthand experience, let me tell you they were terrible. I'm still trying to get a time registered. Ugh! Now, back to the race.
As I headed the back area towards Disney's Animal Kingdom, I wasn't just feeling okay, I was feeling downright awesome. Granted, my pace was a little slow, but hey I was moving forward. A bonus for this usually dreary stretch of course was Disney had brought back a bunch of vehicles from retired attractions. There was a Nautilus sub from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a car from Mr. Toad, a Star Jet vehicle and others. Sadly, no Horizons vehicle. Lame.
Making my way towards DAK, I did see a lady cut the out and back section of Western Way which was disappointing to see, but everyone runs their own race and will answer to their own conscience. I cranked through DAK, hoping to see an old friend but the cold kept a lot of spectators home that day so I understood.
While I had stopped to walk for a brief moment, my attitude and body were still 100%, which confirmed a plan I half jokingly said to Casey back at mile four. Why wait until tomorrow to run the half marathon when I could just do it today after the marathon? I figured today was my day, so I hitched up my pace and finished the race in a respectable 4:23:24.
After meeting up with my wife at the finish and selling her on my ambitious idea, we made our way back to the resort to gobble down breakfast before lacing back up and heading back towards the Fort Wilderness loops.
At first, my body took to the challenge rather well. My legs ached no more than what I had just experienced in my 26.2 warmup. However, things started to go south around mile 5 and it started to look grim at mile 10. But, the support of my wife made the next 3.1 miles bearable, if I resorted to a slow walk of a pace. A short 2:58:00 minutes after I started and a mere seven hours after I had started my day, I was the proud owner of a marathon medal, a half marathon medal, my Goofy Challenge medal and Dopey Challenge medal.
I had done what once I thought was impossible, covering 39.3 miles in one day! This coming after already putting in 13.8 miles over the previous days. I felt so alive. Okay, I felt like I was going to die. But, amid the aching legs, heaving chest and blurred vision, I had completed the Goofy Challenge in a day. While I applaud the runners who took on their own half marathon at their resort the previous day, this was my Everest and not only did I do it, I summited without oxygen.
My stomach screamed for sustenance which led me to Roaring Forks for the most delicious quick service burger I had ever enjoyed. That night, as we always do, my wife celebrated our personal victories (and our wedding anniversary) at Artist Point, the best restaurant on property. This year, the wonderful Whittakers joined in our celebration. We dined like royalty, sampling the finest fare from the pacific northwest....and amaretto sours.
I love WDW Marathon Weekend. To me, it's really the last authentic piece of the runDisney series of races and it's always a pleasure to see friends normally scattered about the country. And, while I'll always say this weekend is about friends and family, and rarely about running, this year was different. This year my running made it all happen. From running with new and wonderful faces from Achilles International, to running around the Studios with my mates and Cigna, to running beyond what I thought I could personally achieve and then crushing it.
I'm not sure what the future holds in store for me and runDisney. But, you can guarantee I'll always be found in Central Florida the first week of January. So, about next year's 1-Day Goofy Challenge. Who's with me?
Until next time. Run fast. Run smart.