Friday, April 5, 2013

What is your Ideal Marathon Weather?

The 10 day forecast is a day away from showing the April 15 weather prediction for Boston, MA and surrounding areas?

Sunday's forecast looks promising. 

Since the weather can have such a major impact on running a marathon I am often asked about my ideal weather conditions for a marathon. 

What is "ideal" marathon weather for you?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Race(s) Report

I'm finally getting around to putting together a report of my first marathon. The delay is really mostly because my first was followed one week later by my second marathon. I had greatly underestimated the impact on my body of running two marathons back to back, at my level of training and experience, and had scheduled a half marathon the following week. At the last minute I decided to be smarter about it and just did a 5K instead.

Race #1: Carlsbad Marathon

My first marathon was the Carlsbad Marathon the last Sunday in January. The race was pretty much a blur, which is saying something considering that it took me 5:32:54 to finish in 1,304th place (out of 1,465).

Carlsbad Marathon Elevation Profile
As you can see in the elevation profile above, the Carlsbad course is mostly flat as it follows the beach between Carlsbad and Encinitas. The single hill is due to the course turning inland for an uphill section which resulted in 1,798 feet of elevation gained. Overall that is not a lot of footage compared to trail runs but it is deceiving because of the long straight and mostly flat stretch.

As most distance road runners will affirm hills are really the most challenging part of any run, no matter the weather or climate. The challenge may be going up or it may be going down, depending on your fitness and the terrain. Early in my training, the 'little' bumps you see between 15 and 22 miles were not so little to me and I'd have to walk at least part of each one. They were my walls to climb... and I did, slowly, over time. Now I barely even notice them, what a difference training makes! This is important training mentally and physically for my ultra-running aspirations where some races exceed 30,000 feet of elevation gain (and equal amount of loss), climbing Mount Everest in a day!

Carlsbad Marathon Course

My finishing time was not remarkable, in fact it is much worse than I hoped for. I'm happy to have finished but it was an amazing experience and one of the first solo achievements I've had in a long time. Getting here was not a solo experience, I owe a debt of gratitude to my running coach, Carla Barnett, and my running partners Judy & Dave Wade, and fellow first-timer Jon. We all met up at the start and were together for the first few seconds of the race but as we settled into our individual paces, we each ran our own races.

Just before the start!

I wore my GoPro Hero3 Black Edition camera for the first time at this race just so that I could show you all, especially those in the middle of the country far away from the ocean, what it looks like here in San Diego county in the middle of January.

What is it like running next to the ocean? Take a look and see for yourself!

What race report would be complete without a finisher's photo?

Race #2: Surf City Marathon
The Surf City Marathon provided a different race experience for me. During the 7 days between races I had a three day work trip to Washington DC that started the day after Carlsbad. I'm sure the walk from my car to the gate... and then at the other end from the airport to my hotel room was good for me in some way. It didn't feel great and I sure was not very fast. I also made sure to wear compression socks and do some light stretches and move around a little during the 5 hour flight.

I did not however do any running or specific exercise during the intervening week. I did not know what my body required and knew that I did not want to push it. In the evenings in the hotel I took the plastic garbage can liners from the hotel room, filled them with ice and packed my elevated knees... and kept the ibuprofen and tylenol levels up as much as I dared. All these things helped, I think.

My wife and I drove the 85 minutes or so to Huntington Beach, drove around a while looking for parking, and made a quick dash through the expo to get my bib and packet. There was a good vibe here with many thousands of people, most of whom were lining up to get their half marathon gear. There was essentially no wait for the full marathoners. We met up with fellow runners and friends at the Dog Pound (a named tailgate party hosted by friends outside their super cool RV Coach/home) for dinner at a restaurant next door. I was still limping 'a little' which was perhaps an ominous sign that I did not know was something worthy of more specific troubleshooting.

Afterwards we made our way to the hotel and quickly settled in for a short night. The 4am (or was it 3:30?) alarm came and it was time to suit up. I had some self debate about whether it was worth showering before a marathon or not, its not like I exerted myself at all since the previous shower a day earlier, but the routine-ness of it was comforting along with the hot water made a good start to the day to ease my nerves.

My wife dropped me off as close as she could to the start but I still had about 1/4 mile walk to the start. It made a good warm-up as it was a little chilly and very humid - I was dressed for the expected weather later in the day (warm and sunny). I had some time to kill so I found a porta-potty and scoped out the beer garden (motivation to make it back here later).

My GoPro Hero3 attracted the attention of a few people who asked me about it (that's when I noticed that nobody else had one, which either meant I was on the cutting edge of a trend or I was the race dork). People were friendly and as the dawn started to break over us I started to mentally shift gears and review my race plan.

I planned to go out at 11:30 pace and hold that until the last 5-6 miles (or last hour) when I could speed up if I was feeling it.

Surf City Marathon Elevation Profile

As you can see in the above graph, this is an extremely flat race with only one small hill to climb in a short out and back section that does a figure 8 through a city park. It was on my way out in this section that things started to fall apart for me.

My left knee started hurting suddenly and was making it difficult to run. So I slowed a little to try walking and that didn't make it any better. In fact it was hard to walk than to run and I found myself having to pull my leg up with my upper quads and avoiding having a bent knee as much as possible. I struggled for the next four miles with this, taking lots of walking breaks because of the pain when running... only to find the pain was the same when walking so I rationalized that if I ran the amount of time I was in pain would be less. This would work for a few minutes until I forgot how much it hurt walking and tried it again... and so it continued.

I'm not really sure if whatever was causing the pain actually lessened or if my body was becoming numb to it but after an hour it hurt less - although I found myself having less energy to run. It was very demoralizing to feel like I was done racing at mile 8 with 18 more to go! We had joined up with the fast half marathoners, first with the 1:20 pace group... who were going twice as fast as me. That didn't help my situation any and I started to experience the frustration and angst that comes with lackluster performance. Eventually the faster pace groups made their way past me and I was now among halfers going my speed (which means they started way to fast and slowed down).

Surf City Marathon Course

This race actually has three legs, each are an out and back, with the second two being basically the same scenery from both sides of a fence. This presented me with the greatest challenge though, as these extensions felt like they just kept going and going. Since I was not having a great race physically, the mental challenges were very trying. I kept on the lookout for people I might know and did see a few.

As I approached the final turn for the last out and back, the halfers were in their last two mile stretch yet they were dropping like flies. There were ambulances and fire trucks responding to calls all along the course as the day progressed. I was too much in my zone trying to finish to stop and render aid, not that anyone I was near looked like I could do anything for them in the few minutes before a local paramedic would be there. I'm ok with that... and I know that had I stopped and tried to kneel over someone I would have great trouble getting back up again and could become a casualty myself!

As I was about to cross the finish my wife was there cheering for me and videoing (I think). I have no doubt it was not a pretty sight and maybe that's why I haven't seen the video. It was great seeing her there knowing I was almost done, just another minute to finish. I finished 7 minutes slower than Carlsbad... and the winners were 10 minutes slower. I could make an argument that I really gained 3 minutes but nobody would believe me.

Pretty much as soon as I stopped going forward my body said it had enough and locked up in one giant spasm. From my belly button down I think every muscle was in trismus - I was a giant ball of cramps and almost couldn't even walk to the car. This of course provided great entertainment to my wife but at this point I didn't care anymore.

The following week I traded my wife, a half marathon for her 5K. This was the San Dieguito race through beautiful hills and homes of Rancho Santa Fe. She finished her first half and scrambled to cover the 3.1 miles which I somehow PRd. It has been about month now and I have not ran more than a mile (twice) since.

I'm now cross training with spin class, strength training, yoga, and even deep tissue sports massage. I'm getting better as I get more familiar with my body and its limitations. I'm focused on starting and finishing the 50 mile PCT50 in May...which means I may have to drop a few other race events before than depending on how things go.

I'm hoping to still finish the sister races (two more each) to both of these to get the San Diego Triple Crown and the Orange County Beach Cities challenges. I can scratch Carlsbad and Surf City off my list of races to do... I'm ready to trade the sandy beaches and occasional dolphin sightings for the mountains!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pain and pleasure the day after LSD

A warning for those Timothy Leary fans that Googled themselves here: you are in the wrong place. This post is not about lysergic acid diethylamide but long slow distance running. Both forms of LSD can produce euphoria; running is generally safer with far fewer side effects then acid, although my current running plan involves some psychotic episodes too – usually the day after I take a dose of LSD running. 

After completing a marathon distance run this fall, my goals turned toward the next challenge. A 50 kilometer run is the next standard distance event after the 26.2 miles race, and the shortest classified as an ultra-marathon. This spring during my 31 mile run with 4000 feet of climbing I anticipate spending about 8 hours pounding my feet and legs into submission while the devil sits on my shoulder telling me to surrender to the fatigue and quit. Hopefully, I’ll have an equally powerful angel sitting on the other shoulder prepared to kick the crap out of the devil.  It is my belief that the key to finishing an endurance event is to strengthen the angel into a devil killing ninja. Also, maintaining good running form while fatigued is important. Under my new plan it isn’t the LSD run that produces these results, but during a short and intense run the next day.  

What makes the day after LSD unique in my plan? Most people rest the day after running long. My plan has me running again the next day. Not only do I run, but I run fairly intensely. My heart rate goal is zone 2 (132-146 beats per minute in my case). I will do this for an hour.
Recovery is important. It is where most training gains are realized. So, why follow a long run with an intense one instead of a rest day? Because, this run develops mental fortitude that will be most important for an ultra-event. It is toughness that hardest to prepare for without actually racing. 

The day after a LSD run, I don’t feel like running. Even after a good night’s sleep I am generally tired. My quads are fatigued and my calves are sore. The siren song of my comfortable home is calling. I whine incessantly. Exactly as I imagine I will feel at mile 26 of my 31 mile race.  By powering through I “teach” my mind to suck it up.  Additional benefits are cardiovascular fitness and improved speed. These secondary benefits are only realized two days after the LSD run. Once I do my Zone 2 fatigue run the resting phase is especially important to bank all the gains I’ve made over the last two days. 

There are a couple potential pitfalls to this plan. It is very import to differentiate soreness from injury. You are going to have some fatigue after a LSD run – that’s the whole point of the training. The difficult assessment is to figure out what is just tired and sore, and what is pain and injury. Creating an overuse injury is counterproductive, but the difference can be subtle.

Another issue is that running intensity and fatigue can produce poor form, again resulting in injury. This is why the Zone 2 run is only 60 minutes. Hopefully, you can maintain the mental acuity to monitor your form for that short period of time. I find that I really need to focus to keep from getting sloppy. This is also exactly what I’ll need to do toward the end of my 50K, so this is another good lesson. 

So far, I’ve been impressed with the results of this strategy. I’m faster and my form is good after just a month. I think it will really pay off in May when I attempt my first ultra-marathon. I also believe it will be helpful in July when I have back-to-back trail triathlons. 

What do you think of this method? Have you tried other strategies to manage fatigue during a long race?  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January 2013 Training and Racing Recap

January 2013 started with my taper in preparation for the Goofy Challenge (half marathon recap and full marathon recap).

After the Goofy Challenge I enjoyed several weeks of low activity, many trips to the skating rinks with my kids, and a rekindling of my love affair with cycling rollers.

7 Running Activities
64.35 miles

6 Cycling Activities
39.90 miles

February 1 starts my next training cycle as I prepare for the Boston Marathon.

Was January a good training month for you? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Outsource or Local-Source Race Shirts?

Sean Ryan, director of the Cellcom Green Bay marathon, has written an excellent article about why races have "Caps" or capacity limits.

From the Race Director's Desk: What's with the caps?

The entire article is well worth reading, but the section that really smacked me in the side of the head was about pre-ordering race shirts (for all Green Bay events - kids races, 5k, half marathon, full marathon, and volunteers I am speculating this is more than 10,000 shirts).

Ryan wrote:

"PARTICIPANT SUPPLY LEAD TIMES: Not that many years ago, it was customary to give out cotton t-shirts to finishers in distance races. As long as participants registered “in advance,” they would be guaranteed their t-shirt size. Any mid-sized community has a plethora of local companies that can supply custom screen-printed cotton t-shirts on fairly short notice. I’ve put in emergency orders on cotton shirts less than 48 hours prior to an event. When moisture-wicking technical fabric shirts became the standard, all of this changed. These shirts are often cut, sewn and screen printed overseas–most often in China–and shipped to the United States in shipping containers to reduce freight costs. This causes ridiculously long lead times. As an example, in order to guarantee timely delivery for this May’s Cellcom Green Bay Marathon and Half Marathon, the t-shirt order had to be submitted by December 1st, SIX MONTHS PRIOR TO THE EVENT! There are also long lead times on things like finisher medals and gear check bags. All of these lead times forces organizers to set caps on the events well in advance or risk the possibility of over-selling and running out of the perks that runners expect."
I hope there is an apparel vendor in Green Bay (my hometown) or somewhere in Wisconsin figuring this out for the 2014 race.

My list of reasons to run a race is probably much different than yours. My top considerations now are different than my race pre-requisites 5 years ago. Some of my events are "bucket list" races while others are traditions. Some are just to do something different.

I have lots and lots of race shirts. I wear them proudly and often.

Would I select a race because of its sourcing practices for t-shirts? It probably wouldn't be my top consideration but an emphasis on local sourcing and a light race footprint might tip the balance towards one race over another.

How about you? How important is the t-shirt fabric and its sourcing? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vitamins and Supplements for Distance Runners

An interesting "In the News: Athletes and Vitamins" post at the Athlete's Heart blog (a must read in my opinion) got me thinking about why I take a daily multi-vitamin. I am not sure why?

I don't recall my primary care physician suggesting I take a MV. I also don't recall him telling me to stop.

Perhaps I just succumbed to a lifetime of marketing messages about the importance of a daily MV. I am taking the official MV of Major League Baseball after all.

As for other supplements ... I have never even been in a GNC store. Those big containers of powders scare me. I simply don't have the time to understand what is in those containers and why I might want to have a big shake/slurry of supplement once a day.

How do I get vitamins and minerals:

1. Daily multi-vitamin

2. Leafy green vegetables

3. Other vegetables

4. Fruit (I should eat more than I do)

5. Other stuff?

I think there is some benefits to a daily beer ... or so I have heard. I might go test that theory.

Do you use vitamins and supplements to improve your running or to help stay healthy? 

The Plan

On MLK day I start my training plan for 2013. Why so early? It is eighteen weeks until the Sun Mountain 50k trail event, which is my first ‘A’ race of the year and my first ultra ever.  This is also the only purely running ‘A’ race for the year. After that I switch my training into trail triathlons, which have shorter running sections (usually, about 10k with elevation gain). These running sections are done after a swim and mountain bike section, so having trained to run fatigued during a 50k event will be helpful. Not to mention that running fitness is the most difficult to achieve and the overall endurance effect will prepare me for a 3 or 4 hour triathlon.
This plan developed after I reviewed last year. What went right, what could I have done better and what did I wish I would have achieved. Last year was great as I built endurance after years of being sedentary. I tried out many different types of events. I did road and trail running events, mountain bike cat 2 races and endurance events, and an Xterra triathlon. In the end I recognized how wonderful running was for building endurance. It gave me great opportunities to get out and just explore the mountains on fantastic adventure runs. I loved these. I also loved the variety of the triathlon. It had been years since I had done any swimming, and open water was pretty new (although I did unintentionally swim some nasty rapids in my early whitewater kayaking career, so swimming in a wet suits on a lake was pretty tame in comparison).  So, for total fitness and happiness I have decided to focus on trail triathlons for 2013.
I also learned that I am slow. I finished almost all my races last in my age group or close to last. That is Ok, because I finished. Not only that, but I finished way ahead of everyone sitting on the couch. Just finishing an endurance event is a huge accomplishment because I had spent so many years laying around and genetically I am slow. There are no Kenyans in my family tree.  I’ve done well in non-endurance events such as downhill skiing and whitewater kayaking. Hand-eye coordination and balance have been my strength, but I’m not wired for endurance events. Playing against my destiny has been satisfying. I recognize I will never be first when competing against others. That’s OK. I just want to do better than I did last year. I want the 46 year old me to kick the ass of the 45 year old me. 
So, with that assessment in mind I set my 2013 goals. Number one is to have fun. This journey is unsustainable unless it’s fun.  Pain is OK occasionally, but must be countered by the accomplishment. The rest of the goals are important too. Avoid the IT and other injuries that plagued me last year and maintain my health. The final and least important goal is to get faster.
Lastly, the plan is a work in progress. I’ll tweak it throughout the year.  It isn’t a plan so much as benchmarks and goals to gage progress. I know I won’t follow it exactly. A plan is a great roadmap, but the detours and tangents are what makes for an interesting year.

What did you learn last year and how did it factor into your plans?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My First Marathon

In less than 10 hours I will begin my first full marathon, the Carlsbad Marathon. You can even follow me with live tracking at Track Nick Live with bib #1383 but you should know that my goal is to finish in 4:50.

I'm as ready as I could be after training for this race most of the last six months. I've felt ready for weeks now, waiting with the anticipation of a child 12 days before Christmas - I've only got 12 hours.

I've picked up my bib, race shirt, race jacket, and gear bag... along with some schwag (a new Yoga studio gave me a shirt), new sunglasses (you can get decent shades for $20), ordered some sandals (really cool very local manufacturer Cobian who've been around for years catering to the surfers just now making their racing debut), and a couple other "toys" that I'll tell you about later.

See, race day is really not the time to be trying anything "new". Stick to the tried and proven methods, foods, nutrition, drinks, etc that you have trained with. Anything new presents a very real risk of becoming a problem 20 miles into your run. This is what I've been told by many different people which has been reinforced by nearly every article on running a race, so it must be true.

Six months ago, in August, it challenged me to cover six miles in one workout. My last long run was 21 (road) miles along the Pacific Coast Highway, just feet from the sandy beach, the very same road tomorrow's race will be comprised of. With the West Coast RoadRunners we have trained for this race and run almost the entire route through the season. I know the road so well now that I can visualize most of it in my head.

The visual I'm still working on is where I'm crossing the finish line! I took Friday off work so that I could relax a little bit, get some things done around the house, and then go to the race expo once it opened. Today was "stay off your feet" day, so they say... but it was also Girl Scout cookie warehouse distribution day... so I spent five hours this morning unloading, rearranging, moving, and reloading about 20 pallets of cookies with some other volunteer parents. Hmmm... (let me know if you want to buy some cookies!)

I've been to my "sports doc" at Elite Chiropractic twice this week for a knee pain that started on an 8 mile Tuesday morning trail run. It was pretty bad but has settled down to a dull roar the last few days. I'm giving it the full RICE (rest, ice, compression elevation) treatment - ok so maybe some RICE... with ibuprofen thrown in for good measure. My fingers and toes are crossed that it will leave me alone tomorrow!

The good news is... that I've also signed up for a 50 mile race in May. The PCT50 (Pacific Crest Trail) is nearby and is so popular that it sold out in less than 48 hours! I wanted to throw in something to look forward to early in the year, that could also count as a qualifier for a 100 miler I'm also looking at for September. I've got a long ways to go to get there (ha ha ha) so I'm taking it one at a time.

Please wish me luck and I'll let you know how well all of Greg's advice works out for me! I think he likes to talk about his scrotum a little bit more than I do mine, so maybe some of the details won't be shared.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Running with an Athletic Supporter

A reader wrote after reading my post last week on genitalia support about my thoughts and experience running while wearing a jock strap. It is in an interesting query and an area that I don't have an experience. It has been nearly 20 years since I routinely wore a jock strap during exercise - running, playing basketball, and ultimate frisbee. Since then I have found the support and snugness of a running shorts liner to be adequate for race distances of 5K to 50K.

Reduce Friction
The goal for any running clothing, especially for long distances, is to minimize or reduce the impacts of friction. Friction from scrotum movement against the thighs can become unbearably painful. If considering a jock strap I would advise first using it in short practice runs and then wearing it for gradually longer training runs. If it works keep doing it. If it doesn't stop.

I also think part of chaffing risk management is moisture control. I have the most trouble with chaffing when my shorts become soaked with perspiration and or water. For an ultramarathon it might make sense to have a dry pair of shorts waiting, along with a stick of bodyglide, at a mid-course drop bag.

Ultrarunners, how do you minimize chaffing on long distance runs?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walt Disney Marathon Weekend Expo #GoofyChallenge

(my recap is a bit out of order. For the race recaps click half or full)

The Walt Disney Marathon health and fitness expo was hosted at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The middle of all the action

Bib Pick-up

On Friday afternoon, after riding a shuttle bus from the Coronado Springs Hotel we made the long walk to the first of two buildings for packet, bib, and shirt pick-up. The number of other runners picking up at the same time was borderline overwhelming. Fortunately the Goofy Challenge pick-up was in its own gym and away from the half and full marathon pick-up. Amanda split off to get her bib and we met at the chip check. I was still listed with my Plover address and not my new Stevens Point address but i didn't make any effort to change.
Race bibs with timing chips inside

No line for Goofy Challenge

Bib pick-up area for half and full marathon

Shirt Pick-up

It was another long circuitous walk to the adjacent building for t-shirt and drop bag pick-up. During the walk we were entertained by a DJ, a hula hoop station, and conversations with other runners.

Amanda giving me a hoola hoop clinic
The next building was packed with people, merchandise, and vendor booths. We navigated our way to the far end for shirt pick-up and realized with thousands of other runners that the race shirts ran large. I have three very blousy extra large Disney shirts...half, full, and Goofy. At the shirt exchange only double XL and X-small were available.

Shirt pick-up area that doesn't adequately capture the congestion as well as the disappointment of many runners about the size of the shirts
Next we wandered the official race merchandise... Shirts, coats, hats, and more. Most of it was very over stated and more than we needed. Amanda found a running hat and I added a mug for my Disney coffee mug collection. The mug had a nice Disney marathon logo.

Coffee Mug

What I failed to see at the time of purchase, when I unwrapped, and when I placed the mug in the dishwasher was this sticker that says, "hand wash only"

It's a decal???
Total fail. Who makes and sells a "hand wash only" coffee mug?

Keep in mind the actual mug survived the dishawasher, but the hastily and cheaply applied decal didn't
These mugs should not have made it to the show floor.

Because the hall was so incredibly crowded we passed on visiting any vendor booths and made our way to the exit, collecting information on runner tracking on the way out.

Shuttle Bus

The shuttle buses looped official race videos about the course, packet pick-up and other useful information. I thought this was helpful and a good technique to convey information to a captive audience.

This portion of the video was reminding us that animals were not allowed on the course
Expo Summary

I am sure the expo had a lot to offer in terms of products and speakers (many former Olympians were on the schedule) but it is tough to compete against theme parks rides, swimming pool, and other family time. Our expo was visit was only as long as it needed to be. But between the bus rides, walking, and packet and bib pick up it was nearly a three hour operation for us.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Walt Disney World Half and Marathon Medals 2013 #GoofyChallenge

These are close up photos of the half marathon, marathon and Goofy Challenge medals from the 20th anniversary walt Disney World marathon weekend.

20th Anniversary Medal

All three medals

Inner Mickey medal spins

Medals with lanyards

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Goofy Challenge ... My tips for a successful weekend of running

I had an awesome experience running the Goofy Challenge (half marathon (race recap) Saturday and full marathon (race recap) Sunday). I had fun running, met my time goals, and still enjoyed time with my family in the theme parks the days before, during, and after. This is what worked for me.

1. Back to back long training runs. I ran half of my Sunday training run distance on Saturday. Thus if Sunday was an 18 mile run I ran 9 miles on Saturday.

2. Running two other days a week. I ran a combination of easy runs with strides, intervals and tempo runs on Tuesday and Thursday each week so I had a rest day before and after my long runs.

3. I took the taper seriously and significantly decreased my mileage, continued core work, and did lots of stretching. (notes from the taper) Even though my last 20 mile run was three weeks before race weekend I felt well rested.

4. Mindset to run easily and comfortably. I was determined to have fun before, during, and after the race and made sure my pace reflected that determination.

5. Previous experience of going out to fast, not managing my pace mid race, and then feeling dead tired at the end has been a valuable teacher.

6. I am not sure if there is research to support the wearing of compression socks or calf sleeves during or after a long run, but my experience is that they help. I ran each race with compression calf sleeves. I also slept with the calf sleeves Friday and Saturday night. I wore compression like knee high socks all day Saturday and Sunday. My general motto about running apparel and products ... if it seems to help keep doing it. If it doesn't stop. It seems to help me. Plus I get lots of compliments about my high black socks.

7. Adequate hydration, nutrition, and core temperature control. I made an effort to drink PowerAde at every aid station during both races, used water splashes to my face, head, and neck for some cooling, and when I could I ran in the shade. I also consumed race provided Clifshots, bananas, and my own PowerBar gel.

Hardware (from right to left ... half marathon, Goofy challenge, full marathon)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Walt Disney World Marathon #GoofyChallenge Part 2

Quick Summary -MAGICAL!
The Walt Disney World Marathon was one of the best running/racing experiences of my life. I executed my race strategy perfectly and had fun from the start to the finish. I crossed the finish line at a full sprint and was buzzing from endorphins for much of the day. Continue reading for lots of details and photos. Thanks!

Early Morning Wake-up ... Again
About 19 hours after I finished the Walt Disney World Half Marathon (the first third of the Goofy Challenge) my alarm announced it was wake up time. At a few minutes before O'Dark Thirty (3 am) I leaped/fell out of bed. To complete these tasks:

1. Check the final score of the Packer game. D'OH! I went to sleep right after Sam Shields returned an interception for a touchdown. Apparently things went downhill from there. 
2. Make coffee, coat a bagel with crunchy peanut butter, and stow a banana, cliff bar, and bottle of water in my drop bag. 
3. Get dressed while doing my best to not stub a toe walking around in the dark hotel room. I was successful. 

Relaxing in Dino Land Saturday afternoon (after the half and before the full)
Bus Ride to EPCOT
A few minutes after O'Dark Thirty (3 am) I walked to Coronado Springs bus station. The bus was much, much, much quieter than the day before until we filled up all the seats with the Team in Training group that was at bus stop 1. Just as all the seats filled I heard one of the best lines of the weekend, "Hey coach, can I use your Bodyglide again?" I am a Bodyglide users and advocate. I also know the places I apply my Bodyglide and there are no circumstances I can imagine where I would a) let someone else use my Bodyglide or b) use another's bodyglide. Would you? 

The nervous energy of the Team in Training group propelled our group forward. I don't know much about TnT but from what I gathered is they were a) very excited, b) very nervous, and c) fairly inexperienced. Many of them were about to run and or walk their first marathon. Given the warm weather and humidity it promised to be a difficult day for many of them. They also raised loads of money for leukemia and lymphoma and deserve great praise for their efforts. I did my best offer encouragement to the TnT members I saw on the course.  

The buses line up at least 10 in a row, nose to tail, to drop off runners. Bus 10 is closest to the start village. Bus 1 is furthest. We parked in Bus 1 spot and had the extra walk past all of the other buses. It was fun to walk into the start village with so many others. I was reassured that the other Goofy Challenge runners were as sedate as me and bouyed by the enthusiasm of the runners that were "just" running the marathon (it is an odd thing to say "just" running a marathon and no slight is intended). 

Start Village Day 2
Without my wife to talk to and wondering how I was going to survive a marathon with the combination of little sleep and high heat/humidity I found a spot to sit immediately and planned out my eating/drinking/potty plan for the marathon. I wanted to eat bagle and banana at about 0400 and then half a cliff bar at about 0500. Plus I needed to down about a liter of water and find enough porta potties. With the advantage of knowing the start area layout and process I made a plan and followed the plan. 

Trip to Corral A
The only difference between Sunday and Saturday was they allowed us to begin walking to the corrals much earlier. Maybe they had trouble getting everyone to the corrals on Saturday. Once inside Corral A I planted myself along the fence, tried to close my eyes, and listened to nervous chatter around me.

Like Saturday there was lots of chatter from the race MC and DJ, VIP introductions, and more. There were 95 runners preparing to run their 20th consecutive Walt Disney World Marathon. I talked to one briefly when he stood next to me. It looked as though his peak fitness might have been 20 years ago and he reported the organizers told him he could pick any corral so he picked A to minimize his time in the heat and sun (the final corral wasn't scheduled to start until almost 0630 ...  a huge difference. 

Almost Time to Start
I appreciated the encouragement from Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso. Joey Fattone from DWTS fame (I think) had the same comments as the day before. Another Disney vocalist sang a snappy version of the National Anthem (he obviously shares my belief that a 90 second song should be sung in about 90 seconds). 
Waiting in Corral A

The 20th anniversary banner

I assure you I was not as awake and bright eyed as I appear in this photo

Counting down to the start ... 3 ... 2 .... 1

Cue Fireworks!
Disney knows how to put on a show. With a countdown from Mickey and an explosion of fireworks in the pre-dawn sky we were off. 
KaBoom! .... note the fellow in the yellow shirt and white hat trying to jump the fence back into the corral
Again I was surprised by the burst of speed some runners leave the start while others in the A corral begin with a 14 minute mile pace. Go figure. 

Link to the course map

To the Magic Kingdom
The marathon route is the same as the half marathon until about mile 8. Since I had just run the same path 24 hours earlier I had a good sense for the lines I wanted to run and didn't feel compelled to pause for any photos before the Magic Kingdom. The mile 1 sign looked the same on Sunday as it did on Saturday. 

I did stop at the porta potty again before mile 1 which was easy and convenient. The time loss is minimal to use a porta potty early in the race and beats the risk of trying to jump a fence. Because it is dark and the early miles are roads through the forest many runners (male and female) just step off the road and go. 
The silhouette of Space Mountain is in the distance. We are near the Contemporary Resort.  
During the run to the Magic Kingdom I talked running socks with the "@SockGeek". I queried about how he got into the sock business, what to look for in a running sock, why a sock matters, and how to know when it is time to retire a sock (when it gets saggy). We talked a bit about friction and moisture before fading apart. Thanks for the conversation!

5M Split in 46:39 (pace 9:20 min/mile for an estimated finish time of 4:04:36).

I was running a very comfortable pace. My legs felt great and I was feeling awake. The heat and humidity was obviously going to be an issue. Since I wanted to have a fun time running and enjoy the rest of the day I was very comfortable with this starting pace. I was also grabbing a 1/4 cup or so of Powerade at every fluid stop (pinch the top to be able to gulp while running and not spill all over your chest or snort lime fluid). 

Into the Magic Kingdom

It is truly magical to turn onto Main Street USA and run towards Cinderalla's castle. I have run on Las Vegas Blvd (training runs), 5th Avenue in New York City, through Lambeau Field, on the Miami Beach boardwalk, through Olympic Park in Atlanta, and several other famous landmarks. Main St USA, for me, is just as good as any of these other famous running routes. 

One of my kid's favorite rides. 
Inside the Magic Kingdom I stopped for a photo with Belle (no line) since Beast was not around. I also waited in line about 8 people deep for a photo with royal Minnie and Mickey. I used this opportunity to finish my Cliff Bar which I washed down at drinking fountain in Frontier Land, just across from the Country Bear Jamboree (by the way I remember those Bears being much more realistic when I was kid). 
Cinderalla's Castle from the rear

Belle outside the entrance of the new Fantasy Land

Royal Minnie and Mickey

Outside the Magic Kingdom 
Outside the Magic Kingdom I had a photo with a prince and princess (not sure from which movie) before continuing the run past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Just after the ticket and transportation center the course angled across a parking lot and through a tunnel into the Walt Disney World Speedway. Just before entering the speedway I ducked into another porta potty. This was a good indication that I was well hydrated that I was able to void urine 8 miles into the race (and about 4 miles before the sun would rise). At the time I thought to myself it will probably be 1 pm before I urinate again (it ended up being almost 2 pm). Nonetheless, I was happy with my hydration and nutrition status at this point in the race. 

A car show was arranged on the race track and we ran on the apron. 
Runners on the apron, below the cars. Still before sunrise. 

Running, running, running
My kids are huge Cars movie fans (I am too) and I was excited for these photos with Tow Mater ("You did what in your cup?) and Lightning McQueen ("Ka Chow"). 

I am a big fan!

I looked for, but didn't see, the guys from Rusteezes. 

We made a 3/4 lap of the race track and exited to the road. 

Through the Wilderness
Much of the Walt Disney World Resort is woods, swamp, and water. The route from the speedway to the Animal Kingdom is a service road through the woods, but also the physical plant and support areas for WDW. We ran past the wastewater treatment plant, recycling facility, garbage collection area, and the bus barn. There were also characters, country bears, villains, and more, about every mile but I passed on these photo ops. As we ran by the waste water treatment plant a series of signs shared factoids about WDW. I thought about photographing, but didn't. Instead I enjoyed a Guu. One sign did say, "Walt Disney World has more AEDs than any location on the planet." I believe it. Another runner thought the water treatment plant smelled like beer. I thought it smelled like Anheuser Busch. 

Onward to the Animal Kingdom ... 

10M Split in 1:35:25 (pace 9:32 min/mile for an estimated finish time: 4:10:09)

This slowing pace reflects mostly my stops for photos in the Magic Kingdom, the bathroom break, and the photos on the speedway. I was feeling great at this point and although I was on pace for my slowest marathon ever I knew from experience that it was too early to push the throttle. Instead I kept a moving pace between 8:30 to 8:45 minutes per mile and kept taking fluids. I also enjoyed half a banana (this was the first race I have been handed a whole unpeeled banana. Typically half or quarter bananas are handed out). Hmmm....

Animal Kingdom Backstage

We entered the back stage area of the Animal Kingdom near the African Safari Animal Housing area. We ran by the elephant and white rhino quarters as well as several other animal buildings. Animal Kingdom staff were cheering us with birds on their shoulders and burros in tow. It was fun to see the animals. 
I think this is Rafiki from the Lion King ... no line for a photo with him.
Animal Kingdom ... as the sun was rising. 

We entered the Animal Kingdom near the Yak and Yeti restaurant. The uneven terrain and 'rough' sidewalk was a nice variation of the running surface. We ran past Expedition Everest roller coaster (many runners told me that later in the morning the ride was open and large groups of runners were pausing to ride the coaster!).
Runners can be seen in the distance near the Yak and Yeti restaurant (really good food)
The route took us past the building for the Nemo stage show, Dinoland, and out of the park just before the main entrance. 

The Sun always rises ...

Just as I left the Animal Kingdom the sun was high enough to be above the trees and we were bathed in sun as we ran through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and past the main entrance. We continued out of the park, running east on the Osceola parkway. Fortunately much of the route was still in the shade. Slower runners reported no shade at all from this point until the end of the race. 

Somewhere just outside of the Animal Kingdom I crossed the half marathon mark and stopped for a photo with Minnie Mouse.

Half marathon split in 2:02:31 (pace 9:21 min/mile with an estimated finish time of 4:05:01)

Of the three half marathons that comprise the Goofy Challenge the middle was my slowest, but as you can see I was picking up the pace since the 10 mile split. I was also watching lots of runners falter around me. People I remember going by me early in the race were now quickly fading behind me. The heat was obviously an issue but so far so good. 

Osceola Parkway

The Osceola Parkway is a wide stretch of road that was taking us to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We were running on the east bound lane and still benefiting from shade. The terrain was gently rolling because of roads we were running over. This was by far the dullest part of the course and the most mentally challenging. I was grateful that I was not encountering this area 1 or 2 hours later as I could see how it could suck the life force out of a runner. 

As we neared the ESPN complex runners we could see runners as they ran between miles 19 to 22. It was good to see them on the north side of the road and since they were 5 miles ahead I was probably seeing runners that were going to finish between 3:00 and 3:30.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Although this portion of the course was probably better than running a long, straight 6 lane highway like we had to get here it was still an odd bit of course. 

As we entered the complex we were given wet, cold sponges. These were exceptionally refreshing. A little trick I will remember for the future but didn't learn until I had already thrown away my sponge. Many of the runners around me kept their sponges, tucked under a jog bra strap or under their hat. At later water stations they re-wetted the sponges and were able to continue to apply it for cooling as they ran. 

No shade. 
The route took us around several playing fields, 3/4 of the way around a running track, around several baseball diamonds and into and around the cinder track infield of the stadium used by the Atlanta Braves during Spring training. The stands held some cheering fans and our images were projected on the big screen with what appeared to be the pace per mile we were on that point. 

Runners and their pace on the big screen
The cinders of the track were a little too loose for my liking. 
Go Brewers!
Another highlight of this portion of the course was the gentle ribbing I took and returned back to a Chicago Bears fan. She was running with a Cleveland Browns fan and like my friend Kyle says in mid-September about his Bills, "there is always next year." 

Running through the ESPN complex is when I began to pass lots of runners. Many, many people were fading in the sun and increasing temperature. I continued to feel great and was very happy with my steady pace.

20M Split in 3:01:33 (page 9:05 min/mile with estimated finish time of 3:58:01)

The organizers promised something "spectacular" for mile 20 of the 20th mile. I was envisioning a rock and roll band or someone exceptionally famous. I was half right. Mickey Mouse was waiting for us at mile 20. I stopped for a photo and said, "Thanks for the race Mick!" 
Remember, it all began with a Mouse
We headed back towards the Osceola Parkway. Watching the runners coming towards me I saw a lot of pain and agony. The heat and humidity was definitely taking its tool. I continued to feel great and was grateful that my hydration and nutrition was serving me well. I was feeling some tightness in my hamstrings, which has plagued me in past marathons, but a bit of self massage was treating me well. 

After turning west on the Osceola Parkway we were headed towards the Hollywood Studios. I decided that at 5k left I would do my best to push the pace. 

Much like the half marathon cloverleaf we were greeted by several Green Army Guys when we turned off of Osceola Parkway and onto World Drive. Fortunately this stretch gave us some more shade. I sang along to a bit of Neil Diamond/Sweet Caroline as I continued to pass lots of runners. 

Hollywood Studios

The course entered the backstage behind the Tower of Terror. We passed through an aid station that was distributing mini Hershey Bars (seemed like an odd final 5k treat). I passed on a chocolate bar as I have never eaten chocolate during a training run or race. 

The course included a portion of the "studio lot tour". We exited into the actual theme park and ran through the New York City facade, before turning towards Mickey's sorcerer's hat. 
I remember thinking, there seem to be less people running with me

Stadium for lights, motors, action is in the back. That is a fun show. 
At this point Hollywood Studios was open for visitors and it was an interesting mix of runners, running spectators, and just regular people out for a day at the park. Many of them looked on in amazement as we ran past. 

We exited Hollywood studios through the main entrance and headed for the boardwalk that runs along the canal between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. This portion of the course reminded me of the sidewalk/boardwalk through downtown Green Bay on the Cellcom marathon route. There were spectators on this portion of the course, people staying in the adjacent, condos and hotels. 

Although it was full sun and quite warm I was still feeling great and continued to increase my pace. My basic strategy was to pick out the runner in front of me, pass them, find the next, pass them. I don't recall being passed by any other runners after I left the Wide World of Sports complex. 

EPCOT World Showcase

The course entered the World Showcase between the Canada and England pavilions. I gave a shout to the spectators as I made the turn towards the French pavilion. I continued to feel GREAT! and was confident I was going to finish in under 4:00 (my goal). 

Unlike the lines early in the race, the characters I saw in EPCOT were alone and looking a little befuddled that no one was stopping for photos. 

I veered across the course for a photo with Snow White and was delighted at the Morocco pavilion to see Jasmine standing alone. I didn't take the time to get out my camera and just had the marathon photographer capture. When I buy the race photos I will post those. 

Towards Spaceship Earth

After leaving the World Showcase the course runs towards and around the east side of Spaceship Earth. We were now on the same route as the final half mile of the half marathon. I knew this stretch well and dropped the hammer for the final push to the finish. 

Glad to see some fans. 
Running Backwards, Yes, That Guy is Running Backwards

At some point early in the race I saw a man running backwards with two people acting as guides. Just as we left EPCOT I saw the three runners again. Two going forwards and one running backwards. I was relieved to pass him so I would not be bested by a fellow running a marathon backwards. 

400 Yards to Go

When the 400 yards to go sign came into sight and up shifted in to full sprint. My head was in the clouds and my feet were barely touching the ground. This was one of my best running experiences ever. I waved to the crowd, pumped my fists, and did my best to pass as many people as I could in the final yards to the finish. It was as my son says, "Capital awesome, which means A-W--E-S-O-M-E!

Across the Finish Line in 3:53:38 (pace 8:55 min/mile)

I gave Goofy, I think a high five, and then found myself face to face with Bart Yasso (@BartYasso), the Chief Running Officer of Runner's World magazine. I asked him for a photo and he agreed.

Me and Bart
Finish line behind me. I think this photo mostly captures my elation  with the Goofy Challenge 

Not everyone was as enthusiastic as me

Marathon Medal, 20th anniversary edition. 
I continued onward for my marathon medal, water and Powerade, Goofy Challenge medal, more photos and food. I also took a moment in a high powered cool mist fan. This was delightful and I credit in large part to my rapid recovery from the heat challenge of the run. 
Big fans next to the banana truck. They were outstanding for cooling off quick. 
I took a few minutes to eat and drink and bounced around the finishers area. I was elated.

Both medals - marathon medal and Goofy Challenge medal

Thanks Donald!
Since I was waiting for anyone else, but rather had family waiting for me so we could get to the Magic Kingdom for a day of rides, I moved through the bag check quickly. Took a few more photos and boarded a bus to the Coronado Springs.

I walked on to my bus and we drove away
One of my top moments of the morning was getting off the bus at the hotel. My kids were waiting for me at the bus stop for high fives. They also told me to move it so we could get to the Magic Kingdom. 

By noon I was riding the Toy Story ride in the Magic Kingdom with all three medal around my neck.

To infinity and beyond!

Laps from my Garmin
A few notes about these lap results

Mile 1 - porta potty stop

Mile 6 - photos with Belle, Minnie and Mickey, and in front of the castle

Mile 9 -  porta potty stop, and photos with Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen

Mile 20 - photo with Mickey Mouse and delayed pressing of lap button

Miles 24, 25, and 26 - three fastest miles of the race

Total Garmin mileage - 26.64, this sort of makes sense because it is impossible to run a perfect line and I moved off the course regularly for photos. Some is just some irregularity of the GPS which could be off by .01 per mile, which is nearly a quarter mile in a full marathon. 

Final Results
Overall place: 1285 of 20680
Gender place: 974 of 10061
Age division place: 177 of 1930  (this must be one of the largest divisions in the race)

How does Disney Compare to other marathons? 

Is one of the questions I have been asked most frequently. I had an amazing experience. This was one of my slowest marathon times, but it is one of just three (Twin Cities and Green Bay) where I crossed the finish line happy, health, and with energy in the tank. 

I am glad I kept my pace in check, stopped for lots of photos, and had energy at the end. Perhaps I could have run a bit faster earlier in the race but I might have paid for that later in the race. I know from experiencing both, that I would much rather be passing other runners than being passed in the final miles of a marathon. It is energizing to be moving through the crowd. 

In the following days I talked to lots of other runners. Not everyone's experience was as positive as mine. Many people really struggled with the heat. Especially runners/walkers in later corrals that had significantly greater sun exposure. 

I have a few other post planned about my Disney experience. Thanks for reading.

Did you run? Share your experience in the comments or link to your blog post race recaps.