Melissa and I arrived in Orlando, Florida Thursday morning on our whirlwind trip. Leaving Bend Wednesday night, driving to Portland, Flying to Houston, Flying to Orlando, 2 races (a Half and a full Marathon), and then going home the way we came Monday morning. All this added up to the Goofy Challenge. Upon arriving in Orlando, we met up with Melissa’s parents and went to the Exposition Center at Disney World to pick up our packets and to walk around the expo. I always like the expos, there is a buzz that helps me get psyched up for the race. The crowds were not too big yet, we heard that Friday is much worse. Figure 40,000 people compete in these races. The nice thing about racing in Orlando in January is the weather. Leaving Bend where I recently had done a training run in 7 degrees and snow, 70 degrees and sunny was great.
We hung low for the next day and a half, slept in, went out to lunch at Macaroni Grill (good stuff) and got stuff ready for the next day. Race morning came all too quickly; we were up by 3 am to get to the race which started at 6am. It was a bit chilly in the morning and still dark at the race start. It was weird to be starting a race in the dark. Nonetheless we got going and it was surprisingly quiet for thousands of runners going along. Melissa and I were going to run the Half together and then she was going to run with her Dad for the full and I was going it alone. As we began we were running at a good pace. We were aiming for a 2 hour half marathon. The first couple miles are kind of boring, just running along the entrance roads. At mile 3 we started to see some sunlight which was a welcome sight. I don’t know if I have ever been running when the sun rose, I accomplished this feat two days in a row!!
It was not until about mile 5 that we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, this was the highlight of the Half Marathon. Entering the park we saw Melissa’s parents cheering us on and had renewed energy of being in the park. We ran down main street and then through Tommorowland which had techno music playing! It was fun to run past some of the rides that I got to go on a couple years ago. We eventually swung around the back and were able to run through the castle. Then we started to take some back roads out of the park. The great thing about the Disney Races is that there were people dressed up as Disney Characters cheering you on. Many racers would stop and take pictures with them.
Leaving the park we started to slow, Melissa was starting to hurt a bit. Eventually at around mile 10 she told me to go on and walked/ran the final bit herself. I continued on and tried to pick up the pace to get as close to our goal as I could. In retrospect I should have just jogged it in. I ran the final 3 miles hard and came across the line in Epcot Center at 2:09:17. Not the pace I wanted but I had a marathon to run the next day. Weirdest thing of all was finishing a race at 8am in the morning. After the race I noticed I had tweaked my upper right calf. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, napping, and icing the sore joints from the day.
Unfortunately the next morning arrived at 3am as well. Worse yet I could still feel my strained calf from the day before. Nothing like lining up for a marathon already hurting. =) Originally I wanted to see how fast I could run this race, lining up in the dark on race morning I decided it would be nice just to finish. After a little “Simply Being Loved” by BT on the big screen we were off. The nice thing about the race set-up was they split everyone into two groups and we spent the first 3 miles apart to help separate all the runners a bit. It seemed to work. Unlike the half marathon the day before the full marathon started with a loop inside Epcot Park. All the buildings were lit up and there were Disney characters out there cheering us along. It helped us get going. At mile 3 I met up with the other group and continued along the same path as the half the day before. At mile 5 I met up with a guy named Joe from Toronto and ran with him until mile 13. It was nice to have someone to talk with and distract me from my calf pain.
Mile 13 is where the marathon course split off from the half the day before. Up to that point I was feeling OK, my calf hurt but I was running at a good pace and actually ran my first half faster than the day before which was a surprise. At mile 13 is when I started to hit a wall. There is about 3 miles from the split up to where you enter the next park. During this time I split time running and walking and eventually found got Biogel from the Aid Stations. It gave me a nice cooling sensation that helped temporarily give me a boost. At mile 16 I arrived at the Fort Wilderness Park, my speed did not really increase but the scenery did. They had some wild animals and different tribal bands out playing music. There were exhibits, a lake, a giant tree, and best of all, Mt. Everest. I wanted to go ride the ride instead of running.
Leaving Fort Wilderness at mile 18, there was about 5 miles of nothing. There was good crowd support along this section though. This definitely lifted my spirits as I went. The nice thing about the full marathon was the weather. I was slightly chilled during the half, it was about 5 degrees warmer and quite a bit more humid for the full. At no point was I cold like the day before. From about mile 18 to 21 I was in my run/walk mode still but it was much more running then walking. At mile 21 I got my second wind and started running again. At about mile 23 we entered into MGM studios which was a nice change of scenery. It gave us something to look at again. MGM was also fun because you were able to run through the streets of old New York. At mile 24 it transitioned into the resort area and we ran on boardwalks around the lake and waterways. Though a little tight through there, you could almost see the finish and this helped pull you on one step at a time. The last couple of miles I ran at a descent pace, not like the day before, but much better than the middle of the race. Giving it all I had left I finally saw the finish and sprinted across in a time of 4:43:34. I survived, hooray! 38.3 miles in two days, a Donald Duck Medal, a Mickey Mouse Medal, and a Goofy Medal for doing both. Melissa and her dad both finished too!! It was a banner day. The Goofy Challenge is a fun race, I definitely recommend trying it. As always, your mileage may vary.