City: Lake Buena Vista, FL (Walt Disney World) Date: 10/01/2011
Distance: 13.1 mi
Weather: Upper 60s/Lower 70s, but humid… and did I mention dark??
Course: mostly flat, with a few rolling hills through some of the parks
Summary: No PR, but made the sub-2 hour goal and mighty impressed with Disney as a whole.
4 down, 46 to go.
In the last 8 years, I’ve only really been on one vacation with my kids. One. I’ve been wanting to take them somewhere cool and, since I decided to do this 50-states thing, I figured I’d take them with me on a few of these trips. I want them to see as much of the country as I can afford to show them, I want them to see me run, and I want to spend time with them. Win. Win. Win.
I’ve wanted to take them to Disney for a while since they are finally old enough to appreciate it, and I had heard so many good things about the Disney runs, so I thought I’d save the FL half for a Disney run. Initially, I was looking at doing the Disney Half Marathon in January. However, while putting the boys’ school schedule into my calendar and searching for a half marathon to fill in between Mardi Gras Rock and Roll half and the Las Vegas Rock and Roll half, I stumbled upon the Wine and Dine Half at Disney. oooh… And even better – it was the day after a Teacher Workday. Ooooohhhh! Even better: my dad was able to come with me… score! Wine and Dine it was.
Although it wasn’t, it felt like a last-minute plan. I registered for it in June and I didn’t book the hotel until mid-August. To put it into perspective, I’ve been registered for Las Vegas since May and I’m already registered for the Indy Days One America 500 Mini Marathon for May 2012 and have been since the end of August. I like to plan ahead. I had the money set aside, all I had to do was book it. Done. I was already ramping up my training to make Vegas feel better, so I just started my plan earlier and made adjustments to it to make it work for Disney. Since I’m trying to save money, I planned to drive down from NC and, after weeks of training and finally hitting a 13-mile run before my half, I piled the boys, my dad and a bunch of food into my car and headed down for a mini-vacation that I sorely needed.
I was pretty worried about feeling worn out the day of the race, so I got tickets to the Disney parks for only 2 days, intending to only go the day before and the day after – figuring that, the day after, I would want to walk around to avoid being stiff (I was right about that) and that the day before, we could make it an early night so we could get some sleep (also right about that). The day of, I figured we could go to the Kennedy Space Center (a long-time thing I’ve wanted to do, but turned out not to be worth the high admission price and 1-hour drive) and come back kind of early to relax a little before the race (that didn’t really happen… more on that later).
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’ve been worried about the start time for this race. Because I was so focused on the race being in Florida and having the opportunity to bring the boys, I was not paying attention to the start time for this race. I noticed that it was 10. Great, I thought. 10 AM, a good time to start a race. I get to sleep in a little, my Dad is likely to find some things to entertain the boys for a couple of hours while I run, if nothing else, they get to hang out at the pool. Perfect starting time, I thought. So, I tell everybody I’m planning to do it. I start training for it. Then I register for it. And, then I notice: start time is actually 10 PM. Damn.
I am such a morning runner. I prefer it in the morning. First thing. Nothing can get in my way. Nothing can make me tired or worn out. Nothing “comes up”. It is in the bag and I have a fresh head to start my day. I get all my anxiety and worry out and over with before most people are up with their coffee, and that works out well for me (most of the time). When I run in the evening, however, I am usually tired. I’m worn out from work, from kids, from traffic, from life. I tend to let things simmer and I let things get to me more. I have anxiety about what I ate – or didn’t eat (or drink) during the day. I do the late afternoon/evening runs some times, but I don’t usually prefer them. I do them when I have to do them.
Now I had to do them. All the time. For four months straight.
I got over it and I started training for later night runs, even doing a 12-mile (pitiful) training run on a treadmill on a Saturday night (not my best work). I fretted over this start time for almost 4 months straight. Now, it was here.
My dad and I took the boys to Kennedy Space Center and walked around a bit – taking the bus tour and just watching movies. There was some walking, but nothing like the walking the previous day. It was a pretty quiet day, and around 2 we decided to head back to Disney. My dad, a motorcycle (OK, Harley Davidson) enthusiast found a dealership on the way back to the hotel, so we stopped in to take a look at a model similar to the new bike he just purchased (by the way – it is gorgeous, but I’m still a little partial to his Road King). We finally got back to the hotel around 4, changed into the swim suits and headed to the pool. I was starting to stress a little about getting ready for the race – I started seeing people dressed in their run clothes walking toward the front door and getting on the bus… the race was over 5 hours away…. I just couldn’t imagine hanging out there for 5 hours, yet I kept seeing more and more people coming out which made me feel like maybe I should be getting ready, too. I finally gave in around 6 and headed back to the hotel room with my older son for a potty emergency and to get ready. My dad and younger son followed shortly.
I started getting dressed – I decided on the short sleeved shirt and the skirt, no jacket, although I was already starting to feel cold. The jacket I brought was deceptive, though – it seemed to be light, but was really very warm. I thought that might be too much to wear, but I checked it just in case (glad I did). I ran to the cafeteria to warm up my rice and grab a cup of hot water for my Via (can’t run without my coffee) and went back to the room to mix in my chicken and get the rest of my stuff together. As a borderline OCD, I checked my stuff about 100 times to make sure I had everything, and then I left the room on route to the bus at 7:20.
Disney clearly stated that you HAD to be ON THE BUS no later than 8 pm for the 10 PM start. I thought that was silly, until I got to the line. It was wrapped around the building! And this was just MY hotel. I waited in that line for nearly an hour just to get ON the bus. We drove the 2-ish miles to the Wide World of Sports ESPN Center (the start of the route) and waited another 20-ish minutes to get OFF the bus. I ended up chatting with the girl sitting next to me who had done the Disney Princess half in February and loved it (she highly recommended it, by the way – you get to run through the enchanted castle in Magic Kingdom). Once we were allowed to get off the bus, I made a bee line to the bag check (since I only had about 15 minutes to check it now – the cut off was 9 pm) and then to the bathroom line where I waited another 20 to 30 minutes for the opportunity to pee in a hole in the dark. Nice. It was a good opportunity to people watch, though, and there were some sights to see at this one. As soon as I finished, it was time to line up.
When I picked up my packet the day before, I was far more interested in what the shirt looked like (nothing fancy) and all the goodies (not much – some gu blocks and some vitamin C and a bunch of pamphlets selling you race memorabilia or trying to get you to buy/register for other Disney events) so I didn’t notice the Corral A on my bib until I put it on that night. I wasn’t sure if that meant I was in the front or if I was behind all the numbers – all the Rock and Roll events started with numbers. I had my answer at 9:30 that night – it was the first corral. What the… ?!?! I didn’t feel like I deserved a corral A, but apparently someone thought I did, so when they called for the Corral A folks to start lining up, I filed in. I didn’t feel like I belonged there. These folks seemed to be the super serious folks – the ones that just look like runners, you know? They all had runner bodies. Because I got there early, I was pushed up to the front. Normally, in smaller 5k races around here, I don’t mind being in the front third of the start – but that’s overall start. Now, I was in the front third of Corral A and it was starting to mess with me a little. To make myself feel better about it, I found my way over to the right – my usual spot – and tried not to think about it. I hadn’t run in 2 days and now I was starting to feel it more. My legs were anxious and wanted to go (I call that sensation “jumpy legs”). I just wanted to get out there… the waiting was pure torture for me.
They brought in a performer to sing the National Anthem and then started the race – finally! I started my RunKeeper and my watch (which, by the way, I forgot to turn off at the end) and started out. I actually felt great the first mile of the race, which is odd for me. Usually, the first mile is pure torture and it isn’t until miles 3 – 9 that I feel good. This was the first time the first mile felt good in a long, long time. The thing I did like about this race was the mile marker signs that had the gun time – at least you had an idea of where you are – and I was pretty impressed with my first mile time – sub-8:30. I’ll take it.
Shortly after the first mile, I saw a water table and some port-a-johns – all of the sudden, I had to pee again, but I thought “I’ll wait… I’ll wait… I still have to eat in about 30 minutes… I’ll do it then” Of course, then, the only thing I could think about was that I had to go… I guess that was kind of a good thing because miles 1.5 until about 4 were flat out boring. We were running on a highway that goes between the Wide World of Sports and Animal Kingdom and there was nothing really to see. Disney brought out some characters and stuff, but I decided that I wanted my music, so I left my ear buds in and tuned it all out… and all I could think about was “where is the next port-a-potty?!?!”
Just before mile 4, we finally got to Animal Kingdom. I hadn’t been to this park yet, so the whole thing was new to me. It was dark, though, and after having now been there in the light, it was clear I missed a lot. We basically did a circle through the front half of the park (the back half is the Safari where the live animals are – I can understand why we didn’t go back there) back out to the boring highway. At about mile marker 4.6, I hit 40 minutes and decided to eat… and also decided that if I didn’t see a port a potty soon, I was going to squat in the woods if I had to… then I rounded a corner and Finally! Port a potties!!! I didn’t even have to wait. I literally ran into one and took care of business. However… I tend not to have best use of common sense when I run. I have enabled the voice cues on RunKeeper so that every 5 minutes it gives me my duration, pace, and distance. So… I’m sitting there on the port a potty when the stats for 45 minutes come up – I’m at sub 8:30 average, still (“good, good… I’m happy with that”) and distance is 4.75 (“good, good… I’m really happy with that”)… only… I didn’t think that “good good, I’m happy with that” – I said it out loud. In a Port-a-potty. Not once, but twice. (sigh). The worst thing is I didn’t even think about it until after I finished the race. (sigh).
After thoroughly embarrassing myself, I jumped out of the port-a-potty, washed up, drank some more water and started back on the boring highway. It passed a little faster this time – maybe because I just ate or maybe because I had an empty bladder and wasn’t singularly focused on a bio function and could let my mind just wonder. So it did. I thought about work. I thought about friends. I thought about my kids. I thought about my dad. I thought about my dog. I thought about my career path. I thought about the trip so far and how much I enjoyed being with my dad again (this is the most time I’ve spent with my dad since I was 18). I thought about my pending divorce. I thought about men in my life. I thought about how much more fun this would have been to run it with my running buddies. Ah, Vegas. Every now and then I would notice that the mileage on my RunKeeper was ahead by about .1 of a mile or so – I thought they did that on purpose to trick you into thinking you had less mileage than you actually had (I now know that’s not true – they probably just messed up somewhere).
Then, I finally got to Hollywood studios. I swear, it felt like an eternity to get there, but once I was there, I started having pleasant memories of the visit just the day before with my dad and my kids, which took my mind off the fact that the hour of the evening and faster miles were starting to take their toll on my body. We zig-zagged through the park for what seemed like a lot longer than what I see on my map. It was about mile 10, though, as we were leaving Hollywood Studios, that I started to really feel the lateness of the evening – and my legs just turned to lead. I pushed through, I slowed my pace, I drank my coconut water and I ate my fuel, but it didn’t seem to be enough.I just kept telling myself “only 5k left, kid… you can do it.”
I kept going, though, because I didn’t want to loose my 2 hour goal. I had banked enough sub-9 splits for the first 15k to still make it a sub-2 if I didn’t walk. I just had to jog it out. Around mile 11, there was a Powerade table, and although I never drink it and had about 1/3 of the 27 oz of coconut water with me in a new Camelbak bottle I bought (which, by the way, I now officially love), I took it thinking maybe it’ll make me feel good enough for the last 2 miles. It lasted me another mile before I started to feel it again. One more mile… just one more mile. We were on the boardwalk between the studios and Epcot and I could see that we were getting close. Truthfully, though, I really don’t remember seeing “the giant golf ball” as my boys call it – all I remember is thinking “where the hell is the finish line! I have 13 already!!”
I finally did finish – running the entire way and under 2 hours – barely. 1:59:48. Still counts. I got my medal and the bag of food I never ate, 2 bottles of powerade and picked up my bag. I found the nearest port a potty and went to the bathroom again – I felt my face and I was clammy – not good. I was starting to dehydrate. I changed clothes as quickly as I could and thought I’d sit down (like everyone else) and text my dad to let him know I was finished and then drink the rest of my fluids. Unfortunately, I got a cramp in my thigh, which has never happened to me before (probably because I never sat afterward before – I always walk for up to 1/2 an hour after). I stood up, sucked down both bottles of powerade and continued to walk around until it passed (which it did quickly). It was dark and late and I was not in the mood to eat or drink anything other than powerade or coconut water or chocolate milk. I just wanted to take a shower and snuggle with my boys. I found the buses and went back to my hotel, tired, but proud.
Apparently, I still have not figured out the hydration thing. I had a few great training runs when I felt appropriately hydrated, but the faster speeds are taking it out faster than I can put it in and I need to readjust for that. I also didn’t help things by not being better about what I drank during that day. I don’t really do well with night running. I didn’t sleep well that night at all and am still trying to catch up from it today.
Nevertheless, it was a great experience and one I won’t soon forget. I had a great vacation that I really needed and I loved being with all my favorite men in the world: my dad and my boys. So far, #4 is my favorite.