Running Disney is all about having fun, and the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend was no exception.
Fortunately, I am healthy now unlike running the Disney World Dopey Challenge last January with plantar fasciitis. Even though I am running well, I intentionally ran the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge easy since I’m also doing the Ventura Marathon next Sunday. I also decided not to add this past weekend’s 5K so I only had to wake up at 3:00 AM two days in a row. I wanted these two races to be all about having fun and staying ready for the full marathon in Ventura.
Since we arrived on Wednesday, I was able to attend the Expo the first day — Thursday — with no time constraints. Earlier in the morning I did a 3-mile shake out run through the area of the Expo so I knew where to go. I had heard there were lots of long lines last year and some problems navigating, however, runDisney folks apparently made some necessary adjustments and the lines moved pretty quickly in spite of the crowds that first day. And waiting in line is a great time to meet other runners and share experiences and information. I picked up my bib and commemorative pin, got my race shirts, then spent a little time with the Hoka reps at the Fit2Run booth before getting in line for the official runDisney merchandise. They control the number of shoppers at a time in the official merchandise store to make the shopping experience less crowded and chaotic. I picked up a few additional tech shirts. I liked the short-sleeve cotton Dumbo commemorative shirt, but not enough to cough up over $40 — way over-priced!
We spend the rest of Friday in Disneyland Park and, of course, I had to ride Dumbo and pose with his statue. We capped it off with a carb-loading dinner at La Brea Bakery Express, then back to the hotel to retire as early as possible.
I started the 10K in Corral B so I had a great view of the start when the first runners set off and my start was only about 7 minutes later. Once again, runDisney race announcer, Rudy Novotny, gave me a personal shout out as I approached. That never gets old, and he did it again the next day for the Half.
The 10K course was mostly in the parks after a mile and a half circling around the Anaheim Convention Center. I was surprised, though, how much time we did spend on service roads behind the scenes. There were some floats with music but no one on them. Mostly there were service cast members here and there encouraging us, but overall lots less characters and entertainment then there was at Disney World in January. Still, it was fun getting a feel for the parks by running through them. At that point, I had only been in Downtown Disney so it was all new to me in the parks.
I had a close call by turning my ankle on a lane marker in the street during the first section outside the park. There are raised circular white markers between lanes in critical areas on the roads. If you drive over them, there is a loud thumping which helps to alert drivers to stay in their lane. However, they are raised at least an inch above the asphalt — something that would never survive snow plows in the northeast winters, and if you land on one the wrong way, you can easily turn your ankle or, even, fall. I know of at least two runners who did fall because of them. I don’t remember any alert in the race materials about these “road hazards,” but I think it would be a good idea for runDisney to give runners a heads up and warn them to take extra care, especially in the dark since the races start at 5:30 AM. I was lucky. Although it hurt initially, I didn’t fall and I had no lasting problems as a result.
My plan for the 10K was to run easy but not take walk breaks. That turned out to be a good decision since I had to take an unexpected, extended bathroom break when we first entered the park — almost 5 minutes lost. Fortunately, I was in an early corral to start the 10K and I was never in any danger of getting swept. The race felt comfortable and, in spite of the pit stop, I ran an 11:44 overall pace, but in terms of actual running time I was going faster than I planned.
Waking up the second day at 3:00 AM for the half marathon convinced me I made the right decision NOT to also do the 5K on Friday for the purpose of doing a faux west coast Dopey Challenge (the three races in Disneyland plus the Ventura Marathon). But the second day in a row with an 0’dark-thirty wake up was more than enough for me. The hardest part of the Dopey Challenge last January was getting up so early 4 mornings in a row!
Although runDisney generally does a great job with race logistics, the corral situation was a little chaotic. I got in corral G early to get a spot near the front, but runners were still queuing up for the corrals after the start of the race. There was one entry point across the road between corrals G and F, but it was clear there were too many runners to get to their appropriate corrals in time. Ultimately, those that came the latest got to go before those of us that got in the corrals early. I don’t know if there were too many runners for the space in the corrals that were set aside or if they didn’t move runners out of the staging area in time, but, either way, it didn’t work well. Regardless, once we got moving toward the start line it didn’t really matter any more.
And once again, I got a shout out from Rudy as I came up to the start line. This time we ran down Disneyland Drive to Katella and a short way up Harbor to get back into the park. It seemed like there were more characters out for the Half, but we were soon out of the parks after 4 miles.
The next 4 miles we ran through the streets of Anaheim. There were high school bands and drill teams and cheer squads periodically along with residents and spectators keeping us distracted and entertained. It was a bit more humid than on Saturday, but I was feeling pretty good with my 2/1 run/walk split, and I found I was doing a much better job of power walking at a pretty good clip.
Near the 8-mile point, as we approached the Honda Center, there were classic cars, custom hot rods, antiques, and muscle cars lining the course with their owners cheering us along. I think they must have covered about a mile of the course. It was pretty amazing how many there were.
After leaving the Honda Center we got onto the Santa Ana River Trail which was pretty depressing — not because the trail was a problem in any way, but because the Santa Ana River no longer exists. There is just a bone-dry river bed with absolutely no water. It actually looked like loose dirt and dust — very desolate. Fortunately, we weren’t on the trail too long before getting to Angel Stadium where we ran the warning track from right field around home plate to left field where we exited the stadium. The stadium was filled with scout troops and leaders and parents cheering us, and video cameras caught us running around the infield and displayed on the big screen video board above the outfield.
Just two miles brought us back to Disneyland, but we didn’t run through a park this time — just kept to the access roads behind the scenes of California Adventure, then around the Paradise Pier Hotel to the finish line just past the Disneyland Hotel. My time was 2:35:17 and my pace was 11:42 — just slightly faster than my 10K pace even though I used run/walk intervals. It wasn’t a great time, but I was really pleased because I felt terrific and it was a great rehearsal for using the 2/1 intervals for the Ventura Marathon.
Overall, I really enjoyed the two races. It wasn’t the same as the Disney World race week, but it was still a lot of fun and well-run except for the corral issue on Sunday. It was great to finish the Coast to Coast Challenge as well as the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge. I wasn’t very impressed with the 10K medal, or, for that matter, with the race mascot Stitch, but the other three medals for the Half, the Dumbo Challenge, and the Coast to Coast Challenge were definitely pretty cool. I bought a 10-hook display rack at the Expo for my Disney bling — just the right number.
I don’t have any plans to do other Disney races at this point even though I definitely recommend runners experience them if they can. runDisney does a great job of organizing and implementing races and Disney destination races are a ton of fun. Races often have runners in costume — especially larger, big city races — but nothing compared to the number of costumes and the detail some runners put into them at Disney races — there are always interesting costumes around you. And runDisney provides lots of entertainment along the way to distract you from the miles — in addition to characters and floats there are bands and choirs and other performances in addition to having cast members cheering you inside the parks along with other spectators.
But I won’t be running Disney again soon for two reasons. It is expensive to do Disney races. Registration alone for the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge was $320 and the Dopey Challenge in January was nearly $500. On top of that there are the regular costs of a Disney vacation including travel, lodging, and park fees. And there are unique merchandise items at the race expo that are hard to resist. Don’t get me wrong, the experience is worth it, but unless you have a large vacation budget or are a Disney Vacation Club member and already heading to Disney more than once a year, it is a big financial hit.
The second reason I’m not planning another Disney race is that my next major running goal is to work on 50 states — as in running a marathon in each of the 50 states. And at age 65 I will be racing a biological clock in that effort. And that goal also involves a lot of travel expense as well as time. I’ve already picked up my Florida marathon at Disney World, and I don’t know of any plans for Disney to open another theme park in another state any time soon (or ever, for that matter).
So here ends my Disney running adventures for now. But I invite you to visit some other blogs of Disney runners — especially race reports from this past weekend in Disneyland — by going to Brianne Smith’s recap of the race: http://willrunforamedal.blogspot.com/2014/09/disneyland-dumbo-double-dare-and-coast.html. She has a great set of race photos and at the end of her post is a list of other blogs that have posted about the weekend (including this one — Thanks, Brianne!).
Next up: Sunday’s Ventura Marathon — State #9
I see a pattern emerging. As I taper after peak marathon training, I speed up in my shorter runs. It’s not intentional since I usually start my short runs at a comfortable pace and don’t check my Garmin for pace until I’ve run a mile or so. But I definitely speed up as I shorten my long runs and cut back on total mileage.
Last weekend I was at the 53rd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival (my 43rd festival), so I ran on Saturday on the Perkiomen Trail which borders the festival grounds near Schwenksville. Weather was ideal — for the festival and for running — and the upper Perkiomen Trail is well-shaded and relatively flat with one exception. I first ran north to Salford Station Road, then turned back south to run along the festival grounds. The trail is always crowded during the festival with attendees enjoying the trail and its access to a refreshing dip in the Perkiomen Creek as well as local residents using the trail for walking, running, biking, and horse-back riding. Some access the festival from nearby and even sit along the trail behind the Camp Stage to listen to the music without needing a ticket.
I passed the grounds heading south, crossed Haim Road and over the Perkiomen, and reached the park where the trail crosses back over the creek on Main Street/Sprint Mt. Road. A short distance from the chair lift for Spring Mount Ski Resort, the trail makes that exception to following the creek bed with a short but intense 12% grade climb to the top of Spring Mount. I hadn’t intended to run up that hill, but I felt pretty good and just kept going. I was pleasantly surprised to find the hill had been paved since the last time I’d run it a few years ago — much easier and safer to run and bike that kind of incline than fighting to maintain traction on loose gravel. I topped the hill and ran on to Schwenksville Road before turning back to retrace my path.
To my surprise, after logging 6 miles that day, I still managed an average pace of 10:42, and not too long ago my normal short, easy run pace has been well over 11 minutes per mile.
Since then most of my short runs have been around 10:30 or faster, and on my last short run Friday my last two mile splits were 9:59 and 9:14. And I wasn’t really trying to run hard or fast, it just felt right. Today, I ran the Valley Forge Park outer loop plus a little extra on the Schuylkill River Trail at Betzwood for 10 miles at an 11:38 overall pace even though I was using a 2/1 run/walk ratio throughout.
So I’m going to have to really keep myself from starting too fast at the Ventura Marathon in two weeks. I’m not worried about the Disney Dumbo Double Dare Challenge races this coming weekend (10K & Half Marathon) since they are chock full of distractions like characters and costumes and a huge number of runners. But I’ll have to carefully control my start at the Ventura Marathon so I don’t run out of steam by going too fast in the first half like I did in Vermont.
My plan is to do the first few miles at an easy 13:00 pace, then very gradually let myself speed up if it feels right. I’m taking the early start just in case I do run into trouble and exceed the 6-hour time limit. The early start takes off at 5:30 AM — an hour before the regular start — giving me 7 hours if I need it, but I’m hoping I’m properly prepared and control the start so I finish somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30. That’s the plan…
This race report is long overdue! The Media 5 Miler is one of my favorite races because of the crowd support, so many friends running it, our traditional party at Sligo’s afterward, and because it’s the shortest distance I like to run for a race. Even so, there is not much time to settle in to a comfortable pace, and the hills in Media — especially the second time around the 2.5 mile course — can be rather punishing. Although I was satisfied with my finish time — just over 48 minutes, and a pace of 9:37 — I was huffing and puffing all the way, and I was no where near my 5-mile PR on that course of 43:54. Still, I enjoyed the run in my kilt and had a great time!
I know, I’ve taken an awfully long hiatus from posting, and I have one over-due race report (Media 5-Mile Race back in June!). I promise to get back to posting regularly over the next few weeks, but first, I have to report that I’ve shattered my previous weekly mileage with over 75 miles (76.1 to be precise) from last Thursday to today.
Here are my daily totals:
Thu – 13.1 miles – 11:40 pace (VF Outer Loop)
Fri – 6.22 miles – 11:44 pace
Sat – 21.51 miles – 13:10 pace over 18 miles (incl. 1-mile treadmill warm up, the VF Outer Loop (during the 18 mile section), and a final 2-mile stretch with a final mile at a 9:12 pace)
Mon – 20.15 miles – 12:19 pace
Wed – 15.12 miles – 12:11 pace
I really didn’t intend to pile up this kind of mileage. My plan was to run just 15 or 16 miles on Monday, but I felt good and the weather was great so I kept going. And I needed to shift my longer runs around this week because of doing some other commitments later this week. Then, today, I was just going to do 13 miles, but realized that with an extra 2 miles I’d hit 75 for the last 7 day period so I went for it. And I still feel great! (That sound is me knocking on my wooden skull!)
This is my peak training week in preparation for three California races. On the 30th and 31st, I’ll be doing the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland — a 10K and a Half Marathon — which will also earn me the Disney Coast-to-Coast medal. The following Sunday, September 7, I’ll be running the Ventura Marathon to pick up California as my 9th marathon state.
With the exception of last Thursday and Friday, I’ve been practicing using a run/walk ratio. On Saturday, I used 2-min run/40-sec walk intervals and, as you can see from my notes above, I had plenty left over for a sprint at the end. Monday I practiced with 2:00/50-seconds, with the idea that I want to start the marathon at a 13:00 pace for the first couple of miles. Instead, I got faster — even though I was running the outer loop hills for a good bit of the run.
Today, I tried lengthening the walk interval to a full minute (2/1 ratio) and still picked up speed — again in spite of doing the outer loop hills. I am definitely going to have to throttle my speed for the first couple of miles at Ventura. I just hope I can hold myself back. I need to keep myself from going out too fast so I have plenty left at the end.
I don’t plan to do another 75-plus-mile week for a good long while. But I am feeling really great about my endurance, and I’m really happy that I feel completely injury-free! (Again, that hollow wooden sound…)
I recently completed the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont — my 13th overall marathon in my 8th state. Some of my friends are impressed and/or think I’m crazy — mostly a little of each. And I am a 4-star Marathon Maniac having completed 9 marathons between March, 2013, and this past January including a double in August (a marathon in New York on a Friday and a 50K ultra the next day in Connecticut). But I would like to put things in perspective, and my finish in Burlington provides context.
I had the great fortune to cover the last couple of miles and finish the Vermont marathon with the legendary Larry Macon. For those that may not have heard of Larry, he holds the current Guinness World Record for most marathons completed in a single year. Last year he completed 255! And lifetime, he has run over 1300 marathons — fully two orders of magnitude greater than my 13 marathons. See? My 13 are neither crazy or all that impressive. Oh, yea, Larry is four years older than I am, too! Perspective.
As amazing as Larry’s accomplishments are, he is very gracious and humble. It was a real delight to share some miles and conversation with him on the course. I had “run into” Larry at previous marathons — the first time at the Delaware Marathon in Wilmington in May 2013 where I qualified to become a Marathon Maniac (with 3 marathons in less than 90 days). However, I’d only had occasion to wave or call out in passing until Vermont. Here is a photo of Larry and me with Barb, another Maniac that crossed the finish line with us.
Joining the Marathon Maniacs last year was a great accomplishment and thrill for me, but I didn’t realize how many friendships I would develop as a result. At this point, I don’t think I could find a marathon in the US where I would not find another Maniac running. We try to gather for pre-race photos and we greet each other along the course as we pass each other — usually with a hearty, “Maniac!” We become friends on Facebook and keep up with each other’s travels and races, and meet up at pre-race expos, before races, and in the finish areas. Some Maniacs are running marathons almost every week (although no one can keep up with Larry). Others are running monthly, and some have qualified and settled back into doing a few a year. It doesn’t matter. I have found the Maniac community to be very supportive regardless — much like the running community at large. Larry is a great example. He was just as interested in my story as I was in hearing about his experiences.
As much as I value my membership in Marathon Maniacs, though, I continue to depend upon my local club — Fast Tracks — for ongoing support and running fellowship week in and week out. I’ve even talked a Maniac friend, Ashley, into joining us for long distance training runs when she isn’t traveling to new states for marathons. But it is extra special to travel to a distant marathon and catch up with another Fast Tracker. Michele met me at the starting area in Battery Park before the race. I did manage to see her once more on the first long out-and-back part of the course, but she is much faster than me. We did connect by phone after the race to compare notes.
I enjoyed the course in spite of my slow finish time. It begins in Battery Park overlooking Lake Champlain and the Waterfront Park below where the finish line is located. The first 3-mile loop takes runners into the city away from the Lake, then onto the Church Street pedestrian mall before passing through Battery Park again on the way to the 6-mile out-and-back along Route 127 and the Winooski River. Returning to the city, we again pass through Battery Park and Church Street to another 6-mile loop south to Oakledge Park, along the lake before climbing Battery Street back through Battery Park for the last time. Then we head north along North Avenue with a couple of loops into neighborhoods and the Bernard J. Leddy Park before finally turning onto the Bike Path along the lake for the final four miles.
Spectators were out in full force and voice throughout the course — even along the highway stretch between mile 4 and 8. I even managed to see my wife Marie between mile 9 and 10 while I was still running fast enough that she could only get a photo of my from the back!
Here’s a closer view of my back. I get a lot of comments about my shirts. It definitely helps keep me motivated, and I enjoy giving others something else to think about, too.
Here are some photos when I was still running strong:
In the neighborhoods, in addition to the well-stocked aid stations with great volunteers, spectators offered food and beverages all along the way — especially appreciated were the several spots with watermelon! That is the absolute best in my opinion — more so because the day was already humid and getting hotter as I slowed down on the second half!
And, boy, did I slow down. I clearly started out faster than I should have. I guess I was seduced by my faster training runs in the two weeks leading up to the marathon. I started out using a run/walk ratio of 2:45/25, but I cut most of my walk breaks a little short and my run intervals were very comfortable but obviously too fast to sustain.
The day was humid with a thick fog hovering over Lake Champlain, and the sky was clear with temperatures in the mid to upper 50s at the start — quite comfortable but too warm to be ideal. I really felt pretty good through the first half of the marathon and thought I had a shot at finishing around 5 hours. I should have known better. I had only been training since March 1st after being shut down for 7 weeks with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. Initially I figured I would probably finish in the neighborhood of 5:30 based on the amount of training I had done. In retrospect, I should have stuck with that goal and run the first half accordingly.
As it was I gradually slowed down starting right about mile 13. I could feel it, but I kept hoping and expecting to get a second wind. There wasn’t much of a breeze — even off the lake — and the second wind never materialized. I maintained my run/walk intervals up the Battery Street climb and the last pass through Battery Park, but I was clearly struggling as I hit the mile 17 mark on North Street. About that time I felt a strange and sudden pain in my right inside ankle. I quickly stopped to take stock of my situation. Fortunately, I was unable to replicate any pain after flexing and stretching my foot and ankle and testing it with some walking then running strides. I continued running with no further pain. After the marathon I noticed a little bruising but no residual pain or tenderness. It was a little scary at the time since I’ve never yet had a DNF.
Shortly after that stop I changed my run/walk intervals to 3:00/1:00 and used every bit of each walk break. I was no longer power-walking; I was “rest-walking!” I no longer had an hope of a second wind — I was holding on to finish. One of the great things about the Vermont City Marathon is how well organized it is. They even had signs a half mile ahead of each aid station so you knew how close you were. And although I was near the back of the pack, the volunteers were still out in force at the last aid station before the finish, still cheering us along. Each aid station had a table set aside for elite runners with their personal hydration preparations, and the last station still had the elite table set up with several bottles still waiting — at that point, even if the elites had taken a second turn on the course, they would have been ahead of me!
By the time I hit that last turn onto the Bike Path I decided to switch the intervals. I was now walking (probably closer to “strolling”) 3 minutes then running (closer to “shuffling”) for 1 minute. Even so, I appreciated the pretty views along the lake, and I stopped at one point to exchange photos with Bonnie, another Maniac friend.
With just about 2 miles to go, I saw Larry power walking and catching up to me. I decided to ditch the intervals altogether and try to keep up with his walking pace. Fortunately that worked — or, at least, our conversation distracted me from the final effort. Very close to the end Barb caught up to us and we finished together. Time: 6:06:24 — I never did get that second wind, but I did get a Maniac boost!
It was a great trip overall. My wife and I arrived on Thursday and stayed with our friends Chuck and Sharon in Williamstown except for Saturday night when we stayed over in Burlington the night before the race. Naturally, I had a pre-race car bomb at McKee’s Pub.
Post-race, of course, I had a maple creamee, and we stayed a few extra days to hang out with our friends. Chuck is also a great massage therapist — VERY convenient! THANKS, Chuck! I also used the local trail in Graniteville that passes by the Rock of Ages Memorial Design Studio near the quarry. I decided it wouldn’t be prudent to stop there…
This tortoise appears to be getting a hare faster! My pace is picking up. My splits are improving. I’m not sure what has gotten after me, but my training runs are getting speedier. This week I’ve been tapering for the Vermont City Marathon. I haven’t really been trying to run faster, but all four runs have been hovering around a 10:00 minute average pace. I know that’s not very fast among runners in general, but I haven’t been running consistent times this fast for almost a year — since I started doing monthly marathons last spring.
Mon – 6.03 miles – 9:59 pace
Tue – 5.02 miles – 10:02 pace
Wed – 4.05 miles – 10:08 pace
Fri – 3.02 miles – 10:01 pace
After completing the Dopey Challenge this past January in spite of a bad case of plantar faciitis, I took seven weeks off to recover. I started training again on March 1st so I basically had to build up again from scratch. My focus has been on building up endurance to get ready for the marathon so I haven’t worked on speed. Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve had a day here or there with some faster splits or better average pace. But this week has been different. Four days in a row I’ve maintained an average pace very close to 10:00 minutes per mile. To put it in perspective, I ran my marathon PR in 2012 at an average pace of 10:30. Now I’m not expecting to get anywhere near a PR finish in Sunday’s race. I’m still planning to use run/walk intervals through mile 15, at least, and these faster training runs have been end-to-end running without walk breaks. But who knows? If I’m feeling frisky after climbing the big hill on Battery Street at Mile 15, maybe I’ll shed my tortoise shell and make like a hare…
Now, just to assure my readers that I am not on the cusp of any major running break-through, I have to confess a major preparation faux pas for this marathon. We arrived in Vermont yesterday to stay with friends about an hour south of Burlington before and after the race. As I began to unpack my bags I suddenly realized — I was missing one bag. The one with ALL my running gear (except my shoes in a separate bag)! What an idiot! I had packed that bag first making certain that I had everything I needed, then set it aside — apparently too far aside.
Fortunately, a very kind neighbor agreed to retrieve the bag from our house and over-night it to the hotel where we are staying tomorrow night. I was lucky to have arrived early enough for the bag to catch up with me, and lucky my neighbor was not traveling for the holiday weekend.
So disaster averted, although over-night shipping on a holiday weekend turns out to be extra pricey! Make that extra, extra, extra pricey! I am hoping that’s the only horror story I’ll have from this trip!
If you want to track my progress this Sunday as I run the Vermont City Marathon, my Bib Number is 2893, and you can click on the link below to sign up for live tracking:
If you are interested in viewing the course, a video of the entire 26 miles is online here:
Don’t worry, though, the video is sped up and split into first and second half clips (11 and 16 minutes each) — a LOT faster than I’ll be running it! :-)
One more 3-mile shake out run left on Friday, but I’m feeling really well-prepared. All my short runs this week have been fast, too. I’m hoping that bodes well…