There may still be snow on the ground, but today’s weather was perfect for a run with highs in the 50s and bright sunshine most of the day. I took the opportunity to try out the Chester Valley Trail (CVT) from Wegmans and Target in Malvern east to Swedesford Road near Valley Forge. This was my first run outside since the Dopey Challenge in January because I was taking time off to heal my plantar faciitis. Last Saturday I started running again, but stayed inside on the treadmill because I fractured the head of my radius in my right arm about two weeks ago. Luckily I only had to be in a sling for a week and with physical therapy my range of motion and strength are beginning to return. But I didn’t want to risk falling again on icy roads or snow-covered trails. On the other hand, I plan to run the B & A Trail Half Marathon the end of the month and I need to start building up distance so I took advantage of the beautiful day and ran about 7 miles on the CVT. The first mile east from Target borders Matthews Road and Route 202 but after that it is a very pleasant trail and it was completely clear of snow — just some melted water running across the trail in places but not deep enough to be bothersome. All in all it was an excellent run, and I’ll definitely be back to run more of the CVT. I’m just hoping the weather keeps getting better so I can avoid the treadmill!
I managed to register for the Marine Corps 17.75K to be held on April 12 in Prince William Forest Park outside the Quantico Base in Virginia. Completing this 11.03 mile race will ensure me a spot in the 39th Marine Corps Marathon in October and allow me to bypass the registration lottery for this iconic marathon.
But I was lucky. Word got out. Registration was full in just 9 minutes!
I am looking forward to running this unusual distance — in between a 10-miler and a half marathon. Should be fun!
That’s what I’ve been doing — just fueling myself.
Since last March I’ve run 9 marathons, 3 half marathons, an 8.5 midnight race, a 10K, a 5-miler, and 3 5Ks. I usually averaged 40 to 50 miles per week, and if I hadn’t developed plantar faciitis, I would have easily logged over 2000 miles for the year.
In spite of all that running — or maybe because of it — I stopped paying attention to what and how much I ate. And I gradually gained weight. The kicker was having to shut down my running when the plantar faciitis hit hard in early November. I missed at least two full weeks of training prior to the Philly Marathon, then lost another four weeks after doing a slow, painful 13 miles. The timing was awful for my running, but it was also terrible because it exacerbated the dreaded holiday weight gain.
I managed to get in three weeks of training during the end of December to ramp up for the Dopey Challenge in January, but the damage in terms of weight gain was already done. And now, post Dopey, I have not run for two weeks and probably will take at least another 2 or 3 weeks off running to hopefully get rid of all the PF pain.
But my appetite still thinks I’m running 40 to 50 miles per week. As if I should have been fueling myself like I did even then
The back of one of my RoadKill Bill shirts has this on it: “My Cross Training: Running the Other Direction”. When I was interviewed on the Marathon Show podcast last February I offered that quip when the topic of cross training came up. Not so funny now.
So, I’m going to work on my eating habits — primarily being more careful about what I eat as well as exercising portion control — and trying my best to eat a lot slower by chewing more and drinking more water in between bites. It’s tough to break bad habits ingrained over many years so I have my work cut out for me.
And I’ve joined the YMCA to start incorporating cross training in my regimen. This is a good time to get started since I’m not running right now and can easily carve out the time. I plan to try some deep aqua classes, spin classes, and some yoga classes as well as doing some weights and core work. Once I start running again, though, I want to try to still get to the Y at least two or three times a week. If I can do that I know it will help my running performance as well as help me avoid injuries.
It’s time to stop fueling myself indiscriminately.
Now that the Dopey Challenge is finished, I am going to take some time to heal my plantar faciitis and give my running a reset. After consulting with my doctors I’ve decided not to run for at least a few weeks. Meanwhile, I’m going to take the opportunity to get back to the gym, work on my core, strength, and flexibility, and try to drop some weight that crept back on while I was running my butt off this past year.
A few months back I thought I would be able to average a marathon a month, but in December I missed the Rehoboth Beach Marathon because of my PF. I’m also going to skip the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February. My PF is getting better, but I hope to have all the pain gone before I start running again.
I am registered for the B & A Trail Marathon the end of March but I plan to shift to the half marathon distance. I should be able to handle that if I start running again the beginning of March, and I don’t have another marathon scheduled until the Vermont City Marathon the end of May. That will be my only spring marathon this year.
I just signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge in Disneyland — a 10K and Half Marathon on August 30 and 31 in Anaheim, California. That will give me the Disney Coast to Coast medal because I also completed the Dopey Challenge in Orlando in the same calendar year. I also registered for the Ventura Marathon on September 6 — a week after the Dumbo Double Dare. That will give me California as my 9th marathon state.
If I am able to get into the Marine Corps Marathon in October, I’ll have Virginia and be able to join the 50 States Marathon Club. It won’t be a prolific year like 2013, but I’m still looking forward to it with a healthy reset!
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
I had my slowest race times, and yet more fun than should be legally permitted. As I approached the finish line of the Walt Disney World Marathon I stopped to take photos. I high-rived Minnie, then posed with Mickey, and took photos of some other runners with Mickey and Minnie before actually crossing the finish line to complete the inaugural Dopey Challenge.
I never intended to run the four races for time, but I wasn’t expecting to strategically run slow enough for personal worst times in each event. Of course, I didn’t plan on running with bad case of plantar faciitis that sidelined me for five full weeks between the beginning of November and the middle of December. When you make long-range plans for running events, you just never know what race day(s) will bring.
In this case I was very fortunate. With the help of a cortisone shot, Graston Therapy, and Active Release Technique manipulation I was able to get in three weeks of running before leaving for Disney including a 4-day stretch of 3, 6, 10, and 21 miles. My heel improved each week even though my pace was way off due to compensating my stride and too many weeks not running.
Even so, my finish times were easily my personal worst and I only managed to beat the required 16-minute pace on the 10K:
5K — 58.35 finish (personal record: 27:00; previous worst: 36:28)
10K — 1:39:47 finish (personal record: 55:39; previous worst 55:59)
Half — 3:51:36 finish (personal record: 1:57:22; previous worst: 3:48:31 — Philly w/ severe PF pain)
Full — 7:27:03 finish (personal record: 4:35:31; previous worst: 5:52:20)
Total Time — 13:57:01
Even with those times, there were many Dopey finishers well after me. Thank goodness I had a good marathon time to submit when I registered giving me a favorable corral placement and a much-needed head start on the Balloon Ladies. (Lest I contribute to an unwarranted fear of the Balloon Ladies, please see these links: http://margaritasmilesandmouse.blogspot.com/2013/08/bursting-balloon-lady-bubble.html and http://www.disbroads.com/?tag=disney-balloon-ladies.
Of course, since this was the inaugural Dopey Challenge, it still is a PR of sorts.
The weather for the marathon was the best of the four days — a nice, cool start and not overly hot at the finish, with clear skies throughout. It was a delightful day.
The start was even more spectacular than the previous days (see video above), and it was particularly exciting to get a shout out from announcer Rudy Novotny as I approached the line. And, of course, this was Mickey’s race and he counted down the start for each corral.
This course visited all four theme parks plus the Walt Disney World Speedway and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. We ran on highways, back stage roads, through parks full of patrons, along back roads with residents of Animal Kingdom and their handlers, past race cars and antiques on the speedway oval, through Cinderella’s castle, past windows into character costuming shops, around the on the spring training home field of the Atlanta Braves.
Some runners had the time and inclination to do some rides like Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. Others took time to stand in line for character photos. I knew I needed to keep moving so the only unnecessary stop I made before the finish line was for this photo op as I was leaving Magic Kingdom:
This was definitely not a typical marathon for most runners. If you put your head down and run Disney for speed, you might easily miss some of the fun and frivolity along the way. And I can only guess that there were a lot fewer and less elaborate costumes among the faster runners. Still, the course is virtually flat and I suspect there would be few walkers in the first corrals to get in the way of the speedsters. In fact, a friend in my running club was able to achieve her BQ (Boston Qualifying time) at this marathon. And there were Dopey runners with sub-3:00 marathon times. Very impressive.
However, I was content with my times and my pace given my injury and interrupted training. And I certainly enjoyed myself which, along with finishing, was my primary goal.
And what a finish!
By the time I exited the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and headed toward Hollywood Studios I could see the runners trailing out behind me quite a distance, and I could just make out what I believed to be two large white balloons. The Balloon Ladies! And that meant the sweepers for those falling behind the mandatory pace were close behind them. I was just hitting the Mile 20 marker, so I turned off my Gymboss (signaling my run/walk intervals) and picked up my pace. I had saved enough so I never hit the wall, and, by the last mile, I matched the pace of my first mile — close to 14:30 — and I never saw the Balloon Ladies again.
At the entrance to Hollywood Studios I did hear a couple of what I guess were runDisney crew members calling out to us that we were only about a minute ahead of the cutoff pace. I thought that was less than helpful and was pretty sure it was not accurate. If I was right about how far back I saw the balloon ladies we were definitely well more than a minute ahead of them. I’m sure they were just trying to encourage us to keep moving and stay ahead of the sweep, but I think they could have accomplished that without alarming some of the runners which they clearly did.
On a more positive note, we were offered a choice of chocolates as we came into Hollywood Studios, and from that point forward there were always people along the course to cheer us on. From Hollywood Studios we made our way to Epcot by way of the Boardwalk and the Swan, Dolphin, and Beach Club Resorts. It really made the last five miles go quickly in my estimation.
We entered Epcot at the United Kingdom, ran around the countries one more time to Mexico where some runners stopped for a margarita to enjoy as they ran past the Dome one last time. [Edited for accuracy thanks to Robert Wang.] As we slipped back stage, we passed the gospel choir, still rocking out for the back of the pack. I made my way to their side and high-fived the entire front row. Almost there! Really.
One more turn and we were in the home stretch with the grandstands of spectators and the finish line arch just ahead. I could see my Road Crew yelling and just before the finish line was Mickey and Minnie welcoming us home. It wasn’t crowded with runners so I did something I would never consider in any other race.
I stopped to high-five Minnie, then moved over to Mickey to get a posed photo (at top of post). A couple other runners wanted to do the same so we took each others’ photos, then I also took a photo of them with Minnie. All this BEFORE we crossed the finish line! It was a strange finish, indeed, but lots of fun. Once the photos were done I ran across the line — and kept running to where they were handing out the medals for the marathon. I guess I just didn’t want it to end. Or maybe I knew I’d be doing the post-marathon shuffle once I started walking. Because I did.
But I managed to make it to the Dopey chutes where we showed our bibs, marathon medals, and, most important, our wristbands from the 5K, 10K, and Half to get our Goofy and Dopey medals. We did it. I would legitimately be able to were the “I Did It” Dopey shirt I bought on spec four days before. Yes, that did actually cross my mind at that moment.
I hastily made my way to the Race Retreat tent to retrieve my gear bag, get some cold water, and eat some hot scrambled eggs and a bagel to augment the snack box given out in the finish chute. But I didn’t linger because I wanted to reunite with my awesome Road Crew — Marie, John, Johnnie Sue, Sara, and Thom. We found each other quickly. That’s another advantage of being at the back of the pack — not so many runners and spectators to sort through at the end!
John and Thom took a lot of photos at the finish — some included in this post so I didn’t feel the need to splurge on the official race photo package.
As we made our way to the photo backdrop area, Chip and Dale came out and I got a quick pose with them. Then I posed with all six of my medals as well as posing with my Road Crew posse. There is nothing as special as having family and friends greet you at the finish to share the accomplishment and the joy. Running appears to be a very solitary pursuit, and it can be if you make it that way. But I really treasure the support and encouragement I get from my family, my friends, and my running community.
You know what? It really was the best of times.
*Foot Note (Use heading level 2 or 3)
Will this be the first race where I lose a toenail? It’s been more than a week and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming off, though. Maybe my luck will hold…
The Half Marathon is a crucial race in the series of four that makes up the WDW Dopey Challenge. The 5K and 10K are relatively easy training run distances, but 13.1 miles is a significant run anytime — even more so when positioned between the shorter races the previous two days and the full marathon the next day.
The novelty had worn off the 2:00 AM wake up by the third day, and it turned out to be the warmest and most humid of the four days so weather was something of a factor. Since it was warm, I didn’t bother bringing a bag to check for the Half.
This was also the first time runners had to make the 30 minute trek from the prep/finish area to the highway for the start of the race. With well over 25,000 runners and 16 starting corrals, the start was staged on Epcot Center Drive — all four lanes from Overpass Road to the start line behind the parking area at Epcot. Corrals A through L were on the right hand lanes and M through P were on the left hand lanes. The corrals were managed very well by the runDisney team, and the wave starts went very smoothly. Once again, I caught up with fellow Maniac Doug in Corral K.
I’ve run a number of large races with this number of runners before, but this was a very different experience with two huge video displays giving runners in the back corrals a good view of the announcers (and Disney characters) and the starting line for each wave. The Half Marathon is Donald Duck’s race, so it was really cool to hear his unique rasp counting down for each race.
Then there were the fireworks — set off for each wave (although for some reason they didn’t fire for our corral and one of the previous corrals). These were definitely more spectacular than the ones for the 5K and 10K. I’ve embedded the video again. You can see how they get progressively more elaborate for the Half and Full Marathons.
Disney does a great job of providing distractions along the race course with high school bands and cheerleaders, character photo posing, choral groups, and strategic placement of cast members in back stage areas. There were also DJs and announcers in different spots as well as loudspeakers with upbeat tunes. Although there were some stretches of highway we had to run along, there was definitely enough to keep you entertained along the way.
And if the sideline attractions weren’t enough, the runners themselves provided lots of diversions with a wide array of costumes — from Disney characters to super heroes, from pirates to princesses, and a whole host of animal guises. There was a pair of nuns in habit, a pair of squawking flamingoes, a chap in a straw hat, striped vest, and carrying a sousaphone decorated to look like Big Bird from behind, and Dr. Dribble keeping two basketballs going throughout each race.
And then we ran through the parks. The 5K and 10K ended before park patrons were on site at Epcot, but there were some visitors in Magic Kingdom when I ran through in the Half. And it was a pretty special feeling to run through Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. I took the time during the Half to shoot some video as I ran through where you can see some costumed cast members cheering us on.
After the castle I saw Winnie the Pooh out for photos and decided to take the time to wait in line. He’s the favorite character of Sara, one of my Road Crew, so I wanted to get a photo for her. As I waited in line, the sister of a friend I used to work with saw me and came over to say hello. I had run some with her and her brother at the Rock’n’Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September. It’s a small world after all!
On the way back to Epcot from Magic Kingdom I ran into well-known Marathon Maniac Dave Mari so I introduced myself and we took some photos of each other. I really don’t think it’s possible anymore to run a race that doesn’t include some other Maniacs!
Shortly after that, Patti, a neighbor in my home town, introduced herself after seeing my shirt. We had connected earlier on the Dopey Challenge page on Facebook but had never met even though we live in the same town. We ended up sharing most of the remaining miles of the Half — a very pleasant way to finish the race, indeed!
Once again, race announcer Rudy Novotny saw me come in to the finish, remembered me, and called out my name. I also got a lot of comments on the course that other runners enjoyed my shirts. I was hoping to make a positive impact with the sayings on my back. Apparently, it worked.
After the finish line, I got my medal — the third in three days. Then I made sure I picked up my wristband for finishing the Half. Dopey runners had to get a new wristband after every race to prove we finished each part of the challenge. I also had a wristband for entry into the Race Retreat Tent which meant I had 4 wristbands after the Half along with my Garmin watch on my left wrist and my Road ID band and my Disney Magic Band on my right wrist. Cuffed, I was!
Speaking of the Race Retreat Tent, I definitely felt it was worth the extra cost. It was available before and after the Half and the Full with a special set of portapots for men and another set for women along with changing areas, a buffet of food pre and post race, tables and chairs and even a couch for eating and relaxing, a video feed of the finish line, stretching area before the race and massages available afterward, a separate bag check area, characters available for photos, and small gifts for runners after each race. All this was under a huge tent that would have been even more valuable if it had rained or had been excessively hot or cold.
At the end of the Half, we still had more than half the miles to go for the Dopey Challenge although we had finished 3/4 of the events and received 3 of the 6 medals. In spite of the humidity, I felt ready for the next day. So far, my plantar faciitis had not stymied me other than keeping my pace very slow. If I could just stay ahead of the balloon ladies the next day!
2:00 AM is way too early to wake up. When I was a kid I used to get up at 2:00 AM once or twice in the summer to go deliver milk with my dad. It was too early then. And it’s too early to get up to run. And it’s way too early to wake up four days in a row to run progressively longer races. Dopey, indeed!
But once you get past the wake up, it’s a whole lot of fun. Really.
Thank goodness I wasn’t worried about going for personal records. That certainly wasn’t in the realm of possible for these races. The only thing I had to do was be sure I didn’t get swept at the rear of the races if I went too slow, but that wasn’t a problem for the 5K and 10K races.
These first two races started from the Epcot parking lot behind the grandstands for the finish line. The first thing I noticed as the bus from my resort rolled into the Epcot parking lot were the huge glowing corral markers that gradually cycled through different colors. That was the first sign that these races would be unlike any others I’ve done — with much more production spectacle.
But as runners streamed off bus after bus and we began to make our way to the race prep area for the first race, I came upon a familiar face — fellow Maniac Ashley who I last saw at the Philly Marathon in November. That’s one of the great things about being in the Marathon Maniacs. You always find other Maniacs no matter where you run. And you get to meet new Maniac friends at each race.
Ashley was waiting for another Maniac, Roger, who had picked up her race packet the day before so I continued on into the race prep area which was starting to get crowded already. No wonder they warned us to arrive very early for the 6:15 AM start of the 5K and the 5:30 AM starts of the other three races. I checked out the race recovery area and made my way to Corral C.
I also ran into a member of Fast Tracks, my local running club, in the corral for the 5K — Helen — someone I actually hadn’t met before. She recognized me because of my RoadKill Bill shirt! I am convinced it pays to develop a personal brand no matter what you do. I had already made up one race shirt with my RoadKill Bill logo on the front and one of my personal sayings on the back. For the Dopey Challenge, I made three more versions so I had a new one for each race. (See photos at the end and in future posts.)
There were about 10,000 runners for each of these first two races — about 7000 of them registered for the full Dopey Challenge — all four races. The 10K was added this year and the Dopey designation made official for all four. So the Dopey Challenge accounted for 70% of the runners in the 5K and 10K. In spite of the numbers I managed to find old friends and, of course, make many new ones.
I did see Dopey on the 5K set up for a photo op, but the line was incredibly long and I just opted for taking a shot of him as others were taking their turns with him. Unfortunately, I didn’t see him again during the rest of the races so these were my only shots of him.
I also met up with fellow Maniacs Doug and Marsha in the 10K corral on Friday and caught up with Ashley and Roger on the 10K course in Epcot for a photo with another Maniac who jumped into the photo (dressed as a nun). Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. Sister something-or-other, I imagine.
The 5K race remained in Epcot winding through the parking lot area back into the countries at Mexico and around past Canada and around the Dome before heading back to the finish line in the parking area.
The 10K took us out onto the highway — Epcot Center Drive — before heading back to the countries via Mexico, around past France, then along the Boardwalk, past the Dolphin and Swan, Yacht Club, and Beach Club resorts before heading back to the Dome and the finish line.
The runDisney spectacle began with the 5K and just got larger and larger with each race. I shot some video at the start of each race and pulled it together in a montage which gives just a little idea of the overall production that goes into these Disney events. I missed the fireworks at the start of the 5K, but they were pretty similar to the ones at the 10K start. They only got bigger from then on!
One of the highlights of the Dopey Challenge for me was getting noticed and called out by runDisney announcer, Rudy Novotny. He noticed my RoadKill shirt as I finished the 10K and read both the front and the back of it. And he remembered me for the half and the full, but that will be in another post…