Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Disney World Marathon

Time: 3:29:55
Overall: 547 out of 16883
Age group: 59 out of 1183

On a day that few things seemed to go right I managed a PR and got my 2011 BQ.

More than a week out I knew that race day was going to be cold. It hit the lowest forecast numbers with a race start temp of 28. Throw in the wind and the temps felt like the high teens. Ideal race temps for me would be around 40. 28 was a little cold but I’ll take that over the 60+ that I have been racing in.

I didn’t get a good night sleep. I dozed off in the late afternoon and woke up around 8pm (which was when I wanted to go to sleep). I laid in bed until 10:30 when I fell asleep again. I woke up again a few times before I decided to get up at 3am. Breakfast, shower, stretching, bathroom and I was out the door a little after 4. I had over 1.5 hours until my 5:40 race start which from past experience was more than enough time to get to Epcot, park, hit the toilets and get to the start. This year was different. Less than 1 mile from the hotel I ran into heavy traffic and we were barely moving (of course my lane was the slowest). That 3 mile drive seemed to take forever and I was coming to the realization that I may not make it to the start on time. I ended up parking around 5:20 (20 minutes before start). I got to the start corrals as the national anthem was playing. There was a row of port-a-johns by the corrals that were empty (because everyone was ready to start). I jumped in for a quickie and got in to the corral about 1 minute before the start. The actual start ended up being 3-4 minutes late (so maybe not all was bad).

It took me a little over 1 minute to reach the start line after the clock started. I ended up being at the back of the A corral but I could still see the 3:30 pace group up ahead of me. I caught up with the group by the first mile but the number of runners still made it difficult to stay with the group. I decided to just keep in the general area until things thinned out a little. I warmed up pretty quick after I started running and tossed the sweatshirt around mile 3. By mile 5 things started to thin out and I was keeping a good steady pace. I felt like I was pressing a little but it wasn’t a struggle to stay with the 3:30 group. It definitely helped having them there though.

Around mile 8 the pace group was a nice cluster of maybe 25 runners and not too many runners in front or behind. Disney had a nice setup for the pacers. We had the main pace leader (Bill Sanders) plus roving pacers that would join the group for a while and then pull out (I assume to join other groups behind us). They did a lot of talking about their race experience or asking about ours or just stories to lighten things up a little.

The approach to and running through the magic kingdom was as good as always (by far my favorite part of the race). The sun was just breaking through as we ran down main street so it was a really nice experience.

As we approached the water stop around mile 15 the pace leader suggested that if you needed to use the toilets this was a good time since we were a little ahead of pace and he was going to slow a little. I didn’t have to go bad but I wasn’t sure if I would make it until the end so I ran up ahead and found an open port-a-john. My only comment here is that it’s tough taking a shit when your hands are frozen. Overall I lost 1:30 on the pit stop. I didn’t want to push too hard to get back to the pace group but I did want to catch up by mile 19 when the tough stretch started. I figured that if it could run 7:40-45 miles I would get to them by mile 19. I proceeded to pick up the pace a little and was surprised at the lack of extra effort that it required. I was 16+ plus miles in and running harder than my goal pace and I felt great. That feeling would not last long.

I finally caught up with the pace group around mile 19 as we were getting into a 3+ mile stretch of running up and down overpasses and a boring out and back stretch between the animal park and Hollywood studios. Somewhere around mile 20 my right knee starting bothering me. It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t deal with but I still had 6 miles to go. 21-23 is usually the toughest stretch for me. This is the point where running with a pace group has the biggest impact and the pace group leaders were the best. Whenever some of us were lagging behind the lead pacer, the other pacer would pull back a little and push the runners to catch up. At mile 22 I felt the group slipping away and if it wasn’t for that extra push I would have never stayed with them. As we were closing in on the mile 24 marker I got my second wind (or third..) and picked up the pace a little and tried to pull away. That lasted until around 24.5 when the pace leader and another runner seemed to pick up the pace and break away from the group. They weren’t really running faster but everyone else (including me) was slowing down and it was too close to the end for the pace leader to pull back and push us on. I did a pretty good job of keeping them within eyeshot. As we ran through the boardwalk there wasn’t a lot of room. The boards were a little slick (still icy) the path was narrow and trees were scattered along the path. I was struggling but was still keeping a steady pace.

As I turned into Epcot just before mile 25 I rounded a corner and caught my left toe on something. I fell forward and almost caught my balance (almost) but ended up plunging into the concrete. It was a good thing that I had gloves on because my hands would have been pretty messed up. I got to my feet in disbelief that I wiped out so late in the race. My first thought was that I blew my PR and BQ but I still started to run. At first it was a really slow jog but then I realized the fall really wasn’t that bad (more like I was too numb to feel it). Well I managed to put in a decent final mile and ended up breaking 3:30.

When I crossed the finish line all of the fatigue and cold hit me. My right knee was so sore I could hardly walk and my hands were so numb I couldn’t feel anything. On top of that I was in such a rush when I parked in the morning that I forgot where my car was. I had a pretty good idea of the section but I had to walk (of hobble) up and down a couple of rows before I found my car. Getting the key out of my pocket and starting the car was an adventure in itself but I managed and then sat in the car for a good 15 minutes before I thawed enough to drive.

Overall though it was a great race, I usually just miss the great running weather by a day or two and end up running in temps that are too warm. This race was the opposite but I’ll take that any day. I love running at Disney and I’m so happy that I was able to run so well here. This was my 7th marathon here (9th race overall) and I plan to be back many more times.

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