Monday, June 16, 2014

How About YOUR Journey?

For a little over a year, I consistently posted updates on my Couch-to-Marathon Journey, and in the context of the blog's name, all of those posts made perfect sense; however, since completing that first 26.2-mile run this past January, coming back to the blog has been less consistent and has lacked the "pull" that was oh so necessary as I prepared for January 12, 2014. I have been thinking about this a lot over the last few weeks, and I have come to realize that sharing my journey from the couch to that first marathon has run its course (no pun intended...well, maybe a little bit). Yes, I am still running (and loving it); and yes, this morning, I just started Week Two of my training cycle for the Chicago Marathon.

But the need to tell all of you about it seems more grounded in narcissism rather than in a need for accountability. Leading up to the Disney Marathon, I shared with you my weight loss progress not to show you how terrific I was but rather to keep myself on and this blog were the Weight Watchers' meetings where I would reveal my weight every week. And even though I actually gained back a few pounds (okay...six pounds) after the marathon, that excess weight is starting to shed again (two have already disappeared) as my more rigorous training schedule is kicking in. Last year's experience tells me that I'll reach my "marathon weight" of 175 again in the next month or two...and since I'm running with more efficiency and speeding up a little bit, I'm really not that worried about my weight any longer. I'm still aware of it, but it certainly takes a back seat to my becoming a more efficient marathoner.

I also don't feel it's necessary any longer to map out for you my weekly training schedule because, again, my reason for doing so in the past was to establish the accountability, to ensure that I would keep going. Now, after the awesome feeling of crossing that Finish Line back in January, I have absolutely no desire to stop; and I have raised the bar and have challenged myself to cross that Finish Line in a lot less time than I did earlier this year.

So now that I've "been there done that" when it comes to sharing the progress of losing weight, training for, overcoming inevitable nagging injuries leading up to, and completing my first marathon, where do I go from here? And what does this blog become?

I think, more than anything, I'd like to start hearing from my readers. I've told you to "enjoy your journey" time and time again...but now I'd like to start hearing about that journey. I'd like to know where you are running, why you are running, and where you'd like it to take you. So if you have time, tell me these things in the comments...

  1. From couch to ultra marathon, where would you say you are right at this moment? Getting off the couch? Changing your diet? Running / Walking for the first time (or again)? Training for a race?
  2. Where are you heading? Is it a weight loss goal? Do you want to run a 5K? A Full Marathon? Or do you just want to run a few miles a few times a week? What Finish Line - real of proverbial - is the next for you to cross? In short, what's your goal?
So don't leave me hanging...let me know where you are and where you're heading...and who knows? I just might have to feature you in a future blog post. But at the very least, my other readers and I will cheer you on.

So enjoy your journey...and make it that much more fun by bringing us along!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Race Recap - 2014 Flying Pig Half Marathon

It has now been a couple of weeks since I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, and although my intention was to provide a race recap earlier, my non-running life has remained pretty busy, so it has once again taken some time to get back to the blog.

Now, it's not for lack of wanting to write about (and remember) this race. Besides completing my full marathon back in January, this was my most satisfying endurance race to date....and not just because I set another half marathon personal record. Yep, I PR'd the Flying Pig, which was a pretty big accomplishment considering it was actually the toughest half marathon course I've run to date.

Like runDisney events, the Flying Pig isn't just one big event but rather a series of weekend events culminating with half and full marathons on Sunday morning (check out all the events HERE). Kicking off with a mile race on Friday evening, Saturday then offers a 5K, 10K, Kids Races, and even the Flying Fur...yes, a dog race for pet puppies (many dressed up like pigs) and not greyhounds. On Sunday morning, both the half and full marathons started at 6:30am at Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals), run the first nine miles together, and then break apart until they both finish at the Reds' Great American Ball Park).

Not being that familiar with the city, coupled with the fact that I was staying about fifteen miles north of town, I woke up pretty early on race morning, readied myself for the race, and left around 4:00am. I arrived downtown Cincinnati at around 4:30, easily found a parking spot in a garage not far from the stadium ($5 flat fee for the race), and stayed warm in the car for a bit before heading over toward the starting corrals (Pig Pens) at 5:15am. If you're unfamiliar with the city or the race, the directions in the event guide were spot on, and I had no issue at all getting to the start. The volunteers were plentiful, and the atmosphere was definitely positive and fun.

To go back to my earlier point, though, what made this race satisfying was that I studied the course, had a race plan from both running and nutrition standpoints, and was able to execute without arguments from my body. With a half marathon PR of 2:18:20 set back in February, I trained to run a 2:15 race at the Flying Pig. Knowing that miles seven and eight were going to be tough ones (with a 300 foot ascent - not something we Floridians are used to), I knew I would have to get in front of my target average pace of 10:20. As such, my goal was to run the first six miles in an hour (10:00 pace) work my way up the hills at (hopefully) a 10:30 to 11:00 pace, pass the 2:15 pace group after the hills, and then stay steady to the Finish Swine...yes, at the Flying Pig, it's a Finish Swine!

And that's exactly how the race went. Here's the breakdown of what I saw as three sections of the half marathon race...

Miles 1 - 6 - Goal of 10 Minutes per Mile

  • Fastest Mile - 9:48 (Mile 4)
  • Slowest Mile - 10:09 (Mile 5)
  • Total Time - 59:50 (Right on Target)
Miles 7 & 8 - Goal to keep it under 11:00 on the ascent
  • Mile 7 - 10:43 (the steeper mile)
  • Mile 8 - 10:31 (still up...but not as tough as 7)
Miles 9 - 13.1 - Pass the 2:15 Group and Take it Home!
  • Fastest Mile - 9:41 (Mile 13)
  • Slowest Mile - 10:11 (Mile 10)
  • Passed the Pace Team between miles 9 and 10...and never saw them again!
Final Official Time - 2:13:05 (A five minute PR!)

Coupled with following the plan, the overall experience of the Flying Pig was a pretty awesome one. Now, I only partook in the race on Sunday because I wasn't staying downtown Cincinnati, but with pet races (yes, you read that correctly), kids races, a mile speed race, a 5K, and a 10K as lead ins to Sunday's half and full marathons, the atmosphere was certainly electric. The spectators were fantastic, and although I heard that this is not always the case, the weather was absolutely perfect...mid-to-high 50s at the start, low 60s when I was done. That said, I did talk to a few marathoners at the airport later in the day, and they told me that things warmed up pretty quickly when they were at their halfway point...but none of them complained about the race. Every runner seemed to have a great time. I was not the exception...

All Smiles Following a Fun Race!

If you're thinking about getting out of town for a race, I would recommend the Flying Pig without hesitation. I don't know whether I'll make it back next year, but I do have a good feeling that I'll get back there in the future...and I hope to run the marathon next time!

So now that the Flying Pig is behind me, I don't have a big race on the docket until I take on the Chicago Marathon in October. And to be honest, I'm even more excited for this one than I was for my first at Disney. My official marathon training schedule gets underway on June 9th, and like I did with my first, I'll keep you posted on the progress. 

Until then, enjoy your journey...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My First Out-of-State Race...Flying Solo at the Flying Pig

Tomorrow morning, I'll be running The Flying Pig Half Marathon here in Cincinnati, OH; and this race will be my third half marathon in six months (who'd a thunk it?). The event also will be the first one I'm running outside of Florida, as well as the first travel race without Michelle and Mary. As such, the overall experience has been a little bit different this time around...not bad. Just different.

This year, one of my goals is to run two full marathons (one down, one to go) and four half marathons (one down, three to go...hopefully two and two after tomorrow). As such, after running a local half in February, I was looking for a half in the Spring that would coincide with some business travel. Well, since I have clients in Dayton and Cincinnati, and since a number of friends have given rave reviews on The Flying Pig, I decided to come up for some client meetings and stick around for the race weekend.

And that's exactly what I've done. I came to town on Wednesday, met with a client in Dayton Thursday, met with two clients in Cincinnati Friday, and then made my way to the race expo late yesterday afternoon. While I've attended race expos by myself for local races in Northeast Florida, it was a little different attending an expo by myself in a town with which I am unfamiliar. Again, it wasn't bad. I enjoyed strolling through the expo, stopping at a few different booths, picking up my SWAG (which was plentiful), chatting with a couple of exhibitors and runners, and then making my way to the exit. Oh, and I did get to meet this guy, which certainly made me smile...

A Pig With Wings!
So today is the "rest before the race" day, and I still haven't decided what I'm going to's easier to figure out at a Disney race, where I would go to a park for a couple of hours, have a decent meal, and head back to the hotel to rest the legs. Oh, I know I could head back to the expo and check out the booths again, but going back downtown, parking, and then walking around doesn't seem too appealing. I could also go ride a few rollercoasters at King's Island, but since I don't have the annual passes that I have at Disney, I'd feel more obligated to stay there (and on my feet) longer, which wouldn't be good before the race. I'm staying about fifteen miles north of Cincinnati because it was more convenient for my business purposes; however, it makes heading back to today's race events more of a chore and less attractive.

At the end of my deliberation, I think I'm just going to find a movie theater, take in a show that I know Michelle and Mary wouldn't want to see, have a decent meal, and then head back for some rest. Early wake up tomorrow (race starts at 6:30am), so rest is key.

So blogging gives me answers...I just decided that I'm going to go take in a movie before coming back to pin this thing on my race shirt and get everything else ready for tomorrow morning.

I Don't Think Any Race Bandits Will Copy This One...Right?
There are still spots available!

So tomorrow at this time, my third half marathon will be in the books. And even though I am admittedly a bit nervous about the two-to-three mile steady incline from miles six to nine, I have trained for a PR and am hopeful to achieve it...I'll let you know next time whether I did so.

Until then, enjoy your journey...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Yes, I'm Still Running! I Just Haven't Been Blogging...

Okay, so it's been a couple of months since my marathon recap, the blog post that ended with me saying that the journey was just getting underway...and now it's been a couple of months since you heard from me.

Well, to clear up the question that I've gotten from a few people, I have not stopped running. I've merely stopped blogging about it. That little thing that we have to do called work has taken more time over these first few months of the year, and blogging in my spare time just hasn't been on the top of my list.

But I haven't stopped running races, nor have I missed a single training run. This is a lifestyle for me now, and I can't imagine not going out to hit that pavement four or five times a's too important to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.

So what have I missed telling you? Oh yeah, I've had the following two PRs in the last two months...

The Donna Half Marathon (February 23, 2014)

The Gate River Run 15K (March 15, 2014)

I had actually trained for 2:25 and 1:40, respectively, but I was feeling good in both races, so I was able to take things a little quicker.

Right now, I'm in the final phases of training for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati on May 4. I'm excited because this will be my first race outside of Florida. I'm very fortunate in that one of my better clients has offices in Cincinnati and Dayton, OH, so I am going up a few days before the race to meet with individuals in those offices before enjoying the festivities of the race weekend. I've been hoping to PR at the Flying Pig, but my last couple of training runs have shown me that I might not be up to the task this time around...I guess I'll know for certain in a couple of weeks.

Finally, I received some awesome news this week when I found out I was selected through the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon on October 12!!! I've already worked out my 18-week training plan (through the heat and humidity of the Florida Summer), and I'm excited to get underway with that training beginning on June 9th! This will be the first of what I hope will be many big city well as my first Marathon Major of the six in that group (Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, and Tokyo).

Anyway, it feels good to have a little time this weekend to get everyone back up to speed with my ongoing running journey; and I hope that all of you have continued to pound the pavement as well. I do have some other posts that have been bouncing around my head (goals for the year, dreams for the future, et al.), but let's get into some of those next time.

Until then, enjoy your journey...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 WDW Marathon Recap - The Beginning of a Journey

With three other recaps of the WDW Marathon Weekend (check them out here - Day 1, Day 2, Days 2.5 to 4), it's finally time for me to recap what is undoubtedly one of my life's defining moments...that day I ran 26.2 miles. On purpose. Without stopping.

Warning - This is a pretty long post, but I really didn't want to break it up. At the end of it all, a marathon is a long event, so I guess it would follow that the marathon recap would be long, too...right?

Race Prep

As mentioned in my last post, I woke up a handful of times before the multiple alarms and wake up calls sounded; but when the clock said 2:30, I was up and ready to roll. After the following...

  1. Get Dressed - Check
  2. Compression Sleeves - Check
  3. Shoes - Check
  4. Huma Energy Gels - Check
  5. Powerbar Energy Blasts - Check
  6. Visor - Check
  7. Sunglasses - Check
  8. Phone and Ear Buds - Check
  9. Garmin (Charged) - Check
  10. Skin Strong Slather and Band Aids applied to protect multiple areas - Check
  11. Trigger Point Therapy for lower legs and quads - Check
...I was out the door, where I met Mike and Roger, and the three of us were off to the bus stop by 3:15. Fortunately, it didn't take too long for the bus to arrive, and we were on our way to the Start. Although Mike and I chatted on the way, I have no idea at all what we talked about...keeping a thought in my head wasn't easy.

When we got to the staging area, we all noted that there was a bit of a different feel to the environment as we'd experienced at the half marathon staging the prior day. The runners seemed a bit more focused and serious, and although we arrived at roughly the same time, there were definitely more people here than there had been on Saturday. Now, I'm not an elitist runner by any stretch, but now that I've run a half and a full marathon, I will say that there is no doubt that I was more subdued (nervous, focused...scared) about the anticipation of the 26.2 miles that lay ahead.

After a couple of porta potty breaks, a picture with my PaceBook friends, and the following picture with Mike and Roger...

Two Experienced Marathoners...and a Goofball taking on 26.2 Miles  for the First Time! was time to split up and head to our corrals.

After what I believe was about a mile walk, I made it to Corral J, the 10th corral in the line up. I don't know exactly, but I think it was about 5:00am when I made my way into the corral, which means that we had a half hour before the wheelchair athletes and first corrals would be on their way. I wasn't necessarily feeling antisocial, but I certainly was alone with my thoughts (in the midst of 25,000 runners); as such, I just took in the whole scene, listened to the music, laughed at the corny jokes of the Disney DJs, watched some of the "Faces in the Crowd" interviews as they were unfolding on the huge screens...and the next thing I knew, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, the fireworks were sending the first corrals on their way, and we were slowly making our way to the Starting Line.

At just a little past 6:00, I made a guess that we in Corral J were going to be sent off at 6:10, so since I had a goal to finish in five hours, I sent Michelle a quick text letting her know that if all goes well, I should be finishing at around 11:10...don't scroll down, but when you get to the bottom, remember this prediction...I was amazed at how close I came to being correct!

At about 6:05a, Mickey Mouse was counting down "3-2-1" (yes, Mickey Mouse was about twenty feet away from me, and he was sending us off), and the fireworks took to the sky...Corral J was on its way, and my first marathon had begun! I started my Garmin as I crossed the Starting Line, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel an overwhelming sense of relief that the time had finally arrived!

Now, I know that first-time marathoners aren't supposed to have any goals but to finish...but I sort of ignored that rule. I did have a time goal of 5 hours, which comes out to just under 11:30 per mile, and I also had a goal to run the entire course and walk only through the drink / food stations. 

From a race strategy standpoint, I decided to break up the day into six four-mile runs, which would get me to that point where I knew the crowds would get me to the Finish Line. As such, I'm going to break up the recap into these six-plus segments...

Miles 1-4 - Finding the Pace, Planning the Race

As expected, the first four miles of the race, which take place along a stretch of highway from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom, were a little crowded - but actually better than I had anticipated - so it was my plan (1) to find that comfortable pace during this stretch and (2) to mentally plan out my hydration and food plans. For my long training runs, I had been "eating" gels or energy blasts every couple of miles, so I used this time to plan on when I would be "eating" my gels and energy blasts (knowing that Disney would have drink stations every 1.5 miles or so).

My Garmin stats for this first stretch were as follows:

Mile 1 - 11:57 Pace (definitely crowded for the first mile)
Mile 2 - 11:16 Pace (crowd opened up a bit, and I found a decent pace)
Mile 3 - 11:42 Pace (not really sure why we slowed down here...entrance plaza to Magic Kingdom?)
Mile 4 - 11:19 Pace (right where I wanted to be)

Miles 5-8 - Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, Polynesian
We ran by our first crowds of spectators (around mile 4) at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and as we headed to the Magic Kingdom, I was getting excited about the prospect of running down Main Street USA...well, it didn't disappoint. Roughly 5.5 miles into the marathon, I rounded the corner onto Main Street USA, listened to the cheering spectators, and had my eyes (which might have teared up a little bit) on Cinderella's Castle...besides the Finish, to me this was the highlight of the day.

After running through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, we had the chance to see Main Street USA from a different perspective as we ran through the castle...

Strange look on my face, but I was definitely enjoying myself!
After the castle, we took a right, ran through Frontierland, exited the park through a side entrance, and were now running by the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Hotels...and, once again, the number of spectators at these venues certainly didn't disappoint.

Garmin Stats...

Mile 5 - 11:23 Pace
Mile 6 - 11:30 Pace (little bit of a Magic Kingdom slowdown)
Mile 7 - 11:17 Pace
Mile 8 - 11:06 Pace (spectators must have pumped me up a little bit)

Miles 9-12 - Richard Petty Speedway, Compost Waste Facility, Backstage at Animal Kingdom

During the 9th mile, we made our way through a tight-and-steep tunnel (downhill and uphill) that brought us onto the Richard Petty Speedway, which was an interesting part of the race. I didn't love the tunnel aspect, but around the track were owners with their classic cars, sports cars, race cars...oh, and the characters from the movie "Cars" the lap around the track was certainly entertaining.

After leaving the speedway, we had a few miles of running to take us to Animal Kingdom, so I had a chance to evaluate how I was feeling...and to be honest, at this point, I was feeling great! I had a few friendly conversations with some other runners, got to sing "Sweet Caroline" (at least the "Oh Oh Oh!" and "So Good! So Good! So Good!" parts) as it was blasting through speakers along the course, and after running by the infamous Waste Facility (it wasn't too hot, so it didn't stink) and to the backstage part of Animal Kingdom, I couldn't believe that I was already through my third four-mile stretch...and close to half way through the marathon!

Garmin Stats...

Mile 9 - 11:28 Pace (the tunnel slowed us down a bit)
Mile 10 - 11:23 Pace
Mile 11 - 11:13 Pace
Mile 12 - 11:15 Pace

Miles 13-16 - Animal Kingdom, Fastest Mile, Highway

I would say this was my strongest four miles of the race. Mile 13 was pretty much entirely through Animal Kingdom, and I was undoubtedly feeling confident as we made our way through this park...

Feeling Great in Animal Kingdom!
After exiting the park, we crossed the halfway point, and I realized that I had beaten my time from the Wine & Dine Half Marathon a couple of months earlier, so I guess that put some spring in my step because miles 14 to 16, which were parking lot and highway miles, were three of my strongest and steadiest miles.

Mile 13 - 11:12 Pace (pretty quick through this park)
Mile 14 - 10:54 Pace (fastest mile of the marathon)
Mile 15 - 11:15 Pace
Mile 16 - 11:28 Pace

Miles 17-20 - Wide World of Sports...and Wide World of Sports

While I continued to run strong and steady as we made our way through Wide World of Sports, this was actually the stretch of the race that I liked the least. I know that runDisney was trying to break up the monotony of highway running by winding us through this complex, but I guess I'm one of those people who would have liked the monotony of some highway running instead of running on sidewalks around sports fields and a competition Track & Field track. That said, I did like running around the warning track of the baseball stadium where the Atlanta Braves compete during Spring Training. That was the highlight of these four miles.

Mile 17 - 11:16 Pace
Mile 18 - 11:08 Pace
Mile 19 - 11:20 Pace
Mile 20 - 11:26 Pace

So I had made it through the first five of my six four-mile runs, and although my body was feeling tired, I was still feeling fairly strong. Until...

Miles 21-24 - The Ramp, Hollywood Studios, The WALL

Leaving Wide World of Sports, I knew I had a 10K to go, and I also knew that I was going to make it. Yes, I was starting to become very aware that my body was beginning to struggle, but I reminded myself that I was still running and still on pace to finish in under five hours...and then it happened.

After going up the ramp with the Green Army Men (from Toy Story) yelling at me, and after making my way into Hollywood Studios, it happened...I found out what the Wall is.

I can't pinpoint it exactly, but I think I hit it right around the 22.5-mile mark. We went through the famous "Candy Stop" on the course, and although I opted against the Fun Size Hershey Bars, I did take a bag of gummy Monster's Inc. candy...and I remember clearly that as I was opening the bag, my legs were feeling very, very heavy...and I knew I had slowed down a bit. I also knew that the last few miles were going to be a tough few miles, so I ate a few pieces of candy, had a quick pep talk with my legs, tossed the bag in the trash, and continued to plug along.

Hollywood Studios - Looking Much Stronger than I was Feeling!

Mile 21 - 11:43
Mile 22 - 11:54
Mile 23 - 12:04 (this is where I remember really feeling the Wall)
Mile 24 - 12:12

Miles 25 & 26 - Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Clubs, EPCOT

Well, I had made it through all six of my four-mile runs, and now it was time to let the crowds take me to the Finish Line. With my legs feeling pretty much like two lead weights and the bottoms of my feet feeling every strike of the pavement, boy did those crowds get me through! While the Wall had slowed me down substantially, the sheer will to keep running and "finish this thing" (a phrase I kept repeating to myself) - coupled with the thousands of cheering spectators along the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Clubs, and EPCOT - like Forrest Gump, I just kept running...and nothing was going to stop me at this point...not even my legs of lead.

That Elvis/Rocky Balboa Look is telling me there is no way I'm stopping...No way!

Less than a mile to go...Just Finish This Thing!

Mile 25 - 12:22 Pace
Mile 26 - 12:18 Pace

The Last Half Mile & The Life Changing Moment

My Garmin distance for the race was actually 26.55 miles (because taking the shortest route possible is pretty much impossible), so this was the part of the race took place in the Future World part of EPCOT and out to the Imagine Parking Lot's Finish Line.

And boy did the crowds (and my last ounces of adrenaline) help! Although I knew at this point that I had missed my five-hour goal, I sped up to my mid-race pace of 11:18.

At the race's 26-mile mark (about 26.3 for me), I passed the full Gospel choir singing "How Great Thou Art" (and they weren't singing about me), and a few tears definitely welled fact, they're doing the same right now as I write this.

Turning the corner to the Finish Line, although there were thousands of spectators, I saw Michelle, who had strategically gotten herself to the front of the crowd. More tears...

Heading toward the Finish, I was greeted by Donald of course he had to get a high five...

Thanks for your support, Donald!
And then I could think of nothing else to do but this...

The Life Changing Moment!

And then I got one of these...

A Marathon Finisher!

And I got to share it with...

Now We're All Experienced Marathoners!

They Supported Me Through Every Step!

I think she's glad she has a marathon runner rather than an obese smoker for a dad!

Official Time...Came Close but Just Missed my Time Goal

When all was done, I missed one pre-race goal and made the other...and I absolutely and undoubtedly could care less! And even though I missed one goal by finishing in just over five hours (5:05:21, to be exact), and even though I made my other goal of running the entire race with the exception of the water / food stations, it turns out that this marathon was about finishing...and nothing else.

Oh, and the time I crossed the Finish Line? 11:11...just a minute later than my pre-race prediction to Michelle. Not bad for a first timer, huh?

Mickey Even Signed It!

Final Thoughts

While this is the end of one journey, it is but the first step (or many many steps) of the next one. As my sister Karen had put in an email to me after the race...

"What an amazing journey you've started!"

Started? Yes, started. This isn't the end, there is no need to rename this blog, and the full marathon I completed was not the end of anything. Yes, a fence post has been driven in the ground, and one can always come to this blog and find a complete "Couch to Marathon" story. But for me, there are so many more marathons to run, so many goals for which I am reaching. My sister was right. This is not the end. It's the beginning.

For now, though, let me just end this blog post by quoting myself. This is what I posted to Facebook a few hours after the race...

"Back on 11-11-11, I was a smoker who weighed over 275 pounds. Today, at 11:11, I crossed the finish line after running 26.2 miles in 5 hours and 5 minutes...100 pounds lighter and smoke free since 11-11-11. Life is amazing...I'm sore, tight, and tired (and hungry)...but crossing that finish line defines what it means to feel satisfied!"

Next week, I'm running my second Half Marathon here in North Florida. 

I'm shooting for a PR.

The journey continues...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Recap of the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend - Days 2.5 to 4 -- Parks, Family, Spectating, and Resting

Following the Family Fun Run 5K (which you can read about HERE), I'd be lying to say if my mind didn't shift into "I'm running a marathon on Sunday" mode. While there were certainly some activities on the calendar over the next couple of days, my mind stayed pretty focused on Sunday morning. In fact just about everything that took place over the next couple of days was preceded by me questioning myself (internally), "How is this going to impact my big run on Sunday?"

Thursday, January 9 (After the Family Fun Run 5K)

After finishing up the 5K with Michelle and Mary, we went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, had breakfast with Roger and Mary, and decided for an "easy" day (half day) at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. In fact, after hitting some of our favorite rides (Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest) and having an early afternoon lunch, Roger and I were ready to get off our feet and head back to the hotel. We did, however, find time to get yelled at by some DINOSAURs on the way out of the park...

Dinosaurs first...and then some Rest!

After getting back to the hotel for some rest, my sister Sandy and her family arrived, and to keep things simple, we had a pretty casual dinner that night at Port Orleans - Riverside.

Friday, January 10

With my sister Sandy and Roger's wife Mary running the half marathon Saturday, my brother-in-law Mike running the Goofy Challenge (half marathon Saturday, full marathon Sunday), and Roger running the full on Sunday, we started Friday with a post-breakfast trip back to the Expo because there were a lot of bibs and race shirts to pick up.

After the expo, we made our way to EPCOT for another "easy" partial day in the park, as well as our big pre-race(s) meal, a late afternoon lunch/dinner at Italy's Via Napoli in the World Showcase, which turned out to be a great idea (if I may say so myself). After taking on a few of EPCOT's "must do" rides (Spaceship Earth, Soarin', Test Track), we make our way to Italy and enjoyed our meal (I think we all had our own pizzas), and it was nice having some relaxation time before the whirlwind of the weekend's big races. I certainly recommend Via Napoli to anyone visiting Disney, but just be sure to make reservations in advance and be prepared to spend a little more on pizza than you are typically accustomed.

Following the meal, the half marathoners were getting a little antsy, so we decided to head back to the hotel for some R&R (2:30 wake up calls and alarms would come quickly). Before our exit, though, we had to get the one group picture...

Front - Mary, Roger, Mary
Back - Anna, Sandy, Aidan, Goofball, Michelle, Mike

After returning to the hotel, I decided that in order to get onto a sleep schedule that would help me the night before the marathon, I was going to get up Saturday morning to be a half marathon spectator (with Roger). As such, the competitors, Roger, and I decided to meet at 3:15 Saturday morning to catch the bus to the Starting by the time 8:00pm rolled around, we all went to bed.

Saturday, January 11

Knowing that the bus schedules and Start and Finish Line locations were the same for the half as the full, I have to admit that I was seeing most of the activity Saturday with an eye on Sunday's marathon. From catching the bus at around 3:30 to familiarizing myself with the pre-race starting areas, I kept saying to myself that "this is where I'll need to be at this time tomorrow morning."

After Sandy, Mike, and Mary made their way to the runners-only corrals, Roger and I decided to take the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom to catch them running through the Park. One guy on the monorail - who was going to watch for his wife at the Ticket and Transportation Center - insisted that we wouldn't be able to get into the park without a ticket, but I had done enough research to know that this wasn't the although I was unable to convince this gentleman (and I use that term very loosely), Roger and I continued on to the Magic Kingdom...and no tickets were required! How about that!

Roger and I found a spot on Main Street USA, struck up a few conversations with fellow spectators, and the next thing we knew, the wheelchair and elite athletes were rounding the corner toward Cinderella's Castle. After watching for a while, we did get a glimpse of Sandy and Mike as they made their way into the park. Mary started a few corrals behind them, though, so we headed back out to the Transportation and Ticket Center to catch Mary. Since things were a little bunched up, though, it was taking a little while, so Roger and I split up so that he could wait for Mary while I headed back to the Finish Line at EPCOT to see Sandy and Mike....and - amazingly - on the way back, I ran into Michelle, (my) Mary, Anna, and Aidan at the monorail station. As such, we all had the chance to see Sandy and Mike finish the race....and I had a chance to snap this picture after they did it!

They Did It! Sandy's First Half Marathon! Oh - And Nice Glasses, Mike!

Following the race, the people not running the marathon went over to Hollywood Studios for the afternoon, but Roger, Mike, and I all decided that resting up for Sunday's race would serve us we all retreated to our hotel rooms for the rest we were seeking. And from there, except for a brief casual dinner, I pretty much stayed off my feet the rest of the day.

Once Saturday afternoon rolled around, keeping any thought in my head was getting difficult. I was experiencing all types of emotions - from nervous anticipation to genuine excitement. After prepping my running clothes at around 8:00pm, calling for a 2:15am wake up call, setting the alarm on my phone for 2:15am, and setting the second alarm on my phone for 2:20am, checking the alarms multiple times, I was off to "attempted sleep" land. I think I did finally fall asleep around 10:00pm, but it's easy to estimate that I woke up a handful of times before the simultaneous wake up call and phone alarm a few hours later.

The time had finally arrived. No more waiting. The day of my first marathon was here.

But let me write about it in my next post.

Until then, enjoy your journey...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Recap of the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend: Day 2 -- The Family Fun Run 5K

Even though I had the best intentions to get of my Disney Marathon Weekend recaps done last weekend (I did get the first one done...check it out HERE), it seems as though another week has passed and now I have shifted my intentions to getting them done this weekend let's get back to it!

Thursday, January 9

After a pretty early-to-bed Wednesday night (the first of what would be a few over the weekend), it didn't seem to be too long before the alarm went off (at 3:30am) and Michelle, Mary, and I were being summoned to partake in the first running event of the WDW Marathon Weekend: The Family Fun Run 5K! Fortunately, we had laid out all of our running gear the night before - including pinning our bibs to our shirts - and it didn't take too long for us to get out the door. By 4:15, we were heading to the bus stop; and by 4:30, we were on our way to the Start Line at EPCOT.

Mary and I had run this race a year earlier (which I recapped in one of my first blog posts that you can check out HERE), but Michelle couldn't partake because she had sustained a stress fracture just below her knee. As such, she was about to take on not only her first runDisney event but actually her first 5K...ever! And while I had prepared her for the race itself (with our fairly regular family fun training runs), I didn't do as good a job preparing her for the pre-race waiting that comes with any race of decent size. Unlike a local 5K with a few hundred people, it takes a little while getting 10,000 people in place in their five corrals (we were in D) for a runDisney 5K over Marathon Weekend. And although the DJ was certainly pumping up the jam and we were having fun with some moving to the beat (I'm glad I don't have pictures of this), cooler temps and some intermittent drizzling rain made all of us eager to get on the pavement.

Getting Ready for The Start!
Before heading over to the corrals, though, we stopped to visit some of my Disney Pacebook Running Club friends for the pre-race group picture, which Michelle actually took. It's fun to catch up with this group of supportive and fun people who run in many of the runDisney events both in Florida and California. It's like a mini reunion before the races!

The Disney PaceBook Running Club!

After a cup of coffee (well, Mary had hot chocolate), a banana, and one last trip to the porta potty, we made our way to Corral D to get things underway...and the next thing we knew, it was 6:30, the National Anthem was sung, and the first corrals were heading out. I think there were about five minutes between corral starts, so we were underway at around 6:50-ish.

We went into the run with the decision to just run/walk "as we felt necessary," which was pretty much how we had been training. Knowing that the character lines would be long, we decided in advance to forego the character pictures, and we were all okay with that. As a side note, the Dopey line was by far the longest (I heard some waited a half hour for the Dopey picture), but this due to the fact that those undertaking the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon on four consecutive days) were lining up for the coveted picture with the Challenge's "mascot."

The first mile of the 3.1 is the most uneventful, as it winds around the EPCOT parking lot, as well as the behind-the-scenes not-so-magical areas; but because of the excitement of the race, it didn't seem very long before we were running into the EPCOT World Showcase next to Mexico. As we made our way around the World Showcase (clockwise from Mexico to Canada), we did stop for a restroom break in Germany (maybe that coffee wasn't the greatest idea), but other than that, we took our steady approach to moving toward the Finish Line. After running by the Future World fountains and under Spaceship Earth, though, we did stop for a quick family picture...

Just about a quarter mile left at this point!
After starting back up, the next thing we knew, we were doing this...

We Did It!
So at the end of it all, we made our way through the 3.1 miles in just over 45 minutes...and had some good family fun doing so! And at the end of the day, that's what it was all about!

I will say, though, that after crossing that Finish Line, even though we had some family fun in different parts of Disney World over the next couple of days, my mindset and focus really shifted to Marathon Sunday. Yes, I had more family coming in that night, and some members of our party were taking on the Half Marathon on Saturday...but regardless of all that, it was tough to focus my mind on anything but Sunday morning...but let me go into that in my next post.

Until then, enjoy your journey...