Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The 2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

After arriving in Florida and being picked up by my brother, we drove to ESPN's Wide World of Sports to get our race packs. All the while I kept reading Team Run Disney's  Facebook feed about the 10K that morning, and how wet it was. Not that I needed confirmation. I had to hide the waivers under my shirt just to avoid getting them drenched on the way from the car to the Expo. I was a little worried but not too much about rain the next day. Florida weather can be so unpredictable. I was half expecting Saturday to be 90 degrees and sunny.
Flat Frank #1
Well, Saturday was not 90 degrees and it wasn't even close to being sunny. As we walked out of our hotel at 3:30 am to head for the race, we were met with the most fog I have ever seen in Florida. And it would stay that way the entire day. Not even a little bit of Sun. The temperature was iffy. It sure was not warm but I wouldn't call it cold either. This, was not good for me and what I was trying to do.

Even as I sat in the corral, my mind kept wondering towards the fact that I had not trained enough for the Goofy Challenge. I knew I could finish the Half no problem but in what condition? Was I gonna be able to go the full distance the very next day? We were sure gonna find out.
So few people showed up for this one...
As if I was not worried enough, my brother was having his own set of issues. When we woke up, the first thing he told me was "I just threw up." I thought it was just nerves but then he went to the bathroom for #2 again before we left, then again at the gas station we were getting coffee in, then twice in the port-a-potties at the race. Clearly there was something wrong. We didn't know what. First culprit of course is something he ate but we had the exact same thing for both lunch and dinner the day before and I was fine. This mystery might never be solved but the fact remained: he was not well.
It's go time!
 And just like that, our corral was called and it was time to head off. Donald Duck gave the countdown and off we went. Not three minutes went by when my brother told me he had to go again. Mercifully, there were port-a potties not too far away and we stopped. They were crowded but he managed to get in. We started up again. He was having trouble keeping up and told me that as soon we started a run interval he would get the urge to go. This was not good. First mile: 17:06. There was no way we were gonna survive at that pace. Not that early in the race. With every running interval, he kept falling further back. Then he gave me the signal to go ahead and leave him. I was torn. Our plan was to run this together as slowly as we could so he could finish his first Half and I could survive to run another day but this pace was dangerous and he knew what was at stake for me so he told me to go on.

I kept tabs on him through my phone as I had signed up for runner tracking for both of us. His official pace remained in the 19's and then after the 10K update I heard no more. He got picked up at mile 8.

Meanwhile, I was having my own set of issues. A bit of panic had set in regarding my pace and I got a little overeager to try and make up the time. I went as high as the 14s and I felt I was all over the place. Crowding was an issue and I zig-zagged a lot from one side of the course to the other. This would have been fine if it was just the Half but I had a whole other race to run the so this was not the most efficient use of my energy. And then there was the fog... It was so foggy! Everything seemed to be hiding in a haze of gray, giving the whole place an eerie feel. Seemed like a great day to take some moody pictures. 

Can you see Space Mountain?!

...or the Castle?
Then we got to the Magic Kingdom...

A runner kindly took this for me.
Might as well been called the Slow-way while I was passing through.
And everything was fine! This will never get old folks. You turn right on Main Street USA and suddenly you forget everything and a huge grin shows up across your face. It truly is magical, even with all the fog. You go through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and then you reach Cinderella's Castle which was lit up but you could hardly tell in the fog. Anna and Elsa were waiting for us there. Here, Disney was giving runners the choice to go through the tunnel and take pictures or run through the side of the castle for those who could or would not wait for the queue formed up in the tunnel. I decided to wait it out and took my pic in front of the Castle. A luxury I have never dared to take. I also took a bathroom break in Fontierland. Thinking back now, it sure was gutsy of me to take my time like that during my run through the Magic Kingdom but I guess I just felt I had made up enough time back or something.
My daughters are so jealous!
As I exited the park, on a downhill ramp right after seeing the the train, I tweaked my knee. I seem to have trouble while going downhill the most with the knee and it took me a while before I felt it was OK again. It was at this point you reach the 10K mark and a hydration station right before leaving the service entrance to the Magic Kingdom. There I had a gel and met Mary, a fellow Team run Disney member who was volunteering during the Half. It would not be the last time I would see her thankfully.
Thanks Mary!
Then came the time to head back down towards Epcot. This part was uneventful and while there was plenty of stuff (dj's, characters etc.) I was back to focusing on the matter at hand. After spending a while on this section, I realized I had stopped getting updates from Ernest so I texted him and found out he got picked up. His day was over. I was feeling pretty good and the knee was behaving even with the little mishap at mile 5. So, right before mile 11 I did the math and saw that I could take it easy. I walked almost the entire rest of the way.
Best sign on the course
That's not to say it wasn't a hard decision. Both the runner and the competitive person in me went into a bit of a fit at this point. If I were to keep going hard, I would have posted a somewhat decent time, and by that I mean less than 3 and a half hours. Way less than that maybe. By walking, I was "dooming" myself to finishing with my worst time ever in a Half Marathon and officially over the time limit. So, while this would seem like a no brainer to most people, I was having some issues. Thankfully, cooler, more logical heads prevailed and I kept walking from there to Epcot.
Fog... fog everywhere!

So hard to photograph such a huge thing...
Once in Epcot however, the fast-approaching finish line got me going and I ran the "victory lap" around the square in Future World and through the finish line. Official time: 3:40:58. My worst ever.
We live to run another day... hopefully.
I wasn't really upset with the time, even though it is the worst by a lot. Taking it easy and saving myself for the next day was my main objective. My problem with the race was how inconsistent I ran. Sometimes I was slow, sometimes too fast. If I would have kept a more consistent pace, it surely would have been more efficient and maybe I wouldn't have had to walk in the end. Of course, all this frustration was mainly due to the fact that I still had a marathon to run. The very next day I might add.

So, I got my medal and walked to the parking lot where my brother was waiting for me. I apologized for leaving him behind but he was actually pretty unscathed by the whole thing. I think he was just happy that his stomach was feeling better. So we had lunch a Panera Bread which, I had never tried before and then to the hotel to get ready for the next day. This folks, was not over. Not even close.


  1. Congrats on your first leg of goofy. Going slowly to save your legs is definitely wise during a challenge. I'm sorry about your brother, though. That's rough!!

    I'll definitely tune in for your marathon recap!

    1. It's amazing how such a logical decision becomes an issue when you have "runner's brain". That's what I'm calling it.

  2. I'm sorry that your brother didn't end up feeling well during the half :( But I'm glad cooler heads prevailed and you took it easy for the last part of the race! I've definitely had similar conversations in my head where I have to remind myself of larger goals or slower paces.

    1. "Runner's Brain". I'm gonna copyright it. LOL

  3. Oh this recap made me nervous as I was reading it. So sorry your brother didn't make it through his first half. Hopefully the two of you will plan another half to run together to get him to the finish line.
    My worst half marathon time was also while I was doing the Goofy Challenge. I was bummed at first but had to take into consideration that I was hurt AND I had a marathon the next day!

    Glad you made it through and I look forward to hearing about the next race!

    1. Star Wars! My best bet to convince him of doing another one is Star Wars: The Dark Side. We will see...

  4. So sorry about your brother! The fog was unreal. I could barely see the castle when we turned onto main street in the dark!

    1. Even later during daybreak, you couldn't see it. Heck you couldn't see Space Mountain coming into the park!

  5. Yay Frank!!!! What a great recap!!!! So glad your knee turned out ok! But so sorry about your brother! And don't worry about it being your worst time. It's Disney! My worst half marathon time is from one of the Princess Half Marathons that I ran. But I had a blast and that's what counts! Now about the castle...do you mean they were letting runners choose to NOT run through the castle and just go around the side of it??? That's a change if so. I would have done exactly what you did. I'm running through that castle!!!!

    1. Yeah, when you got to the spot where I took that picture of Anna and Elsa, the course split in two. You could go through the tunnel (which was totally congested. As in no movement) or through the side of the Castle. Either way, you would end up in the same spot but through the tunnel there were photographers and everyone was stopping for that. I'll talk about the differences when I post the Marathon recap.

  6. You did it! And mostly unscathed, which would be more than enough to get me ready for the next day. I think when you're doing a challenge, it's more about finishing than about the clock. Can't wait for the big finish!

    1. Unscathed... you know, I'm not sure about that. lol For some reason I collected an unusual number of bruises during this Challenge. But hey, I survived.

  7. Congratulations! The Goofy Challenge is all about endurance, and trust me, I've learned the hard way that if I push too hard in the half that the marathon will NOT. BE. FUN. Looking forward to your marathon recap! :)

  8. After that we had both had enough heat and sun to last a lifetime, so we grabbed Arnold Palmers {half sweet tea, Disney World Tips