Friday, September 2, 2011

Now I know what a salmon feels like

Way back in January when I convinced my friend Scott tondo antriathlon, the one that inwas aiming for was lake Norman YMCA. I'd seen the signs around the last 2 years and had been too late to sign up. Little did I know that tri fever would strike and this would wind up being the third triathlon of the summer.

The good parts for me about this tri were the following:
1) local race-so I'd get to go on roads I was familiar with in the town of Davidson, which I love
2) people I know - in addition to Scott, my own personal Yoda, Tony Read would be there, as well as fellow dart-er (and blue ridge relay teammate) Chris Brown (yes Mark Ippolito you can insert your Rihanna joke here).
3). Family - since the race is right around the corner Johane and Julia would be able to come by without having to get up at the crack of dawn.

Scott stayed over the night before and we were up at 4:45 and out the door by 5:30. In my Apparently misguided) mind I figurednwencould park at the y since we'd be there early. No way. Totally packed by the time we showed up. Luckily we parked on a side street right around the corner and packed up our 2 tons of stuff and made our way to the transition area.

After setting up our gear we headed for the lake to check out the swim. On the way down we passed the medical tent and I saw dr Duffy from Greenapple sports & wellness and got to chat a little bit. The water was actually colder than I expected which was good nits been so hot recently, I was figuring very hot water, but thankfully that wasn't the case.

After checking out the water, I still had plenty of time and plenty of nerves. So after checking on my gear again, I made my way to look for Tony. I knew what number he was and found hisbike, but no Tony.

At that point the race was about to start and I was full of nerves. Part of the problem is that the swim portion makes Scott nervous. So his panic attacks make me nervous too.

Luckily, he hit the water 3 waves ahead of me and I ran into to Tony. Tony is probably one of the most upbeat people I know. He's always able to lighten the mood. Plus he's been a great help to me training wise, even having me over to his house to swim in the lake for practice.

After Tony reminding me that at the last tri I wasn't even in the water when the race started, I headed into the water and made my way towardsnthe front of the pack. After waiting anxiously for a few seconds the horn sounded and we were off. I was almost immediately kicked in the chest and then shortly thereafter in the left shoulder. About a minute later I got kicked in the hand. At that point I decided to back off a little since I could ill afford a broken hand. I tried to swim away a little from everyone else. That worked for a little while when cardinal rule # 1 was broken. I felt a hand on my ankle and was suddenly yanked backwards as some guy (cheater) tried to use me to launch himself ahead. Unfortunately, this wasnt the only cardinal rule of racing that was broken that day. At that point I started to pick up the pace and started passing people. It worked pretty well for a while, until the end when it was a bit crowded getting out of the water.

After the beating I took in the water, I was already a little tired, but I headed for my bike. The bike route took us up into davidson, and out on davidson-concord road. The route took us past Dave Mungers house. I had given Dave a conservative estimate of what time I'd be passing by. When I looked down at my time I was a good 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Not bad. Hading out on the road I was averaging a nice 20 miles an hour. Unfortunately, once we made the left onto shearer road that was all over. Shearer has some rolling hills and it was the day of hurrican Irene. While there was no rain, there were still some winds and they were dead on into my face heading up shearer. That definitely slowed things up. Once we turned onto faith road I was glad not to have the wind in my face. Faith road was much more uphill and I struggled a bit up the pretty large hill. But after the hill it was back on 115, which I knew was a nice downhill back into davidson. I started picking it up at this point. I was rocking down 115, slowing down to look to see if Chad Randolph was out around his neighborhood. Then into davidson and back to the y. A quick transition and then the run. The run after the rest of the tri had been tough this year, so I told myself I'd do Galloway. I hit my first section and was doing my brief walk when Tony pulled up. He gave me his traditional "what a burger" chant, told me to keep it up, and moved on. The ru. Wnt better than I expected. My pace while running was faster than I thought it would be, so i was happy. The run was pretty uneventful, except when running through the neighborhood, when I looked over and saw a guy I work with. After shouting out a greeting and him shouting out a "looking good" it was onto the finish. Where cardinal rule # 2 was broken. I got to the finish and crossed the chip mat. After the chip mat there's about a dozen feet until they write down your number for finishing order. But the race is over at that point and etiquette says you stay in the order you finished in. However, some guy decided to elbow past me and give in his number first. I was steaming. But there was nothing to be done for it.

I met up with Scott, Tony, Johane, and Julia and sat around talking. Tony made me realize that for a 5k I shouldn't have gone Galloway and should've just gone for it. And he was right. Thats my only regret. Aside from that, it was a fun time.

After we all showered and changed we all headed for what a burger, which is becoming a post-tri tradition. Yes, they have fish, so I was ok. Overall, a fun race, and one that's furthered the tri-fever I've been having. Maybe 2 more coming up this year!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gold Rush Triathlon - 6/18/2011

“It’s been a long time since I rock n’ rolled” – Led Zeppelin

There was a time in my past that I did 2 triathlon’s a year.  From the late 90’s to early 2000’s I did a tri in upstate NY in May (a lake swim in freezing water) and in August I trecked to Greenwich, Connecticut to do a tri that featured a Ocean swim (the first year that Jo and I were dating it was in the midst of a storm featuring 4-6 foot swells, and people were bailing left and right.  I thought about it but didn’t want to look wimpy in front of the woman I was dating for 3 weeks).  But by the early 2000’s it just became too much effort.  With all that was going on in our lives at that point (very young daughter, new house, a job that took tons of hours a week), it became too much to train (in fact between 2000 and 2007 I even stopped marathon training).  Also, Tri’s seem to start at crazy early hours (6am) and it just became too much to wake up my family at 2am, pack up all the things I needed in a car, and making the drive upstate or to Connecticut. 

When we move to NC, I saw that there was a tri at the Y near me in Davidson.  The first year, I wasn’t ready, and the second year I didn’t realize how fast it would fill up and I was out.  Well, this year, I did some planning, and decided to sign up.  I was talking to a friend of mine at work, and convinced him to join me, even though he lives down in south Charlotte.  He apparently got the bug, and found out there was the Gold Rush Triathalon, which literally ran right by his house.  Since I was making him come all the way up to my place for the August tri, I felt like I should head down his way for this one.

My training was ok at best.  I’m coming off a IT band issue that I suffered at Disney in January, and every run has been an adventure.  During the 2 months I couldn’t run, I was hitting the pool a bit harder than usual, and was making some nice progress.  My biking picked up as well, and luckily a friend of mine that actually lives near me, had picked up biking recently, so that’s picked up as well.  I’ve been able to start going back out with the Davidson area running team again, though I was still slow and struggling a bit.  Honestly, I was running better until I got sick about 3 weeks ago, and since then every run has been a struggle.  My 5K time has slipped 2 full minutes, so I was a bit worried about that portion.  I had done 1 day with a 45 minute ride on my bike trainer at home followed by 15 minutes on the treadmill and that’s about all I had done to train.  So I was a bit nervous to see how it was going to shake out.

Transition Area

The day of the race came and I woke up at 4am, already tired.  Got my stuff together and headed out in the car for the hour drive to South Charlotte.  I tend to prefer to arrive early to get set up so I was there by 5:30 for a 7 AM start.  A bit early.  Since I had some time I got to go inside and check out the pool.  Every other tri I’ve ever done has been in a lake or an ocean, so this would be my first pool tri.  The pool was 50 meters long and has 10 lanes.  The idea is that you would swim down the first lane, then go under the rope and come back in lane #2, continuing until the end of the pool. 

How to do a triathlon swim in a pool

The pools I usually swim in at 25 meters, so when I got to the pool and looked in it looked really long.  

That's a long pool
And that’s when the first stirrings of nervousness really set in.  Luckily, I occupied myself by getting my packet, setting up my bike, getting my arms and legs marked, and attacheing my chip to my leg.  And then Scott showed up so I at least had someone to talk to until the start.

Panicked on the inside

Scott getting ready to crush me
I may not be ready but at least my bike was
Since it was a pool start, they couldn’t let everyone start at the same time like I was used to.  To solve this problem, they took everyone’s estimated 100 meter time, and put us in order to start.  Scott was 89 and I was 90.  At first it  seemed like it was taking forever to get into the pool.  Once we got to 80 though, it flew along.  Next thing I knew Scott was jumping in.  He took off, and I had just jumped in and was fumbling with my goggles and then I heard “5-4-3-2-1”.  Crap.  I shoved my goggles and nose plug on and took off.  Which went well for about the first length.  Then I noticed that I was having a hard time breathing.  Then I realized this was because my nose plug wasn’t on right and I was slowly drowning as the water rushed in my nose.  I took a second to fix it, and then was heading back down.  On the second lap I caught up to scott.  I thought about passing him, but we were getting to the end of the lap, and he was kicking hard.  After almost getting kicked in the face, I backed off a little until the length finished.  At the kick off the wall, I went under him and passed him from below.  After Scott, I passed 5 other people and was cruising until lap 8.  At that point I guess a bunch of people got tired and decided the end of the pool would be a great place to hang out.  So there was a traffic jam.  I had to wind my way around these 6 people and lost a couple of seconds there.  Then on the last lap, there was a, how shall I put it, “large” woman in the middle of the lane, so I couldn’t get by.  Finally I squeezed by her, though I’m sure I hit her are least once.  Not intentional! Really!

So out of the pool, with my only feel good moment of the day.  I passed Scott.

Out to the transition, and as usual my first transition was terrible!  I can never seem to master the pool to bike transition.  It felt like it took forever to dry off and get dressed.  My personal problem is always getting my feet dry and getting socks on.  Today was no exception.  After a painful 2:36 transition it was off on the bike, which began immediately uphill.  The bike course was 2 6.5 loops.  As the course went by Scott’s house he had been practicing for 2 months.  I, on the other hand was seeing the course for the first time.  And as usual, I tend to be conservative and not push too hard to try to save something for later.  So of course, that was the last I saw of Scott as he took off.  The course could charitably be called “scenic”, but I’d go with “hilly”.  I never felt like I could really get a good downhill burst going without a uphill coming shortly after.  The one highlight was passing Scott’s house where his wife and son were there to cheer us on, even with a nice sign his son had drawn.  

The sign that Scott's son made for us

After the first loop, I had a little better idea of what to expect the second loop (Look out! There’s a huge hill on Providence road!), so the second lap was slightly faster than the first.  As I was pulling in, I saw Scott a couple of minutes into the run.  I was a bit behind him.  Anyways, the second transition was much quicker.  Off with the bike shoes, on with the running shoes.  And out.

And……what the @*&!&@?   The run starts UPHILL!  For a half mile.  Oh boy.  A quarter mile into the run, I was thinking that maybe I’d be ok walking the whole way.  At 4/10 of a mile I convinced myself that Galloway was the way to go.  And for the most part, I did get it going.  .4 run followed by .1 walk.  Rinse and repeat.  Of course in the middle of a couple of those .4 were some brutal hills, and I admit that I did a little sneak walking in there.  But I was going.  It was definitely not my fastest 5K ever.  But I wrapped it up.  I even got a sprint going the last quarter mile to pass a women who had cut the course and moved ahead of me.  Scott had beaten me by 10 minutes.

The finish line

Overall, it was a tough, hilly course, but I finished quite a bit under the time limit.  I need to train more going forward, especially trying to do more biking/running outdoors to work on the feeling my legs get after biking.  Hopefully I can get it all together before August.  I know Scott is hiring a trainer so that will be tough. 

My goal for 2012 is a half ironman, so I obviously have a lot of work to do.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

5K weekend

Since I hurt myself at Disney I haven’t been able to run 2 days in a row.  Trying to take it easy and give myself time to recover in between runs.  But last weekend there were 2 back to back races for 2 good causes.  And since they were only 5K’s I figured I’d give it a shot.  Plus, there’s also the fact that 1)  I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been pushing hard enough in my runs the last few months, like I haven’t really wanted to move into the pain of pushing.  Plus 2)  I just wanted to see how my knee was going to be.  So I signed up for both the Ourboys 5K (for Batten’s Disease) and the Falafel 5K (for Jewish Family Services-got to support my boys)

Our Boys 5K
In the list of horrible, brutal diseases, Battens’ Disease has to rank pretty high up there.  The disease affects children, not when they are born, but at some point a few years down the road.  The disease leads to blindness, dementia, a variety of other problems and is generally fatal.  I can honestly say that before about 2 weeks ago I had never even heard of it.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten quite an education.  Fellow DART-er Jeff McGonnell was serving as race director for the race, and word spread through the DART blog page ( about this great cause, so I decided to head out there.  Luckily, Julia had a sleepover the night before, so both Jo and I got to go.  

Jo ready to go
Race Director Jeff McGonnell ready

Tim Richter ready to run, and Dave Munger ready to keep me from dying of hydration at mile 2

Chad Randolph ready to rock

We stopped by Chad Randolph’s house to pick him up and then headed out to Concord.  The race took place at a school in the middle of a residential area, with the actual course starting and ending at the school and winding it’s way through the residential area.  At the start we met up with DART-ers Tim Richter who was also running, and Dave Munger and David Moore who were volunteering.  Nice turn out for DART.   As I said, I felt that I hadn’t been pushing hard enough recently, so I decided to go a bit harder.  After a nice and emotional sendoff from Chris Hawkins, whos’ sons both have Batten’s disease, we were off.  The only flaw in my strategy of going fast, was that I forgot that I’d be running with Jo, so we did wind up talking (at least I did, no surprise there) quite a bit, so I was a bit winded.  I’ve also noticed recently that with both running and biking it definitely takes a little bit of time for me to warm up.  I probably should’ve spent a little more time doing that, but you do what you can.  After the first mile, there was water, but I decided it was too early and I skipped it.  We made it through the first mile in 9:06, which isn’t necessarily fast, but considering how little I had been able to do since the marathon, it was great.  The second mile was a little slower at 9:23, as it felt a little hillier and I started getting thirst.  I kept looking at my garmin to see how soon the 2 mile mark was and hoping there would be water, since I was really thirsty.  We got to the 2 mile mark and thankfully Dave was there with water.  It felt awesome.  With that, we headed back towards the school, and it seemed a bit more downhill, and did the third mile in 8:58, my first sub 9:00 mile of 2011.  We put on a little kick at the end and ended in 27:58.  While Jo seemed to be barely making any effort (probably a heck of a lot easier than the marathon she had just done the week before), I was a bit tired.  But it was good.  Got to cool off, and then see Tim get his 3rd overall and Chad get his 9th overall.   A fun time.

Time and pace for ourboys 5k

Tim, Chad, and Jeff comparing notes

To keep awareness up and to raise money Jeff will be doing the “24 hours of loopy” in Davidson from Saturday June, 4th at 11 and ending 24 hours later.  Jeff will be running around the green in Davidson for 24 hours.  Please come out and support him in any way you can.  The website for this event is   A great cause, and Jeff could certainly use some support during the long night hours.

Falafel 5K
Once I heard that there was also a 5K on Sunday at our temple, I started to think about doubling up.  After feeling pretty good Saturday, I decided to get up early and head down to Charlotte.  Even though it was mothers day, Julia had a dance competition out in Concord, so she and Jo had to be up and out early anyways.  I figured that a Sunday race in Charlotte on Mothers day might not have a lot of turnout, and I thought I should go support my people, plus it was for Jewish Family Services, another good cause.  After getting there early, as usual, I signed up and got my shirt and number. 

Packet pick up

The shirt was interesting as it had more info than I’ve ever seen on a race shirt before, including the start time and address.  

DART shirt ready

The race would start from behind Temple Israel, head out on Providence and then wind it’s way through some of the developments behind the community, before coming back into shalom park and ending in front of the peace/butterfly statue.  Again, I wanted to try and go a bit harder today.  The race started off immediately heading up a hill, so I was winded from the start.  But right after that it was a nice long downhill.  I tried to go with the “falling downhill” method of running, and saving up some energy.  My overall goal was to try and come in around the same time as Saturday, if not a little faster.  The courses were definitely different. While ourboys had hills that weren’t that steep, but were long stretches of uphill, the falafel had more sharp ups and downs.  I made it through the first mile in 9:01 which wasn’t bad.  Though to avoid my dehydration like Saturday, I decided to drink at the 1 mile mark.  The only problem was there was no water to be had!  Once I got to the 1.5 mile mark, there was finally water.  There was only one water stop on the course, and it was right after a bit of an uphill.  I made it through the second mile in 8:58, which made me feel like I could beat the day before’s time.  The third mile had a pretty big downhill on Providence, but then a pretty big uphill back into Shalom park.  I felt winded even on the downhill.  So the uphill was even tougher.  I was moving along, but had to take a 5 second breather to start breathing again before turning into the temple.  This is where my only complaint about the course happened.  In addition to the 5K there was a fun run which started after the 5K.  They sent both run’s out in opposite directions, but both came back in the same way as well.  So the last .4 mile both groups were on the same course.  So coming back in I had to weave to avoid a bunch of young kids.  A bit tough.  At that point I was moving, but really running out of gas.  Somewhere between the 3 mile mark and the finish at 3.1, a woman came flying by me.  Normally, I’d try to chase her down, but this time I had nothing.  I could only watch her go by.  I did the third mile in 8:40, and wound up crossing the line in 27:19 a 30 second improvement over the previous day.  

No caption needed

Peace sculpture near the finish line

Falafel 5K pace/elevation

While I wished I was faster, I was pretty happy with that result.

I hung around for a few minutes to see other people finish and cheer them on.  They even did indeed have Falafel, but I (barely) avoided it, since I know how fattening it is.  

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my weekend of running.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rock and Roll, er, Country Music

I know I haven’t written since Disney, and I was going to talk about where I’ve been and what’s coming up (Savannah Marathon, Disney Goofy Challenge), but Jo just did a marathon this weekend so I figured a write up is a good way to jump back into it.

After Disney Johane and I were going to do a marathon together for our anniversary. Of course I messed up my IT band, so things didn't look good. Myrtle Beach came and went. So did shamrock. So finally Jo decided to sign up for the country music marathon.  

Yes, Tennessee is definitely the South

I spent a lot of time going back and forth on whether or not I was going to do the 1/2.  I debated even up until the expo. I knew I really wasn't ready and I might've messed up my knee, and I've got 2 other marathons to do this year, including the goofy challenge, which will be crazy, but just being there at the expo was driving me crazy. Plus the medals were awesome. The $145 price tag for the 1/2 pretty much killed it for me. That's crazy. So we went back to our original plan, I'd try to jump in with Jo at mile 20 and do the last 6 with her.

We hit the expo on Friday and it was pretty large as far as expo’s go.  We took the opportunity to sign up for the Savannah marathon, even though I’ve got some misgivings about the course. 

Jo at the expo

Nissan brought the new Leaf with them - I want one

Someone pee'd on the seat in the fitting room!

After the expo we headed back to our hotel to check in and get Johane some dinner.  Since it was the night before a marathon she wanted pasta.  No problem, I typed “Italian” into the GPS, found a rainforest cafĂ© and a Macaroni grill and we were off.  We drove a couple of miles away to the Opry Mills Mall, the mall that was built on the site where Opryland used to be.  The first sign of trouble was as we pulled around the corner and saw no cars in the parking lot, zero, nada, nil, none.  Hmmmm.  Then we saw the fence.  What the?  I’ve never seen an entire mall closed with a fence around it before.  I found out later that the river next to the mall had overflowed during the Tennessee floods in May 2010, and the entire place was shut down.  But we were stuck.  Luckily, we went back to the hotel, and they were able to direct us to a couple of nearby places.  The only place without a huge line was a mediocre Friday’s (are any of them NOT mediocre?), and we were good.  Back to the room to attempt to sleep.

We woke up at 4 the next morning so that I could drive Jo to the bus at a nearby hotel.  A lot of the roads were closed so I didn’t think I’d be able to get her to the start, plus the round trip bus ticket had we covered in case we didn’t meet at the end, since it was supposed to be a really crowded marathon.  (more on that soon)

Marathon starting line, conveniently located next to a funeral home

After dropping her off, I of course couldn’t get back to sleep, so I sat at the hotel, read, showered, and put my running gear on.  I had been told that the parking lot at LP stadium where the Titans play would be full, and I’d have to wind my way around certain highways to get to downtown, and then walk back to the finish line, and then find my way to the 20 mile mark.  I figured that whole operation would take a while so I wanted to head in early.  Also, it was about 45 degrees at this point with expected cloudy skies and temps not about 62 until the afternoon.  Perfect running weather.

I used the instructions that they gave us to head downtown, and wound up getting off the highway at…the stadium.  I figured I’d give it a shot and was told the lot was full.  I begged the guardwoman to let me at least go in and look and she gave me the go ahead.  I found a spot 10 feet from the entrance.  

Finish line at LP stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans "A team in disarray"

Organizing the finisher medals
At 7Am and 52 degrees I was wondering what all the towels at the finish line were for.  At 9AM and 78 degrees, I stopped wondering.

Sweet, though at this point I was hours early.  So I wandered over to the finish line for a while, checked out the medals, was there in time to see the ½ marathon finisher come across the line, and then go back to the car and hang out and read for a bit.  Around this point, I started getting hot and noticed the temp at 9 was higher than they said it would be all day.  Not a good sign.  I was getting texts with Jo’s times across the 5K, 10K, 10 mile and half marathon mark, and she was on target to be around a BQ time of 4 hours.  Her average time was decreasing at every checkpoint.  Once she hit the halfway point, I started off for the 20 mile mark.  I had a map to guide me and got to where I thought the road was, but then got confused.  There was no one there, and I mean no one.  Granted the road seemed to be in what I’ll nicely describe as “not the nicest” area, but still, where was everyone.  Then I saw a runner go by.  I stopped someone (a spectator, not a runner) and asked if this was the right place and where the 20 mile mark was.  I was told just up the road a bit.  So I headed for the 20 mile mark and stopped right there.  At the 20 mile mark there was one other family waiting.  And that was all there was.  
The standing-room-only crowd at the 20 mile mark

3 minutes before a guy passed out in from of me

Considering how large the field was, I was shocked at how small the crowd was.  I wound up talking to a cop who told me you can never tell.  Some years the road is 10 deep with spectators, some years it’s empty.  We got to talking, and he was telling me how the Nashville course is a lot harder than people think.  He told me the hills are worse and as we could both tell it was pretty hot.  Almost as soon as he said that we watched a guy stumble across the 20 mile mark and go to his knees.  I confess, that I thought maybe he was tired and taking a break.  Until he tried to stand up.  His legs went in opposite directions like he had no control, and his eyes rolled back in his head, and he started to go down.  Hard.  Luckily the dad from the family next to me was already on his feet, and he made it there just barely to prevent this guy from smacking his head on the ground.  The guy was out.  I tried to talk to him, and got nothing that sounded like a comprehensible sentence.  The cop called an ambulance.  But we sat there.  He wasn’t sweating at all, which I was pretty sure was dehydration, having hit it myself at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2000.  We gave him some water (when he was lucid), poured water on him, put water on his shirt and put it on his head.  He came around a little bit and I asked him how much water he had.  His answer was none.  Not a good plan.  I looked at his attire and decided he wasn’t a seasoned marathoner at all.  Basketball shorts, a cotton t-shirt and shoes that could only loosely be described as running shoes.  On the other hand, he was at the 20 mile mark in about 2:28.  Not a bad pace.  But he was definitely burned out.  All this time I was expecting Jo to come by.  We got him more water, shaded him from the sun, tried to check his vitals, and keep him awake and semi-lucid.  After about 15 minutes the ambulance finally came.  I seemed like hours later.  They finally got him loaded up and headed for the hospital.  That was a relief.  He really looked pretty bad.  Around this time, Jo called me and said she was at 18 and hurting.  I was really surprised since she was kicking it through 13.  She said the hills were making her calves hurt and the heat was baking.  Anyways, I waited and then she got to 20.  I started running with her, and the next couple of miles were an unintentional use of the Galloway system (walk/run/walk/run).  As we got to around mile 23 we entered a park.  There was a medical tent, with LOTS of people laying on the ground with bags of ice on them.  A lot of dehydration going around.  As we made our way around the small lake and up a slight hill we saw a man lying face down on the side of the road.  Just face down, half on and half off the road.  He was out of it, and everyone was just going right on by.  Jo and I and 2 other women stopped to try and take care of him.  I sacrificed my water bottles, Johane got his head off the ground, and the other women picked up his feet.  I tried to call 911, and was met with 101 unanswerable questions.  Unfortunately we were in the middle of a park, and no one seemed to know where.  After going back and forth with the dispatcher for 10 minutes, a photographer on a bike came by and we sent him off to find medical help.  10 more long minutes went by with until finally someone showed up.  They got him ice and more water, and he seemed to be reviving a bit.  We were back on our way.  At this point I was getting hot, so I broke my rule of not taking water from the race.  I figured since I had given mine up for a good cause I could get some more.

The last few miles ticked along slowly.  I felt by the end like I had run a marathon.  At mile 25 they were handing out salt packets.  I’ve never seen that before.  As we approached the finish line I split off and went around to the spectator side, since I didn’t want to cross the line.  I got to see Jo cross the line (from a distance), and then get sheparded off through the extremely long finish corral.  After that there were a few frantic minutes with Jo and I calling each other and trying to figure out where each other was, only to realize that somehow we wound up on opposite ends of the stadium.  Got Jo back to the car, and got her the post race Smoothie King she was dying for.  Overall she finished in 4:48.  Considering the hills, heat, and 20 minute stop to help someone, I guess it was ok.  She told me after that she had 2 goals.  The first was 5 hours which she easily beat.  The second was 4 hours, which she was heading towards, but just got hot, tired and sore.  Overall, I think it’s pretty good considering all that.  Better than any marathon I’ve ever done!

She's done
Finishers Medal

After back to the hotel for a nap, and then honky-tonking in Nashville.

Jo's reward - a cowboy hat
Thank you, Thank you very much

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Most Magical Place on long as you don't want to PR

As it's been almost 3 weeks since the Marathon (2 weeks of flu and knee pain), I wanted to get SOMETHING out here, so here's my first run through with pictures, lots of them.

Doing the Disney Marathon is not just a task of the endurance, it's also the task of enduring the weekend.  In addition to the attraction of running around the park, and getting tired before the race even starts, there's the fact that the race starts at 6AM, and the fact that you basically have to leave your hotel between 3-4AM.  And if your spouse is doing the half marathon on Saturday, like mine was, you get 2 basically sleepless nights back to back.

That being said, this marathon is unlike any other I've ever encountered.  If you want a big marathon full of entertainment, spectacle, people, and sights, this one is for you.  If you don't like those things, you might want to stay away.

After getting up at 2Am on Saturday for Jo to go do the 1/2 marathon, I got up at 2:30 Sunday morning to get to the buses.  I had heard that the early buses got to the start in about 10 minutes, but some of the later ones took an hour. So I wanted to hit the buses early.  Got on the first one at 3:05 and got to Epcot within 10 minutes.  Epcot at 3:15 in the morning is an interesting experience.  I've been there at night, but it's not quite the same.  Quiet and dark and cold, but still lit up.  Pretty neat.
Spaceship Earth with the monorail lines in the foreground.

Luckily, I had paid a little extra for the "Race Retreat"  While people that didn't sign up for the retreat had the joy of sitting out in the parking lot in 35 degree weather for 2 hours, I got to go to a temperature controlled tent, with chairs, couches, food and characters.  When I was signing up I was thinking that the extra $100 seemed like a lot on top of everything else going into this, but then I had read about the prior years marathon, and the 22 degree and sleeting start, so it sounded like a good idea.  It was great.

Ah, warmth!

To infinity.....and beyond!!!!

 Met a couple of new people to talk to and then wound up meeting Jeffrey, who Jo had met on Saturday.  Jeffrey was doing the "Goofy" which means doing BOTH the half on Saturday AND the full on Sunday.  Quite a challenge.  Jeffrey was able to give me some good tips on getting through the race (especially which bathrooms weren't used very much), and was great to talk to in general.  He was able to keep me distracted from the panicked feeling I had earlier.  After a quick pic with the "Toy Story 3" characters it was time to get to the corrals.

You need to be in the corrals by 5AM, so you have to head out a little before that.  So you get to sit in the corral for an hour slowly getting colder.  Luckily at this point I still had on my throw away sweats, so I was toasty at least.  I actually saw something I'd never seen before.  They were handing out the Solar blankets BEFORE the race even started.  I had one, but I was warm, and I gave mine to a woman who was obviously freezing to death.  Since there are so many corrals, the race actually starts at 5:30 with the wheelchairs, and then slowly sends off a wave every 5 minutes.  I had hoped this meant I would start earlier, as I was afraid of the race getting to warm, but alas, I didn't start until 6:05.  This staggered start was also interesting when I got to every mile marker.  Since I started 35 minutes after the first wave, I had to mentally deduct the 35 minutes from the time on the clock at every marker.
Marathon Start

Considering the number of people there it was quite well organized.  The fireworks show at the start was cool, and the flames that went off as each wave started were warming.
The start from my angle

The flames look nice and toasty

And then it was down to the business of actually running the marathon.

Mile 1: The first mile is out on a service road outside Epcot. Not much to see except the elite runners who started a half hour ago looping around to mile 4 on the other side of the road.  At the 1 mile mark I finally ditched my sweats.  After the 1 mile mark I decided to take a pic at every mile marker.  After the first mile we headed back into Epcot through the parking lot.  We headed through the car entrance and then hit the mile marker.

Welcome to Epcot - at 6:15 AM

That's 2 down.

After a brief run through the parking lot we got to Epcot itself.  We ran up through the entrance and right past Space ship earth (and a virtually empty bathroom. sweet!) .  The Christmas decorations were still up and lit up, so it was quite pretty

All lit up for the marathon

The trees were still lit up

And then out towards the world pavilions.
Welcome to Mile 3

This was where I had my first character greeting during the race.  I guess i didn't realize that there would be places to have your picture taken with characters throughout the course.  The first character was "Duffy", a new character.  he's Mickey's teddy bear .  Nobody seemed to have any idea who he was so there was no line.  I stepped right up and got my picture taken and then started going around the world.  We went past Mexico, Norway and China, before heading through a back passage to see our first view of Disney backstage.
Who are you again?
Running by Mexico

And our view was.....garbage.  No really, we got to go right past the garbage bins and back of the pavillions. I suppose in some way it's interesting seeing the backs of buildings, and then we were on the service road again.

At first I thought the road looked strangely familiar and then i realized that it should, since it was the same road we had just started on and we were looping back around.

So we past the starting line again, but instead of heading back into Epcot, we turned right, went around a loop and headed for the Magic Kingdom.  I can honestly say I don't recall a single thing between the mile 4 and mile 5 markers.

After mile 5 you pass over an overpass and can see the people spread out across the road.  And then you hit mile 6.

After the mile marker you loop around and get onto "World Drive" heading towards the Kingdom.  And there were pixies (Tinkerbell's friends) here. I stopped to get a picture with them and moved on.

Right after the pixies, I saw Pooh and Piglet up ahead.  When I got there, the line was enourmous.  It was at that moment that I realized that if I stopped to wait on line for every single character, it would take me 3 days to finish.  So I started living vicariously through other people.  I took pictures of the characters with whoever they were with as I went on by.  I decided to only stop for pics if there was no line or only a person or two waiting.

Yes that is pooh in the background

Had to take this pic for Julia

Hot air balloon

And that brought me to Mile 7

About the only thing that happened in Mile 7 was the fact that we passed the gate for the Magic Kingdom.  There are a lot of miles out on the open roads, and that's why Disney tries to keep you entertained with characters and signs.
The entrance to the Magic Kingdom

After Mile 8, we passed by the Richard Petty driving experience.  I've been to Disney at least 10 times, and had no clue that this was even here.  Apparently, you can learn how to drive a race car, on the full size track! Just like in Charlotte at the speedway.  Who knew?  After that it was mile 9
The instructors from the driving experience

Again, I can remember absolutely nothing from mile 9 to 10 except this:  Around Mile 9 you pass the ticket and transportation center.  I ran into the bathroom here and pushed the off button on my ipod.  It didn't stop.  I pushed it again.  It clicked but the screen stayed dark.  I figured at least as long as the song was still playing, I was good.  Then the song ended.  And then.....nothing.  Now, I run with music all the time, and need it to push me on.  Here I was at mile 9 of a marathon, and i've got nothing.  Not good.  I tried to reset it, while running, but nothing.  I was out of luck.

The other thing I remember from this mile is the twinge I started feeling in my left knee.  I've had knee problems years ago, but always in my right, never the left.  I had no idea what that was about, but figured it would go away.  Unfortunately, it only got worse.  More on that later.

The Mile 10 marker was right outside of Space Mountain.

At this point we were on another back road somewhere in the Magic Kingdom, but I had no idea where.  We went through a gate, and Bam! We were on Mainstreet USA!  Didn't come out under the trains station, we came in from the side.  And right away the Christmas Tree is right in front of you.  The decorations were up and we were running up Main Street towards the castle, and there were even spectators in the park cheering. Awesome.
Christmas tree in the town square

Buildings on Main Street still decorated

Head for the Castle!

Sir, can you take my picture a little faster please?

Still heading up Main Street

Self portrait (with castle)

After the quick jog up main street (and high fiving a bunch of little kids) we made a right at the castle and headed into tomorrowland.

Welcome to the world of tomorrow.

After a quick jog past the front side of Space Mountain, it was past the teacups, pooh ride, snow white ride, and the carousel to the back of Cinderella castle.

On the roof of the back of the castle where trumpeters greeting us, very cool.  Then as we headed through the castle, the women from the restaurant were all outside cheering.  Then it was running right through the castle which was incredibly cool, and down the ramp down the front.  I stopped for a picture in front of the castle, and then we made a right to head into frontierland.
Rapunzel and...whatever his name is

The wicked stepsisters

Thank you ladies

Johane calls this one my "Sound of Music" moment
There were a variety of characters throughout frontierland including Woody and Jessie (who fit) and the cast from Princess and the Frog (frontier land?  what?) and then it was past the 11 mile mark, past Splash Mountain, over the train tracks and out of the park.  Probably one of the most entertaining miles in the entire marathon.

The cast of "Princess and the Frog" and I.  The princess is
standing pretty far away.  I didn't think I smelled THAT bad!
Woodie and Jessie

Through Frontierland

Splash Mountain
leaving the Magic Kingdom

Once we left the Magic Kingdom,  we turned immediately into a backstage area, where the "Pirates of the Carribean" crew were.  The line to take a picture was ridiculously long.  It was probably a 45 minute wait.  I just kept moving on.  Though the guy they got to play Captain Jack Sparrow looked exactly like Johnny Depp!

That's "CAPTAIN" Jack Sparrow

I found the miles until the next park, Animal Kingdom, to be long, and difficult.  The pain in my knee had settled in full force and I found myself wondering how exactly I was going to finish.  At least around mile 15, my ipod decided to start working again so there was that at least.

After hitting the 12 mile mark the first bit was out past the Grand Floridian resort, and then over some of the Disney golf courses.  There were some crowds here from the hotels which was nice.
I've never seen mice play golf before

Mary Poppins and her entourage

Then we headed to the half marathon point, which was on the opposite side of the street from the 9 mile mark, which seemed a long time before.

After the half marathon point, we took a sharp right away from the park and towards Animal Kingdom which was 3 miles away.  This was the only real hilly part of the course with a slow uphill from miles 14 through 18.  The access road was pretty barren so Disney tried hard to keep you entertained with signs on the ground, and characters more frequently.

Still until you reached mile 16, there wasn't much around.  Once we reached the 16 mile mark it was a turn towards Animal Kingdom, and right away you got the sense that's where you were going. There were some staff out on the road with some of the animals.  They had some of the most beautiful birds just sitting on their arms as you went by.  Really nice.

I think this is a Falcon
A really cool looking owl

Soon after this we passed the animals, there was a "food stop"  The food stop had energy gels.  I passed the first woman who said she only had mocha, and the next one, and the next one.  Finally I asked if there were any other flavors.  They only had 50 cases of mocha.  I'll pass thanks.

Right after this, we entered the park.  There were a lot more characters here, and I even managed to score a picture with Flik, from "A Bug's Life" when no one was waiting on line.

The interesting part about Animal Kingdom was the walkways.  When they built the park, they put animal tracks into the concrete.  It's a cool feature if you're visiting, but if you're running there...not so great.  So the footing was a little slippery, especially for me, since I'm always twisting my ankle.  Running through Animal Kingdom was pretty cool.  By this point they had starting letting people in for the day, so they had partitioned off the runners from the visitors.  I was thinking that it probably wouldn't be a great day to be a visitor since you basically had a little tiny pathway to make your way around.

Please tell me we don't have to climb Expedition:Everest!

Running away from Expedition:Everest
We made our way through Animal Kingdom for about 1.5 miles, which doesn't actually seem that far.  It felt a lot further. By mile 17 we were about to leave the park.

After the 17 mile mark we headed through Dino-World and then out of the park on a service road.  I got an interesting view of the back of Expedition:Everest from here, and you can see that the back is just a building.  Pretty neat.
The rarely-seen back of Expedition:Everest

Then it was around a loop, which strangely took us past the main entrance of the park again, before embarking on (in my opinion) the toughest miles of the course.

Animal Kingdom main entrance with Christmas Decorations

Miles 18-22 are pretty much out on open roads and are a tough haul.  Disney tried to keep us entertained with performers and signs along the way.  I don't remember too many characters during this part.

Mile 18 was pretty much not memorable except that the pain in my knee was starting to be unbearable.
Something to think about

Mile 19 was better as I saw some people with a neat sign on the side of the road, and when I went to take a picture, they suggested instead taking MY pic with their sign.  pretty cool.

It's true

That's how I feel

A bad day to drive to Disney

Right around Mile 20 was when I was feeling pretty low.  We were out in the middle of nowhere and my knee was killing me.  Even worse, mile 20-21 was an out and back, so you're heading out on the road and can see the people coming back the opposite direction.  This mile seemed to last forever.  I texted Johane where I was, and she started sending me inspiration messages, which was great.

At the turnaround point there was a ESPN screen so I got to see myself on the big screen and take a picture.  As I was getting closer, I kept hearing "And the ESPN cheerleaders are here".  When I got to the turnaround I looked for them...and looked.....and looked.  Yes, there were 2 of them!

Nearing the ESPN section

Wishing I was heading in the opposite direction

Yes that's the whole squad

After heading back down the turnaround we got to mile 21.

When I had passed this mile marker going out, I saw a sign around the corner that said "Disney Hollywood Studios", so i figured it was right around the corner. Unfortunately, right after taking my picture with one of the army men from "Toy Story" i went around the corner and found.....a freeway entrance that seemed to go on as far as I could see.

He spent the whole race yelling at runners as they went by
Back on the highway.  This sums up how I was feeling

Out on the freeway with nothing around and it seemed to be warming up quite a bit. As some of the cars went (slowly) by they honked and cheered, so that was a plus.

We got to the next offramp and headed up the hill to mile 22.

Right after the mile marker was a huge medical tent.  There were people all over the place.  I also saw one of the funniest things I saw the whole time.  A woman right in front of me went over to the medical tent, got 2 handfulls of Biofreeze, stuck her hands down her pants, and started massaging her butt.  I was trying to figure out how your butt starts to hurt during a marathon!  A got a good chuckle out of that one.

Right after the 22 mile marker, we headed around a corner, went about another 1/2 mile and then went in one of the service entrances to Hollywood Studios.  The first thing we saw was the back of the Tower of Terror.  Another plain looking (except that it's pink) building.  Then the character greetings started coming fast and furious again.
The back of Tower of Terror

The incredibles, then Doug the dog from UP, then Phineas and Ferb.  Had to take pictures for Julia, who loves them.
I love this show too

He looks ready to run a marathon

Doug the dog from UP

Then we hit mile 23.

Right after the mile marker, there were tables and tables full of hershey mini candy bars.  Score!  Definately what i wanted there.  I got a Mr. Goodbar and plain and they were awesome.  Right around this point I started thinking of the ice cream sundae I was getting from Ghiradelli that night!

After this we started hitting the main areas of Hollywood Studios.  Headed down "New York Avenue", cut into a picture with the characters from Monsters, Inc.and made my way to the sorcerers hat.  Then down the main boulevard out of Hollywood, with crowds lined up and cheering.  A real lift.

You, Mike and Sully!

Just like NY-Not!

No we don't all talk like this in NY!

Heading out of the park


Christmas Trees

In between Hollywood Studios and Epcot

Headed out through the main gates, through the parking lot and then to what i thought was a short part of the trip, the Boardwalk and marker 24

It felt like it went on forever.  Went along the path, then finally hit the Boardwalk.  The Boardwalk was interesting since I'd never been there before (though I'd wind up eating dinner there the next night).
Beach and Boardwalk

Please let me go in the right direction.
It literally is a boardwalk with hotels and restaurants.  After going around what seemed like a huge circle, we got to a set of fences with a gate.  We went through the gate, and bang, you were in Epcot behind the England pavilion.  We took a short jog to the left and towards Paris
Back in Epcot!
Yes, this is definately the UK

Right in front of Paris was the 25 mile mark.  It was around the whole rest of the world back towards where we had come from.

It was around the world, got a picture with Snow White, and then made a quick pit stop at the Norway pavilion to take a picture of the Greta Waitz statue.  I was running a marathon after all!

A great sign
Which dwarf am I?
Gotta take Greta's pic

After this it was past Spaceship earth, and to the 26 mile mark right near the entrance.

After the 26 mile mark, it was through another backstage area out to the parking lot, and along the last .2 of a mile which seemed like a full mile.  They had bleachers set up with people cheering and a whole chorus.  Up ahead I saw Donald and Goofy waiting to high five you at the finish line.  I cut all the way across the road to give Donald a big high five, and I was done.

After the finish line I kept walking and got my medal.  The medal was huge!  It was really cool.

Me and my giant medal

After that it was back to the race retreat for some food, some water, and some rest.

Then it was back to the hotel for a ice bath, a hot shower and some more rest.

We managed to make it to downtown Disney later on for dinner, and I even got my Ghiradelli sundae (though I only ate half).

And the next day we hit the Magic Kingdom for 7 hours!

Overall, I'd have to say that Disney is a great, fun marathon.  Yes, there are some negatives like the early hours, and some of the empty roads, but I'd definately recommend it, especially for a first time marathoner.

I'm even thinking of going back next year to do the Goofy!