Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon - Dopey Challenge Race Four

I woke up before my alarm for the fourth straight day, but unlike the other mornings, my headache was gone. I had a feeling that things were going to go my way today. I got showered and dressed and headed to Epcot for the final time. I stayed in the car as long as possible to spend as little time on my feet before the race as I could. As I was getting ready to head to the starting area, the perfect song came on.

Whenever my rental car has XM it's All E Street Radio All The Time
The early morning temperature was cool, and despite forecasts earlier in the week for a high temperature around 80, the actual high was now only expected to reach the lower 70s with lower humidity than the half-marathon. Things were really lining up well!

I met up with a few members of Team Studios Central and some Mickey Miles Podcast listeners I met at the meet up earlier. We made our way to the corrals, with them making plans to run together from a forward corral, and I promised to try to catch up from Corral I.

Sorry, Sam, not today (spoiler alert)!

As each corral started to the explosion of fireworks overhead, ours moved up closer and closer to the start. Despite the loud party music playing and constant chatter of the excellent race announcers, I found myself deep in my thoughts. I thought about the long road that had brought me to this starting line. I spent just about the entire year training for this, and in a matter of hours, it would all be over. I started to get emotional thinking about the culmination of a year of dedication and commitment and had to hold back tears, knowing that there was still a lot of work to be done. I didn’t have an ounce of doubt that I would finish the marathon, and I was excited to get started.

I used the same 30 second/30 second intervals I had used the day before. My plan was to stop for characters I hadn’t seen the day before, and see if I could catch up to my running friends. I expected that would happen after the Magic Kingdom, around mile 6 or 7.

My pace was slow and steady and with the cool temperatures I kept my “throwaway” long sleeve shirt for the first three miles.

I caught up with the other runners at the Ticket & Transportation Center - much earlier than expected, even though my pace was still pretty deliberate (as you can see from the time on mile marker 4).

This video doesn’t do justice to the feeling of running into the Magic Kingdom. 

From the cheering crowds on Main Street USA, to the twinkling icicle lights on Cinderella Castle ahead, it’s an incredible experience, and we took our time to savor it.

This is most of the group I ran with. So much fun to be around!

We spent about 10 minutes at the castle waiting up for some people who had stopped for a bathroom break and getting pictures, then continued on through the Magic Kingdom.

I'm not sure why this is halfway between Jazz Hands and... nothing really.

I stopped for way more pictures than the group so I would stop, drop back for a bit, then catch up to them.

Louis from Princess and the Frog.

Smolder fail.

The entrance to the Speedway is SUPER steep. Many runners end up walking down it so you have to be prepared to just about come to a dead stop, which is probably safer anyway.

They used to (maybe still do?) have Nascar events here...

We are not amused.

Had to stop for Bolt. He never comes out!

I caught back up to the group before Animal Kingdom and confirmed the plan to ride Expedition Everest. We arrived almost exactly at 9am, so the park had just opened, and the ride operator let our group (and other runners) use the Single Rider Entrance to get to the front of the line faster.

Everyone is texting/tweeting here.

Unpatriotic to stop? Nonsense!

It's an Oswald the Rabbit thing. I don't know...
When someone says, "We're all doing Oswald Ears,"
you don't ask a lot of questions.

This is what my GPS watch recorded during Expedition Everest.

Only *mostly* dead.

Hey guys, where's Perry?

Around mile 16 a fellow runner came up and asked about our group, since we were all running the 30/30 intervals. He asked if he could run alongside for a while and I said, “sure.” He was a Perfect Marathoner - this was his 21st WDW Marathon. He kept with us for about a mile then continued on at his own pace. 

Hitting the Wide World of Sports around mile 17, I ran into George, whom I met at the Give Kids The World banquet Friday night. She actually spotted me earlier at the Pluto/Bolt/Dug character stop and had been looking for me since. She stayed with our group through the WWoS.

Pretending to sprint on the track at the Wide World of Sports.

See how happy I look! I'm having fun!


Not much further to of until this medal is mine...

We hit Mile 20 coming out of WWoS. This is about the time a lot of people hit “the wall” and I felt pretty good overall, although my legs were definitely feeling tired. I really couldn’t believe how the earlier miles had passed so quickly. Running with the group and having so much fun made them just fly by.

At this point George and I left the group - she had a time goal she was trying to hit, and I could feel my quad muscles starting to tighten up a little, so I wanted to keep moving.

After mile 22 my quads were getting progressively tighter so I wanted to increase my walk intervals from 30 to 60 seconds. George stayed with me until we entered Hollywood Studios, when she took off  to make her goal (which I found out later she did).
Back entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios with the Tower of Terror in the background.

I'm gonna wreck this marathon!

At this point it *felt* like I had run all the way to NY...

Lots of specters cheering at DHS.
I somehow missed mile marker 23, but it was right around that time that I knew I had this. This was my first marathon and it was probably due to my naiveté but I never doubted that I would finish. But around here I *knew* I could walk the rest of the marathon and finish well ahead of the time limit. My wife and I texted each other and she provided so much encouragement.

Nearly finished with an Incredible feat...

Coming into the back entrance of Epcot, just before mile marker 25, I spotted this guy - and there was almost no line!

Dopey! And that dwarf from the Snow White movie!

Running the last mile around World Showcase I saw many runners who had already finished the race, showered, changed and returned to Epcot, displaying their medals. They shouted words of encouragement as I continued from country to country.

Honest to God I was trying to do Duffy Paws, not trying to box him.

Finish line stands in sight...

Only 0.2 miles left!

As I rounded the corner toward the finish line and the final few hundred yards, I heard the roar of the crowd in the stands, and somehow made out my name being called. I spotted two of my Team Studios Central teammates cheering me on! One was a volunteer and gave me an encouraging hug, even though I was a sweaty mess. I took their positive energy and ran through the finish with a smile on my face.

Jazz hands.

I fought back tears as another volunteer put the marathon medal around my neck, and as two others added the Dopey Challenge and Goofy Challenge medals.

I called my wife, walked around a bit and touched base with a few people I knew in the finishers area. After I had devoured the contents of the runners box and drank the water and Powerade I had been I headed back to the hotel.

I was pretty tired and my quads were sore. I showered and had some more Gatorade and a Pop-Tart and, texting my wife (who was at a movie) finally broke down and cried the tears I had been holding back. The year of training was over and I had accomplished what I set out to do. 

Meal of champions.

After a nap I headed to Epcot with my Dopey medal to get some pictures and walk around a bit.

Fist bump.

I don't know how to say this, Minnie, but I'm kind of a big deal.
People know me.

There were about 6,100 finishers of the Inaugural Dopey Challenge. I swore up and down that this was a bucket list thing for me and that I would never run another marathon, let alone try something like the Dopey Challenge again. But it wasn’t long after the race that I was already thinking about signing up for the 2015 Dopey Challenge. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I plan to return for at least the WDW Marathon.

Sunset at Epcot.

My experience would have been very different had I not had a group of friends to run with. I can’t say how I would have fared had I been running mostly on my own. But if you have the opportunity to experience a race, especially a runDisney event, with a fun group of friends, do it. Forget your time goals and just have fun.