For the Love of Running

The story of how me and Lisa met is remarkable and, even still, a little unbelievable.  We’ve known each other now for nearly two years and I’ve been living in Oregon now for 8 months and both of us still have moments of “How in the world did this happen?”.  It all started with a simple question of advice,she asked how to transition from a 100% indoor, treadmill runner to running outside.  This led to several days of talking about future races and training plans and then when she told me she was running the Tinkerbell and we’re both Disney nuts, the conversation turned to other topics a shocking number of which we had in common.  Food, beer, wine, travel, Disney, humor, movies, books etc one right after the other rang bells with both of us.  As Lisa so eloquently puts it “We started talking and just never stopped”.

This past Saturday was a big day for both sides of the coin, Love and Running.  First the running.

Foot Traffic was hosting an “Event Expo” on Saturday morning.  Like a race expo where vendors get together to sell their wares to the race crowd, this expo was a group of event managers who were plugging their events.  We had several races we were going to register for anyway and the expo advertised discounts we were sold. The three races we were going to sign up for were:

Oregon Spring Half – May 3, 2013 (Canby, Oregon)
Vancouver USA Half – June 15, 2013 (Vancouver, Washington)
Foot Traffic Flat Half – July 4, 2013 (Portland, Oregon)

We got discounts of 10-15$ off each race and saved almost 50$ on registrations. One of the tables had a prize wheel you could spin for various prizes, most were trinkets like a water bottle, a pack of Gu, a beanie (which is what I won) but one was a free entry.  It was a tiny slice sandwiched between the Water Bottle slice which was split in two.  Lo and behold, Lisa landed on free entry.  This continues her string of prize luck after she won a free entry to the New Years 5K while we were at the Holiday Half.  The event she choice to use her free registration on is the Columbia River Gorge half in October of this year.  If I join her for that one (and I surely will) that will be 4 half marathons this year which will be most in a year for both of us, and the possibility of a 5th if repeat the Holiday Half (which we would like to).   This also presents me with an interesting scenario since there were a few races I had looked at in August and September and that would present the opportunity to complete 6 in 6 months.  This would “moon me up” to the next level of the Half Fanatics and earn my second moon.  Lisa may or may not be able to complete those with me depending on her fall class schedule, but her 3 in 90 days (May, June, July) will qualify her for the Fanatics at the first moon level.

To finish the day a new chapter was opened up on the Love side of the coin.  I surprised Lisa with a trip to McMenamins Edgefield property out in Troutdale where I had made us reservations at the pretty swanky Black Rabbit Restaurant.  This isn’t your normal beer and burger McMenamins, here they serve steak and fish and wild boar and fancy salads and all the usual Five Star items.  We walked around the property and visited all the outlying bars and got our stamps for our Passports and then headed downstairs to the Winery to do a tasting flight.  All of the wines we tasted were fantastic! Then, right before dinner, when the opportunity presented itself and we were alone, I pulled out her Grandmother’s engagement ring which I had secretly obtained from her family, dropped to a knee and asked her to marry me.  She said yes (well.. nodded and cried, but that’s universal right?) and we hugged for a while and then headed down to dinner.  For me the nerves were over and I was relaxed, for her it was time for butterflies and nerves and head spinning.  Dinner was impeccable and it was an enchanted evening.

From a simple email about running styles to being engaged to be running partners for life.  It’s amazing what a run can do for you.

I don’t know how this happened.. and I’m not sure I ever will.. but I am so thankful it did.  I didn’t realize it two years ago, but I know now I am well and truly blessed.

New running shoes?

It seems like I am going to need new running shoes soon, especially before taking on a three half marathon summer that is planned.  Although based on time and mileage, I shouldn’t NEED new shoes yet, but I think I do, which is why I’m opening this up to suggestions from other people.  What do you wear? What do you like? What would you recommend?

My first pair of fitted running shoes were a pair of Brooks GTS Adrenaline 12′s. (My first pair of running shoes were an off the shelf pair of Saucony’s).  These shoes were awesome, as if they were made just for me.  I felt great running in them and (until Disney) didn’t have any knee problems or injuries.  I put over 500 miles on those shoes including 3 half marathons.  When they were ready to be replaced I went back and got the exact same style, just the newer model, the GTS Adrenaline 13.  At first they were great, but pretty quickly I started to notice things such as them not fitting as well, not feeling as good and a spot on my right foot that’s been rubbed to a massive blister during my last two long races.  I’ve put less than 300 miles on them and the right toe is split open and coming apart, my last couple long runs/races I’ve been plagued by cramps, soreness and knee pain, not all of which can be blamed on/attributed to the shoes, but that’s never a good sign.  I don’t think these shoes are going to last much longer and certainly not for another 150 miles of training and three races.

Lisa is also running in a pair of Brooks that she likes but doesn’t love.  She’s thinking about switching back to her Asics that she was wearing before, or maybe even try something different altogether.  I love Brooks as a company, they do a lot of good things with health awareness, race sponsorship, charity work etc but maybe the shoes just aren’t for us.

I loved my first pair of Saucony’s but I don’t believe they make a support shoe that fits me.  So what would you guys recommend?

Here’s the caveat – I wear a 13 Wide.  Not all shoes come in 13, not all shoes come in wide.  I have flat feet and therefore have a huge pronation.  I need support shoes.  I ran in neutral’s before I knew what I really needed and thankfully did not cause any damage/injury.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

2013 Year in Review

Last year I had this to say about 2012.

“2012 was such an amazing year I’m not sure how I’m going to prevent 2013 from being a letdown.  How do you follow up that act?”

Well, needless to say 2013 blew 2012 out of the water.

The Move:

This was the biggest thing that happened this year so I might as well mention it first.  On May 28th, 2013 (a day after my birthday) I got in my car and started driving.  I would drive for the next 4 days nonstop through 10 states and all four time zones.  Until that day I had lived in North Carolina for my entire life.  I arrived in Portland on Friday May 31st at about 7PM local time (by that point I had no clue what time it was anymore, my body still thought it was 10PM).

There are two major “life changing” aspects of this move.  The first is that somewhere (and I still don’t know where it came from) I found the guts to uproot everything and leave everything behind, for all intents and purposes jumping off a cliff and hoping someone at the bottom would catch me.  The fact that a multitude of people, including Lisa’s family, friends and church community did catch me is astonishing and leads me into the second aspect.

From June until November I was essentially “homeless”.  Yes, I was not the traditional “sleeping on the streets” form of homeless, but I had no place to call my own and very few possessions.  I cycled through a series of “foster” homes and couch surfed while I looked for jobs and looked for places to live on my own.  If it weren’t for the people who opened their homes to me I wouldn’t be here.  To know that everything you have at a certain moment in your life, food, warmth, roof, bed, access to a phone to call loved ones, is provided by someone out of only the goodness of their hearts is incredibly humbling.  It is a debt I can never repay, and one that will never be called upon.  No repayment was asked or is ever expected from these amazing people.  Lisa’s church preaches to help the poor and those less fortunate.  These people surely took that to heart and “practice what they preach”.

You can read about the Westward Journey HERE.

Races:

After “The Year of the Race” in 2012 with 15 races in four different distances, 2013 was certainly a step back, but not in a bad way and certainly for good reasons.  2013 featured 7 races including 3 half marathons stretching from Florida to Oregon.

2013 started the same as 2012 with the Running of the Lights 5K at Tanglewood park.  The run through the Christmas lights that started at midnight on New Years day was a repeat for me.  However, this year Lisa had flown out from Portland to come visit me and happened to be here on race day and so she ran this one with me and this was our first race together.

A few weeks later I would travel down to Orlando Florida to run in the Walt Disney World half marathon.  This was a pretty amazing race but unfortunately was marred by a serious knee injury.  I was able to finish the race, but had to walk from mile 9 to the finish in the surprisingly hot Florida sun.  My parents and brother and sister were there to support me and cheer me on and also cheer me up after my disappointing finish.  3:36 was my worst finish ever, but I finished.  I suppose I had plenty of points where I could have dropped out and told the race crew I quit, but I plodded along and made my way to the finish.

In February, I would suffer my first DNS (Did Not Start).  I had signed up for the Pilot Mountain Payback “Heavy” half marathon before I was injured at Disney and I decided I was going to try my best to still complete it.  I had completed the 3 in 3 months I needed to qualify for the Half Fanatics, but now was going to try for 6 in 6 months.  Due to my injury I was not able to run for several weeks and not able to put in any serious mileage at all.  The “Heavy” was about 14 miles so longer than a half and would have been my longest run to date.  I was still dead set on running it until the night before the race.  I was literally in a panic.  I wasn’t sure I could do the distance, it was snowing that night and conditions on the course were going to be horrible.  After a long conversation with Lisa, who told me that if I was so upset about the race I should skip it, I decided not to go.   A few days later, I found out how awful the course was, with creek crossing that were waist deep, and how many people skipped and how many people did not finish and I knew I had made the right choice.  I wasn’t happy with it, but I was at peace with it.

In March and April I ran a pair of 10Ks, a repeat of the St Leo’s 10K and then a new race, the Hope for Hospice 10K.  The first one I merely wanted to finish, which I did in a respectable 1:13, while the second one was part of the training for my second half marathon and I finished a tough course in 1:11 which was only 3 minutes slower than my 10K PR from last year.

In late April I ran my second half marathon of the year, the Kings Mountain Half in Kings Mountain SC.  I was excited to run this race since it ran through a Revolutionary War battlefield, but that ended up being a huge disappointment since the “cannons and monuments” portion of the battlefield was nowhere near where we ran.  An out and back on some access roads with nothing by trees to look at was a HUGE letdown.  Also, towards the end of this race my calves cramped up really bad and I ended up walking from mile 11 to the end.  My 3:08 finish was better than Disney, and slightly better than my first half in New Orleans, but nothing close to a PR.  About the only saving grace was this was my first race in South Carolina, so it was a new state for me.

At this point, the rest of my 2013 race calender got completely erased.  The races I had planned for the Fall were not going to happen and the races for May and June I needed that money for my move across the country.  It would be a while before I would race again, but me and Lisa started running together as often as we could once I got settled in Portland.

In November we ran our second race together, a 10K, and my first race in Portland.  The Cause and Event 10K was a fantastic event that supported many different causes.  The course was mostly greenway through west Portland/Beaverton neighborhoods.  Of course, being Portland in the fall, it rained on us during the race, but it was mostly just a slight drizzle.  I got to meet some of the people who help run Camp Lutherwood and raise some money for them so that was all good!

In December, we finally ran our first half together in Portland, the Foot Traffic Holiday half.  A nice run through Northeast Portland, it was COLD and rainy, but a really nice course and well supported.  Other than my bad cramps for the last two miles it was also a great run.  Lisa rocked it! We finished in exactly 3 hours which was not a PR for either of us, but not our worst finish either.

The next run for Lisa and I will be another midnight New Year’s Day race, but that’s for 2014!

Hiking:

While we didn’t do as much running over the summer as we planned, we certainly took advantage of the gorgeous weather and Lisa introduced me to one of her favorite past times.  Hiking! What else does one do in a place full of mountains and trees? I was quickly hooked.

We started out with an “easy” hike that turned out to be quite a journey.  The loop around the Trail of Ten Falls was about 7 miles or so of mostly flat terrain, but then at the end there was some steep switchback stairs and a steep uphill climb to the last falls which really took it out of me.  I was completely exhausted by the time we finished but it was totally worth it.  The scenery was unbelievable and you couldn’t believe you were just a short drive outside of the city.  It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The next hike, merely a week later, was the shortest in distance, but by far the most challenging.  We drove up to Timberline Lodge, which is about halfway up Mt Hood (roughly 6000 feet elevation) and hiked out to Zig Zag Canyon.  It was only about 2 miles there and two miles back, but it including dropping down into several smaller canyons, as well as the terrain shifting as we skirted along the edge of the timberline.  At times we were deep into an old growth forest bushwhacking through underbrush and giant ferns and then at other times we were sliding through a sandy/rocky type landscape with not a tree in sight.  We lost several hundred feet of elevation on the way out to the canyon and while the way out was a nice “walk” the way back to the lodge was suddenly extremely uphill and turned into a “climb”.  This however, was an incredibly rewarding hike.

About two weeks after that we embarked on our third hike of the season which started out innocently enough but turned into quite an adventure.  We had planned on hiking up to Wahkenna Falls and then taking the trail back down along Multnomah Falls.  Unfortunately, through a combination of a poorly marked trailhead and a confusing printed map we ended up parking and starting at the wrong place.  We got onto the Angel’s Rest trail and of course we were several miles into it before we realized it but we continued on to the top of Angel’s Rest. We climbed about 1400 feet along the way and were rewarded with an amazing view up and down the Columbia River.  Across from us was Washington State and we could almost see all the way back to Portland.  At this point we continued along the trail which we thought would take us to Multnomah Falls.  We crossed a creek and then lost the trail and were a few minutes away from becoming very lost.  A couple and their dog emerged from the brush and warned us not to go that way since the trail was overgrown and faded.  It turned out they had just come from where we wanted to go, so they showed us the way.  We parted ways at the top of Wahkenna falls as they headed to Multnomah but without them we would have been seriously lost.  We made our way down the side of Wahkenna falls which was absolutely breathtaking and made our way back down to road level.  Now because of where we parked, we had about a 2 mile walk along the side of the road to get back to the car.  This was terrifying since there was no shoulder and warnings to NOT do what we were doing, but we had no choice.  What was supposed to be an easy 4 mile hike turned into a very challenging 9 mile hike, but we survived it and made it.

Travel:

Lisa loves to travel and we’ve done our fair share of it even if only in the local area.  Shortly after I arrived in Portland, we headed out to the Oregon coast and took in Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay and Newport.  The Oregon Coast is not like anything I have ever seen before.  Rocks and cliffs and lava flows and trees right up to the water line.  It resembles close to what I expect the Northeast looks like up around Maine.  Also, a month ago we went to Seattle which was a really cool trip and a place I’ve wanted to go for a long while.  We will certainly be headed back there soon I’m sure.

Job:

Changing jobs is never fun, but moving all the way across the country meant quitting my job and then trying to find a new one.  After 3 months that felt like FOREVER I landed a job in Vancouver at a company that makes vitamins and herbal supplements, so I got back into the Food Science industry to a certain degree.  I’m doing quality work but also a decent amount of paperwork and regulatory responsibilities.  They weren’t kidding that the job title “Lab Administrator” is a “little bit of everything”.

Weightloss:

This part hasn’t gone so well this year, but I’m not too terribly upset about it.  I started the year at my lowest weight ever at around 235, but my Disney injury sidelined me for a long while and I ended up putting a little weight back on, probably close to 245.  Then after I moved I’ll admit that I put on several more pounds as I ate my way around Portland (no regrets AT ALL).  I’ll be finishing this year in the 260′s so I’ve actually gained weight, but I’m still way under where I was in 2011 and most of 2012, so I’ll take that and jump into 2014 with both feet.

Can 2014 build on an incredible 2012 and then an epic 2013? Stay Tuned!!!!!!

Foot Traffic Holiday Half – Portland, OR – Dec 15, 2013

After having met while training for half marathons and having run 7 other races between the two of us, Lisa and I finally got to run a half marathon together.  After I moved out to Portland Oregon in June we looked for a race that would give me time to get settled and plenty of time to train together and the Holiday Half fit the bill nicely!

The Holiday Half would be my third half marathon this year (6 total) and also Lisa’s third total half, all three from this year.  I was excited to run my first half marathon in the state of Oregon and also the city of Portland.  The course started at the Adidas campus in Northeast Portland and headed north along the bluff and up through St Johns and under the St Johns bridge and back in a pretty straight out and back.  The route was about as flat as you could get and still be within the city itself and the weather, while not great, was about the best we could ask for.  It was quite cold, starting out in the 30s and warming up to the 40s but the weekend before had seen lows in the teens and highs in the 20s so this felt downright hot by comparison!

The race started a little after 8AM complete with a Santa and fake snow.  Despite being a small race (approx 2500) it was very crowded at the start.  We were weaving through some neighborhoods while we made our way to the big main road that would take us along the bluff and back.  Our first two miles were a little slow at 12:43 and 12:30, although this was faster than most of my training runs.  At mile 3 we really hit our stride with mile times of 12:03, 12:15 (20:15 with an 8 minute bathroom wait), 11:57 and 12:02.  Everything felt good at the time, but in hindsight this may have been a little quick.

At about mile 6 we ran under the St John’s bridge and there was a group of singers there singing carols (one of whom Lisa knew!) and the acoustics under the bridge were amazing.  It sounded great and what a uplifting moment to push us on.   The route included a cutoff section on the return trip, so the turn around point was a little beyond halfway at a little over 7 miles.   We had slowed down a little but still were cruising along with miles 7-9 at 12:20, 12:45 and 12:59.  Right at mile 9 we stopped to take our gels, taking the ones that were offered on the course.  This stop cost us a few seconds and mile 10 was 13:55.  We got some of that back, but not all, in mile 11 at 13:12 and then that’s where things starting going bad.

Towards the end of mile 11 I could feel my legs starting to twitch and convulse a little but they weren’t cramping.  I got very tired and had to stop and walk for just a few minutes to rest and catch my breath.  At the mile 12 marker we started running again but sadly that didn’t last long.  At about 12.5 miles both of my calves cramped up so bad it stopped me in my tracks and I shuffled to a walk.  After a while the pain in my calves eased but it moved up to above my knees.  At this point even walking was extremely painful.  We stopped very close to mile 13 for me to stretch a little bit and then continued on.  We turned the corner and could see the finish line and the pain in my legs had eased enough to try to run to the finish but halfway there I cramped up again and limped to the finish line.

We finished at exactly 3 hours.  Not the best time for either of us but a long shot, but not our worst either.

It wasn’t a great experience, but we finished it and gutted it out.  There were some issues that probably led to my problems so I’ll try to work on that in the future.

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Took home a nice medal for finishing!

Upcoming Races

I haven’t been blogging as much lately and a main reason is I haven’t been doing as much lately of the stuff I used to blog about.  However, things are starting to finally get settled down here in my new home of Oregon.  I’ve found a job and been working for about a month and here in the next couple of weeks I’m going to be looking for a permanent place to live.  In the meantime, life goes on!

Lisa and I have registered for a half marathon in December and our training started this week, which is one of the ways things are starting to get back into a routine.  Here’s a look at some upcoming races that I am either registered for, thinking about registering or just hoping to maybe sign up for.

November 16, 2013 – Cause and Event Portland:  This is a really unique event.  Rather than benefiting one major charity this race which includes a non-timed 5K, a timed 5K and a timed 10K supports 20-30 small local charities and the runners choose at registration which of the charities they are going to support, so your money goes to the charity you want it to go to! Lisa and I are registered for the 10K and we are supporting Camp Lutherwood, which is a camp down near Eugene which is for middle school and high school kids and Lisa takes her youth groups there quite often.  Not only do we get to help out people we know in person, but this will also be a really good “prep race” 4 weeks before our half marathon.

December 15, 2013 – Foot Traffic Holiday Half:  This will be my third half marathon of 2013 following up Disney and Kings Mountain to start the year.  This will also be my first race in the state of Oregon and my first half marathon with Lisa.  Very exciting! Training through the fall and winter will be an interesting ordeal with all the rain and cold, but it will just be part of the experience.  There’s a good chance it will rain on race day so might as well train in it.  I needed a training routine to get back into and signing up for a race is the best way to do that!

April 19, 2014 – Hip Hop Half Marathon: Foot Traffic sent me an email about this race and registration opens today.  I’m seriously thinking about doing it.  It’s a small race (1500 people) along the Marine Drive greenway, which runs right along the shore of the Columbia River.  A very scenic area of North Portland (even the airport is cool).  The one catch to this race is that Lisa won’t be able to do it with me.  It’s the Saturday before Easter and Lisa will be at the church prepping things for the Easter breakfast and other festivities the next day.  I may still do it, but I’m thinking about it.

May 18, 2014 – Rock and Roll Portland:  This race has been on my list since before I moved out here but I’m not sure if next year will be the year for it or not.  The Rock and Roll Seattle follows this race in June and there is a special medal for completing both of them in the same year.  Eventually I’d like to do the double.

July 4, 2014 – Foot Traffic Flat Sauvies Island Half: After playing spectator and sherpa for this year’s half I’m planning on running this one next year.  Lisa, Kyle and Laura all said it was an awesome, scenic course, with great support and of course strawberry shortcake at the end! Looking forward to this one!

Stay tuned! More races will be added to this I’m sure!

 

Weekly Recap 4-22 to 4-28-13

This week culminated in my fifth half marathon, the Kings Mountain Half in Clover SC.  Besides that it was a pretty normal week.

Starting weight – 245.0
Monday – Walking – 45 minutes
Tuesday – Run – 3.5 miles
Wednesday – Bodyflow – 60 minutes
Thursday – Run – 2 miles
Friday – REST
Saturday – RACE – Half Marathon – 13.3 miles
Sunday – REST
Total mileage – 18.8 miles
Finishing weight – 242.0 (3 pounds lost)

Good loss this week, some (or all) of which may be water weight loss from the race on saturday, but I’ll take it. Hopefully this can continue.

Kings Mountain Half Marathon – Clover, SC – April 27, 2013

Today I completed my 5th half marathon and my first as an official Half Fanatic.  I was very excited about this race since it was going to be run on a Revolutionary War battlefield and would count as a new state (South Carolina) for my “Races Run” map.  The reality of the race didn’t live up to the (self inflicted) hype.  Some was good, some was bad.. overall the results I’d say are “mixed”.

I got up at the lovely hour of 4AM to get ready and make sure I had everything and then hit the road at 5:30AM.  I was planning to get to the race site around 7AM since I had assumed it was a hour and a half drive.  I ended up getting there a little after 7 and got a little lost in the park and ended up turning around twice before I found the parking area.  The signs that said “RACE —>” were a little misleading since I wasn’t sure if it meant “The race is this way” or if it was marking the course itself.  I made it with plenty of time, but a little slight panic to start the morning.

They delayed the race start a few minutes to allow for some last minute registrations and ended up selling the last few spots to hit their max of 400 so that was good.  The race director/MC guy had a few last words to say, and then decided right there in front of the crowd to propose to his girlfriend.. I think she said yes, but I bet she’s gonna beat him about the head and shoulders later on tonight.  A 3-2-1 countdown and we were off.

 

 

 

 

 

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The first mile included a massive climb and the thoughts “Oh crap.. this is going to be hilly”  Yeah, I know.. it’s Kings MOUNTAIN, but still.  You never know how these things are going to be until you’re actually out there.  Another Fanatic came up behind me (I didn’t think to ask her name) and we chatted for a bit about how that was a brutal way to start a race and then she passed me and went on her way.

12:41, 12:11, 12:46 Not bad first couple of miles, I knew I was taking this one slow.

At mile 4 I had to stop to use the bathroom at the Visitors Center, which is the first time I’ve had to make a mid-race pit stop but I guess it was bound to happen eventually.  I’m glad the restrooms were open since I doubt I could have made it another 2 miles to the portajon at the turn around.  I felt much better after I stopped and clocked my fastest two miles in miles 5 and 6

19:12, 11:54, 11:17

At this point we took the only turn of the course off the main “Park Road” and onto a gravel road.  This reminded me of where I normally run out at Salem Lake, so it wasn’t too bad but I did have to watch my footing.  At this point I started running into people who were coming on the “back” portion of the out and back and had quite a few people shout out “Good Job” “Keep going” “You got it” etc and got several high fives, including one from a lady in a Disney Marathon shirt who put her arms up and hollered and made a point to come to my side of the road to high five me.  That always helps, and this was a very friendly supportive crowd.  Miles 7, 8 and 9 were on this gravel road.

12:41, 12:33, 14:23

 

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View of the gravel road after the turn around point.  By mile 9 I was starting to walk some as the hills were absolutely killing me.

Mile 10 we got back onto pavement, and this was a little bit faster of a mile than mile 9, but at this point I was quite literally the only soul in sight.  I looked in front of me and behind me and there was no one else around.  I was alone on the course which was a striking difference to Disney and Raleigh which were more crowded races.  At this point I also started losing steam and at mile 11 my calves were cramping.  I walked most of the way from 11 to the finish.

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13:01, 14:50, 18:19, 17:53

At the mile 11 aid station I grabbed a Power Bar Harvest Energy bar in Peanut Butter Chocolate chip flavor, which at that point was about the most delicious thing I’d ever had in my life (It was actually pretty good) since I felt like I needed something, although I can’t say that it helped. At that point I was spent.

I made it to the finish (according to the main clock) at around 3:08.  Faster than New Orleans or Disney, and slower than Raleigh and Mistletoe.  Not a bad finish, but not my best (I was not shooting for a PR).  It took me a second to figure out where to get my medal (they were not handing them out, you had to go get it).  And then looked for the post race food…. which ended up being only more powerbars and gels.  Grabbed a Powerbar (different style) which was gross but I ate it anyway and then headed to my car.  I noticed my Garmin was still running, and so I shut it off at about 3:11 but I knew it added on a couple minutes.

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Pros: Cheap race ($40), New State (SC), Had several people talk to me with my Half Fanatics shirt, well marked course, very friendly crowd.

Cons: Very boring course, no monuments, cannons, flags etc that I would have expected from a “Battlefield” run, very disappointing.  Post race food was non-existent. Chip didn’t work so I don’t have an “official” time.

I was very undertrained for this race (my own fault) especially for the hills.. so moral of the story.. you can run a half marathon on two weeks training, but I don’t recommend it.

Disney announces changes.

It’s been about 3 weeks since I posted my blog post about what I thought of the addition of a 10K and four race Dopey challenge to marathon weekend.  You can read about it here, where Disney Jumped the Shark.

Yesterday, Disney announced on their blog (check it out here) some changes to the upcoming Marathon Weekend in 2014 (Whose registration opened today).  I guess enough people grumbled and complained and proclaimed, like me, “I’ll never do a runDisney event again!”.  I like the changes and I really hope this is from listening to runner feedback and not something they just stumbled upon.

Less Runners: This is a biggie.  The races keep getting bigger and bigger and the course doesn’t change.  The roads around and through the Magic Kingdom are very narrow.  Of course it doesn’t say how many it will cut off at and Disney always keeps it’s numbers close to the vest.  The reported max the last couple of years of 27,000 runners is “unofficial”.  They could be only dropping it down to say 25,000. Who knows. But smaller in this case is better.

More corrals: This is another big improvement, which ties in hand in hand with the first one.  They say they will add more corrals with fewer people to even people out along the course.  I mentioned in my race recap the difference between Rock and Roll New Orleans (26 corrals of 1000 people) vs Disney (7 corrals of ~4000 people) and how that affected the race.  Even though both had the same number of people, the New Orleans race was never crowded.  Being back in Corral 23, it felt like “Oh it’s gonna take 3 hours to get to the start” but they sent the corrals off every 2 minutes and it moved quickly and in less than 45 minutes I was starting my race.  At Disney I was in Corral 5(E) and they went off every 7 minutes and it took me almost 40 minutes to get to the start.  Same amount of time, but rather than constantly moving, first we didn’t move for the first three corrals at all, so that was 21 minutes of nothing.  Then we moved forward with D and E, then D went off and we had the whole 7 minute wait for us to go and then it was elbow to elbow the whole time.  New Orleans was MUCH better at the start.

Nearly All runners must submit times for corral seeding: OK, this one is a little half and half.  As far as getting people in the right corrals it’s a good thing, because I can’t stand someone faster than me (happened in New Orleans) screaming “ON YOUR LEFT” and shoving people out of the way, when he really had no business starting BEHIND me.. I was in one of the last corrals, he could have (and should have) started way up front.  I heard some Goofy runners got stuff all kinds of funky being in Corral A for the marathon but then back in Corral G with the slow pokes for the half.  So this may help with that.  However, when it says “most” runners submit a time… I know a lot of people dive into a disney race as their first race of that distance.  So they won’t have a “seeding” time at either a half or full marathon distance.  Are all the first timers gonna be in the back? Will there be 1000 people in Corral A but then 5000 in Corral H (or however many they add)? We’ll see how this works out, but it’s a “mostly” good change.

The other two changes listed don’t affect me much since it’s about women’s cuts for the shirts and also keeping this years 20th anniversary Marathon course the same for the upcoming Fulls.  Those are nice for those that it apply to.

I think I will still probably steer away from the main Marathon Weekend, and go for smaller events like the Wine and Dine and the Tinkerbell, but I’m very glad to see Disney listening to us, the runners.  We are their money makers for that weekend.  I know if 25,000 decide not to go, there’s another 25,000 waiting in line, but sooner or later if you tick enough of us off, you’ll have an empty race that makes no money.

Disney has jumped the shark…

Well, they’ve finally done it.  They’ve gone too far.  I knew something like this was bound to happen but I didn’t expect it to happen this soon.

runDisney has made the announcement on the Disney Parks Blog of a new race and a new challenge for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.   The Goofy’s Race and a half Challenge (running both the half and full) has been around since 2006.  At some point along the way runners added the 5K to the mix for an “unofficial” challenge referred to as the Dopey Challenge, since if running a half and full marathon back to back is Goofy than surely running a 5K, half and then full back to back to back had to be “Dopey”.

Well, Disney has now made the Dopey challenge official… with a twist.  They’ve added a 10K to the mix (who’s “host” and medal will be Minnie Mouse) and instead of the Dopey being a 3 race challenge they went ahead and jumped to a four race challenge and made it the 5K, 10K, Half and then Full back to back to back to back.  The haul for this is 6 medals – 5K, 10K, Half, Full, Goofy and Dopey.  You get credit for the Goofy challenge for doing the Dopey, which I imagine is only fair.

I don’t like this for a myriad of reasons.  First, this pushes the 5K to Thursday, which complicated travel plans (and days off for those of us who, ya know, work for a living) and lodging.  If you want to come in on Saturday just to run the Full marathon only on Sunday? HA… good luck. Second, the 5K starts at 6:30AM, and the 10K start at 5:30AM just like the half and the full, so you are looking at four mornings in a row of getting up at 2AM or so to get to the start, even if you are staying on park property.  I don’t see how this is fun.  It was bad enough doing it for one race like I did. Last, it’s a money grab… pure and simple.  I love Disney, I really do, but this goes too far.  How much does it cost for the “honor” of four days of torture.  A cool five Benjamins ($495 until June 18).

This past year I paid $150 to run the half marathon by registering for it as soon as it opened.  This year the opening registration is $160.  Ok, so it’s only $10, what’s the big deal.  The big deal is it goes up every year.  Until they reach the point of diminishing returns (i.e. the price gets so high the race does not sell out) it will continue to go up.  That means in 10 years the Disney half marathon will cost $250.  Think about that. I saw someone who posted on the Half Fanatics facebook page that the Dopey was only $20 more than the combined prices of all four races.  Wait… $20 MORE? You don’t even get a discount for registering for multiple races? Damn the extra medals and the extra shirt, most other places with race combos (like the Flying Pirate or the St Leo’s this year) the price for the double is LESS than the individual prices.

Thinking back to this past year’s race experience I shudder to think what next year will be like.  Almost 60,000 runners between the three races.  The expo was MOBBED even when I went on it’s second day.  The race course was MOBBED or as one of my fellow racers so eloquently put it “We were ass-to-elbow the entire time”.  Adding an extra race and an extra day is only going to make this worse.  Now that the shorter races are part of the challenge, they are going to sell out faster and they are going to fill up with people who are doing the challenge rather than who just want to do only the 5K, or only the 10K.  Will they cap it like the Goofy so that the 5K and 10K are not 100% full of Dopey participants, yes, I’m sure they will, but it will still take a huge chunk out of both of those races. 25%? 50%? Where will they cap it?

I have other Disney races I want to run.  I’d like to run the Disneyland half in California (or even the Tink).  Lisa wants to run the Wine and Dine Half, and I love EPCOT so how can I say no to that, and her and a whole host of her friends want to do the Expedition Everest Challenge.   But, do I want to go back to the circus that the Marathon Weekend has become? Hell no.  Not even close.  You won’t see me there unless Lisa is just dying to run the Half (or the new Minnie Mouse 10K).

I know this will be an unpopular opinion, most people seem to be all “HECK YEAH!” and “BRING IT ON!” but I don’t like it.  That’s just me.  If you wanna go be Dopey for a week and spend $5000 in Central Florida in the off season, go right ahead.

The Disney Experience

The main reason to run one of the runDisney races is of course, it’s at Disney! Whether it’s races, stage shows, rides, movies or evening fireworks Disney puts on a show like no other.  I touched on a few things in my race recap but I wanted to go into more detail about all the stuff involved in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

The Expo

First, you have the expo, stop number one for all Disney racers (required for packet pick up) there’s gear vendors, start speakers, Disney merchandise and of course people…
20130111_161746
… lots, and lots of people.

The expo was housed in multiple buildings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports on the outskirts of the Disney property.  This was pretty fitting for a race expo a bunch of sports themed buildings.  And they are functional as well, the baseball stadium is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves, and one of the expo buildings (Jostens Center) is a basketball arena.

On course entertainment

It wouldn’t be like Disney to let runners hurtle through the parks in dead silence (aside from the cheering crowds) would it? Of course not! First they set off a huge fireworks display (from behind us) at the start of the first corral and then a smaller send-off for each of the following corrals.  Disney had entertainment stops at least one per mile if not more.  There were at least three high school marching bands on the course.  I’m not sure if it was memories of my own high school band days, or just appreciation of live people playing live music at O’dark thirty to “earn” their Disney band trip but running past the marching bands gave me goosebumps.  I clapped and cheered as I went by them trying to show my appreciation.  They had at least 3 DJs on the course, one of whom was set up on the walking path between the family reunion drop-off area and the starting line, who I later saw set up near the end of the course (wasn’t far for him to go).  They had a Reedy Creek firetruck and of course they had large amounts of Cast Members from the hotels and parks to cheer you on all along the race route.

The Characters

The reason we all run Disney races right? Well, most of us anyway.  The character interactions.  I’m going to try to remember all the characters that were along the race course, I apologize if I miss a few and I’ll try to remember them in the order we got to them.

Mickey, Goofy, Donald at the Start (Not a photo op)
Capt Jack and Barbossa (Stopped for picture)
Chip (or Dale) with cars for the Walt Disney Speedway (Petty Experience)
Jack Skelton outside Magic Kingdom
Royal Mickey (or was it Donald? Didn’t really see) behind the Castle
Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) at the exit of the Magic Kingdom (in the backlot)
Mary Poppins in front of the Grand Floridian
Lilo and Stitch outside the Polynesian
Genie from Alladin (didn’t stop, but should have)
Green Army Men (Toy Story) encouraging people up the EPCOT overpass
Stitch solo inside EPCOT (why is he so popular?)
Mickey and Minnie at the finish (but no one taking pictures?)
Donald and Chip and Dale at the Family Reunion area stage

The only thing that disappointed me is some of the more popular characters (and some of the ones I was looking for) were not on the Half Marathon course (the full course of course has more room for characters). I was looking for Tigger to get a picture with (my mom’s favorite) and while Minnie was at the finish (Lisa’s favorite) there was no one there taking pictures, so I was rather disappointed there as well.  Of course I paid less attention to the characters the second half of the course when I was hurting.

Tips for Disney runners

This was only my first Disney race, but a couple things stuck out at me that would be good ideas for future races.

Stay on park property: I’d recommend this anytime you are going to Disney, but for sure on race day.  The buses will take you to and from the expo and also to and from the race Start/Finish.  You don’t have to worry about driving or parking.  After the race finish you will likely have to wait a while to snag a bus back to the hotel, but the higher volume value resorts had more buses running than the deluxe resort we stayed in.

Come to the start alone: My mom and dad came with me to the starting line area, which I really appreciated it, but there was nothing for them to do, the place was a ZOO and no one really knew what was going on, not even the official “Ask me” people.  There was some spectator area a little after the start, but not much and it wasn’t very easy to get to, so (for the sake of their health and sanity) let them sleep in a couple hours and just meet you at the Magic Kingdom.

Pack for any weather: Assuming you are traveling to Disney from a ways off, make sure to pack for ANY weather.  Apparently January in Florida is very unpredictable.  It averages in the 40s and 50s, but 3 years ago it was 17 degrees and snow/rain/sleet mix at the start, and this year it was downright ROASTING in the 80s.

HAVE FUN!!!!: First and foremost, forget times and PRs and “racing” just have fun, take pictures, stop with the characters and enjoy Disney!

 

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.

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