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2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On Saturday evening, the 4th incarnation of Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon took place at Walt Disney World.

And for the 4th year in a row, I was running in Disney’s only night race.

The Night Race Dynamic

For those of you that have never run a night race, it is a totally different ball game than the typical early morning starts. Some people like the night start, some people aren’t as keen about them.

Since most runners are creatures of habit, starting a race at night totally throws off the race day routine. Should you sleep in or get up early and take a midday nap? What time should you eat before the race? What should you do all day? Normal activities? Lay on the couch?

And what about your bathroom routine?

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Yikes.

But me? I love the late start!

Until recently, I’ve never been a fan of early morning running. So the idea of running a half or a full that started at 6 or 7 in the morning was almost as daunting as the actual run itself.

But to start a race at 10 pm? Being wide awake, fully fueled, and ready to go? Where do I sign up?

That was the allure of this race 4 years ago. And after running it the first time, I’ve been  hooked ever since.

Why Do I Run the Same Race Every Year?

First and foremost, Disney knows how to put on a race.

Yes, the price is steep compared to most other races. But when it comes to race organization and on-course entertainment, it’s really hard to beat a runDisney event. There are Disney characters sprinkled throughout the course for runners to be able to get pictures with, and the allure of running through the theme parks is pretty awesome.

And the route we run during the Wine and Dine Half is fantastic. In my opinion, running the January half course is nowhere near as cool as the Wine and Dine half. Not only do you get to run in 3 of the 4 parks instead of only running through 2, but you also get to spend  more time running in each of the parks! During the January race, you’re only in the parks for a little over a mile. At Wine and Dine, you get about 3-4 miles of park running. And park running beats road running any day.

This Year’s Race

This year, my Wine and Dine experience was a little different than it has been in years past.

After running the Red Ribbon Half in the morning, I was slightly less than fresh for the start of the race.

But I had a plan and I stuck with it.

The plan was simple. Start just off at about 8:45 pace or the first 5k and see how the legs feel. If, after 5k I felt ok, I was going to try to bring that pace down towards 8:30 and give another PR a shot.

As we gathered into our corrals, I started to feel the excitement and nerves.

 

After that, it was time to run.

This year, the race organizers did us a huge favor by creating more starting corrals with fewer people in them to limit the cluster that typically happens during the first few miles of a runDisney event. So instead of being in the first corral with 1500 other runners, I was in Corral C with only about 500 runners.

And this small change made a huge difference.

Coming out of the shoot, runner traffic was flowing smoothly. Yes, the road was crowded. But we kept moving, and that is better than some past race experiences that I’ve had. And while the first water station (just past Mile 1) was still narrower than it could be, having fewer people passing through it at the same time did make it easier for those of us not wishing to stop to be able to keep running.

By the time we got to Animal Kingdom, I was still feeling alright so I decided to push it a little bit. At this point, I wasn’t sure my legs would make it for the entire 13.1, but I knew if I didn’t stay close to my target pace while my legs were still feeling good it wouldn’t matter anyway. I mean, there was no way I could knock out a couple of 7 minute miles at the end of this race, so I needed to keep my second 5k around 8:15 to keep an overall 8:30 within reach.

Coming out of DAK is tough, because the trip down Osceola is BORING! But, I kept an eye on my watch and focused on maintaining my breathing as I got through the worst stretch of the Wine and Dine course. By the time I got to the 15k mark, a PR was within reach. I had made it to the Studios, and my overall pace was down to 8:36.

I entered the Studios and tried doing some quick math in my head. I’d have to keep pushing all the way to the finish, but for the first time I really felt like I could get the second PR of the day. The Studios section of the race is tricky, because there are a lot of sharp turns that you have to navigate with tired legs. The first couple are 90* corners, so they don’t slow you down too bad unless runner traffic gets in your way. But there is a 180* turn around the 10 mile mark that is a killer, because it just totally stops all of your momentum.

And then there are the lights.

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Photo by Amy. @MomsMagicMiles

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Photo by Amy. @MomsMagicMiles

I’m not much of a Christmas lights person, but every time I enter the Streets of America to this scene, I can’t help but slow down and take as much in as possible. This year, I tried my best not to slow down too much through this section, but I know I did.

Coming out of the Studios with 2 miles to go, I liked my chances. I’ve run the route between the Studios and Epcot dozens of times, so I knew how to cut every corner and accelerate up and down every little “hill”.

Once we got to Epcot, there were so many yelling and screaming people that I knew I could get a lift from their energy. And I did.

I rounded the final corner, crossed the finish line, and the Garmin read 1:52:05! New PR!

Yahtzee!

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The Red Ribbon Half Marathon

This past weekend, Lakeland hosted the first half marathon to take place in Polk County.

The Inaugural Red Ribbon Half Marathon was put on by the InnerAct Alliance, a non-profit group dedicated to preventing substance abuse, particularly with kids.

As a resident of Lakeland, it was awesome to be able to run a half marathon in town. But to be able to do so while supporting a local organization that provides a great service to our community made the race even more special.

The Course

When rumors started to swirl last spring about a half marathon being run in Lakeland, course layout possibilities were flying all over the place.

The problem that most people seemed to agree upon was finding an enjoyable 13.1 mile course that wouldn’t create too many problems with closing some of the major roads in town. The organizers settled on a course that ran through some of downtown and the neighborhoods south of Lake Hollingsworth.

I’d say they chose well.

The course, in my opinion, was very fair. There were 4 or 5 legitimate (for central Florida) climbs that tested your strength and your mental toughness. Though it was labeled by many as a tough and hilly course, there were lots of people that PR’d in the race. So to me, if you did the training you were rewarded. If you didn’t train, you struggled. If that’s not a fair course, I don’t know what is.

How I Did

In short, I ran this race exactly how I hoped I would.

Since this was the first race of my double, I knew I couldn’t go all out to keep up with my fellow pack runners. Instead, I had to focus on running my race and giving myself a chance for two half marathon PRs in one day, which was the goal.

Coming into the Red Ribbon Half, my current PR was 1:53:18. If I could average an 8:37 mile for the entire race, I’d be able to just undercut my PR without wearing myself out during this first race.

I targeted an 8:35 overall pace, so I’d have a little wiggle room if needed.

When the gun went off, I tried to just settle in and enjoy the beginning of the race. I really didn’t do any type of warm up before the race, so that’s all I was using the first mile for. I glanced at my watch a couple of times, but really wasn’t worried about my speed. I was getting passed by a good number of runners during that first mile, but I just tried to stay relaxed and concentrated on settling into a rhythm.

After the first mile, I picked the pace up a little bit and tried to stay around 8:40 or so. My plan for the race was to not worry too much about my overall pace until I made the turn onto Hallam. Instead, I’d keep an eye on my current pace, which I knew would bounce around between 8:15 and 8:45. At Hallam (about 4.5 mile mark) I was planning on checking my average pace on my Garmin and adjusting the pace as needed.

I made the turn onto Hallam with an overall average pace of 8:43, which was about what I was shooting for, really. With a little less than 9 miles to go, I knew I had plenty of time to make up for the controlled start of the race, but if I waited until I only had a few miles left it would tough to make up the required time.

It was go time.

From this point on, I didn’t get passed by another runner for the rest of the race, except for when I stopped at water stations. I just dug in, trusted in my training, and kept chugging along. By the time I got to mile 9, I was back down to an 8:35 pace which put me right where I wanted to be. As long as I could maintain it for the last 4 miles, which included two legitimate (for Lakeland) hills, I’d secure my first PR of the day.

With a mile to go, I knew I was good. I still had one hill to climb, but I stopped to get a drink of water at the last water station. After finishing my water, I started up the hill and passed more than a few fellow runners that were starting to fade. From the top of the hill, there was about 1/4 of a mile left, that was all slightly downhill. I dialed back my pace, as I knew I was able to, and coasted to the finish line.

Almost to the Finish Line--Photo by Dave Q.

Almost to the Finish Line–Photo by Dave Q.

1:52:58 on the clock. PR, no question.

Chip time ended up being 1:52:52. I’ll take it. Average pace, 8:33.

Race one of the day-completed in a new PR, albeit only slightly.

But that was by design.

If I had any hope of keeping my half marathon PR streak alive, I knew I needed to take this first race a little bit easy and hope I’d have something left for the night race at Disney.

Before I get ahead of myself though, I want to give a shout out to my beautiful wife for running her first half ever. She took a little longer than she had hoped, but she toughed it out like a champ and finished strong.

Me and Bek--Photo by Nina W.

Me and Bek–Photo by Nina W.

She’s a baller. Love you, babe!

A 13.1 Mile Double Down

It’s time to Double Down.

And no, I’m not heading to the casino.

Instead, I’m doing something only slightly less foolish this weekend–I’m running 2 different half marathons in the same day. That’s right yall, I’ll be toeing the line at 7 am for the Red Ribbon Half Marathon here in Lakeland. At 10 pm the gun goes off again, this time for Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Read more

Blue Springs Marathon

Last weekend, the wife and I traveled to the Kansas City area for the wedding of my wife’s best friend.

While the reason for the trip was the wedding, which was wonderful, the trip also provided me with an opportunity to continue my marathon journey by running 26.2 in Missouri.

But before I get to race day itself, I just want to put another plug in for Shawnee Mission Park. If you’re ever in the KC area and are looking for a quite, beautiful, piece of nature in which to run, look no further.

Confession time, I had planned to keep this review relatively short, and instead put together a little video diary of the race. I got a few clips recorded on my phone, but I didn’t have anything to carry my phone with me to record while running so the video segments got scrapped. Hopefully that will change for the Double Down coming up in about 10 days.

Anyway, on to the race. Read more

Shawnee Mission Park–The Best Place to Run in Lenexa/Overland Park/Olathe/Shawnee KS Area

I’ve never realized how hard it is to find a good place to run when you’re in an area where you have no idea where anything is located.

I’m currently hanging out in a Lenexa, KS, hotel room watching some football and waiting for a friend’s wedding this afternoon. My wife is in the wedding party, so I’ve had most of the day for myself to do whatever I wanted, as long as I make it to the ceremony location on time.

Also this weekend, I’ll be running my 4th marathon, so after I dropped my wife off to start getting ready, I wanted to go and get in 2 or 3 easy miles to loosen up my legs a little bit and break a little sweat.

Who knows if I’ll be in this part of the country again, so I wanted to see something cool–whether that be neighborhoods, neat parks, or anything else that I can’t see when I’m running in Lakeland.

Easier said than done.

Read more