It’s Almost Race Time

Three days from now, I’ll be finished running America’s Toughest Road Marathon.

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How’s that for self confidence?

The Blue Ridge Marathon is happening on Saturday, and I can’t wait! I’ve been looking forward to this race for awhile now, though if I’m honest, I’ve been a little nervous about this race as well.

You see, as a naturalized Floridian, we don’t really have many hills to train on. In fact, the (only half-way joking) legitimate hills we have are actually road/highway overpasses.

No offense, but overpasses don’t quite measure up to the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is an advertised 7,500 feet of elevation change over the course of those 26.2 miles.

You could say that I’m slightly unprepared for this race, but I’m not sure that would accurately portray how this race is going to go. I know I’m capable of handling the miles, but the hills are going to kill me. If I can make it in less than 5 hours, it’ll be a win for me.

Just Having Fun

No matter how the race goes, the goal for this weekend is to just have fun. I’ll be flying up to VA on Friday morning, running the race Saturday morning, and flying home Saturday night. The travel itinerary isn’t ideal, but it is what it is.

And this way I can blame the lack of a PR on the condensed travel schedule! Hehe.

If any of y’all are running Blue Ridge this weekend, I’d love to meet you guys! Let me know, or give me a shout on twitter, and we can meet up at the expo.

And if you see me curled up along the side of the road on Saturday in the fetal positions, just keep going.

I’ll be ok.

Carol Marsh Kids 2 Camp 5k 2014

So this past weekend was the 2nd annual Carol Marsh Kids 2 Camp 5k at First UMC here in town. Seeing that my wife not only works at the church, but that a lot of the kids in her program are able to go to summer camp because of the proceeds of this event, I was obviously running this event again this year.

While I still have a serious hatred for 5k racing, I do enjoy this race for the simple fact that it is not around Lake Hollingsworth like just about every other 5k in town.

So since the race is on a different course, and it’s for a good cause, I went ahead and signed up for the race.

When I was picking up our bibs and goodie bags the night before the race, the ladies that organized the race were already congratulating me on winning this year’s race. I tried laughing them off, but they were certain I’d win after placing third last year. One even said that my only real competition was injured, so I was in pretty good shape to win.

What they didn’t know was that my plan for race morning was to get up early, head into town, and knock of 8-10 miles BEFORE running the 5k. Seeing as I’m only about 7 weeks out from the Blue Ridge Marathon, I need a lot more miles than just 3.1 on a Saturday.

Well, after oversleeping by about an hour on Saturday, I decided to forgo the long run opportunity, and just run the race instead. So I grabbed Bailey, and headed to the church. We got there with enough time for her to do her “thing” and me to get about a mile warm up in, and headed to the start line.

As the race started, there were a handful of kids that basically took off in a sprint. I tried to keep Bailey from going crazy with all of the kids, and we just focused on getting off to a good start. Once the kids dropped off, all of about 1/4 mile into the race, we settled into a groove behind the bike that was leading the way.

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Bailey and I Were So Fast, This is The Only Evidence of Our Victory!

After the first mile, things were feeling pretty good, and B had stopped going crazy like she does at the start of every run, so we kept at it. We had done the first mile in 6:28, so I knew we were moving pretty good, I just hoped I didn’t go out to fast and could maintain this pace for the rest of the race.

As we blew past the second mile, I thought for a minute that I might actually have a chance at a new PR. I set a PR in last year’s race, but had blown it out of the water a few times during the Watermelon Races last summer. And since I’d really only been doing marathon training, not 5k training, I didn’t think there would be a chance I could touch my 20:21 in this race. But as we were coming around the corner with less than a 1/4 to go, it was actually possible.

When we got to the finish line, I checked the time. 20:24. Not quite a PR, but a good 30 seconds faster than I thought I would be. I was surprised, since there were no other runners around us for the entire race. Of course, I did have miss thing pulling me!

Last year, finishing 2nd in my age group won me an awesome plate decorated by one of the kids in the Neighborhood Ministries Department at the church. This year, the kids decorated some coffee cups. (Somebody in NM must know me well!)

Photo on 2014-03-12 at 14.36So now, I’m almost looking forward to next year’s race. I mean, I’ve got the plate and the coffee cup. What’s next, silverware? Soup bowl?

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see!

 

Gotta Love a Solid PR!

On Sunday, I ran in the inaugural running of the Celebration Marathon. This race was, in a word, fantastic, and I’d highly recommend that you consider running it next year.

For an inaugural event, the organizers did a tremendous job keeping things together and running smoothly. Were there some things that they might want to do differently next year? No question. But all in all, I didn’t see anything major that you could really complain about regarding this race.

I came closer to running a perfect race than ever before, only missing the mark by .06 miles. I also managed to PR by 21 minutes, so I was pretty stoked with my performance. I really wanted to end up under 4 hours, (official time was 4:08:34) so I could have done better, but a 21 minute PR will have to be good enough.

Photo by The Wife

Photo by The Wife

In my humble opinion, there were a lot more pros than cons with this race. And in truth, I almost had to reach to find any cons.

The Pros

  • Flat–If you are afraid of hills, this race is for you. There weren’t even any “Florida Hills”, aka overpasses, on this course. If you want flat and fast, come to Celebration in 2015.
  • Small Field–I know size is relative (that’s what she said), and for some bigger is better(and she said it again), but if you don’t want to have to dodge other runners for 26.2 miles, this race is for you. Granted the first half of the race is a bit crowded until those running the half split off, there’s nothing like having a little elbow room for the vast majority of the race.
  • Great Expo–Again, this is a bit relative, but I thought the expo was fantastic. I’m not a big expo fan to begin with. I’m more of a get my packet and get out of here kind of guy, but for a race with only 2000 people in it, I was really impressed. While there were fewer venders than at some big races, there were lots of samples to be given out and lots of products to try. And the cool thing about small race expos is that often the big companies shy away, but the small companies come to try and expand their customer base. So it’s cool to see some newer products from some newer companies.
  • Awesome Weather–I know there is no guarantee that the weather will be perfect again next year, but let’s be honest. The likelihood of good weather in Central Florida as opposed to the rest of the country at this time of year (polar vortex, anyone?) is pretty high. I’ll take mid-50s for the race, thank you very much.

The Cons

  • Two Laps–For the full, we basically ran the same loop twice. This isn’t a huge con, but the first lap we ran with those running the half so the course was a bit crowded. For most of it, there wasn’t much of a problem. But there was one stretch of about a mile, where it got really crowded during the first lap.
  • The Post Race Party–All in all, the post race party wasn’t bad. When we finished, we picked up a card to take to a variety of vendor in order to try samples of their food and drinks. The problem was that it wasn’t completely clear where to go to get the card after crossing the finish line, and some vendors ran out of items early. I know the vendors running out of food early isn’t the race organizers fault, but it was still a bit of a downer.

Overall, this was a fantastic race and I’d absolutely consider running it again. The only reason I’m not quite ready to commit to it again for next year is that I need to start running in more states than just Florida. But for the price, and for the fact that late January isn’t the greatest time to run a race in most other parts of the country, I’ll go out on a limb and say that at some point I’ll definitely run this race again.

If you’re thinking about running Celebration in 2015, do it. You won’t be disappointed!

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon

This past weekend I ran my 3rd Disney Marathon, which was my 5th full marathon overall.

There is a lot to love about runDisney events, but after running a handful of non-runDisney events (halves and fulls) I’ve come to learn that runDisney definitely leaves a few things to be desired as well.

The Good Stuff

  • The Bling–Disney events tend to feature some pretty nice finishers medals. This year was no different in my book. Big. Gawdy. Heavy. Love it.

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  • Characters on the Course–If you’re running in a Disney race, you’re going to see lots of characters out there to take pictures with, if you’re so inclined. Not only are Mickey and Minnie out there, but there are also a lot of characters out and about that aren’t regularly seen in the parks. This was my 8th runDisney event, and this was the first time I actually stopped to take a bunch of pictures. Great decision.

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  • Lots of Company–This is a double edged sword, because having lots of fellow runners means that the course can be a little crowded sometimes, and not all runners are familiar with proper runner etiquette. But after running a race in October where I was pretty much alone for 18 of the 26 miles, it was nice having some company from start to finish.

The Not-So-Good

  • Corral Placement is a Joke–On paper, putting runners in order by their projected finish time, and sending them out in waves is a good idea. runDisney fails when it comes to putting this idea into practice. Nothing against walkers or run/walkers, but they shouldn’t be in one of the first couple of corrals in a race this size. When they stop, and usually it’s more than one person at a time, it creates an instant road block. And since the course is crowded virtually the entire way, it can be a hassle to get around them. I don’t know how some people got into the corrals they did.
  • Lack of Guest Relations/Customer Service–For a company that is so focused on making guests happy, Disney dropped the ball when it comes to runner relations at the race expo. I have a friend that ran the race, her first full, and when she registered she didn’t have a qualifying time to give her a good corral placement. She was hoping for a sub-4:00 race, and ran a half in November in 1:50 and change, which should have placed her in one of the better corrals. runDisney, however, decided that November was too late in the year for a change in her corral placement to be changed on her bib, and for the first time that I’m aware of, they wouldn’t permit her to change her corral at the expo even though she had a verifiable qualifying time. She still managed to run 4:01 while weaving through, literally, 1000’s of slower runners that were able to get corral placements that my friend should have.
  • Post Race Food–I’m not going to blast runDisney over the price of the race, which is high, but I understand where the money goes. One place the money doesn’t go, however, is to the post race spread. I’ve been to races that cost $40-50 that have huge buffets, hot food, lots of drinks (read, free beer), and entertainment for all runners. Disney gives you, what amounts to, a poor-mans boxed lunch. We got a few bagged treats (corn chips, almond puffs, crasins), a banana, and a powerade. Spare no expense. (To be fair, all food items were gluten-free, which isn’t often the case concerning post-race foods, so I do really appreciate that thought from the race organizers.)

All in All

When it’s all said and done, I had a blast running this race.

Stopping for pictures with the characters was a first for me, and it really made all the difference. If you’re trying to run a race for a fast time, and don’t want to stop for pictures, you might want to try another option. But if you’re looking for a fun race to run, the Disney Marathon is a pretty good choice.

I doubt I’ll make the Disney full a regular event on my race schedule, even though I’ve run 3 of the last 4, but I’m leaning toward doing it again next year. I’m thinking about doing the Goofy Challenge next year, but that might be my last Disney full for awhile.

Anyone want to run it with me?

Have You Ever Run a runDisney Event? Did You Run in the Marathon Weekend This Year? What Were Your Thoughts of the Event?

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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