Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And so October begins....

Well, we're 5 days into October, the busiest month of my year since I moved back to Michigan and the racing bug really bit. It's the best month all year for running - the colors are changing, the weather is cooler - which is probably why so many races fall in October.

Before this month ends, I'll have done almost 4 half marathons in 28 days. "Almost" because I decided to forego my usual Detroit half marathon for the relay. I'm only doing the first 2 legs which puts me 0.9 miles less than the half marathon. On top of that, I also have half marathons in Myrtle Beach and Chicago coming up.

To begin the month, I once again participated in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney World this past weekend. The weekend was great - it started out with the "Meet Up & Eat Up" on Friday morning. This is a special even that runDisney did for 25 special attendees ("special" meaning that we were the first 25 to email into the contest and be selected). Not only did I get in, but so did my friend Julie who was traveling down for her first Disney race with me. During the Meet Up & Eat Up, we were able to listen to the physics of running from Olympic coach Brooks Johnson and additional running tips from former Olympian Jeff Galloway plus race prep tips from last year's winners Anton Van Zyl (who later went on to win this year's race as well) and Melissa Wisner. Then we were able to participate in a 2 mile training run with Jeff and learn a great post-workout recipe from one of Disney chef Gary Jones who is a triathlete himself. Best of all - they let us into the Expo early so that we could get our pic of race merchandise and pick up our bibs before the waiting crowd outside. We felt like VIPs as we were personally escorted past the long line of runners that were anxious to pounce on the Expo as soon as the doors opened. Bob Hitchcock from runDisney joked as he walked us across the complex, "Just don't look them in the eye and they'll leave you alone!"

After the Meet & Eat, Julie & I decided to spend a few hours in Animal Kingdom before heading over to Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. It was a hot, humid day and I was more than a little nervous about what the weather was going to be for race day.

Fortunately, the humidity and heat ceased for Saturday. I woke up to an actually cool day. I boarded the early bus (5am) to the 5k. Usually I don't grab the first bus because it means a lot of waiting around, but I realized in the hotel that they had forgotten to give me my bib when I picked everything else up. As expected, I was able to pick up my bib with no problem once we were dropped off at Animal Kingdom. Because it was so early, the line for the photo op with Mickey and Minnie was really short, so I took advantage of that before settling down on the bleachers to listen to the dj and wait for the corrals to open up.

The 5k was good - running thru Animal Kingdom and some backlot areas by the barns. The smell of the barns bothered some people, but anyone who knows me, knows that manure is not an unfamiliar smell to me, so it didn't bother me at all. It would have been great to run thru the Magic Kingdom on it's 40th anniversary, but I've done so many races that run thru the castle that it really didn't bother me too much. In fact, I enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to negotiate that nasty inverted hill twice (anyone who's done a race thru Magic Kingdom knows exactly what I'm talking about and on last year's 5k, we hit it twice).

We followed the 5k with breakfast at 1900 Park Fare which was a lot of fun and very filling. Then we did a relatively lazy day, including a 2 hour nap in preparation for the 10pm starting time of the half marathon.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect - cool and dry. At ~7:30pm we got on the bus to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the pre-race festivities. I was so glad that I had gotten my Minnie and Mickey pic in the morning because the lines were HUGE for them by the time we got to the field. We just hung out for about an hour and then wandered over to the corrals in eager anticipation of them opening. Julie and I were both in C and we knew that the first couple turns in the race were left turns, so we wanted to position ourselves as close to the front left corner of the corral as possible. As soon as they opened the corrals at about 9:15pm, we accomplished that mission. Usually I like to be at the actual barrier between the corrals, but there was a curb that ended about 6 feet before the front and I decided that I could give up 6 feet of leverage in order to have a better spot to sit while I waited for the race to start.

The race started with the typical fireworks and fanfare. I started out at a pretty good trot, but my knees had been bothering me all day (we definitely overdid it the day before at the Animal and Magic Kingdoms) and I knew that they weren't going to let me keep up the pace. When we hit the first character stop, the 3 fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty, I stopped for a few seconds to snap a quick picture and then decided that October was too full of a race month to push things, so I was going to enjoy the race and not worry about time. I didn't stop to pose with any characters during the race, but did stop a take pics here and there. I also made sure I got a picture of the wizard's hat in Hollywood Studios. This was the 4th race that I've done thru Hollywood Studios and despite the fact that every race has gone by that hat, I never remember I made sure I had a pic to prove I was there!

By mile 7, which was before we got into Hollywood Studios, I started to notice the bicycle sweepers. Oh the stress - I must have spent too much time just enjoying the course! I asked how long before they were going to start picking people up and they said that we were 5 minutes ahead of pace. Ok, as long as I don't lose more than ~1 min per mile, I should be free and clear. When I hit mile 8, they said we were 6 minutes ahead of pace. Score! That gives me even more time (I later found out that they did their last pick up around 8.5, so I really wasn't in any danger of being picked up at that point, but I'm glad I didn't find that out until AFTER the race otherwise I may have really started lagging). The bicycle sweepers were really quite nice and encouraging. Once they closed down a mile marker, they'd ride up to the next and all we had to do was look at them to find out how long before they were shutting the next one down. That was much different than the sweepers in January at the marathon who were really quite nasty.

Just before mile 11 in Hollywood Studios, the bikes were passing me and I took the opportunity to ask when the last pick up was going to be. I knew they couldn't pick us up in the parks because they can't get buses in, but in January they had buses waiting at the Hollywood Studios parking lot. The sweeper gave me a very vague answer along the lines of "....well it depends how far back people are." I knew at that point that we were free and clear, but with just over 2 miles to go, I wanted to push it so I could enjoy the after party as much as possible.

The boardwalk area really is one of my favorite parts of this race and of the marathon in January. Not just because it's near the end, but because the scenery is different from the rest of the race (even in the dark). There are also 2 rather steep hills, especially for that late in a race. One is a bridge entering the yacht club and the other is a hill in Epcot (near last year's finish line). Call me crazy, but I LOVE hills! Plus, I know that once I hit those hills, I'm in the home stretch, so adrenaline is taking over. Crossing the bridge just made me smile and boosted my spirits for the rest of the race.

Fast forward to the 13 mile mark. At this point in the race, Mickey and Minnie had moved from the finish line and positioned themselves in a photo op area just feet from the finish line. I've never seen this in any of the other races. I'm torn as to which I prefer. I do like have them at the finish line, but it's a cool idea to get a pic of them as well. I know I was within spitting distance of finishing, but I stopped to take a picture of some random person with them. I didn't take the time to have my picture taken, but did come to a complete stop when snapping the picture. I then sprinted across (and past) the finish line. To the point that a volunteer actually told me I had to stop.

The finish line party was so much better than last year! I had a slight upset stomach crossing the finish line, but no where near as bad as last year. After consuming the nice, cold refreshing carbonated carbs (beer) at the finish line and the banana from my goodie bag, my queasy stomach calmed down. I rested for a few minutes with a couple on a bench while we did some people watching before heading back to the World Showcase in Epcot to meet up with Julie (who I later learned had PR'ed). After a few more pictures and chatting with some folks along the way, I finally found Julie. Even though it was late, we were able to get food. We chose the Caribbean for food because it had the shortest line, but compared to last year, ALL of the food stations had short lines.

All in all, Wine & Dine was another great race even though it wasn't one of my best. The improvements over last year were terrific and although I was planning on skipping next year, I'm starting to rethink that. This was the second Wine & Dine and I've done both. If you've done all of the Goofy Challenges, they call you Perfectly Goofy. If you've done all of the Princess Half Marathons, they call you Perfectly Princess. Hmmmm, in a few years, I wonder what they'll call us that have done all the Wine & Dines.....Perfectly Drunk?

Now a week to rest up before Detroit.