Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back to Training

I had a good training run today, 2 weeks out from my Goofy Race weekend. It was just 7 miles, but at a solid pace under 12 minutes per mile (which included waiting on traffic a couple times). This was faster than I probably should have ran while still in recovery mode, but I felt comfortable at the time, good enough to know recovery from the Goofy is going well, but still not so comfortable that I can say I have fully recovered just yet. However, another week and I should be ready to go on with my regular training.

I am still trying to put together my spring training plan at the moment, which is unusual for me as I think I have to go back to early 2008 when there was a time that I was not registered for some upcoming event. My main target for this spring is to complete the Lone Star Ironman 70.3 in Galveston in late April. I have a couple potential races before then that I am still working out. I had originally wanted to do the Austin Marathon on February 14th. However after recently completing 2 marathons, 2 half marathons and 1 Half Ironman in a 77 day period, I think it would be smarter to take a bit of a break before spending that much time at racing effort level. As much as I would like to take on the Austin marathon for a marathon PR, I would really hate for an overuse injury to cancel my whole spring schedule.

After taking Austin off the schedule, that opens up for a few local options. The following races are all likely options as I also prepare to PR at the 70.3 distance in late April:
Run Wild Half Marathon on February 21 in Houston, TX
Rodeo Run 10K on February 27 in Houston, TX
Bayou City Classic 10K on March 13 in Houston, TX
Seabrook Half Marathon on March 20 in Seabrook, TX
Seabrook Half Marathon on March 21 in Seabrook, TX (yes they have 2 of these back to back)

My present line of thought is to do the Run Wild and Seabrook Half Marathons, and to consider doing both Seabrook races if I feel good that weekend. Then I would have a few good training weeks before tapering my schedule into some pre-70.3 rest time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 Disney World Trip Wrap Up

I spent 10 days at Disney World at the beginning of this month. It was easily the longest trip we have ever taken to Disney World, and it still seemed so short at times. Even so, for me it was the trip of a lifetime.

It very well may have been the last trip my family takes as a family together, as just the 4 of us. My daughters are 19 (Patricia) and 21 (Amanda) now, and are moving in different directions in their lives. Amanda will graduate college this spring and Patricia is applying to Nursing School this year as well. Given their ages I can be sure their lives will be changing significantly soon, and likely in some ways that are both expected and unexpected. While this will sadden me to some degree, that doesn't make it a bad thing. It's a good thing that these young women are ready to take their place in the world, I'll just be sad that it means they'll have to be apart from me to do it.

I'm not sure how I can effectively sum up 10 days in a single blog post, so I'll just try to hit the highlights. We spent our first seven days staying at Disney's Old Key West Resort in a 2 bedroom unit. The Old Key West Resort is part of the Disney Vacation Club, which is a first rate timeshare complex. The resort was very nice and the large accommodations were very relaxing. On our first full day there, my girls slept in and I got up early and headed out to the parks(and my wife would not arrive for 3 days due to some work issues for her). Disney has an extensive mass transportation system, and while it is not perfect it is good most of the time. The first day I did something I had always wanted to try, to go to all 4 major parks in one day. I did at least 3 major rides in each park, starting at Animal Kingdom and moving on to Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and then the Magic Kingdom. It got fairly busy later in the day, but was not too bad for a Sunday. I was guessing the cool weather was keeping the local population home during much of my stay, which was fine for me if cooler weather meant shorter lines. Monday - Thursday afternoon was a mix of touring the parks on my own, with just my wife and with the whole family. The weather was unseasonably cool to cold, but not terribly bad. I could go into a lot of details, but I think it's mostly fair to say that we just tried to enjoy ourselves. We did a lot of things but tried not to push too hard to overdo things, and I think we struck a good mix.

Starting on Thursday I was looking towards the races over the weekend, which time away from family but with other friends (and with some of you that read this!). I learned that it is very tough to balance meeting friends and being with family as there wasn't enough time to feel good about doing both, but I'll have to be satisfied with the time I got. September will bring another chance to meet up with the Disney running friends at the Disneyland Half Marathon. As far as the details of my race experiences, I already wrote several posts on those days.

Saturday morning was the wet and nearly freezing half marathon, and after getting back to the resort room I had less than an hour to be checked out as we were moving to the Port Orleans Riverside Resort for the next few days. After a warm bath (it was in the low to mid 30's and wet all morning!) I got dressed up and we headed out for the day. This day was cold and wet--it even snowed and sleeted during the race earlier--and we spent time relaxing more than touring the parks. Sunday was marathon day, although after completing the marathon I was on such an emotional high that I spent much of the afternoon and night at the Magic Kingdom. This was about the only time that my family could walk faster than me all during the stay as I shuffled around, but I still had a great time. Finally on Monday, I had to miss the opportunity to see some friends one more time as we were preparing to leave.

I would have liked to have spent more time with friends, but I can't regret the time spent with my family. Next time my friends will be around as well, but my family is transitioning into the next stage of our lives. This trip was 10 days--so short but yet so long--and was the most full vacation trip I may have ever taken, but I still would not have traded it for the world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge Part 5

Well, this is the wrap up post following my Walt Disney World Goofy Experience. I think I am pretty sure by this point that I will have spent more time blogging about the Goofy Challenge than actually running the Goofy Challenge!

Saturday's half marathon was my 11th half marathon (not counting the run part of the Longhorn 70.3) and it was also my second slowest half marathon time at 2:58:48. Obviously, I spent a good amount of time stopped for photo opportunities and that slowed me down some, but I purposefully ran a slower average pace because completing Sunday's run was far more important having than a fast time on Saturday.

Sunday's marathon was my 2nd full marathon and was my slowest at 6:17:45. I felt good going into the start of the marathon, although my legs took a few miles to really get going--but I can't really say whether that was due to yesterday's run or the bitter cold weather. After looking back at my timing information I was very pleased to see that I ran the marathon with a 2:59 negative split!! That's right, I ran the last 13.1 miles nearly 3 minutes faster than the first 13.1 miles. That maybe shouldn't have been too surprising to me, as I felt great for most of the race and really enjoyed the whole day once I got moving in the morning.

Other than completing these combined races, my most important goal was to have fun. I had told some friends some time back that my goal was to feel like I was part of some fantastic 39.3 mile party the whole time. Well, the weather was wet, cold, windy and miserable for much of the runs (well, only wet on Saturday), but I still finished feeling like I had enjoyed the race of a lifetime--that I had been granted my wish to just thoroughly and completely enjoy the process throughout both days. For anyone who might even be tempted to do the Goofy Challenge, or even "just" the half or full marathon at Disney, I say "Go for it!!!" For me it felt like a once in a lifetime running experience and may never be equalled.

I am now left with just two questions to answer to myself about the Goofy Challenge:
1. When do I get myself back there again? (even next year?), and
2. How do I top this recent experience?

(and there is a photo of Goofy and I coming to complete the collection, but I won't have it for at least another week)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge Part 4

(aka Disney's Arctic Endurance Challenge, Day 2)

I enter today with a lot more apprehension than I have had for a race in a long time. The apprehension isn't because I am doing a marathon, it's because I am doing a marathon the day after doing a half marathon and I don't know for certain whether my body will hold up or whether I'll be certain to maintain the required minimum pace if I start to have any issues. I had trained for this race doing back to back days to run on "tired" legs most weeks as preparation, which seemed to work well in theory, but kept me feeling as if I was continuously in recovery mode at times. In the end I have to believe I trained the right way as I completed both races feeling as good and as comfortable as possible.

I got up again at 2:30 in the early morning and prepared as yesterday. Today was definitely colder, with temperatures in the low 20's and wind around 20 mph. I got to the staging area and checked in my gear--this time I packed a full, warm set of changing clothes so I would not flirt with hypothermia like yesterday. After check in I walk around the back side of the check in area and it seems everyone is huddled up against the downwind side of the tents again, just like yesterday. At one point I get some water from the aid station at check in and find that the water spilled on the table is frozen, also that water is starting to form ice in the cups.
I laugh to myself and figure it is going to be one of those days...again. Today I head out to the start a little earlier and get in the shorter porta potty lines there. I am amused to note for the second day in a row that the gas generators powering the lights along the way all have small crowds around trying to absorb some of the heat from the generators. Today I line up much closer to the front in Corral F, it's only closer than yesterday because the faster runners have a separate route for the starting miles.

The race begins with the same fanfare and fireworks as yesterday, only this time I never found any familiar faces. I would later see Debra from yesterday, but she was starting farther back with another friend today. Today's early route takes us back to the front of Epcot with a quick entry and exit after running around the front of the park. Then we went off towards the Magic Kingdom. Like yesterday there were bands and cheering groups along the route to break up the monotonous dark. As we approach the Magic Kingdom Park I still feel cold and stiff, not surprising as it is still well below freezing and windy out. Today the Magic Kingdom is farther into the course than yesterday and it is light upon my arrival there. Like yesterday the route into the park, and then also along Main Street in the park, is lined with cheering supporters. Today's route through and out is the same as yesterday, although it seems there are more characters out today, including several that were not here yesterday.
Of course, I think it is practically required to have a Cinderella Castle photo with any good Disney World Race.

This time when we clear past the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts we head towards the Animal Kingdom Park instead of back to Epcot. Shortly after the halfway point we come to the banana aid station and upon biting into the banana I have to laugh because it is frozen! Obviously a good sense of humor is coming in handy today because it is either laugh or cry over the weather situation, up to now every cup of water or Power Ade I have gotten at the aid stations has had ice in the top of the cup as well, and several have had patches of ice on the road near the aid tables from spilled water--not exactly what I expected to find in Orlando when I registered.

The back road to the Animal Kingdom Park is a long trek, but is well managed with several aid stations, piped in music, Disney characters for photo ops and even some lost looking park characters with a wrecked jeep and an upside down map trying to convince runners that we were going the wrong way. After we pass by Disney's wastewater treatment plant, with porta potties ironically across from it, we make the final turn towards the Animal Kingdom Park. We are coming into a rear service entrance and they have staged a mix of costumed characters, trained animals, and parade vehicles for us.

We come into the back of the park and follow the main circular path the long way through the park. Right after posing for a photo in front of the Expedition Everest sign I am given an offer by the ride attendant to go to the front of the line for a ride. It only takes me a second to think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I stop and reverse direction. He takes me straight to the waiting roller coaster car and I get front of line access!!! After this I run back to the course and continue with the marathon, only losing several minutes but gaining an awesome experience opportunity in trade. We have about another 3/4 mile in Animal Kingdom before leaving by a side service exit and then running past the park's main gate area. Right before leaving the area I am able to get some pretzel sticks and Twizzlers from some WISH volunteers before hitting the road to the next park.

At this point we are entering a tough road stretch with less entertainment and being more exposed to the cold wind, on the plus side we are now getting water from the aid stations without ice in the cup. It is still very cold, and the wind is biting at times, but the sun is giving some (but not much) warmth. On the next 2 to 3 mile straight line stretch, there is somewhat less Disney entertainment, but most of the road has supporters offering encouragement, and a couple of DJs and music piped through speakers. It is while running through this area that I realize that many other runners are suffering just as you would expect in any marathon, but I am still having a great time. When we hit the turnaround, I see some fellow WISH team members handing out orange slices--which I gladly accept. We head partly back and then turn towards the Studios Park. The water tower seems a bit distant now, but it comes up quicker than I would expect. We enter a side service entrance and immediately start to see props and characters appropriate for this area, including some streetmosphere acting. After stopping for a quick photo with some Incredibles characters, I run through the backlot tour area part of the course. From here, we turn up into the main park and run all the way through to the front of the park before ducking out a side entrance. My family happens to be in this park today, and watches portions of the marathon, but we never see each other. After exiting the park through a front service entrance, we pass the front gate and an impromptu WISH team aid station with several WISH team members. Among all the faces I identify my friends Mel and Corinna, and feel a surge of energy from their support (or was it from the extra Twizzlers I get here) as I start the run towards the Boardwalk/Beach Club area. The path narrows and I have trouble keeping pace and navigating around the walkers travelling together, but I really can't complain much if I feel that much better than some of those around me. I pass mile 24 get into Epcot by the backside International Gateway.

This is pretty much the home stretch of the marathon as we turn to circle through the World Showcase. From this point on, I don't recall seeing any characters, however there were many people rooting the runners on along the course, and admittedly I was focusing on running more than the extras right now. As I run around this area I reach into my pocket and take out a few dollars. I had planned ahead to buy a churro from the small snack bar in the Mexico Pavilion to munch on as I finished the course. Unfortunately, the snack bar was closed and I did not see any open snack carts along the finish route. We quickly navigate to the front of the park, with a great view of the backside of Spaceship Earth and then on to passing the 26 mile marker--a most lovely sight for sore eyes--and then just beyond it was a Gospel choir, which was providing a real uplifting beat and song at the right time. From here, I worked up a sprint for the finish, pausing only briefly to try to best position myself for the finsshing photos. As I cross the finish line I yell and jump for joy across the finish line, which is missed by every photographer.

I work my way through the line, getting my mylar blanket and my Mickey marathon medal. Then I check in at the Goofy tent and get my Goofy medal after they verify that I qualified, and of course all the usual race photos. Today I go straight to bag check and get my bag. Then I put on my jeans and sweatshirt over my running clothes so I can stay warm, since it is still in the 30's with heavy winds. Today I spend nearly an hour rooting in other runners and meeting fellow finished runners before the cold, tiredness and hunger send me back to the hotel a very happy and satisfied runner.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge Part 3

(aka Disney's Arctic Endurance Challenge)

Since the cold weather, make that really, really cold weather, was a possibility for the races and even though I fully expected the 10 day and farther out forecasts to be wrong, I still packed all my cold weather gear (of which I have little, being from southeast Texas). As the races approached it was seeming increasingly likely that the weather would be bad, and it was with near 30 degree temperatures, wind, rain and sleet as we stood around for the start of Saturday's half marathon.

I set the typical 3 alarms to wake up at 2:30am to make sure I would be on the bus by 3:30am (last bus out at 4:00am). I checked the current weather and it said 40 degrees. I was ecstatic, after all it was supposed to be 10 degrees colder!!! I went out to check and it felt cold, but reasonable outside. I made my final clothing choices based on this and prepared to leave. By the time I had gotten to the staging area I noticed the wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping, so out comes the plastic poncho for a windbreak and body heat catcher. I walk the half mile or so to the staging area and meet up with some of the Team Voice friends for a bit. I made the mistake of checking in my bag early and looking for a few other friends that I couldn't find and then I couldn't find the Team Voice friends either. Most people were huddled together against the downwind side of the staging tents and wearing so much that you couldn't really tell who anybody was. Then sleet started to fall for a while. A little while later it was time to walk the mile plus down to the start area. I went to my corral alone as I was unable to locate anyone I knew and stayed at the back of Corral E. About 10 minutes before the race start Debra appears right near me, having had some transportation issues. We were not specifically planning to meet up, but it was good to see a familiar face.

After a short wait, and a lot of incessant talking by the DJ hosts over the loud speakers, the national anthem plays and fireworks go off. Then we wait for the crowd to move.

After about 21 minutes of waiting and shuffling forward, we begin the half marathon race. It is around 30 degrees out,windy and wet. Debra and I start at a decent pace given the crowds and are amused that many under-dressed people are going through the throw away clothes on the roadside to add extra layers. Debra and I are both run/walking different patterns but are staying fairly consistently together. The course runs us past the front of Epcot and towards the Magic Kingdom, although it is dark there is still some live entrtzinment along the way. After several miles, and still dark I start to get pelted with ice pellets falling from the sky for about 10 - 15 minutes, I am tempted to loudly ask what else could happen but didn't want to really tempt fate that much. Finally we reach the Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom, and the fun really starts. Main Street of the Magic Kingdom is lined with cheering supporters who braved the cold weather to come and support the runners. In addition are various Disney characters appropriate for the Main Street theming. As we run right into Tomorrowland we start to see numerous Disney characters with photo opportunities throughout the entire run within the park. It's still dark at that hour as you can see by my photo with Stitch and a photo with Peter Pan and Wendy in Fantasyland as well. and by the time I was passing under and through Cinderella's Castle the day was just starting to show some light of its own across lit up Main Street as viewed from the front of Cinderella's Castle.
Then it was a turn through Liberty Square and out of the back of the park between Adventureland and Frontierland. Just outside of the park was a large pirate boat setup with Captain Jack Sparrow and crew posing for photos as we turned onto service roads and began the trip back to Epcot. By this time daylight was readily visible and there was quite a bit of entertainment along this road from accordion players to a lounge-type singer to piped in music, and of course more characters posing for photos. All this time Debra and I had been somewhat leap-frogging each other as we stopped for photo ops and continued running, during a stretch back towards Epcot I struck up a conversation with a runner named Mike and it turns out that he runs the Be Our Guest Disney Podcast. Now I do not listen to this podcast, but I will try it out, especially since Mike was nice enough to take my photo at mile marker 10. The mile markers were sponsored by Sharpie and were definitely more creative than the standard mile marker I am used to seeing. Although it would of been nice if they had not put all the gun time clocks in the way of the signs. Continuing up the road we finally came within sight of Spaceship Earth at the front of Epcot. We do a final loop in the front of Epcot and I stop for one last photo with some Disney Channel characters and then strip off my sweatpants so I can run the final half mile or so in my jungle print shorts that I bought for this race. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of me in these shorts so you'll have to use your imagination. I run through the crowds and finish in 2:58:48. This was my second slowest half marathon time, but was right on my goal of 3 hours and left me feeling pretty good at the finish. Debra finished about a minute behind me and I got back with her after the finish.

I really wanted to hang around and cheer and watch friends come in, but it was so cold, wet and windy that I just grabbed my checked bag and headed to the bus stop for the trip back to the hotel. After I got back I soaked in a warm bath for about 20 minutes to warm up (definitely not my usual post race activity). A month earlier I had thought I raced in bad conditions in a near-freezing light rain in Austin, but this was easdily worse today. The weather aside, I had an absolutely awesome time and a wonderful experience--which is exactly what I wanted. A couple hours after the race I met up with some of my fellow runners from WISH Team Ohana for ice cream (can you tell this was planned before we knew what the weather would be?) at the Beaches & Cream shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort for restful conversation about tomorrow's full marathon....

Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge Part 2

Thursday and Friday were busy days leading up to the weekend races and I finally had the chance to meet up with a number of people with whom I have only known through the computer until now. For several years I have been a member of the DIS WISH boards online (Disney Information Station and We're Inspired to Stay Healthy) which ends up combining joint interests into a Disney fan and health/exercise support site. Also on this site, I am organized in a group called Team Ohana (reference to the Disney Lilo and Stitch movie). In addition, I interact with a group of Disney running bloggers who are part of Team Voice, another Disney fan group/running group. Some of my blog readers are familiar with these groups, but most of you are probably trying to figure out just what it means. let's just say I was meeting up with some old friends that I have never met in person.

Thursday I was able to meet up with the DIS boards WISH Team Ohana Captain Debra and her husband Mark at Disney's Hollywood Studios before heading to the Expo to get our packets. We ended up on opposite sides of the park center right before a parade broke out there. We eventually got together, which was a bit exciting for me as it was my first time to meet Debra in person (as with all these people in this post) even though we have known each other online for over 2 years. At the Expo we met up with Jackie (another member of Team Ohana) to get our packets picked up. While getting the packets I found out that some items were missing from my packet and had to chase those down. Fortunately, Disney's problem solving people fixed this very quickly and I caught up to my group after a short while. We had lunch at the All Star Cafe and headed into the Expo floor area, which was nice but not as big as I expected being about 1/3 the size of the Houston Marathon Expo or smaller. I did manage to pick up a few nice items including a sweatshirt that apparently sold out quickly based on questions I would get asked later.

Below is a photo from the Expo of myself, Jackie and her husband on top, and Debra and her husband Mark on the bottom.

I spent Thursday night and Friday morning at the Disney parks with my family, but started trying to take things a bit easier Friday (mostly failing, but having fun). Also later Thursday night I am trading text messages with Jeff W (a Team Voice blogger I'll be seeing at a Friday dinner) and find out he is about 100 yards away from where I currently am at the Downtown Disney shopping area. So we are able to meet up for a bit.

After a light day at the Magic Kingdom on Friday, I head over to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the dinner with Team Voice bloggers at Mama Melrose's Italian Restaurant. With the races looming the next few days, most ordered a pasta dish. I decided to order the balsamic chicken flatbread, which was very good. In addition to Jeff I was able to meet up with several other bloggers, including Amanda and Rae. Amanda writes the Alone in Walt Disney World? blog which I have followed for a while now. Amanda always seems to get a good mix of life events and running in her blog like I want to try to do more of, in addition to writing about Disney. Rae writes the Rae's Place...follow me to Disney blog, which I have also followed for about a year now. Rae was nice enough to bring gift bags with small runner items for everyone--thanks again Rae!!
I was able to get a photo of Amanda and I before dinner.

I ended up riding the resort bus back to Port Orleans with Amanda as I was going to the Riverside lounge area and Amanda's room was on the French Quarter side, each a different area of that resort. I enjoyed getting the chance to just chat for a bit with her on the bus.

I met up with Debra again at the resort's River Roost lounge to chat about the races and life in general. After some good conversation and a few drinks (non-alcoholic of course, given what was in store for us this weekend) we called it an early night and left for an early bedtime, only 8 - 9 hours remained until the half marathon start of the Goofy Challenge.....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge Part 1

My recent trip was a wonderfully busy time combing a family vacation trip with my running the Disney World Goofy Challenge Race, which is a combination of the Disney World Half Marathon and Marathon Races on consecutive days. Obviously the big highlight of the trip was crossing the marathon finish line, and thus completing the 39.3 mile Goofy Challenge, by jumping over it for joy (sure hope the professional photographers got that one), after that another real highlight of this trip was meeting up with many online friends, whom I have known online for some time now but had never met in person. Some are fellow bloggers, some are podcasters and some are fellow WISH Team members, of course they were all also fellow Disney fanatics. I am glad to say they all seemed as wonderful in person as they have to me through our online relationships.

It’s going to take a long time to be able to sum up my 10 day trip and it will take multiple blog entries to do so, after I figure out how I want to organize them and get my pictures developed (I used a disposable camera for the on-course race photos.). For now, this post will serve as a trip report preface and you can see my post race photo with Mickey and all my race medals above.

We spent 10 days at Disney World in cold weather that at times was positively bone-chilling and was only reaching mild for a few brief intervals. Even so, we had a good time and I already can’t wait to start planning my next trip. OK, to be more accurate I have been mentally planning the next trip for a while. So, maybe it’s fairer to say that I can’t wait to start formalizing those plans.