(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.