Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Disney Marathon Race Report

It's been about two days since the race, and we have returned back home from a nice and warm central Florida to a moderately cold, ice-laden Georgia. Talk about a rude awakening. At any rate, the muscles are feeling pretty much back to normal and I plan on running again tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I think I have this race report thing ready to go, so here goes:

The Setup:

My wife, I and our three boys left home on Wednesday afternoon to make the drive to Orlando, FL, and we arrived sometime around 11:40pm Wednesday night. "The Plan" was to head to Disney Thursday morning and spend the day at the Magic Kingdom and check into our two rooms on Disney property late that afternoon. Everything worked perfectly and I ended up hitting the bed around 11pm Thursday night after at least 5 miles of walking throughout the Magic Kingdom. No problem though, it's Disney. That's what you're supposed to do when you are here.

Friday morning came and I decided that I just didn't feel the need to go for a run around the property, so I slept in a bit and tried to catch up on some rest. The drive took more out of me than anything else did, so it was nice to just chill until around 9 and head to Epcot afterwards. That was the plan and we executed it perfectly.

Fast forward about 10 hours and we arrive back at our rooms around 11pm and are in bed by midnight. Now, at this time I realize that I have not picked up my race packet at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. I'm not completely concerned because I know the lines are going to be horrendous anytime before Saturday. Since most of the runners are doing the Half Marathon on Saturday, my thought is that by waiting to pick up my packet until Saturday midday, I will have already missed a majority of the people that would be needing to pickup their Half Marathon packets.

Brilliant, huh?

So, we drove over to WWoS and did the packet pickup thing. No problems, and yes, I was definitely slotted in Corral A. That's all good. Timing chip verified, goody bag picked up, t-shirt size correct, we're good for "Go" on Sunday morning. We spend the rest of the day in Disney's Hollywood Studios and get back to our rooms around 10pm Saturday night.

I did well at fueling on Saturday. My usual regimen of Boost meal supplements spread across the day helped build up my glycogen stores, and a nice pasta meal Saturday night helped tide things over until morning. Before turning in Saturday night, I laid out my race attire, nutrition, accessories, etc. for an early (and I mean EARLY) send-off. I knew temps would not be particularly cold before the race started, but the fact that I would be standing out in the elements for around 2 hours necessitated that I have some throwaway gear.

Finally went to sleep around 10:45pm Saturday night and was awakened by a lovely wake-up call at 3:10am Sunday morning. Fortunately, four hours of sleep is about all I am accustomed to getting, so I was wide awake and ready to roll. I was able to eat my usual half-bagel with honey peanut butter and a strawberry NutriGran bar, get dressed, grab by drop bag, kiss my wife, and head out the door toward the buses.

Let's Race!

I was lined up in the front half of Corral A as the starting gun/fireworks went off, and I crossed the line within 45 seconds. With that, the race began.

One thing to mention regards the fact that on the previous day, I began to notice that my right ankle was experiencing some tenderness (bordering on pain) in the connective tissue on the top of my foot. This is an area that I injured many years ago while shooting basketball. It was hurting Saturday afternoon enough that I actually took my shoe off to massage it and see if I could isolate the pains location. I realized that it was likely due to significant amount of walking and standing that I had been doing as we went through the parks all day for the past 3 days, but I had hoped that the pain would be gone overnight before the race on Sunday.

So the pain was still present before I hit the Start line. While I wasn't overly worried about this fact, I can definitely say that it had my attention. For the first mile, I spent a considerable amount of effort on trying to modify my footstrike to see if I could offset the offending movement. Nothing seemed to make a difference, but I kept trying different footstrike patterns. Heel-strike, forefoot-strike, midfoot... the experiment continued. At the end of Mile 1, I realized I had absolutely no control over this problem, nor on how this race was going to progress. Believe me when I tell you that I began to earnestly pray about this pain I was feeling. I knew that I was absolutely powerless to effect my own solution to this, so I prayed.

...and I prayed.

And I completely lost track of the pain. Seriously. I didn't even think about it again until after the race was over.

So, at Mile 2, I began to pay attention to my pace and efficiency. Because I was started in Corral A, I had no problems whatsoever with weaving in and out of other runners. I was placed right behind the 3:30 pace group and we were all holding a comfortable 8:20 pace. I elected not to carry my own hydration, so I took Gatorade at every other aid station from Mile 2 until Mile 21.

Miles 3-13.1 passed effortlessly. I would glance down at my Garmin every couple hundred yards, see that I was still on pace at around 8:25, and just zone back out to the podcast I was listening to on my iPod. I had begun to warm up, but still wore my armsleeves and gloves. I crossed the 13.1 halfway mark at 1:49:22, so I knew I was still in solid shape for a good race, assuming I held everything together and that nothing catastrophic happened on the back side of the course.

Miles 13.1-18 sailed by pretty quickly, even though this is perhaps the most boring part of the course. It's just a few stretches of "nothing" as you approach Animal Kingdom. I maintained pace without too much effort and began to think about the fact that I was feeling incredibly strong in spite of pushing hard. This became something that really began to make me push even harder on my pace, and my splits show that. Some of my fastest mile splits were recorded after Mile 17. Luckily, I was able reign it back in and keep my pace where it was supposed to be.

Around Mile 19, I began to see some fellow runners feeling the effects of 19 miles on their legs. Several runners were cramping up on the side of the road, walking and stretching to try and gain some relief. It only got worse as the remaining miles rolled off. I still felt strong at this point, and had begun to think about possible finish times. I knew the danger in allowing my thoughts to venture down that path, so I tried to keep my focus on "this present mile" and nothing else. That seemed to help, as it normally does.

I don't recall much occurring between Miles 20-24, but I did come to the realization that my North Face technical shirt was encrusted in salt crystals. This is the tell-tale sign that dehydration was setting in, so I began taking hydration at every aid station up until Mile 25. When we crossed from Hollywood Studios onto the Boardwalk leading to the Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts, I really started to push the pace harder. I knew the Finish line was getting closer, and I was determined that I would expend every last ounce of energy I had on my trek toward it. Pushing the pace hard, but trying to remain in control for the final mile.

At Mile 25, I was settled into the final kick of the race, and then ...something happened.

A guy pulls alongside of me on my right, and surges about 3 feet ahead of me. I can't explain what it was, but this cat trying to punk me so close to the finish, just lit a fire underneath me.

I kicked hard and blew by him. I gained a 10 foot lead on him, and just dropped the hammer. I knew I had about a mile to go before the Finish line, but I wasn't about to let this guy out-kick me at the end. I kept pushing and pushing, and I kept looking for a shadow that was trailing me, but I never saw it coming closer. When I hit the Mile 26 marker, I could literally hear the crowds at the Finish line.

That was it. I ripped off my gloves and threw them to the ground. I shedded my armsleeves quickly and threw them to the side. I didn't want ANYTHING constraining me for these final few moments. It was now an all-out, full-burn, empty-the-stinking-tank effort the rest of the way in...

As I rounded the next curve, I saw the gospel choir singing at the final turn, just before the homestretch to the Finish line.

I pumped my arms for everything I was worth, I leaned hard into the run, pushed my legs as hard as I ever have, I continuously sucked in big gulps of air and I sprinted my way toward the Finish line, arms raised, infused by the crowd of fans, overjoyed by the realization of a goal I have been working toward for over 12 weeks....

...and I crossed the tape in a net time of 3:43:57, a new PR by nearly 9 minutes.

I found my wife and our three sons after picking up some nutrition, a shiny medal and a much needed can of Diet Coke, and with that, got the kiss I was wanting, from the one I wanted it from.

For possibly the first time in my running life, I am absolutely certain that I left it ALL on the course that day. That my training was solid, consistent and effective, that my race day strategy took it all into consideration. Every race is different, we all know that. Some races go well. Some don't go well at all. For me, Disney 2011 unfolded flawlessly, and for that I'm grateful. I'm even more grateful for the gift that God has given me to do what I love, with the family I love.

My Conclusion:

Life is good.


  1. That was an awesome race report! Loved the ending.

  2. Great race report. Congrats on your new PR!

  3. Congratulations on a race well training and well run! I am glad that you had a perfect day and earned a fabulous new PR.

    My report from the back of the pack will be quite a bit different than yours I can tell you that :)!

  4. What an awesome race report! Seriously that was great! God is so good, I too am grateful that He allows me and gives me the ability to do these things that I love!

    I'm so glad that your pain in your foot went away, I hate that feeling of changing your stride to get it to go away.

    And I too, LOVE a diet Coke after a race!

  5. Great race report and good job on your race! I have been reading a lot of these Disney reports recently and it sounds like the race to do! Cheers!

  6. Great race report. I felt like I was there. Nice to hear you have a new PR.

  7. What an amazing race report! I was actually at that race. I was part of a really crazy crew that camped out at mile 13 with a ton of signs to support some great friends.
    Congrats on the PR!