Wednesday, January 30, 2008
For me, "letting it rip" is probably for others a nice comfortable jog. But, the beauty of running is that you only compete against yourself and the stop watch. Or don't "compete" at all and just enjoy the activity. Unfortunately, I was born with this innate desire to crush my opponents (in this case, the stop watch) whenever I participate in a sport despite my complete lack of extraordinary physical attributes (i.e. height, weight, bicep bulging vein popping muscles).
I'm a not quite 6 foot tall, 160 pound, skinny dude with marginal jumping, running, and throwing skills who seeks to dominate 6'10" behemoths with exceptional strength, quickness, and ability to feast on used automobile parts. (editor's note: no, this is not a personal ad) You can see where that gets me. A lifetime of futility.
However, the stop watch? Ha! Puny little thing...sits there and ticks all day. Can't stop ticking, can you? I can and will beat you. Nay, destroy you. I will crush you with the heel of my foot if you bother to tick at me the wrong way.
Russ's response to my last post got me thinking again about what I really enjoy about running. Frankly, I enjoy the competition with myself. I enjoy going after PR's. In a weird way, after obtaining the BQ, I think I started to force myself to be happy just participating in the races. I lost my motivation (henceforth referred to as "mojo"). What drives me is the chase to obtain my goal. I had stopped setting a goal. Inadvertently, I had removed the spirit of competition - the very thing driving me - from the events. So, the races have turned into long training runs based solely on reaching the finish regardless of time. That's simply not me.
I know many others really enjoy the pursuit of the finish line without concern with time. I am not one of them. I really wish it were so. I tried to force it that way but it is simply not the case.
So, I am going to actively set time goals again and pursue them diligently. I may or may not reach them. I'll enjoy the chase however. I guess I would rather feel a bit tired, potentially disappointed, and, possibly, injured aggressively pursuing my goal rather than running defensively (i.e. running to NOT get hurt but cross the finish line). This is my choice recognizing the potential obstacles that exist.
To that end, I let 'er rip last night. I haven't gone hard in a really long time...several months in fact. I've been content with building mileage for the Goofy Challenge with little regard to speed. It felt great to sustain a LT run for a bit. And it also showed I have a little work to do to get back to BQ shape.
First step towards regaining the mojo. It felt great.
Monday, January 28, 2008
My wish list for 2008 includes:
- Run a solid sub 3:30 at the Boston Marathon. I'd like to do better but, with muscles needing to heal after the Goofy Challenge, snow/ice for half my training schedule, and only 12 weeks to prepare, I would be content with this time. Plus, my last two marathons have bombed out due to cramping issues. Let's just finish. On the run. Okay?
- Sprinkle in a few 5k's this year. Hit speed training hard this spring and summer. Set a new 5k PR with an eye toward breaking 19 minutes.
- Refocus my marathon goals. I feel like I've been adrift since the Bayshore Marathon in May 2007. I hit 3:12. I qualified for Boston. Now what? I haven't had a singular goal driving me forward since then. I'm going to go ahead and state one now. 3:10. I want to beat 3:10. I will focus my energies this year on setting a new 5k and marathon PR.
- Research, study, learn, internalize, live new methods for injury prevention. This may involve better stretching, conditioning, diet and/or all of the above. I feel worn down. I feel like my training approach needs some tweaking. So tweaking I will do.
So when and where will I test these goals? How will I measure the results? I have these races on my tentative calendar. Besides Boston, I haven't actually signed up for any of them as of yet.
- Boston Marathon (April)
- Bayshore Half Marathon (Traverse City, MI - May)
- Traverse City Cherry Festival 5K (July)
- The Crim 10 Mile (Flint, MI - August)
- Dances with Dirt 50K Ultra Trail race (Hell, MI - September) **
- Detroit Marathon (November)
I'm sure this list will change but that's the plan as of now.
** Only if I'm feeling really stupid some morning and run out and sign up. I would have to be really, phenomenally idiotic to do this. Really, unfathomably stupid. Not smart.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Part II: Half Marathon
Part III: Full Marathon
This is the final segment of the award winning recap of the 2008 Goofy Challenge.
Okay, so, final thoughts?
Overall, this is a really fun event. It's great to see other runners walking around the hotel and the Disney parks in the days leading up to the race. It's neat to get random "good lucks" and "congratulations" from various Disney workers.
The course for both races is entertaining enough to overcome the lack of crowd support. You simply don't get the throngs of folks cheering you on like you do in Chicago or other big events. However, there are very hearty cheering squads set up along the course to keep you moving. In the dull periods between theme parks, there are bands and DJ's set up strategically to give you something to concentrate on. This is the first marathon in which I didn't wear my MP3 player and I never missed it.
The course is difficult to get to for spectators to cheer you on along the way however. Basically, if you have people wanting to see you on the course, they may need to pick one spot and then make a run for the finish line as the course makes a big circle that is not conducive to jumping to several spots.
I'm very happy to finish this challenge. I've never run back to back distances like this before so, for that, I'm thrilled to complete it.
However, I'm also very competitive with myself and can't help but be disappointed with the end of the marathon.
I can't believe I cramped out again. This thought has been consuming me since the race conclusion. I have Boston next. I absolutely do not want this to happen again. I will be studying up on the best ways to prevent a repeat (or three-peat. Sorry, no royalties for you Pat Riley). After completing my first 2 marathons in fine condition, these last 2 have been very trying. I did the training. I felt great going in and even during the event. What is happening?
Of course, in both events, there have been extenuating conditions. Chicago: oppressive heat. Goofy Challenge: an accumulation of miles I wasn't familiar with coupled with a warm, muggy heat.
Are both of these "outside of the norm" conditions? Not sure. Boston should really tell the tale.
For those looking to run Disney, I give my humble endorsement. It's fun. It's exciting. The course is well designed, not too hilly, and stocked with plenty of aid stations, food, and Biofreeze! (Thanks to NWGDC for the correction. It is not Biocool as I mistakenly referred to it.)
The race itself is not as competitive as other races. It doesn't draw the top runners (winner was in the 2:20 range while 2nd and 3rd place finishers were in the 2:35 range!). The field is largely made up of "fun" runners just looking for a neat medal and a story to tell. So, the entire feel of the race is a bit different. In the starting corrals, folks aren't talking about "PR's". They are talking about what rides they went on with their families the night before.
Take a trip with family and/or friends and Run Disney. It's worth it.
Final note for potential Goofy Challengers: This race fills up super fast as it is limited to 3,000. I checked for 2009 and it is ALREADY nearly 70% full!! Registration opens the day after the race ends for the next year. If you want to do the Goofy run, you'll need to sign up at least 11 months beforehand! If you want to get in for 2009, you better stop reading this and sign up right now.
Thanks for reading the recap. On to other things...
Monday, January 21, 2008
The starting blast!
This time we go straight into Epcot and around the World Showcase. Pretty cool. It's still dark outside but the lights are on, music is blasting away. Hard to keep the emotions in check and mind your pace.Outside of Epcot, it's the familiar road up to Magic Kingdom repeating yesterday's run. This time we get there around mile 10. I followed a consistent pace up to here. I've been alternating water and PowerAde at every aid station. My legs feel strong. I know the second half of this race is the place to expect trouble but, so far, I very pleased with how it is going.
Inside Magic Kingdom, I stop a few times and take a couple of pictures. The crowd is stronger than yesterday and the whole race feels more vibrant for some reason.
We leave Magic Kingdom just as the sun is rising. I can feel the air get a bit warmer but I'm nearing the half way point and feeling confident.
It was a bit of a trudge from here. The half maker has passed. I crossed just around 1:42. If I can knock out a 1:48 second half, I can hit 3:30! Unofficially, 3:40 was my goal for this race. I was anticipating some fatigue issues and time spent taking pictures when targeting that number.
The road to Animal Kingdom is long, winding and definitely not mainstream. There was no traffic. An aid station would pop up out of nowhere and then nothing again.
We enter Animal Kingdom at mile 16. This was a key spot, mentally, for me. I was really pointing to this mile marker. I felt like if I could just make it to mile 16 without taking any breaks, I could pull back a little over the last 10 miles and just enjoy the trip home.
Through Animal Kingdom and out. Just before mile 18, we wrapped around to the main ticket gate. It was fun to run past the folks heading into the parks. They were half cheering and half wondering what these runners were doing!
At mile 18, I take a walking break just past the aid station and enjoy some water and chat with another runner. I definitely feel fatigued at this point. I know I can't keep the pace I had up until then. I'm sweating profusely but I have not missed a single aid station or a GU interval. At this point, I feel like all systems - while fatigued - are a go. I wish the other runner well and resume the run.
In the starting corral, I had spoken to a fellow who had completed Goofy's Challenge last year and he warned me that the distance from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood (formerly MGM) Studios is the most difficult section. It's getting late in the race. You're tired and there is a one mile down and back turnaround spot that will get to you mentally.
Here it comes. And here comes some problems. Mile 19, I feel a tug in my left calve. This is what happened in Chicago in October when my leg cramps started. I immediately pull back my pace. An aid station - with BANANAS - a few feet ahead! Banana. PowerAde. Fingers crossed!! Seven miles to go. I'm going over a slight hill (overpass) and the increased strain is causing the leg cramps to flare up.
Knots. Strains. Arghhhhh! I'm now walking just before mile 20. I'm slow walking in fact. I can't even manage the fast walk pace I was able to do in Chicago. This is not good. A medical tent dead ahead. I'm not going to tough it out this time. I need some medical advice.
I stop in to the tent at about 20 1/4 miles disappointed as I could possibly be. I can not believe I am cramping out AGAIN! I'm provided Tylenol. Two cups of PowerAde. My calves are rubbed down with Biocool. This would begin my love affair with this product. I had never heard of it before. It's a cooling agent that leaves your legs numb and tingling. Think Icy Hot - but stronger.
I stagger on with a shuffling run. Just get me to the finish. I'm in the heart of the down and back portion I was warned about. In fact, there goes the guy who told me about it passing me. He doesn't see me but I can only shake my head when I see him pass by on the trot.
Disaster. Just before mile 21, I stop for water and my right hamstring completely locks up on me. This is now worse than Chicago, which was concentrated only in the calves. I take several minutes standing behind the water tables trying to work it out. Can I make it to the next medical tent? Should I go back to the other one??
I'll walk on. Rounding the bend past mile 21, I see the next medical tent but it's still a half mile away. On the walk, the Biocool on my calves is wearing off and they are starting to cramp up again. While stretching my calve, my shin muscle cramps up. Really, the nuts, bolts, springs, and coils are blowing apart at this point. At least, that's what I feel like.
I make it to the next medical tent. This time, I slathered both my legs up and down from top to bottom with Biocool. It helps. I'm walking now at a decent clip. The funny thing is that, I can feel a muscle cramp developing in any tiny little area where I might have missed with the Biocool.
I still have my fingers stained with the stuff. So, I apply as needed as I walk on to whatever area needs it.
Heading into Hollywood Studios, I dare to run again. Hey, I can do it. No cramps. I can't feel my legs now to the numbing agent but okay by my.
Leaving Hollywood Studios.
I even manage to get up to around a 9 minute mile pace. The Biocool starts wearing off after a time and I can feel the tugging cramps starting back up.
It becomes a point to point race to each medical tent and the magical elixir of life: Biocool.I stop at every aid station for PowerAde. I stop at every medical tent for a complete hose down of Biocool.
Hollywood Studios passes, the Boardwalk passes, into Epcot. I can make it on the run now!
Through Epcot and out.
The FINISH!! The FINISH!!
I made it. Again, not exactly how I envisioned it going but I MADE IT.
Mile 1 7:54
It amuses me to review my mile by mile breakdown (literally) according to Garmin. I quick perusal shows the "problem" areas:
Mile 2 7:35
Mile 3 7:36
Mile 4 7:50
Mile 5 7:26
Mile 6 7:33
Mile 7 7:30
Mile 8 7:41
Mile 9 7:30
Mile 10 7:44
Mile 11 8:02
Mile 12 7:34
Mile 13 7:49
Mile 14 7:42
Mile 15 7:51
Mile 16 7:47
Mile 17 7:56
Mile 18 8:11
Mile 19 8:37
Mile 20 9:38
Mile 21 13:46
Mile 22 22:47
Mile 23 18:28
Mile 24 11:53
Mile 25 9:59
Mile 26 9:22
Hmmm, anyone see a problem?
I was happy to be able to resume a run though and not have to walk to the finish like in Chicago. I estimate I walked 3 miles of this race before running the last 3 again.
I received my new, redesigned Mickey medal. Checked in at the Goofy Challenge tent and got my Goofy medal to complete the trifecta. Cool!
Chip time: 4:08:44
Overall place: 1694 of 12,964 finishers
Age group place: 277 of 1368
Unofficial Goofy Challenge results:
Chip times: 5:47:58
Overall place: 214 of 2715 challengers.
Enjoyed your race, Goofy!
The rest of the day was spent staggering around Epcot with the family unshowered and tight. To top it off, the Spaceship Earth attraction (in the giant golf ball) broke down and we head to walk the stairs down to the exit. That was fun.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Stage in background
I sat by myself. Ate my orange. Took care of my own "business" and started the walk to the starting corrals. I was in corral A. This was right at the start. I do not remember ever having to show proof of time to get in this corral. I believe Disney simply takes you at your word when filling out the race application based on your expected finish time.
I could not see where the corrals were so I followed the crowd and walked.
It must have been a roughly 20 minute walk covering well over a mile. Nice warm-up I guess.
Right on schedule, national anthem, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald appear for some inane chatter that nobody could really follow as everyone was just waiting for the race to start. A brief explosion of fireworks and We're Off!
I was really near the front. Probably took around 45 seconds to cross the start. There were just over 13, 000 runners.
Really, the miles were pretty uneventful. I stuck to my plan to run this out at training mode pace. I still had a full marathon to go the next day. Unofficially, I was shooting for a 1:40 half marathon time. This was several minutes below my ability, I think, but would leave me with the needed energy for the next day's run.
The course leaves Epcot and follows the road to the Magic Kingdom. They have several DJ's blaring music set up along the road in various dead zones to keep you going. I was not wearing my MP3 so it came in handy.
We reached Magic Kingdom still shrouded in the darkness by miles 5-7, I believe. The lights were on and the park workers were very enthusiastic with their encouragement. There were several of the Disney characters there including - ugh - Chip n' Dale.
We went up Main Street, through Tomorrowland, back through the middle of the castle, and out of the park through a service entrance somewhere over by Splash Mountain.
I'm pretty well hitting my miles right on schedule between 7:30 - 7:40 per mile.
After Magic Kingdom, we basically just head back to Epcot to the finish. By this time, the sun's starting to come up. It's still only about 65 degrees and breezy. A little warm but fine running conditions for a half marathon. I'm feeling pretty good actually.
There are a few overpasses you have to get over along the main roads so the course isn't exactly flat but I didn't feel there was anything exceptionally hilly about it either. Plenty of water stations along the way. There must have been 10 aid stations during the 13 miles.
Back at Epcot, we entered the park and ran a short loop up the middle and back out the other side near the giant Epcot golf ball. The finish line was just outside the Epcot exit.
Piles of Donald medals waiting for owners at the finish.
Numbers? Yes, numbers:
Chip time: 1:39:14
Overall place: 264 of 12,228 finishers
Age group place: 46 of 906
By 8:45 AM, I was back in the room as the family was waking up for a day at the park!
Official half marathon photos from ASI photography.
The rest of Saturday would be spent at Animal Kingdom. More warm-up for the next day's full marathon!
Next post: Full Marathon and the completion of the Goofy Challenge.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wilderness Lodge pool view
Wilderness Lodge lake view
Friday morning, we hit the Expo to check-in, get my race gear, and check out their exhibits. Disney provides transportation to their Wide World of Sports complex for the participants. If you stay on property, you don't have to worry about getting around to do all the things you need for the race.
On the way into the expo...
I was able to check in and get my race bibs and chips fairly easily. They have a specific table set up for the Goofy Challengers. At check-in, I received an orange wrist band that was to be worn until completing the half marathon. This is their way of monitoring who finishes each race. If you lose your wrist band, you are out of luck. Needless to say, you quickly become paranoid and find yourself checking your wrist every 5 seconds to make sure the wrist band is still there.
The main sponsors appear to be Champion clothing and Clif energy foods. We had to go downstairs through the exhibit hall to the back (like in Chicago) to get the goody bag/race shirts. This was a total clusterf*ck. They have way too many exhibits set up in a small area. You can barely move let alone see anything from the exhibitors. I would recommend they rethink this layout. On top of that, they were actually assembling the goody bags (i.e. putting in all the pamphlets, freebies, etc) into the bag at the time you stepped up to the table. WTF?! Wouldn't it be easier to have them all put together and then just add the shirt??
Expo exhibitor floor (view from race check-in area)
We did get sucked in and buy a few useless souvenirs from the marathon store and hustled out. The kids were anxious to go swimming and get to Magic Kingdom.I received 3 race shirts for the Goofy Challenge: 1/2 marathon, full marathon, and specific Goofy Challenge shirt. They are neat technical training shirts but my only complaint is that they are ALL long sleeve. I expected a race event - in Florida - to be providing short sleeve shirts. Again, I was a little surprised by this but whatever.
Race shirts. All long sleeve technical shirts.
Here we are chilling on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in Magic Kingdom later on Friday night before the half marathon while waiting for the fireworks. Notice I'm already rocking out the Goofy Challenge shirt. Fireworks. Bed. That was the plan.
Don't be freaked by our red, glassy chlorine filled pool eyes.
My daughter did not take that hat off for 4 straight days!
Behind that smile, I'm secretly dreading the 3 A.M. wake-up call and the task ahead.
Next post: The Half Marathon
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
We have arrived home from Florida. What a bummer to step off the plane to 30 degrees and snow. I could have made a sandcastle and a snowman on the same day!
Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge (or Goofy's Challenge) is complete! I crossed the finish line in both races. The hardware I brought back caused my bag in the airport to be overweight providing some last minute scrambling to shift weight to other bags. (No kidding).
I will have a full report from both races to come in the days ahead. It was a fun experience.
As a teaser, let's just say I finished all 39.3 miles. The first 32 miles went completely to plan. The last 7 miles? Well.....
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I'll spare you the details. But you get a quick Year in Review instead of a deluxe version.
1) Qualified for Boston with a 3:12 at the Bayshore Marathon. May 2007 would be the best shape of the year for me. Since then, I've been dealing with a variety of nagging muscle aches and a lack of a clear focus. I've been running...but what I am running for exactly? I mean, what is my goal?
2) Completed the Chicago Marathon despite some hard conditions including the first time I've ever experienced a muscle cramp during a race.
3) Completed my first ever trail race taking first in my age group. It has left me with the thirst for more of this type of challenge.
4) Despite not running a 5k in over 2 years, my first attempt back in April 2007 saw a sub 20 minute time and my second best effort ever. I was very, very pleased with this as, when I originally started running 7+ years ago, this was my main goal. Once completed, I stopped running 5k's entirely.
Areas for Improvement (or, Failures, if you prefer harshness):
1) I didn't run a smart race in Chicago. Despite the conditions, I could have done better there if I had followed a better plan.
2) I need to focus on better stretching and muscle conditioning techniques. I believe most of my aches and pains in the second part of the year were easily preventable if I were a bit smarter about my approach.
3) I need to settle on new goals going forward. After qualifying for Boston, I just kinda ran the rest of the year without an idea on what I was trying to accomplish.
This will be my last post prior to returning from the Goofy Race and Half Challenge, I'm afraid. Just too much going on that takes priority right now. So, here are my thoughts heading in:
- I'm ready to complete the challenge (I think)!
- Time is not a factor to me. I just want to finish in reasonably good shape (i.e. not limping).
- I'll be targeting close to 8 minute miles for both races. This is about 40 seconds slower than I'm capable. I feel this will allow me to cover the 39.3 miles in decent shape.
- I think the half marathon and first half of the full marathon will be no problem. The second half of the full marathon will get interesting though.
- I'm bringing a camera with me on this run.
- I hope Chip n' Dale aren't there. I hate those guys.
Good luck to anyone else out there running a race over the next two weeks. I haven't been keeping up on what is going on.
Happy 2008 to everyone!
Race report and "Looking Ahead: 2008" to come in future posts.