Race Report: Disney Half Marathon | Entering 2016

What a difference a year makes …

At this time last year I was coming off of my first ever DNF at the Disney Marathon. I had made it 8.2 miles but the balloon ladies were hot on my trail and coming into the bus area I decided to call it at that point. It was a hard decision, but the right decision.

You know how they say that were you are doing the beginning of the new year will follow you through the remainder of the year? I had a odd season in 2015. The next race, Rock n’ Roll in DC ended up being OK, even with the cold and rain, but all the races afterwards were challenging for me. I stuck with sprint triathlons, but the results were not anywhere near what I wanted or expected, and the planned century ride in North Carolina ended up being a 50 mile ride for me.

Then, near the end of the year I had three half marathons; Rock n’ Roll Savannah, Space Coast Half, and finally the Disney Half Marathon to start 2016.

In Savannah I was over 4 hours (4:12:40), a full 30 minutes slower than DC. The Space Coast I was 4:06:32. An improvement but still well over where I was previously. Entering Disney this year I was determined to start off on a good note, as defined by my standards.

When we got to the room in Orlando we checked in with the runner concierge at the Waldorf to get the bus information. Along with this they were running a contest where you predicted your time. I wrote down 4:06:32, exactly what I had in Space Coast. I had no delusions, I knew I would have the same issues I had previously with pain, etc. so I was being realistic.

And we began …

The races at Disney begin at 5:35, but in order to do this we had to be on the bus by 3:00 AM, which meant a 1:30 AM wake-up call. Never fun. I managed to fall asleep around 10, so had a little over 3 hours of sleep when the alarms went off. We made our way to the bus and rode the short distance to the Epcot parking lot where we could check in with Team in Training and start the “death march” to our corrals.

The weather cooperated. It was cool, in the high 50’s, but not too cool, and the sky remained overcast all day, which kept it pretty nice for a run. The first gun went off on time and we crossed the start line around 6:30 or so (tells you how many people there were). I wanted to try to take it really easy at first, hoping that by the end it would pay off, a strategy I have tried many time and has never worked but I am stubborn.

I walked the first 2 miles with Jennifer and then went into my normal run/walk split of 30/45 seconds. Even when I was running though I was trying very hard to go easy, maintain my heart rate below 140, and use the recovery walk to recharge.

I will be honest. I was feeling pretty good throughout the race. My feet started hurting very early, around mile 3, but not so bad that I thought it was going to be a problem like it was at Space Coast.

The other issue with Disney running is that they are very crowded. I have done these a few times and know this going in, but I have never seen it this bad. There were places you could not run even if you wanted to. Many people do these races not for the run, but for the “Disney Experience”, and I get that, but they really need to find a way to accommodate those that want that, and those that don’t. The castle was the worst part. Apparently they were sprinkling “fairy dust” inside the castle, and then the normal picture coming out of it, so everyone was jammed at the entrance. I have never come to a complete stop in a race before. Finally they started directing some of us around the castle so that we could keep going. This was mile 6.

I started out wearing a jacket, which by mile 7 was getting way to hot, so I took quite a while trying to get the jacket off, get it stuffed in my pack, and eat while still moving. If you look at my split on Garmin you can see where this happened. But while it as irritating me at that point, I took my time, pulled out a baggie I had full of clementine orange slices, walked through mile 7 while munching on the whole damn bag (these are a life saver), grabbed two Tylenol from the medical tent at mile 8, then started running again.

And I felt pretty good.

My feet were hurting bad by this point, but as with most unusual things in this racing life, if I ran, or even just shuffle my feet faster, they hurt less, so I ended up running more like 2:00 to 45 second walks for the rest of the race. It was a slow run, but it got me through.

Throughout the race I had made a decision to not look at my total time. I was ignoring it. It was just going to irritate me how slow I was, so my thought was to not look at anything but heart rate and pace. I broke that  plan with .25 miles to go. As we came around Spaceship Earth and did the hair pin turn toward the finish line I looked at it.

3:44:43 ….

It hit me, in my run induced stupor, that I might break 4 hours.

About this time Jennifer was catching up and I saw her after the turn and yelled at her “I’m going to break 4 hours!!!”

I think I yelled to loud.

My watch hit 13.1 miles and I was at 3:55:12. But I wasn’t at the finish line.

Dammit!!

I was not going to let a GPS technicality screw me out of this 4 hour mark. Not when I was this close.

I gritted my teeth and ran … and ran hard … coming through the little wooded area and saw the finish. I glanced at my watch … 3:56:23 …

It was right there …

I sprinted … or as close to a sprint as I could muster and crossed at 3:57:26. Jennifer, who I was 5:00 ahead of at one point, finished at 3:58:25. Another mile she would have caught me. What is amazing to me in that is she doesn’t run. She speed walks. And she almost caught me.

So 2016 is off to a good start. well under a perceived goal in my first race.

This will be another year of sprint triathlons, a century ride in June in Lake Tahoe, and hopefully the Disney Wine & Dine in November. But there is more on the horizon.

Last night I entered my first race for 2017. January 8th I am entered in the HITS 70.3 triathlon in Naples, Florida. I am … scared … and leery …

But … here we go

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