Sunday, April 13, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - Half Marathon Day, Part 2

Part 1 can be found HERE

I hoped that a friend of mine from the Lodgeboards days (PixiePat…now known as Patricia) would be working at Kona, so I could catch up with how she was doing, but she was off at that time.  I knew that I was a bit later than my usual dining time at Kona (I’m militaristic…7:35 ADR…done eating by 8:15…quick bathroom break…on the monorail by 8:25, and at through the MK turnstiles for the opening show by 8:35-8:40), so I put in my request of (what else) Tonga Toast as soon as the server showed up.  I was absolutely parched from cheering, so I had around 4 glasses of water down before the food even showed up.  I was afraid that they were going to pull a Whispering Canyon on me and drop off a gallon-pitcher with a straw.  The breakfast was there in a flash, and I was stuffed in no time flat.  Bill paid (with a tip that hopefully made the server smile for being so awesome…I was a server at one point in my life, so I tend to empty the wallet a bit more), bathroom run done, dash to the monorail, and BAM…I was back on my MK schedule.  Actually, I was there earlier than expected.  I checked in on FourSquare at 8:32.

I had some time to chill before the MK Welcome Show, so I hopped on Facebook (and promptly got a growl from my wife for checking in on FourSquare and posting it).  I went to Twitter and noticed that I had a couple of messages.  Apparently, Jay Griffith and co-host of the Be Our Guest podcast Rikki Niblett were about 200 yards away cheering at the half.  I kicked myself for not seeing this message until it was too late, but they assured me that they would look out for me during the full.

We all sang the Good Morning song, and I promptly made my way up Main Street.  I knew that my friend, Judy, was off today, so I didn’t dart into the Emporium to look for her.  Instead, I bypassed all the Photopass Dudes/Dudettes and went straight through the castle to try getting a pic with Rapunzel.
Okay…I had better stop here for a minute, though I doubt anyone will believe what I am going to say.  I have two nieces that are Disney-Princess obsessed (yes…more than me).  One of them is a bit shy around me, so I decided that I was going to try getting some of the Princesses’ autographs for them in the hopes that they might actually stay in the same room as me at the next family get-together.

Honest…that’s why I was doing this.


I made it to the rope and found that there was nobody here.  I assumed that most had probably made a beeline for Tomorrowland to hit Space Mountain, but I thought there would at least be a few from the Crystal Palace or Cinderella’s Royal Table ahead of me.  Nope…I was 1 deep at the rope, and that was with no pushing/shoving at all.  The cue music played, and I expected to get trampled by screaming Pre-K girls and their parents as they rushed to see the Princesses.


2 people entered the line to see Cinderella, but nobody went to see the haircut-averse princess.

Oooookay…this is a little weird.  I’m a grown man…by myself…first in line to see Rapunzel…

I expected her to have pepper spray in one hand as I walked up.  To make matters worse, there still was nobody behind me as I entered the room.

We talked a bit about the race and my nieces (which, I am guessing, she considered classic overcompensation).

Of course, Snow White was also in there…and still nobody else!

After I left the room, I put the camera away and just laughed at what had just happened. 

I made my way toward Tomorrowland and gazed at the construction of the Seven Dwarves Mine Train as I passed by.  My personalized touring plan told me to head over to Buzz next, but I chanced it and went straight to Space Mountain in anticipation of a decent wait.  The only “problem” was that I felt like the only person in the entire park.  The wait for Space Mountain was just about AFAYCW (for those who have not read any of my previous trip reports, “AFAYCW” stands for “As Fast As You Can Walk”…basically, there is no wait).  There were maybe 15 people ahead of me, and I skipped ahead of most of them thanks to them needing a single rider.  I did a stupid sleeping pose for the on-ride pic and actually missed hearing Sheri scream her lungs out during the ride.

I went to Buzz next and, since there are no witnesses to confirm or deny it, I scored 999,999 points! (I don’t think I broke 50K…one of my worst scores ever).   I made my way back towards Fantasyland and noticed that there still were no crowds at all in the park…I walked by Alice near the Tea Cups, and there may have been 2-3 families in line to meet her.  I was about 12 minutes ahead of schedule, according to Lines, so I decided to see how long the line was for Cinderella in case I wanted to grab a couple more autographs for my nieces.

I walked in…just me…nobody else…more pepper spray was on the ready as I walked in.

Cindy and Aurora were in the room.

I had a lot of explaining to do when Sheri saw the pics uploaded from my camera.  The first 14 pics from this day were of the Princesses and me.

The next stop was Philharmagic…this has always been one of my favorite ones, mostly because I love watching people experiencing it for the first time.  This one was a little odd because of the lack of people.  I counted around 22 people in the entire theater.  When I posted my requisite “Opera Glasses” pic, several friends mentioned that I needed to prepare because the throngs were on their way to the parks after running/cheering for the half.  I used my first FP+ for Peter Pan and then hopped over to sing along with Mary Blair’s dolls.  I made sure to time my waits for Fred Hazelton and the rest of the stats whizzes.  I was still a good 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so I toured the Tangled bathrooms and slowly walked around Liberty Square, because my FP+ time for Haunted Mansion was still a good 15 minutes away.  I looked to see when Sleepy Hollow opened up, because I had heard of nothing but amazing things with their Fluffernutter waffles with fruit.  They weren’t open yet, so I decided to try getting a pack of cards from the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game for my boys. While doing this, I noticed that Tiana was out and that nobody (none…zero…nada) was in line to see her; she was just carrying on a conversation with the Photopass dude.  Another Princess autograph to get (and even more consecutive pics of Princess pics on the camera).  Since there was nobody else in line, I stuck around and talked with Tiana for a bit (she was out there early for the half and was going to be there bright and early for the full, too).  We said our goodbyes, and I got a text from Steve that said he was on his way to MK.  I hopped into the Haunted Mansion AFAYCW and positioned myself right in front of the wall that opened up to the Doom Buggies.  I’ll freely admit that I was singing most of the attraction…I gave Thurl Ravenscroft a run for his money in the graveyard scene.

After Phineas blew my head up and popped it like a balloon, I headed out and made a beeline for Sleepy Hollow for my waffle sammich.  I made the mistake of grabbing the chicken one instead of the Fluffernutter one (I was worried that it would have gout-inducing high-fructose corn syrup).  The chicken one was okay, but I’m not a fan of slaw.  I called home to make sure the boys remembered to wish their Mother a Happy Birthday (they forgot) and to have them give her a present.  After that, I cut across over to Adventureland and hopped in line for the Tiki Birds.  Steve texted and mentioned that he was at the gate, so I hopped out of the pre-show and waited for him.  About ten minutes later, he strolled up, and we got in line for the Tiki Birds. We talked about how the half marathon went and messed around/tested changing FP+ times on the mobile My Disney Experience app – we were able to sync up FP+ times for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad later on.

The birds eventually kicked us out of their lair (again), and we hopped on Pirates.  I think we set a record for most people taking flash photography in one boat.  We contemplated throwing one or two of the cameras overboard during the small drop, but we restrained ourselves.  After Pirates, we looked into possibly trying the Pirate’s Adventure attraction but decided against it and went straight to Big Thunder.  I knew about the Goat Trick on the Disneyland version, but I didn’t know if it worked on the east coast.  I told Steve about it, and, at the top of the second hill, there wasn’t exactly a goat, but I did find something to focus on as we entered the drop.  I think it worked, but I hope to test it at my next trip to Disneyland this summer.

I wanted to get off my feet for a while to rest for the race.  Steve had just arrived and wanted to tour a bit more, so I headed back and prepped for the Team Meet at the Swolphin.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - Half Marathon Day, Part 1

3:14 am……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  Dreaming about bees buzzing and kids blowing dandelion fuzz.

3:15…RINGRING!!!  My heart rate is around 355 as I try to figure out where the heck I’m at.

Thus begins the half marathon morning.

Steve was up and readying for Stage 1 of the Goofy Challenge.  I was going to be cheering today in the Magic Kingdom parking lot.  I chose this spot for two reasons: 1. I wanted to hopefully be at a slightly less-populous place after a longish stretch of not much entertainment; and 2. I had a 7:45 ADR at Kona CafĂ© to carbo load on some Tonga Toast!  While Steve got ready, I got dressed and started figuring out what all I was going to take with me since I was going to MK straight from breakfast.  I was taking the following with me:
  • DSLR camera and bag
  • Foldable Team AllEars sign
  • 2 (yes, TWO) TAE cowbells
  • iPhone for pics, texts giving me updates on where runners I’m following are at, WDW Lines (duh), etc.
  • packet of information that estimates when runners will pass my cheering spot
  • Magic Band (still getting used to it)
  • Baby Powder- doing everything possible to make sure there’s no chafing in the parks  No No, never never…na-a-ah (with apologies to Joe Taricani)
  • Resort room notepad – for autographs of Princesses to bring back to nieces
  • Enough money to live on for the next 10+ hours
This was a new experience for me.  I’m the anal-retentive type that is out at the bus stop at 3:00 for the first bus to make absolutely sure that I’m at the staging area in time.  Steve is a little more low-key.  He promised me that we’d be okay if we made it to the bus stop by 3:30 and would have plenty of time in the staging area.
We were out the door at 3:31, and, within 5 minutes, our bus to the Epcot parking lot is rolling in.

Yeah, I learned to trust the travel agent this morning.

The bus filled up before making it to the last stop in Caribbean Beach.  To my relief, it appeared that staff members were there and were radioing for more buses to stop at the last stop first in order to collect those left behind.  On our way to Epcot, the entire bus had a nervous-yet-oh-so-excited energy buzzing.  This is one of those memories that I love thinking back on…that feeling that a runner experiences in the hours leading up to a big race.  I wasn’t even running this one, but I was feeling it!

We arrived at the drop-off around 3:55-4:00 and began the trek to the early-morning party.  New this year was a full bag check (even water belts were checked) – a reminder that we weren’t too far removed from Boston.  Luckily, they had a dozen or more staff checking bags, so the line moved rather quickly.  I was really getting excited to make it to the meet-up area for the Team as it was like another reunion.  Sure enough, the sea of blue from both Team AllEars and the WDW Radio Running Team (nearby) came into focus as we neared our spot.

I could feel the smile forming.

I saw soooooo many friends and gave/received tons of hugs.  I also got to meet a few teammates for the first time in-person, though we had conversed online a ton (Eddie, Mike, Alex, Rich, Joe, Kim, and many more!).  In what seemed like no time at all, it was time for the group picture.  I’ll admit that it felt weird being on the spectator/photographer side of the picture…every other time I had been here, I was running the half.  A few tried to get me to hop in the pic, but I refused to in deference to those running today.

After the pic, I looked over at Lou Mongello’s crew to see if fellow ISU Alum, Disney freak, and runner Katie McNamara was nearby.  I saw her briefly, but everybody was starting to break up to head to the corrals, so I wasn’t able to finally say “HI!!!”  I decided to make it a priority to look for her when she ran by me at the MK lot.

The runners started their cattle herd trek to the corrals, while I teamed up with Amanda Gonzalez, who was going to be cheering at the TAE spot on the Tomorrowland bridge just past the hub.  I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to her much at the 2012 race weekend, so I had a blast catching back up with her on the walk to the monorail station.  As we headed up the ramp, we were both surprised to see Julia Mascardo waiting at the ramp landing.  Julia’s husband, Irwin, was running the half today with TAE, and she was going to head to the Tomorrowland ramp with Amanda.  This was a pleasant surprise, and the three of us chatted the entire monorail ride to the TTC.  We said our goodbyes as we parted ways to different cheering sections.

Most people were heading to jump on the express monorail to the MK entrance, but there were a few of us heading out to cheer at the TTC or the MK parking lot.  We staked out our respective cheering locations, dropped our gear, and then met back near the middle of the lot.  We talked about how the weekend was going, what races we had done or were doing, and how flipping annoying that “Caution runners…course narrows…please watch your step.  Caution runners…course narrows…please watch your step. Caution runners…course…” recording was getting to be.   After about 10-15 minutes, I noticed a police officer not too far from where I had my camera bag and sign, so I decided to head back to my location for fear of them confiscating my camera.

All of us cheering were curious how fast the corrals would be released, especially with the rather long intervals between corrals the previous day at the 10K.  We heard the first crack of the firecrackers and had a debate on whether it was the wheelchair wave or the elites.  Soon after came the next BOOM, and we all started our timers to check the interval.  Another BOOM about 2 minutes later, and we all started smiling – they shortened the interval!  I was definitely feeling a sense of relief because that meant I would be on the course earlier than anticipated, which meant more time running before the sun came up.  While waiting, I texted Brian Swann to verify what corral he was in.  He knew where I was going to be standing, and he let me know what he was wearing, so we had no excuse if we didn’t see each other.
I made sure the Team AllEars sign was positioned in the barricade so that it wouldn’t blow away. I pulled out both cowbells and scanned the slowly arriving cheerers for the right person to give my extra cowbell to.  A boy about my older son’s age was about 50 feet away, and he had a brother that looked to be 3-4 years younger.  I made sure I had the cowbell clang a bit to see if they took interest, which they did.  That made my decision easy.  The cowbell was offered, and the younger boy immediately wanted it from the older boy.

It’s so much funnier when it’s not YOUR children doing it!

The older boy didn’t put up too much of a fight as he fell asleep soon afterward.

Before we knew it, it was time to start channeling my inner Christopher Walkin and making sure that the area needed more cowbell.  I started ringing it when I saw the bikes that were escorting the first athlete approach.  The first wheelchair racer flew by, followed by several more.  A few minutes later, we saw the first elite runner sprinting past us; it seemed unreal that someone could be maintaining that pace, but he was, and he showed no signs of being too tired, despite the extreme humidity.  The first female runner passed by soon afterward, also holding a really strong pace.
I made sure the cowbell was constantly ringing as I looked at my chart of when the first Team AllEars member was estimated to pass by.  Bryan Camphouse was expected to be the first one, and, as the estimated time drew near, I saw him round the the exact time that Dave Aulen anticipated he’d pass me.  That was scary!  I hi-fived Bryan as he passed, and, though a little hot, he said he was doing well.

The cowbell continued its nonstop ringing as the volume of runners increased.  I saw a couple of other Teammates, including our own wheelchair athlete, Ed Russell.  I missed a couple from the Team passing by, unfortunately, as the crowds really got dense.  I noticed several groups from the Team on the other side of the path, so I’m guessing that some of them may have slipped by on the other side.  I was also helping a women standing next to me who was trying to find her husband; he was supposed to be passing by at any time.  I helped her find him and even startled him when I shouted out his name about 100 feet away (much to the delight of his wife).

I knew Brian was arriving soon, so I really started focusing on people that looked like him.  A couple of minutes later, I saw someone with the same color shirt that Brian was wearing looking at me…same build as Brian.  Wow…if that guy didn’t have a beard, he might pass for Bri….waaaaait a minute!!  
He slowed to a walk and then stopped for a quick second to talk…a little sore and definitely hot (especially with that beard).  We agreed to try meeting up later on during the weekend if the timing worked, and he was on his way to the TTC.  A few minutes later, I saw a familiar face with a WDW Radio shirt on.  She saw me as soon as I saw her, and she screamed, “MUUUUSSSHH!!!!!”  Granted, I was screaming “KAAAATIIIEEEEEEEE!!!!” right back at her as she jogged up to where I was.  Remember, Katie and I had never met in-person until now.  We gave each other a big hug and talked for a quick second (hot and thirsty, but felt good).
I knew a couple of big groups from the Team was set to pass by, so I wasn’t too worried about missing them.  Sure enough, they had a heads-up with the cowbell, and though many were on the other side of the path, we saw each other and  gave each other a shout-out.  A couple of them were recording as they ran, and Dave Aulen caught me as he passed (about 1:45 into the video):

(Video Courtesy of Dave and Holly Aulen)

Right behind that group was another bunch of Team Allearsians.  Pam Harris went by with a huge smile on her face.  I went to check my chart to see who else might be nearby, and fumbled with it as I tried getting it back into my pocket.  When I looked up, Stan was staring right at me.

At least it wasn’t Tom Troost.

Wait…Tom’s right next to him.


For those who are new to my Marathon Weekend escapades, Tom and I have a running joke (no pun intended) (okay, maybe it was intended) about being on the phone during a race.  I was trying to clear out old texts from my flip phone during my first half because I was expecting a message from Sheri sometime soon.  As I’m doing this, Tom passes me and hollars, “Put..down..the phone…...and RUN!” Fast forward to the 2012 Marathon Weekend.  After the half, I was leaving the Mexico Pavilion (yeah, I was at La Cava del Tequila) and was coordinating a meet up with Jay Griffith.  Sure enough, as I left the Temple and paused to reply to a message from Jay, I looked up to see Tom, Molly, and their 2 daughters coming up the stairs.  Both of us just shook our heads and busted up laughing.  Now it’s the 2014 Marathon Weekend, and I’m again messing with something (this time it was the time chart, but I had my phone in my hand) right as Tom comes by.  Thus, the aforementioned DAMN!  I just hollered something like, “I GIVE UP!!” at him.

The volume of runners remained high for quite a while, and there were still several Team AllEars members running by.  Instead of me getting pics of the runners, Jill Bent stopped running to snap a pic of me cheering in a funny twist of fate.  I loved it!

(Photo Courtesy of Jill Moore Bent)

Eventually, the number of runners slowed down.  A few of the runners were trying to get high-fives from the cheerers on the sidelines.  I put my hand up, and I think it stayed up for about 20 minutes straight as everyone clapped it as they went by.  Yeah, they were mostly sweaty-fives, but so what?!  I swapped the cowbell to the other hand every few minutes to keep my high-five hand from falling off.  The number of people cheering was dwindling as many left after they saw their runners pass by.  Soon, I was the only one in a span of over 100 feet.  My ADR time was getting near, and I had a good 8-10 minute walk to get from my location to the Polynesian.  I decided to take my chance and stay out there for a while longer.  Those near the back seemed to really appreciate having people out there cheer for them, and they LOVED the cowbell (tons of “More Cowbell” jokes).  A couple of them asked if I wanted to switch places with them.
Then I saw them for the first time ever.

The Balloon ladies.

The Balloon ladies maintain the minimum required pace to continue on the course.  If you fall behind them, it means you are over a 16:00 pace from the moment the last runner crossed the start line, and you are at risk of being swept off the course (and, subsequently, not allowed to finish the race).  They walked/jogged by, and I then watched the runners behind them.
Yeah, I was going to stay out there a little longer…especially since there were but a handful of cheerers remaining in the long stretch from where I stood all the way to the TTC.  This is one of the great things that Team AllEars was renowned for…we cheered for everyone, and we were some of the last ones out there cheering!  Team Allears cheerer and friend Laura Smith Ozo has a sign on her "thingimajig" that says something like, "I'm more impressed at the last 100 runners than the first 100".  These runners continued to progress through the race, one step at a time.  Some runners were in pain.  Others had resigned to the fact that they were not going to be able to finish.  Many were trying to muster up some energy to continue on.  The runners were getting sparse, but, as one got close to me, I started that cowbell back up and tried to encourage them a little bit.  One had a pretty significant limp, and he said he was looking for a medical tent/table.  About 2 minutes later, one of the staff members on a bike came by, and I let him know about the runner up ahead a bit.  I knew of one member of Team AllEars that I had not seen pass by, and I was starting to fear an injury or a sweep.  This runner stopped at a medical tent about a quarter mile before my location, so I never had the chance to see her go by.

I was past my ADR time, and I knew I was going to be about 10-15 minutes late even if I left now.  The number of runners had dwindled to about 2-3 per minute, and, after a few more minutes, I looked back as far as I could down the course and saw just a couple more, spaced pretty far apart.  I packed my things up and slowly walked along the course towards the TTC to allow those last couple of runners to go by me.  Eventually, I made the turn towards the Poly and, as I always do, I made a bad decision on which path to take to get to the Longhouse quickly.  Eventually (definition: FINALLY), I made it in and was ready for some carbs!

...Continued HERE

Thursday, March 6, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - PreTrip (Part I, Chapter 1, Subsection B)

Day 1, Part 1 can be found HERE.

Now all I had to do was be healthy and hope the weather was okay…


As every runner knows, the smallest ache/sniffle/cough sends one into an absolute panic in the last two weeks before a long run.  I was no exception.  I was back on the NSAID making sure that the foot was going to survive the marathon, and I felt like I was playing chicken with my foot and running.  I did ultimately get two more runs in before the race inside the rec center.

As every runner knows, the slightest change in the weather patterns at the race site sends one into an absolute panic that last 10 days before a long run.  I was no exception.  I knew that the forecasts lost accuracy anything more than 48 hours out, but I still found myself checking every hour or two for a hopeful one or two degree decrease in the forecasted high on the marathon.

I should have been worried more about the more immediate weather patterns here at home in the days before the race.  5 days before I was to leave, we got hit with a strong winter storm, ice, and the first edition of the polar vortex hit us with -15 to -20 temps and -40s for the wind chill.  Across the nation, people heading down for Marathon Weekend were in a dead panic trying to deal with canceled flights.

Taking Team AllEars Captain Mike Scopa’s advice from my first marathon weekend, I started backing up my wake-up times to prepare for the (VERY) early times needed for Marathon Weekend.  I watched as most everyone who was running Dopey started heading down on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Local Teammates Stan and Pam Harris had their flights canceled, so they made the decision to drive down.  Teammate Dave Dunkowski was in a bind with canceled flights out of Buffalo and a reported earliest departure after the 5K on Thursday.  Luckily, he was able to make it to Rochester and get a flight out to make it for all 4 races.  A lot of this was done in the wee hours of the morning, when I was the only one up in the house.

Thursday morning involved last-minute packing and final work on the boys’ pinewood derby cars.  Their derby was Saturday…the same day as my wife’s birthday…when I was going to be down in Florida…and they were in sub-freezing temps…during the absolute busiest time of her job when she really can’t afford to take any time off.  As you read this, most likely my name is still Mud.  I watched the 5K results come in via Twitter and Facebook and couldn’t wait to get down there…

…there was one additional problem, though.  The forecast for our area had freezing rain when I was supposed to be leaving.  I was working on contingency plans in case my plane couldn’t arrive the night before.  I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when I saw the flight had departed Atlanta that night.  It meant that, unless there was a diversion, there would be a plane for me in the morning.

The weather in Florida was looking pretty good…hot Friday and Saturday, but cooling for the race on Sunday.  I changed the clothes in my suitcase about 30 times, much to the delight of Sheri (who usually is packed 4 months in advance of an upcoming trip and would have already included ¾ of our wardrobe). 
I made some last tweaks to my schedule and realized that I was completely booked the entire weekend!   

Here is the arrival day schedule:

  • Depart BMI, arrive ATL
  • Depart ATL, arrive MCO
  • Magical Express to CBR…meet up with my room-mate, Steve Cantafio (friend, MEI agent, and fellow Team AllEars member)
  • Packet Pick-up and Expo – hope the timing’s right to meet Rudy Novotny and Joe Taricani
  • Head off-site for supper/party with the Nerd Herd at "the Nerdery"
  • Back on-site to the Contemporary Resort for a quick drink with former students of mine who were getting married that weekend.
  • Back to CBR to unpack and collapse.

(Yep…zero down-time…that’s how I roll!)

Friday morning came…DEPARTURE DAY!!!  I, of course, was up 1.5 hours before I needed to be for my flight (thanks, Scopa).  I tried to stay as quiet as I could to not wake up anyone (especially Wifey, who was (rightfully so) getting more surly at my impending departure and her arrival into single-parenthood). 

Does anyone else have the problem where, when you try to be as quiet as possible, you end up making more noise than a B1-B Lancer doing a full afterburner takeoff?

I checked my bags one last time to figure out what I forgot, hopped in the car around 4:15 am, and pulled out of the garage.

When I pulled into the parking lot at the Central Illinois Regional Airport, I couldn’t help but notice that my fuel mileage indicator was at 26.2…foreshadowing?  Everyone’s favorite shuttle driver Marv was waiting for me behind the car…a short 2 minute ride to the terminal, and I was in warmer weather!  I immediately headed for the bathroom and changed out of jeans and into shorts (I didn’t want to die, or worse, chafe in Florida when I arrived).

I/we left on a Thursday for the last two Marathon Weekends.  This year, with the addition of the 10K and Dopey Challenge, the vast majority of people headed down on Tuesday/Wednesday.  I left on Friday, and I think I was one of only 2 people on the BMI-ATL flight heading down for the races.  In fact, I was one of only 3 people on the entire plane! 

Okay…so I may have been a bit early. 

I always like getting there early to avoid crowds, give me time to run home when I realize I forgot something, etc.  Sheri (as is often the case) couldn’t go back to sleep after I left, so we texted a few times, argued on FB, and played Words With Friends (typical marriage, right?).  One of the funniest FB posts I got while waiting was from Holly Aulen, who simply said, “Hurry up and get here!”  While I was waiting, I got to read all the 10K posts and saw all the pics…I was really starting to get antsy to get down there!

 The flight was about 80% full, and there were no problems getting to ATL, though we did the standard touring of the entire airfield after landing on 9L.  Eventually we made it to the gate, and I rushed off to try nabbing a standby seat for an earlier flight.  One flight was already at 100% with a significant waitlist, so I bypassed that and shot for the next one.  I was one of the first to get on the standby list, but my priority was low, and I ended up get bumped lower and lower as more requested it.  I had time, so I grabbed a snack; two people working and two customers asked if I was a radio announcer with my voice (Michelle Scribner-MacLean would love hearing that).  I had one of the Team AllEars cowbells in my camera case, and it was clanging with every step I took…some of the looks I got from people in the terminal were classic!  Yeah, I might have stopped and started a couple more times than I needed to…just to get that bell making noise.
I made it back to the gate and watched.  I knew I was a long shot, but  I had one thing going for me, though: I was a single, and a number of people ahead of me were in groups of 4-5.  As they cleared the standby list, I got up to 11th, and a call for a party of 5 that they called for didn’t show up to claim it. Up to 5th, with a party of three and a party of 2 not on board yet………aaaaaaand the party of 2 showed up. 

I was that close.

Okay…so ended up on the flight I was scheduled for.  This flight had a much higher percentage of Marathon Weekend people, many first-timers.  Most had no idea what corral they might be in, so I helped them try to figure it out.  A bunch had never used Magical Express, so I told them what to expect.  They all agreed to just follow me off the plane.

The flight was uneventful…I listened to a little bit of one of the Marathon Show episodes and a couple of Mickey Miles Podcast shows enroute.  As we started our approach, I could tell that we were landing south.  Being an avid aviation freak, and having flown into MCO a number of times, I knew this was a best-case scenario.  First off, we didn’t have to circle around to land north (usually 36R).  Second, I knew the taxi to the gate was going to be about 5 minutes shorter.  Yeah, I’m channeling my inner Jay Griffith here (Jay is a fellow Disney and running enthusiast who happens to have the job I dreamed of for years…he’s a pilot for Delta Connection.  He’ll show up again in the report later).

My entourage and I departed the plane, and, after making sure that nobody had to hit the restroom (you NEVER do the restroom by the gates…you get on the tram ASAP before everyone else does), we hopped on the just-arriving tram to the main terminal and blew past everyone at warp speed.  Down the escalators…down more escalators…and into an open elevator.  BAM!!!  We were on the lower level in no-time.  Those of us with Magic Bands bid those without the bands adieu.   Now for the big test…will the magic band work?

I placed it on the Mickey post….aaaaaaaannnnnd..........nothing.


Granted, the other person from the entourage in line with the band also had problems.  We were both directed to a cast member who linked up the reservation and ticket to the band, and it worked without a hitch.  The funny thing, though, is that the group of us who didn’t even have Magical Express tickets ended up beating us to the buses. 

I hopped on the good bus, and we were on our way.  We stopped at several resorts first, including Yacht and Beach Clubs…I talked to a couple from Chicago about the races and Team AllEars…they were impressed with the Team and said they would look for us on the course.  FINALLY I make it to the Custom House...about 1 hour and 40 minutes from taxiing to the gate at MCO to the check-in area of CBR.  I didn’t even have to check in as Steve had already been there a night, so I went straight to the internal bus queue. About 10 minutes later, I tested out the Magic Band for real (Magical Express was just a test, right?), and IT WORKED!!! 

Steve was awesome enough to grab some miscellaneous paraphernalia for me from one of the main organizers of Team AllEars, Melanie Camphouse at a meet-up the night before.  Granted, I only looked for a moment, because Steve and I had plans to get to the expo and packet pickup quickly so we could make it to the Nerdery.  We made our way out to the bus stop, and the Expo transportation was there within 5 minutes (cool!).  We caught up on everything over the past couple of years as we made our way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  We grabbed our stuff, and, when I looked at the bib for the first time…

…what I was about to attempt really hit me.  I always had a running joke on Facebook (bad pun…I know), where, as the race got closer, I’d make “holycrapholycrapholycrap…” posts.  When I posted the pic of the bib, I included another round of holycraps.  That elicited a flurry of responses, both excited and mentoring.  Gordon Harvey again gave some awesome advice: “dude… when I got my bib for my first I called my friend/coach and said "wth am I doing!? These people here look like real runners!" and she said: "take a breath. YOU are a runner. YOU will do this."  Then he immediately followed with, “Hey Chris: YOU WILL DO THIS!”

Gordon…you rock, man!

We headed over to the HP Center and looked around the expo for a while.  I knew I was already nearly at capacity for storage, so I resisted the urge to buy a ton of stuff.  I remember reading dozens of race reports about how brutal the sun could be during the last half, so I broke down and bought a visor (and cursed myself for not getting a Team AllEars one when good friend Tom Troost was selling them).  My goal was to see if Rudy Novotny (we heard him but didn’t see him) and/or The Marathon Show’s Joe Taricani was around (Joe didn’t arrive until Saturday).  After about 15-20 minutes of browsing (and contemplating getting a pic with the Chiquita Banana girl), we headed upstairs, where Bart Yasso was part of a panel talking about running (kewl).  Steve got a text from Nerd Christine about wondering how to tell when the Portuguese chorizo was done (for the cookout).  The pervert in me gave a response that had Steve nearly in tears, but he didn’t relay it to Christine for some reason.

Steve and I exited the Expo and grabbed a cab to head to the Nerdery for the cookout.  It taxed the GPS, but it actually was pretty close to the Sherberth Road access into WDW.  For those who have stayed in an All-Star Vacation resort, the Nerdery was in the same area.  We went through security (they took it seriously there!) and arrived.

Now, I need to pause for a second to bring you up to speed on the Nerd Herd.  This crazy group started off as an off-shoot of Team AllEars members who continue to raise money to fight cancer. Their recipient organization is  Last year’s virtual racing series brought in a fantastic amount for StupidCancer…the fundraising was far more successful than any member had anticipated (W00T!!).  When they were planning for Marathon Weekend 2014, they priced out options and found that renting a large vacation house off-site was the most economical way to go (read HERE for more information).  I was invited to stay at the Nerdery early on, but the initial plan was to have the entire Mushfam down for the weekend, so I passed.

I knew most of the nerds there, though there was a member or two that had I not yet met.  I hadn’t seen most of these folks in nearly 2 years, and I was really excited to catch up with them!  There was another reason, though.  Fellow Central Illinoisian Sara Rhodes had one of the most emotional days of her life on Thursday after the 5K.  I’ll let the Nerds’ post on their site recap it as it was done very well.  As I watched (on Facebook) the balloon hand-out to the kids to honor Sara’s cousin, Cale, I had allergies starting to hit me.  That was an amazing gesture! 

Oh, and, yes, I’m a nerd again this year with their 2014 virtual racing series (like there was any doubt).
Back to Florida and the Nerdery…we run in, and immediately Mike Paxton is there to give me the first of a plethora of hugs from people.  Team Heller-Yeah (Jeff and Erika), Garf (Brad), Jamison and April, Joelle (Mike’s wife), Erinn, Ermagerd Christine, Julie, and, of course, newly-engaged Sara and Jack, were all there, along with Christina (who I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to, unfortunately).  Several members from the team were also there…I’m afraid to try naming them all, because I know I’d forget one or two.  Tim & Dan, Lee & Laura, and Dave & Nancy (and the rest who I forgot) hung out for quite a while – it was great seeing everyone!!  I haven’t laughed that hard in a looooong time!  The food was great, and many, many beers were offered my way.  I passed on both the beef and the beer to avoid a potential gout attack less than 36 hours before the race.  I loaded up on chicken, fruit, chips, and water.

As the evening went on, I realized that there would be no way that I would be able to make it back on-site to meet up at the Contemp with my former students who were about to get married.  I fired off a quick message via Facebook to them and apologized for not being able to make it (about 45 minutes before we were supposed to meet).  They were completely fine with it – I think they were already a little exhausted.

The pool was starting to hop, and I intentionally left my swimsuit packed at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  Wait…no...strike that.  I’m not saying I was going au naturale.  I just wasn’t in a swimming mood, and I didn’t want to have the hot tub filter get clogged up when I jumped in.  I did have the opportunity to meet a newer Teammate, Brian Thompson, and his wife, Laura, as a group of us conversed around the table.  Their story is another one of those very inspirational ones, and they recently completed their first races on Thursday.   

Congrats, my friends!!

I could have stayed at the Nerdery until morning, but I knew that both Steve and I had to get at least a little sleep.  Steve was attempting the Goofy Challenge for the first time…for those not attuned to Marathon Weekend-speak, the Goofy Challenge is 39.3 miles…a half-marathon on Saturday and a full on Sunday.  Steve called for a cab, but Mike offered to take us back instead.  The cab was canceled (but he still showed up), and we got to talk with Mike for quite a while on the way back to the resort.  We bid Mike adieu and got ready for tomorrow.  Steve and I come from the same mold…we threw SportsCenter on and turned on the sleep timer!

Tomorrow is cheering day for the half!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - PreTrip (Part I, Chapter 1, Subsection A)

Okay…I’ve had about 6 weeks to reflect on Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend, and it’s still something that I haven’t let go yet.  I feel compelled to do a series of blog posts so that A) I can revisit what it was like; and B) hopefully others can read this and understand that they can do it too.  I initially planned on doing a single blog post; however, I think that, knowing how wordy I can get, it might rival a Tolstoy novel.  The initial goal is to do a pre-trip report and then go from there, whether it be a post for each day or several posts (I can see the latter happening very easily).  This entry starts the process with the events leading up to the Weekend.

After the 2012 WDW half, I knew that I needed to take a break from running. I injured myself both before the race (fairly significant pain on the outer part of the left knee…all together now… “it sounds like the IT band”) as well as during the race.  I only made it about 4 miles or so into the race before it flared up and sent me walking the remaining 9+ miles.  I don’t know if it was just ITBS or something else; all I knew was that the knee was feeling some fairly moderate pain for 2-3 weeks following the race.

I took 5 months off from any form of running in 2012 and started back up with short runs with my sons for a July 4th 5K.  After the race, I shut it back down and started working on losing weight for the rest of the year.  Marathon Weekend 2013 came, and tons of friends headed down for an extremely HOT race weekend.  I got to relive the feelings that so many of them were experiencing, but it also got me longing for those feelings and emotions again.  I knew in the back of my mind that 2014 might be the year for my first attempt at a full marathon.  I also missed the camaraderie from my Team AllEars buds.  Alas, however…my body was telling me that I had been treating it pretty crappy by treating me to my first ever gout attack in mid-January.  That sidelined me for a couple of weeks.  This pause from running allowed me time to focus on my doctoral dissertation, and I successfully defended it at the end of January.

I had signed up for the Illinois Half and started training for it in February, so I started ramping up the miles again.  One of my most memorable runs ever happened during a conference in Del Mar, CA.  Being in Southern California but used to Central Standard Time, I was wide awake by 4 am every morning of the conference.  I decided to do something that everyone said was amazing…I did a run on the sand next to the waves.  I listened to the waves crashing and felt…alive.  I was the only one out there for nearly an hour…the moon glistened off the water and provided plenty of light out there.  As the sun rose and Del Mar awoke, I enjoyed running by dogs and their owners enjoying the morning.  I didn’t want to end that run, though I knew the conference was going to begin soon.

This beach run was one of the first times I felt comfortable running.  Though I had run dozens of times before this particular run, I never really felt comfortable…I didn’t feel like I belonged out there.  This run set the tone for an amazing day.  The conference went exceptionally well; I witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen:

I had an awesome AWESOME dinner with fellow Economics-teaching cohorts from across the country, and, while I missed what sounded like an epic night at the hotel bar, I made tons of progress on final revisions of the dissertation.

Wait a minute…isn’t this blog post supposed to be about getting ready for the 2014 WDW marathon???  Well…that run did something for me.  It proved to me that this could be friggin’ fun!   Still, amid the training, I had IT band issues starting up again.  Unlike the last time, however, I stopped running and, thanks to the advice of many friends, started working on strengthening my core muscle area.  I even purchased my first foam roller and cussed more than I have in a long time as I started using it.

Around the same time, Team AllEars 2014 was preparing to form.  There was a shocking announcement, however – this was to be the last year of the Team.  I immediately knew I had to be on the team this year, and, since I more or less got the blessing from Sheri to do a race (when she heard it was the last year for TAE, she knew I was going to ask), that thought in the back of my mind about doing a marathon was thrust to the front of my mind.

Yeah, I’ve talked about the bucket list marathon, but actually signing up for it?  Training for it?  Surviving it?  Finishing it?  Those are all questions that I’m guessing most everyone has bouncing around their heads before they submit payment for their very first marathon.  My first attempt at seeing how I was doing running-wise was going to be that Illinois half-marathon, but I was worried about the Team filling up before I saw how the half went.  I bit the bullet and, when the early registration for AP and/or Visa holders opened up, I filled out the entire form…

…and stared at it…

….for about 5 minutes…

…just stared…

Was I really going to do this?  Once I pressed SUBMIT, I couldn’t go back.



To quote a rather famous haunted Disney theme park attraction, “There’s no turning back now!”

Okay…the next three weeks were an absolute blur.  I started working on things for the Team, setting up fundraising goals (I was going big…shooting for 3 times the minimum $500 amount required for the team), doing final dissertation formatting, and watching some friends’ updates from the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I remember that I was talking in my ECO 103 lecture hall about my friends running Boston and where they were just as class was starting…I went to the computer console and looked for an update when I saw the breaking news about the first bomb going off.  I didn’t have the computer screen directed to the projector, but I was constantly flipping between CNN on the console and Facebook on my phone as I was (attempting) teaching on the two overheads.  There were a few students who I could tell were also checking throughout the class.

The entire running community, heck, the entire nation paused to watch the events unfold.  Luckily, everyone who I was following was a safe distance away from the finish line and were okay.  Suffice it to say, it was the talk of most of my circles for quite a while.  This was around 2 weeks before the Illinois Marathon weekend, and a bunch of us running were wondering how this was going to change the experience.

The Mushfam made a trek to Disney World during the weekend that followed the Boston Marathon bombing, and it was definitely a bittersweet trip.  I usually try not to watch the news while I’m on a Disney trip, but I felt compelled to with all that was going on.  The Friday that we were at Magic Kingdom was the day of extraordinary sequence of events all around Boston that culminated with the eventual capture of the last remaining suspect.  With many friends in the area, I felt terrible posting updates about being in the Magic Kingdom.

Later on in the afternoon, though, as we were just about to start our first experience with Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom for the boys, I received an e-mail from the Graduate School with a simple message:

The Graduate School received your final copies and they have been approved for processing. Congratulations on completing your dissertation, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

I showed the message to Sheri and let out this tremendous WHOOP!  With all that was going on in Boston, I didn’t know if I should post something on Facebook with the news, but Sheri insisted that I do it.  178 likes and nearly 90 comments later, I think she had me do the right thing by posting it.  We met up with a bunch of friends from the group that is affectionately called the “Moose”, and it was great to see everyone…many whom I have not seen for several years.

(Mini Moose-Meet...MNSusan & Hubbie, Badelves & Renee, Edcrbnsoul, Linda, & boys, DaisyDebbie & Dan, Squid & Ragtop, Monarchsfan16, Mush & Mrs. Dumbo (& boys), along with a cameo from AUPH...Brian and Wendy (argh..couldn't remember your ID over there!)).

The celebration was on, but I still had to remember that I had a half marathon in just about a week.  The following week was a blur, though the Econ Department had fun celebrating it (and poking a little fun at me, too). I headed down to Urbana for the Expo and met up with friend and fellow Team AllEars teammate Stan Harris for a bit.  We agreed to meet up prior to the race as we were both wearing our new tech shirts from The Marathon Show.  We also met up with fellow Team AllEarsians Sara and Dana, who were also running that day.

The weather was perfect and the course was flat…oh, and there was a lot of support and entertainment all over the place.  As I made the last turn to enter Memorial Stadium, I finally got to hear my name called over the loudspeaker (I never heard it at the WDW half marys).  When I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had PR’ed the run, but I wasn’t sure how much.  I looked down at my Garmin:


Was that right?  If so, that was a PR by ov-ER TWENTY MINUTES!!!!!!!!

I guess you could say I had a pretty good week or so there.

Summer quickly turned to fall, and the training for the marathon had begun.  I was doing a 26-week plan that was in Jeff Galloway’s books.  I took a week off of running in late July to do a much-needed adults-only trip with Sheri to Napa Valley.  It had been nearly 3 years since we had more than a night to ourselves without the boys, so I mean it when I said “much-needed”. 

As luck would have it, the training plan called for 13 miles the exact same weekend as another half marathon that I signed up for: the We Care Twin Cities half.  This was a smaller one and was local.  I treated this as nothing more than a training run.  The only problem was that I didn’t treat it as a training run…I came out of the chute too quickly and ran out of steam quickly.  I did slow down to help someone who seemed to be struggling (it was her first half, and she was out of water and food, so I stayed with her, got her doing intervals, and shared food/water for a couple of miles).  I was just barely under the 3:00 mark, but it was okay…in my mind, it was still a training run.  I had a bunch of friends running this one, and I had a blast high-fiving them on the out-and-back course.  I also had one of the traveling Team AllEars Muppets with me…Kermit!  One of the volunteers, Pam Harris, made sure to give Kermie a shout-out!

From here on out, though, every long run would be a new “longest run ever” run for me.  I hit 15 miles a couple of weeks later, and I started changing my intervals to follow my heart rate instead of how tired I was, and it started paying off benefits as my fatigue got pushed back quite a bit without a significant drop in pace.

My 17 miler scared me a bit as I felt my IT band twinging a little bit in the latter part of the run.  Three weeks later, I broke 20 miles for the first time with a very conservative pace…and not ITBS issues!!!  I did, however, hit the wall for the first time…around mile 18.5, I lost all energy and didn’t want to run another step.  I received several words of advice from the veteran runners out there regarding the wall…Gordon Harvey, a friend and podcaster who helped plant the seed for me to try distance running, may have said it best in a post: “nicely done, Chris. The wall is there and you have met it. Rest of training is recognizing before you get to it, pushing beyond it. WTG!”   Another three weeks came and went, and another long run was planned…I’ll let my Daily Mile entry tell the story:

Planned 23, got 22.2 in (had to get the boys from school). :30/1:00 ratio for the first 15 miles, then :30/1:30. Didn't like that, so switched again to :15/:45 to the end. 5:40:43 time, giving me a 15:22 overall pace. I think 22 at this pace gets me past the last sweeper spot (coming into DHS), & I'll have 1.3 hours to finish those last 4 miles to finish in under 7 hours. Barring injury, I think I'll be able to finish my first marathon (HOLY CRAP!!!). Cloudy, windy, mid-20s, and snowing (miles 14-20). Fueling: toast w/ PB 1 hr before. Honey waffle 20 minutes before. 3 Gatorade primer gel packs at 4, 8, and 15. GU at 16 & 20. Sport beans throughout (around 3.5 packs). 200 calories of PowerAde throughout (ran out of water/sport drink around mile 12...dry for 2 miles ARGH). Didn't really feel a wall, so yay me.

You can see that I’m really working the energy and the paces here in an effort to avoid hitting the wall.  It seemed to work, except for my idiocy of running out of fluids for a couple of miles.

The weather was starting to warm up in Lake Buena Vista, and, after reading the updates during the 2013 marathon with the heat, I decided that I would be best served to do a little training in warmer and more humid conditions, so I grabbed a one-month complimentary membership to the award-winning ISU Student Recreation Center to work on their inside track (8 laps to a mile).  I started off with a 6-miler (including my last magic mile that Galloway has us do in training…basically, it involves you tiring yourself out a little bit and then running a mile hard – there’s a formula that is used to estimate race pace).

The following day, I started experiencing a familiar pain in my right toe…right at the joint…on the outside.  Anyone who has had that pain is likely cringing and saying in unison: “GOUT!”  Unlike my first attack, where I had no idea what it was, I immediately went to the Doctor’s office and got on a fairly powerful NSAID.  At the same time, I switched to an almost-exclusive water drinking regimen, cut out all red meat, and quit snacking on high-fructose corn syrup-laden foods/drinks.  I had one more long run that I really wanted to get in…a 25-26 miler that I wanted to use as a dress-rehearsal.  The problem was that I was supposed to be on the medication for 2-3 weeks.  Couple that with the notion that runners are generally advised to stay off of NSAIDS 12-24 hours prior to a long run, and…well, you can see the dilemma I was facing.  I started weaning myself off of the drug 3 days before (and ended up with a couple of pounding headaches in the process) and was drug-free 18 hours before the run.  It was on!

I tried to make this final run as close to the marathon as possible…including various food breaks that were to be on the course.  I made sure I had PowerAde instead of Gatorade (as PowerAde was what RunDisney offered on the course).

Yeah…after the run, I noticed that PowerAde had high-fructose corn syrup…which explained why the gout came back quickly after the run.  


The 25 mile run required 200 laps in the rec center…I contemplated drinking heavily to get the room spinning, and then I’d run the opposite direction.  I started off how I planned the marathon…:30 run followed by a 1:00 walk for as long as I could keep my heart rate down.  Throughout the run, I received texts from fellow marathon runner (and Moose) Brian Swann as well as from local running partner Emily Gomolochak throughout the run…they REALLY helped!  I had the bananas when they would be on the course, but I still ran out of steam around mile 22.  I started walking and was about to call it a day at 24…mile 23 had a pace over 17:00.  I took a chance and swapped out the podcasts and playlist that I usually run to over to a single song: INXS’s The Stairs.  As it ended, I threw it on repeat and bumped up the volume.  With each repeat, it got louder and louder.  The energy started coming back, and I started to feel like I did back in high-school/college…the killer instinct I used to love!  Mile 24 was about 45 seconds quicker than mile 23, and Mile 25 was an additional minute and a half faster than 24.  I felt absolutely alive at the end of that run.

I was as ready as I could be for this thing!

 Now all I had to do was be healthy and hope the weather was okay…