Thursday, July 17, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 5

Part IV can be read HERE.

We turned left back onto Osceloa and awaited our meetup with Laura.  Laura never disappoints!  She had signs posted a good 100 yards before her post with her thingimajig.  We got there with tons of smiles waiting for us!  She was handing out oranges, which tasted absolutely amazing.  She let us know that Tom Troost had just left here and was only about 3 or 4 minutes ahead of us.  We told her that the Nerd Herd would probably be coming up in the next 10 minutes, too.
We gave hugs and said our goodbyes, but then I heard a “MUSH!!!” behind me.  Laura raced to catch up with me for a selfie! 

After the pic came Mile 21 (16:14 and 162)…the oranges helped, plus, I had a new goal…to get us to catch Troost to try to finish with him!  First, though, we had to do battle with the Ramp-from-Hell onto World Drive.  It has a significant uphill portion in order to clear the main entrance to DHS before dropping down to World Drive.  Sarge, from the Green Army Men, was placed there, and I contemplated dropping for 10 push-ups; however, I feared not being able (or having any desire) to get back up to finish the race.  I gave my best salute as I went by, though.

After much cussing and gnashing of teeth, we made onto World Drive, where RunDisney had another music selection near the Mile 22 marker (17:04 and 162).  This one was the online poll, where we could vote for which song would be played.  The options were Let it Go, Don’t Stop Believin’, and Firework.  My vote was for Let it Go, but the votes were so close that RunDisney decided to play all 3.  I got to hear two of the songs…

Guess which one I didn’t get to hear.

Ellie was nearing “back teeth are floating” stage, so we stopped near the medical tent on the off-ramp from World Drive to Buena Vista.  There were a couple of porta-potties there, and Ellie hopped in line.  The line was only 3-deep, but we think that people fell asleep in there, because the line crawled. The wait helped me, though, because I was able to drop my heart rate to below 150 for the first time since Mile 15.

As we passed the medical tent near the on-ramp to Buena Vista Drive, I started taking inventory of where we were and what we had to do yet.  We had Hollywood Studios, and we had Epcot.  We knew there would be crowds in both, and we knew that we’d have 2 cheering squads near Yacht & Beach as well as by the Mexico Pavilion (the Nerds and their margaritas…).  We had a chocolate stop by Tower of Terror soon.  I was nearly out of Gatorade and was going to hold off on PowerAde as long as possible (to avoid any chance of a gout flare-up post-race).  I was definitely tired, but, thus far, my body was holding up.

While waiting for Ellie, I paused to check Facebook for more of Sheri’s inspirational message.  I noticed that Ellie had posted something on my wall.

It simply said: 18 I heart Chris Mushrush

That one got me.

Little did she know that the tables were about to turn.

Darrell was still with us, and, after Ellie made her way back to us, we all started motoring up the onramp towards DHS.  Right as we made the right turn to enter Studios backstage, my left calf gave me a little indication that it didn’t really appreciate all that I was asking it to do…it gave me sort of a “mini-cramp”.  It was about 15 seconds into our 30 second run, and we all shut it down and skipped a run interval.  A couple of minutes later, I tested out the leg on another run interval, and it seemed to hold.  Ellie asked if she should drop out at the Studios, and told her that we could almost moon-walk it the rest of the way…besides, once we made it past the Studios parking lot, we were pretty much home free as they likely wouldn’t sweep us past that point.

We entered backstage and started praying for a breeze to help propel us to the next stop…I also said a silent prayer that they had not yet run out of chocolate!  After 2 more mini-cramps in my leg, we made it to the water stop, where I finally broke down and grabbed some PowerAde to replenish my empty water bottle (I also topped off my water in my belt).  I nearly kissed the kids handing out the mini chocolate bars.  I got 3 of them and immediately wolfed down the first with water.  The second one soon followed…then I was full.

Seriously?  Free candy bars, and I can’t even eat them??!!!  I asked around if anyone wanted my last one, but nobody around me bit (rim shot), so I grudgingly threw away the last one before it started melting. 
Mile 23 came and went (19:40…bathroom break added the time…average hr was a little lower at 158), and I realized that we only had about 5K to go.  About 5 minutes after eating her chocolate, Ellie…well…how do I put this…let’s just say that I think her blood sugar levels were a little low just before taking in the chocolate.  She got this HUGE surge of energy and looked like the Ellie from Mile 3!!  

At the exact same time, my right calf decided that it was also being neglected and started micro-cramping too.  We took a left and entered the air-conditioned, enclosed, perfect, costuming area from the Backlot Tour.  Ellie was on a mission now, and she was starting to pull away…I told her to keep going…I’d catch up after I walked the span of the air conditioning.  Darrell positioned himself between Ellie and me to keep tabs on both of us.
I was starting to get a little mad at my legs…yeah, even I think it sounds stupid.  I was starting to slow down the other 2, and told them to go ahead and finish…I’ll be able to complete it.

The tables had turned that quickly.

Both Ellie and Darrell said they’d pick me up and haul me over the finish line if they needed to.   I buckled down and started focusing on giving them both the RUN and WALK intervals.  Ellie was about 25 yards ahead of me as we worked our way through Studios.  As we were about to take a left off of the Streets of America onto Commissary Lane, I started about 5 seconds before the run to try to close the difference a little.  When the “official” time to start running came, I hollered out a “RUN!”, not realizing that the Streets of America facades made for a really good echo chamber.

Everyone around me jumped and wondered what was up with me.

I think I had 4 or 5 spectators in the park start running.

Ellie could definitely hear it – she turned back to see if I had donned a drill sergeant’s uniform from the costuming area earlier.

After hearing how loud that one was, I started laughing and apologized to those around me whose heart rates jumped about 20 beats per minute.  

Ellie was getting stronger by the minute and was running GREAT as we made it to Hollywood Boulevard.

That blue blur at the beginning of the video was Ellie streaking by.

Darrell mentioned that his wife was near the entrance to Studios.  I asked him what her name was and told him I’d make sure she knew we all knew her.  Ellie slowed down to wait for us as we approached the entrance.  We passed through, and, as we weaved to the Boardwalk Pathway, Kerri (Darrell’s wife) appeared.  We let out this huge barrage of KERRRRRIIIIII!!!!!!  WE LOOOOVVVE YYOOU!!!!!!!!!  Embarrassed but happy to see her husband, they talked for a quick minute, and she gave Darrell a shirt to hold up at the finish line (the “I DID IT” one).
I started ahead of the others a bit because I knew I’d be slowing them down in no time at all.  Ellie ran next to me again for a while, and, as we passed the last point where the busses could be at to sweep us, I told Ellie that there’s no sweeping us now.

That got all three of us a small surge of energy.  The only real problem that my surge was smaller than the other’s.  The course REALLY narrowed at this point, and we more or less had to go single-file as we worked our way towards the Boardwalk Resort.  Despite the time, there were still a LOT of people out cheering on the walkway, which really helped.  Many items of food, as well as a couple of beers, were offered our way.  We made to the Mile 24 marker (16:38 and 161).  Our next source of inspiration was just across the bridge by the Swolphin…Deb was going to be there with a bunch of people cheering.  Ellie saw them and kicked into 4th gear.  I told Darrell that Deb was going to be at this one and that we’d probably stop for a second.

As Darrell and I made it to the top of the Swolphin bridge, I spotted Team AllCheers, who were all starting to do the MUUUSSSHHHH MUSHMUSHMUSHMUSH! Chant.  I took the downhill part of the bridge quickly and immediately cramped up again, so I glided into Team AllCheers rather gingerly.

  I gave Deb a quick but huge hug.  Team Member Kim Scharoff held up a Gatorade and asked if I wanted it.  I just stared at her for a second in bewilderment…how the heck did she know??!!  I talked about carrying Gatorade to her in passing because of the gout issues, and she went out and bought one for me to have for the finish.  I nearly kissed her for that…thanks, Kim!!!!

Before we left, I inquired about how far ahead Tom was, and they mentioned that he was about 5 minutes ahead but that Molly and the girls were camped out by the International Gateway (and then quietly…and they had a beer for us).  Depending on how much he chatted, we might be able to catch him.  We said our goodbyes and threw the run/walk interval out the window.  We decided to stay together and run as long as the three of us could until we had to walk…usually 15-20 seconds.  We saw another small Team AllCheers contingency between Deb’s crew and the Troost clan.

Then we saw Molly and (I think) Maggie up ahead. We had just finished a run portion and walked in (well, Ellie soared in…still on the chocolate high). 

Molly’s smile was just awesome, and, before I could even say “HI!”, she pointed to the cooler with our selection.  I initially declined (with the AllEars logo on my shirt, I didn’t really want to be seen with a beer can in my hand), but Molly said they had Red Solo cups for us to take.  As expected, I started singing the song.  I looked at Ellie, who didn’t want a full one, so we popped open a Mich Ultra and poured it into 2 cups.  I handed one to Ellie, and we toasted the Troost family for their awesomeness.

Photo Courtesy of the Troost Clan!

That was seriously the best-tasting beer I have ever had in my entire life.  I immediately regretted having only half of one.  Tom was only about 2-3 minutes ahead of us and feeling good…it was going to be close on whether we would be able to catch him or not.
We parted ways and approached the hill for the International Gateway.  The beer was gone within about 45 seconds of leaving them, and I was feeling good…no…GREAT!  I needed the carbs, and the beer seemingly supplied it instantly.  We entered that backstage area of Epcot and approached the final water stop – the volunteers made a big deal about it being the final stop…both for the fact that we were almost finished and for the fact that this was the last opportunity to get water/Powerade.  I passed on the water and wanted to get to the U.K. gate as soon as possible…I remember when I cheered at this spot 2 years ago and saw how big the smiles were as the runners entered the final park of the marathon.
The carbs in the beer apparently were used up, and I hit the wall in the span of about 25 seconds…about 25 seconds after we passed the last water stop.


We made a right-hand turn, and we caught our first glimpse of on-stage Epcot.  The torches were burning, and the music was blaring!  YES…we’re here!!!!!   Right as we entered the U.K. Pavilion, we saw a photographer clicking away.  Ellie and I had the same idea at the same time and got this pic:

(best pic of the marathon!!!)

After the pic, I turned to Ellie and said, (paraphrasing to keep this G-rated), “Ellie, we’re in Epcot!”

She repeated the exact (paraphrased) words back to me.
It was right at this time that I realized we were going to finish it.  I had to fight a couple of allergies that suddenly came up as I heard the supporters cheering and the inspirational music in the background.  Darrell took a moment to read a note that his niece wrote to him, and he was fighting back tears.  He showed it to us, and more allergies just about got to me.  I looked around for the WDW Radio Cheering Team (Lou, Deanna, Beci, and many of the Team often set up a cheering section in the U.K., too), but I wasn’t looking at the right place and missed them.  The U.K. was behind us, and mile 25 appeared on (what I never realized until just then was) a hill on the way to France. Mile 25 had us at 17:01 and 165 on the average heart rate.   Not a bad pace, considering we stopped a couple of times for Team AllCheers. 

The hill to France (again, I don’t ever remember it being there until now…I think they put it in for the race) nearly did me in, and I got sluggish heading up the bridge.  As we started the trek, down, I heard a voice calling out for Ellie and me – Team AllEars runner Rhonda Speer was out cheering for us on the France side of the bridge.  She was at the perfect place, and I really needed that.  I don’t think she realized it, but her presence gave me an absolutely huge boost…thanks, Rhonda! 

I realized that the energy was completely gone, despite another loading of energy beans and Gatorade.  I again told Ellie and Darrell to finish…I wouldn’t be too far behind.  Darrell again threatened to toss me over his shoulder across the finish line in order for us to complete it together.  I laughed and then entered a stage where I started reflecting.  I took in the music, but I also took a few minutes to think about the journey to get to this point.  My mind started going to the reason I joined the Team, and I got to thinking about those who we’re raising money for.  I looked at those around me doing the same thing and wondered about their stories.  That got me from Morocco to Japan.

Again out of energy, I trudged past the American Pavilion to the support of many people taking time from their vacation to cheer us on.  I thanked them and tried a couple more 10-15 second run intervals.  Ellie was checking up on me every few minutes, and Darrell maintained a distance between the three of us.  I really focused on the music being played for what most WDW marathoners call the “victory lap” around World Showcase Lagoon.  I looked over to Spaceship Earth and then just looked ahead.

What the…

I snapped out of my trance and looked over to my right.  Jay Griffith had been waiting in the Italy Pavilion for me to make it past.  I gave him a big smile and a, “Thanks, Jay!” as I gave a thumbs-up sign.

There it was…the next surge.

That carried me to the Outpost.

Now it became a Country-to-Country battle.  Every time I tried to start a run interval, my calf would cramp up within 5-10 seconds, and I was starting to get into my head and beating myself up.  I hobbled past China and looked for a cast member from Norway to try to lift my spirits.   I started doing the “You are not de virst to pass this vay…nor vill you be the last” phrase as my mantra as I passed Akershus and Maelstrom.  Darrell slowed up to make sure I was still alive

As I transitioned over to the last country, I knew some of the Nerd Herd would be there, and, after having been standing there for a few hours with margaritas nearby, I knew it was going to be interesting.  Sure enough, when one of them saw me, the “MUUUUUUUSSSSHHHHHH!!!” chant began again.

Photo Courtesy of Erinn Casazza

Have I ever mentioned that I Love the Nerd Herd?

That got me to near the bridge and on my way to Future World.  Right about here was when my Garmin told me that I had done 26.2 miles…we definitely did some weaving around.  Mile 26 split was slower (talked to Rhonda, Jay, Nerd Herd, plus walked a ton…18:07 pace and 160 heart rate).  As I walked, I took a moment to look up at Spaceship Earth and take in the setting…yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Julia Mascardo had just exited the Electric Umbrella as I passed.  She acted quickly and grabbed her camera:

 Thanks, Julia!!!

Ellie was still going strong about 10-15 yards ahead of us.  The crowds of those cheering was getting thicker, which again provided another boost.  We took the right turn just before Spaceship earth for the final quarter mile.

We passed the Mile 26 marker, and we were off-stage a minute later.  I could feel the smile that had been forming on my face becoming more permanently affixed as I knew what was coming up around one of the upcoming turns, and I could start to hear them.

I have always been a fan of live Gospel music, but WOW!!!!!  I applauded them at the end of the song and then turned to Darrell and Ellie, as we now only had a right-hand turn and then the final chute to the finish.
The crowds thinned just a bit at the turn, but then we all saw it…the Finish Line!!!  

We all agreed to have Ellie in the middle as we crossed the finish line.  We all went to a walk so we could cross the line at a run.  We crossed the ID strip, and I finally got to hear my name over the P.A. system as Carissa read the name that popped up on her screen. 


About 100 yards before the finish, we saw Rudy Novotny jumping off the Announcer’s stage.  He immediately saw the Team AllEars logo at the same time we saw him, and Ellie and I hollered to him just as he hollered to us.

Yeah, I’m about to finish my first marathon, but meeting Rudy is also on my bucket list!

We stopped for a brief moment and talked to him…he was curious if we heard this year’s total for TAE, and we let him know that we broke $100,000, with over $330K for the total over our 5 years.
Rudy gave us a hug for that.

He let us go, and the three of us turned back to the finish line…around 75 yards out. 

The three of us looked at each other…

…clasped hands…


 (it’s my first marathon finish…deal with it!)

(I love how you can see Rudy in the background of that last picture - as well as in the video - cheering on the runners for those last few yards)


26.2 miles. (26.73 miles, according to the Garmin)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 4

You can read the previous installment HERE.

The next part of the course, to me, seemed like the killer portion.  We were to head out of the AK parking lot and make a long loop arc via the Osceola Parkway onramp.  It was then straight east into the sun for what I anticipated to be about 75.3 miles, on two overpasses and back down before finally, mercifully, turning into the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where we make about 4,375 lefts and rights around various fields before FINALLY making our way back towards a theme park.  The cheering was going to be pretty sparse in this area, too.

Yeah, you could say I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the course.

Darrell, Ellie, and I were all getting a little tired, and there wasn’t a whole lot of talking by us (or anyone else around us, for that matter).  Ellie tried again to get me to go ahead and finish without her, and I again reassured her that the sweepers were nowhere near to us (we’re still < the 16:00 pace, plus we have the padding of the corrals that started after us and before the sweepers).

Mile 14 was in the books at 16:08 (hr 155), and Mile 15 (on the first overpass) was at 15:46 and 157 hr.  We were looking forward to the top of this overpass, because we knew that there would be a Team AllEars contingent waiting for us up there!  Bryan and Melanie Camphouse, along with Brian and Laura Thompson.  Man, we NEEDED that cheer squad!!!

(Photo courtesy of Darrell Burgoon) 

We stopped and talked for a couple of minutes with the 4 of them.  Bryan handed a Coke to Ellie (who had requested one before the race) and asked if I wanted one.  I declined, but he looked at, paused, and asked if I really wanted to have a Coke.

I again said, “nope…thanks, though!” … then I noticed his smile and his head-bob towards Ellie.

Yeah – I was a little slow on the uptake.  I’ll hold it for Ellie for later down the course.

All too soon, we said our goodbyes, and we started back down the overpass.  The Coke did Ellie some good, as she got some more bounce in her step.  I kept the other Coke hidden from her as we hit mile 16 near the top of the World Drive Overpass (16:26 and 158…pace was slower from stopping at the McDonald’s Team AllCheers group…SO WORTH IT!)  As we crested the second overpass, we finally were able to see racers returning from the Wide World of Sports on the Ramp-From-Hell near mile 21.  Well-known (and absolutely insane, in the best way possible) mega-cheerer Laura Smith Ozo was near mile 20.7, on the other side of Osceola…once I found her, I went back into military drill-instructor voice and gave a rather loud show-out to her.  Laura definitely heard it and waved/shouted back to all of us.  It was a good thing she saw us; she sent out a FB post mentioning that she saw us; it was the first update on our progress since the half split, and some folks (Sheri) were getting a little concerned that something had happened to us.

Sheri was definitely relieved, and she started posting Disney quotes on my FB wall (though I didn’t see most of them until I was a little outside of Hollywood Studios and finally took a minute to check FB (Troost…no comments!).  
“Just keep running. Just keep running, running, running. What do we do? We run, run. (channeling my inner Dory)”
"Keep moving forward."- Walt Disney”
I am on my way, I can go the distance. I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong. I know every mile, will be worth my while. I will go most anywhere to find where I belong. Hercules”

Ellie had just about downed her Coke, and I pulled out the second one and gave it to her, with Bryan’s blessing.  She nearly hugged me right then and there.

I was also looking for Joe Taricani broadcasting on the course, but we didn’t find each other.  The excitement factor was increasing again as we turned right onto Victory Way towards WWOS.  Most everyone was high-fiving the outgoing runners as we passed each other.  About halfway to the WWOS entry, Ellie spotted Bob and Barb Kennedy on the outbound side.  We all stopped for quick hugs and updates.  Barb was looking simply awesome, with that smile on her face!

We left and immediately found the Mile 17 marker (16:15 and 159).  Soon after, we turned right and headed into WWOS!  Finally…we’re off the road.

…and we’re on a bunch of walkways…with the first one seeming to go on for-evah!!!

Darrell peeled of hit a restroom.  We offered to wait for him, but he said he’d catch up.  Honestly, I thought we wouldn’t see him again.  A couple of minutes later, Ellie and I saw a sight that may as well have been Nirvana; RunDisney was handing out towels soaked in cold water.  We both grabbed one and nearly kissed the RunDisney folks handing them out.

We took a left and a right through soccer fields and then found ourselves entering the track.  Our legs were LOVING the track surface.  I pulled out my inner engineer, and Ellie and I took the most direct route to the inner portion to minimize the distance.  AS we hopped off the track, we hit the mile 18 marker (16:36 and 160), and Darrell surprised us by catching up really quickly.  After a bunch of lefts and rights, as well as 1-2 shortened run intervals to help with the heart rate, we were all cussing this part of the course.  On more than one occasion, Ellie let out a “I HATE ESPN!!!!” to everyone around us.  Each outburst gained progressively more shouts of agreement by the runners.  The trek to the Mile 19 marker seemed to never arrive, but it finally did (16:47 and 159).  The mile splits were heading up quite a bit, but I think we all were losing motivation with the course. 

Just about that time, RunDisney must have sensed it, because we had another banana stop.  We each grabbed a banana and said “Thank You!!” to the volunteers (along with a “no offense, but WE HATE THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS!!!” – which was met with laughs) and trudged forward.  The next big cheering section (we hoped) was going coming up…the baseball stadium.  We entered, and I immediately got warning track gravel in a shoe.  


I didn’t waste the energy to see my ugly mug on the jumbo tron, and, if you check out the video, I think you’ll agree that most people were not really feeling it.

We (mercifully) left the stadium, and I had to pause to get about 2.5 lbs of rock out of my shoes.   A few (dozen) more turns, and we finally made our way out of the WWOS.  We all nearly gave it an honorary single-fingered salute as we left, but decided against it.  Mile 20 was 16:40 and 159.  I lobbied for another reduction in the run/walk ratio, and all agreed (not sure if they liked the decision, but we all added another 15 seconds to the walk interval).  The mile 20 split notification came through, and we were still below the 16:00 pace, though barely.  We noticed as we got back on Victory Way, though, was that nobody was entering the WWOS. Street Sweepers were working on cleaning up the course.  Ellie went into a dead panic that we were going to be swept; however, we were in WWOS for 45-50 minutes, so we were still under 16:00; besides, once we got to Hollywood Studios, the chances of being swept were reduced to almost 0.

6 miles and ½ of a marathon to go!

The Finish can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 3

Part 2 can be viewed HERE

We entered back-stage where the parade floats are typically stored. We bypassed that and went straight for one of the rougher parts of the course…affectionately called “Cone Alley” by runners.  Seriously, there has to be something like 10,000 cones to mark the course!  It was around this time that the group started spreading out a little.  One member of our group was starting to get a throbbing pain in a shoulder and had increased the pace a bit to help block out the pain.  Still, we were within 20 feet of each other for the most part.  One thing that we did start doing, though, was implement verbal cues instead of visual ones…”Start” when our run interval was beginning and “Stop!” or “Walk” at the end.  Mile 6 was in the books…it was slower because of the bathroom break (18:01), but it also gave the heart rate a chance to come back down a little, especially after the sprint up Main Street.

Cone Alley is always an odd part of the course…it’s eerily quiet, probably because one of the most exciting portions (MK) was behind us, and the next theme park was more than 6 miles away.  I was feeling good…getting onto Cone Alley without injury was something that I had yet been able to do, so I was thrilled!  At mile 6.2, we saw another Team AllEars contingency (including Deb Wills) waiting for Linda to finish her 10K.  We gave/received high-5s and hugs and continued onward.  We had a nice musical interlude at the mile 7 marker (14:53 pace with a 152 HR).  Well…it started out as a nice musical interlude.  They had Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline playing at concert-level volume, so we could hear it from about a half-mile away.  Of course, the entire armada of runners was doing the “bom bom bom” during the refrain, as well as singing the “SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” at the appropriate places in the song.  Once the song was over, it repeated.  Okay…we sang it all again, though not with as much enthusiasm as before.

By the 4th time we had heard the song, we were completely sick of it.  Instead of “Bom Bom Bom”, I was singing “TURN IT OFF!” in my head, and “shoot me! kill me! please now!” where the “so goods” were supposed to be. 

We (mercifully) got past the speakers with our eardrums more or less intact, and we started getting quiet again.  Ellie threw in her earbuds and started jamming to her U2 playlist as she ran, occasionally belting out some of the lyrics.  I took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery by the golf courses and Shades of Green.  Mile 8 was at a 15:17 pace, and the HR was 151.  The sun was starting to make its presence known, however, and we were nearing another downhill/uphill portion of the course in order to make it onto the Speedway.  I had heard horror stories about how steep this was and that the best course of action to handle this was to walk it.  EVERYONE was doing this, but it didn’t really help the fact that we were going up what felt like a 70-degree incline.  We all were cussing this stretch. 

Of course, they would just have to place a MarathonFoto guy right at the top of that hill.

This pic was taken about 2 seconds after Ellie screamed, “I HATE THE SPEEDWAY!!!!”  We were all busting up at that one.  As we made a left hairpin turn to get onto the speedway, we all realized that this was going to be a LOOONNNG trek around the track.  MJ was having issues with her Galloway interval timer, and she was about to drop-kick until she found the setting that was causing the problem.  We crossed mile 9 on the track…15:21 on the pace, and the HR kept inching up, with it now averaging 153.  When we finally were able to hop off the track, we cut across a median and made it to Bear Island Road.  While there wasn’t much in terms of characters or theme parks, it was a shaded area, which made for a little cooler feel for the run.  While on this stretch, Teammage Rob Wilhelm caught up with us and ran with the group for a few minutes.  It was great to see Rob as I hadn’t had the chance to talk to him yet over Marathon Weekend.  Laura Gilbreath also caught back up with us and ran with us for a few minutes:

(Courtesy of Laura Gilbreath)

Mile 10 gave us another split pace check from RunDisney.  Our pace was 15:41, but that included that long bathroom break in MK, so we weren’t too worried about the time…not TOO worried.  Amanda Tinney was still about 3 minutes ahead of us, and the Nerd Herd was ahead by several minutes.  The road curved right and left a few times, and what I initially thought was a nice cool portion eventually turned into a long, LOOOONG stretch with no end in sight.  Mile 11 (14:40 at 156) came and went. 

Then came the water treatment plant for Walt Disney World.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Actually, it wasn’t too terribly bad, considering some of the stories from last year’s marathon.  Still, our group was beginning to spread out again, and this time the range was increasing to 50-75 feet.  Ellie’s legs were starting to hurt a little (the Goofy Challenge is definitely NOT an easy task), while others were bearing down more and blocking out pain by increasing the pace.  The “START” and “STOP” commands were becoming more important now.  A well-timed banana stop gave us a little bit of energy to power on.
When we got to Western Way, we caught up with Jazlyn Zombo Doolittle, who was running in full firefighter gear.  We talked to Jazz a bit on her cause (she’s a cancer survivor, a firefighter/EMT, and the wife of an active duty soldier) and introduced ourselves and what Team AllEars stood for.  She was struggling a bit under all the equipment, but was continuing on, and I saw that she did indeed complete the Dopey Challenge, all of it wearing the suit.  For more information on her fundraising, please visit .

After crossing Western Way, we could tell we were nearing Animal Kingdom with the buildings that we passed by.   We popped through the security gate, and animals were everywhere!  There were cast members all about with animals on display (I took special note of the vulture…wondered if he would remember me when he circled around my carcass in a couple of hours).  Several characters were out there, too, as they had the jeep from the AK opening show out there with most of the Fab 5 waving and posing for pictures.  Just before entering AK was the mile 12 marker (15:06 and 159).  The group was really spreading out, and a decision had to be made.  Ellie was starting to worry about the sweepers and she told me to just go…she didn’t want me to be swept on my first attempt at 26.2.  I looked at her and said point-blank that this was my first marathon and I was going to PR the flippin’ thing regardless of my time…we were staying together.   Besides, I was guessing that the sweepers were still a good 45-60 minutes behind us.  Darrell also agreed that he was sticking with us no matter what.  The rest of our group slowed to a longer walk for us to catch up, and, after discussing it for a few seconds, we all agreed to split into 2 groups (with emphasis from the group in the back that we were completely fine with it).  Evelyn could tell Ellie was hurting a little bit, and I told her before they headed off that I would keep watch over her.  Soon after, Evelyn, Steve, and MJ were a good 100 yards ahead of us and continuing on.

As Darrell, Ellie, and I continued on, I realized that I was so caught up in all that was going on around me that I wasn’t even close to fueling the way I had trained.  I started eating energy beans as though I had forgotten to do so for the past 2.5 hours! 

We entered AK, and, as expected, a second wind came across most of us with the excitement of a new park.  Within minutes, we were at Expedition Everest, where was saw some members of the Nerd Herd waiting for fellow teammates to get off of the attraction.  For the briefest of moments, I contemplated asking if anyone else wanted to ride it.  Then, common sense kicked in (I still have over a half-mary to go!!), and we continued on past the mountain…though the screams from the ride made me nearly turn back.

(Still feeling good!!!  Ellie was jamming to U2)

Running through AK was fun…as a family, we have been taking shorter trips, and we haven’t been in that particular park for 3+ years.  Unfortunately, our trek in the park was short-lived, as we were back off-stage behind Dinoland.  Soon after, we hit the Mile 13 marker (15:37, HR 156).  It was about this time that we decided to bump up the interval to :30/1:00, as the sun was starting to really make itself known, and there was no real shade around.  Having already received tons of halfway split texts from other runners, I took notice that Amanda Tinney hadn’t crossed yet, though we were about to cross it ourselves.  We received our split texts, and, about 50 seconds later, Amanda's came in.  I immediately started looking around and behind me in case she was struggling with her legs, but I couldn’t find her.  I found out later on her blog post that her family met her in the AK parking lot (Read her marathon recap HEREOur halfway splits: 3:25:10, pace 15:39.

Halfway through the race distance-wise, but about 25% through the marathon.

Part IV can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 2

(Part 1 can be viewed here)

We crossed the start line, and I remembered to start my Garmin.  I looked down, and I must have been a bit excited as my heart rate was around 120 with my first step off.  MJ was the official timer for our Galloway group, and we all tried to keep together and to raise one of our arms to signal to the people around/behind us that we were slowing from a run to a walk.  It was a bit impossible to NOT have an occasional last-second lateral dart to avoid us, though.  Though I was worried about having my heart rate increase quickly because of the run/walk interval, I noticed that it leveled off fairly quickly, and the first mile came in at 14:49 with a 138 average HR.

The first mile was a special one because there were a number of Team AllEars folks manning the first water station.  As we approached the first table, I went into my Search and Rescue military voice and started shouting, “JAMISON!!!!!!!!!  OH JAMISON!!!!!!!!” in the hopes of embarrassing someone who is pretty much unembarrassable.  I think he heard me because he just shook his head as I went by (he had a smirk on his face, though, so I think he was amused).  We all shouted out to the Team AllEars volunteers as we flew by them.

As we settled into the pace, we started talking about everything under the stars (literally…it was still dark out).  We’d occasionally have someone outside of the group run up and chime in about something.  Whenever that happened, Ellie would shout, “STRANGER DANGER!!!” and, after having him/her tell us his/her name, put them on a 1-mile “probation” where, if they were still in our good graces, we’d let them run with us.  It led to a number of laughs and additional probations.

I had the intention of trying to get a picture at every mile marker, but, after seeing the pick of the first mile, I decided against it; it was so blurry that one could barely read the number!  We kept on going and were having a blast out there as we came up on the Mile 2 marker.  Because we started mile 2 in the middle of a walk interval, our time was a bit slower, but still fine (15:02 with a 145 HR).  Before we knew it, we started hearing the “Caution Runners…Speed Bumps Ahead…Please Watch Your Step!” announcement as we approached the MK toll booth.  After the 87th time hearing it, that announcement sort of becomes your mantra, and I found myself chanting it unconsciously.  As is my tradition, I made sure to tap the toll booth as we went through it. Soon after this point, Steve dropped back for a moment as he was dealing with a minor issue, but he took care of it quickly and was caught back up.

The part from the MK Toll Booth to the TTC is somewhat of a boring one, so I took a bit of time to check some of the runner split updates I had received.  The first one I received was Bloomington/Normal native Karin Watts, who I met at our local Fleet Feet Sports.  Karin was doing the Dopey, and she looked REALLY strong, coming in with a 12:15 split at 5 miles.  The first Team AllEars splits came from Rich Gairing and, at the same time, Co-Captain Michelle Scribner-MacLean (there was a large group of the team running together).  Breast Cancer survivor and runner-adopted-by-everyone-down-there Kimberly Torres Markey’s message came a few minutes later.  Fellow Moose Brian Swann was doing well with a sub-14 time, and Podcaster and friend Will Jensen was right at a 13:00 pace at 5 miles. 

This part of the course was cruel in that we could see and hear all the runners on the Speedway, knowing that we were a good 5.5 miles away from being at that point.  Mile 3 was at a 15:11 pace with a 147 avg HR.  The talk among the group really started getting interesting (remember…what is said on the marathon course STAYS on the marathon course)…let’s just say that we had dozens of people around us cracking up.  Somehow the discussion turned to podcasts, and I mentioned that I always wanted to do an intro for Mike and Michelle’s show, but with a twist.  I wanted to do a Mickey Miles: After Dark intro.  I got into my Barry White voice and…well, let’s just say the terms “the Stick”, “Chafing”, “Body Glide”, “Nipple Guards”, “Marathon”, and “Six Hours” were all used in the intro.

Soon we made the turn away from the Speedway and into the MK parking lot.  We were approaching where I was cheering at the previous day, so I knew the character picture location (Jack Skellington) as well as where the cheering section would start picking up.  I didn’t even realize that our gaggle of runners was on the “wrong” side as we made our way to the TTC (the very thing I was complaining about when cheering yesterday…I missed a few Teammates because they were over there…and now we were too!).  The thing that made me realize it was that I heard my name being shouted to our left.  I peered over and saw Jay Griffith and Rikki Niblett screaming for us right where I was located exactly 24 hours earlier.  I had a big smile and acknowledged it and hollered a big, “THANKS!!!!” as well as a “Hi Rikki!!”, though we had never met in-person before.  Around the same time, Teammate Amy Frank flew by us with her daughter, Dani, who was completing her first marathon, too.

Mile 4 was close to the monorail station.  14:50 and 149 for the data…getting faster with no real increase in the heart rate.  The cheering section was PACKED at this part of the course, and the course narrowed quite a bit (we knew because we heard another announcement about 236 times).  One of our running crew expressed concern about back teeth floating, so we started strategizing for the first bathroom break.  I recalled Nerd Christine (ermahgerd) Griffin mentioning almost never-busy bathrooms by the Tea Cups, so we all agreed to try to make it there as it was just 50-100 feet off the course.

We were coming up to a part of the course that I was honestly a little nervous about…the water bridge by the Contemporary.  During my first half marathon back in 2011, I ran down this underpass way too quickly, which resulted in sore quads the rest of the race.  I wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen this time, so we all agreed to take it slow.  Luckily the vast majority of runners around us were thinking the same thing.  It was either that or they wanted to watch the DJ with the largest set of Mickey Hands ever seen waving to us on the water bridge.

One runner I was paying particularly close attention to was a fellow blogger named Amanda Tinney, who was dealing with IT band issues in the weeks before the race, and she was doing the Dopey Challenge.  I knew that she was also starting in Corral M, and I let her know that, if I saw her near the end struggling with the knee, I’d try to help running a bit with her.  Amanda’s 5 mile split came in about 4 minutes before we were to hit the 5-mile split mat, so it looked like she was doing okay!  I also had some Nerd Herd friends that started a corral or two behind us, and they were catching up to us quickly.  Our group’s 5 mile split was 1:15:50, giving us a pace of 15:10.  The Nerd Herd was about 2-3 minutes behind us.

The next part of the course is a favorite for most…about to enter the Magic Kingdom!  Steve asked if I could help out with a picture once we got to the WDW Radio cheering area.  He has a tradition of getting a picture with Beci Mahnken, who owns the well-known MEI- and Mousefan-Travel sites (Steve is a vacation planner under MEI).  We told the rest of our growing group to go ahead and that we’ll try to catch up around the Hub, where a large contingency of Team AllCheers folks would be.  We entered MK by Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, and head straight to the WDW Radio group:

(Photo courtesy of Steve Cantafio)

I was trying not to laugh as I was taking it because Valerie Drew was doing everything she could to NOT be in the pic (behind Steve).  

Once the pic was done, I extended my hand to Lou Mongello to say a quick “HI!”.  Katie McNamara, who was standing right behind Lou, looked right at me and screamed “HUG HIM!!!!!!”  Immediately, 2-3 other WDW Radio Cheerers joined in with the "HUG HIM! HUG HIM!" chant, and I finally remembered the fundraiser that MEI was doing.  Lou had a look of fear at the prospect of yet another sweaty hug from a hairy guy, but he offered it up.  Katie caught the precious moment:

(Photo courtesy of...well, you JUST read it in the previous sentence, didn't you??!!!)

With my man card now in the shredder, Steve and I make the classic mistake of catching up on Main Street.  This is a point to absolutely cherish the course…you’re running up one of the most famous roads, with the iconic Cinderella Castle in front of you…take the time to listen to the background music as you leisurely strol…OUT OF THE WAY…WE’RE ON A MISSION!!!  My heart rate skyrocketed to 170 as we flew to the Hub. We made the turn towards Tomorrowland and found our cheering squad.  Evelyn, MJ, and Ellie had just arrived there, and we said a quick “YO!” to everyone as we passed.  In hindsight, I should have asked one of them to get a pic of the 5 Teammates.  Yes, there is a video of this, but I'm holding off on posting it until the very end (you'll understand when you see it).  The goodbyes were said all-too-soon, and we crossed the bridge into Tomorrowland.  I honestly wish I were fast enough to be able to run this stretch in the dark so I could see the amazing lighting effects.  Oh well…maybe I’ll head over there on a night when the park is open and the crowds are really low…I’ll just run then.

We made our way past Cosmic Ray’s and let those that weren’t on the Team but were following along with us that we were stopping for a couple minutes to hit the bathroom, and Darrell said he’d be glad to wait for us.  As we peel off, I started to hear the tell-tale, “MUUSHHH!!! MUSH! MUSHMUSHMUSHMUSH!!!”  That told me that the Nerd Herd had caught us.  We all hollered back “ERMAGERD!!” as Julie Olson, EhrmaGerd Griffin, Dan “I ran a marathon” Rajnik, and Jeff “HellerYeah” Heller also exited off the course for the super-secret bathrooms.  It quickly became an impromptu meet-up, and there’s no way I’m going to divulge the conversations that went on during this!  While we were waiting for everyone to finish up, we grabbed a pic:

(I can’t believe I didn’t do the “Ears Up!” here…I know…Bad Mush…BAAAAD Mush)
With everyone properly relieved, we found Darrell, who graciously waited for us for several minutes, and we all started back up.  Dan was just ahead of Darrell, who was able to read the back of Dan's shirt, which he also wore in the 2012 marathon.  It has one of the best quotes ever on it!

  As we made the left turn in Fantasyland near Pooh, we nearly had a multi-runner pile-up when the girls all noticed Dr. Dribble waiting in line for a character pic….here’s why:

  (Photo courtesy of Laura Gilbreath)

Heading through the castle was a tight squeeze, so we walked most of that short section.  I saw a Marathonfoto dude at the exit, and I decided to remedy my faux pas earlier by not giving "ears up"...

 (MJ was framed perfectly in-between runners for the shot, too!)

As you can see in the picture above, we got spread out a little bit as we exited and made the turn to the forecourt area. 

This video actually captured everyone we were running with.  Evelyn crossed the strip at :18, with Ellie right behind her.  I can’t tell who the WDW Radio team runner is, unfortunately.  Julie, Christine, and Dan cross it at :22, and I’m crossing at :25.  MJ crosses at :27, and Steve and Darrell (who we are now considering to be part of the group) are about to cross at the end (Darrell is about 5 feet behind Steve).  Oh, before anyone gets up in arms, yes, I made a digital purchase from Marathonfoto, so I have the rights to the pictures/videos that I'm posting from them.

We all made the turn towards Liberty Square, and I looked for Tiana, but she was off-stage when we passed.  When we got to the bathrooms in Frontierland, everyone started yelling at Linda Eckworth, who was hopping back on the course.  Linda was supposed to run the 10K on Friday but was unable to make it to Orlando.  Someone on the team had a marathon bib that was going to be unused, so he/she offered it to Linda so she could take part in a race.  She started out with everyone else and was going to drop out once she made it to the 10K distance.  As a side note, someone even gave Linda their 10K medal since she did complete 10K during Marathon Weekend.

Have I ever mentioned that I love the people on Team AllEars?

Linda had this huge smile on her face as we all shouted her name.  She was running with Laura Gilbreath, who was right by her side.  Noting that everyone was screaming for Linda, I looked at Laura, and, in a quiet, subdued voice, I simply said, “oh, hi Laura.”  I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face as Laura gave me a sarcastic, “Gee, thanks, Chris…I really appreciate that”.  Laura said that Linda was doing great and should have a strong finish.

All too soon, we crossed the train tracks and were off-stage.  The marathon was about 25% complete.

(Part 3 can be viewed HERE)

Friday, May 9, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend 2014 - MARATHON DAY, Part 1

I was expecting an entirely sleepless night, but I only woke up a few times, thanks to my time at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where I learned to sleep in different phases; I found a way to get sleep but still be aware of sounds around me…it’s not restful, but it’s better than no sleep at all.

The phone rings at 3:15, and Steve is up and getting ready. I decide to let my phone alarm go off so I can hear a little music from Pirates of the Caribbean to pump me up. I had everything laid out, but I started OCD’ing about absolutely everything, ranging from how much water I should drink before getting on the bus to which arm I should wear my Magic Band on. After quintuple-checking everything, I looked at Steve, and we gave each other the nod that we’re ready to do. The bus arrived about 4-5 minutes after we made it to the stop, and there were still seats available, so we grabbed two up-front and started talking to the others. About ten minutes later, we were at the unloading area and were repeating the events from yesterday morning.

After the security check, we made it over to the Team AllEars meet-up in the staging area. There were a few familiar faces that were there that morning that weren’t there the previous morning, including Michael Fuller, a past Team AllEars member, who stopped by to say hi to the crew. In what seemed like no time at all, we started forming up for the team picture. As everyone got into place, I shook hands with good friend Tom Troost, who was lining up behind me for the pic.

….wait a minute…


You’re wearing a bib.

 YOU’RE DOING THE MARATHON??!!!!!!! YOUR FIRST MARATHON??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, this is the perfect time to let everyone know that Tom had already done the 5K, 10K, and half, but he had not trained for a full marathon. This in itself is crazy, but it is even more so because he had run the previous 3 days!!! I immediately felt bad because there were many pictures of Barb Kennedy, Julie Patton, and me as the “first-timers” for this race. Tom calmly said that he’d run as far as he could and, if he didn’t make it, he’d just stop and enjoy the rest of the day.

We got the picture taken, but I felt that something was wrong…Barb wasn’t there. I immediately pulled out the phone to see if she had sent any updates, and I saw that she posted a picture just a few minutes before of her with Jeff Galloway.

Yeah, I probably would have made the same decision on that one.

Barb showed up a few minutes later, and we had another pic taken.

After that, we all said our good lucks to each other, and we started off on our long trek…

 …to the corrals.

Only those who have done the half or full at Marathon Weekend will get that joke. I knew that Teammates MaryJean Kancel (affectionately known as “MJ”) and Evelyn DeLuccia were in the same corral that I was in (Corral M). My roommate for the weekend, Steve Cantafio, along with Teammate Ellie Argaluza, ran with MJ and Evelyn during the half the previous day and decided to fall back to Corral M with them and me for the full, too.

Now, I have to preface the rest of this report with the fact that we all agreed that “what happens on the marathon course STAYS on the marathon course.” If there is a vague comment or a story that may seem a bit incomplete, well…you now know why (muahahahaha).

On the walk to the corrals, I was brought up-to-date on the discussions from the previous day’s race. The only thing I could initially think about was, “poor Steve!!” Then I realized that I was the fresh meat of the group and that I was about to be initiated into the group, and I immediately felt the blood drain from my face in fear and apprehension.

I was saved by the fact that we met up with another flock from Team AllEars heading down to the corrals, and we intermingled for a few minutes until we hit the armada of porta-potties. At that point, the groups broke off to head to their respective corrals. It was about 4:45…there was still around 45 minutes to go before the official start.

We were near the front of the corral, and the veteran marathoners pulled out an old mylar blanket and spread it across the road for us to sit on while we waited. We talked with a bunch of people around us, including a woman named Amanda, a gentleman named Darrell, and many others. I got to hear Joe Taricani from The Marathon Show call out our very own Barb Kennedy for her first marathon a few minutes before the start…AWESOME!!!

My 25,000 closest friends quieted down for the singing of our national anthem (though we did have one do the “OOHHHHHHH” shout right next to us…grrrrr), and, a few minutes later, our first Teammate, Ed Russell, was launched with the wheelchair division.

(Ed's in front of the purple sign)

 Then came the first wave...

Yeah…I’m going to have to get the entire family down for one of the RunDisney races so they can experience this.

Requisite Team AllEars Corral Pic:

We knew that we still had a good 30 minutes or so before it was our turn, so we continued talking to everyone around us. About 10-15 minutes before our wave was expected to start, everyone developed the same nervous urge to hit the bathroom one more time, so we took turns watching for when we would start moving while others ran to the porta-potties. As we saw Corral L start walking past us, the last few people in the area darted for the bathrooms. We also noticed several from later corrals jumping into our corral as well as in J, K, and L.


Finally, we got to start walking our way to the start line. We still had a couple of corrals to go before we were off, but the atmosphere was simply electric. Most were nervous but really happy. I downed my Clif Shot Bloks and guzzled a bit of water…and waited. I was definitely nervous about falling behind the pace of everyone else. I had trained for a :30/1:00 pace, but the others had agreed to try a :30/:45 pace, which is what they did the previous day for the half. I told them early on that I was completely fine if I couldn’t stay with them and that they should just go ahead…I wanted them to run their own race.

Corral L blasted off, and we were next:

Rudy Novotny, known by everyone as “The Voice of America’s Marathons”, has been an absolutely huge supporter of Team AllEars over the years. During the third year of the Team (my second year on it), Mike Scopa put out a call one December morning for as many Team AllEars members as possible to send Rudy a friend request on Facebook. Rudy is immensely popular with many, MANY people, yet he took the time to accept every single request and comment back to everyone. His actions, along with a similar “friend-bombing” of Joe Taricani, helped Team AllEars gain a lot more visibility, as well as more money raised.

Everyone knew that I had the drill instructor voice, so they had me shout out to him, which you probably heard about 1:09 into the video below.

Kewl…another Team AllEars Shoutout! …annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd WE’RE OFF!!!!!

(Continued HERE)