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 Café 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

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