November 2017 – Month in review

November 2017 – Garmin Connect

This month the focus for me was preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19. I had just come off one of my biggest months of training in October. With the way the calendar fell I had three 50 mile weeks. The taper was most welcome. Together with the post marathon recovery which took longer than usual this was one of the smaller mileage months for me.

I still managed to churn out 127 miles (26.2 of which was the Philadelphia Marathon).

The weekend after the Philadelphia Marathon was Thanksgiving so I had a little extra time in the mornings to work out. It’s nice to be running in daylight at this time of year. It doesn’t happen much.

My wife and I had a good showing at the annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 miler. This was our second fastest time for this event which we have run dating back to 2010. It was a cold morning but the sun was out and we made the most of the fine conditions to put the pedal down. I was more than pleased that I was feeling normal the morning of the race as I was feeling sore longer than normal after the marathon. Also…this race had pie!!!

Nice sunny day for our run around the park

Some solid splits for this run

They had pie

With that being done it was back to training for the upcoming Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge. This would be my first ‘Philly to Goofy’ (*) training cycle since 2014. I started doing the weekend back to back runs with doubling the distance of the Saturday runs on the Sunday. Only 7 weeks between Philly and Disney this time around.

My big ‘Black Friday’ purchase this year was to register both my wife and myself for the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon. That sets up quite a busy year for me in 2018 if you add to that the Delaware Marathon that I signed up for at the expo a week earlier.

2018 is looking like this for me now:

January – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

April – Delaware Marathon

July – New Jersey State Triathlon – Olympic Distance

November – New York City Marathon

November – Philadelphia Marathon

Thank you for reading.

(*) This is where the blog’s name comes from. Running the Philadelphia Marathon and then running the Goofy Challenge a few weeks later – Philly to Goofy – Philly2Goofy 🙂

2017 Philadelphia Marathon – Race recap

On Sunday 19th November I participated in my sixth Philadelphia Marathon. I have come quite a way since my very first marathon also in Philadelphia in 2011. This race would take my total number of marathons to 19 setting the stage for number 20 in January at Walt Disney World. Trying not to get ahead of myself though, I’d like to focus on my experience for this race.

Last year the running of the Philadelphia Marathon transferred hands from the City of Philadelphia to the race team that hosts the Broad Street Run. They made some changes to the weekend, some welcomed and some less so. One of the changes was to split the half and the full races into separate days and different courses. They also created a challenge event for those that participated in both races, the ‘Rocky Challenge’. If you follow my recap from last year you can read how that unfolded.

This year the race organizers announced the challenge (rebranded the ‘Liberty Bell Challenge’) at the time of registration. Seeing as I will be running a 39.3 mile event at Walt Disney World in January I decided that I would focus on just the marathon this time around. I do occasionally need to get some sleep.

As always, I was getting excited prior to race day as I followed my friends running the Chicago Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the weeks leading up to Philly. I was just waiting for it to be my turn. Soon enough though the weekend rolled around.

I visited the expo on Friday evening. It was again held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Center City. Packet pickup was fairly straight forward. I was only doing the marathon this year but it looked like they were pretty organized for the challenge runners unlike last year when no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

Arriving at the Convention Center

Expo time

Once I picked up my race bib and shirt I went back to a table I had passed on my way to packet pick up to do a quick meet and greet with Bill Rodgers who was signing copies of his new book. I asked him to sign my bib as I had met him previously but didn’t think to ask him for his signature. I hoped that having a four time Boston Marathon and four time New York City Marathon winner and former Olympian sign my bib would automatically make me run faster…

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pickup was fairly easy

Once I had finished meeting Bill (he’s a talker 🙂 ) I headed over to the expo and to the race merchandise area. As per prior year it was well stocked and divided up into men’s and women’s sections. I made my purchase of a puffer vest that I had looked at the prior year and passed on and also a new beanie. I was happy with my purchases but even happier about the bag that they provided for my new gear. Okay, maybe I get too excited by race expos but I thought that if they are going to take the time to provide logo bags then they might enhance the running experience on the day. We shall see.

Meeting Bill Rodgers

Fingers crossed this brings me good luck

At the expo they had the Lexus pace car on display. It was covered with the names of all the runners. This was not an alphabetical list so after a few minutes of looking for my name I gave up. I’m sure it was somewhere on there. Why would it not be alphabetical????

Seriously…not alphabetical?

Seriously…not alphabetical?

I didn’t make any major purchases at the expo…unless you count registering for another marathon. Yup, I’m now registered for the 2018 Delaware Marathon in late April. I had my eye on this as I can drive there on the day and I was looking for a spring race. They were offering a discount so I went for it. Looks like another winter training plan for me. With no other merchandise jumping out at me and no other needs or accessories that were required I headed home for an early night and hopefully a restful weekend.

Something different

My next race…after my next race

What was planned to be a restful day came to a grinding halt early Saturday afternoon. While I was driving the family to the car dealership so my wife could do some test drives, I had a major cramp in my left calf. It came from nowhere and was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk for a good amount of time and I was seriously concerned. I reached out to my runner friends for advice and they all told me to hydrate. I started pounding water for the next couple of hours to which came the next bit of advice…don’t drink just water, electrolytes…you need electrolytes. So at this point I was heading home and started taking salt tabs every 30 minutes or so as I tried to massage out my calf. Then I was told to take an Epsom salt bath which I did and followed that up with a hot shower. Next up, icy hot applied to the area and then a calf sleeve. Desperate….you betcha!!!!

Well, with nothing more that I could do I headed to bed. Hoping that the rain that had been coming down all afternoon would give way to some better weather (spoiler alert – it didn’t) and that I would get a good night’s sleep so that I would wake up rested, relaxed and hopefully with a seemingly normal feeling calf muscle.

All set and ready for the next day

….so at 3am when my neighbors were still partying I sat up in bed and decided then and there that I was buying my eldest a full drum kit when he needed it…

My alarm went off around 4am. I started to get ready, very bleary eyed, listening to the wind and rain outside the window and feeling my calf muscle still sore and tight. I guess my goal time was out for the day.

I headed downtown hoping to get to my regular parking lot before they started blocking off the roads and was able to make good time. It was still raining while I was driving down and also as I walked to the race staging area holding onto my rain poncho and praying it didn’t fly away. Thankfully as the morning started to break the rain stopped. There was still a very strong wind and it was cold but at least the rain had stopped. That was something.

Heading to the race start and clinging onto my poncho so it wouldn’t fly away

Unfortunately due to the amount of rain which had been falling steadily since Saturday afternoon the ground was saturated. It was pooled with water and muddy in many areas. I met up with a colleague who was also running and we headed to bag check together. In past years (each of the 5 previous times I have run this race) bag check is in Eakin’s Oval itself on the paved area. This year they had moved it off to the side of Eakins Oval. While the trucks were on the street you could only access this by walking across the grass…which happened to be almost ankle deep with wet mud in places. Another annoying aspect of the bag check was that it wasn’t sorted by bib number nor alphabetically, it was a first come first served process. Everyone went to the first truck they saw which was out of the way of the soggy ground. This became a mad crowd surge as people started hearing the National Anthem being sung. We had only a few minutes to get to our corrals before our waves went off and people were still queueing up to check their bags.  Crazy. What a mess. I ended up with a tag from truck 2 and my bag was put on truck 3. I’d have to hope that they sorted the bags out before I got back at the end of the race.

A grey morning start at the corral

The race had already started before I made it to my corral but my corral had not yet been released. It was a mad dash but I made it. Talk about an adrenaline rush. It was crazy. Although the rain had cleared it was still cloudy. The temperatures were in the high 40s but with winds of 25mph+ and gusting well above that the temperatures felt much colder.

Once my corral was released and we were underway I kept up with the pack of runners around me. I had set my goal time to sub 3:50 hours and a secondary goal of 4:00 hours. This meant running a pace in the mid 8:30 minutes/mile. As we were running down towards Delaware Avenue (around mile 2) a gust of wind blew as we passed by a gap in the buildings and everyone moved sideways. Wow. It was strong. I was able to maintain a pace between 8:25-8:30 minutes/mile for the first 7 miles or so despite the headwind but as I ran towards Chestnut Street around the old city I felt my calf tweak again and I knew at that time I would have to back off or at least do something different.

I had not been doing any run/walk intervals during races since running the Mohwak Hudson Marathon back in 2016. With the sudden jolt to my left calf I decided to minimize any pain/damage and go back to my old intervals. My Garmin watch still had alerts as I had never turned them off so I just settled into a 4:00/0:30 minutes/mile run/walk ratio so that I could keep my momentum going. This slowed my pace a little but not considerably so I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. My sub 3:50 may be out of reach but I felt good for a sub 4:00 hour (or close to it).

Running up Chestnut Street towards Drexel University was like a 2 mile wind tunnel. All around me people were losing hats/visors. I tightened my hat on my head and just pushed into the wind waiting for a break when we turned the corner up towards Fairmount Park.  The wind was pretty brutal.

The sun was out though so it was still an enjoyable run. The crowds were out to cheer despite the cold and the wind. That is one of the best things about the Philadelphia Marathon. The crowd support for the first 10 miles is great. It thins out a lot in Fairmount Park until you get back to the Art Museum around mile 14 and then thins again until you hit Manyunk. Still, the crowds are one factor in this race that keeps me coming back again and again.

The run through Fairmount Park was fine (once you get beyond the big hill up to Memorial Hall) and I’m glad we get to spend more time in the park so that we can avoid the old out and back that used to be around mile 17. This however prevents you from hitting the half way mark at the Art Museum as used to be the case when the Half and Full marathon was run on the same day. We hit the Art Museum around mile 14 since they changed the course and I was there just in time to see the race leaders making their way up the finish line. Yup, they were 12 full miles ahead of me…and running in singlets in this weather.

The slog…sorry, run…up to Manyunk along Kelly Drive is scenic but into wind is just tough. Very tough. There is no shelter from the wind the whole time you are running. The course is fairly flat but it felt like you were running up hill all the way as the wind was just relentless. Some of my friends behind me took pictures next to trees that had been snapped in the wind. Yes, I’m not exaggerating that the wind was strong.

At least when we entered Manyunk we were sheltered from the wind by the buildings. This also made it much warmer for those miles. The run through Manyunk is an out and back from mile 19 to 21. There is a slight uphill but with a break from the wind this didn’t seem too bad. I was slowing a little though. My pace had fallen off while running miles 14 to 19 into the head wind. I was probably not looking to make my 4:00 backup goal. My goal was to finish and do so with a smile.

So, thinking that if you are running into wind you would have it on your back on the way in would make sense…neh, all of a sudden you get a cross wind on the way back from mile 21 to 26 (insert face palm emoji here…) The run back was steady. I was just looking to finish at this point. My legs were aching more than usual for a marathon. I can really describe conditions as though you were running uphill the whole way because the wind was honestly that strong on the day.

I made it to the finish line in 4:08. Not my best time but again not my worst. I was very relieved to finish this one. As I was running the finisher chute there was a runner receiving emergency medical treatment just in front of the finish line. I saw someone go down just after they crossed the finish line. It was not an easy day. Still, marathon number 19 was in the books.

Another marathon finish in the books

Marathon #19 complete

I stopped for a large cup of hot coffee on my way home. I’d earned that for sure. Usually I’m pretty much up and about the afternoon of a marathon but I was cooked. I needed to rest up. I reviewed my running data and looked at my charts. Holy moly that was an effort today. My time in the highest heart rate zone was insane. 2:31 hours out of the 4:08 was almost at maximum effort. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was not an easy day.

24 ounces of pure gold

A little too much time in the high red zone

Interestingly enough, it took me a few extra days to recover from this race. I’m usually sore a day or two after a marathon but I was really struggling even by day 3. I finally was able to run properly just in time for our Thanksgiving Day run on the Thursday post race.

I told my wife I may be taking a break from Philly after this year, after all, I’m running the 2018 New York City Marathon next November. That was until Black Friday when I signed both my wife and myself up for what will be the 25th anniversary running of the Philadelphia Marathon. I’m a sucker for a special medal.

So, until next year…

 

 

 

 

January 2016 – Month in review

January 16

January 2016 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike + Summary shows 121 miles. There was no cycling or swimming this month. Not sure why but probably because of travel, weather and general fatigue and no races I took it rather easy. Still, managed to knock out 121 miles.

We had just returned from our Florida trip when I had to fly out to Arizona. I think the drive time from Florida to Pennsylvania and the transcontinental flying finally caught up with me combined with the change in temperatures (winter finally arrived) sending me to my basement treadmill for my runs.

I think the major ‘funk factor’ in this was the fact that this was the first Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend I have missed since 2012. I had to live vicariously through all my friends and fellow Mickey Milers team mates Facebook and Twitter posts. I was itching to be there so bad this year but the logistics of home life, work travel and also costs just made it an impossibility this year. Sad, but there will be other times. I’m focusing on my first half ironman triathlon distance this year so really cutting back on racing and focusing on the training plan…boring…but hopefully fruitful come July 🙂

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Trying my best to not feel left out…with my 2015 Half Marathon shirt and my extremely overpriced 2013 Marathon coffee cup

With the weather forcing me indoors I actually have the opportunity to try transitioning to Altra Zero Drop shoes. I would have liked to try this previously but there is a 3-6 week adpating period where you wear the shoes progressively more and more each run but switch back to your regular shoes mid-run. Generally when I am running outdoors I am not looking to carry a spare pair of shoes everywhere with me. Indoors at least I can put the shoes next to the treadmill and easily switch mid-run. We shall see how this goes. I am trying to transition  from my Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoe with a 12mm drop (from heel to toe) to the Altra Provision shoe with a 0mm drop. It will take time I’m sure and I will probably have a few strange aches and pains during transition. We shall see how this works out. So far I’ve managed to get up to 6 miles. A way to go if I’m going to be into these shoes before the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The key is to getting to the start line injury free. If it isn’t working out I’ll be running in the Adrenalines.

So, as I’m saying that I will be registering for less races, I did manage to sign up for 2 first time races for me this year. The first is the Philadelphia Phillies 5K race at Citizens Bank Park on March 26. I figure a 5K during the marathon training will be a good time to see how my speed is going. Not sure it will be a fast 5K given the nature of the race but I will see nearer the date. Also, I signed up for the Princeton Half Marathon in early November. My wife ran this race last year and I was really jealous of her ‘squirrel’ medal so it’s my turn this year! It’s in November after my triathlon season so I can get away with my previous comment about running less and concentrating on the triathlon 🙂

One day the squirrel will be mine...

One day the squirrel will be mine…

Oh, I almost forgot, I registered again for the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It fits nicely into my training plan and it was a nice race for me last year.

My wife and I registered for the lottery for the New York Marathon. We will find out if we get in together in early March. I figure if either one of us gets in we should run it regardless of whether the other does or doesn’t. It is such a big race and the lottery is just that…a lottery. Who knows if we will get selected. It’s a big race but it’s definitely a bucket list one. I figure it’s a one and done type of race because of the size of the field and the logisitics of the weekend just sound a bit too much for me. I’m sure it will be fun and I am hoping that we both get in. I’ll let you know 🙂

Both my wife and I are in training for the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. The weather has driven us both to the treadmill unfortunately. Looking forward to getting out whenever we can but making sure to be sensible and safe. No point in running in the cold and icy conditions if we don’t really have to. Better to be safe inside. The conditions in May will not be replicated in January that’s for sure.

We had the first big snow of the year…and it was big. On top of my long run that day (11 miles on the treadmill) I was outside shoveling snow for over 4 hours. Quite a workout but I prefer swimming and biking as my cross training!!!

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of Hoth...

My youngest in the snow. Reminiscent of the planet Hoth…I think he is looking for his tauntaun.

I hit another personal milestone this month as I made it past the 8,000 mile mark since I started recording my workouts back in September 2010.

January 19

I’d been running about 5-6 weeks using a ‘Couch to 5K’ program before I started logging my activities so this is pretty much from the beginning. So now I’m onto the next milestone. In that time I’ve completed 19 half marathons and 14 full marathons and countless other events. I’m feeling pretty proud of how far I’ve come. I think this is also going to be a big year for me and January was a good start to 2016’s adventures.

 

 

 

December 2015 – Month and Year in review

December is over and a new year has begun. Time to take a look back at the month, the year and look forward to what 2016 has in store.

Dcember 2015 – Nike+ Summary

December 2015 – Nike+ Summary

For the month of December I ran 128 miles, swam 1.3 miles and cycled 39 miles. This is nothing compared to the 1,150 each way journey I embarked on from my home to visit my parents in Florida. Interesting journey…just pleased (and relieved) that my 9 and 5 year old passengers were awesome the whole way down.

2015 – Nike+ Summary

2015 – Nike+ Summary

All in all for the year I ran less but still racked up mileage by introducing swimming and biking as I started my triathlon career. A total of 1,964 miles for the year. 1,576 running, 366 cycling and 22 swimming. No wonder I am so tired.

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

See...they're in the back. This is outside a Dunkin' Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

See…they’re in the back. This is outside a Dunkin’ Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

Before I revisit the year I’ll take a quick look back for the month of December.

With such a mild December I was able to still run outside for the most part, even when I visited Atlanta, GA for business (although it was cooler there than I had expected). It was just a matter of avoiding the rain. More often than not I was outside. When I got to Florida, the weather was glorious. Very hot and humid so that slowed my pace a little but I was fortunate to have my parents look after our boys so that my wife and I could get out almost everyday for mid to long runs. It worked out great.

Nice to have a chance to run together

Nice to have a chance to run together

While we were down in Florida we signed up for a the local Bradenton Running Club’s Annual Manatee River 5 Mile Run. We even signed the boys up for the kids races. It was a hot day and not much shade but it was a good day to be out there. I also met up with my fellow Mickey Miler team-mate Robert.

Ready to run

Ready to run

Running family

Running family

Discussing race strategy

Discussing race strategy

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

Reward for his 200 meter run

Reward for his 200 meter run

Making it look easy

Making it look easy in the 400 meters

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Reserve in Palmetto, Florida

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Preserve in Palmetto, Florida

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Determination

Determination

A great end to a fun year. Lots of family time and a great chance to get out and run a lot. We did eat a lot of ice cream on vacation so the running was badly needed!!

2015 – Looking Back

It was a very busy year. My wife and I ran 3 marathons together and I ran 4 in total. This included us running for Autism Speaks while we ran the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World back in January. We ran the Pittsburgh Marathon together in May and the Marine Corps Marathon together in October. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November as well as a few half marathons during the year. Happy to be able to compete and even better for being able to run with my wife for most of these events.

In May I ran my first unofficial ‘ultra-marathon‘ (any run longer than 26.2 miles is considered an ‘ultra’) for the charity ‘Give Kids The World‘. I ran 39.3 miles in one day (the equivalent of the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon followed by a full marathon but all in one day). This charity is supported my my running team, the Mickey Milers and through this event I was able to raise $1,250 for this cause.

This was also the year I ventured into triathlons. I attempted (weather shortened) my first triathlon back at the New Jersey State Triathlon back in July. I was able to finally complete my goal of a sprint triathlon at Medford Lakes, NJ and then added a final sprint event before the end of my triathlon season in Hightstown, NJ so I could concentrate on my Fall marathon schedule.

It was a year of accomplishments for me and I’m grateful I was able to complete these events and remain relatively injury free.

2016 – Looking Forward

While my running schedule isn’t set for the full year, I am signed up for a couple of big events. First, my wife and I are signed up to run the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. I’ve run this event twice before and this is still my marathon PR race. We also entered ourselves for the New York City Marathon in November. We will not find out about whether we get in until March so I’m looking at other races in the Fall just in case although I haven’t committed to any yet. Of course, I will be signing up for the Philadelphia Marathon as long as I am around that time of year.

The big event for me this year is that I will be participating in my very first Half Iron distance triathlon (70.3 miles) in Kingston NY in July. This is quite a step up from the sprint triathlons I did in 2015. I hope to be in good shape and ready when the time comes. Looking forward to it very much.

My other goal this year is to work on speed (and stay injury free). I’m looking for a fairly local goal race in the Fall (maybe before New York if we get in) to see if I can get to that 3:45 marathon time goal I seek. We shall see.

Thank you for sticking with me for the last few years as I have been writing this blog. I hope that I have lots of good stories to share in 2016 (and beyond).

Wishing you all success in all your endeavors this year. Happy New Year.

 

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon – Race recap

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On May 3rd my wife and I ran the 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This was my 12th full marathon and my wife’s 5th. I guess we are hooked at this point.

I had wanted to run this marathon for a couple of years. Each of the last two years clashed with either the New Jersey Marathon or the Broad Street Run. Both my wife and decided to forgo these options and we signed up last September for Pittsburgh when the race registration opened up. Between September last year and May this year we both ran the Baltimore Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon (and Goofy Challenge). I don’t think either of us had taken a break in training since last summer.

We decided to make this a family trip with our two boys as we had wanted to take them to Pittsburgh to show them where my wife had gone to college. She is an alum of Pittsburgh University and my wife and I hadn’t been in Pittsburgh toghether since 2003 and not yet with the boys. Originally we had planned to head out on the Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday but after the hotel debacle at the Baltimore Marathon last year we changed our reservation to arrive on the Saturday and stay through the Monday. At least we would have a place to shower post race! It was also going to be just the four of us on this trip so we had to find someone to look after the boys while we were running. I am thankful for the magic of Facebook and my wife’s connections.

I had been struggling with a back issue since March and so the day before the trip I booked an appointment with my chiropractor to ‘straighten me out’. I always get a realignment before a race but I somehow cannot seem to shift this current issue. So with the adjustment made I took it easy that day and tried to get a good nights sleep. I woke up on Saturday morning and I could barely stand. Not a good start to the weekend. Ahead of me was a 5 hour drive…

We started our day like a usual school day and were out the door around 7:30am. It was a beautiful day and there was little to no traffic for the journey. I was, to say the least, very uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit without pain. Everyone was asleep in the car and I was tossing around the idea of whether or not I would even start the next day. We pulled in at a rest stop after 3 hours to refuel and take a snack break with the boys. I did the best I could to move around and loosen up. Still no good. Oh well…only another 2 hours left to drive 😦

Finally we made it to Pittsburgh and we headed straight to the Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in the city. We parked as close as we could and headed in. I was still not feeling great. My plan was to find someone offering free massage at the Expo! Worth a try.

We have arrived at the expo

We have arrived at the Expo

Ready for the expo

Ready for the Expo

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Once inside we headed up to the Health and Fitness Expo

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Up these cool stairs to the Expo

The Expo itself was a decent size, there were three concurrent races going on after all (the full, the half and the marathon relay). There were lots of vendors and the room was pretty tight to maneuver. The bib and shirt pickup was on the right of the hall and the packet and race gear bag was on the opposite side…therefore you had to navigate through the Expo to get both. Clever!!!

We are here

We are here – Game On Pittsburgh

Bib pickup

Bib pickup

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

I ran ahead and got our gear bags while my wife stayed with the boys who were making cheer signs for us.

The little half of the cheer squad

The little half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

We then headed to look around the hall. We took turns down each aisle so the boys were being supervised. It was a big and crowded hall and although there was a small children’s area it only kept the boys occupied for so long. Finally when it was my turn to look I found someone demoing a TENS muscle stimulation machine. I sat right down and had the vendor attach the patches all over my back and cranked that sucker up. I made it about 10 minutes before I finally felt okay to move on. It did help a little.

We took the chance to explore the Expo. We saw the actual medal for the first time. Big and heavy. Hey, the slogan is ‘Runner of Steel’ for a reason you know. We also were able to find ourselves on the wall of entrants to the race. Cool.

Here it is. Tomorrow's reward

Here it is. Tomorrow’s reward

Wall of entrants

Wall of entrants

Hey, I know these people

Hey, I know these people

Bridge photo op!!!

Bridge photo op!!!

Official merchandise section

Official merchandise section

This was actually one of the first Expos where both my wife and I walked out empty handed. We were looking for a cool Pittsburgh Marathon souvenir but by the time we got to the Expo on Saturday afternoon there was no merchandise left save for a few baseball caps and some cotton tees. Disappointing to say the least. No mugs, cups, or anything similar. 😦 At least I was able to move again.

We headed from the Expo to our hotel. We had booked at the Doubletree in Bigelow Square which was less than a mile from the starting area…and happened to also be less than a mile from the Expo. Wish I had known that before I threw the car in the expensive parking lot!!! A cool touch when arriving at the hotel was that if you told them you were checking in for the Marathon they provided you with a specially themed roomed key.

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

We set ourselves up in the room. I went to lay down for a rest after the long drive and the boys played in the room (we had a suite) while my wife went out for a walk around the area to scope things out. When she got back we got ready to meet up with an old college friend of hers for dinner. We took a trip out of the city and into the suburbs and met up with them at Bucca di Beppo in Robinson Town Center. It was a nice dinner and the friends had two children the same ages as ours so it was a really pleasant and relaxing evening.

As we headed out of the restaurant my wife spotted an Eat ‘n’ Park restaurant. I had been talking with the boys about these special cookies that they are famous for. I did what was probably an illegal u-turn, pulled into the parking lot and told the boys to wait in the car with their Mommy. I’d be back in a few minutes 🙂

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

A few minutes later I stepped back in the car with a box of cookies and we took the best family photo ever!!

Raising our kids right

Raising our kids right. Cookies before bedtime.

Thus, I continued my usual tradition of a cookie the night before a marathon. The boys were tired enough even the sugar cookies didn’t keep them up too long after.

With the race the next day I set out my gear and set about rolling out my muscles with my Tiger Tail stick massager. My wife worked deep on my back and I finally felt like I was able to move enough without too much discomfort. With that I hit the pillow and waited for the morning alarm call.

Ready for the big day

Ready for the big day

We woke up around 4am as we had told the babysitter that the roads would be closing and they she should get there early. The good news was that I felt so much better than the day before. Not pain free but totally not to the point that I was bothered by anything. I was going to make it after all (to the start line at least). Both my wife and I were up and dressed by the time the babysitter arrived. She was early…and on a bike. Genius!!! Had we known she was going to cycle in we would have told her a much later time.

Rather than sit in the room with the babysitter we decided to head down to the lobby around 5:15am where the hotel had set up pre-race refreshments for the runners staying in the hotel.

One of us was more awake than the other

One of us was more awake than the other

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

We watched as a steady stream of runners came down to pick up some food. Each and every one who came down asked for coffee. Yup, that was what was missing. Unbelievable. It was 5am and the hotel did not provide any coffee even as more and more people were requesting it. They didn’t think to send someone over to the kitchen. They told folks that there was a Starbucks up the street. I’m not sure about you but I don’t know many Starbucks that open up at 5am on a Sunday morning. Oh well, the 7-11 was also nearby. But that opens up at…you guessed it…7am!!!! So with no coffee, people grabbed food and headed back to their rooms or milled around the lobby.

Around 6:15am we decided to make our way over to the starting corrals. They were laid out in specific streets. Corrals were between blocks with an empty street between for foot traffic before the start and when the corrals moved up. We checked our bags and hit the portapotties one last time. It was a chilly in the air and we used old mylar blankets from a previous race until it was time to start.

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Okay....SHOWTIME!!!

Okay….SHOWTIME!!!

And we were off

And we were off

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

It didn’t take us too long to get warmed up as we started the race. The water stations were frequent and plentiful. The best part of this course was that it took you pretty much around the City and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. The course kind of reminded me of how we got to see a lot of Baltimore when we ran the marathon there last October. We were passing through neighborhood after neighborhood but the neat thing about this course was that we were crossing back and forth over the river. The first half of the course crossed 5 bridges.

Bridge #1 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #1 – 16th Street Bridge

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

Bridge #2 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #2 – Rachel Carson Bridge

...and of course, the 'jump shot'

…and of course, the ‘jump shot’

I'm assuming we are crossing this one next!

I’m assuming we are crossing this one next!

We then headed over to our third bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Bridge #3 - Andy Warhol Bridge

Bridge #3 – Andy Warhol Bridge

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I was getting used to this view.

I was getting used to this view.

By mile 7 were were approaching our 4th bridge. As we were still running along the river we hadn’t experience much elevation save for the up and over the bridges. I knew that there were hills to come. We took it fairly easy, comfortable but making a good pace (averaging around a 10 min/mile pace). Running along the river were approached the ‘Duquesne Incline’ which gave us a bit of a hint as to how much hillier the second half of the course would be.

At the 'Incline'

At the ‘Duquesne Incline’

Go Pitt!

Go Pitt!

At mile 11 we hit the 5th and final bridge. This was by far the biggest bridge we had crossed so far and it was also at this point that the half and full marathons split off into their respective directions.

Bridge #5 - Birmingham Bridge

Bridge #5 – Birmingham Bridge

As we got across the bridge we were directed to the right which would lead us up an almost mile long incline up to Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh campus. We took it slowly up the hill and as we went steadily we were able to make it up to the top without having to stop beyond our normal Galloway run/walk breaks. My wife was getting excited to be running back to her old campus and seeing it from a new perspective.

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

Oooh...Primanti's...they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

Oooh…Primanti’s…they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

She was so happy to be back on Campus

She was so happy to be back on Campus

So of course there had to be another jump shot

So of course there had to be another jump shot

As we ran through the campus we made sure to stop and take some pictures and also make note of places to take the boys back later and show them.

With the Pittsburgh Panther

With the Pittsburgh Panther

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

We stopped outside the Cathedral of Learning. It is such an impressive building. We were lucky enough on our last visit to get a tour of the special nationality classrooms inside. Worth a visit for sure.

Once through Oakland we passed through lots of residential neighborhoods. There were many people who came out on the streets to cheer the runners on. The day was getting hotter and hotter as the hours progressed. Volunteers were handing out orange slices and many of the water stations were handing out wet cloths to keep runners cool. We were hydrating at every water station. Typically I rotate between a sports drink and water between each station but for this race as the temperature was rising I was taking both at each station.

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

As we approached mile 17 to 18, my wife started to feel uncomfortable with her knee. We took a few extra seconds each walk break but I could see she wasn’t comfortable. She had a similar issue at the Baltimore Marathon but that was much later in the race and when we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year she had a great run with no pain. By mile 19 we had to head over to the medical tent where my wife was able to apply some icy/hot cream to the area (she usually carries a small tube but forgot this time) and she also took a couple of Tylenol. The medic marked her bib accordingly that she had taken something and made her take another drink before moving on.

We took it slow and steady. The goal now was just to finish. We were slowing down so not looking to get her a PR. We just had to finish. The good news that from mile 19 onwards it was pretty much all downhill towards the finish line. We did quite a bit of walking. We abandoned our usual run/walk schedule until she felt comfortable enough to continue and then just took the approach that we would run until a certain landmark, walk for a bit until we hit another landmark and then run again. That seemed to work and as we approached mile 25 I could see the determination on her face to finish. My back had begun to twinge when we stopped at the medical tent and I felt like I had stiffened up a little while we stayed there but once I started moving again I was able to deal with it.

Finally…and yes I do mean finally…we hit mile 25. I think that many of the problems we were experiencing may have been due to the heat. Despite drinking two cups at each water station by the time I hit mile 25 my shirt was bone dry. It was hot out there. Not humid, hot.

Finally we rounded the corner and saw the finish line. We ran the last half mile hand in hand and as we did so we ran past an announcer who was just ahead of the finish line. She called out our names over the loudspeaker as we crossed over. The sense of relief was great. I was feeling ok but my wife seemed more than pleased that it was over for now. Our time was 4:50. Even with all the stops and walking more than usual we were only a few minutes shy of my wife’s PR. At the end it wasn’t so bad after all.

We made it!

We made it!

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Yeah...Marathon #5 in the books

Yeah…Marathon #5 in the books

...and Marathon #12 for me.

…and Marathon #12 for me.

After taking in some water and some food (thank you Panera Bread) we made our way over to the finishers village.

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Don’t forget the cookies…

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And that's why we run!!!

And that’s why we run!!!

Runners of Steel

Runners of Steel

5, yes 5!

Marathon #5, yes 5!

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Pleased with our day

We had a great time. We really enjoyed the course. The crowds were great and the support was all over the course. I would totally recommend this as a destination race if you are not from Pennsylvania. It was a well run event and although it was a hot day the volunteers were prepared to look after everyone on the course.

After making our way back to the hotel to relieve the babysitter (she says the kids were actually well behaved). We quickly showered and within the hour we were out and about for an afternoon of activities.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

First stop, Station Square.

First stop, Station Square.

We took the boys to Station Square where we saw a fun little fountain show. It was hot and the boys loved getting just a little wet. From there we crossed over the street to the Duquesne Incline which we had run past earlier in the day.

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The Duquesne Incline

 

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View from the bottom looking up

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain…maybe because his older brother told him it was a thrill ride and that you would go up really slowly and then drop down the hill at speed. Think Walt Disney World’s ‘Tower of Terror’. Not very nice but his reaction was priceless.

View from the observation deck at the top.

View from the observation deck at the top.

We ran this town

We ran this town

My favorite running buddy

My favorite running buddy

Time to follow directions

Time to follow directions

It was earned and it was good

It was earned and it was good

After we went back down the incline (Asher wanted to ride it all day now) we headed over to the University Campus as we had dinner plans with another of my wife’s friends. We got there early and had time to look around the campus.

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

Apparently he's a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

Apparently he’s a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

We had a great meal with friends at a restaurant on campus which my wife had remembered. It had been a long day but we still managed to head over to another old favorite place of hers for ice cream. Yum.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

Now that the race was over and we were both feeling a little better we could take advantage of being on vacation for the next day.

We caught up a little on sleep

We caught up a little on sleep

The next day we headed down to the campus again to pick up some University of Pittsburgh gear seeing as we hadn’t been able to get any souvenirs at the Expo before the race. We also visited around the campus and saw all the places my wife had lived when she studied there. She was really excited to show the boys around and also to investigate the newer areas of campus which hadn’t been around when she was there. It was a really enjoyable day and the boys seemed to be taking it all in and having fun.

Outside the basketball arena

Outside the basketball arena – the little guy is in there somewhere

After a long day in the sunshine we left Pittsburgh around 3pm to make the long drive home. Everyone agreed it had been a great trip and my wife and I agreed that it was worth it for the race itself. It was great to say that we are both ‘Runners of Steel’

🙂

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 3 – Marathon – January 11, 2015

Goofy Challenge 10th Anniversary Medal

Goofy Challenge 10th Anniversary Medal

So today was the big day. The full marathon. Also Shari’s second day of the Goofy Challenge. I think she was a little nervous but she seemed to be pretty upbeat. Me? Well I was excited. This is the day I have been waiting for. The first time I ran Goofy was back in 2013 and I was a little nervous but as it was Shari’s first full marathon I was focusing on her then and less of me. I did struggle but I finished. Last year when I ran the Dopey Challenge I had a blast. I felt great and had so much fun. Today would be a little different but fun all the same. Having the kids with us was much more tiring than running Dopey!!!

Another day...another pair of compression socks (of course coordinated with the outfit)

Another day…another pair of compression socks (of course coordinated with the outfit)

The whole point of today was to celebrate our running and our fundraising. Oh, and to run a little race dressed in costume (which had been decided upon months ago).

So again with the multiple alarms I was up at 2am. No baby sitter today. We had an adjoining suite with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and we had left the doors open and the kids knew to look for them when they woke up. Shari was up around 2.30am and we were dressed and ready to leave around 3am. It was time for the big costume reveal.

Ready to head out to EPCOT for the marathon

Ready to head out to EPCOT for the marathon as Mr and Mrs Incredible

We arrived at EPCOT around 3:30am. Although it was warmer this morning than the previous few days Shari wanted to stay in the car a bit longer and this meant we sat there a while as she watched me squirm with nervous energy, itching to get out and mingle at the race meet up. Eventually I won and we headed into the staging areas.

Admittedly, the car was much warmer than standing around outside

Admittedly, the car was much warmer than standing around outside

On the way in we stopped by the Team Up Autism Speaks tent and said hello to Phillip who was waiting to meet and great the folks walking through the charity village on the way into the staging areas. As we were talking to Phillip we met Sarah (Sparkly Runner), her boyfriend Matthew and her Dad (running his first marathon). It was great to catch up with them (multiple times that weekend too) and we chatted together as we headed in. As I said in my previous post, the camaraderie and friendship at runDisney races is amazing and also helps you relax pre race.

A quick stop at the Team Up tent on the way into the staging area

A quick stop at the Team Up tent on the way into the staging area

Although we were not there in time for the group photograph this morning we were still able to meet up with and hang out with the Mickey Milers again. It was warmer this morning but we still needed something to cover us up until the start. Shari was proudly showing off her trash bag look again and I wore my throw away jacket that this morning decided to not zip up. Good choice for a throw away item. After wishing our friends good luck we headed off to bag check (we remembered who was checking the bag today!) and the long walk to the corrals.

Rocking the trash bag look

Rocking the trash bag look

Today’s walk to the corrals seemed a little less crowded. Again, I believe it may be because the full marathon field is just that bit smaller that it doesn’t seem so cramped. Although it is still cramped. It is dark as you walk along despite the overhead spotlights. As we are all bunched together that throws a lot of shadow on the ground. We saw a few people slip and fall on the side of the walking path. One of the worst was when we saw a man fall and because he was wearing a trash bag he couldn’t put his arms out to stop himself. Thankfully we saw him get up and he seemed okay but he had fallen on his side and burst all his energy gels and was a mess. That is not the way you want to feel at 5:00am in the morning and just about to start a marathon. I hope he did okay.

Waiting to go

Waiting to go

We got to the corrals just as the interviews with the runners were ending and just before the singing of the National Anthem. We were then ready to go. We were in Corral F again so we watched the big screen as the wheelchair racers went off and then the elites. We slowly moved forward until it was our turn to go. Today we were not in our Team Up charity gear but Mr and Mrs Incredible were sure excited to go.

At the Start line

At the Start line

And before you know it we were off!

The marathon takes the same route as the half marathon until just after mile 7 and the character stops are pretty much the same both days. We decided that today would be the day to stop at the characters we missed the day before. Our first stop was just before mile 2 as we reached the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ set with Captain’s Jack Sparrow and Barbosa. As it was warmer, Shari had ditched her trash bag and I’d said goodbye to my old jacket.

Aaaargh!!!!

Aaaargh!!!!

We made our way from there through the turnstiles and on towards the Magic Kingdom.

Step in time

Step in time

I love the fact that the music that is playing is ‘Step In Time’ as they warn you about the speed bumps at the turnstiles. I always find Mary Poppins to be a very motivating factor in my running 🙂

As we approached the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) today it was better lit and we were able to get our picture of Wreck-it Ralph and Venelope Von Schweetz that didn’t quite come out yesterday. Probably because the Walt Disney World Speedway was being used today and is beside the parking lot that provided better lighting. It was there that we bumped into another Goofy runner who we seemed to meet at every photo stop for the rest of the day (and were on a table near him the next day at breakfast!) One of my favorite things about running these events is seeing faces throughout the parks all weekend long who you have run alongside during the races. Always good to say hello and congratulations after the races.

Wreck-it Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz

Wreck-it Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz

As we reached the TTC we took the opportunity for another bathroom stop. While waiting outside the bathroom for Shari I saw and cheered a few Mickey Milers and also saw another couple dressed as Mr and Mrs Incredible (oh yeah…the challenge was on now whether they realized it or not). From there we headed towards the Contemporary Resort and through the tunnel under Bay Lake. As we were running we bumped into our friends and fellow Mickey Milers Eddie, Phill and Joe. Eddie was running with his Go Pro so we made it onto his video. From there we ran around the back of Space Mountain (mile 5) and looped into the back stage area before making it out onto Main Street USA (my favorite part of the race).

All smiles on Main Street USA

All smiles on Main Street USA

As we reached the hub on Main Street and were about to turn right into Tomorrowland we saw Sarah again who was there to cheer on her Dad and Matthew. As we circled into Tomorrowland it was the first time that I noticed that the neon lights were the same colors that appear on Buzz Lightyear. Strange what goes through your mind and I’d never noticed that before. I guess the lighting was just right. Anyway, today we stopped for Buzz as the line wasn’t too long today.

Too Infinity and Beyond with Buzz

Too Infinity and Beyond with Buzz

From Tomorrowland we ran past the Tomorrowland Speedway and into Fantasyland where today we stopped to have our picture taken with the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

Are we late?

Are we late?

As we continued through Fantasyland there was the same character from Tangled that we had seen the previous day. Again…we didn’t stop but continued through to the castle past Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel. As we approached the carousel there were cast members handing out tissues to runners. It was a nice little touch…plenty of waste baskets too.

Running past the carousel

Running past the carousel

As was the case during the half marathon yesterday, because of the repairs to Cinderella’s Royal Table there was no appearance by Mickey and Minnie in front of the castle which was a shame. That is a great photo to have. I’m so thankful that I took the time to wait in line last year for that photo. We got some great professional photos as we ran through and in front of the castle.

Running through the castle is so amazing

Running through the castle is so amazing

With my very incredible Mrs Incredible

With my very incredible Mrs Incredible

So on towards Frontierland and out towards the backstage areas and out of the park. We got an awesome photo with Woody (first time I think I’ve had a race photo with him) and also stopped for a quick photo with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (although we had to wait for a group of runners who wanted at least 5 different pose variations each with their own cell phone cameras…ugh).

Reach for the sky!!!

Reach for the sky!!!

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With Rapunzel and Flynn

….and out of the park into ‘Cone Alley’. As we made our way along this narrow stretch I heard the funniest line from the DJ. He said ‘You’re all at about 2 hours into the race. No-one has crossed the finish line yet so you are all still in with a chance!” Funny. Runners humor I guess. 2 hours, wow, we really had spent a lot of time taking photos. I think at one point our lap times showed that we ran an 18 minute mile through the Magic Kingdom thanks to all the photo opportunities. Oh well, there would be plenty of open road on the second half of the course to make up any time. Believe me…plenty of open road!!!

A quick stop with Donald alongside the golf course

A quick stop with Donald alongside the golf course

We skipped a stop with the Genie from Aladdin today as we had stopped yesterday and this is the point where the half and the full marathons change course. In the half marathon you start to make your way from here back towards EPCOT. For the marathon you make a turn onto the Walt Disney World Speedway. As you approach the track you run alongside some exotic cars as you head into the tunnel. The tunnel has the steepest downhill and uphill of the course before making it out onto the track for a lap (which is about a mile). The track is flat on the inside lower level and is banked up on the outside. Classic cars and other car clubs had set up their cars on the bank of the track and we stopped to take a quick picture with Herbie.

Coming out of the tunnel onto the track

Coming out of the tunnel onto the track

Making a quick stop with our little Love Bug

Making a quick stop with our little Love Bug

Once you exit the Speedway you make a small trek across a grassy strip and head out towards the Animal Kingdom. I took a quick stop at the med tent for a little vaseline as the shirt I was wearing was irritating me just a little (never wore this before race day…). Thankfully I wasn’t bothered by the shirt for the rest of the race. We were only at mile 8 at this point. As you approach the Animal Kingdom you run past the water treatment plant. Luckily it was not such a warm day although you could still pick up that ‘delightful’ smell as you ran past. They do good job at trying to entertain you as you run along this part of the race. They have signs along the left side of the road with interesting facts about Donald Duck. Also they had a great photo opportunity along the right side of the road which involved our longest wait in line of the race. As you can see below it was well worth the wait.

Such a villanous bunch...well worth the wait

Such a villanous bunch…well worth the wait

As we moved away from the villains (having chatted in line with our runner friend from earlier in the day) we literally bumped into another Mickey Miler (Tammy) who was running her very first marathon. Earlier this year Tammy had volunteered at the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ marathon which I had run and it was great to see her again and cheer her on for her first marathon. We ran alongside her for a little while as we approached the Animal Kingdom until Shari and I split off to take a photo with Jiminy Cricket.

Always let your conscience be your guide

Always let your conscience be your guide

As we got closer to the Animal Kingdom we saw but did not stop at some of the less seen characters. They had Robin Hood, Little John and Friar Tuck out for a photo opportunity. The line was really long as these are not seen very often these days so we decided to move along. As we were running we started to see some of the Animal Kingdom parade decorations which started a small group of runners singing ‘Circle of Life’ in which we all joined in. Hey, this is a Disney Marathon and we get entertained any way we can. As we entered into the Animal Kingdom we ran alongside the cast members who were outside with various animals. We decided not to stop for photos as we probably smelled worse than the animals.

We had discussed the possibility of riding Expedition Everest if it was open and looking at our watches we knew we would probably be hitting the park just as it was opening. I wasn’t really looking forward to doing this as I’m not a coaster rider BUT I had promised Shari I would try. As we entered the park we saw a long line of folks at the entrance to the ride. As we approached the cast member said that the ride wasn’t yet open and there was a 30 minute wait from the point we were arriving at. Disappointing and I didn’t really feel like standing around for 30 minutes on these legs when we still hadn’t reached the half way point of the race. There was a little disappointment in Shari’s face (although I think she resented the fact that I looked relieved). So we headed on and ran through the park stopping along the way for a quick photo opportunity with Minnie and Daisy. Everyone we spoke with after agreed that if there wasn’t a line then it would have been a definite stop for Everest but 30 minutes…not happening.

Hanging out with the ladies

Hanging out with the ladies

The exit to the park is just about half way. There is a water stop here before we head out towards the parking lot and then out onto the main out and back part of the course which also includes a loop around the ESPN Wide World of Sports. As we were leaving the Animal Kingdom we met another cheering section of Mickey Milers. Despite me not wearing my team shirt today they still recognized me and we stopped so they could take a quick photo of us.

Heading out of the Animal Kingdom (just past the half way point)

Heading out of the Animal Kingdom (just past the half way point)

The point past the Animal Kingdom to the next stop is a long stretch. It’s from mile 13 to mile 17 where we reach the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Luckily the weather was cool as we were able to pick up time and run a little faster. There is not much to look at between these two stops but runDisney did a good job of trying to keep us entertained with a few character stops and show performers. This is always one of the toughest parts of the race and probably the point where my wife was most likely to get irked by my incessant chatting (judging by how she tried to off me with the Haunted Mansion grave diggers).

Yes...I think she really meant it.

Yes…I think she really meant it.

I’m pretty proud of my jump shot here. I totally outdid myself and definitely out jumped the little lady this time. Then again, it may just be the difference in height and the angle of the camera…but I’ll take it!!!

Yeah...that's pretty good

Yeah…that’s pretty good

I'll see your jump shot and raise you a bigger jump shot!!!

I’ll see your jump shot and raise you a bigger jump shot!!!

The stretch from mile 17 to 19 (and a bit) is the out and back and run through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. We get to see lots of folks running on our way in and way out of this section of the race. Once you turn into the complex you wind your way around the various pieces of the complex. You run a lap around the track, you run a loop around the football fields and you ultimately get to run through Champions Stadium (spring training home for the Atlanta Braves). It’s pretty cool to see yourself up on the big screen in the stadium as the announcer calls out your name. You run the outside circuit of the track (which was followed by a quick stop to empty the gravel from my shoes). As we were starting our run through the ESPN complex it started to rain lightly and that increased gradually as we ran through the complex. It did however stop as we made our way out. Again we got a chance to see Sarah again. She was all over this course doing a great job cheering her runners. Well planned spectating!!!

There was a giant inflatable Baymax set up as we entered the ESPN complex. My boys would have loved seeing this.

There was a giant inflatable Baymax set up as we entered the ESPN complex. My boys would have loved seeing this.

We ran past the medal backgrounds which had been set up for the expo on our way out so we stopped to get a quick medal selfie.

This was our goal

This would be ours in just a few miles

As we were leaving the complex we were able to see runners entering. It was great to cheer fellow Team Up runners and Mickey Milers as we passed by them. Also, it gave us a chance to see some great looking costumes.

Once you exit the ESPN complex there is a left turn and then you are on your way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That is mile 20 through mile 22ish. As we were approaching the overpass towards Hollywood Studios we approached another Mickey Miler who was not running the races but came out to cheer on all her teammates. She made sure she was very easy to spot and had a big sign and goodies for all her teammates. Nice job Laura.

This is how you get runners to find you during a race. Awesome spectating Laura.

This is how you get runners to find you during a race. Awesome spectating Laura.

After a quick hello and goodbye to Laura we ran on towards Hollywood Studios. As we were working our way up the hill under encouragement from the Green Army Sergeant we stopped and I was forced (again this year) to do push ups. At this point I noticed that this was the second time in the last few miles that I was the only one of the two of us who seemed to have to get down and dirty (following my escape earlier from the graveyard). Something was wrong with this. Never mind…I’m sure my wife loves me.

As we entered Hollywood Studios it starting raining lightly again. BUT THEY HAD CHOCOLATE!!! Yes, as you enter the park backstage they were handing out Hershey miniatures. Shari took ‘a few’ as we passed. I’m saying no more. Anyway, we were on a mission. We had to find Mr and Mrs Incredible. This was the one character stop we knew we were going to stop for regardless of time. We passed the point of the park where we remembered them being in years past and were a little disappointed until we turned a corner and there they were….both of them. We had only seen either one or the other in prior years. There it is…the money shot!

Mr and Mrs and Mr and Mrs...

Mr and Mrs and Mr and Mrs…

AWESOME!!! Totally energized us for the last 3 miles.

We had a quick stop with Mike and Sully from Monster’s Inc. and then took what would be our last run past the Sorcerer’s Hat (which by the time you read this will probably be gone).

One of us can only see out of one eye. The other is Mike Wazowski.

One of us can only see out of one eye. The other is Mike Wazowski.

The park was open for guests as we ran through and it was amazing the cheers and support from the guests who were watching us pass by. We got a few shout outs for our costumes. I will admit we may have hammed it up for them. Just a teensy bit.

Having some fun despite the rain

Having some fun despite the rain

Upon exciting the park I felt someone tap on my shoulder and I quickly apologized to that person thinking I had either cut them off or knocked them in some way with realizing (the one eye thing is my excuse here). We saw an appropriate spectator’s sign and I was able to get a quick photo of Shari with the sign.

They must have known we were coming

They must have known we were coming

Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder again. What? Why? I turned around and there was a runner standing there trying to get something out of his pocket. He wasn’t talking and then suddenly he pulled out a plastic bag with a bingo card inside. He said he was playing ‘Marathon Bingo’ and he had a square which told him he needed to get a selfie with people dressed as Mr and Mrs Incredible. Wow!! We made it to the bingo card. We cracked up but let him have his photo. Hey, we may have run almost 39.3 miles but that doesn’t compare with being a winning square on the marathon bingo card (LOL). That (together with the amount of sugar Shari had ingested) made us laugh as we headed out towards the Boardwalk. As we ran along the path to the Boardwalk we were giving high fives to the little kids who had come out to spectate and everyone was cheering on the ‘Incredibles’. It was lots of fun.

Pretty cool mile marker we thought

Pretty cool mile marker we thought

Upon reaching the Boardwalk, Shari knew that her friend from college might be out supporting runners and started to keep a look out (this was between taking Twizzlers and Oreo cookies from generous spectators). Eventually as we approached the Yacht Club Shari saw her friend Cori and stopped for a quick sweaty hug and a photo.

Shari and her friend Cori

Shari and her friend Cori

As we moved around the Boardwalk to the path alongside the water way behind EPCOT we bumped into Mickey Milers Team Captain Mike Scopa (check out the Mickey Miles Podcast and WDW Today to find out who Mike is) and we stopped for a quick hello. He was out to cheer on fellow Team Captain Michelle and all the rest of the Mickey Milers still out on the course. It’s such a great team.

Oh Captain, my Captain

Oh Captain, my Captain

We were almost at EPCOT, the home stretch. We enter EPCOT through the International Gateway which is located between the Canada Pavilion and the United Kingdom Pavilion. Just before the entrance we got to have a little moment with the Fairy Godmother. I think her magic was working as Shari and I were feeling good…although Shari had so much sugar in her system from all the snacks she was like a little Energizer Bunny (more so than usual) even at mile 25!!

Bibbidi bobbidi boo

Bibbidi bobbidi boo

The end was now in reach. We just had to do a short run around the world!!! Well, just World Showcase. It was still raining slightly but wasn’t really bothersome. As was the case with Hollywood Studios the park was open and it was great to have park guests cheering us along (although looking at us rather strangely in our outfits). I was high fiving and fist pumping every time someone yelled out ‘Hey, it’s the Incredibles’. It was a lot of fun. I was aching a little in my right knee but it was pretty much an adrenaline fueled last mile. Shari was feeling particularly good. She had struggled over the last few miles of the Baltimore Marathon back in October and that had not followed a half marathon the day before. She kept telling me she felt great. I think there may be another Goofy in our future 🙂

Back in World Showcase at the United Kingdom Pavilion

Back in World Showcase at the United Kingdom Pavilion

We made sure to get some character stops in as we were doing fine for time with only a mile to go. This wasn’t going to be our fastest marathon by any means but it was definitely one of the most enjoyable ones.

A quick stop in the Morocco Pavilion

A quick stop in the Morocco Pavilion

Running through World Showcase

Running through World Showcase

Soon we were exciting World Showcase and heading towards the finish line. The rain was steadily increasing but then again so was the crowd support. It was awesome.

We are back in Future World

We are back in Future World

Once you are by Spaceship Earth you know the end is close. We rounded the corner of the Future World attractions and headed out towards the parking lot, past the choir and down the home straight with the finish line in sight.

We could see the finish line just ahead. We look a little happy.

We could see the finish line just ahead. We look a little happy.

We were greated by Mickey and the gang at the finish line.

We were greeted by Mickey and the gang at the finish line.

We did it!

We did it!

We did it. We had run 39.3 miles and raised over $4,300 for Autism Speaks. We were both Goofy!

We both felt great and headed over to get the marathon medals. From there we went over to the medical treatment area to get some ice packs to help with the post race recovery. The rain started to come down harder (probably the worst rain of the day at this point) and we sat shivering as ice was being applied to our knees, ankles, quads, etc. What was missing? Mylar blankets. What??? All weekend had been on the cool side and I did not see any mylar wraps being provided to runners. If that was my biggest complaint over the last two days it was not a big deal but really, come on runDisney, you could have provided wraps for the runners. Especially as the weather had been so cool for the first few days of the event you would have thought they would have been prepared for the marathon.

We were shivering by this stage so rather than sit for 10-15 minutes as would be the norm for us we just decided to get up, grab our drinks and food and go through to get our Goofy medals. Brrr. Ironically, they were handing out cooling towels as we left the medical area!!!

I pull of the ice walk pretty good.

I pull off the ice walk pretty good.

Interestingly as we headed through the Goofy chute they had volunteers with laptops open and they were checking our bib numbers and looking us up to match our sweaty tired faces to the fresh happy faces that they took a picture of a couple of days earlier at the expo. From there we went through the tent and into the photo areas for the official race photos. As we were still wrapped up with ice (well mainly me) because we had left the medical area so quickly I said to Shari that it would probably not make such a great picture. She told me no-one would notice. Oh really???

A little ice with your picture Sir?

A little ice with your picture Sir?

When you have a short wife it is very difficult to crop the picture and not show the amount of ice attached to your legs. My excuse is that I was channeling both Mr Incredible and Frozone in the same costume (yeah…right).

Here we are with both the Marathon and Goofy Challenge medals.

Here we are with both the Marathon and Goofy Challenge medals.

With the rain still coming down we headed back to the car. I took off the ice as it was bound so tight I couldn’t bend my legs. We managed to get our bags straight away today. Inside we had packed ourselves towels from the hotel (a great packing tip by the way) so we could dry off and wrap them around our bodies to stay warm. We scooted out of the bag check area and made our way to the parking lot. As we were walking some guy with a marathon medal ran past us. Show off!! He must have ‘just’ run the marathon 😉

We headed home for hot showers and quickly got ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom. We had Fast Passes for Peter Pan and I needed my Mickey Bar ASAP!

All refreshed and ready to head to the parks.

All refreshed and ready to head to the parks.

Ready to show off our bling.

Ready to show off our bling.

We returned to the Ticket and Transportation Center (we didn’t run there this time). As we got on the tram from the parking lot to the TTC I was sitting up front with the stroller and people started noticing my medals and asking what they were. I told them that my wife and I had just run the marathon and that were other races over the last few days too. They were intrigued. One fellow asked how I did in the marathon. My response? “I medaled in the race”. That got a laugh from people who got the joke. I’m not sure he did though LOL.

As we walked up to the monorail I saw Jennifer (The FInal Forty) and her boyfriend Todd also getting on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. They were still in costume as Ariel and Prince Eric and must have come straight from the finish line. Ha ha.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the park to keep our legs moving and wishing everyone wearing a medal congratulations. We hit up our Fast Passes (which included the ‘Enchanted Tales with Belle’ and the ‘Seven Dwarfs Mine Train’ which was excellent) and generally relaxed. Despite running all that distance we didn’t really do a big meal. I got myself a cup of Lefoux’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern and then after the character photos at Pete’s Silly Sideshow we all sat on a wall and ate Mickey pretzels and Mickey ice cream bars. Perfect.

Relaxing with the boys in the Magic Kingdom

Relaxing with the boys in the Magic Kingdom

Some light refreshment post race

Some light refreshment post race

With my brother in law Mike and Belle

With my brother-in-law Mike and Belle

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fun

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fun

Sharing our Goofy with Goofy

Sharing our Goofy with Goofy

We ended the day with me hiding my 4-year-old from the fireworks while everyone else saw them. Oh well. There was always Plan B tomorrow when I would get to see the fireworks. At least I got a nice shot of the Castle as we were leaving.

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On Monday we were up bright an early. Some idiot (ahem) booked an early morning character dine at the Crystal Palace inside the Magic Kingdom which meant we had to get up and out really early. I will admit that getting up at 6am is much easier than getting up at 2am. Not everyone else was that enthusiastic though. Today would be very much a celebration of our weekend for both my wife and I and also for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We had been rushing around so much since before we headed down to Orlando and we hadn’t really had a full day at any of the parks yet.

We entered the Magic Kingdom before rope drop and took advantage of the absence of people along Main Street USA to take some professional photos before our breakfast reservation.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7155066534

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7155065836

At breakfast we bumped into our runner friend from the marathon and had a chat about how much fun the day before had been for us all. It was great as we got a chance to relax and refuel. I also had pre-ordered a gift bag with treats as a special reward for my wife. She had done similar for me when I arrived at the Magic Kingdom last year.

Refueling at its finest

Refueling at its finest

The boys took 'selfies' with the characters

The boys took ‘selfies’ with the characters

Shari seemed pleased with her bag of treats

Shari seemed pleased with her bag of treats

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Compression sock Monday

Compression sock Monday!

Compression sock Monday! Notice how well I coordinated my outfit

One of the best things about this week was meeting and catching up with friends old and new. Today was no different. While walking through Adventureland I again bumped into Sarah, Matthew and her Dad. I was congratulating them on a job well done when my Mickey Miler teammate Jennifer saw me and came over. She had been looking to meet up with me to give me a little gift that she had brought with her all the way from California. I also bumped into Chris (@DopeyRunr) and Laura from the Mickey Milers while in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I was loving meeting up with everyone. It was such a great experience.

Catching up with Jennifer

Catching up with Jennifer

Jennifer's awesome gift. Customized Mickey Miler Cookies and a special Cookie Monster for you know who

Jennifer’s awesome gift. Customized Mickey Milers Cookies and a special Cookie Monster for you know who

While we were on the Jungle Cruise that afternoon we got on board with another couple of Mickey Milers, David and Darren. Both had run their first marathon the day before so it was great to congratulate them in person. David took this photo of my family while we enjoyed the cruise.

Taking my family on a 'Cruise'

Taking my family on a ‘Cruise’

Pretty much after we finished the Jungle Cruise the heavens opened and it poured for most of the rest of the day. We were prepared with our ponchos but either way were we a little damp but this did not dampen our experience. The park actually cleared out which surprised me. I thought that any indoor rides would be crowded but people seemed to have just left and we found ourselves able to ride and re-ride certain attractions with little to no wait. That was great.

Making the best of the rainy day

Making the best of the rainy day

Although we missed the Festival of Fantasy Parade because of the weather (it was cancelled) we stuck it out long enough to see the evening Castle show and fireworks. Tonight we decided to let Asher wear a pair of headphones and play on the iPod and he completely was unphased by the fireworks. Genius!!! It only took 3 visits to Walt Disney World to figure that one out.

We stayed until they pretty much kicked us out the Magic Kingdom. What an awesome day it was. We enjoyed every second and made the most of our day in the park. We actually only just made the last monorail out of the park.

The rain had stopped an park had emptied and I managet to get one last photo in before we left.

The rain had stopped and the park had emptied and I managed to get one last photo in before we left.

On Tuesday we did our usual last day breakfast with Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort before making our way back home.

Breakfast with Chef Mickey

Breakfast with Chef Mickey

Breakfast with Chef Mickey and Goofy

Breakfast with Chef Mickey and Goofy

Waffle buddies

Waffle buddies

On the way out of breakfast I bumped into Jennifer and Todd once again. It was such a fun weekend that I knew I was going to miss seeing everyone once we left. I have so many good memories with family and friends from the weekend. It was great to feel such camaraderie and be part of a team like the Mickey Milers. We were truly all looking out for each other. Amazing.

All that was left was the saddest monorail trip…the one at the airport and then the flight home.

Riding the airport monorail is not as much fun

Riding the airport monorail is not as much fun

Leaving with such great memories

Leaving with such great memories

I know this was a very long post (it stretched over an extra couple of days) but I wanted to express how much fun the marathon (Goofy Challenge) was for Shari and I. How much fun we had meeting friends along the way and making new ones, raising beyond our goal for the charity and ultimately enjoying the parks with our family. I appreciate all the kind words of support and donations you have provided on this journey and look forward to many more events such as this in the years to come. Hopefully I’ll see some of you along the way.

Thanks for sticking with this one…I do talk…a lot 🙂

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 2 – Half Marathon – January 10, 2015

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Having set no less than 3 separate alarms for 2:00am it was time to get up. With all four of us running the half marathon (me, my wife, my sister-in-law Rina and her husband Mike) we had made arrangements for a babysitting service (“Kids Night Out“) to be at our hotel room by 3:00am to look after the boys while we were gone. I was up and dressed and sat down to wait for everyone. It was hard not to doze off but I managed to keep it together. I didn’t have such a good nights sleep for some reason. Not nerves but just my head was pretty active with stuff.

These feet were waiting patiently for everyone else to be up and ready

These feet were waiting patiently for everyone else to be up and ready

Just before 3:00am there was a knock at the door and it was the babysitter. Shari and I chatted with her for a few minutes and we peeked in at the boys who at this stage were lying either on top or across each other without noticing. We left our details with her and set off to wait for the rest of our party. The temperatures were calling for mid 40s rising up to the 50s but we knew getting there early (as required by the race instructions) we would be standing around for quite a while. We were all pretty much bundled up as we headed to the race start at EPCOT.

Waiting for our running party to join us in the hotel

Waiting for our running party to join us in the hotel

As we arrived at EPCOT (remembering to take a photo of the car lane number in which we parked) we headed through the security checkpoint and into the pre-race area. Shari and I briefly stopped by the Team Up – Autism Speaks booth to say a quick hello to Phillip and then headed in to the meet up area for the Mickey Milers.

On our way into the meet up area

On our way into the meet up area

The meet up was scheduled for 4:00am with a group photo at 4:15am. We were catching up and meeting some fellow Mickey Milers for the first time and it was a good way to relax. It was chilly and almost everyone was wrapped up against the cold. Shari was already in her plastic trash bag with a bath towel wrapped around her to keep her warm. I was wearing my throw away jacket and gloves. It was great to chat with everyone. If you’ve never been a part of a team or running community (either locally or online) it is such a great experience. It was great to meet everyone. Most were wearing their easily recognizable team shirts (underneath all the warm gear) and it was easy to spot fellow runners over the next two days either on the course or cheering from the sidelines.

Mickey Milers meet up before the half marathon

Mickey Milers meet up before the half marathon

Shari, Rina and Mike were also chatting with people and trying their best to stay warm. One of the best things about these races is that even through we get there so early and stand around until they call us to the corrals people are friendly and approachable and you can always strike up a nice conversation.

Doing our best to stay warm

Doing our best to stay warm

So after wishing everyone good luck we headed to bag check and through to the corrals. Shari and I went through ‘S’ back check, Rina through ‘G’ as she registered way back before the wedding and Mike in ‘E’. Eventually meeting up on the other side we made the long walk to the corrals. Shari and I were starting together in Corral F and Rina and Mike were starting together a few corrals back. We said our goodbyes and good lucks as the corrals split in different directions and headed to the start. We got there just in time for the National Anthem so we knew we had about 5 minutes to the race start and probably another 10-15 before our corral was to get the countdown to go.

Heading to the corrals

Heading to the corrals

I’d made the decision (which turned out very wise) to check my throw away jacket so I had something warm to wear after the race and just grabbed my runDisney space blanket from a prior year. I’ll talk about that later.

Donald Duck came up on the stage and gave the countdown to start the race and off went the fireworks. I love that. Gets me every time. We waited as our corral got closer and closer to the start and then I ditched my space blanket, kissed Shari good luck and with race announcer Rudy Novotny calling us “Corral F – the fun corral” and calling us at with our Team Up gear we crossed the start line and we were on our way, only 39.3 miles to go. First we had to get through today’s 13.1 miles.

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Approaching the start line

There go the fireworks

There go the fireworks

As this was our first Goofy together we decided to be a little strategic with our photo stops knowing that we would see some of the same characters the next day. Depending upon the lines as we approached (and also whether we recognized some characters on sight) we felt okay skipping some today to catch them tomorrow. As we approached the first stop, Captain Jack Sparrow, we decided to skip. Shari at this point had been wearing her trash bag and was just beginning to warm up. She was running along like an inflated balloon with the bag willowing behind her and decided she was warm enough to ditch it before the first photo stop. She promptly discarded her bag…right in front of me (thanks Babe) and having seen the line for the Pirates we moved past and headed towards the Magic Kingdom knowing we would probably spend most of our pictures stops there.

This is one of my favorite photos each year along with the castle shot

This is one of my favorite photos each year along with the castle shot later on the course

As we made it through the turnstiles to the Magic Kingdom (free this time…although it has risen to $17 this year for cars!!!) we headed towards the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center). As we passed by the back of the Speedway there was a new character stop this year. ‘Wreck it Ralph’ and ‘Penelope Von Schweetz’ were together. We stopped for a quick photo which didn’t come out in the light. We made a note to make sure we got back there tomorrow. We then headed further up and saw Jack Skellington and Sally. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is one of our boys favorite movies and we pretty much know this story by heart after watching it and listening to the soundtrack so many times so that was a must do today.

What's this?

What’s this?

At the TTC we saw the first of the big cheering sections. Plenty of folks out there cheering everyone on. This is also a great place for a bathroom break as there are real bathrooms, not port-a-potties, and they are heated, which was great for this morning. It was still a little chilly out. From there we run under Bay Lake and past the Contemporary Resort and get our first long distance view of Cinderella’s Castle. We run around the back of Space Mountain and take a path backstage before arriving on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. As you may know from my previous write ups for the 2013 and 2014 Marathon Weekends I absolutely love running up Main Street. It is for me the most special part of the race. The street is all lit up and there are cheer sections all along the route. You run with a direct view of the Castle all aglow with thousands of little lights. Breathtaking. It was starting to get a little light at this time (we had spent some time lining up for pictures already) but we still got the full effect.

Just breathtaking

Just breathtaking

Me and the little lady in our happy place

Me and the little lady in our happy place

The route of the half marathon (similar to tomorrow’s marathon) takes us up Main Street USA to the hub where we then turn right into Tomorrowland (another good place for a bathroom break if needed!!) and then into Fantasyland. We made the decision to spend most of our photo stops in the parks. Neither of us had any concerns about timing at this point as we knew we could pick up the pace on the second half of the course and our corral was far ahead of the balloon ladies. Let’s just say that we had a couple of 18-20 minute miles in the first half of the race.

Running across the bridge into Tomorrowland

Running across the bridge into Tomorrowland

In Tomorrowland the line for Buzz Lightyear was too long for us to stop so we headed over into Fantasyland where we saw the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. If you haven’t noticed by now, when I run with Shari we tend to have a very good time.

Off with his head!!!

Off with his head!!!

As we rounded Fantasyland we came across one of the characters we didn’t recognized by name. I knew him as the mime from ‘Tangled’ but as we didn’t know his name as we approached we didn’t stop. His name is ‘Ulf’ by the way. Usually during the half Donald and Daisy are situated by the castle but as there are improvements being made to Cinderella’s Royal Table there was no where for them to be. They did have Elsa, Anna and Kristoff on the balcony above the tunnel through the castle. I’m sure that if they had been available for a photo opportunity the lines would have been insane. We did a little goofing around (no surprises there) while in Fantasyland. Neither of us was able to pull the sword from the stone.

I'm sure she would have been worthy

I’m sure she would have been worthy

My excuse? Well, puny arms I guess ;-)

My excuse? Well, puny arms I guess 😉

With the Frozen characters on the balcony behind

With the Frozen characters on the balcony of the castle behind us

From Fantasyland we get to experience running through the castle. Always a great spectacle (if not a little crowded). We stopped for our picture in front of the castle before heading down towards Frontierland.

Running through the castle

Running through the castle

This is what makes all those miles of training worth it

This is what makes all those miles of training worth it

As we ran through Frontierland we passed by Louis the Alligator from ‘Princess and the Frog’ and one of the characters from ‘Country Bear Jamboree’ who was in the place where I’ve seen Woody, Jessie and Bullseye in the past. We decided not to stop for these characters as we knew there would be a long line ahead of us for one of the princess backstage. We did stop however for a little photo opportunity with the steam train from the Walt Disney World Railroad.

Stopping the train to save my damsel in distress

Stopping the train to save my damsel in distress

We left Frontierland before the entrance to Adventureland and ventured backstage to where there was a long line for a photo stop with one of the Princesses. We decided to stop here despite the amount of time we had already spent in the park as the Princesses change out regularly and we figured we would get another opportunity tomorrow and if it happened to be the same photo tomorrow we could just skip and go on our merry way.

With Cinderella and Prince Charming (note that Cinderella was bundled up with a warm coat)

With Cinderella and Prince Charming (note that Cinderella was bundled up with a warm coat)

There was a water station just past this point which was the first one since the TTC area. This is the longest section of the course without a water station due to the logistics of navigating the areas of the park. We took the route out of the side of the park and onto Floridian Way which is the narrowest section of the course as you have everyone huddled onto one side of the road (the other side is open to emergency vehicles). This is also the section  that people refer to as ‘Cone Alley’. There are cones as far as you can see. In this stretch you run past the Grand Floridian Resort on your left, one of the Walt Disney Resort golf courses on your right and the Polynesian Village Resort on the left. Although space is tight here, as soon as you approach the resorts there are cheering sections which were very crowded and much appreciated. The Team Up – Autism Speaks cheering section was situated along this section of the course near the Polynesian. It really is a long stretch along the course here until approaching the overpass which takes you back to EPCOT. There are a few character stops on the course.

With Mary, Bert and the penguins

With Mary, Bert and the penguins

With Genie (who had just come out of the cast member trailer and was nice and toasty)

With Genie (who had just come out of the cast member trailer and was nice and toasty)

A quick selfie with the Baymax/Big Hero 6 mile marker (we knew our boys would appreciate this)

A quick selfie with the Baymax/Big Hero 6 mile marker (we knew our boys would appreciate this)

The road finally opened up from the cones and Shari and I were able to recapture some of the time we had lost during the early photo stops and the time in the park. It is pretty near impossible to make up time in Cone Alley due to the congestion. Unless you are in Corral A or decide not to stop for any photos this is not the race to try for a PR. I think the half marathon is usually more crowded than the marathon due to the numbers involved.

Finally an open space for us to run in

Finally an open space for us to run in

As we made our way along the course back towards EPCOT around mile 11 we encounter the only real hill on the course, the overpass, which takes us from World Drive up to EPCOT Center Drive. The cool part of this is when you are on the overpass looking back down below and seeing the endless stream of runners. It’s pretty cool to see everyone out there.

Heading into EPCOT we knew we were in the final mile of the half marathon. There is the short little out and back as we enter the park which takes us to the lagoon in front of World Showcase and then we head back towards Spaceship Earth and out towards the finish line. I felt a slight ache in my right knee around mile 12 so we took the last mile a little easy as we still had the marathon to run the next day. No sprinting to the finish line today.

Back in EPCOT with the finish line in reach

Back in EPCOT with the finish line in reach

Approaching the final turn

Approaching the final turn

One last stop for Minnie

One last stop for Minnie

Our half marathon was in the books

Our half marathon was in the books

We crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. It was still quite cool but we got our medals and headed to the medical areas to ice down. We had to wait for Rina and Mike so we took advantage of the time to ice down with the help of the volunteers who packed our legs in ice. Shari was nursing her right ankle and I was nursing my right knee. We saw Mike pass us while we were there but it was so busy he didn’t hear us call out to him so we sent him a text message and told him we’d meet him outside.

Sharing a romantic moment with my wife after the race

Sharing a romantic moment with my wife after the race

We make ice look good

We make ice look good

We did it

We did it

One thing that was missing from the finish line area were mylar wraps. Yup, no space blankets. It wasn’t as if it was a warm weekend or anything and I was sure that after the previous two days when the temperatures were in the high 30s/low 40s they would have been prepared, but no. No blankets. That’s when I was pleased I’d packed my throw away jacket in our checked bag.

We made it through the finish line area and grabbed our food. We took our picture and walked through to the Goofy lanes. No one was checking our bibs or looking us up based upon the pictures we took at the expo. Strange. Last year when I ran the Dopey Challenge they made us all pick up a wristband. With the new method I figured we would have to report into someone. By the way, there was nothing too amazing to report about the runDisney food boxes. Pretty much the same as last year. Would it break the bank to have bagels or a soft pretzel available?

So on to bag check. We entered the ‘S’ tent and Shari told me to pick up the bag but they couldn’t find it. They kept asking my number and I was showing them my bib but no use. They made us head out to a central table and report the bag and had a volunteer run back and forth into each tent for any loose bags. At this point it was getting cold without any jacket or space blanket. Shari was turning blue. Kind of matched her outfit but not appropriate to tell her that at the time. Ultimately they asked us how many bags we checked and we said one and then they asked if it was under Shari’s number. We hadn’t thought about that. Duh!!! Once we established it was her number they found the bag right away. Like runDisney would really lose our bag!!! Felt kind of stupid but thanked them all. At least we had something warm to wear now.

Based upon the race text alerts we saw that Rina was near the finish so we met up with Mike and waited outside for her. Once she came through the bag check we didn’t hang around (we had the babysitter charging mucho dollars!!!) as we had a lunch reservation at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Hollywood Studios and we all needed to get back for a shower in time to get there.

We spent the afternoon at Hollywood Studios where we did some character meet and greets and had a really nice lunch. We managed to secure our Fast Passes to Toy Story Mania but this wasn’t the best park for the kids and we were all a little tired. We did head over to the Frozen Sing-A-Long which we had Fast Passes for. This allowed Shari and I a few minutes off our feet. We grabbed a light supper of pizza from one of the quick service options along Hollywood Boulevard but made sure we headed to ‘Sweet Spells’ to get some special treats carbs before we left for the night. We chose Hollywood Studios as our park as they had the earliest closing time for us (we skipped Animal Kingdom this trip) so we could say we stayed until the park close and still get home for a relatively early night.

Celebrating our half marathon in Hollywood Studios

Celebrating our half marathon in Hollywood Studios

A fun time at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater for lunch

A fun time at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater for lunch

With Sorcerer Mickey

With Sorcerer Mickey

With Baymax and Hiro

With Baymax and Hiro

We got home, got the boys to bed, laid out our clothes for tomorrow’s marathon and attempted to get some sleep before our early morning alarm in a few hours…