The Goofy Challenge Part I: The Donald
After The Blonde and I ran our first 5k in early 2012, we started looking at other races we could run. Since we go to Walt Disney World quite a bit we discussed doing the Donald race (1/2 marathon) in January 2013. The Blonde had done the Mickey (full marathon) several years ago as her one and only marathon and had a good experience. So, we decided that we would do the half.
Disney then announced that since it was the 20th anniversary of the marathon, they would be offering a special commemorative medal. Our training had been going pretty well and we were feeling pretty good so we discussed running the marathon for the special bling. As the conversation continued we both kind of looked at each other and said if we are going to do that, we might as well do the Goofy Challenge. The Goofy Challenge is both the half and the full back to back on Saturday and Sunday.
So, we did some research on marathon training plans and checked to see if there were any specific training plans for Goofy. We ended up settling for Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 training plan with some Gallowalking thrown in for runs over 8 miles. This was an 18 week training plan. Our run walk training was based on four minutes running and one minute walking. Unfortunately, we did not get the complete training plan in due to sicknesses and injuries. As the saying goes, it is better to be undertrained and uninjured than overtrained and injured. We did get in one weekend of back to back 10 & 18, so I was not worried about finishing the races. It really came down to how we were going to finish.
Our race adventure started with the flight out of MCI to MCO the Thursday before the races. We got to the airport relatively early. As our shuttle pulled up to the Southwest terminal, I noticed a long line at the skycap. Uh oh, I thought. That can’t be good. We got in and the line was backed up quite a ways. Oh well, we got in it. It turns out that Southwest’s computer system was down system wide. The employees in the terminal were having to process people by hand. We finally got up to the front of the line, when we got pulled out since we already had our boarding passes printed. The woman hand wrote our baggage tags and we were off. At that point, I was a bit nervous about our luggage meeting us in Orlando. This was really true as we had packed our running equipment since it was a direct flight.
As an aside, I overheard some of the employees remark, “What did we ever do before computers?” As someone who works in IT, it has always amused me when people refer to IT as a cost center. I understand what the term means, but it is usually used in a derogatory manner. We have become so integrated with technology that the slightest hiccup reverberates around the world.
We headed towards security and got through relatively quickly. We literally put our shoes and belts back on and we got called into the queue for Southwest’s boarding process. It actually looked like we were going to leave on time. They closed the door and everything. Fortunately, for some people stuck further behind us, they were able to process some more people and reopened the doors and boarded them. It was a slightly bumpy flight down to MCO, but nothing earth shattering.
We landed at MCO and found our towncar driver (we have given up on Magical Express). We then waited with baited breath to see if our luggage was going to arrive. After the first piece showed up, I sighed a breath of relief. Then, the piece with our shoes showed up and The Blonde started to jump up and down and clap. We collected our third piece and were on our way to our resort, Old Key West.
On Friday, we got up early and headed over to the Expo for rope drop. As we were walking towards the Wide World of Sports (WWS), The Blonde noticed a guy wearing a running shirt from a race company in the KC area. So, we stopped and chatted with him. It turns out he lives about five miles from us and had just run the same race as we had previously. It really is a small world, after all (you can thank me later for getting that song stuck in your head). So, we talked with him as we walked towards the line.
We got to the line and it was pretty long. The packet pickup had not open yet. After standing around for about five minutes, the line started moving. It moved pretty quickly. Our other advantage was that since we were doing Goofy, we got sent the opposite way as all of the Mickey and Donald runners. While we were picking up our packets, they announced two perfectly Goofy runners around us. Those are runners who have done every Goofy race since it started.
We grabbed our packets and went downstairs. There they had us walk over a mat to ensure that our bibs were correct and our names would show up in the computer. There were plenty of signs warning about the heat forecasted for the weekend and reminders to drink fluids. After that we headed over to the Expo to pick up our shirts and bags. Then we walked around for about 30 minutes. We ended up leaving the Expo empty handed of new goodies and went back to the room. We then had an easy day at Animal Kingdom trying to stay out of the sun and stay hydrated.
Our instructions from runDisney were that we had to be on the bus by 4:00 am to make it to the start line on time. We got to the bus stop at 3:40. There was a huge line waiting. We finally got on the bus shortly before four. It took us about an hour to drive over to the bag check area. It would have taken us 15 minutes to walk to the start line from our hotel. However, we would have had skipped bag check at that point. We get to bag check and there is a woman with the famous red flashlight directing people to move. She was saying that we had to be at the start line by five or we would be disqualified. Uhhh… It was 4:55. That was not going to happen. We ran through bag check and started the “15 minute walk” over to the start line. It was so crowded that it was more like 30 minutes.
As we were doing our slow walk (I was amazed at how a bunch of people who trained to run could move so slowly) we heard the starting fireworks go off. The wheel chair division was on the course! Darnit, we missed the start. We finally started to free up from the crowds as we approached the corrals. There were a bunch of smelly blue boxes. We decided we might as well make a pit stop since we already missed the start.
We got up to the corrals and headed up front. We were originally in the B corral, but they had just left. So, we joined the C corral and walked up to the start line. There we got our own fireworks (thanks runDisney for making everyone feel special, not just the fast people). We slowly took off! The Donald had started and we were on our way to being 1/3 of the way done with Goofy.
Unfortunately, our pacing really did not work too well with where we started. We spent the first five to six miles dodging slower runners. I was wearing running flats. I should have been wearing trail shoes given how much running on the side of the road I did. The Blonde looked at our 5k split time and remarked it was the slowest 5k she had ever run. Oh well, our goal was survival not speed.
Between miles two and three we saw the wheelchair division leaders coming at us on the other side of the highway. They were flying. They were in the first group to be release. The top finishers were in the 45 minute range. So they were already in miles nine and ten as we were just getting started!
Around mile five, we started approaching Magic Kingdom. The terrain was starting to look familiar vs. faceless highways. We ran under the canal between Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. We continued up past the contemporary. At that point we turned into the side entrance to Magic Kingdom. There supporters were lined up as we came into the park and curved up into Main St. As we looked up Main St., there was Cinderella’s Castle all lit up with Christmas lights. It was a very pretty sight.
We curved around through Tomorrow Land and ran through Fantasy Land. At that point we ran through the castle and out where all of the photographers were waiting. We then headed back through Adventure Land and out through the back end of the park, which we had seen previously from the Keys to the Kingdom tour.
Then we turned Floridian Way and headed South. There were a couple of small lakes along the side of the road with fog coming off of them. This had a very welcome cooling effect. Around mile 7.5 we started passing the Grand Floridian and Mary Poppins was out for photo ops.
We ran past the golf courses on our right around mile eight. Then on our left was the raceway. We would be running past it that day, but the next day we would be running through and around it. We then continued down World Drive where we saw the wheelchair racers earlier in the race.
Between miles 10 and 11 was my only difficulty. There was an on ramp to an overpass we had to run on. The on ramp had an extreme camber. The left side of the camber was much higher than the right. My left knee started to bug me a big about half the way up. At the top of the on ramp, Green Army Men were ordering people to continue on. Once we got on to the overpass, my knee stopped twinging on me. It was all downhill (literally and figuratively) from here.
Around mile 12, we pulled off of the highway and headed towards the Epcot parking lot. They had some guys there asking people where they were from and announcing cities, states, and countries as people ran past. We could start to feel the heat at this point. It didn’t bother us, but I started to think how much it was going to bother us for the Mickey the next day.
We then ran into a side entrance that the front of Epcot and continued into the park. There we ran past Spaceship Earth. We went almost all of the way to the World Showcase before turning around and running back on the other side of Spaceship Earth. There we hit mile 13 and were almost finished. We ran around a couple of corners and headed back to the parking lot. There we finished with a bit of a burst and crossed the line!
Again, we were trying to conserve energy. We ended up crossing with 2:10:53 net time. That was our slowest ever 1/2 marathon time. However, it was still good enough for a sub 10:00 pace. That also put us somewhere in the top 20% overall. We collected our medals and stopped by the med tent to pick up ice. Then we got our little snack box and some liquids. We changed our shoes and jumped on the bus to head back to OKW. After that we showered and then headed out to Magic Kingdom for a light day of walking.
Overall the race was pretty good. It was certainly stressful trying to get to the start and we probably hurt ourselves a bit by starting with people slower than us. We talked to another couple later in the week who also had trouble getting to the start. They actually drove over very early and slept a bit in their car. They said it still took them 30-40 minutes to walk from bag check to the start. I think that this is an area that runDisney can certainly improve. There were definitely too many people for the course. That was a common complaint we heard throughout the week. If they could go back to starting the race from Epcot’s parking lot and let the race spread out before forcing everyone down one lane highways, I believe it would be a better experience.