Race Review: Peaks Island 5 Miler

Last weekend, a running friend and I went on a great running getaway! We built a little escape around the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race, a race held on a tiny island in Maine. We planned to drive up to Maine, stay near Freeport, then run the race and enjoy some time on the island. Our planning hit a little block, though, when it came to the race. There was precious little information available about the race and the logistics of the race. Luckily, we are an easygoing pair, so we were able to adapt. This review is going to be some review, and some information sharing. I hope that sharing my experience will help others who might encounter similar confusion.

First, you’ll need to take a ferry over from Portland for the race. There is parking right at the Casco Bay Lines terminal, but it’s significantly more expensive than local parking lots. Find a parking lot that offers all day parking for a flat rate. We did, and walked two short blocks to the terminal.

Cacso Bay Lines

Runners do need to pay for passage on the ferry, less than $10 each (and getting off the island is free). You’ll get tickets at the terminal, then wait in a little lobby for the ferry. We took the 8:30am ferry, a special ferry for the race. It would have been fine to take a later ferry, but we wanted some time to look around. The race starts at 10:30, so a 9:15 ferry would be fine. The ferry ride was lovely, breezy and full of gorgeous views. It lasted about 20 minutes.

Casco Ferry

We got to the race location, a local Lions Club. The Lions Club has a large, grassy area, and a small building with bathrooms and a stage. Packed pick up was efficient, with three staff to assist about 10 runners. We easily got our numbers and then explored. There is no gear check, but people bring their stuff and leave it on the Lions Club property. We saw people with coolers, blankets, and many belongings. No one seemed to mind leaving their things, so we did, too. The picnic table spots went early, but many people sat on the grass or brought their own chairs. It’s worth note that the website says no dogs are allowed, but we saw many people with dogs and dogs are welcomed on the ferry.

Peaks Island Lions Club

A short kids’ race immediately preceded the 5 mile race, so we watched the kid and warmed up. We took in the gorgeous bay views and generally had a great time before our 5 mile race started.

Casco Bay View

The Peaks Island 5 Mile Race course runs around the island itself. It includes lovely sea views, a section through a woodsy area, and several miles through neighborhoods on the island. The course map wasn’t available before the race, save for this little picture at the Lions Club, so the whole race was an adventure. I didn’t know what to expect, but was treated to classic Maine.

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

The organizers, the Maine Track Club, say that the race is flat, but it’s really more New England flat with just a bit of variation.

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Overall, the course was nicely laid out, well marked, and mostly free of traffic despite the roads being open. The finish line was no-fuss, with just a small table and timing mats. Immediately after the race, finishers were treated to a cook out (extra charge, purchased ahead of time). Runners made advance purchase of tickets to the cook out and were able to enjoy lobster, chicken, or vegetarian meal options. We got the chicken, which was par-boiled, then soaked in BBQ sauce and grilled.

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Awards were given out to top finishers. It was a speedy race, with lots of fast times. Following the race, my friend and I toured the island and enjoyed the small stretch of sandy beach for beach glass hunting.

Peaks Island

Overall, we had a lovely time at the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race. The communication before the event was lacking and the website was nonexistent, but the race itself was well done, well organized, and a great family event. I would recommend this race as a fun destination race for a weekend getaway. We will be back!

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training. I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. 🙂

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time.  I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!

My Pace or Yours

One of the best parts of being a runner is the opportunity to inspire others. I coach other runners and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also have a great time as a professional pacer. I work with MarathonPacing, a great marathon and half marathon pacing company, and absolutely love the work that I do as a pacer. Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to pace two great races, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Wineglass Marathon events.

The Wineglass Marathon and its associated events is a great weekend of racing in an adorable town. Wineglass takes place in Corning, New York, a charming small town famous for the glass company and museum.

Corning, NY

The race runs through nearby towns, past farms and small communities. It runs over small bridges and past forests full of turning leaves. The scenes are lovely and it’s one of my favorite half marathon courses around. This year, like last year, I paced the 2:30 half marathon group.

Wineglass 2014

I had a great group. We ran together, told jokes, and had a great time. I coasted into the finish with perfect timing and a very happy group of finishers.

The next weekend, I was signed up to pace the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, pacing the full marathon group. I had the assignment of pacing 5:30, the course cut off. I was to be the last place finisher and guide runners who were close to the course cutoff. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon is a great event in Albany, New York. Albany is a great town, with a charming old fashioned down town. The race is well organized and supported by a local running club.

MHRM

The race begins at a  local park, with lovely views of the changing leaves.

Mohawk Hudson

Running the course cutoff is a funny thing. Turns out that no one wanted to just squeak in at 5:30 – they wanted to crush their goals. I ran along the bike paths near the river mostly alone, but enjoyed the views and quiet connection to nature. The course is almost entirely run on bike paths through suburban parks. It’s really very nice with a few gentle hills in the middle. I loved the course and enjoyed working with my team.

Pacing is a wonderful thing and one of my favorite things to do as a runner. Next up for me is the Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida in December. I can’t wait!

Race Recap: Round the Lake 5k

I love small races and, living in a rural area, I get an opportunity to run a lot of small races. Just a week post marathon, I was barely back into running when a friend suggested a local 5k with a “interesting” course. I wasn’t doing anything else and the weather was expected to be wonderful, so I committed to the race. The race in question was the Marlborough Lions Club Round the Lake 5k. Honestly, had my friend not told me about the race, I might never have found it. They don’t have the best website presence and what’s there leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (Was there race-day registration? If sure hoped so!). The race application wasn’t much more helpful. I had no idea how much the race was and wether I might even be able to register, but I knew where the starting line was and crossed my fingers on the rest.

Race day was clear and bright and I headed over to the park at Lake Terramuggus for the 5k. There were a few people mingling around, runners on the road warming up, and no lines to speak of. I didn’t wait at all to register and walked right up to the table. There was indeed race day registration and it was a bargain price of $20. I gathered my number, my much too big tshirt, and some pins and set off to warm up. The setting was lovely for a spring race – the start and finish line were on the road in front of a small park on a lake.

Blish Park

It was a lovely view, and I kept my warm up to a minimum so I could spend more time enjoying the weather and the view. This would later turn out to be a mistake, but I wasn’t planning to race a week after a marathon.

I lined up with a few hundred others on the country road near the park for the race start. It was perfect weather – 68 degrees, sunny, and breezy. The race began and immediately runners were greeted by a hill. the course featured a significant hill in the first quarter mile. Not great for those of us who hadn’t really warmed up, but excellent for the hill runners in the group. Several speedy folks shot to the top of the hill. The course leveled out and wound through the countryside. It was well marked, but sparsely populated. There were plenty of runners, but few spectators. The road was either closed to traffic or such a small country road that no traffic needed to pass by during the race. In mile two, the course started a small descent and I picked up speed. I was running well, but getting quite hot in the warm air and sun. Volunteers called out mile splits and the course went on. Near the middle of the second mile, the course turned into town and began a long, steady climb up one of the gradual hills in town. At this point, the road was open to traffic and it got a little tricky thanks to sidewalk construction in the area.

5k construction

Despite some cars and bumpy footing, the runners made their way down the road and back towards the park. The views along the way were lovely, classic New England. I enjoyed looking at the lake and the small salt box cottages. There was one small, not that well organized race stop at mile 2.6, where a nice older couple passed out water in tiny paper cups (the kind my grandmother kept in her bathroom). I did take the water, a few sips worth, and it was warm and clumsily passed. Had there been a few more volunteers, the water stop might have been more effective. The race finished on a bit of an uphill on the road. There was chip timing, so there were timing mats and a small finish line area, but nothing else. Runners had to head back down the hill to get a bottle of water and a few orange slices.

There were few amenities at this race. Runners got a bottle of water and sliced oranges. What the race lacked in post-race food, it made up for in the view. A friend and I sat on the beach until it was time for the awards. It wasn’t a particularly fast race and my slow, post-marathon legs carried me to third place in my age group.

Round the Lake Prize

Overall, I would recommend the Round the Lake 5k for the runner looking for a no-frills, low key, local race. It was a fairly ordinary 5k with a nice lake view finish, but little else in terms of race support or amenities.

Disney Marathon Weekend 2014 – Dr Rachel Goes Goofy

What’s a girl to do when one Disney race just isn’t enough? The Goofy Challenge. This year, I decided to run the Goofy Challenge during the 2014 Disney Marathon Weekend. If you’ve been reading, I already recapped my fun at the expo and in the half marathon.

Sunday was marathon day and the day started very early, much to my dismay. When the alarm clock went off at 2:45am, it took all my energy to move. My legs felt fresh, but my head, throat, chest, and even my eyebrows hurt. The cold/flu that I had been fighting had won. I was sick. Sick sick. And I had 26.2 miles to go to get my Goofy medal. I dragged my sorry self out of bed, complained a lot, and got on with getting into my costume and getting to the starting line.

Disney Marathon 2014 start

I warned my family it might not go well. I might DNF. Of course, they could barely hear me since I had completely lost my voice. I hauled my bedraggled self to the starting corrals. Honestly, the rest of the race is a bit of a blur, thanks to my feverish and sickly state. Here’s what I remember (some of which was triggered by a quick post-race review of the pictures I took).

Mile 3 – I couldn’t take my Goofy vest flopping in the wind. I left it along the way.

Mile 5ish – My parents were waiting for me at Cinderella’s Castle. I took a quick picture, assured them that I wasn’t dying, and told them I wanted to finish. I had tested a walking pace and I knew I could walk a 15-minute mile without feeling horrible. I would finish or I would be picked up by the golf cart. Either way, I wasn’t giving up.

Mile 6 – On the back side of the Castle, I took a great picture (my favorite from the whole weekend) right before things got bad.

Disney Marathon 2014 castle

Mile 8 – The wheels fall off. I’m mostly walking. I’m the crazy lady you see hunched over on the side of the road, resting. That banana was a really terrible idea. It will be a while before I can eat bananas again. It was the low point of the race.

Mile 10 – I had decided early on I wouldn’t go farther than 10 if I were going to DNF. I had a decision to make. I stopped on the side of the road near the waste water treatment plant. I thought about all the training. I thought about my poor, sore siblings and friend willing to take a bus to Wide World of Sports to cheer for me. I thought about how much my mom would worry and how hard she had worked to fight through cramps in her first half. I continued on. I texted my family to tell them I would finish. I was doing it.

Mile 11 – Apparently I took a picture with an owl. I don’t remember this. I’m surprised I didn’t trip over my own two feet. I hate running.

Disney 2014 owl

Mile 12 – Things start to look up. For no discernible reason, I start to feel better. And, then, the best thing ever happened. Expedition Everest was open. I could ride my most favorite ride.

Disney 2014 Expedition Everest

Mile 13 – Buoyed by my ride on the best ride ever, I trotted along. The next several miles went by quickly and I found my self on Osceola Parkway, or, as I call it “The Highway to Hell”. I hate Osceola Parkway. It seems to go on forever. I can probably thank my sickness for this, but this year, I wasn’t bothered by it. I trotted along happily. No doubt I looked a little like Dory from Finding Nemo – randomly talking to myself and getting overly excited about the little things I passed (dude with a Stick! Joy! Random lady with animal crackers! Outstanding! A palm tree! etc.).

Disney 2014 Osceola

Mile A lot – My family! Yay! My brother and sister-in-law were waiting for me in Wide World of Sports with a sign. Joy! Then my other sister-in-law and my friend in Champion Stadium.

More running…

Mile 20 – Finally! I made it to 20. I knew I would finish. I can’t begin to describe how happy I was. I wasn’t as sick, was running well, and felt strong. I loved Disney, the marathon, my fellow runners, everything.

Disney 2014 Mile 20

Before I knew it, I was entering Hollywood Studios, where one of my wonderful Twitter friends had made a sweet sign.

Disney 2014 HS

And then it was over. I floating along on a cloud of running love for the last three miles and it was over. I have the pictures. I ran through Epcot. I waved at cameras. I think I saw my dad. Maybe my poor addled brain had just given up. It’s all a vague blur of people and color and the lagoon at Epcot. When I crossed the finish line, I had one clear thought. I love Disney. And I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Disney Marathon Weekend 2014 – Half Marathon

What an adventure! I’m back from my whirlwind tour of all things Disney and I can’t wait to relive the fun by sharing it with all of you!

It all started out with a crazy suggestion. A running friend and I were talking about running Disney races together – her family lives in the Inland Empire near Disney Land. My family lives in central Florida near Disney World. We talked about running each other’s “home” races. One thing lead to another and we decided 2014 would be our year to complete the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge – and not just complete it, but to do the Disney Marathon Weekend and Tinkerbell, running both coasts in one week.

And, because I’m a little crazy, I thought why run just one marathon when I could run a crazy-lady challenge. It was settled. I was going to run Goofy. Side note – a lot of people have asked me why I didn’t run the inaugural Dopey Challenge. I didn’t want to get up at 2:45am four days in a row and Epcot is my least favorite park. The idea of getting up crazy early to run around Wide World of Sports and Epcot didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to spend more time with my family, and, honestly, sleeping.

Once I started talking about my intention to run Disney like a crazy person, more crazy things started happening. My two sisters-in-law and my brother decided Disney would be their first half marathon. Suddenly, we had a team of five people, all running the half marathon. We were all training for races and sharing the experience – it was so exciting.

I had a great time running the Disney Marathon in 2013, but I did it injured. I was hoping 2014 would be my year. I got to Florida well ahead of the races, ready to finish my taper and relax with family. Sadly, as soon as I got to Florida, I felt the first symptoms of impending illness. Wednesday my mom and I went to the expo and Thursday my California friend arrived. By Friday, I was sick and my family was arriving from out of town. I wouldn’t let a little sickness slow me down. We were all staying at the new Art of Animation. It was wonderful. Being true Disney lovers, we were thrilled with our Little Mermaid themed room.

 

Friday evening we held a team meeting and set the plan for the half marathon on Saturday.  My brother and his wife would start together, with him planning to speed up after the first few miles. My other sister in law and I would run together. She had an ambitious time goal and wanted me to help pace her to achieve that goal. My friend, having suffered several mishaps during training, would take her time and have fun along the way. We were ready.

Race morning dawned dark and early. We all got up, got into costumes, and took lots and lots of pictures.

Disney 2014 start

The bus ride to the start was quick and easy. We visited the port-a-potties and before we knew it, it was time to head to the start. I had warned my family about the long walk through the woods, so we quickly made our way to the starting corrals. It was cool, about 68 degrees, cloudy, and humid. Nearly perfect running weather. The race started with a flourish and we were off!

Disney 2014 Castle

My parents were waiting for us at Cinderella’s Castle and we made it to them right on pace. My sister-in-law was running well and feeling strong. I, on the other hand, was fading fast. My fever, headache, and general malaise were starting to get the best of me. I was determined to be a good pacer, so she and I ran on, through Magic Kingdom, and back out the gates.

The day stayed pleasantly overcast and the race course was the usual Disney fun. I enjoyed the on-course entertainment and loved seeing the characters out and about. We kept a strong pace right through mile 10, when things started to go downhill for me. I suppose, in retrospect, running with some sort of horrible cold/flu wasn’t my most brilliant idea, but I was at Disney. My sister-in-law was holding a strong pace and feeling confident. I was seeing black spots and feeling nauseous. Around mile 11 we passed my friend and I let my sister go. I fell in pace with my friend and we hobbled along together – her with sore ankles and me just trying to stay upright.

Disney 2014 half

Before I knew it, we were in Epcot and closing in on the finish line. It was a great feeling. We hustled across the finish line, though the self-treatment medical area for some ice for her legs, and over to the official meeting place to wait for my siblings. One after the other they came in sight, and finished triumphantly. Everyone had achieved their goals for the race. We were a happy group.

Disney 2014 after the race

After sharing stories, we headed back to the hotel. I suggested a rest by the pool and we all settled in for some well-deserved relaxation.

 

And, for those of you who were wondering – yes. I ran with my hair and my Pascal for 13.1 miles. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Ultra Cold

This past weekend I attempted an ultra marathon with a great group of runners. Someone suggested it a few weeks ago and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, at that time the daytime temperatures were comfortably in the double digits, with highs in the 20s and sunny skies. I needed miles for my Goofy training and hadn’t been having good weather-long run luck. After missing a long run to sickness and one to an ice storm, I needed miles badly. And an ultra seemed like the perfect way to get those miles. A group of similarly crazy people, running ten 5k loops around a park. An ultra sounds fun, I thought.

As is the way of many good plans, this one started to unravel early in the week. The weather took a turn for the worse, with temperatures dropping into the single digits. We were lucky to get a high temperature of 10 or 11 degrees. By anyone’s standards, that’s some cold running. By mid-week the winds had picked up, ensuring sub-zero windchills. The forecast showed a major snowstorm heading toward the East Coast. Just in time for my ultra.

For those of you who don’t know me, I get cold easily. I usually don’t run in temperatures below 20 degrees. I just get too cold and warming back up is an all-day ordeal. I have a boiling hot shower, a hot drink, and even sit under an electric blanket. No matter what I wear, I get cold. So the impending snowstorm was not welcome news. This winter I’ve had to suck it up and run in single digits and sub-zero weather, but I draw the line at blizzard conditions. The rest of the group was going to run. And if they were, I was. I spent the entire night before the race praying to the weather gods and imagining myself dressed as Ralphie from Christmas Story.

The morning of the ultra (Seth’s Fat Ass 50for the record) I woke up to 5 degrees on my thermometer. The one that is sheltered by the house. Sigh. I geared up in layers upon layers and microwaved my water to slow down freezing. I packed my little hand warmers and set off.

At the race start, it was 10 degrees. Double digits. Score! But the windchill had the real feel temperature at -3. Yikes. Being outside for even a few minutes was terrifying. It. Was. Freezing. But I was determined. I told myself I would tough it out for at least three laps. I could run 10 miles and be happy. The course was lovely. It was a series of 5k loops in a very nice park and adjoining neighborhood. The view was pleasant and the course mostly flat, so I really liked it. The loop set up was perfect for a freezing cold day. I overheard lots of runners plan their escape after a loop or two.

Three laps came and went and I was freezing, but knew I could do one more. About halfway during the fourth lap, it started to snow heavily and I started to think. I wondered what frostbite felt like. Could I have frostbite? I hadn’t been shivering or had any goosebumps for at least an hour. (Side note – I now know this is a pretty bad sign. Oops) I knew it was time to call it quits when I had difficulty stepping up a small curb. I couldn’t move my leg the three or four inches. It was simply too cold and too numb to move. I was done.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish. I know I could have on another day. My legs (aside from feeling like they might snap off from cold) felt strong and I was running well. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was simply too cold for me. And in retrospect, I know I made the right decision. I have broken blood vessels on my legs and it took me a full day to fell normal. It was definitely the right call to DNF. This experience has made me more determined than even to run an ultra soon. Know any good ones? The only requirement – temperatures that don’t begin with a 1.

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Goofy Challenge, Here I Come!

Last night it hit me. It’s really happening. I am running the Goofy Challenge. Oh. And the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. That’s right, I’m going Coast to Coast in 2014! You’d think it might have seemed real when I signed up, or when I picked out and bought components of my costumes. But, what really made it real was scheduling my flights.

It all started with my insistence that last year’s Disney Marathon wouldn’t be my last. I had so much difficulty with my fibula that my performance was disappointing.

Disney Finish

As soon as I finished, I told my mom that I would run it again the next year to redeem myself. As I walked around the property that afternoon, I saw all the happy RunDisney folks with the Goofy Challenge medals and I was jealous. I wanted that medal. I committed to the Goofy Challenge right then and there. I was less than two hours from my WDW Marathon finish and I was ready for a second one. That’s how it all began.

I signed up for the Goofy Challenge the moment registration opened. I talked about it with my family. My brother and sisters-in-law have been running and they’ve been talking about running their first half marathons. I told all three that I would run with them for their first half marathon, any time, anywhere. And that’s how the slippery slope happened. I’ve long said that running is a slippery slope. You run a 5k and you think, “I could run a little further”. Next thing you know it’s a 10k, then 10 miles, then half marathon. It’s a slippery slope. One day, my sister-in-law called me and said she was in. She was running the half marathon with me as part of my Goofy Challenge. My brother and my other sister-in-law were next. Then the whole family was signed up!

Slippery Slope

I can’t begin to say how excited I was. But that wasn’t the end. My friend from Arizona signed up a few days later. And then another friend signed up for the marathon. It’s amazing! Within days I had a whole crew and we are all running. Then my friend from Arizona and I agreed to do Coast to Coast. Woo hoo! Suddenly, I was planning the running event to end all running events!

So I’m planning a massive family and friends vacation. It’s amazing. My wonderful travel agent, Heather, has set us up with great on-property hotel rooms and transportation. We’re all planning costumes. For those who are curious, I’m running as Rapunzel from Tangled for the half marathon, Goofy for the marathon (thanks to Kelly from Run Team Sparkle for the inspiration), and Ursula from The Little Mermaid (check out this amazing inspiration!) for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. It’s just so exciting!

Last night, I scheduled my flights. Home to Florida to California and back home. And, suddenly, it hit me. I’m running at the Happiest Place on Earth. Coast to Coast, here I come!

Ragnar on the Run

I’m writing from Van 1 in the midst of a Ragnar Relay. We are just about done with our second set of runs in Ragnar Cape Cod. A full review will come later, but here’s what I know so far:
– The difference between a “very hard” leg and a “hard” leg is indiscernible.
– I can get lost even with flashing lights identifying every turn.
– A kids’ meal burger will taste amazing for dinner but may be a source of regret later.
– It is possible to join a van with only one person you know and make fast friends with four strangers.
– Night time pictures have a cool Tron effect.

So, in sum, we are having a great time and enjoying a total adventure!

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Dr. Rachel Runs Disney

  Disney Marathon

I’m a Disney Marathoner! I bet you’re wondering how that happened. Never fear, a reasonably complete recap follows. Honestly, the whole thing was so amazing, so much fun, that I can’t remember half of the details I wanted to. I’ll do my best.

When we last left off, I had just finished the Disney Marathon Expo and was well on my way to the final two stages of Dr. Rachel’s Seven Stages of Race Preparation. To refresh your memory, they were:

6. Existential Questioning (at the start of the race – “Why did I think this was a good idea? This is very bad idea.”, “Running is really weird. Why do I do it?”) and 7. Euphoria (post-race – “I LOVE running!”, “That was amazing!”, “I can’t wait to race again. Next time…”, “Woooo hoooo!!”)

At the ridiculously early hour of 2:30am, mom and I awoke in our lovely hotel room at Pop Century (a great, reasonably priced resort, by the way). We had a 3:15am bus to catch, so it was time to rise and shine! I had meticulously laid out my supplies, so I got dressed and ready with relative ease. I taped up my pesky fibula with KT Tape and was as ready as I would ever be.

Disney Marathon Prep

I double checked everything and boarded the bus to Epcot to meet up with my marathon running friends (check out their blog!) and head to the start line. The wait for the bus was minimal and the ride was easy. On the bus, I questioning everything – my training, my decision to run, the stability of my only recently healed fibula. Stage 6 was in full effect. As the bus got closer to Epcot, I felt better and better. This was a great idea! I was going to have So. Much. Fun! Eeeeee! I still get excited just thinking about it. The pre-start area was organized chaos. Thousands of runners and families milled about, taking pictures, dropping off bags, and moving toward the runners-only start chute. Disney had done a wonderful job organizing everything, so finding our way around was easy.

Disney Marathon with Mom

In the runners-only area we walked and walked. They weren’t kidding about allowing 20 minutes to walk to the start – it was a long way. We finally arrived and had a few moments to rest in our corral before the 5:30am start.

Disney Marathon Start

At the start, there was plenty of entertainment. There were character visits, interviews, and even fireworks! Within a few minutes, we were off. We quickly settled into a nice, smooth pace and trotted along through the first few miles. There were screaming spectators, fans, bands, and all manner of supporters along the way. We passed Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Out front, spectators cheered. I couldn’t believe how many people were out to watch the race – even at 6am! Before I knew it, we had completed 4.5 miles and were entering Disney World. Knowing my mom was waiting near Cinderella’s Castle, I started looking for her. Imagine my surprise when I found her among the thousands of screaming and cheering spectators! We snapped a (really) quick picture and were on our way.

Disney Marathon Mile 5

The miles were flying by. I was having a wonderful race. The course was absolutely gorgeous and the characters, fans, and cheering spectators were amazing. We rounded the Castle (amazing at first light!) and came upon Cinderella and Charming. I had to take a picture!

Disney Marathon Cinderella

She was gracious, as usual, and the stop was perfectly timed. We all used the (clean!) porta-potties and got some water at a nearby water stop. Seven miles were done in no time at all. We were having a great time! At this point, my memory starts to get a little blurry. I usually have race amnesia and this race was no different. I know it was fun. I saw characters. I enjoyed the sights. Miles passed.

We entered the Speedway around mile 9. I liked the old one better. The classic and custom cars were super fun to see. We exited the Speedway just as the sun was gaining strength and moved into one of the not-so-great parts of the course. We wound along the backstage parts of the parks and past the Disney waste water treatment plant. Ew. It did not smell nice and there were very few spectators or characters. It was actually very much like a normal race. My standards were Disney-high, so it wasn’t as fun. It was started to get hot, and my leg was starting to give me trouble. I slowed a bit, but managed to stay just behind my friends (who deserve so much love for waiting for me and encouraging me! love you!). Finally, we came upon the backstage part of Animal Kingdom. There were animals and handlers for photo opportunities (so cute!). The camber of the strange pavement at Animal Kingdom did me in. My poor fibula was unhappy and I slowed again. At mile 13 I bid my friends goodbye and set off on my own. I had already calculated that if I could run 12 miles, I could walk the rest and finish under the time limit. So, I slowed way down and enjoyed the view. At this point, my priority changed. I was going to go slow, have fun, and keep the distress on my body at a minimum so I could return to training quickly. I was disappointed, and wondered what it might have been like had I not been injured a month before the marathon and could have trained fully, but I was having fun. And having fun is all that matters sometimes.

Around mile 15, I entered the toughest part of the race. Miles 15-21 were on the way to, in, and on the way out of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. The approach is on Osceola Parkway, a divided, four lane road. The trees are way back from the road. It was hot (about 80 degrees and climbing), there wasn’t much to look at, and there was no shade. I was hot, in pain, and not a happy runner. Somewhere in there, 17 maybe, volunteers handed out sponges and I think it was the single greatest gift I had ever gotten. I loved my sponge. It was amazing. Stupidly, I threw my sponge away. Next time I will keep my glorious gift. We wound through the Wide World of Sports (which, if I never see again, I wouldn’t mind so much) and finally exited. I couldn’t have been happier. Miles 16-19 were a real low point for me. I walked more than I had wanted, cursed some, and generally wasn’t feeling the Disney magic. There was no doubt in my mind that I would finish, but I was hoping to recapture the magic. That happened at mile 20.

Disney Marathon Mile 20

Seeing Mile 20, and the huge show at the mile marker, was amazing. It was just the boost I needed. The approach to mile 20 had wonderful characters and the marker had a platform with Disney favorites. I waited in the picture line, using the break as an opportunity to stretch and regroup. I would finish. I would do this. I pressed on with renewed vigor. I felt pretty good. Sure, it was hot (86 degrees by this time according to mom, who was waiting at the finish), sunny, and I was exhausted, but I was running the Disney Marathon! An honest to goodness dream was coming true. I pressed onward. I met some nice people, passed some characters, and before I knew it, I saw the sign for the turn to Epcot!

Disney Marathon Epcot Ahead

Having made the turn many times in my life, I knew just how far I had to go. And it wasn’t far! The course snuck us in the back way, through Hollywood Studios. I loved running past the Tower of Terror and through the costume shop. There were trees, and shade, and interesting things to see. Running through the fake New York City street was really fun. Disney cast members did a wonderful job of managing marathon and park traffic and the folks visiting the park cheered loudly. In what felt like no time, we exited Hollywood Studios and entered Epcot! Running around the Lagoon was both the longest and the shortest mile and a half of my running life. I wanted to capture every moment. Epcot visitors were cheering, characters were standing by for pictures, and everyone was upbeat. We were finishing the marathon!

Epcot!

After a short trek around the Lagoon, we passed into a backstage area and emerged moments later on the finish line approach. Spectators were several deep and they were all cheering. I could see the finish line! I passed my mom, and, within moments crossed the line.

Disney Marathon Finish

It was amazing! Everyone at runDisney was so helpful, so kind, and so supportive. Running the Disney Marathon was easily one of the best things I’ve done as a runner. It really is a race full of wonderful memories.

And, just in case you were wondering, I’m definitely in Stage 7. I can’t wait to do it again next year. Maybe this time I’ll be Goofy.