Ok, here we go again with a GIANT Disney race and trip report. Hope you went to the bathroom before you started reading….it's detailed, people.
Actually, I’m just going to do Friday and Saturday (pre-race and half marathon) for part 1 and I’ll post part 2-Sunday and Monday(marathon and post-race day) very soon. Here we go with part 1…..
I flew down Friday and arrived at the Orlando airport. Baggage claim took a while as did getting on the Magical Express to the hotel. I have never come to Disney without a park ticket so in reserving a hotel only, I didn’t get M.E. vouchers beforehand. So I had to wait in a line. It was only 15-20 minutes but I wasn’t used to it. Luckily, I got right on the bus to the Pop Century. The bus was about full and I sat next to a lady from Washington, DC. She was also running the Goofy and said this was her 4th marathon (just like me). She has run D.C., Paris, and the Great Wall of China….a little more traveled then my first 3 (Nashville, Memphis, and Chicago). She’s doing one in Africa this summer. Obviously she’s going for the seven continents run. I guess I’m going for the seven state or seven city…whatever. Anyways she was nice and we talked about the Goofy and our families some. It passed the time for the 40 minute ride to the hotel. I got to the hotel and walked in the front door. There were my parents snapping a picture of me as I walked through the hotel door. Apparently I had walked through the door to childhood again. Just what ever 35 year old wants….his parents taking his picture coming into a hotel as if he’s graduating from high school. But I smiled anyway to amuse them. It was nice to have fans I guess. I checked in and went to my room. Nice. Typical value resort rooms. There’s really not much difference between the Pop and the All-Star Sports where we usually stay. But it was nice to have my own room and it was more than enough for what I needed. I did like the lobby of this resort and all the nostalgic stuff they had framed. It was fun to see what I used to play with. Mom said she still had a lot of the stuff. Mom and Dad told me they wanted me to go by their room which was in the same building but a floor down. We walked to their room. In the window of their room, they had made a sign that said “Go Albert”. Actually it wasn’t so much a sign as ‘Go Albert’ in marker on the back of their resort receipt. But I appreciated the 17 seconds it took for them to make it. Mom took another picture of me in front of the marker-decorated-receipt. It was going to be a looong weekend.
We went to the food court and I got a few snacks to go for lunch. I was hungry but didn’t want to take the time to sit and eat. Then, we immediately got in their rental car and headed to the expo. We could tell right when we pulled in the parking lot that it was going to be crowded. And crowded it was. We found a spot and headed in. It was a little bit of a challenge to find the Goofy registering lines. We went to the wrong place first. But we found it pretty quickly and there were no lines to pick up my packet. Then they told us we had to go to another building for goody bag and t-shirt pickup. We walked outside and stared at a huge line. There was a line of hundreds of people waiting to get into the other building. We discussed coming back later but didn’t figure it would let up so we got in line. Luckily, it moved quicker than we thought and we probably only waited about 15 minutes. Once inside, we could see all the booths from the floor above. It was packed with people. They were only letting so many in at a time because it was full. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend there because we had to get their rental car back but we were in there for a good 30 minutes. By the way, mom had taken about 47 pictures between parking the car and this point, but I decided to leave them out of this story. She made up for it once we got in this building though because she bought me a fuel belt. It has 2 zippered pouches. It is NOT a “fanny pack” and I refuse to call it that. It’s a lot cooler than that. It’s a ‘man pack’. I knew I would be carrying my camera, gels, and possibly a phone in the races and they were going to be jiggling around a lot if I put it all in pockets. Mom offered to buy it so I took her up on it. It’s actually really nice and I’ll use it in the future as well. I then went to get my packet. I was surprised to see not one, not two, but THREE SHIRTS inside my bag. I guess I didn’t realize I’d get three. I honestly just thought I’d get one. They are all very nice and I look forward to wearing them. Ahhhh, finally I see where some of my $300+ for this race is going. 3 shirts! We walked around the expo a little more. I bought a mesh-wicking hat for $10. I’ve been wanting one and this was a pretty good deal. That was it though. I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I thought about buying the boys “my dad ran the Disney marathon” shirts but decided they’d get a lot more excited about a toy than a shirt. Finally we left the expo with 3 shirts, 2 race bibs, 1 fuel belt and hat (and a partridge in a pear tree). We then went to Burger King so mom and dad could eat. I got another light snack but not a full meal. Then we turned in the car and came back to the hotel to rest. I tried to nap, but couldn’t fall asleep. But I had a nice 2-3 hours to just rest and get off my feet. It would’ve been nice to get a nap to make up for the lack of sleep I’d get having to get up at 2 the next couple of mornings, but I just accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to get good sleep that day or any day during this trip. It’s inevitable. It’s Disney. It’s Goofy.
We loaded the bus for Downtown Disney around 6PM. We planned to go to Planet Hollywood for dinner. When we got there, we could see a big line. Luckily, it wasn’t too bad and we were seated in about 25 minutes. While waiting to be seated, I got in touch with a couple of runner friends I had met online but never in person. We made plans to meet up later in the weekend. I got lasagna and a fruit smoothie for dinner. The lasagna was these huge pasta shells, deep fried (I know, not very runner-y) and stuffed with meat and cheese. It was sooooo good. The smoothie was pretty good too. I enjoyed visiting Downtown Disney. I hadn’t been there in 5 years and it was nice to be back if only for dinner. We got back to the hotel by 9 and I headed straight for bed. I turned out the light at 9:30 and fell asleep soon thereafter having set 2 alarms from 2:30AM, just in case. At 2:30, the first of my 2 alarms went off. I slowly rolled over and got out of bed obviously groggy and half-asleep. But a hot shower helped wake me up and I got that feeling of nervousness mixed with a lot of excitement as I got dressed. The Goofy was about to begin.
I had planned to meet a couple of Internet running friends at some point during the weekend. I texted back and forth with Gordon (‘This Running Life’ blog) while at dinner the night before and we arranged to meet at the bus stop at 3:20AM. He was staying at Pop also. So after I got a bagel and banana from the food court (it was open!), it was good to finally meet him. I’ve been listening to his podcast for over 2 years now and feel like I know him well through that, but it was good to finally put a face with the voice. He was also meeting another friend that he had met online. So the three of us loaded the bus together and talked along the way. It was nice to have a couple of people to talk to rather than sit in silence. It also helped pass the time and do away with any nervous tension. Although I have to say that I really wasn’t nervous about the ½. It was the full I was more worried about. We walked from the buses to the staging area and chatted some more. At about 4:30, I decided I was going to head toward the corrals since I had heard it would be a 20 minute walk there. It definitely was. It was like herding cattle. Slow moving cattle. At one point while walking toward the corrals, I remember thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m actually here.’ It was really starting to sink in. I’m at Disney, and I’m running the Goofy. I know it’s cheesy, but I was excited. I walked the furthest you could walk to corral A. I got there right around 5AM. I could see the main stage and the guy was leading the crowd in the cha-cha slide and the YMCA dance. Really? At 5AM. YMCA? He was doing it alone. But he was enthusiastic. I gotta give him that. He interviewed Jeff Galloway and the crew from the Today Show joined him as well (Al, Meredith, and Natalie…..no Matt). Then they did something really neat and moving. They linked via satellite to our troops in Iraq. There was a large group there set to run a simultaneous 13.1 mile race. They would start as we did. They even interviewed one of the soldiers and brought his wife and young daughter up on stage there at Disney so they could talk to each other. He was going to run there while his wife ran here. When his daughter said “I love you Daddy”….man!...I’m not at all an emotional guy but I got the lump in my throat. That was moving. Finally, they brought Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald up on stage to start the countdown. I knew what was coming b/c I had seen video of the start before. Fireworks galore when they got to zero. We were off.
We started slow because of the crowd but that was fine with me. I was trying to film and start my phone. Yep, my phone. I forgot my watch. My dad would give me his for the marathon the next day, but I totally forgot mine and didn’t realize it until I was getting dressed for the race. So I kept my time on my cell phone. But that was fine. I wasn’t going for time anyways. The race was good. I felt good the whole time. The crowd support was good and there was a lot to see and look at all along the race. We headed down World Drive toward the Magic Kingdom fairly quickly. Around mile 3, I looked up ahead and saw the giant Epcot ‘ball’. I thought, ‘Spaceship Earth is not supposed to be there’. I was confused for a second until I realized it was a hot air balloon shaped like Epcot’s famous landmark. It was really neat to pass by. I saw many, many characters along the way. I didn’t bring a regular camera, just a video camera so I filmed them but didn’t want to stop to see them. It was dark most of the race so it wouldn’t show up well on my video anyways. I planned to maybe do some more stopping with characters during the full. I texted and called my parents a couple of times to see where they’d be. They finally texted and said they were on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Entering Magic Kingdom around mile 5 or so was the best part. I found my parents quickly and took a couple of pictures. Right when I left them, I headed down Main Street toward the castle. This was my favorite part of the race. So many people. So beautiful. Just an awesome experience and feeling. We turned into Future world and came around the back of the castle. I knew we were going to run through the castle but that was so much fun as well. We came out of the front of the castle and turned toward Splash Mountain. We exited the park somewhere near there and got to see a lot of “behind the scenes” locations. I saw where they store all the parade floats as well as what looked like spare ride parts. We ran back down World Drive back toward Epcot. It was starting to get a little lighter outside but it was still before 7AM. I knew throughout the race that I was running an 8 min./mile average. That was absolutely fine with me. Again, I was not going for time at all. Just a nice solid race. I still had the full to think about. I did pick it up for the last couple of miles. There was a nice downhill approaching mile 12 and it felt great. We went into Epcot behind the bathrooms next to Spaceship Earth. We ran toward the World Showcase but went around a huge Christmas tree before we got there. We ran back toward the entrance to the park, out a special exit and approached the finish. I really did feel pretty good. There was a gospel choir singing which was perfect. I crossed the line filming and smiling. I pulled out my phone and stopped it a little late. It said 1:45 and some change. I don’t know my official time yet while I’m writing this but it’ll be low 1:45 or high 1:44. That’s fine. Not my fastest by any stretch but I still beat 2 hours which was a mini-goal. I went through the chute, got my medal, some food and drink and waited to meet my parents for the bus ride home. It was a good race and one I won’t forget. But I knew I still had a big one coming. We went back to the hotel and I showered. It felt good because I had gotten pretty cold after the race was over. I then got dressed and we went to Epcot for the day. I won’t go into a lot of detail but we had a great day at the park. We rode every single ride once and saw a show or two. We ate great meals at the Mexico and Chinese buildings. We left the park around 7 and headed back. My feet did hurt after the race and walking around the park all day. I probably walked more than I should and worried a little about how it would affect my marathon. I got all my stuff ready for the next day and got in bed around 8:30. I set both alarms again ready for Groundhog Day – an exact replica repeat of the morning activities from the day before. I was so tired but felt ready or at least as ready as I could be. I felt pretty confident I could make it the next day but just wasn’t sure how long it would take or how I would feel. I fell asleep very quickly – shocker – only to wake about two hours later. (WARNING – you might want to skip the next few sentences….I warned you.) So we had decided to eat dinner at Nine Dragons at the Chinese Pavilion at Epcot….yep, you know where this is going….I figured Chinese would be fine. Rice = Carbs. General Tsao’s Chicken = protein. Right? Sure, but even though it tasted good, it didn’t set so good. Oh yeah, I didn’t keep down one grain of rice. All back up. 11PM. 3 times. But after 10 minutes of that feeling (you know what I mean), it was all better. And I went back to bed. Problem – puking obviously dehydrated me. I could tell immediately. Great, another worry for the next day.
Part 2 – Sunday and Monday – to come soon.