Saturday, January 12, 2008

Disney World Half Marathon 2008

Its hard to believe, but I think the last time I ran before the Half was on New Years day! We had a hockey tournament last weekend, and then I played hockey Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, so there was no time (or energy) for a run!

The Disney Half was quite an experience. We registered at the All Star Sports complex yesterday, which was an impressive basketball arena -- not a hockey rink converted to one. Tons of volunteers -- and lots of lines, but generally things moved quickly. There were something like 16,000 runners registered for the half (although just over 12,000 actually finished) and there were similar numbers for the full marathon. That's a lot of people to process!

We prepared everything last night so that we would have to spend minimal time getting ready. We wanted to get up, get into our gear and warm-up clothes, grab our stuff and head out the door.

Even still, the alarm went at 3:00 am (although I slept for a few more minutes) and we were on a bus to the start at Epcot by 3:45. Karen was her normal chipper self -- but Jenny and Tori were also chipper which was nice since neither are 'morning people'. I think everyone was excited.

The number of buses was impressive -- lined up around the huge parking lot at Epcot. Too many to count. Thousands of people were streaming into the staging areas. By now it was about 4:15 am.

They had a band playing in a band shell so we found a hunk of tarmac and tried to choke down some bagels, chocolate, etc. An announcer directed people to the bag drop-off tent just before 5:00 am and after going through the tent, we were in another courtyard lined with port-a-johns, which got a healthy workout. Again, long lines but they moved quickly.

At about 5:30, we were directed to walk out to the starting line which must have been pretty close to a mile. I'm sure it took about 15 minutes to get there. We had been allocated into different corrals with the faster runners in corral A, and slower runners (progressively) into corrals B through F. I was in A and the girls were in corral D so we all did our hugs and best wishes as the girls stopped off at their corral. It was very well organized -- particularly considering the huge volume of bodies. If you want a means of managing the movement of people, leave it to Disney!

After chatting with a few runners in my corral who were looking to break 2 hours, I moved up to about 1/3 of the way back from the start. That worked out well since there were few people passing me or that I was passing, again, considering the volume of people in the race. Certainly it was no worse for congestion than any other race in which I've been.

I wasn't sure what to expect for topology or heat before arriving at Disney, and both conspired against me to ensure I wasn't going to attempt a personal best. I think it was the humidity that was the nail in the coffin for a PB. By the end of the first mile I was already sweating and could feel myself labouring with my breathing. Still I managed to knock off the first mile in about 8:06 so I set my goal at completing the race in marathon pace (8:00/mile).

The next miles came steadily -- but I'd forgotten to figure out where the backlight is for my GPS, so I had to wait until I was directly underneath street lamps to try to make out my pace. And even then, I could only see the 'instant' pace, which isn't generally accurate. Anyhow, I managed to knock of the next four miles at between a 7:48 and 7:59 pace. Overall, the 5K track put me at 24:50 or 4:58/k which equates to 7:57 per mile. The 10k split (roughly 6 miles) had me at 49:36 -- again at 4:58/k (7:57/mile). Talk about consistency!

Through miles 6 to 10, I was starting to labour a bit more. My times ranged from 8:05/mile to 8:10 per mile. So by the time I was done 10 miles (roughly 16k) I was a bit behind the pace I wanted. The 15k split had me at 1:14:43 or about 7:59/mile. With 3.1 miles to go, I was slipping.

Things didn't get any better -- now thanks to the topology. Miles 11 and 12 were at 8:12 and 8:18, mostly due to the interchanges that we were going over on the way back to Epcot. But in the last full mile, I dug deep and pushed with all of my might. I knocked off a 7:47 last full mile winding through Epcot, and then turned it up a notch higher even going into the last 0.1 mile to finish at 1:45:04 for the entire race -- 8:00:31 per mile! Double that finish time and I'm going to Boston!

But the real story wasn't my race -- it was that of my girls. Tori finished in 2:24:49 (with her pace bunny, Jenny, close behind) and Karen in 2:49:17 -- and both with smiles on their faces (eventually)! They both had lots of stories to tell -- photos of Disney characters they passed, running through the castle at the Magic Kingdom, the sprint at the finish -- and were quite pleased with finishing their first half marathon. Jenny and I are pleased and proud as well!

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