Doubly Dopey

Well, I did it.  AGAIN!  Survived 5 days of early wake-ups, 48.6 race miles and at least that in park miles.  And IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

First, apologies for it taking me a month to write my recap.  LOL  At first its a matter of getting past the zombie stage, then trying to gather those threads of thought and then simply finding time to write.

So here goes…

For those of you who have NO idea what i’m talking about… the Dopey Challenge in running 48.6 miles over four days at Walt Disney World.  Its attending an Expo on Wednesday, then a 5k Thursday, 10k Friday, 1/2 marathon Saturday & full marathon on Sunday.   Because there’s just sooo much to say, i’ll break it down by day.

Expo Day

Maybe it was the smaller number of runners, maybe it was the expo opening 2 hours earlier, but this was the smoothest expo day i’ve had at Disney.  I was able to get my bib with no line (tho I skipped the line for a photo op with the Dopey display they had up:

Then I hit the official merchandise and found everything I wanted, no problem before getting to browse the other race vendors.  Scored some free packs of Jelly Belly sports beans, bought some unicorn compression socks (YES!), a rose gold sparkle visor and then, a wine slushie and a blue beer for my brother.   The whole expos experience was just so…civilized.  And with a stop at ALL the medal-replica signs, we were done.

Then on to the hotel for unpacking, dinner and relaxing.  Because the races were about to start.

5k

Mike & Marty Wazowksi and a 2319 reporting for duty! This was fun. We had A corral, and ended up in about the 3rd wave.  But, the volunteers who were in charge of roping off the waves saw my adorable nephew and said “There you are, i’ve been looking for you.  Come here and hold this.” and handed him the tape.  We started, toes on the start line.  And it was SO cool.  I warned him, when the gun goes off, we’re gonna take off fast and then settle in.  And we did.

We oddly had a lot more room to run than we had before and were able to cruise along.  I high high-fived the guys on stilts as we passed and entered the world showcase.  Where we posed for ALL the photographers we noticed, smiled at other runners and just kept on cruising. Waved to volunteers, danced and sang along to the music. My nephew did an awesome job at keeping up with me.  We passed Spaceship Earth and headed out to the finish chute. Where my nephew, surprised me. He kicked, and kicked hard.  I laughed and took off after him.  I caught him, and we’re not sure who finished first, but we both finished grinning…with my brother right behind us.  That, was awesome!  Even more awesome?  My nephew got a new PR.  By between 3 & 4 minutes.  A 30:44.

Park: Animal Kingdom. Rope dropped flight of passage, rode all the rides, saw all the critters.  Including a private safari trek (OMG SO COOL!).

Dinner: Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – the bread service is to die for!

10k

For the 10k, we were in purple & green (Dopey colors) in shirts I custom made.  Our challenge shirts.  For this race my nephew & I started in A, while my brother started in B.  So we tried to be the last wave of A, and him the front of B.  Again, my handsome nephew made himself a friend in a volunteer and we started on the front line.  Where I interacted with (raised heck with. LOL) the DJ as we waited to start. SO much fun.

We took off a little slower this day, knowing my brother needed to catch us, which he did just at mile 2.  I’d seen him on the other side of one of the turns, so I knew he would. Which was good because apparently my poor nephew had left it all out there in the 5k and struggled.   But people are so great running Disney.  The other runners were all so encouraging of him, telling him he was doing great and trying to help him get out of his head.  No matter how much he struggled tho, he never gave up. And only took one walk break to regroup.   As we went through the world showcase (OMG this is so my favorite part of marathon weekend – the showcase light by torches) and then onto the boardwalk past the cheering crowd, I just smiled and soaked it all in.  I got a little ahead of the guys by the end and let my brother help my nephew.  In the end…my nephew got another 10k PR, a 1:12:16, beating his first one last year by just over 4 minutes.  So proud of this guy!

Park: Hollywood Studios/Epcot. Rope dropped slinky dog, rode all the rides, hugged a wookie.  Then at Epcot – Imagination, Soarin, Test Track, Spaceship Earth and a Gran Marnier slushie.  The basics.

Dinner: Fairytale Dining at Artist Point – Dinner with Dopey!  And snow, grumpy and the evil queen.  Totally worth it.

Half-Marathon

It was just my brother and I for this one. I dressed as Rose Gold Minnie.  And the ears stayed on the whole race.  LOL

We started in corral D and noticed it definitely had less people than prior years.  We had more room to run and HUGE props to Disney for having the first 3 miles much better lit than in prior years.  I carry a mini flashlight for safety (and dark POP’s) and was happy to not need it for the course this year.  We made it to the “under the sea” hill away from any Galloway Groups, then through the gates to main street with no issues.  I also thought Main Street was a lot less crowded.  Tho I spend most of that stretch just staring at the castle all shiny and beautiful.   I love this little section of course – Main Street, Tomorrowland, past Mine Train and then though the castle.  Out beyond the Country Bears, splash mountain and onto the backstage area where the villains always hide.  Even “cone alley” was better this year for pacing.

But once you leave that, its wide open and slightly boring.  LOL Miles 8-11 are a whole lotta highway.  And yikes those onramps.  But the minute you head back into Epcot’s backstage area you know its the home stretch.  The course was a little different this year, and as we came behind The Land (i still have Listen to the Land stuck in my head from hearing it there and again the next day at animal kingdom) I thought it was cool to see something different.

We headed out towards the front of the land and out towards, as the cast member said “The giant golf ball”  LOL  Past the Gospel Choir and toward the finish. I high-fived a pair of chipmunks and crossed the line. 🙂

Park: Magic Kingdom

Dinner: Maria & Enzos – loved it. Great sangria, great pasta

 

Marathon

It gets a little harder each day hearing that 3am alarm. But there’s something about knowing its the last day to hear it that helps you drag yourself out of bed and into a costume.  I think by Sunday i’m almost on remote…and on the monorail before my brain realized what I was doing.  LOL

Just like during the half, the roads were well lit and the crowd definitely thinner than prior years. We had room to run and when my brother had technical difficulties with his music we had no fear of being trampled trying to fix it.  It was right around here that I saw a man in a Run for Rett Syndrome t-shirt.  I smiled and told him that i’ve run for Rett too – three times and that my friend continues to do so.  He told me he pushes a girl in Alabama.  I told him he was awesome and wished him luck today.  🙂

We made it through the TTC, and on to the Magic Kingdom, cruising up main street.  I just can’t help but stare at the castle the whole time.  Its SO pretty and I treat each race as if “what if this the last time I get to run this” to make sure I soak it all in.

Past the characters – I always look to see who it is, and yet never stop.  I think i’m afraid to lose momentum by stopping so early and yet later in the race am usually too tired to want to stop – and out to the backstage Villains area.  Then on to cone alley.  Cone Alley is the worst spot of the course – its so narrow and crowded and often boring, but I still laugh thinking about the year the truck got stuck.

Once you’re out the road opens wide past Grand Floridian and Polynesian.  Where family  was sleeping – and even knowing full well they were definitely sleeping, I still looked as we went by….just in case. Then past the golf course the road turns to head to Animal Kingdom.  This road can get boring – but by now i’d found a pack of dwarves (only 4 – tho they had great excuses as to the missing ones) who were only too happy to have fun with this snow white.  In fact for the next few miles we played tag – passing each other – and always with a fun comment.  “That house better be clean when we get home” “Doc’s in the med tent, and we didn’t even bother asking Grumpy to run”  (Guys – if you read this – thanks for that. Ya gotta have fun during a marathon.)

My favorite character stop ever – was there outside Animal Kingdom.  I got to pet a goat. Yay!  And in animal kingdom I almost stopped for a character photo with Timon.  And just didn’t.  I did however carry a banana for almost a mile just to get a good banana phone picture (sorry – can’t talk, running a marathon)

The first half of the marathon my brother & I always do much better than the second half.  We usually run 99% of the first 14-15 miles and then ‘survive’ the second half.  It becomes a run walk strategy – first run as long as we can, then walk, then alternating 1/2 miles, or 1/4 miles or ‘run to the med tent/water table’ and then walk a bit.  Plus by now it was getting sunny and a little warmer.  Which, combined with fatigue, makes it a little tougher.   And the road from Animal Kingdom to the Wide World of Sports is a section we refer to as the “Highway to Hell” because there’s not much to see and you know that WWOS is just torture.

But in we headed and did our best.  And when we got to the track I asked my brother if he wanted to run.  He looked at me like I had three heads and replied No.  I grinned and said “Meet you at Goofy” and took off like a shot.  Full sprinted around the track and got in line for my first even character photo.  YAY!  Got the pic, turned around and there was my brother.  Perfect timing.  🙂

And I did it again – upon spying Joy & Sadness (OMG LOVE THEM) outside the baseball stadium I sent my brother ahead and said i’d catch up.  Short line, quick photo, and I sprinted into the stadium.  Around the warning track, past my brother (cuz if you can’t tease family, who can you tease) and to the mile 20 sign.

I LOVE that sign.  because it means you are almost done with WWOS and there’s just a 10k to go.  I feel like at that point if I have to walk the whole rest of it, so be it.  I will finish.  From there is just a short hop and a couple of med tents to Hollywood Studios.  Well and one hill.  And ugly hill with a green army man yelling at you.  As bad as that hill feels in that moment, I shimmy up that sucker.  And when we hit the next med tent and my brother stopped for biofreeze I spied a can of coke on the table. And asked if they had any.  I could have kissed the volunteer who handed me an ice cold can.  Because in that moment it was exactly what I needed.  Walking along, drinking coke and singing “Sweet Caroline” was an awesome moment.  I left my can just outside Hollywood and in we went.

I scored a cool Mickey Mouse sticker from a young spectator and tissues from a couple others.  Got compliments on my outfit and some pictures.  Hollywood goes SO fast and we were out before we knew it.  Along the water towards Epcot.  So close…and yet still so far. But this section along the water? Its Candy Row! Just lined with spectators who know that sugar and chocolate the last two miles of a marathon can make a difference.  I loved the woman yelling “who wants to take candy from a stranger” and did – thanks for the swedish fish!

We FINALLY made it into Epcot and saw the 25 mile sign. I looked at my brother and said, shall we run? He goes NOW? I said, yeah, why? And he goes “we’re in france”  Oops – slushee time! Expect….the sucker was still closed. 😦 So instead he said “why don’t you go fetch us sangrias”  hahaha  And I did.

I ran strong through the world showcase, waving to cast members and spectators, singing along to ‘how far i’ll go’ and on to Mexico.  OMG that was SO much fun.  I hopped in the short line for sangria where the cast member promised to get me through there quickly and when I got them, turned to see my brother standing at the fence.  Again, great timing and we didn’t lose the 10 minutes we did last year.

These sangrias are amazing… And I will happily walk that 1/2 mile stretch of the race drinking it.  Because by now, time doesn’t matter.  Having an awesome fun-filled experience with my littlest brother does. Its moments like that that keep me going back to the race.

We finished them right before we hit the finish chute and tossed them in a trash can.  Smiled and took off to the finish.  Past pluto and across the line.  I threw my arms up in victory and crossed SO happy. (hmmmm maybe that was the sangria talking. LOL)

We finished nearly 10 minutes faster than last year – and still got sangria as well as two photo stops.  I say we aced this year. 🙂  Let see how much more we can fit in next year!  (No, i’m still not riding everest mid-race.  But maybe this time I will stop for Timon.)

No matter what tho – we will be back next year.  Me and my perfectly Dopey brother.  Because….I mean LOOK at this medal!WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARAMEDALBACKDROP5_20190113_8306814426.jpg

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Becoming Ultra…

Its not easy becoming ultra. It takes endurance, strength (both mental and physical) and oh, just over 8 laps of Lake Quannapowitt.  (Nearly 10 to reach 50k status) 🙂

July 25, 2015 is now one of my top favorite days EVER. Seriously…

There was not a single thing wrong with “ultra day” and sooooo many right. 

I’ve started and deleted this blog three times, because when you have a great story to tell you want to do it justice. And i’m still not sure I can, but i’ll try. 

When I signed up for the 12-hour option of the Ultra Around The Lake over the winter, I knew I was gambling with the weather. An ultra in July? I had to be crazy. 

I got lucky…i had trained in heat, and that morning was a gorgeous, partly-cloudy, 60-something degree morning. Predicted high of 73.  

I had nerves early in the week leading up to it. I also did not run in the week leading up to it. Only crosstraining. 

But two days before, when i finished my last training session, a calm came over me and the nerves left. Just the sense of knowing the work was over and soon the fun would begin. And as my sole sister said, I would “sparkle and smile every mile.”

The day before the race I got all my gear together. Everything I could potentially need for running in circles for hours.  Extra clothes, safety pins, bandaids, sunscreen, sunglasses, extra hat, glide, hair ties, etc. And food. Snacks and gels and heed and tailwind. 

And race morning, with the car packed with a tent, chairs, and enough to fuel a small country for a week, my hunny drove me to Wakefield. 

Check-in was easy. I got my stuff and headed to setup. Just outside of the tent village, and right along the route. 

The magic of a small race is that there is lots of room to spread out. 🙂  We set up and waited for my sole sister, who was going to “sherpa” for me for the day.  And when she showed up I had “edge of tears” moment number one. Because my girl got me balloons. Purple (super)star balloons. And the coolest ultra race sign ever. 🙂

  
I had some time to telax and eat (plain bread, which somehow tasted amazingly delicious) before the brief walk to the start.  My and 48 of my soon to be new best friends for the next several hours.  

The start line was, as the race director stated, very “high-tech”. A freshly drawn chalk line. 🙂 Lori and Kevin watched me start the “add-on loop” (designed so loop 8 will end as a marathon split) and then waved and cheered as i passed the tent on the first full 5k loop. 

  
Loop 1 words of wisdom – Start slow and taper off. 🙂

I ended loop 1 (at a decent and easy pace), jogged to the tent, kissed Kevin, and continued on. 

Loops 2-4? Pretty much all the same. Hit the 2nd mile marker, think “look kids, big ben, parliament”, laugh, and keep going. In between laps was a quick stop at the tent for fuel (either gel or heed) and chatting with other runners on the way. Making sure to encourage the 24-hour runners, some of whom really looked like they needed it. (Side note – as someone who hadn’t planned to do even the full 12 hours this year, I cannot imagine the amazing that it takes to go 24 hours. Aaron, dude, you are a rockstar!)

Lap 5 things got a little tougher. We’ll call this the “wall” lap.  I was at about 14.5 miles in and wanting a walk-break. I willed myself to mile 15 and then walked 1/4 mile while drinking. And then simply slowed my run pace and finished the lap. 

And now…the run/walk strategy began. Walking the first mile to eat & drink and then slowly running the rest of the loop. 

And lap 6? Felt amazing. Way better than lap 5.  And lap 7? Great too. 

Lap 8 was the marathon lap. I checked in with Lori, told her to let me finish the marathon alone, and then join me in ultra-land. 

And again, the run/walk strategy. And I crossed the marathon split in 5:01:25. 

Gotta say I’m quite pleased with that. Its faster than Disney and two of my Bostons. And I wasn’t even trying for a marathon time. 🙂

So I hit the tent, and there was Lori. With a 50k sticker. My goal. A visual reminder. That in less than two laps i’d be there. So we walked a mile, and ran the rest. And this loop, when I spotted the 50k mark drawn in the road, I pointed at it and said “next lap, you’re mine”. 🙂

As we approached the start/finish Lori ran ahead to fetch me fruit snacks (I faithfully consumed something every lap!) and I grabbed more water from the aid table. 

We walked the first mile and ran to the marker. And took pictures. And I bent down, kissed my fingers, and touched the sign. There, was “edge of tears” moment 2. 

  
Now, i treated myself to a littke extra walking. Grabbed a water and then walked to mile marker 2. By the pretty blue house. And then started running. And looked at Lori, mystified, when my watch beeped mile 32. I said “i just did 32 miles. How am i still running?” She replied “because you’re ultra girl” 

When I hit the mat at the end of the loop, I knew I wanted to walk one more. To cool down and take pictures and just soak it all in. I texted Kevin that i was almost done and to head up. 

And much to my delight and surprise, when I rounded the corner, there he was with Gus! (Edge of tears moment 3).  I petted my dog, gave Kevin a kiss, and went to take my victory lap. 

And at the end, I approached my tent with a “honey i’m home!”  Which amused some of my fellow runners, and settled in with my medal, a beer and a smile. 

  
 My total? 11 laps for officially (35.7) or garmin (36.2) miles. (I count garmin!)

  

So amazing…and i’m already looking forward to next year. See ya at the lake!