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Entries in wdw_marathon (8)


WDW Marathon Weekend 2014

I know, this is a long overdue report. What can I say? I've been trying to pour all my words into a certain long document that I need to write, and this has got lost in the meantime. Here now though! Warning, this might get a little long...

Walt Disney World don't just do a marathon in January. They make it an entire 4 days of events. It all starts with the Pluto family 5k on the Thursday, then there's the brand shiny new Minnie 10k on the Friday, the Donald half on the Saturday and the Mickey full on the Sunday. They even do certain "Challenges" - the Goofy Challenge is the long-standing half and full double, and this year for the first time they had an official Dopey Challenge - all four races. (There has been an unofficial Dopey challenge previously, before the 10k was introduced, but this year it went official.) I don't think that if you're in good enough shape to do a half and a full that adding a 5k and 10k beforehand will hurt that much if you run them easy, which is not to belittle their efforts at all. Y'see, all four of the adult races start at 5:30am. This means being in corral by 5 at the very latest, which basically means 3am wake up calls four days in a row. 

Bearing that in mind, we weren't doing the Dopey. However, our involvment in the weekend did start with the 10k in a supporting role. Pat lives near my parents in Kissimmee and has done so much in various ways to help when we go over there (thanks Pat!). She was running the inaugural Minnie 10k as her first ever 10k. We saw her just before the finish, and my ever-trusty photographer (thanks Clarkie!) snapped her in her Belle shirt! 


Pat only started running a couple of years ago, and although she claims she only walks she did 10k in 1:34. That is shifting for a walker. She was a little disappointed to not break 90 minutes but for a first ever attempt that's pretty close. 

Saturday was the first of our 3am wake up calls, with Clarkie doing the Donald half. Clearly since she was running I had to take the photographs - so they are rubbish and there aren't many! Still, I did take one halfway decent one of the fireworks at the start.


That was 5:30am. I was wearing jeans, tshirt and a thin jumper and I was plenty warm enough standing still. It was 100% humidity and 21C. It was so far removed from anything we'd been training in. By the time she finished (which I was too busy cheering for and didn't get a picture of) poor Clarkie looked like she'd run through a shower. The time is a long way off what she was hoping for and had run in training at 2:43:43, but that time really doesn't tell the whole story. 

Next day was my turn, and if it had been the same conditions I would have been stuffed. My training times had me finishing in about 4:05. I was hopeful of 4:30, but really desperately wanted sub-5. Fortunately there had been thunderstorms overnight, so for me it was still 100% humidity but only 17C when I started. Unfortunately, I screwed up right from the start. I struggled to get some food in at that time of the morning, but managed. The problem was the water. I was hydrated, but felt thirsty, but didn't want to queue for the loos. I drank a bit more on the way to the corral, decided I couldn't possibly need the loo again, and headed straight into my corral. Big mistake. I still had plenty of time at that point and really should have just drunk a bit more and queued. By the time my corral started, I was seriously considering heading for the bushes!

Still, we got underway, and I started out very comfortably. Too comfortably, actually. I got to 0.8 miles (first drinks station), checked my watch and saw 11:32 for the first mile. I haven't run a mile that slowly in... oh... I don't even know how long. So I picked the pace up a little. Got to three miles and the first toilets and had to stop. So it ended up taking slightly over 33 minutes for the first three miles. At that point I decided to let my hopes of a properly fast time go and just enjoy as much of it as I could, so when I saw Clarkie at 4 miles (ish), I was able to tell her not to worry - I know sitting in the stands and watching the splits be less than you'd hoped is hell! 

So I relaxed into it as best I could. My splits were 5m 55:38, 10m in 1:45:54, 13.1 in 2:19:40, 20m 3:41:17. That half speed is way down on my training runs. Over 20 minutes down. 10 miles I can normally comfortably do in around 1:30 or slightly under even as part of a much longer run. And that 5 mile split is just crazy, given that I'd done a 40 minute 5 mile just before Christmas. Still, I kept going. And I kept drinking at all the stations. At 12 miles I had a banana and that gave me a stitch for the next mile so I stopped taking the food - although I had my bags of raisins (my preferred race fuel!) and kept munching them. I sort of got to 19 miles before I really noticed, but after that it got hard. All I wanted to do was put my head down somewhere and nap! Even the bins were looking like potential rest stops. I started drinking the Powerade as well as the water to try and wake up.

By 24 miles I was sloshing, but my body was still after more liquid. It was the strangest feeling. I kept trying to fool my body by taking the water in my mouth and spitting it back out, but no good. By now I knew my sub-5 was pretty much gone, let alone any of my other goals. 

Somewhere around 24.5 miles I heard someone shout Ellie. It woke me up - I only had Eleanor on my bib and the writing hadn't really been big enough for people to read. It was Pat! And my parents! That gave me a bit of a lift, and I managed to break back into a run again. I managed to run the uphills (ha! small rises I wouldn't even notice normally) into Epcot, but had to have a little walk around the back. Then ran again from the United Kingdom past 25 the miles and into France, past Japan, US and Germany before I had to have a bit of a walk past Norway. The official photos show I managed to run past Mexico. (Um. See this map for this bit to make sense.) I walked a bit more towards the fountain, but ran under the ball past the gospel choir out back. Another little walk before finally running the finish. 


My personal race photographer struck again. The sunglasses are hiding a few tears - the thought of finishing at all was pretty emotional! I finished in 5:05:08. So I only narrowly missed out on my sub-5 goal, took 1 hour 5 minutes off my last effort at this particular race, and managed a 53 minute personal best at the marathon distance, and was disappointed.  

After three and a bit weeks of letting it sink in, I am not so disappointed. I am not a morning person so the 3am wake up calls two days in a row probably had an effect, let alone the difference in conditions. I am a significantly stronger running thanks to the training I did than I ever expected to be - nearly strong enough to do a marathon, and I've already run three. I stayed well from the start of October to the end of January, which is a first. And I have some very pretty bling and a rather nice race shirt to show for it. 

Medals in Epcot

I use Fetcheveryone to log all of my running, and Fetch allows you to see who else has entered the same races as you. Only six of us Fetchies entered the WDW marathon, and so far only five have entered a time. I am currently the fastest finisher, in spite of having the worst pb prior to the race. This suggests to me that it really wasn't good conditions for Brits! So, I guess if I really want to see what I'm capable of, I need to enter a UK marathon. I swore that one would be my last. Immediately after the race, I wanted to do another. Right now? I'm not sure. The itch is still there, but the training is not so much fun. I'll wait a bit and see.

(Oh, and Clarkie has more photos of the entire thing here!)


Half way there

Last weekend I completed the 8th week of my 16 week plan. I skipped most of the fourth week, which was a bit of a cut back week and I had a bit of a cold. Other than that I've managed to get a lot of the miles done. I am discovering that I loathe intervals, so I may decide to swap them out for hill running (which in fairness I'm also not fond of) for the rest of the training plan.

Maybe. I keep believing maybe next time will be the time it clicks, but it hasn't happened yet and they are mostly just leaving me demoralised. 

I don't really want to comment on how well it's going. It was the end of November when everything fell apart last time, and although I know brain-wise that saying things about it can't possibly have any effect, heart-wise I just don't want to tempt fate. But that in itself tells you it's going pretty well so I may just as well get on with it. I did a 16.8 mile run in 2 hours 35 two Saturday's ago, and the big 10 mile tempo run was last Thursday, and I did it in 1 hour 24. If I can get through the next eight weeks without picking up a cold or bug of some description - which I think would be a record of some kind for me - I am in with a shout of a decent marathon run. 

My 'flu jab is booked for Wednesday. If you have a cold, you'll have to excuse me backing away with my hankerchief over my face. 

Clarkie's training for the half marathon has also ramped up, as she's determined not to run out of steam after 10 miles or so on this one. So for now our household activities seem to be reduced mainly to eating (lots), sleeping, working, running and washing (us and our clothes). It could be worse. 


Marathon training, take 3

It has begun. My third and (please let it be so) final attempt on the marathon. 

This time I am following a training plan that appears, at least, to match the kind of running I've been doing over the summer. It consists of three runs per week (plus two sessions of cross training - or, as I like to call it, cycling to work), so I know I can fit that in. I found it on Runner's World. Basically you run an interval session, a tempo run and a long run per week, at paces calculated off your best recent 10k. For me, that was 8:19 min/mile pace - I won't list out all the other paces calculated off that, but my long runs should be around 9:20 - 9:35. 

I'm through two weeks now, and have surprised myself by struggling to go slow enough. My long runs of 10.5 and 12 miles have both come in around 9:10 pace. That might be helped by the first two miles being downhill it does seem that my trot pace is somewhere between 9:05 and 9:20. If I can keep that going I will be over the moon. 

The only snag is that it's cold season, and yesterday and today I have been feeling a little coldy. That is a fact of life at this time of year in the UK, even with the good weather we've had. I don't see any way around it - it's just not practical to lock both of us in the house and have some weird plague-style system for the Ocado delivery man. It may have been slightly fool-hardy to agree to teach first year undergraduates this term, but needs must. As ever, I have my best current cold-fighting plans in place:

  • Liberal use of the various medicines at my disposal. So my nasal spray that I used to think was only for hayfever? Now any time my sinuses feel bad, I'm using that stuff. I'll keep taking my anti-histamine all year round. My asthma inhaler seems to be helping my general cold resistance anyway, and I'll be taking decongestants as soon as I feel a hint of congestion.
  • Vitamin C and zinc tablets. Yeah, I know the vitamin C has had very mixed results in experiments, but Boots make a zinc and vit C tablet and it doesn't seem to do any harm. It's the zinc that's been shown to speed the time to kick the cold, and at the hint of feeling unwell I'm doubling my dose. It's still well under overdose levels, so I just take a tablet in the morning and one in the evening, rather than just one in the morning. 
  • I'm also going to be using my neti pot twice a day as often as I can. If nothing else at least it keeps the snot moving. If things start to go bad I'm going to be adding honey to the mix - yes, honey. The research is not comprehensive, I'm not using expensive honey, but I will say that having had a couple of nasty lumpy sinus infections (yum) when I started adding honey to the neti pot was when the lumps went away. Even if it's a placebo effect I will take it! 
  • I'm going to drink a lot of water/green tea. Although not as much as in the summer - it had a rather unpleasant side-effect when mixed with a high-fibre breakfast.
  • I will be napping and sleeping as long as I can, as often as I can. Saturday was a prime example. I was a teensy bit hung over after a lab social, and Clarkie very kindly let me have an extra hour sleeping in the morning. I then did my 12 miles, came home, ate, and fell asleep for another half hour before we went out. 
  • Where necessary, I will try and at least do an easy run, even if I don't feel up to the full scheduled work out. Some miles are better than no miles. 
I'm fighting to stay well. I'm faster than I've ever been. I'm in better shape with a better base running mileage than I've ever had going into marathon training. I am desperately hoping for sub 5 hours, and there's a hint of a suggestion of maybe getting under 4:30 at my current pace - but there are so many stages where this whole thing can go wrong, I'm just going to take it as it comes and see what I can do. Fingers crossed!


Ah well

The marathon came, the marathon went. I ran a grand total of 11 miles in December, due to the chest infection that required antibiotics, then recovering from the antibiotics (amoxicillin rash is not cool), then picking up another sniffle that promptly closed my lungs right up again. I did 6 of those 11 miles in Florida, and I was quite seriously worried about starting the marathon. My lungs just weren't working with me. Fortunately the marathon was another week and a half away at that point, so I dedicated myself to attempting to eat more food than I would normally see in a month (a slight exaggeration, but not much), soaking up the Disney vibe and generally healing as best I could. My support crew was in a much worse state than me and distracted everyone from noticing that I wasn't entirely well either!

Starting a race at 6am is no picnic. We stayed in a Disney hotel to make transport as painless as possible, but still got up at 3am, to catch a bus by 3.30, to be standing in my corral by around 5. It got colder between 5 and 6, down around 10 degrees Celsius. That hour before dawn is not just the darkest. Then we stood and waited while the sponsor talked at us (normal), the race organiser talked at us (normal), and the national anthem was sung (not normal for the UK, apparently normal for the US). And then they started letting the waves go. That bit was awesome. Each wave went at around 3 minute intervals, and each wave got fireworks.


The first 4 miles were along to Epcot and through future world then back to the start. The lake was steaming gently, all the lights were on. It was beautiful. I remember thinking "next time I'm here I'm nearly done", but it was just a lovely thing. I spotted Clarkie at the 4 mile mark, so I (slightly prematurely as it turned out) gave her my thermal. I felt pretty good after 4 miles.

4 miles

From there it was along more service roads to the Magic Kingdom. I got a bit cold on that section. I was sweaty, but my legs felt cold and I started to feel a little less happy. Clarkie took the monorail across to Magic Kingdom and saw me at 9 miles. Then she had to go and checkout of the hotel and stuff, so that was the last time I saw her before the finish. 

9 miles

After Magic Kingdom comes a loooooong stretch of service roads before you reach Animal Kingdom. We went past the halfway mark on that stretch, and I was feeling ok. Starting to struggle, but I'd warmed up. I was slower than on a good day at the halfway mark, but I was still on track for my PB. I was quite jealous of the relay runners though. (Disney were doing a new thing this year, the Chip and Dale relay where two runners each do 13.1 miles. The first leg get their own finish and everything. I think it sounds brilliant, personally. Just have to persuade a certain someone to run it with me!)

Disney had done their best to liven up the dull bits. There were characters, boards with random facts on, cast members cheering... And really, it was a run through green trees and on flat terrain, so it wasn't too bad. It was warming up but not hot yet, almost perfect. Trouble was I got through 15 miles in slightly over 3 hours (well down on normal) and my legs and feet and brain stopped coordinating really well. After that it was pretty much a battle the whole way. My PB dreams went out of the window, and it became totally about finishing by any means I could. Which meant a lot of walking. 

I can tell you that the pavement in Animal Kingdom is quite textured. The park was open by the time I got there, and I saw people stop running to go on the Everest ride. More people meant more cheering, and that was definitely welcome. Having our names on the race number meant loads of people shouted for you directly, and that was such a boost. I'm not sure spectators really appreciate the difference they make to the average runners. They really do. Should you ever find yourself spectating, take something to make some noise with! Clapping hurts after a while...

The section between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios was my personal hell. We were out on some of the main roads in Disney at this point, in direct sun, on overpasses with no shade, with one lane still open to cars. The car drivers were miserable and seemed intent on ignoring the running. No horn beeping, no windows down and cheering, nothing. Just the exhausts making it worse. (Coincidentally, this was between around 19-23 miles. Never good. So my report may be coloured by that.) A high point was 'Sweet Caroline' coming on over the speakers, and a load of the runners started singing along! 

Hollywood Studios to the end was much more pleasant. We went along the edge of water back through the Beach Club resort and into Epcot World Showcase around the back of the United Kingdom (I know that means nothing unless you've been there, but this is for my memory as much as anything else), and it was so nice to get away from the cars and back amongst people. I saw my parents at the Christmas tree where World Showcase meets Futureworld (around 25.5 miles), and nearly started crying and gave them my sweaty camelbak. Another runner there cajouled me into running for a bit more - I wasn't sure my legs were on the right way round by this point - and the finish was a lovely, lovely sight. 

Goofy high five at the finish

In the end my chip timing didn't work (no record of my start), and I forgot to turn off my watch at the finish (other things on my mind). But it was around 6 hours 9 minutes, or 10 minutes slower than my already incredibly slow PB. I am happy that I did the best preparation my body could do, and the best on the day that I could, but I'd have given an awful lot to not get that chest infection. 

The thing that really made this marathon for me was all the people. The cast members who were out in the dark at 6am to cheer us on, all the other runners, the volunteers who ran all the food and water stops, the people who were sweeping up the cups after us and the spectators were all awesome. The atmosphere was fantastic. Every waterstop, runners were thanking the volunteers for being there, and they were telling us back to keep going because we were doing fine (even when we patently weren't!). 

(Very little makes me as emotional as long distance running, so forgive me if I'm gushing.)

The other thing that makes this marathon unique is the day after. I was ok - very stiff, some chafe marks, a couple of tiny blisters - so we went into Epcot mid-afternoon. I'd been told I had to wear my medal and tshirt, which felt a lot like showing off for this Brit, but I did it. I am so glad I did. There were lots of medals at the park. We congratulated each other, with nods and smiles, and other people congratulated us too. Half marathon, full marathon, Chip and Dale or Goofy (half on the Saturday, full on the Sunday) didn't matter. It was really special. Clarkie said it was like I'd joined some cult club. 

Ellie with her medal by the Epcot Christmas tree

I am really glad I did it. It helped me put my London result in perspective, and was an amazing experience in it's own right. I feel like a runner now, like I've worked that into my life rather than just training for the one thing. A very slow runner, but that's ok. Would I do it again? One day. I'll finish the PhD first, and work on my half-marathon time. But one day I'll do another.


Walt Disney 2012 marathon map

The rest of Clarkie's photos of the day



Well, ok, that might be a little strong. In terms of my running it's been a bit disasterous, but actually it's just a cold. 

Yep, after feeling so positive in my last blog post, I managed a 2 mile treadmill run on Monday, then half an hour on the recumbant bike on Tuesday (no treadmills free!), then Tuesday night I started feeling horrible. Spent most of Wednesday asleep, other than when I woke up hungry, and have been more or less out of it since. I'm just getting to the stage where I feel mostly human again - I managed a day in the office yesterday, but didn't really achieve much. This morning I've woken up with no voice and a nice cough, so we'll see what tomorrow brings. 

I mean, I say disaster, but really last week was supposed to be a light week. Not THAT light maybe, but still. And I had another two long runs planned, so one of them will just have to bite the dust for me to recover this week. Hopefully I'll get a couple of shortish runs in by the end of this week - 3-6 miles maybe - then next week will be back on track for a 20 miler. After that my taper is supposed to start (eek! Getting really close!). 

I knew I couldn't stay healthy for September all the way to January. I'm just glad I got as much of my training plan done as I have. There's no point giving myself a hard time over this either, there's nothing I can do about it that I'm not already doing (lemsip, sleeping lots, staying warm, good food...) and stressing will just make it worse. So fingers crossed this is just giving my legs time to recover, and I'll be back up and running soon as.