Dopey challenge – part 4

Marathon day. The weather was really pretty good – upper 50s to start, overcast for the most part, a bit humid. We got to the staging area with plenty of time, Beth met up with Amanda as they were going to run together, and then we headed to the corrals.

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Derek and I started in our assigned corrals (A and C, respectively), so I had a little bit of a wait alone.  But there’s always someone friendly to talk to in a Disney corral – so I spent some time chatting with a couple standing near me.

I was a little worried how today would feel.  At the start of the half marathon the day before, my legs felt really sluggish and heavy.  I recall it feeling hard to keep up a decent pace.  But today – my legs felt great and I felt like I had tons of energy….and, I started out at a pace that I would regret later! It was really hard to know what pace was the right one, not knowing how much the accumulated miles would affect your legs.

I was just excited to start the day and the final leg.  What’s amazing about this challenge is that you aren’t even halfway finished in terms of miles until you are about 2 miles into the marathon!  That’s intimidating.  The beginning of the full course is an exact duplicate of the half course – so a little boring, but I was having fun.  And then I got to the Magic Kingdom – Main Street! The Castle! Space Mountain! And I ran a little faster…

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After you leave the Magic Kingdom, you head past a couple of resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian) and then into the Richard Petty speedway.  I don’t find this addition all that interesting and it brings with it a really steep, short downhill and uphill to get into the track (on cement) – hard on the legs.  But the sun was just rising at this point and it was beautiful – there were distinct rays of sunshine spreading through the sky.  After the race – both Derek and I mentioned that moment.

Then you leave the speedway by crossing over a grassy median and taking a backroad to Animal Kingdom. On the way there, you pass the sewage treatment plant – always a highlight!  I saw the information signs that they had, but honestly didn’t smell anything that bad. Animal Kingdom is a short visit – I’m told that there were animal keepers out with animals – but I don’t recall seeing any – I think I had started to enter my zone of pain.  I knew I was starting to slow down, but I was still running at a pace that was ahead of the minimum average pace I needed to run to qualify – so I was still ok.

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(yup – I was in Animal Kingdom even though I have almost no memory of it…and a brief cameo by Japanese Minnie’s girl friend in the background!)

Next is the Wide World of Sports and you run a ridiculous number of miles in this complex. Really, how many miles can you fit in there? You do get to run on their track (nice soft surface) and also on the infield of the baseball stadium – where they often announce your name as you go by (I got a shout out!).

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But there are a lot of sharp turns in this part – which my legs were not appreciating.  You can really start to see that I was hurting at this point.  I kept doing math in my head – at this point I think I was thinking -even if you run 9 min/miles from here on out, you’ll still qualify.  Eventually that became, even if you run 10 min/miles…but then at one point I freaked out and worried that I had calculated the time between gun-time and my start time wrong and that all my estimate were off…

You hit mile 20 after the Wide World of Sports – just a 10k from there, right? In the last 10k, you visit Hollywood Studios

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(Looking fatigued but determined…and last views of the Sorcerer’s Hat!)

and then run the Boardwalk area over to Epcot, where you run around World Showcase. Noel was cheering us on right at the exit of Hollywood Studios (he had also been at the Transportation and Ticket Center) and then Gil and Jason were on the Boardwalk – with this guy:

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It was so great to see Gil and Jason, even though I was really hurting.

You head towards the International Gateway entrance to Epcot but take a slight backstage detour to really enter near England.  There are a few “hills” that seem like nothing normally, but feel like mountains at this point in the race.  And then you run around World Showcase for the third time this weekend.  I’ll tell you – that felt like the longest trip ever around World Showcase.

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(Doesn’t quite look like the same happy runner from Main Street…)

After you leave Epcot, there’s a gospel choir and then the finish line – I felt so relieved to be able to stop running!

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Because Derek started in A, and he wasn’t trained, he figured I would pass him at some point. He did so well – that I didn’t pass him until mile 22! Crazy. He ran / walked his way to a sub-4 hr marathon on very little training. I met my goal of BQing for 2016, slower than I wanted, but sufficient! We celebrated with a little champagne and beer as we waited for Beth and Amanda.  I had runner tracking set up for them and could see that they were doing great.

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It was an amazing day.  I do wish I could have run it a bit better, but I’m really proud that I finished the entire Dopey distance and qualified for Boston.

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The volunteers encouraged me to strap on some ice bags – so it looks bad, but my body ended up feeling fine for the most part

2 runs through the castle, 3 trips around World Showcase, 4 races, 6 medals and shirts, 48.6 miles – and we’re Dopey!

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Dopey challenge – part 3

Half marathon day – and we have costumes! We went as Anna (Beth), Elsa (me), Olaf (Derek), and Kristoff (Noel) from the movie Frozen.  The temps were still in the 40s – so still a touch chilly, especially for the waiting part before the race starts.  Derek felt a need to try to imitate my stuffed Olaf with a gaping mouth in several pictures…

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For the half and the full, Disney has a lot more corrals (A-P) – partly because there are more people in these races.  In the last year or so, they’ve changed the structure of the corrals – they used to be all pretty even in size, but now they vary in size – they’ve made the front corrals pretty small which has been great. It used to be that corral A would hold runners ranging from 5 min/mile to 9 min/mile and people were not always great about standing where they “should” in the corral based on their expected pace – so it could take awhile to thin out and weave around. But now – the front corrals are much smaller which spreads people out better by pace.  The downside for me is that I was in C – my first non-A Disney corral (insert sad face here).  But the great thing is that the corrals take off – you can pretty much run your pace from the start line – awesome.  So I really like the new corral system.

Derek still decided to run with me (he was assigned to A) – so Olaf and Elsa ran the half together. Olaf got a lot of love during the race with tons of spectators calling his name (one even chanted his name over and over). Elsa was not recognized nearly as often (hmmm… could be the Asian thing? or probably that my costume was a bit unremarkable). This of course explained to me why Elsa froze everything – she was pissed that Olaf got all the love!

We ran the half at an easy, comfortable pace and had a really nice time.  It’s always nice running through the castle.

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This was my first time running this half marathon course and I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite.  I think they feel the need to have runners go through the Magic Kingdom (which is awesome with Main Street and the castle) – but as a result, there’s a lot of boring running on roads between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.  And the end has some odd hairpin turns – once outside of Epcot on the roads, then one at the entrance to World Showcase.

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Beth and Noel ran together too – so we hung out in the family meet & greet area to wait for them to finish.  It was still a little cold – so I pulled on my pajama pants (I had not packed a lot of pants) and a jacket.  I managed to meet up with Rima – my little sister from my sorority days in college!


This day was really a lot of lounging around – we needed to stay off of our feet in preparation for the big day.


Dopey challenge – part 2

Morning 2 – 10k!

The tough thing about Disney races is the early wake-up call. Start times are always early (5:30am for the 10k, half, and full and 6:15am for the 5k) – and with the crowds, transport to the staging area, corralling, etc. – you’re typically setting that alarm for 2:30 – 3 am. Four mornings in a row! I’m a relatively good early morning person, so for me it just meant trying to get to sleep earlier. For Derek it meant black circles under his eyes in most pictures 🙂 .

For the 10k, the weather warmed somewhat, 40s. We had intended to wear costumes (Mulan and Mushu) but never got our act together – so we ended up wearing outfits “inspired” by Mulan and Mushu.  The staging area looked completely different than the day before – people were actually distributed all throughout (not huddled in tight masses).

We met up with another friend Amanda and the four of us (Beth, Derek, Amanda, and me) would run the 10k together.

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The 10k was another trip around Epcot (yes, we get to run through this park 3 times during the weekend). We were getting quite the tour of the corrals, as we started in B this time!

We took it at a nice easy pace and had such a fun time.

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We even crossed the finish line together with our arms raised (note – this was the only point we ran four across!  Didn’t want to get in trouble for bad runner etiquette!).

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It still felt pretty chilly after the race, especially with slightly wet clothing – so again, we didn’t dawdle in the meet & greet area, but headed right back to get showered and changed.

The rest of the day involved the Magic Kingdom – Space Mountain and lunch at Be Our Guest were highlights.  Then we just kicked back at the resort, had arts & crafts day working on our costumes for the half, and Noel made a great dinner for us.


Dopey challenge – part 1

22 years ago, Disney introduced a marathon. When we did the 5th anniversary WDW marathon, they had a half and a full marathon.  They were held on the same day – the half marathoners simply ran the first half and then peeled off and finished.  At some point – the races got so popular, that they spread them over two days – the half marathon on Saturday and the full on Sunday.  With this – of course crazy people started doing both and unofficially calling it the Goofy.  Disney picked up on this and the Goofy Challenge was born.  2015 is the 10 year anniversary of the official Goofy challenge.

Now marathon weekend is a huge event with four races (and kids races) – a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. The races are held on consecutive days which means that people can do more than one – in fact, they can do all of them. Never shy to pick up on a revenue opportunity – Disney introduced the Dopey Challenge: a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon on four consecutive days.

A couple of years ago, a bunch of our friends (Disney running friends) were talking and everyone started talking about doing the Goofy challenge for the 10th anniversary.  Now, I’ve never really had a desire to do Goofy, but I’m also one to join in a crowd.  Then when Dopey was announced – it seemed like a whole group of us were going to do Dopey together and get the 10th anniversary Goofy medal.

In the end, only three of us signed up – Derek, our friend Beth and me.  The fall ramp up was challenging for all three of us.  I started out injured and then had to nurse it through training.  Beth had a tough illness and really never was able to train fully.  Derek had a great early fall season, but then got injured and couldn’t train.

Because I’d really like to focus fall 2015 on building speed especially for a half marathon, yet I still wanted to qualify for Boston 2016, I had an extra challenge to tackle.  I only have the WDW marathon and Boston itself this year to try and qualify for Boston 2016.  Neither race is well set up for me to go after a marathon PR – I’d be entering the WDW marathon with tired legs because of Dopey and I’d have a shortened training cycle (even assuming no injury) for Boston, and Boston is a tougher course than my PR course.  Luckily for me, I’ve aged up into the 45-49 age group and my needed qualifying time is 3:55, so I could run a good bit below my PR and still qualify comfortably.  As a result, I decided to go after a BQ in the WDW marathon.

The morning of the 5k was cold: 27 degrees after windchill. Everyone was standing in large clumps in the staging area, huddling for warmth. Because of the size of the races, they assign corrals based on expected finish times – for the 5k and 10k, they had 6 corrals (A-F). We’re fortunate enough to be assigned corral A, but we had decided to run the 5k with our friend Gil in corral F. This was a good learning experience. For one thing – runners were finished before we even started! And standing around those extra minutes on a freezing day really tested our friendship 🙂  Second, there are a lot of walkers in the last corral, which made any semblance of running difficult. But we had a great time hanging out in the cold and running around Epcot with Gil, his bff Jason, and Beth.

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Mid-way through the run


At the finish.

We didn’t hang out long after – it was too cold!  We dashed back to the hotel to warm up.


Our mascots for the weekend.

We were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani) on DVC points.  The rest of the day was filled with grocery shopping, a little bit of Hollywood Studios (Toy Story Midway Mania where I beat Derek for the first time maybe ever), dinner at Sanaa (always a favorite), and getting Noel (Beth’s husband) from the airport.

Continuing the celebration

Ok – maybe I’m milking this for too much, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me and I feel so incredibly relieved and proud to have it behind me.

When we arrived home – my good friend Sarah arrived at the same time for a visit!  We spent two days wandering around Albuquerque – it was so much fun to show her my new home.  And we had a bit of wine (yes the giraffe helped me celebrate my BQ):


Then – about a year ago – Pandora introduced a peacock charm.  Which was pretty perfect since my running group calls itself Team Peacock.  But I told myself that I wouldn’t get it until I qualified – and really had something to “peacock” about for!  But – now that the time has come, I realized that I wasn’t 100% certain about the peacock charm.  I hadn’t been wearing that bracelet that much.  But I went to the Pandora store to look at it – and found something that I loved more:  their essence line.  I got a beautiful bracelet with three charms representing faith (amethyst), confidence, and strength (onyx).  I felt that those three sentiments really captured what I needed to see this whole thing through.  It’s my BQ bracelet:


Finally – we already had this planned (so it wasn’t really a celebration) – but Derek and I took our first hot air balloon ride on Saturday!  Another 50 by 50 item knocked off the list!  It was really wonderful – the ride was so smooth and peaceful.  I was amazed at the control they had vertically.  There wasn’t much wind, so when we were trying to land – we couldn’t quite get to the desired landing spot.  Our pilot ended up having to land in a cul-de-sac!  I was a little anxious, but just trusted him as he seemed really in control.  And his landing was amazingly pinpoint.     IMG_1888 IMG_1897 IMG_1901 IMG_1907 IMG_1918  IMG_1921

Look ma! I’m famous!

Ok – hardly famous – but you can catch me in the background of this Grandma’s marathon recap video:

Grandma’s Marathon recap video, hosted by Olympian Carrie Tollefson!

To help – my grand appearance is roughly between 2:32 and 2:42 in the video.  Carrie is interviewing a female runner just past the finish line (who I think was wearing a superman cape).  You can see me in the background (purple shorts, white shirt, white cap) just after I crossed the finish line.  I think I am in a state of happy shock.  It looks like I am walking around dazed and confused.

What’s really funny is that if you had asked me what direction I had walked in after I crossed the finish line – I would have said I walked straight ahead.  Yeah, so this video would say that is just not true – I seem to drift off to the right.  Which corresponds to the picture of me with my medal and carnation – which shows me right near a curb – when I definitely would have said that I was standing in the middle of the road…

I’m going to chalk it up to euphoria 🙂

Holding onto the memory

Ok – so I’ve been distracted this week…

And I find myself wanting to relive Saturday and somehow hold onto the memory of every mile, every minute (which is really pretty darn funny, because I would guess that as I was running the race – I was probably pretty darn happy to forget each mile!).

But – memory doesn’t work that way, especially not mine (sometimes I am like a goldfish – but at least that means that everything is new to me!).  And – the course was a single road, in fog – so a lot of it blends together.  I thought I would just jot down whatever came to mind.

  • The bus ride which, despite the great company, felt way longer than I thought it would – all I could think was, “I really have to run that distance back in?”
  • The two old guys at the start chatting (mostly with each other) but occasionally with me
  • Great volunteers at water stops – so organized, so friendly; often they would call my name out (our names were on our bibs)
  • A few glimpses of the lake and some sounds of lapping water
  • A woman being so excited to talk to her friend (who was spectating but then ran beside her for a short bit) that they kept running sideways and almost took me out.  I actually had to say “please don’t run into me”
  • College kids offering beer on the side of the road (and one runner went to take one)
  • Other college kids holding out a beer funnel
  • Yet other college kids offering tequila shots (which I don’t like on a good day!)
  • Funny signs:  Poop now run later – no wait, run now, poop later
  • One spectator yelling out that a course record had been set 2:09 (which is cool, but also just makes you realize how not fast you are, when you think you are being blazingly fast; and also you realize that, well, other people are already done)
  • Wondering if any of the spectators calling out my name were curlers – because I was so surprised that everyone pronounced my name perfectly (that never happens!)
  • “Speeding” past lots of other runners (mostly guys) in the last mile
  • The super organized volunteers handing out medals – they stood in columns of about five deep; each person had a slew of medals around their arms.  I imagine when the person in front ran out – the next person moved up and the first person went to refill.  Really efficient!
  • The mylar blanket that I really didn’t think I needed at the finish – but was grateful for about 20 minutes later