“I hope we never lose sight of one thing – it was all started by a mouse.” Disney Marathon Weekend 2013
Let me start off this post by saying that this was a total blast!!!
The Lead Up
In early July 2012, I was looking for another half marathon race to complete as I had a goal to do three half marathons in a year. At this point I had completed the Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon and was signed up to do the Army half in September. There were not many half marathon races to choose from that would have been a month away from the completion of the Army half and not wanting to run one in November or December in Canada, I decided to look south of the border. After checking a few sites I happened upon the Disney race site. I remember some of my Running Room friends talking about the Disney Race Weekend and what an incredible time they had so I said what the heck and signed up. Unfortunately, I was not able to run the Army half marathon due to injury and I was scared that I would not be able to run the Disney race. Finally the stars aligned and I was given clearance my doctor and physiotherapist so run on!!
Travel and Hotel
So with registration for the race paid for, now I had to book flights and hotel room. First the flights and that was easy enough. A call to Aeroplan and we were able to get two round trip tickets without any trouble at all. Next task was to book a hotel. My first choice was to stay at one of the Disney Resorts but after looking at the prices, I decided to look elsewhere. My go to site for hotel deals over the last few years has been either Hotwire or Priceline. Given the large zone areas, so many hotels in the areas and wanting to be close to the start line of the race, I looked for other options. I remembered the VRBO site where you can get condos and time shares. There was a large selection to choose from and the prices were certainly right. After narrowing it down to a couple of units, I chose a unit at the Blue Heron Resort. This was a two bedroom unit that also had a bunk bed nook so the unit slept 6 comfortably and the two large balconies were an added bonus. One balcony over looked Lake Bryan and the front balcony looked toward the Disney complex where you could watch the fireworks at 9:00 pm each night. The resort is located near the Disney complex which is important on race day as driving to the race staging area can be an issue with traffic. For my review of the resort visit this link Tripadvisor.
Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo and Race Kit Pick Up
The Expo and Race Kit pick up were located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports which is a multi sport complex that must be rocking when they have sporting events happen. The first stop was to pick up my race kit and I have to say, this was by far the quickest and best organized race kit pick up I have ever gone through. The doors opened at 9:00 a.m and the line up was already long at 8:30. Once the doors open you did not stand still at all, you just kept walking until you got to your race kit station. You sign the form, they check you off the master list and then you are off to verify your race chip and pick up your race shirt. Disney even had packages for people to cheer you on during the race. Now I had my own personal chEAR squad of Renee and her parents. They had their own chEAR Squad kit pick up which consisted of Fleece Picnic Blanket,Mickey clappers,ChEAR Squad t-shirt and wrist bands which gave them access to special seating at the different cheer areas. Disney added an extra special touch by having an encouragement area where people could make posters, buttons or send personal messages to runners. Some of the posters along the run route were very funny and you could not help but to laugh. The Expo had most of the same products as all the other race expos I have attended though there were a lot more companies promoting their products. There were some deals so be sure to do your research prior to purchasing anything to make sure you are getting a deal. This was the only disappointing part of the Disney Race experience as I found the expo area to be too small for all the companies and when you have a large amount of people in there, you could hardly move.
Gearing Up for the Race
The weather leading up to race day was stinking hot so I knew that I had to hydrate well in advance of the race so on the Thursday morning we left Ottawa, I started drinking a lot of water. For the next two days, I drank about 5 litres a day on top of whatever else I was drink. I also started to carb load by having pasta and well some not really so good for you food but what the hell, I was carb loading right. The race starts at 5:30 a.m so that meant getting back to the condo early on Friday afternoon to relax and then to get to bed by 8:00 p.m. The one tip that I have always remembered the great Phil Marsh told me during one of the Running Room clinics was to lay everything out the night before the race, that way you will not worry about forgetting anything. So prior to jumping into bed I laid out everything I needed and what I was going to be wearing. The only new thing that I was going to wear was some compression sock which are great as I find that they really keep my calves from moving too much. I also prepared my food that I was going to eat prior to the race so that was one less thing to do when I got up at 2:30 a.m.
The one thing about doing the Disney Marathon weekend, is that race day comes early, very early. The actual race starts at 5:30 a.m but you have to be at the staging area by 4:00 a.m or you will not get to the corals. This is not really a concern if you are staying at one of the Disney Resort but if you are staying off resort then your day starts really early. I got up at 2:30 a.m, had something light to eat and we were out the door at 3:10 a.m en route to Epcot parking lot. Once outside of the condo, I could not believe how warm it was. When I got in the car I looked at the temperature gauge and it showed 22C, it was going to be a very warm day. The main reason for leaving so early even though we were only 5km from the parking lot is that the road to Epcot is closed at 4:00 a.m and if you are on the wrong side of the close down line, you really have to scramble to get to the staging area in time for the start of the race.
Once to the parking area you are directed to the staging area which is a happening place. The music is pumping, the Disney characters are milling about and the port-a-potties are getting a very good use. At this point there is a lot of standing around as there is limited seating especially with 27,000 runners and family in this area. It is a very good idea to bring a towel or cushion so you can sit on the ground while waiting. With the music going and some people dressed in costumes, it was a party like atmosphere so it was very relaxed unlike the beginning to Ottawa Race Weekend which I am so used to. It is also a good idea to pack a snack or your pre-race meal to eat while waiting to head to the corals. I had my usual of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana along with a cold Powerade which I ate at 4:00 a.m.
At exactly 4:30 a.m it was time to leave the staging area and head over to the coral which is some distance from the staging area and can take about 20 minutes to walk. I used this walk to warm up by doing a light jog, though at this point the temperature was now 25C and with the humidity, it felt like 35C. The walk to the staging area was interesting as it was through an area of the Disney Resort that you would not normally see. On the way to the staging area, there were no storage of port-a-potties, I guess Disney has learned a thing or two over the years of staging this race. Once at the coral area, it was party time again with the music going and Disney Characters having fun. I was in coral A which was just behind the elite runners so right at the front of the very long line of runners. At exactly 5:30, the first of the fireworks to go off to signal the start of the race for the elite runner was very exciting. From this point on, the fireworks would go off every 8 minutes to signal the release of another coral of runners, being behind the elites, we were the next to go.
5:38 a.m the fireworks go off and I am on the move. To say I was excited at this point would be an under statement to say the least. It felt great to be moving as the heat standing in the coral was getting to me. I was feeling very good and my pace was a little quick to start but hey I passed one of the elite runners at about mile 1. Ok, so he was bent over puking up his guts, but still I passed an elite runner!! Being so early, you run the first part of the race in the dark but the course is well-lit and with people all along the route it is never lonely. Just beyond mile one was a high school marching band, banging out some rocking tunes and just beyond that was the first photo location which was Pirates of the Caribbean. I did not stop here for a picture as the line up was very long. As I continued to run, I was feeling very good and managed to keep a good pace but at about mile three, I had to stop at the medical station for some vaseline as I forgot to put on some body glide, d’oh. Once the vaseline was applied, I was good to go again. The half way mark is when you run through Main St USA and Magic Kingdom. This was such a thrill as this was an area where the largest crowds were cheering on everyone. I had to stop at Magic Kingdom to take a few pictures and have my picture taken. It was still very dark by this point so the quality of my pictures were not the greatest. Once through Magic Kingdom, it was time to make the swing back towards the finish line, this is where a funny thing happened to me. I was wearing my Running Room Canada running gear which has the word Canada written across the back. I was just minding my own business running along when I felt someone bang into the back of me. I said sorry and continued on, then I heard the guy that ran into me say, “typical Canadian, I ran into him and he says he is sorry”.
The rest of the course was pretty much the same as the first half of the race with photo stations every mile and lots of entertainment. As the sun came up, it became very hot and the humidity was at 95% so I was glad to see the water stations every couple of miles. At mile 10, it was good to see the food station that Gu had set up. I have had a really hard time with trying to swallow gels or similar products but this time, I lucked out and grabbed a vanilla flavored one. This was the first time that I was able to swallow one without gagging. For the most part, the course is pretty flat, that is until the last couple of miles where you run up some on ramps that make up the entrance to Epcot. Given the heat and the issues that I had with my leg in the last few months, my pace really slowed down at this point but I could see and hear the finish line in the distance. Hearing all the excitement at the finish line gave me that little extra boost of energy to get to the finish line. The last part of the course you are run through the Epcot park so it narrow and it forces you to slow down, but hey take in the sights that’s what this race is all about. As you get to within a 100 yards of the finish line, you hear your name and for me, that made me sprint to the finish. As I crossed the finish line, I jumped in the air and kicked my heels together. What an incredible feeling!!
Once across the finish line I could not believe how good I felt, had it not been for my right leg still lacking strength, I could have gone on for another 13.1 miles. Then came the best part, getting my finishing medal and what a medal it was. Again, this is where the Disney organization skills showed through. With so many people crossing the finish line, the transition area moved quickly from getting your medal, to getting your picture taken, to picking up your after race food and finally to the recovery area. The recovery area was part of what was the staging area go the beginning of the race. The one area that I thought was interesting and that I used was the self medical treatment area. I thought it was pretty cool and a great idea. There were bags of ice, bio freeze gel and sitting areas to apply treatment and relax. The volunteers in this area were unbelievable, no sooner had I put my fat ass on a chair, a volunteer was there checking on me to make sure I was ok. I had grabbed a bag of ice to put on my knee and the volunteer used shrink wrap to secure the ice to my knee so I did not have to hold it in place. I spent a little time in this area before heading over to the party area to meet my chEAR squad.
I took my post race boxed lunched and bananas that Disney gave all the runners to an area where I could sit on the ground. The food in the box was just right for a post race meal with carbohydrates and salts. The post race party/recovery area was electric with the music and everyone sharing stories of how their run went. There were so many great stories of what people went through to complete either their first half marathon or even their very first race ever. Well, the day had to come to an end at some point and once Renee and her parents arrived in the recovery area it was time to leave, only because it was getting to dam hot for me.
The next day, we attended the Disney Marathon Weekend party that is held at Disney Main St west. I was totally surprised by the number of Goofy racers (they complete the half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday) at the party. If I had done the Goofy, I doubt if I would have the energy to attend the party but they were all walking a little funny. This is another fun event to take pictures and socialize with other runners. This capped off an incredible experience that I look forward to doing again.
Speaking of doing it again, well, I have already booked the condo for next year and I have decided to do the Goofy next year! If you enjoy running and want a vacation running experience, then I highly encourage you do the Disney Marathon Weekend, you will not regret it.
My first big race of the year will be the Disney Half Marathon in Orlando Florida on January 12, 2013. Some people go to Disney for the thrill of the rides, I go for the thrill of doing a run! Yes I am strange that way. This is not a race to set a personal best but to have fun and celebrate life with Disney characters along the route, so you know you will have to stop and take a picture or two with some of these characters. I will have a full blog with pictures, video and reviews of the race once I return or if I am able to shortly after the race. On Friday evening, I will be posting information on how to follow me while I run the course through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.
Time to be a kid again!!
As with any training program there are bound to be a few aches and pains, not to mention injuries. Still being a heavier guy, I am putting my body through excess stress and demands. Not long after coming back from cycling Prince Edward Island from tip to tip. I had this sensation in my right calf as if someone was squeezing it very hard. I just figured that this was a muscle strain from biking over 300 km in three days and just put it out of my mind. Then one morning the sensation became pretty intense so I went to see the doctor and from his examination he thought that I could possibly have a blood clot or deep venous thrombosis (DVT). So off I went to get an ultra sound and the scan came back clear, though it did reveal tears in both peroneal tendons and muscle. This was most likely the result of wearing running shoes that were not correct for my feet (I will be writing about this in the near future). It was thought that with time and no running, the tendons and muscle would heal on their own. Well that did not happen so now it was time to visit the physiotherapists to help the healing process.
The image that I had in my mind of what a physiotherapists did was a lot of twisting and moving of various body parts, using heating and cooling or making me do certain exercises. Well I got the doing the certain exercises part right, my physiotherapists Brigitte had something new in store for me, dry needling. When I first heard her speak those words, I will say that it scared the heck out of me and I was a little sceptical. At this point I was willing to try anything and went into the first session with somewhat of an open mind.
I was surprised that the actual procedure itself did not hurt at all and that I could feel the muscle release as mentioned in the video. By the time I left the clinic I had already felt a difference in my calf and thigh. There was no pain or discomfort, yet. About six hours after the procedure, it felt like someone beat on my leg with a baseball bat. I was fully expecting that it would be worse the next morning but I was pleasantly surprise that when I got up and started moving around how great my leg felt. I guess short-term pain for long-term gain. I have had eight sessions of dry needling on my right leg and it is incredible how much better my leg feels in just three short weeks.
As mentioned earlier, I was given a number of exercises to help strengthen my leg and core. These seemed like seven simple exercises that would not take much time nor be much of a workout, boy was I wrong. After doing the first session of these exercises in about 30 minutes, it felt as though I had run a 10K race. The amount of sweat that was coming off of me and that I had trouble completing the full-time range of some of the exercises just goes to show that simple does not mean easy.
I am slowly but surely recovering from my leg issue and I fully expect to be able to run at my normal level prior to the leg issue by mid February, just in time to start doing some longer distances leading up to the 30K Around the Bay race in Hamilton.
So what did you do to bring in the New Year? Well I decided to do a run along with 3000 of my friends on Colonel By Drive next to the Rideau Canal. This was the 28th Annual Brita Resolution Run put on by the Running Room. The Ottawa run from what I understand was the largest in the country with around 3000 participants. The people that took part in the run ranged in age from the very young to the very old (young at heart) and we even had a few four legged runners. This says a lot about the people of Ottawa, to have so many people come out on New Years Eve to do either a 5K or 10K run must make Ottawans the most active running community in Canada. It was so inspiring to see a group of people that have never run a race before cross the finish line and high fiving their friends and family.
If you wrote a goal or made a New Years resolution to get in better shape in 2013 and you plan to do that by running, well then I highly recommend doing a Running Room Clinic. I have taken part in two clinics in the past year and these people know how to do it right. Not only do you get great information and training but the encouragement, moral support and accountability is unmatched in any other fitness program I have ever been involve in. I am not the most fleet of foot when it comes to running but to have people that have completed the Boston or New York Marathon encourage you and treat you as an equal is one of the greatest feelings in the world. The clinics are not just all about running either; there are great friendships made and networking opportunities. In the past year, I have made more friends through the Running Room Clinics than I have in the past 12 years that I have lived in Ottawa and my life is all that more richer because of these friendships.
Disclaimer: I am not an employee nor am I compensated in any way by the Running Room for the recommendation that I am giving.
So as the New Year begins, I want to thank a number of people that have supported me during 2012 to help me get to my fitness goals.
My Running Room friends, instructors and staff:
Jenn Hood, Darren Clark, Phil Marsh, Donna McKibbon, Laura Scott, Elaine Robertson, Heather Wall-MacDonald, Sue MacKey, Greg Bryson, Greg Montgomery, Jenn Dumoulin, Isabelle and Peter Gingrich, Nathalie Lajoie Lauter, and Alain Brule
Royal LePage Gym Gang:
Steve Kotan, Matt Collinge, Marie VanDusen, Karen Salmon, Ian Meissner, Norm Fisher, Kelly Kuntz Carmichael, Saira Waters, Isabel C. Diaz, Nicole Jackson, Phil Soper, Reid Greiner, Ara Yeremian, Donna Dalton, Niki Ioakim, Linda McCutcheon, Reid Greiner, John Hripko, and Tom Lebour
Of course a special shout out goes to the missus, Renee, for all her encouragement and putting up with all my manly stupidity this past year.
2013 is going to be a busy year with a lot of events on my calendar so far:
January 1,2013…. Resolution Run Ottawa…10K
January 12,2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend…. 21.1K Half Marathon
March 16,2013 …St. Patrick’s Day Race Ottawa …10K
March 24,2013…. Around the Bay Race Hamilton.30K
May 26,2013…. Ottawa Race Weekend…21.1KHalf Marathon
September 8,2013…Muskoka 70.3 Ironman (relay)…..Swim Portion
October 28,2013…Miami 70.3 Ironman (Swim,Bike,Run)…70.3 Miles
Also doing the Rideau Lakes Bike Tour on June 8&9 180K each way.
So what is on your calendar? It’s never too late to write a few goals and sign up for a race or other physical activity.