As you hear so often in Disney ‘What a Magical Day’.
Matt was not too happy to be getting up again at 3:30 to make the 4:00 bus over to race setup, but he was at least able to grunt answers to my questions. We pinned our number to our sweatshirts, attached the timing tape to our shoes and headed out into the 28 degree morning by 3:55.
It was very quiet at the bus stop with everyone kind of keeping to themselves or having hushed conversations with their groups of people. The bus itself was standing room only and I was in the very back so I had kind of a surreal view. With all the people standing in the dark with both arms out stretched holding on, it looked like a long row of gymnasts suspended in the iron cross position.
The walk to the prerace area had a quiet tenseness as well. There was an MC in the distance trying to pump up the crowd with a thumping beat, but all I heard was the swishing of track pants, Mylar blankets and trash bags. I really enjoyed the quiet walk to the corrals as it gave me time to mentally prepare although Matt said it was like a death march. Quiet, dark, heads down, slow footsteps and the swishing sounds.
For those non runners, we sometimes bring a large trash bag along to fit over our body as protection from the cold. You can discard it right before the race and not feel bad about dropping a piece of clothing that you will never see again. We prefer to go to the thrift store and get an old 60 cent sweatshirt which has a bit more warmth than the plastic bag provides. For those who do drop their clothing, Disney picks it up, washes it and donates it to local groups for distribution to the needy.
We started right on time at 5:40, with the blue group (fast people) and the first wave of the red group starting at the same time on opposite sides of the highway median. We started out with the 5 hour pace group and were doing well for the first 5 miles, at which time both Matt’s quads locked up and that set the tone for the rest of the race. As much as he wanted to keep up with the group he could not do it. The competitive bastard in me wanted to push him to continue, but the dad in me did not want him to suffer through the next 6 plus hours. I estimated the time by timing our next mile at his max walking/running/shuffling pace and came up with about a 13-14 minute mile.
To be honest, this took all the pressure off me and made it an easy day except for a few nagging issues. Let me retract that. There is nothing easy about a marathon and calling it that would cheapen the work so many of those participants put in in order to be there.
The nagging issues were two fold, one expected and one unexpected. The expected one was a hip issue that occurs when I fast walk as opposed to running. My running gate is smooth and my feet hit the ground under my body for a comfortable stride. When I fast walk my legs come more around from the outside in on each stride and I can feel it in my his more, which after 20 plus miles makes them sore.
The second issue was cold related. Blisters. Blisters in the cold? You bet. When you feet don’t warm up and expand, your shoes are too loose, they rub and you get some huge blisters, in my case on both heels. One popped at mile 20 and the other at mile 25. I have never had that issue before so I was not ready for the shock of pain when each one exploded. the problem is that nice cushion of fluid is now gone and you are rubbing the raw skin against your shoe.
My advice for the cold weather, bring an extra pair of thin socks in case you feet don’t expand enough and stop at the med tents if you feel a blister coming on. Although the other problem was the blister prevention pads that they had were frozen together at some of the med tents so you have to stop a a few tents to find ones you could use. Bring your own if you are worried.
Matt kept telling me to go on ahead, that he was holding me back and I kept saying no, it’s OK I want to help you finish. He did not realize when you get that fatigued it can be tough to estimate your true pace without a timing watch.
I swear by my trusty Garmin 305 and will treat myself to the 310X once I compete in my first Triathlon.
I wanted him to see that I was trying to help him along and not just being a drill sergeant so every few miles I would let him take the lead and walk just off his shoulder so he set the pace. I would then give him the pace time so he could see we were moving slower than he thought. At that point we would pick up the pace again to where I though he could manage and still finish.
If this was any other race, he may have had an even harder time, but the wonderful thing about the Disney race is all the activity to help keep your mind off the pain. Now don’t get discouraged. Is it painful? You bet. But is it worth it? Without a doubt. There are few feelings like crossing that finish line, still on your feet, and it was especially great to do it had in hand with my son.
I don’t have that picture yet but I will post it as soon as I get it from ASI (the company that does all the Disney Marathon photos). In the mean time, this is one of us back at the hotel, all smiles and wearing our Mickey bling.
A special thanks to my parents who came down to see two of their generations finish this experience together. Also, many thanks to all the families who were lining the course cheering for the participants that they did not even know. I had so many people congratulate me in the parks, in the elevator on the bus and anywhere I had me medal on. It is a tradition to wear your medal to the parks following your run, although you can usually tell the runners in the parks the next day. They are the ones who are walking like they are 90 years old or getting off the bus in a side step. Thanks to all the volunteers as well. It took a lot of people to pull that off and I thank you all.
That was a day I will never ever forget.