Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disney Marathon Recap (Part II)

If you haven't read the first half of this recap you can catch up HERE.
-Warning: This is going to be long-

Never in my life have I run such a long distance wearing SO much clothing. As Harrison and I leave behind the organized chaos that was the start line we attempt to find our agreed upon pace. This is not an easy task because of several factors. First, we're surrounded by thousands of other runners... slower runners and it's dark and below freezing with many hazards such as discarded clothing and plastic bags spread across the course. Second, I'm wearing so much clothing that it's hard to judge how fast I'm running compared to normal Florida running (aka wearing the least amount of clothing possible). And third, my feet aren't exactly warm, but more like numb stumps making it even more difficult to run. As we approach Mile 1 there is a clock with red numbers for an ungodly amount of lapsed time since the official start of the race. I did manage to remember to start my watch as we crossed the start line so I could have an idea of my chip time, but I didn't feel like pulling back all the layers of clothing to find the damn thing. Some quick rough math and I figured we were running an 11-minute pace. "Good effing God we're going slow," I think to myself. Then I see Harrison checking his watch out of the corner of my eye. He starts to mumble something. Reading his mind, I say "it's alright, we'll speed up as we warm up," or at least I think I'm saying something to that affect. In reality I really haven't a clue of how this fiasco is going to turn out.

Not much later Harrison tells me to hold up for a second as he very quickly stretches is calves since he did not get a chance to do it back before the race started. I take a second and look around. We're on a 4-lane highway that has been closed down for the race. There's nothing but forest around us and many runners are climbing down the road shoulder to piss in the woods. I get a chuckle thinking about how this is probably the one event out of the year where thousands of people will get away with pissing and occasionally taking a dump out in the open all across 40-square miles of Disney World property. I'm also reminded that I haven't pooped in two freaking days despite eating an insane amount of food and wonder if this will become an issue! Soon we're running again and as we approach mile 3 we see the leaders running by on the other side of the road. From what I can tell one of the Brazilians is out front with two runners pretty much drafting him and a fourth runner a few hundred feet behind. They must have already run through Epcot, back out through the parking lot and onto the highway again toward the Magic Kingdom. No telling how far ahead they are, but one thing is for sure; they are making us look like we are standing still as they disappear into the dark pulling away and heading the same direction as us but on different section of the course.

The first aid station arrives and I ask Harrison, "You good?" He yells back, "I'm good," and we blast through not taking any water. This may have been a mistake. Then we're in Epcot and the course narrows causing a huge bottleneck of runners making it nearly impossible to pass any of the slower paced runners we seem
to be stuck with (this bottle-necking occurred more times than I could keep track of off and on for the entire race). Harrison told me prior to the race that he has never been to Disney World. Knowing this I decided to tell him a little bit of the limited knowledge I have from dozens of trips I have made to the theme parks. I make a joke about the big golf ball looking thing. I explain all the countries that surround the lake and how terrible the hangover from "drinking around the world" can be at Epcot. I point out the Living Seas Aquarium and tell him about how I once got to go scuba diving for free inside it while on a date. Harrison is silent.

This is my first realization that something is going on; something is not right. The previous long run Harrison and I did together that went so well for both of us was full of conversation. I wonder if he is overwhelmed by everything happening? I wonder if something is going wrong with him? I wonder if he's just freezing balls like I am?

We approach another aid station as we're leaving Epcot. I look over at Harrison and say "next time we're here it'll be mile 25." We both turn down the Powerade
and take a cup of water. To our surprise we get more than water. My cup is like a 7-Eleven Slurpee and Harrison's cup is solid ice. The cups of water are freezing faster than they can give them out. Bet Disney didn't see that one coming. What's even more messed up is the inevitably spilled water is freezing on the pavement forming a fine layer of ice to run across. I almost can't believe I'm in Florida! At later aid stations, for lack of better supplies, volunteers throw beach sand on top of the ice making the ice under the sand even harder to see and avoid. Ironically, the "aid stations," quickly become the most dangerous part of the race!

At Mile 4 we're back near the starting area and there is a huge crowd of spectators lining the course. Cowbells, whistles, clapper devices, screaming and yelling fills the darkness. I'm aware that this is one of the points that the Girlfriend and D, who were attempting to meet up with Morgan (Caution:Redhead Running) and Spike (Running Spike), were planning to cheer us on so I start scanning the crowd. Everyone is so covered up trying to stay warm that I start to think I might not even be able to recognize them. Just as we're about to go through a gate ending the free spectator area I hear my name being yelled out by a voice from the past. A voice of an old friend that I'll always recognize the timbre.... it's Morgan! I turn around in the direction of the voice, but can't see her 5'1" tall frame amongst the crowd. However I do see my Girlfriend and also Spike. We've already passed them and are moving along so quick there's no way to go back and say anything with so many people right behind me. Seeing them and knowing they're all there brings a smile to my face.

The next few miles are uneventful. We pass a chip sensor at mile 5 and I f
eel my phone buzz from the automatic text message update alert and a DJ announcer guy calls out my name completely wrong. My first name is NOT Steven! This is the second race this has happened. In the Halafthon they said I was from New Port Ritchey, which is completely wrong. At least I know my D-tag is working after starting on the wrong course. The first hints of sunlight start to show up on the horizon and now I start to notice the "freakers" in this race. At least five Jack Sparrows are running within a mile front and back of us. One guy wearing all blue and a U.S. Coast Guard sweater has his entire face painted blue and even is using a blue latex cap to cover his hair. At first I think he is one of the famous "Blue Man Group" guys, but then realize that's a Universal Studios thing, not Disney. I'm baffled at all the women I see carrying stuffed animal Disney characters. I shouldn't talk since I'm carrying my own gear,* but unless the stuffed animal is super warm a giant hand warmer I don't see the motivation to carry it 26.2 miles. The best example is a very large woman. She doesn't look like she should physically be able to run a marathon so props to her for going for it, but seriously? She is holding a human sized stuffed Goofy character. With the giant stuffed animal and being so large she is causing some serious issues with people trying to get around her! Then there are the novelty T-shirts saying all kinds of funny quotes. My award for the best one of the race goes to the girl I saw with the shirt that read "I will not remember any of this."

In my mind I had this ideal image of the sunrise and its brilliant orange, red and pink rays of light streaking across the sky with one of several classic Disney landmarks in the foreground. It would be a great picture I told myself. In real life the only thing I wanted was the sunshine. When the sunrise finally arrives we happen t
o be passing a gas station of all things. Beautiful....

Somewhere around Mile 8 Harrison asks to stop again. His calves are cramping up so he starts to stretch them again. Knowing that sometimes stretching along with massaging helps leg cramps I offer that advice. He starts massaging them himself and I decide to help. We probably look like quite the couple on the side of the road as hundreds of runners pass. His calves feel as hard as concrete. It freaks me out to the point that I say "holy shit" aloud. It's as if he is flexing them on purpose a
s hard as he can. I feel my own calf muscles and they feel like mash potatoes compared to his cramping calves! He doesn't say for sure if they are any better or not, but after a few minutes of walking we start running again. After Mile 9 we come to an aid station and I decide to take a Gu. Thank God for Vanilla Bean Gu, my new favorite Gu ever! This will be a treat!

First, I have to unzip my pocket. This turns out to be an advanced skill. I'm wearing two pairs of gloves and it's now that I realize I can't feel any of my fingers
. My left pocket will not unzip. It's just not happening so I switch to the right pocket and SUCCESS! I reach in, grab the first thing I feel and pull out a Vanilla Bean Gu... SUCCESS. Next, I attempt to rip it open... FAIL. By now we've reached the water tables and I'm forced to take a water if I don't want to stop moving forward. This creates a new problem of trying to open this damn Gu and also not spill my half frozen cup of water. Finally, I get pissed off and bite the living hell out of the Gu and thus having it splooge out half on my glove, some on my face and the rest in my mouth... SUCCESS! You must always take great joy in overcoming even the smallest accomplishments when overcoming adversity!

As we pass the Contemporary Resort I can't remember if this is where our friends were going to try and see us again or if it was the near the halfway point. There are quite a few people cheering us on, but I don't see anyone I know. Soon after, we enter the Magic Kingdom and the crowd is huge, the biggest yet, and I feel a little anxiety start to overcome me simply because I can't feel any of my fingers and it seems to be getting worse. I start to worry about hypothermia, or just the fact that my body might be concentrating blood circulation in my core. This makes me angry. I hate being cold! I tuck my hands under my sweatshirt and under my arms. It's not that I hear that family timbre calling my name again. I look to the crowd and this time spot them better than last time. Slightly confused because I didn't expect to see anyone within the Magic Kingdom** I see before me Morgan, Spike and Beth (Discom-BOB-ulated Running). By this point Harrison and I have a little joke going on about an old Saturday Night Live skit involving Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken and a band where Ferrell is playing the cowbell in the studio. We've already yelled out "More Cowbell" to quite a few spectators and I yell back at Morgan, "more cowbell," but I can't tell they can't hear me so I just wave like a fool as I run past. I'm really just stoked they are all here to support all their friends and me! Then I try and yell back, "I can't feel my fingers," and "where are the others?" Why I felt the need to say this is beyond me? Then I realize that 1.) they can't hear me and 2.) they can't even tell I'm saying anything because my lips are covered up with my neoprene "ninja mask." Feeling like an idiot I wave goodbye, turn and start the run toward Cinderella's Castle. It's funny the things you say, do and think while running a marathon. I remember thinking after this incident about how that was the first time I've ever seen Discom-BOB-ulated in real life and how she seemed taller than what I thought from reading her blog.

The rest of the Magic Kingdom is uneventful. It looks exactly the same as it did when I was 5-years-old. I tell Harrison about a few things about the park, but he's being awfully quite. The only thing that shocks me is that the Thunder Mountain ride looked a lot larger when I was a child. We exit the park and are back on the highway. Harrison has to stop a few more times because of severe muscle cramping. I'm
starting to feel really bad for him. I can see the frustration in his face and hear it in his voice. It's almost a confusion of "why did this happen to me this time, but not other times?" Just before an aid station I hear someone say, "is that Sylvan? Hey Sylvan!" I turn around and find Jessica and Julie, two sisters that were high school friends and we all played together in high school band (Go Cuda Band!). I knew they were running the race in honor of the mother and raising money for a charity, but I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hook up with them as I didn't have a phone number. Out of 24,000 runners we just happened to run into each other. Amazing! What's more amazing is I haven't seen them since high school. We stopped after the aid station and had Harrison take a few pictures of us, but then parted ways as we were all running different paces.

Near the halfway point I spotted the Girlfriend and D outside the Grand Floridian resort cheering for us! I waved and yelled to Harrison to let him know they were there. Disney kept them back about 20-unnecessary-feet from the course (a little frustrating if you want to go say hi to a loved one). I felt bad that they were out in the cold, but it really helped knowing they were out there for us. T
he best news after this point is when I started to regain feeling in my fingers. The sunshine got stronger and helped warm me up as I was in mostly black clothing. The worst news is the longest few miles of the race were ahead of us.

The next 8 or 9 miles pretty much the hardest. Before and after the Animal Kingdom were long stretches of highway. Disney does a great job of trying to keep it interesting considering what they are working with, but when you take away the random cast members and other oddities it's just a bland roadway and a few insanely large parking lots. At one point we run past a waste water treatment plant. Disn
ey tried to create a distraction by having two large hot air balloons right in front of the plant, but that didn't stop the smell of sewage from catching our attention. Somewhere off in the distance I hear another runner singing "Oooooh that smell... can't you smell that smell..." from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "That Smell." At another point I look over at the ditch along side the road. It's full of water. About 3-or 4-feet deep. There's a thin layer of ice frozen over the top of it. I almost trip over the slower runner in front of me as I can't believe what I'm seeing. Never in my life in FLORIDA have I seen any body of water even remotely come close to freezing! We made it through the Animal Kingdom without being eating by any lions. In fact, we did not see one animal. There were a lot of bottlenecks again and right after leaving the park at Mile 18, Harrison experienced the worst cramping yet.

I ponder my options as he stretches on the curb. For the first time I consider leaving him behind and going it alone. He is now cramping in his quads... NO BUENO. I figure that since the problem is obviously cramps we don't need to be worried about injury. If they are cramps they should be able to be stretched, massaged and worked out with time. They are severe enough that he can't push through the cramping without stopping and walking or stretching. The many transitions
from running to walking is starting to take its toll on me. At our current pace we should be able to walk faster, which is another problem; for whatever reason I'm now experiencing minor pain in my ankles when I walk, but not run. Our original plan was to take 1 or 2 minute walk breaks every 15-minutes of running, but currently we're taking so many walk breaks because of cramping that I've lost count. I'm feeling really strong. I'm no longer cold and I'm not fatigued at all. Other than the first few miles when I had more clothing on, I haven't even sweated at all. There's 8.2 miles left in this race and I feel like I could run the rest of it without stopping at an easy 9-minute pace. Then I consider that my entire reason for running with Harrison and taking walking breaks is to finish the race without provoking further injury to my Achilles tendon and while my physical endurance can easily finish this race quickly, my Achilles may not hold up. I remember the Girlfriend's words, "run to race another race."

For the first time, I pull out my cell phone from my newly purchased Spi Belt and shoot a text message to Girlfriend saying "@ 18 w/ Harrison. He is having severe leg cramps. I am going to stay with him."

Decision made. Harrison got me into this marathon business 7 or 8 months ago... screw the finish time. That's not the goal anyways of "Plan Whatever!" Through hell or high water we're going to finish this race together!

Miles 18 to 20 seem to be absolute hell for Harrison. Our running pace slows to the point that a speedwalker could pass us and we have to stop time after time to stretch and massage. He turns down the free Biofreeze at a medic tent, but I finally convince him to take some Tylenol at the next medical tent. I tell him that it can't hurt to at least try it and I even pop one of the two pills they hand me as we w
alk up. Honestly, my feet are starting to ache a little from going from walk to run and back so much. Inside the tent there are about a dozen very healthy and fast looking runners wrapped up in multiple Mylar blankets. Each one of them owns a spaced out expression on their faces. Most of their complexions are ghost white and hypothermic looking. As we walk away I turn to Harrison and say, "dude, it could always be worse," and for the first time of the entire race I get a laugh out of him.

When we arrive at Mile 20 they are playing Van Helen's "Jump" over the loud speakers. Right when the song gets to the "jump" I leap up in the
air next to Harrison and yell "jump." I'm feeling really good. This is further than I've ever run on a long run and I'm a little hungry, but for the most part I'm fine. The cold is no longer bothering me. I'm not sweating. I decide to ditch my sweater, eat a banana and take another Gu. Only a 10k to go! Totally cake!

Sometime after Mile 20 Harrison and I come up with a plan; attempt to
run for 4 minutes no matter what before walking again. He makes it 7 minutes! Woohoo! We're rebounding from those two terrible miles. We walk a few minutes and attempt to go 7 minutes again. He makes it and now we're at the entrance to MGM (or Hollywood Studios or whatever it is called these days) and guess what? They have candy. Sweet and Sour Gummy Worms to be exact. I grab the biggest handful I can get out of the box and devour them like a starving African (however, for the record I am not even close to feeling like a Kenyan despite all the motivational signs Disney put up). Let me just tell you these were the best damn gummy worm candy I've ever had my entire life!

About halfway through MGM Harrison needs to stop again. I now notice that Harrison can walk faster than I can walk. Walking fast simply hurts. I haven't a clue why, but I'd rather walk slow or run so I let him walk ahead of me. A couple minutes later he turns around from 40 feet ahead and we give each other the nod and start running again. I have no problem catching up, it's just the speed walking that hurts. Next thing I know... poor crowd control on Disney's part... a mob of stroller pushing mothers breaks rank and we almost run right into a freaking stroller! Disney did such a great job of keeping the non-paying spectators on the outside
of the parks at a ridiculous safe distance, but I just almost got run over by a stroller pushed by an angry mother that is having her sub-freezing day at Disney World being hampered by a random marathon. Miles 23 through 26.2 are not the places to have crowd control issues.

We make it out of MGM alive and then encounter the boardwalk around a lake and the Yacht Club, Beach Club and Swan & Dolphin Resorts. I love running on boardwalks. They give a little and are easy on the legs. However, I do not love running into a headwind with a wind chill factor in the 20s after I've thrown away all my warm clothes for the last two miles of a marathon! Harrison and I hump our w
ay through it and eventually emerge into the back part of Epcot. They are giving out chocolate. I grab a ton of it again like I'm a starving African and begin stuffing my face. After the race Jessica told me that by the time the reached this spot Disney had run out of chocolate and the only evidence were thousands of Hershey's chocolate wrappers laying on the ground. I think I would have killed myself... or just gone into one of the nearby "countries" and started drinking heavily.

At Mile 25 I heard that family timbre again and just as she had promised, Morgan and Spike were waiting to cheer us on and I was able to stop for a quick picture with the Redhead (who is hardcore for spectating in this freezing madness). I asked if we were the last of the group to come through and they said they haven't seen Melissa (I don't Need Excuses) yet. Upon looking at the times, she must have been right behind us. It's too bad we didn't get to see each other and if I had know she was so close behind I would have stayed to cheer her in like the Daytona Half Marathon.

The finish line is now in site. I spot the Girlfriend and D in the crowd, wave for a picture and then Harrison and I cross the finish line, arms raised high in the air, both at the same time and continue into the chute. I grab a Mylar blanket, which I throw away almost just as fast as getting it (it was super annoying and a pain in the arse to keep wrapped around me with all the wind), and then approach the guy giving out the medals. I have this thing about race medals. I don't like to wear them. I don't know why... I just don't like to wear them. I extend my hand out, but he won't hand it over.
Instead he makes me this very Tall surfer-guy-turned-runner bend down so he can place it around my neck. At first, I'm like "what the eff, give me my metal!" But, once I bend down, get the medal and take a look at it I leave it around my neck. For once, I'll wear this medal for a bit.

We pass through the food tent and I grab a bunch of food; basically a little of every thing I see. We cross out into the "Family Reunion Area" and I hear the Girlfriend's voice yelling my name. She runs over to give me a hug and I pick her up off the ground. She hesitates with concern about me picking her up, but then realizes I'm fine and multiple kisses follow. Yup, it was great, I'm not going to lie.

Dees arrives just in time to catch us leaving and since it's windy and we've all had way too much cold for one day we agree on getting the hell out of Dodge. Next destination? Panera Bread, where I eat the hell out of a chicken sandwich, huge chocolate chip cookie and drink a sugary soft drink (I was craving sugar for some reason). Before making the trip back to New Smyrna Beach we hang out for a while at Dees house. I inspect my feet. No blisters and all toenails accounted for and best of all? My Achilles tendon appears to be normal with no swelling!***

Here are a few interesting stats I looked up:

Registered Runners - 24,000
Runners Finished - 16,883 (no word on how many crossed that start line)
Harrison and My chip time - 5:53:35 (I could care less, but I feel we would have been about an hour faster without the cramping)
My Calorie burn according to MapMyRun - 3,010

Food consumed within 24 hours of finishing the Disney Marathon (excluding Panera Bread):
-Two large pizzas from Dominos (night after and lunch the next day)
-1 protein shake
-Chicken Parmesan flat bread sandwich
-Large bag of cashews
-Countless glasses of water
-1 Rockstar energy drink
-Half carton of Orange Juice
-Box of raisins
-Ham, egg and cheese bagel from Bagel World.
-1 Cliff Builder's protein bar
-White wine sauce over Salmon and pasta with peppers, mushrooms & scallions
-Large bag of almonds
-3 girl scout cookies
-5 of my roommate's tater tots stolen directly off his plate
-Several glasses of cranberry juice

And yes... I did finally poop, but not until after countless "silent" farts during the race and a few loud ones and not until well after the race was over THANK GOD! So in the greatest sense of humor I can confidently say I ran the coldest damn Disney Marathon in history while being constipated with a cramping friend while the best friends ever were there to support me, run with me and provide MORE COWBELL all in a SUCCESSFUL effort to finish my first marathon!

Plan Whatever... a SUCCESS.

And on a side note:
I really thought I was unprepared for this race. I wonder if I would have even showed up if I didn't have my wonderful support network of friends? One of my blog readers, who seriously needs to start her own blog already and stop being only a reader, wrote me today with the following as part of her email:
I did the non-traditional race this year and decided to:

A) run no more than 6 miles to prep
B) carb-load with wine in the days before the marathon
C) party hard w/Jello Shots until 12:30 in the morning at a friend's surprise party the night before the marathon
D) party so hard that I forgot to eat a pre-marathon dinner
D) pray to God that I wouldn't die during the run

However, this is a terrible approach and I would never do it again.

I laughed out loud so hard when I read that and I must say that while she has a great since of humor, she did have ligament excuses for not being able to prepare. However, she did finish and it's nice to know that someone else out there was even more unprepared than myself and still managed to have some fun because that's what running is all about! She also called me out on my serious lack of finishing up this recap as a few other have as well. I'm sorry it took me so long and as one of you put it, my legs might be sore, but not my fingers. I've been bombarded with work this week, plus I had company fly in from Puerto Rico for a few days. So here it is... the recap and I hope you enjoyed it! Now I have a lot of reading to catch up on as I haven't had a chance to read any other blogs yet.

*Yes, I ran 27+ freaking miles in 27 freaking degree weather carrying an Olympus Stylus SW freeze proof camera the entire way!
** Disney requires spectators to buy normal park admission tickets if they want to watch from within a park... I think.
*** The day after the marathon I noticed a good amount of swelling in the right ankle, which is the opposite foot from the Achilles tendon injury. It's not painful, but it is significant and I'm treating it with R.I.C.E. I believe whatever is going on here is what was prohibiting me from walking fast toward the later part of the race, probably just from pounding pavement for so dang long. I really feel like it was a 6 hour hike, not a run.


  1. Way to finish and stick with your friend! Bummer about him cramping next one will be better I hope! Congrats on the GF! This recap cracked me up! Once again good job!

  2. WOW! Ya'll had quite the journey!!!

    I so did not know that you were trying to talk to us at the Magic Kingdom! LOL! That ninja mask was too efficient for its own good! I'm so glad you hear me yelling though! :)

    I was seriously so happy I was able to see you as many times as I did, even if you didn't see me at the 4 mile, at least you heard me! And nothing will ever top you actually skipping towards us at mile 25! You crack me up! You did a great job making the best of it and I'm glad you want to run on to another race! Great job Sylvan! Congrats!

    P.S. Although I really didn't need to know about it... I am glad you were finally able to poop. :)

  3. Wow, that is quite a race!
    I laughed so hard at the GU biting scene. Nom nom!

  4. I have been *waiting* for this recap Part II and my damn RSS feed never alerted me! So, now I have three posts to catch up on!!

    I laughed through your post, because it sounds like Harrison and I would have been good as the running wounded together. His horrible cramping made me remember (how quickly we forget!) that the outside of my left foot was cramped for the first 10 miles! I didn't bother to stretch it. I figured that it would either kill me and I'd break one of the billion bones in my foot or it would eventually relinquish. I won that battle.

    I also laughed at the Gu story. Dear God, getting gels open was a feat that day! And, no one could understand half of what I was saying because I was so cold that I was slurring my words. Hi, hypothermia. Nice to meet you. Cup of ice? Oh, thanks. Don't mind if I do.

    I actually passed on the chocolate for that heavenly box of raisins. I'm so glad that I did. :-D Oh, and I looked for you but never saw you, either.

    Til the next race, marathoner!!