Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Dopey Challenge: Wait, WHAT? We have to run a marathon??

Part five of our Dopey Challenge Experience: The Final Chapter 

Yes, we are all Dopey.
Just like that it was marathon day.

I stepped outside first thing to determine how many extra layers we would need to stay warm and came back in with this: "you guys. this isn't good."
It was, by 10+ degrees the warmest morning we had encountered. And thick with humidity.

Thinking that the conditions certainly could change we bundled up as we had in the previous days and, well stocked with snacks headed to the now familiar bus. We had a much less scary driver on this particular day. Our Half Marathon bus driver was filled with rage and a desire to terrify all of us. (he was fairly successful and I guarantee that he terrified several motorists who he just about pushed off the road. Be AGGRESSIVE!)

Waiting (5 seconds) for the BUS!!
Whatever had been the issue with the previous days security line had been resolved and we flew thru bag/belt check. The whole process was so damn fast that we were in our corral very close to the front by 4:30.

There were still loads of people though. And I like snapchat.
It was, as previously noted, considerably warmer than the previous days and quickly we were down to race apparel. All of us were trying to get some hydration pre race so this led to a few bathroom breaks before the start. A good way to pass the hours....

See the lack of clothing? Warm.
(note: for the half and full bring your own drinks. there was a concession stand in the initial staging area selling bagels, coffee, and water but nothing after that. oddly, for the 5k and 10k there were a few hydration stations set up and easily accessible. none of us could find such a thing for the longer distance races within reach of the corrals.)

There was some GOOD NEWS. There was only a 3 minute hold for most of the corrals- spacing to a 4 minute hold for the final few. Such a great feeling for all of us who were dreading the 10 minute hold we had been warned about. I'm not sure if this is a case of Disney changing things or a case of "don't believe what bus strangers tell you" but either way- PHEW.

The whole gang, about to start!
And then. We were off. All of us appreciated the fact that Andy's fitbit recorded that as we moved up towards the start his heart rate increased 10 bpm per corral. He was basically tachycardic by the time we reached the start, which I appreciated since nothing is scarier that the start of a marathon.

The first 6 miles were a carbon copy of the half. A few notable exceptions were the undeniable fact that I was soaked, dripping sweat after the first mile. Also, due to the pre race hydration plan I had to stop and pee behind a tree around mile 5 (the lines for the porta potties needed a fast-pass so, no thanks...)
While people genuinely had quality race etiquette throughout the full, it was slow going.
My legs were a bit heavy from the previous days, the air was like glue and nobody was moving quickly.
Similar to the previous day, traffic slowed down one notch more around the Contemporary and throughout the Magic Kingdom. I give kudos to whoever decided to divert traffic into two lanes after running through the castle but there wasn't an option to do much more than slow run throughout the whole MK.

OMG such FOCUS. Just looking at the traffic ahead actually.
I was not entirely shocked to find that the 10k split had me running over a 10 minute mile. (WELL over. like a solid 10:21) Between the crowds, a pit stop and (already) about 5 very slight pauses to grab water/powerade this seemed reasonable. Not ideal, but reasonable.

Heading out of the MK traffic opened up a bit since the roads did. Around mile 8.5 we started on a different route, one that was not visually stimulating but did allow for a bit more progression.
(I need to be brutally honest- I was running off the road again and working hard to get around the other runners doing the same. all this effort only allowed me a barely sub 10 pace. not normal!)

I knew, with the humidity that I would be ill advised to pass up any water stop. I think that I walked briefly through 18 hydration stations, picking up 2 cups of powerade at most of them. I ran through another 4 or so- and I don't believe I would have finished healthy had I not done so!

Just before the Animal Kingdom we finished the boring stretch of road by running past some (what I believed to be) water treatment facilities, then along a short out and back. Water treatment facilities are not exciting.
After that we were greeted by some animals which I was very excited to see! I won't stop for characters but I will certainly stop for a majestic vulture, who was not too impressed with the situation. He was badass though and I talked about birds with his handler before hobby jogging out of there.

I LOVE HIM. The vulture, that is.
From there the course proceeded through the Animal Kingdom which was great. The park had not opened yet so my thoughts of riding Expedition Everest were short lived. I wasn't going to stand in line for 20 minutes! (I thought perhaps it would be running early but no luck.) As we ran out there was a formidable line of people waiting to enter the park and a real blast of heat as the sun came out over (yet another) glorious parking lot.
(There was also a highschool band. There were many highschool bands and they were quite good.)
Thank heavens the sun pretty much stayed away- when it peeped out the temps went from tolerable to a bit nasty.

From there we ran towards WWS (ESPN Wide World Of Sports) on a pancake flat stretch of highway. Again, unlike the rest of the world the highway was my favorite! After the half split which I came to in a downright pedestrian 2:14 I was able to pick it up a bit. I had started the day hoping that a 4:15 might still be in the cards but had begun the reconsider after the death march of the first half- especially the first 10k.

On the way to WWS there were many wonderful people who wanted to feed all of us cheez-its and pretzels. I could not thing of ANYTHING that sounded better so I shoved all of them in my face.
I am a complete germaphobe and in real life would never take food from a roadside person.
On marathon day all bets are off, give me a communal dish of salty snacks and we can be best friends!

While WWS was a bit twisty and turn-y it was also fun! There were lots of spectators, an aid station with cold sponges and an aid station with bananas. I hate bananas but at the time they sounded delicious so I ate one and it was like a little slice of heaven in my mouth.
(now, thinking about eating a banana grosses me out. who knows.)

Wide World Of Sports- I liked it here.
So, from mile 17 to 20ish the course is like a lollipop and I was REALLY hoping to see Eric and Andy. After emerging from the WWS I jumped up onto the median into the grass in order to give myself a better view. I looked, and looked, and looked (and bizzarely ran my only sub 8 mile, go figure) but I never saw them. Strava showed us crossing paths but the crowds were so thick that I can understand why we missed each other.

Heading up to mile 21 were the green soldiers!!! I love them and they were straight up giving people shit which was hysterical! "GET OFF YOUR PHONE" they would yell at people "IT IS NOT TIME TO CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK, YOU NEED TO RUN!!!" "Do PUSHUPS!!!"
I like their style.

Then there was some highway with people passed out on because of the humidity, I imagine.
Luckily there were people tending to them because I am not a Doctor.
I was glad not to be passed out, because on occasion I have been known to run faster than the weather warrants. Thankfully, I continued to feel quite well. I was still sweating like a fool and I could do basic math so my brain was still functioning on an acceptable level.

Quickly, Hollywood studios came along and it was cool. There was new shit to see! A disco dance party tunnel! A chocolate aid station! Lots of spectators! Hollywood studios was super fun, plus I was running right along and passing people which I enjoy.

Basically right after HS we got to run towards the Swan and Dolphin and the Boardwalk. I think I might have decided where I want to stay for our next trip because it's gorgeous over there. The running got a bit crowded again but I was still making better time and it was really pretty.
PLUS. I had managed to make it to mile 25 without any crying or complete emotional breakdowns. 10:00 pace for the win....

Back into Epcot. Around the world. Under the ball.

Yep. Under the ball.

 In 4:11:35.

Victory, bitches.
I didn't cry but I got a teeeeeny but choked up because 17 minute negative split and all. Takes it outta ya.

Done!!! 48.6 miles of running complete!
I drank a full powerade. And some water. I collected all my medals and got a few pics taken.
I looked all around the finish area and found our favorite race MC's back at it *sigh*
I considered a beer but I was too cheap to cough up the $12.

While I was at the finish it was very uncrowded, I don't know if I just lucked out if the glorious parking lot was just huge enough to accommodate thousands.

From there you know the drill. On the bus, back to POFQ, showered, dressed and back at the bus stop to greet Eric and Andy and congratulate them on their GREAT SUCCESS!!!! I was very excited that they had completed a successful marathon and had stuck together the whole time, having some kind of twin fun. They both looked good and healthy and were upright and walking!

I went to the food court and collected the most sensible post race meal of all time, grilled cheese, fries, chicken nuggets (which I had been dreaming about since mile 8) chocolate milk (gross) and ice cold Coke. We all got back into our beds and had a most delicious feast!
We enjoyed some time rehashing the race, looking at strava, accidentally falling asleep and then getting ready to depart. Post race time is the most fun until you actually have to mobilize..

We mobilized for a photo op!
We had a celebratory not $12 beer at the pool bar (and made more new friends) before departing for the airport.
As it turned out all of our flights got cancelled which, despite the cost of staying in the airport Hyatt for the night was a blessing in disguise. We had fun. We ate a big meal of healthy food AND were asleep by 9:00, which is about the time we were supposed to depart.
So yeah, basically winning.

We were all feeling reasonably comfortable the next day and uneventfully reentered the real world where customer service isn't that great, the weather is cold BUT the food is better!!

Closing thoughts. I never thought I would want to do the Dopey Challenge again.
But I do.
While the view from the last corral made for some amazing memories I think it would be a completely different experience from (closer) to the front of the pack. I would not be at all surprised if we revisit this adventure at some point!
There are serious improvements that runDisney could make to their website, registration and communication but once we were there we had no complaints. Things ran like clockwork and they managed to make some of the more unpleasant aspects of racing easy (bus lines, etc.)

My legs appreciated a pancake flat course, between that and my reasonable pace recovery was a snap.
Also.... We got a SHIT TON of medals. And shirts. So much stuff.

I really had a blast experiencing this with Eric and Andy, it was a great way to celebrate their new age group and to have some family time. We are all super busy so it's hard to imagine another situation where we would all hang for close to a week! We certainly have a nice collection of bizarre inside jokes after the time we spent together.

So maybe, in a couple years we will get together and do it again... :-)

And one more time:
Sara: 4:11:35
Eric: 5:07:52
Andy: 5:07:56
(we are all amazing)



  1. I follow you on Instagram and love your account because you're a runner AND a dressage rider like me-although you are DEFINITELY way faster than I am. I didn't realize you had a blog (Not to sound like s stalker!!) until you posted it on Instagram. I loved this recap! I did Goofy in 2013 and said never again, but social media had convinced me that maybe I should do Dopey at some point.

    I'm going to check out the rest of your Dopey adventure. Congratulations!

    1. Hey thanks for reading!
      I actually never expected to have as much fun as I did. It was a crowded (few) races but fun, pancake flat, well run and LOTS of prizes! So do it, you'll be glad you did!
      Plus, Florida in January always beats Maine in January. :-)

  2. Good running and good reading. Thanks for taking the time to blog about each of the races instead of mashing them into a single report.

    1. That would have been the longest blog post ever!

  3. Good running and good reading. Thanks for taking the time to blog about each of the races instead of mashing them into a single report.

  4. Congrats on another strong finish AND a negative split! I would love to take on Dopey but I think you're braver than me. I HATE early start times...even the ones that are at 7 haha.

    1. Thank you! I don't like getting up so early either, ugh! Honestly though, I thought it was going to be much more unpleasant- all of us were ok!