Spartan Race

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Goofy, Part 2

It is appropriate to start this second part of my Goofy blog with a quote from the classic Bill Murray film Groundhog Day - "When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter." Why do I choose this quote? Because to some extent, I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I woke up at 2:50 AM. I ate the same stuff as the day before (though I was too sick of food court peanut butter to eat my midnight peanut butter sandwich). I put on remarkably similar clothes to the day before, down to the throw away flannel shirt, pants, and tyvek painters' coveralls. And then we went out into the cold.

But that's where it ended. Brand new day. It was actually colder for the marathon than the half marathon, somewhere around 25 degrees according to several major news services. It was also, however, not precipitating in any way, shape, or form as we stood in line for the bus. {OK, the bus ride was remarkably similar, and the same Disney volunteer welcomed us to "Disney Alaska", but that was the last Groundhog Day thing - it also provided an easy way to tell the Punxsutawneyish marathon folk (amused by it) from the Chekhovian Goofy folk (less than amused)}. Baggage check was much faster that day, and people seemed to be in very good mood overall. Rather than focusing on the cattle-shoot aspect of the walk to the start, I took a bodily inventory of how I felt after the half, and was remarkably pleased to find that I had no aches or pains anywhere. My leg muscles felt the least bit "not fresh", for lack of a better way to describe it, but not really fatigued.

Approaching the start, we took the obligatory trip to the porta-potties, where, incidentally, I learned that one could shove an entire space blanket down one pants leg of tyvek coveralls and the top half of suit down the other in order to keep them off the floor of said porta-potty. My wife did not think of this, and we ended up ripping the sodden arms off her coveralls, leaving her looking a bit like Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid.

Getting into the corral required some effort, as we had to show our numbers to the volunteer. Mine was pinned to my shorts - under the coveralls and flannel shirt and pants - so required yoga and contorting. In case you are wondering, before a race, clear and colder is better than sleeting and marginally warmer, but we still waited a bit too long to shed our outer accouterments, and so ended up in the far back of the corral after everyone had pressed up to the starting line.

Before long the fireworks lept skyward, and we were off. It ended up taking us about four and half minutes to actually cross the line, but hey, this race is a marathon, not a sprint (which I cleverly worked into the blog as a non-euphemism). The first couple of miles were spent in a huge crowd of humanity. Around mile one, there was an oddly-placed water stop that everybody cruised through, but otherwise the stretch was mostly devoid of ornamentation. Which is not to say there was nothing to look at.

I don't think there was a person at the race who didn't have either a space blanket or a trash bag wrapped around their person at the start. Most discarded them before they started running, but a freezing few held on to them for the first couple of miles only to discard them along the rout. I have no idea whether people dropped them in the middle of the race course or if they threw them to the side only to have the fairly brisk wind catch them and blow them back on to the course, but a forest of mylar and plastic jellyfish soon formed across the road way. They blew about like tumbleweeds a ghost town, wrapping themselves around unwary runners feet. I was sure somebody would trip and fall, but if they did, I didn't see it. What I did observe was the a phenomenon similar to walking out of a bathroom trailing toilet paper stuck to one's shoe. Various runners trailed myler strips for what seemed like half a mile or more, making a distinctive step-crackle sound as they ran, and hoping in vane that the mylar would auto-disentangle (it didn't).
Mile three or so saw us entering and leaving the back side of the World Showcase in Epcot. The coolest thing about this was a broadcast on the globe used in the Illuminations show that closes Epcot each day. No fireworks, but a lot of flashing colors. Soon after, we cruised out of Epcot and joined the folks who had started on the other side of the road - the course would be the same from here on out. It was Deja vu all over again as we jogged effectively back through the starting gate at mile four, and the a little bit later that early water stop made sense as we jogged past it around mile four and a half. It was here that we got our first taste of an unexpected race phenomenon for me - that of the powerade slush. It was actually cold enough that the water and sports drinks at the water stops were partially freezing in their cups, making basically an icee.
Between mile 5 and mile 9, not much usually goes on in this race, with the exception of the mild novelty of passing by the Disney World Speedway. Today, I learned two things: 1. Powerade, when spilled on asphalt in sub-freezing temperatures, does not seem to freeze, and 2.Water, when spilled on asphalt in sub-freezing temperature turns into a slick patch of black ice almost immediately. As runners dropped their partially full cups of H2O, the fan-shaped spillage quickly turned into so many banana peels that the water stops suddenly became one large frictionless bearing. Not exactly fun, but it was entertaining and made the miles go faster.

Miles ten to eleven incorporate the Magic Kingdom on a path identical to that of the half marathon. We stopped to take a few pictures along the way and just generally enjoyed the ambiance. After winding our way through the Fantasyland into Frontierland, we rounded corner to find one of Magic Kingdom's steam locomotives facing us, headlight shining straight at us in the dim morning sun, in a classic incoming train pose. I prefer to think of this as an homage to the late Mr Toad's Wild Ride attraction.

Miles 11 through about 15 are usually fairly dull, only adorned by the Disney water treatment plant, but this year there were a number of witticisms and statistics mounted on the side of the road for our viewing pleasure (the only one I remember was the one that stated "One third of New York City public school teachers send their kids to private school) Not too much later, we hit the very enthusiastic, and very appreciated, accordion club of central Florida, who were cranking out oompah hits with zeal and gusto despite the early hour and the cold. We also had our picture taken with a random reindeer placed strategically on the course.
In the It's a small world category, around this time, in a supposedly over 20,000 person race, we ran in to a friend of my wife's from home. She was running about the same pace that we were and we were glad to have her join us for the remainder of the race.
One enters the rear of Animal Kingdom about mile 15. Just prior to this, we ran into an Air Force Cadet carrying a thirty pound ruck sack on his back and running the marathon. I thanked him for his service, and I hope he did well over the last 11 miles. The course through Animal Kingdom takes you in the back side, around the Tree of Life, skirts Expedition Everest, and out through Dinoland into the AK parking lot.
Enter the least interesting part of the race. The next five mile give you very little to see, and even incorporate a small version of that most dreaded of marathon routes, the out-and-back. Around mile twenty, at the start of said out and back, my joints were starting to bother me a little bit, so I ran ahead of my wife and her friend to a med tent to apply some biofreeze to my knees. I stopped and waited for them to catch up. And waited. And waited. Finally, I saw them coming back towards me on the opposite side of the out-and-back. I had to double time it to catch up with them, which, admittedly, took a fair amount out of me 33 miles into this event. To make matters worse, next up was another one of the overpass/slanted hills climbs - not as bad as the one on the half, but still painful. I didn't really care though, because I knew that Disney's Hollywood Studio was just around the corner.
I have found that at this point in the race, the Tower of Terror actually serves as a beacon, pulling you towards it. When I see it, I know that there is only about a 5k left. A cadre of volunteers pelted us with Hershey's Miniatures as we entered the Hollywood Studios (most of Hershey's Dark Chocolate was thrown back). By this time, crowds were in the park, and a throng of people cheered us through the Streets of America, around the Sorcerer's Hat, and down Hollywood Boulevard. From here, it's a short run behind Disney's Boardwalk to the back of Epcot.

The World Showcase is a great distraction for the last mile or so of the Disney Marathon, and photo-ops abound. Marathoner's lined up to take pictures with Snow White, Aladdin and Jasmine, Winnie the Pooh, etc. We just wanted to be finished, though, so we ran straight through, jet setting from France to Morocco to Japan to America to Europe to China to Norway and finally back to Mexico in a mater of minutes before veering out the side gate, and past the same, much dryer, much less cold, gospel choir that is always placed right before the finish.
I usually cross the finish line thinking about my race time, and I'm fairly critical of the race I've run. This time, I really felt like I had accomplished something as a volunteer girded me with my medal and shunted me towards the Goofy tent. Granted I'm no athlete, but the little old lady who placed the (friggin heavy, by the way) Goofy Medal around my neck capped my physical fitness career to this point. I'm actually more proud of finishing this race and a half than any of my PRs. I started this blog with a Chekhov allusion, and I'm going to end it with an Anton Chekhov quote, "One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterward it grows on one." I think the Goofy is the same, you hate training for it, it's hard to run, but afterward, it's quite a tale. Mu.


  1. Great Race Report - I was also a bit confused by the water stop at mile one. I recall them apologizing when I passed because nobody was there to had out water yet. Didn't put it together that it doubled as mile 4 until I read your post. Congrats on finishing off Goofy!

  2. Love the report on the Goofy. Anybody who runs it IS Goofy, but then I always did love your antics. At least this year it makes a great story with the weather participation. Seriously, I'm glad you take the time to observe your surroundings instead of mindlessly running for untold miles like so many runners. Who-ad-thought you would turn into the family athlete in your old age! You go guy!

  3. Great report