Yes, this race report is long overdue. The last week has been very, very busy and it’s gone by in a blur. The good news is that since I delayed my posting of the race report, I can now include pictures. Try to contain your excitement.
We arrived at Walt Disney World at about 1:00 PM on Friday and checked into our hotel. We beat Alice’s team’s bus, so we headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to ride Tower of Terror before heading over to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for the cross country meet. Alice’s time from the previous week’s meet was better than the time of one of the varsity runners on the same course. A few days before the Disney meet, one of the other varsity runners rolled her ankle and decided to run JV. So, Alice was elevated to the varsity team for the Disney meet.
The temperature at her race time was 98 degrees with a 103 heat index. I was probably more nervous than she was. I did my best to keep her cool and told her to take it easy and go out slow in the beginning. She managed to heed my advice in the first mile, though I was having my own doubts at the 1200 meter mark. She was about 20 seconds behind her closest teammate at that point. Then, the disappeared into the woods and would not emerge until just after the 2 mile mark. She emerged strong and held a 15 meter lead over one of her teammates. I told her to push hard to the finish and she responded, passing several runners in the last mile. She finished in 6th on her team, only 1.5 seconds behind the #5 runner on the team and more than 40 seconds ahead of the #7 finisher. She was 83rd overall.
We went out to dinner at Paradiso 37 Friday night, then hung out at the Epcot food and wine festival all day Saturday. It was hot and I had to remain disciplined. I only had one small glass of Riesling in Germany and drank plenty of water throughout the day. I had a brief evening swim before retiring to bed at about 10 PM.
I woke at 5:00 am Sunday morning and caught a bus to Disney’s Wide World of Sports. I ate dry frosted flakes on the bus, washed down with my traditional orange juice. The staging area for the race was in a grass parking lot with asphalt loops so I warmed up by jogging the loops. After about a mile of light jogging, I stretched and then did some strides at increasingly faster paces. I then grabbed a quick cup of water and arrived in the starting corral 10 minuted before start time.
I lined up only slightly further forward than I had for the same race the previous year. My plan was to run the first mile in 6:40 and see how things felt from there. While I was standing in the corral, I was relaxed – maybe a bit too relaxed. I felt a little like I did before the Midnight run in July, so that was discouraging. I listened to the national anthem, watched the wheelchair start and then counted down my own start as fireworks launched from the starting gate.
When the countdown reaches 1, I start of relaxed just like the previous week’s race. People are passing me left and right, but I’m not worried. I know I’ll catch them. I had been surprised to see an older grey haired woman toeing the line with the faster guys. I chuckled at that, thinking she had no business being there. She has taken off fast and is out of view. I forget about her for a while. Right now I’m focused on a guy who sprinted off the line like he was running a 100 m race. He’s about 6’2″ tall and has a healthy belly. He’s wearing long shorts and a tank top that was covered in sweat even before the race started. He carries his ipod in his right hand. We’re less than half a mile into the race, but he’s already dead. He falls off his pace quickly and I pass him easily. He’s cursing himself. 30 seconds later, he’s practically sprinting again. That lasts about 100 m before he’s gasping for breath and cursing himself again. Without changing my pace, I pass him again – this time for good.
We’ve made our way out of Disney’s Wide World of Sports and on to the Osceola Parkway. A guy who (from behind) reminds me of former Buccaneers quarterback, Jeff Garcia passes me. He short and shirtless and seems to be traveling at about the pace I’m looking for so I tag onto his back and pass a few runners. We’re approaching the 1 mile mark and things are settling down now. I pass 1 mile in 6:37 – a good pace and it seems to have come quickly. So, that’s a good sign. I follow Jeff Garcia and we pass a few more runners. He gets a little quick for me, so I back off a little and let him go.
I’ve got dry mouth just like last week. I know the first water station is just ahead, so I make my plans to grab a cup. We head down an exit ramp, then make a very sharp hairpin turn and head back underneath the Osceola Parkway. The water station is under the overpass and I focus in on a volunteer, make a quick grab and snag a cup of water. I take two small drinks, then swish some water around in my mouth before tossing the half empty cup into the concrete wall of the overpass. I’m still feeling good and I focus on maintaining my pace as we pass the two mile mark and head into Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The course starts to twist and turn quite a bit now. I’m pretty familiar with the turns so I plot out the apexes pretty well, squeezing past a few runners as we enter a backstage area of the studios. I’m pretty much in no man’s land as we enter the Light’s, Motors, Action stunt show. It works out nicely as I’m all by myself on the jumbo tron, though I don’t spare much time to admire myself.
We exit the attraction quickly and run up New York Street, making a quick left and passing the 3 mile mark. So far, so good. I’m through 3 miles in just under 20 minutes. I’ve held true to my 6:40 pace and I’m feeling pretty good. I start to think about speeding up a little.
We pass the ABC commissary and the Great Movie Ride, making a loop around the giant Sorcerer Mickey hat in the middle of the park. I’ve caught Jeff Garcia and I run with him for a while around a lake and down Hollwywood Blvd to the park’s main entrance. We make a quick left into a back stage area just before exiting the park and I pass Jeff Garcia, along with another runner with a quick acceleration. I quickly work my way up to a group of five runners, but promptly get boxed into the group as we make a left turn onto a narrow pathway headed for the Boardwalk resort area. There’s no way out without going seriously out of my way and the group has unfortunately slowed down quite a bit. I have to run in the middle of it for about a minute before I can get away.
With another quick acceleration, I work my way up to a pair of friends running together. One of then slows immediately to a walk and tells the other to go on without him. I tag on behind the other for a quarter mile before he turns to me just before the 4 mile mark and says,
“If you’ve got the speed go for it.”
“Actually”, I think, “I’m rather enjoying using you right now.” I recover for a few more seconds then make another acceleration past him.
“Go get ’em,” he says. I thank him as I pass him holding my acceleration for about 30 seconds, making sure he’s not coming with me. I head past the boardwalk resort and over a bridge, passing a talk lanky guy in biker shorts in the process. I catch a fast looking young lady and tag onto her back to recover. Tall lanky guy pass both of us on the downhill and together, we chase him down over the boardwalk, which is quite rickety. We pass the tall lanky guy in front of the Yacht Club and I immediately accelerate, losing the young lady as I approach the Beach Club.
Runners ahead are slowing up quite a bit now. I’m still feeling good so I breeze past two or three other people. Finally, I spot the grey haired lady about 25 meters ahead. Where are we? Almost 5 miles in? She’s got my respect. I catch her quickly, then run with her over a bridge and past the International Gateway to Epcot. We enter a backstage area, make a right turn pat a water station and into Epcot. Neither of us take water, but I put in a good acceleration as we enter the park and pass the grey haired lady. I take no pride in doing so.
I stride comfortably though Great Britain and hit the bridge to France.
“You’re in Epcot,” I tell myself, “This is it.”
I catch and immediately pass a guy on the bridge, then set my sights on the next pair of runners about 100 m ahead. They battle through France and Morocco. One finally drops the other in Japan and I pounce quickly, passing him. I accelerate through America and Italy, finally catching him as we exit Germany. I’m starting to feel a little winded, s I run with him over the bridge through China and finally pass him in Norway. The next two runners are easily 200 m ahead and I’m pretty sure I’ve got no chance of catching them with only a half mile to go, so I focus on holding off the guy behind me. I recover slightly through Mexico, then focus on hitting the turn into Future World as smoothly as possible.
I accelerate through the curve and the full fledged view of Spaceship Earth gives me an adrenaline rush. I can still hear the guy behind me, so I push it hard past the future world fountain. I’m even gaining some significant ground on the guy in front of me. I pass Spaceship earth, veer right slightly then into a backstage area where I pass the 6 mile mark in 39:50. I’m trying to calculate if I can make 0.2 miles is 1:10 as I pass into the fenced in finishing chute where I can hear the announcer and the crowd noise. I quickly dispense with my calculation and decide just to run as hard as I can. The seconds are ticking away toward 41 minutes as I straighten up and sprint as hard as I can through the finish. My clock time is 41:06, with a chip time of 41:02. I hard to hold down the puke, but I manage after about 4 or 5 heaves. I have to swallow down some recycled OJ, but there will be no public display of spewing today!
Having finished 4th in my age group last year with a 44:55 and missing third place by only 20 seconds, I figured I was assured of an age group award this year. As it turns out, I was 8th in my age group and missed out on the coveted crystal plate by almost 2 minutes. Still, I was 32nd out of over 4000 runners. So, that’s cool. Here’s a bonus video of the finish.