It has been a very long time since I ran a half-marathon, and I haven’t gotten any faster from the layoff. Quite the contrary. Still, I couldn’t pass up the second annual Running of the Elk, since the start/finish line was only about a mile from my house.
The weather was great, the crowd enthusiastic and Suzie Pancake was there. What more could you ask of a road race?
I’ve had some bonking issues so I loaded up on carbs and sugar – including a Milky Way Midnight – before we got started. I was carrying six gel chews and a bottle full of diluted orange juice with sea salt. About 700 runners made the race just about the right size for my tastes.
Mile 1 – 10:36
Mile 2 – 10:13
Mile 3 – 10:03
Mile 4 – 9:52
Most of the first four miles took us down the road that parallels Highway 99. Not much to see unless you include the Elk Grove Promenade, a mall that has been abandoned for years because the developer went bankrupt. Housing is booming in Elk Grove, but retail businesses really lag behind.
Mile 5 – 9:47
Mile 6 – 9:41
Mile 7 – 9:46
Mile 8 – 9:44
About 4.5 miles in, I hear a guy near me ask his friend, “Are we about halfway?” Oh, dude. I feel for you because I’ve been there. Everything is going swimmingly for me as we complete the rural part of the course and head back to civilization. After the 7.5 mile timing mat, I reach for one of my three remaining chews.. and shoot all three of them into a ditch. Oh well. Let’s hope the orange juice holds out.
Mile 9 – 9:51
Mile 10 – 9:42
Mile 11 – 9:45
Mile 12 – 9:51
Ran out of juice, literally and figuratively, at mile 11, but was able to maintain pace, although I’m sure my form suffered. Passed a lot of walkers along this stretch. My only goals were to run the entire distance, and maybe go sub-2:10. Both were still within reach, but a struggle.
Mile 13 – 9:54
I’ve driven the last mile of the course dozens of times. Somehow it always seemed much shorter. Every corner always leads to another stretch and another corner. As I made my way to the finish, I knew I had nothing left for a sprint. Two runners passed me, but I got the last laugh because chip time put me back in front of them. Ha ha!
Finish – 2:10:13
Missed out on my time goal, but I can’t complain. Although I dragged ass that last mile I felt pretty comfortable almost the whole way. I ended up 276th out of 689 finishers, and 33rd of 57 in the 50-59 age group.
I feel I succeeded at the race, but definitely failed at the post-race goodies. Even though I saw the IHOP mascot, I completely missed the fact that there were free pancakes at the finish! I’m so stupid!
The finisher’s medal was great but the Elk was a little creepy.
I’m sure I’ll run a few shorter races during the spring and summer, but the next major event is the Dumbo Double Dare.
I have often enjoyed participating in Sacramento’s Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day, even achieving my 10k PR of 46:50 during the 2007 race. But the trip, parking and mobs at the start got to be wearying (27,000 people at this year’s race!), so I was lucky to find a 10k race on Thanksgiving within walking distance – the Elk Grove Turkey Trot.
The weather in northern California was gorgeous and the field was small but enthusiastic – only about 400 for the combo 5k/10k. It was very old school – no chip timing, goodie bags or race photographers. The lack of perks was more than made up for by the news that 100% of the proceeds were going to Courage Worldwide.
The race began with a 50 meter stretch leading out of a high school football field. I tweaked my left groin last Sunday and it started acting up immediately, but I knew it would loosen up if I kept going.
It was neat running a race route that mirrored my usual training route. I even passed 100 yards from the front of my house about four miles in. Only a few intersections were blocked off, so most of the race was sidewalk running.
Mile 1 – 8:51
Mile 2 – 8:54
Mile 3 – 8:47
Mile 4 – 8:56
Mile 5 – 8:50
Mile 6 – 8:41
Finish – 54:29 (Garmin time)
Pretty steady splits and I had a good kick at the end, which was about 225 meters around the high school track to the finish line. Honestly, the route was actually about 6.19 miles, and the official time I was given was 54:16, which was shorter still. 57th out of 111 finishers. 6th of 10 in the 50-59 age group.
I’m not one to wax nostalgic about how races were run in the old days. There have been a lot of improvements to organization and support in the last 10 years or so. But if you haven’t yet done so, I recommend changing things up once in a while and trying out a small road race. Everything doesn’t have to be a huge event.
Why run a distance race if you can’t indulge yourself in a post-race food reward? For me, it was the world-famous Tonga Toast at the Kona Cafe in Disney’s Polynesian Resort, along with 100% Kona coffee. The menu describes it as “banana stuffed sourdough bread, rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with strawberry compote.” In reality it is an exploding sugar bomb. If you find yourself in Walt Disney World, don’t miss it.
Back home at last, and ready to wrap up this epic adventure.
Having never run a night-time race before, I was panicky about being well-rested. The Lovely Mrs. A. and I did not go to the Disney parks on Saturday and were able to catnap for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Pasta for lunch and a salad for dinner.
Everyone was pretty jacked up on the bus over to the staging area and it intensified once we got there, with all the photo ops and food trucks and the DJ playing dance music. It was more like a non-alcoholic block party than a pre-race gathering.
That being said, who wants to sit in a large parking lot for 2 1/2 hours before starting a distance race? You check out the costumes, eat your cookies and try not to get trampled. I suppose you could dance to Thriller tracks the whole time, but that would ultimately turn out to be a bad decision, as we shall see.
Anyway, a little after 9 pm the mob started heading to the corrals. By virtue of my hardly electrifying 1:31 finish time in a 10-miler last year, I got a spot in Corral A. Seriously? The Lovely Mrs. A. was in Corral B, so we kissed and arranged to see each other at a convenient spot after the finish. I had the cell phone and received text updates of her progress.
So what’s happening in Corral A? Nothing. We just all found new areas of concrete on which to sit. Then, at around 9:20, the whole crowd started heading out. Whoa! I was flabbergasted, and the folks in Corral B were cheering and generally going nuts because the race is starting, man!
We took a long walk to the starting line where we all smushed together and then…. nothing. Disney knows everything there is to know about crowd control and movement, but I can’t figure out why it required placing about 8,700 people close together about 25 minutes before race start. So we stood and listened to lame jokes and reminders about how much longer we would have to wait.
Up until this point, I didn’t think too much about the weather. Central Florida at this time of year is pretty humid, but I thought night-time would take off some of the edge. But it was approaching 10 pm, and all I was doing was standing in one spot, and the sweat was running in streams down my spine. This is never a good sign.
When we finally got under way, it was pretty cool, and I settled into a comfortable pace.
Mile 1 – 9:48
Mile 2 – 9:31
Mile 3 – 9:32
The first three miles took us up a curving on-ramp to the road to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and back. Normally at this point I’ve settled into my pace. Unfortunately I was at 160 heart rate and completely drenched in sweat. I later learned the temperature at the start was 80 degrees with 80% humidity… and still climbing. I was wearing my cotton Running Is Funny t-shirt, which was a promotional plus but a serious racing minus since I now felt as though I was wearing a wet blanket. Wicking material wasn’t much better, however, as my shorts were also plastered to me.
Mile 4 – 9:35
Mile 5 – 9:52
Mile 6 – 10:36
There were several places along the way set up for photo ops, but I didn’t want to wait in line and my phone takes lousy night photos anyway. I later heard people complain about a less-than-average effort from Disney with on-course entertainment, but I thought overall it was fine.
I was plodding along during the middle miles, but felt really oppressed by the humidity, so I decided that would walk/run once I got to Mile 5. The only problem with that plan was the off-road section that began about 4.5 miles in. It was narrow and over gravel, and walking would have led to being stomped upon by the pack, so I kept plodding. We finally broke out into a clearing outside the ESPN sports area and the large baseball stadium. We did a full circuit of the field’s warning track and exited in centerfield.
The photographers were there, along with spectators, including one with a sign that read, “Go, Random Stranger!”
Mile 7 – 10:44
Mile 8 – 11:39
Back on the road towards Disney Hollywood Studios and I’m just hanging on. Everyone else seems to be struggling, too.
Mile 9 – 11:55
Mile 10 – 9:52
I did a lot of walking in the ninth mile so I could run the whole 10th mile, which takes place entirely in Disney Hollywood Studios. The crowd was screaming as we made a circuit of the giant sorcerer’s hat and back out past the Toy Story ride. This was really a great stretch, followed by a long finish backstage past smelly dumpsters. The finish line was just past the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It was so dark I missed getting my post-race goodies, but I did get the outstanding medal (with working elevator) and a pretty decent finish line photo.
Official finish time – 1:44:24
I was glad to be done, but disappointed with my time. I put all that aside as I headed back to the sorcerer’s hat to cheer on the Lovely Mrs. A. in her longest race ever. She was smiling broadly as she motored by, looking a lot more relaxed and happy than I did at the same stage.
I was so proud of her and we had a great time at the park until almost 3 am, despite still being soaking wet. On Sunday I felt even better when I saw the race results. Despite what I consider to be a crummy finish time, I ended up 1,406th out of 8,724 finishers, and 60th of 233 in age group. If you had told me before the race that’s where I would end up, I would have taken it gladly.
Sum total: If you adjust your race expectations for the weather and the crowd, and embrace that it’s an event more than a race, you’ll have a great time at the 2013 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. The park after midnight was full of smiling, happy people – which, frankly, is not always the case during the day. And that was after a rather grueling 10 miles. If you don’t want to commit to a longer Disney race, this is accessible to the widest possible audience. Well worth the trip for us.
Disney made us line up near the corrals waaaaaay before the race was going to start, and kept us entertained with a DJ. There were also food trucks with stuff for sale, including a rather odd choice for those planning to run a 10-miler in 80 degree temperatures with 80% humidity… lobster rolls! I kid you not.
Had a great but muggy time running the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. Details to come, but here is a video of the cool start…
…and a photo of a happy Lovely Mrs. A. and her proud husband after the finish of the race, at about 3 a.m.
Huge crowds at the expo for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. Shopping!
This is the new Disney attraction – LineLand! It’s very popular.
It’s a marathon atmosphere for a 10-mile race.
The race t-shirt is terrific…
…but I wanted a long-sleeve and this one was selling like hotcakes.
The Lovely Mrs. A. put the finishing touches on her race outfit at Sparkle Skirts, but the unveiling will have to wait until race day.
The race begins tomorrow night at 10 p.m., and the post-race party goes on until the very wee hours. Tune in Sunday for the highlights!