Rather than deal with the parking and crowds for the parade known as the Run to Feed the Hungry, I and several hundred others ran the Elk Grove Turkey Trot through the wide open rural spaces south of town. This year’s race even had chip timing, so what else would you need?
The weather was perfect, leading to some unusually even splits for me.
Mile 1 – 8:52
Mile 2 – 8:49
Mile 3 – 8:51
Mile 4 – 8:51
Mile 5 – 8:57
Mile 6 – 8:47
Finish – 54:13
78th out of 247, but a disappointing 9th out of 12 in the 50-54 age group. Fast old dudes in my area.
My Garmin showed the course to be about 0.1 short, so I figure it would have been a 55:06 or so. Just a great day for a race.
It’s amazing what cool, dry weather will do for your running.
Three weeks after my slowest half-marathon ever in the heat and humidity of Anaheim, I toed the line at the start of the Rock the ’80s 8-Miler, a small local race with an Eighties theme. The race organizers and the crowd of 409 8-mile entrants and 231 5k runners got into the spirit of things, with lots of ’80s music and outfits – although most the costumes were worn by people who must have only a vague memory of the decade. Or maybe my memory is fading, but I don’t remember that neon and multi-colored tights were really that prevalent. (All photos courtesy of the Lovely Mrs. A.)
High 50s at the start, overcast with only a slight breeze. Perfect running weather and off we went on time. My goal was to break 1:15.
Mile 1 – 9:05
Mile 2 – 9:06
Oops. Went out about 45 seconds per mile faster than planned. After the first mile, I told myself I was either going to have a good race, or explode early. Nothing like a mystery to start your day.
Mile 3 – 9:00
Mile 4 – 9:00
There was a band and recorded ’80s music at points along the route, which was especially welcome since there were few spectators. There was a guy dressed up as Michael Jackson just after Mile 4, so I gave him a “hee-heeee” as I ran past.
Mile 5 – 8:49
Mile 6 – 8:47
It was so nice not to be sweating buckets at this point. I even managed to increase my pace, so if I could hold on I could break 1:12, which would be a sub-9 pace. Even though I’m sure it makes no real difference, it feels like an advantage to run a race along a route I train on all the time. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to guess how far it is until the next turn or mile marker.
Mile 7 – 8:48
Mile 8 – 8:41
Wanted to be sure I had a strong finish, so I steadied myself during the 7th mile, then emptied the tank during the final mile. There was a bit of a hill and a 90 degree turn just prior to the line, but I traversed them in good fashion and felt great as I crossed.
Finish – 1:11:36 (8:57 pace)
84th of 409. 4th of 11 in 50-54 age group.
Wonderful time, and only one small disappointment. The stars were perfectly aligned – small field, five-year age groups, and awards for top three in each. A rare chance for hardware, but I came up about two minutes short.
What’s great is that in the space of a few weeks I got to enjoy a major race event with large crowds and all the bells and whistles, and a small, fun race within walking distance with a reduced field and plenty of room to concentrate on the run itself. You should have some of both types on your racing schedule to maximize your running experience.
Last weekend’s Dumbo Double Dare was a grueling test of strength, will and endurance. It was a true measure of athletic readiness and determination.
Not the race itself, of course. Anyone who can complete a half-marathon can easily add a 10k the day before and get the job done without difficulty. No, I’m talking about the real yardstick of human achievement: making it through two distance races sandwiched between a weekend at Disneyland.
The Lovely Mrs. A. and I had a leisurely breakfast on Friday and were strolling back to our room at about 9:30 when we noticed a gigantic meandering line of people. This is a common sight at Disneyland, but this line was in, around and under our hotel. Yes, it was the line for packet pick-up and the race expo. Some had been waiting since dawn to get in.
Bib pick-up was downstairs, while shirt pick-up and the expo were upstairs, which meant standing in two separate lines. Naturally, it wasn’t until after I got my shirts that I realized my pre-ordered park admission ticket was at a booth downstairs. I braved the wrath of volunteers, security and those in line to reverse course and get it, then reverse course again to avoid waiting in line to get back upstairs. Fortunately for me, it was such a zoo I was able to ninja my way through the line. I am not proud of this but I’ll get over it.
Then it was off to Disneyland for the day, which was great fun but, of course, lots of walking and standing in line. If you were there or heard from someone who was, you’ll know that the heat and humidity were oppressive. It didn’t bode well for race day(s).
Had a nice lamburger for dinner and went to bed early. The Lovely Mrs. A. and I ran the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler in Orlando last year, and decided not to spend hours in the corrals again, so we we got up around 5:15 and headed to the start at 6.
The gun went off at 6:15 and I was sweating profusely already. Even at that early hour, the temps were in the 70s and the humidity in the 50s. Yuck. I adjusted my expectations.
Mile 1 – 9:24
Mile 2 – 9:02
The first third of the race took us away from the parks and through the surrounding area of Anaheim. More costumed runners than I’ve ever seen in my life, and nearly two females for each male.
Mile 3 – 9:06
Mile 4 – 8:54
Mile 5 – 9:23
Three miles of running through California Adventure and Disneyland with the sun rising, past all the lit-up attractions, with plenty of characters around for photo ops. For this portion though, your only spectators are race volunteers and Disney custodians.
Mile 6 – 9:25
Official finish – 57:37
The last mile or so takes you out of Disneyland and through Downtown Disney, with a big 90-degree turn to the finish line. I was absolutely drenched in sweat but averaged a respectable (for me) 9:17 pace, good enough for 693rd place (out of 7,828) and 39th of 208 in the 50-54 AG. I got my 10k medal and my green wristband for completing the first leg of the Dumbo Double Dare.
The finish line area was well-organized and entertaining. Fluids, snack boxes, medals and photos all easily available without a logjam of finishers, and there was a congregating area with a DJ and video of the remaining runners. I was even able to spot the Lovely Mrs. A. sprinting to the finish as she completed her race.
I was going to take a photo of the “sweat angel” I made in the parking lot, but thought better of it.
The weather conditions were not going to allow me to run a decent half-marathon on Sunday, so I chucked my time goals out the window and had a great day at California Adventure, where the Lovely Mrs. A. consistently whipped my butt at Toy Story Midway Mania. We rode this five times. She crushed me five times, improving her score each time.
The humidity was so bad I ended up showering four times on Saturday. I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed at 4:15 on Sunday morning and before long headed out to the corrals for the half-marathon. I was in Corral B so it was nice not having to wait for all those staggered starts.
Mile 1 – 10:57
Mile 2 – 10:48
Mile 3 – 10:28
The half-marathon route brought us back into the parks more quickly than the 10k route, so it was still pretty dark and lot more scenic. I went out about 30 seconds per mile slower than my normal half-marathon pace, but it didn’t matter. When we hit the 5k timing mat I was already soaked to the skin. I decided to Gallowalk it the rest of the way and avoid a death march. And it worked!
Mile 4 – 12:17
Mile 5 – 10:48
Mile 6 – 10:48
This was the least interesting part of the course, as we left the Disneyland environs and struck east across Anaheim. I don’t have much recollection of this part of the race, but I was basically walking for two minutes, then running until I felt overheated.
Mile 7 – 11:49
Mile 8 – 11:21
Mile 9 – 11:31
I had heard about the Anaheim residents who line up their classic cars along the race route, but it went on for miles. Local support was tremendous throughout the race. There were scores of cheerleader groups, high school bands and assorted dancing entertainment all along the way. I was hanging in there and enjoying myself. I even liked the Santa Ana River Trail, which put us on dirt rather than asphalt for about a half-mile.
Mile 10 – 11:38
Mile 11 – 13:17
Mile 12 – 11:31
This was my favorite part of the race. We came off the trail and entered the parking lot of Angel Stadium. There were cheerleaders yelling their heads off as we ran toward the tunnel leading through the right-centerfield fence. The 15k timing mat was just outside and as we crossed it, we got a view of the field and the stands filled with screaming spectators. We ran in front of them along the warning track and exited through the left-centerfield fence, where there was another gauntlet of cheerleaders. It was invigorating.
We then headed back toward Disney, crossing onto the property just before Mile 12.
Mile 13 – 9:50
Official finish – 2:29:17
There was a mass of excited spectators the entire rest of the way, which induced me to see if I could run it out from Mile 12 on in. I had already cemented the slowest half-marathon I had ever run, but I felt great (though soggy). I managed a relatively strong finish, and I even got a little emotional as I turned in my wristband for my Dumbo medal. I finished 4,763rd out of 15,847. 209th of 469 in the 50-54 AG.
From a strict running perspective for me, the Dumbo Double Dare was a mess. My 10k was fine, my half terrible, and I’ve resolved never to run a race in such hot and humid conditions again. Yet I can tell you that I had an absolute blast and it may have been the most fun running event I’ve ever experienced.
People smile, laugh and have a great time before, during and after a Disney race, even in deplorable weather. If you’re a PR-fixated runner – as I have been – you owe it to yourself for once to forget your watch, plunk down the cash, and immerse yourself in the RunDisney experience. In its own way, it’s as rewarding as BQ would be.
This is how you spend a race weekend. Eating and drinking…
…and eating and drinking…
…and heading out to an early morning race…
…posing at Mile 2…
…and finishing, so you can go back to…
…until finally, you take some rest…
…so that you’ll have enough energy for MORE EATING!!!
I’m starting to look like Dumbo, and I had to redeem myself after my many Toy Story drubbings, so I used my eagle eye to win a stuffed Dumbo for the Lovely Mrs. A. at a carnival game.
Literally hundreds of people wear their T-shirts and medals to the parks after the races, and many conversations were struck with runners and non-runners alike. It was really great.
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.