Well, Plan A, B, C, and every letter up through about Q went out the window, but there are some things you just can’t account for.
It was a beautiful morning, nice and cool with a light breeze – the kind of weather you dream of when you have a time goal. Mine was to run one more sub-2 hour half-marathon, and my training suggested I could do it if nothing went wrong. The race started on time and off I went.
Mile 1 – 9:42
Mile 2 – 9:20
Mile 3 – 8:58
My plan was to hit Mile 3 at 28:21 and I actually hit it at 28 flat. I wasn’t worried that I had gone out too fast because I knew there were some hills and turns ahead.
Mile 4 – 9:08
Mile 5 – 9:10
Mile 6 – 9:00
Gave some of it back, as expected, and got myself to target pace. The plan was to hit Mile 6 at 55:21, and I actually hit it at 55:16. Things were going great. The pace was comfortably hard, and my only worry at this point was whether hills or heat might throw me off pace.
Mile 7 – 9:13
I reached the halfway point at 1:00:20 and Mile 7 only 7 seconds off pace. It wasn’t going to be easy as I knew I had to pick up the pace, but if I could just hold 9:06-9:08 the rest of the way I’d get it done.
About one-third of the way into the next mile was a 90-degree left turn. As I planted my right foot I felt a sudden pain in my arch, as if I had stepped on a large stone. I stopped for a second but I couldn’t see anything, so I continued on.
Unfortunately each push off with the right foot felt really bad. I pulled over to the side, removed my shoe and checked for a fracture, but I wasn’t thinking right. It wasn’t THAT kind of pain. In any event, nothing was broken. It just felt very sore. I put my shoe back on and started up again.
But I couldn’t get anywhere near target speed.
Mile 8 – 11:31
I wrote on Saturday that I couldn’t afford even one really bad mile, and now I had one. I was two-and-a-half minutes behind, with a sore right foot and five miles still to go. What to do?
Mile 9 – 11:21
If I could have kept running consistently, I might have had a shot at last year’s 2:04:03, but I ended up alternating a 3/4 mile run with a 1/4 mile limp. It’s best to say as little as possible about this part of the race.
Mile 10 – 11:39
Mile 11 – 11:16
Mile 12 – 11:54
We crossed the Tower Bridge and set up for the final stretch around Raley Field, into the stadium, and around the warning track to the finish along the third-base line. I just wanted to get it over with, so I clenched my teeth (literally) and ran as hard as I could for the last mile and a quarter.
Mile 13 – 9:39
Finish – 2:13:37
At an average 10:07 pace, I ended up almost exactly one minute per mile above my target. Nowhere near my worst performance, but disappointing because this was my final effort.
I’ll run half-marathons again. In fact, I already have one in mind for next year, but this was my last attempt for time. It would have been nice to reach my goal, but I believe the training I did to put sub-2 within reach contributed to my injury.
From now on, the rare half-marathon will be in the 2.5-3 hour range and only for fun. Racing (and training) will be 10 miles or fewer. That should extend my running life, keep me relatively injury-free and still allow me to compete at shorter distances.
1,426th of 3,438 finishers. 45th of 84 in 55-59 age group.
Another thing you do at a Disney race that you don’t do elsewhere is spend the entire day prior on your feet – standing in line or walking from one attraction to another. But I felt pretty good after the 10K, and we spent much of Saturday at Hollywood Studios, where I devoured the excellent cioppino at Mama Melrose.
It was another 3 am wake-up on Sunday, although this time I didn’t wear a costume. The bus took us to the ESPN parking lot, where the corrals were smaller and more numerous. Based on a 2:04 half-marathon time in March, I was placed in Corral D. The race began at 5:30 and there were three-minute gaps between the first few corrals. The weather was cool and humid.
Mile 1 – 11:02
Mile 2 – 10:42
Mile 3 – 10:34
I knew if I didn’t start excruciatingly slow I was going to pay for it when the sun came up. The race route took us straight along Osceola Parkway towards Animal Kingdom. Boring stretch.
Mile 4 – 10:07
Mile 5 – 9:58
Mile 6 – 9:42
I hit my stride as we entered the park, even though there were a lot of twists and turns and narrow lanes.
Mile 7 – 9:49
Mile 8 – 9:47
Mile 9 – 9:46
This is usually the part of a half-marathon where I’m able to drop it down to the 9:20s but I was already completely soaked with sweat and my shoes were squishing. I knew the end would be bad if I didn’t cool off, so I started dumping water over my head at every aid station. It did the trick but I didn’t look too good. I did, however, look better than the poor dude who was dressed in full Goofy costume. He was suffering.
Mile 10 – 9:42
Mile 11 – 10:14
Mile 12 – 10:58
Everything was going according to plan through Mile 10 and I was congratulating myself for thinking ahead. However, I hadn’t studied the course carefully enough, and looming in front of me was the off-ramp from World Drive to Epcot. A long, steep climb which also sloped severely from left to right. I put my head down and trudged through it, once again congratulating myself upon reaching Mile 11 with just a moderate drop-off in pace, considering the elevation change. Unfortunately, there was another hill going into Epcot. That one I didn’t manage so well and the wheels started to come off.
Mile 13 – 11:38
Yeah, things started to seize up on me in that last mile through the park and my form was terrible. I felt bad, but nearly as bad as I looked crossing the finish.
Finish – 2:16:14
Only mildly disappointing. 2,014th out of 12,651. 55th of 232 in the 55-59 age group. I had also completed the Lumiere Two-Course Challenge 23rd of the 102 men in my age group.
In addition, I picked up a Disney Coast-to-Coast medal for completing a half-marathon in Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year.
Next up: Post-race party!
Walt Disney World isn’t the optimal place for racing, but who cares? It’s certainly more fun than running around your neighborhood. Plus there’s more food and drink than you can possibly consume.
The 10K is the first leg of Lumiere’s Two-Course Challenge, so the Lovely Mrs. A. and I took the opportunity for a photo with Lumiere himself at the expo.
And I had to fuel up with some Tonga Toast and Kona coffee.
Soon after registering and learning that the Lovely Mrs. A. wanted to do the 10K in costume, I resolved to do the same myself, but it would have to be something conducive to running. The perfect solution appeared in the character of Grunkle Stan from Disney XD’s Gravity Falls. The costume was easy to assemble from various places and I had a previous connection with the cartoon.
The worst parts about Disney World races are the early show times and the dependence upon bus transport to the starting line. We had to get up at 3 am for a 5:30 race. Ugh.
As Grunkle Stan might put it, Disney races are where a bunch of “yahoos dress up like idiots.” But I can safely say I was the only Grunkle Stan in a field of 9,260 runners.
The race route took us in and around Epcot. I was in corral A so I didn’t have any additional minutes to the interminable time before the start. The weather was relatively cool and humid.
Mile 1 – 9:26
Mile 2 – 9:10
The first two miles took us out along the access road toward Disney World Drive and a U-turn back behind the park. As with any large race, it’s important with the crowds in the pre-dawn not to waste energy dodging slower runners and not to step into potholes or other hazards along the way. I was cruising pretty comfortably.
Mile 3 – 8:56
Mile 4 – 8:29
Everything going according to plan as we enter Epcot just before Mile 4.
Mile 5 – 8:45
Mile 6 – 8:42
Bottlenecks and sharp turns slowed me down some, but I’m feeling very good about myself, especially since we finally encounter some spectators in the form of Disney employees inside the park. One of them makes my day by shouting, “Hey, it’s Grunkle Stan!” thus becoming the only person the entire week we were there to recognize him.
Finish – 56:08
Hardly mind-blowing, but about as well as I can run a 10K under the circumstances. Very happy to finish 591st of 9,260 and 20th of 159 in the 55-59 age group.
Tomorrow: the half-marathon.
I’ve run Rock the ’80s in the past and it’s always a lot of fun. But it took a series of unusual events to put me on the line this year.
For one thing, last year’s race moved 40 miles away so I didn’t do it. It reportedly moved back to my neighborhood this year only after it failed to get permits in its new location. Normally a 5K, 8 mile and 8-mile relay, the organizers ditched the relay and added a 10K.
If it had remained the old distances I wouldn’t have done it, and if it had been scheduled for Sunday I wouldn’t have done it, because I’m in the middle of a training schedule that called for a 12-miler on Sunday (which I did in 2:01). I was already scheduled for a 6-miler on Saturday though, so the race fit in perfectly.
There were only about 300 runners, so I figured I was in contention for the age group medal I was lusting after. Still, I had no idea how many people were doing the 10K, or how many were in my age group. It was a 10-year age group, so guys more than seven years younger than I am could be in it. I resolved to go all out. The weather was warm but not uncomfortable.
Mile 1 – 8:57
Mile 2 – 8:35
For comparison’s sake, I ran a practice 10K last Tuesday and my first two miles were 9:32 and 9:09. I was either going to blow up or run a great time.
Mile 3 – 8:34
Mile 4 – 8:34
We lost all the 5K’ers at about 2.4 miles, but the 8-milers didn’t split off until about mile 4. At this point there were only two runners in front of me that I could see, but I couldn’t see that far.
Mile 5 – 8:44
Mile 6 – 8:27
I passed both runners between miles 5 and 6, and ran fueled by fear that I would start dropping back. As I turned for the finish I could see the clock still reading 52-something but my last sprint didn’t get me there in time.
Finish – 53:09
I had no idea if that was enough for an award, but I had run my fastest 10K in 7 years. After recovering for a bit, I headed over to the results tent and, miracle of miracles, I had won the 50-59 age group. The organizers congratulated me and handed me the coveted 3.5-inch diskette medal.
Later that afternoon the full results were posted, and they dampened the achievement quite a bit! There were a grand total of 45 10K finishers, of whom 16 were men (only three in my AG). All told, three males did not get an age group medal. I finished 6th overall.
It didn’t bring me down, though. I just figure it makes up for those races where I ran huge PRs and still finished low on the AG rankings.
Next up: Lumiere’s Two-Course Challenge at Walt Disney World in eight weeks.
Before I give the race report, I have to give the pre-race report, which contains much more drama.
Back in September I went to the ER for what we discovered was a pretty large kidney stone. After a few days of agony and lots of urinating, all the pain and symptoms disappeared. Some of you even asked what happened to it.
As it turned out, nothing happened to it. A CT scan on Friday revealed for seven months I’ve been blithely living my life, running two-half marathons with a sizable rock in my left ureter. It’s lower than it was, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
The pain comes and goes – so much so that I spent most of Saturday afternoon lying in the fetal position, wondering if I should just give it up and go to the ER. But on Sunday morning I felt perfectly fine and decided – what the hell – I’d go run the Sactown 10 after all. Last year I finished the race in 1:33:59, and didn’t realize it attracts more elite-level runners than any other race in this area. This year, runners like Nick Arciniaga and Sara Hall were prominent in the field of only 640 runners.
The weather was beautiful, if a trifle warm for my preferences, and off we went.
Mile 1 – 9:35
Mile 2 – 8:59
Mile 3 – 9:12
The course was a double-loop near the Capitol and across the Tower Bridge into West Sacramento. The worst part about a double-loop 10-miler is when you hit about mile 4 and start thinking about how crummy you are going to feel when you pass that way again.
Mile 4 – 9:11
Mile 5 – 9:09
Mile 6 – 9:01
I was well ahead of last year’s pace and just hoping not to fall apart.
Mile 7 – 9:18
Mile 8 – 9:02
Mile 9 – 9:11
My favorite part of this race is the almost three-quarter-mile straightaway to the finish. I like seeing it from a long way off.
Mile 10 – 8:48
Finish – 1:32:08
398th out of 640. 23rd of 24 in 55-59 age group
Yep, there were some super-fast old dudes in this race. I finished 25 seconds behind an 81-year-old. I wasn’t embarrassed because he is Bill Dodson, who last year broke the 100K US record for the 80-84 age group by more than two hours. I also finished behind a 77-year-old, a 73-year-old, six guys between 65-69, and 14 guys between 60-64. Oh, I forgot the 74-year-old woman and 17 other women older than I am who dusted me.
Still, it was my fastest double-digit race pace in 4 1/2 years and I’m sure I placed in the kidney stone division.
This race was more about what I didn’t do than what I did. I didn’t return home before the race started.
The Shamrock’n Half-Marathon goes off in four waves separated by 15 minutes, beginning at 7:45 a.m. I was in wave 2. But the race begins and ends at Raley Field, where the parking and access limitations pretty much require getting there about an hour early.
Sitting in my car before sunrise, watching the rain come down in buckets along with a howling wind, I wondered why the hell I was there. I was this close to chucking it.
I wouldn’t have been alone. The organizers announced about 7,000 people had registered for the race, and only 4,731 ended up running it.
What the hell. If you’re going to flog yourself, you might as well get it over with as fast as possible. The heavy rain meant no line at the porta-potties, and then I joined my wave for the start.
Mile 1 – 9:41
Mile 2 – 9:38
Mile 3 – 9:47
Crossing the Tower Bridge in a strong crosswind meant sideways rain. I was already regretting my decision.
Mile 4 – 9:35
Mile 5 – 9:39
Mile 6 – 9:15
Aha! The rain let up as we made our way around the Capitol building. Now my only worry was that I had gone out too fast.
Mile 7 – 9:29
Mile 8 – 9:29
Mile 9 – 9:26
The biggest crowd of spectators was in front of the Blue Diamond Almonds building. They sponsored the race and must have had the entire morning shift out front. I hit the halfway mat at 1:03:26 and figured I had a good chance of beating my Star Wars time of 2:05:53.
Mile 10 – 8:53
Mile 11 – 9:08
Mile 12 – 9:30
I was screaming along until I reached about 10.75 miles, where we made a big turn directly into the wind for the next 1.5 miles. It was raining again, and uphill, and I just wanted to get it over with.
Mile 13 – 9:31
I like a nice long straightaway to the finish, but this one had a sharp left turn into the stadium and boom! the finish about 25 yards away.
Finish – 2:04:03
1,329th of 4,731 and 32nd of 90 in the 55-59 age group. Almost a three-minute negative split.
With my 22nd half-marathon in the books, I got loaded down with more snacks than I had seen in the last three races I had done, and quickly gulped down my free beer. It was too rainy and cold to hang out, so I headed back to the car and cranked up the heat.
It will be a while before my next half-marathon, but here’s a hint to one I’m seriously considering…
The Lovely Mrs. A. and I were all finished with the Star Wars 10K before 8 am, which meant we still had all day for more important things, like beignets!
We also spent a full day at Disneyland, taking a short break in the middle of the day when the crowds got too large. Standing in line for 45 minutes at a time is not the best thing for your legs before a half-marathon, but there’s no point in being a road race Spartan at Disney.
I hated getting up at 0400 again, but everything went smoothly, the weather was crisp yet comfortable, and before long I was sitting in Corral A waiting for the start.
Mile 1 – 10:34
Mile 2 – 10:23
Mile 3 – 10:12
The race route for the first few miles largely mirrors the 10K course, with a little less time through the parks. It helped knowing in advance where the bottlenecks and pitfalls were, and I was happy to run a restrained pace at the start, as is my preferred tactic.
Mile 4 – 9:29
Mile 5 – 9:24
Mile 6 – 9:14
When last I ran a Disneyland challenge, it was in the crushing heat and humidity of summer, and I ended up in a walk/run for the last 10 miles. No such problem this time. After about 4.5 miles, the course takes you out onto the streets of Anaheim, and it becomes more of a traditional road race.
Mile 7 – 9:10
Mile 8 – 9:09
Mile 9 – 9:14
With long straightaways and plenty of room, I really outran a sensible pace over these last four miles. This is where crowd support was thickest, with scores of high school bands and cheerleaders going absolutely nuts as we passed.
Mile 10 – 9:24
Mile 11 – 9:30
Mile 12 – 9:31
Legs got heavy here, but the highlight of the entire race occurred somewhere after mile 9, which was the appearance of the 501st Legion, the premier group of Star Wars cosplayers. Here are a few photos of them during the race that I was able to pull off the Internet.
No one seems to have a shot of of the scene that blew me away: Kylo Ren flanked by about 20 stormtroopers. Amazing stuff.
Mile 13 – 9:28
Finish – 2:05:53
Well, that was far better than I expected. In fact, it was my fastest half-marathon since November 2011. 1,286th of 11,599 finishers and 30th of 164 in the 55-59 age group.
But I’m proudest of my Rebel Challenge numbers. Of the 4,542 people who finished both races, my combined time placed me 355th, and 7th of the 66 Rebel Challengers in my age group.
The medals were outstanding…
…but even better, more beignets!
Followed by another full day at Disneyland. My legs were killing me, which required some medicine at Trader Sam’s, consisting of a pupu platter and a couple of Lost Safaris.
Had I known this would happen, I would have ordered the Uh Oa!
I wasn’t expecting a great time and a great race. I can say with a high degree of certainty the Disney Star Wars race weekend was my best experience in 12 years of road racing. I don’t know if we’ll be able to manage it again next year, but the weather, the theme and the spectacle make it worthwhile for runners of every kind.
Even half-marathon winner Nick Arciniaga got into the spirit by cutting the finish line tape with a light saber.
If at all possible, put this one on your race calendar.