With Saturday’s Tie Fighter 10k complete, including waiting for the bus back to EPCOT (which took me longer than it took to run the 10k), the next step was to prepare for Sunday’s Dark Side half marathon and the completion of the Dark Side Challenge. A nap, some stretching, setting out everything for the morning, a safe dinner, and setting my alarm for 2:30am pretty much filled out the day – and I even managed to get a few hours of decent sleep, a rarity for me before Disney races.
I was out the door before 3am and parked at EPCOT by 3:30. Before heading to my corral I met up with Billy, Janine, Gelcys and Alpha. I was prepared to run with Gelcys if she felt like she needed extra company, but she felt good running with Janine and Alpha so I headed up to corral A, getting there at 4:55. The race started at 5:00 so that might have been cutting it close 😉
The advantage of starting at the back of corral A is that the really fast runners are gone before I ever see them so I’m not tempted to start out at a faster pace than I should. Once the fireworks went off and we started our 13.1 miles of Star Wars fun, I kept an eye on my Garmin looking for a heart rate of about 150. The plan was to stay at 150 for the first half and then adjust my pace based on how I felt at that point. I don’t know why I make plans – I never stick to them. My heart rate stayed in the low 150s for the first two miles, and by mile 3 I was up to 160. The first two miles got us into EPCOT, around World Showcase and out to the Boardwalk area, and I was running at paces of 9:27 and 9:04.
From the Boardwalk area we ran to, into and out of Hollywood Studios for miles 3 and 4. This was pretty close to the 10k course, though we did take a left halfway up Hollywood Boulevard and ran around Echo Lake, a part of the park that I’ve never run through before. I finished mile 3 in 8:46 and realized that was too quick so I slowed down to 9:22 for mile 4. Heart rate was at 160 for miles 3 and 4, well above what I wanted but I didn’t want to slow down to over 10:00 per mile so I stayed with it.
Miles 5-7 took us on the road to Animal Kingdom, so not much exciting going on. Except for those giant HD screens playing clips from various Star Wars movies. I think that all half and full marathons should show movies along the course, just for distraction purposes. Speaking of distractions, let’s get back to the recap. I ran miles 5-7 in 9:06, 8:40, and 8:56, which shows that my pace was up and down. However, my heart rate was 161, 163, and 163 for those miles and that’s what I was paying attention to. I also crossed the halfway point of the race in about 58:30, including a bathroom stop, so I felt good about finishing in under two hours.
The eighth mile took us all around the Animal Kingdom parking lot and to the point where we were to enter the park. Again, not great on the scenery, but good for staying steady. Mile 8 done in 8:52 and still at 163bpm. Most of mile 9 was inside Animal Kingdom, and here’s where I made my one character photo stop. I mean, how often do you see Stormtroopers on the course? Picture done and I’m off and running, deciding that it was late enough in the race where I could start picking up the pace. I hit the end of mile 9 in 9:06 (including the photo stop) with my heart rate up to 167.
Miles 10, 11, and most of 12 took us back on the road, this time we were headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Once again there were huge movie screens along the way, bringing a smile to my face each time I saw the light side battling the dark side. I bumped my pace up to 8:46 for mile ten, but fell off slightly with 8:54 for mile 11 and 9:09 for mile 12. I was starting to feel pretty spent, but kept my heart rate at 167 for all three of these miles. with 1.1 miles left it was time to give it whatever I had left no matter how I felt.
Just before the end of mile 12 we turned onto the dirt road that lead us into the ESPNWWOS complex. Now into the 13th mile I noticed something else that made me feel really good, even special. The sun was about to come up. I’d always started Disney races in a corral far enough back where I ran a decent portion of the race in daylight. The sun in Florida gets hot, fast so I was glad I’d be done by sunrise (even though I wasn’t feeling particularly fast at that moment). Mile 13 saw my pace improve to 8:30 and my heart rate jump up to 175. Now I see the finish line and it’s time for the last burst of speed.
For the last tenth I managed a 7:20 pace and 184BPM average. Yeah, that was pretty much everything I had. I really haven’t been doing much training for the past couple of months. More like going through the motions. But, I did manage my first Disney half under two hours (1:58:26), so I had reason to celebrate. Besides, Carissa called my name out as I crossed the finish line, another first. I got my medal, some water, Powerade, and the standard issue RunDisney food box + banana, then headed for the challenge tent. They look up your picture (taken at packet pickup) to verify who you are and make sure that you finished the first race of the challenge, and then give you your challenge medal.
After completing the half mile long finisher’s chute and getting a photo taken I headed to the next parking lot where they had a few more photo opportunities. I knew that the lines for these photos would continue to grow as more runners crossed the finish line so I waited for a couple of pictures while the lines were relatively short. I then returned to the bleachers near the finish line to wait for Gelcys, Alpha, and Janine to finish. While sitting there I heard one of the announcers call out someone’s name and congratulate them for completing their 250th half marathon. Now there’s an accomplishment! Let’s see, another 234 to go and I’ll be there too.
I am quite impressed with the amount of detail that RunDisney put into this weekend, and the medals are spectacular. I’m thankful that I was able to start in the A corral and run in relatively light traffic for most of the race. I’m also quite amazed that Gelcys was able to push through the pain that she experienced during these last 22.4 miles and finish all three races with a smile on her face. Now that my racing season is in the books, it’s time to switch gears, do a few weeks of easy runs to complete my heart rate training, and then it’s time to start running some big miles! It’s ultra time before this year is done.