The season opens
The day I’ve been waiting for all summer has finally arrived—the start of running season. Here in Florida, June through August, and even into September, are just too damned hot to run seriously outdoors unless you have a hankering for heat stroke. But once fall hits, and temperatures drop below 90 for the first time, it’s time to lace up your shoes and hit the road.
Last year, my goal was to run a marathon, before I turned 40. Mission accomplished. This year, I wanted to do something somewhat ambitious, but not have to rearrange my whole life, like you have to for a marathon.
So: 6 half-marathons in 6 months. October through March, Florida enjoys a bounty of races to choose from, and I can easily pick one per month to run. My October race, then, was the Inaugural Disney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon on October 2.
Training for a relatively long race so soon after summer proved a challenge. For most of the summer, I had to restrict myself to 3-5 mile runs, and the heat made it difficult for me to even finish some of those at running speed. The heat added about two minute to my mile pace, which was frustrating.
As the race approached, I tried to build my long runs, planning a couple of sevens, a nine, and an eleven in the six weeks leading up to race day. Even getting up early for those, to try to beat the heat, I wasn’t happy with my results. My few evening runs where it cooled down, though, I noticed a definite pick-up in my pace, so I was hopeful that an evening race in October would be manageable.
One challenge to a long evening race is what to eat during the day. I heard a lot of runners, especially the experienced ones, express concern beforehand about what they’d had for lunch. We hit one of the Disney character breakfasts, which aren’t exactly a paragon of healthy eating. I shied away from carbs to avoid an insulin spike and stuck with protein—eggs, bacon, sausage—and hoped I wouldn’t regret it ten hours later. I also tried to maintain moderate hydration—no one needs excessive pee breaks during a race.
Anyone who’s ever run a Disney race knows they’re run with ruthless efficiency. Be there on time, or miss the race. For me, this meant driving to the EPCOT parking lot just after 6pm to catch the bus to the starting point at the Wide World of Sports, check my bag, and then wait until the start time hours later. While this gave me plenty of time to meet up with friends, I spent most of it on my feet. Call it three hours of standing around, before running a two-hour-plus race. Not the ideal situation, and a stark contrast to Disney’s morning races where you can show up one to two hours beforehand and make it in plenty of time.
I was fortunate to be in Corral B, based on previous race times, but even so, once the race started, there were walkers in front of me. I spent the first mile weaving side-to-side trying to break out of the pack, and ended up at a 10:30 pace for that mile. I finally found some running room, and for the next few miles, hit an even 10-minute pace.
Then we hit Animal Kingdom. For those who haven’t been there, Animal Kingdom emphasizes a natural feel—meaning the paths aren’t level like those in the other parks. They run hilly and narrow, meaning a good mile or so was mostly up-and-down while jockeying for position. I didn’t realize it until the next day, but powering through this part of the race probably killed me for the rest of it—my calves were still a bit sore three days later.
My split times after Animal Kingdom showed the strain, and perhaps the results of slight under-training: a cluster of 10:30 and 11:00 minutes miles, followed by couple starting in the 12-minute range.
Still, I kept it pretty well together for the rest of the race, and as we approached the boardwalk entering EPCOT, I tried to turn it on. The finish line was just around a blind corner, so I didn’t have my usual build to a strong finish, but even so, managed to sprint the last 100 yards or so. (I even lost a water bottle.)
Final time: 2:24:42. Not my PR, not even close, but by comparison, I ran the Blue Moon Half in 2:24:14 just eleven months ago. So for a fall race, I’m about a month ahead of my prior training. I’m eager to see what that means when I tackle some races that don’t involve a four-hour standing wait time before the race.
( Photo Source )