3 am... the alarm sounds and somehow I am ready to wake up and run. Stepping outside the chill slaps me and I try to settle into it telling myself it's only getting colder in a few hours when all of the layers I've donned will be stripped away and the essence will remain. Just a runner and the elements to join forces and see what may be accomplished.
The bus ride was savoured as I was aware what awaited us all... 2 hours of waiting out in the elements, and battling for bag checks and port-a-johns. After spending some quality times with new "friends" from Tampa completing their first marathon(!) I departed to to all the necessaries before show time. 20 minutes before the start I was down to a race singlet and short-shorts definitely ready to race now, just to stay warm. I trotted to the starting line some 1.5 miles away bring the total for the day to 2.5!
(On the way over I questioned my clothing choice as I left a wake of comments like "look at that crazy guy" and "what the hell?" or "he must've been running in the snow for the last month of training..." which no one actually said except the voice in my head.)
Only a Marathon to Go!
After Mickey and Donald had their say we were off into the darkness and the cutting wind. I tucked in and found the place of least wind resistance in the form of some very tall man. Mile one 6:50... a little slow but alright. We entered Epcot to the sound of triumphant music and flaming torches; this was cool and we circled the lake and many countries passed by. Mile 2-6:30, a little fast.
Around mile 4 we passed back to the starting area which had been transformed and broken down in only about 30 minutes! There were still runners in the other corrals waiting to start and I was thinking about how cold they must have been at that point... I knew I was. Chest and arms freezing I continued in my pursuit of a new PR, 6:45 pace, feeling urgent yet not rushed, patient and not bored. Right on the edge, directly in my moment.
On the way to the Magic Kingdom we ascended and descending on and off ramps as we hunted down the interstate in search of dreams. The miles were soaring along and the aid stations were flying by. I stopped taking water as it seemed to go right through me. I had to stop for a second time at Richard Petty's driving experience, seemed appropriate?
Into the Magic Kingdom, zooming down Mainstreet USA!!!
On into the Land of Tomorrow and now the pace was quickening, I knew I was getting caught up in the excitement but allowed this to occur. I was here to PR, to take chances and see what I was able to accomplish. Between the excitement I made to sure to gather my thought and re-establish sustainable effort. To stay within my Hydrogen (Lactic) Footprint Threshold. The Magic Kingdom came and went and we reached halfway, still in the dark passing light-alls and reaching the midway in 1:29:11, on pace for a PR but not for the 2:57 I was aiming at. So, I made a decision, to start running faster, seemed logical.
Through the wastelands...
Approaching the Animal Kingdom the course meandered through the Disney dump, waste water facility and greenhouse. A neat perspective but some slow miles too, the splits were fine, even a little quicker but mainly out of my effort to attach boredom with will, to stay engaged with a tempo-type of approach. We'd reached mile 15 and a glorious Floridian sunrise, the next two miles were spent taking that in and savouring the moment.
The Animal Kingdom was kind of tough, with winding pathways to wake of the ankles, some people were really beginning to struggle here and for the next 10 miles or so I would do all the passing. I was a lion out there, using the prey to attain my goals. Like Einstein said, "Hey man, it's all relative!"
Moment of Truth
With 8 or 9 to go you begin to get the idea of what the day is going to be like... will you blow up or soar away? With a series of interstate overpasses (aka hills) I continued on, flying through aid stations, soaking in the positive vibes from the generous crowd. Out and back to mile 21 and now only 5 miles remained. I was feeling a little stressed, that is tired, but knew that will another gel I was golden. This run was all but done and now I could really push beyond the aerobic zones and into the spiritual realm. I choked down a strawberry GU (not too bad really) and decisively charged ahead channelling my inner Catherine Ndereba.
The Streets of NY
Hollywood Studios brought NY to us and it was almost believable with the frigid air and endurance induced euphoria. The moment was short and were were back out to the interstate. Better enjoy it while you can... that goes deep.
Finally we reached Epcot in the light of day. The lake had grown in size apparently. 2.2 to go and I was ready to be finished, dropping in 6:30s now but the finish seemed so far away, perhaps because I missed the 25 mile marker... but soon enough a pile of kegs and a marker for mile 26 brought such relief. I burst forward giving my last efforts at speed and crossed the line in 2:56:51, 9 seconds faster than the goal of the day and a brand new, etched in history PR!!!!
Splits: 1/2 1:29:11
2nd 1/2 1:27:40
49th overall, 47th male, 11th in age group (30-34) and rated at 70% on some age based, gender based formula???
Most important of all was that at the finish I looked up, thinking of the amount of doubt I had over-come and just at that moment I hear an excited voice say the simplest of things, my name.
I walked over to Lynnea and kissed her through the chain-linked fence. We boarded the (warm!!!) bus and went back for a mid-morning nap before conquering Disney's Epcot that afternoon!!
Note: A HUGE thanks to the 6,000 volunteers and countless masses of spectators who make this event so special. If it weren't for such positive influence the logistics of this event could make this rather disastrous.