RR #30: Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

This is part two of my report of the 2018 Dark Side Half Marathon weekend – I again did the First Order Challenge, which means I ran the 10k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.  I talked about the expo and the 10k here.  This is the race report for the half marathon.

 So – a recap of where we are:  I had just hit a massive PR on the 10k, in a crowded runDisney race.  I was feeling really good about life in general, really.  Saturday after the 10k I was able to legitimately rest.  I took a nap with my three-year-old, and my wife made a spaghetti dinner.  Because I’m still working on that last stubborn 20 pounds to lose, I hadn’t had spaghetti in a while and it was nice to be able to enjoy it guilt-free … including the seconds.

My goal for this whole weekend was to PR the 10k (check!) and then just get out there and have fun on the half marathon.  I ran past some photo ops when I ran the half last year, and so I intended to make sure and get those this year during the run.  The ice cave on Hoth, in particular, was a picture I regretted missing out on in 2017.  So I wasn’t too worried about preparation or anything for this race – mostly I was just planning to survive it.

The weather wound up being a pre-race story.  I’d intended to go to bed around 8pm, but I was pretty wound up for whatever reason, and the forecast wasn’t looking so good.  All week they’d been calling for a good chance of rain on Sunday morning around race time, but by 8pm the night before they were saying a 70% chance of thunderstorms between 6:30am and 7:30am – right at the time when they would have nearly every runner on the course.  If there was going to be lightning they were going to have to call this off, or at least delay it – and then, of course, there was the question of whether I wanted to go run in the rain at all given that I wasn’t taking the race all that seriously.  In particular, I didn’t know (still don’t, really) how they would handle the character photos if it was raining.  So I stayed up too late researching how and when we would know if they called the race off and finally went to sleep sometime around 9:30pm.

So the 2am alarm sucked, as you can imagine.  I immediately pulled up the weather … and they had pushed the rain forecast all the way out to 10am at the earliest – some services had it pushed out until the afternoon.  The race was on!  I had some coffee, fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and toasted a bagel, and headed out to Epcot.  Same deal for parking as we had on the 10k – park at the finish line at Epcot, long walk over to some busses, bus over to the start line in the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Image taken at 3:19am …

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RR #29 – 2018 Star Wars Dark Side 10k

In the afterglow of Ragnar Washington DC, my friend and van-mate Dave had me convinced to run my first full marathon this spring. We tentatively chose a race, we made tentative plans, we tentatively started looking at training schedules, the whole nine. And then, back in January, he realized that a nagging injury and the time suck involved was going to make it all but impossible to get trained up, and he backed out. It took me about two seconds to make the obvious choice about what to do next.

The space on my calendar meant I got to do the Star Wars First Order Challenge at Walt Disney World again!

I ran the Dark Side Challenge last year and loved it, even if it was quite warm and humid, and even if I didn’t even sniff PRs. You don’t try to PR runDisney races, you know? And I’m such a Star Wars nerd that I was feeling bad about NOT doing it even as I was planning (tentatively!) my first full marathon. I’ll likely get that full marathon under my belt one day, but that day was not to be in 2018.

Star Wars!

I will again split this up into two parts – here I’ll talk about the expo and the 10k, and in the next part I’ll talk about the half marathon. Because I described things in some detail last year, I’ll probably skip over some of it this time – if it feels like something is missing, you can always read last year’s report here.

So I took Friday off of work to handle the expo again this year. I just prefer to not have to worry about being rushed or feel the pressure of timing at all. The expo is held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports complex, and just like last year, by the time they opened things up the line was quite long and I’m glad I got there early enough to be second in line. If there is a chance I’m going to be waiting in an extended line anyway, I’d rather do it that way.

Imagine WWoS, with John Williams’ genius music in the background…

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RR #28 – 2018 Celebration Half Marathon

I wasn’t planning on running the Celebration Half Marathon again this year.  For the last several months now, running has felt like a slog – I enjoy having run, but I do not enjoy running.  I’ve struggled to drag myself out of the house to run in the morning in a way that I don’t struggle to do my other workouts.  After a while, it begins to dawn that it might be time for a break, and so you stop signing up for races and you prepare for a break.

And then plans change.

Race afterglow is dangerous.  After September’s Ragnar, the whole team was feeling that afterglow.  We had just run 200-ish miles, and I guess we weren’t thinking clearly.  We just spent a night in a proper bed (as opposed to a van seat), and had eaten barbecue and drunk beer the night before.  Now, at breakfast, we were feeling good, and the conversation naturally turned to upcoming races.  One of the teammates (I think it was Dottie – I blame Dottie) mentioned that the Celebration Half Marathon was a good race, and she planned to make it her “A” race this year and try for a PR.  Then I mentioned that I had run the race last year and really liked it – good organization, good after-party, flat course (which was particularly appealing after the hills everybody had just hated).  And then somebody said, “Hey, why don’t we all plan to come down and run that race?” And Dottie and I said our houses would be available to stay at and it is all a bit hazy but we left with an agreement (I thought) to get signed up for that race if at all possible and run it in January based probably out of my house.

Dottie was already signed up, and I came home and signed up immediately.  I laid out my race plan and I started to run.  Because I’m so familiar with the course, and because I can walk to the start line, much of the race stress that I feel before big races just doesn’t exist – I can relax into this one.  But as we got closer to race day, it became clearer and clearer that I was the only one that had signed up after the Ragnar.  Everybody bailed when the race afterglow faded.  But the good news was that we were still going to get a visit from our friends – they were going to be here to cheer, even if they didn’t run.

I’ll take it.

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I should have been sleeping by now…

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RR #27: Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k

I thought that Ragnar DC was going to be my last run for a while.  My plan had been to run that event, enjoy myself, and then take some time off from running to focus on some CrossFit goals.  I like how running makes me feel, but sometimes the actual doing of the thing is not my favorite.  And then, I ran Ragnar DC, and the curious thing that happens when you get around other runners having a good time … happened.  We started talking about the next events we want to run, the next races.  We started making plans.  And the next thing I know, I’m signing up for races.

I ran the Celebration Rotary Club Pancake Run 5k last year.  That was my first real attempt at getting back into running shape and running a race.  That 2016 Pancake Run represented my first “serious” race in over two years.  And I had a good run – I missed a PR by a minute or so, which was still a good outcome for me.  The race was pretty well run, though small, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was raining and not a generally nice day.

My sign-up for the Pancake Run this year was prompted by two things.  First, I thought I was capable of finally breaking through the 30 minute barrier in a 5k.  The fat guy holy grail of a sub-30 minute 5k had eluded me now for several races, and this looked like an opportunity to get it done.  For whatever reason, 5k races don’t make my calendar much anymore.  Since that Pancake Run last year, I have run three 10ks, two half marathons, and a Ragnar … but no more 5ks.  This was a chance to see what I had. Read more

RR# 26, continued: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 2

This is part two of my Ragnar Washington DC race report – if you haven’t read part one, you should click on this right now to head over there and read that first.

When we left off, we were pulling into Exchange #12 for our first break of the event.  The exchange was at a high school, and I have never seen so many white vans in one place in my life.  People everywhere.  The school had a spaghetti dinner they were selling as a fundraiser, and access to showers, as well, so there were some nice amenities.  There was also a big shady area back behind their tennis courts where everybody was taking sleeping bags to go lie down … a sea of runners, in repose. Read more

RR #26: Ragnar Washington DC – Part 1

OK – it is time.

Let’s talk about Ragnar.

So … last Thanksgiving I ran a 10k (still stands as my 10k PR, ahem) with my sister-in-law and very good friends who’s house we were crashing in the DC area.  Great morning, great race, really had a good time.  During the drive, somebody mentioned a Ragnar, and it turned out that none of the runners in the van had ever run a Ragnar … except me.  A sister had, but other than that no direct experience.  And everybody just casually said what a great idea it would be to do one of those things one day, and wouldn’t that be fun?

Yeah – I tend to be the type that actively tries to move things from talking to doing.  Especially at that time, I was reading a book that really had me thinking hard about the choices I was making and what I wanted to do with my time and energy.  So the week after Thanksgiving, after stewing on the idea for a few days, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen if somebody didn’t take the ball and run with it … so I sent an email out and volunteered to be captain.  By the second week of December, we were signed up for Ragnar Washington DC, to be run in late September, from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, DC. Read more

Race Report #25: 2017 Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

This is part 2 of my Dark Side Challenge at the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon weekend.  If you want to read my review of the 10k, you can find that here.

Okay!  When last we met, I was finishing up the Star Wars Dark Side 10K and then going to run another mile and a half chasing my kid around an inflatable obstacle course with a camera.  That was fun!  Really!  Enough that it requires multiple exclamation points!  But, it did leave me with a couple of challenges going into the second half of the Dark Side Challenge – the half marathon.

I was not, when I was chasing him, wearing running or technical equipment.  I didn’t have my compression shorts on.  And (and there is no way to do this but just to spit it out and get it over with) – I hadn’t prepared my nipples.  And though I didn’t leave that event actively hurting (other than my throbbing feet) … I did feel a sensitivity in the force, if you know what I mean.  Some gingerness in the upper thigh region.  A little scratchiness on the man nipples.

I had allowed myself to start chafing, is what I’m saying. Read more

Race Report #24: 2017 Star Wars Dark Side 10K

This is part 1 of my Dark Side Challenge race report – you can see the half marathon review here.

Hi.  My name is Matthew – and I’m a Star Wars nerd.

I own that.  Really own it.  And so it was a natural fit to make my first runDisney race … the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon.  But, in a fit of optimism brought about by a 10K PR on Thanksgiving, I did something that may seem foolish.  I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge.  This means I signed up for a 10K on Saturday AND a half marathon on Sunday.

Yikes.

I’m going to break this up into two posts – I’ll talk about the expo and the 10K in this one, and then the half marathon in the next one.

Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), runDisney races are a big deal.  People come from all over the world for a chance to run through the different parks and take pictures with the themed characters.  Several characters come out especially for these races – you don’t see them at other times.  They estimated 14,000 people started the 10K – looks like just under 11,000 finished – and then 20,000 for the half marathon.  Even though many of those are the same people that ran both races (like me) – that’s still a ton of folks.   And, in typical Disney fashion, they’ve got it very well organized. Read more

Race Report #23: Celebration Half Marathon

When I registered for the Celebration Half Marathon, I actually viewed it as more of a training run than a goal race.  I’m registered for the Gasparilla Half Marathon in late February, and I had registered so early that I believed I could get in a “practice” half marathon and still have time to recover for a real push at Gasparilla.  Also – I live in Celebration.  It felt like if I were going to be doing a 12 or 13 mile training run in town, I might as well get a medal for it.  All indications are that the race is very well run and very runner friendly … so I signed up.

Training went well.  I’ve clearly gotten faster, which I attribute largely to endurance gained with Crossfit.  My taper was very non-traditional – two weeks before the race I ran most of the actual course, about 12.25 miles by the time I was done.  And then I didn’t go for another formal run for those two weeks.  I went to Crossfit 6 days a week, and that often included running, but at no time did I go out for a run.  For dinner on Saturday night I made a chicken barley soup and homemade bread to carb up, and called it a taper.  My prior half marathon PR was 2:36 flat – my stated goal going into this was a PR, my secondary but really no-brainer goal was under 2:30, my stretch goal was under 2:25, and in my wildest dreams I hoped to get under 2:20. Read more

Pictures!

Quick update to the race report I did for The Florida Run 10K that I ran back in November.  They posted pictures!  I’m a sucker for pictures.  Not really any super good ones of me, I don’t think, but I wound up with three.  I’m going to go back in and put them into the race report itself, but wanted to put them here since they’re new.

Pictures!

results%2f2350bfa8301645cdadc5%2fdsc_4848At the starting line.  You can see this was a small race, though they were very well organized.  This picture is a little Where’s Waldo, but with me.  I’m in here, though…

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Right after the start.  I really struggle with relaxing my arms – they always wind up high and tight like that unless I’m focusing on it.  I don’t know why, and I feel like I’ve done a much better job of working on it when I’m training.  But, especially when I am having to focus on other things (like a race start), they go back up there.  I’ll keep working on it, but I’m also open for ideas.

Incidentally – that guy in front of me was one that I marked early as “want to finish before him”.  Not sure why him, but there you go.  I stuck with him for the first mile or so, and then he left me behind. I figured that was that, until about mile 4, when I passed him as he was walking up a hill.  I never had to drop into a walk, and I never saw him again.  It was roughly there that I realized I had a very good race going.

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Not too often you get pictures from the back like this.  Look at those calves!

I linked to the full race report in the first line of this post, if you’re interested.

Pictures!