At 3:30 Sunday morning I forced myself out of bed again, not exactly sure how I was feeling. There was some slight stiffness in my legs from the half-marathon and I felt tired (but I guess that is to be expected with getting up that early 2 days on the trot!).
As on Saturday I got changed, had a quick bite to eat and set off on the monorail for the start. It was at this point that the only real problem I had for the whole race reared its head, my headphones had decided to play-up. Only one side was working, so I was going to have to run in mono. In the grand scheme of things not the worst thing to happen on a marathon!
Although there were 10,000 people less running the full compared to the day before’s half, the race retreat was even busier, and resulted in me having to stretch outside as there was no room in the designated area. The weather was definitely cooler than the Saturday which gave me another slight issue, following the weather forecast of slightly warmer conditions, I only had a singlet and short-sleeved top to run in. I had taken my running jacket which would have been OK if there had been some wind, but it didn’t do much to keep out the cold! It wasn’t anywhere near as cold as the previous year, but I thought I might have a problem with being too chilly.
Anyway, we all slowly trooped down to the start where there was the usual introductions, national anthem etc. until they let us go. I was in corral B so was off second, I managed to place myself between the 3hr50 and 4hr Cliff Pace teams, hoping rather than actually feeling confident that I was going to get under 4 hours.
We set off about 5:45 with a mylar sheet wrapped very fetchingly around my legs to try and keep some heat in while I warmed up. I was slightly confused off the start line as the course was different than last year; well at least for some of us. Last year there had been two courses for the first 4 miles and then we joined up in the back of Epcot, this year it was only one course and it was the one I didn’t run last year so it was a bit of a change. It was actually a change for the better as you spent more time in the park and less time in the backlots. Heading through World Showcase it was time for the first toilet stop, which also gave me a chance to take off the running jacket as I had warmed up nicely by this time. I did lose a couple of things at this point, one of my gloves whilst trying to get my jacket tied, and also a tribute to my Dad who I was running in honour of that was pinned to my back came off.
Up to the toilet stop I had been keeping up with the 3hr50min pace team without a problem, however looking at my splits to start it was more because they were running slowly in the congestion of a mass start than me running fast at that point. To be honest, as I tweeted at the time, after 4 miles I was feeling pretty rubbish. Although I wasn’t overheating like the day before, and my heart-rate was under control, my legs felt pretty tired, and there was certainly no “Runner’s High” like there had been the year before. I continued with my fueling plan of a Shot Block every 3 miles and try to get a drink at most of the water stops. Due to the cold conditions though, this had to be rethought after 5 miles when I needed another toilet break. I just wasn’t sweating out or using up the liquid I was taking on board, it was passing straight through me and requiring regular stops. So I changed to just having a couple of cups every time I had a Shot Blok, which worked out great for the rest of the race.
In fact, it was just after my second Blok at 6M when my legs suddenly became possessed and I was off. I had begun to speed up after the slow first 4 miles, but now the times came tumbling down. All the way along World Drive into the Magic Kingdom car park I was feeling really good. My legs felt tired, but my heart-rate said I wasn’t pushing myself too far, and I was well under my 150bpm limit. I met the family at the same point outside our hotel and Sarah had seen my tweet about my headphones problems and kindly gave me hers. I also confidently predicted to her it was all going to go wrong soon as my legs were tired and I had just run 4 miles far too fast!
With the headphones fixed it was time for the iPhone to start playing up, it decided that my carefully crafted playlist wasn’t correct and went onto random shuffle mode, even with shuffle turned off (and shake to shuffle off)it was changing songs on its own.
Anyway I headed into the park, and after the 30 seconds or so of standing still swapping headphones and saying hello I was feeling pretty bad, which is reflected in my next 2 splits of over 9 min/miles. Which included another toilet stop. I wasn’t the happiest heading towards halfway, although the times came down again I was thinking I would be doing well to stay within 4hrs. Before the stop and the slow 2 miles I had been averaging a time that would have been very close to a PB, but assuming I would slow in the later stages it was looking like being in the mid 3hr50’s. With the 2 stops and slow miles it was going to be close to get under the 4hr mark, especially with a split around 1hr57 at halfway, any slowing in the second half was going to be a problem. Things looked even more grim when I felt a stomach cramp coming on at just past halfway, 3 miles sooner than I had had the problem the previous year.
By 15M I was expecting the “wall” to be just around the next corner and my legs and energy would just disappear. However, remarkably they didn’t. I went through Animal Kingdom and off out onto the most boring section of the course feeling good. My legs, although tired, didn’t feel any worse than they had done after about 2 miles, my heart rate was still below 150bpm, the sun was up and it was getting a bit warmer. I was also starting to overtake a lot of people, which is always good for the mental aspect of the run. It had been me being overtaken in the last 6 miles last year, this year I was just going faster and faster.
At 20M I upped my pace to get my heart rate into the 150’s. I figured I might as well give it my all and see where I could get to, this was going to be a one time deal doing the Goofy, so it was better to leave it all out on the road instead of thinking I could maybe have gone a bit faster. At just before 21M there is an “out and back” section where you can see everyone that is about a mile in front of you. It was at this point that I first caught glimpse of the 3hr50min Cliff Pace Team that I had lost after 3 miles and the first loo stop, they were only about a third of a mile ahead. It is a sign of how good I was feeling that the off-ramp at about 21.5M that I had been dreading from last year (it was at this point that I hit the wall and dropped about 30-40secs/mile) was not an issue and I powered up it. Before the 22M marker I had just passed the Cliff Pace Team, and with that came the knowledge that I was going to be close to a PB, which considering how I had started and how many miles were in my legs was pretty remarkable!
The last 4 miles are all within parks, so after going through Hollywood Studios and the across the Boardwalk to get to Epcot there was only just over a mile to go. I was feeling good still, and even managed a text to Sarah to let her know I had one mile left. Mile 25 was an 8:10 and then I went on to blow that out of the water with a 7:50 for the last mile! I had been thinking I could maybe just get under 3hr45min, but it was not to be, and I came in with 3hr46min25secs. A new PB by over 90 seconds, not much, but after 39.3 miles I was astounded, I am not sure any of the photos I have seen so far really show the huge grin that was on my face. I couldn’t believe it, last year I had really enjoyed the race, but slowed a lot in the last 6 miles, this year I had not really enjoyed it until nearly 20M and then flown through the last 10KM in a very respectable time! In fact I totaled up my splits for the second half of the marathon and they came in at just over 1hr48, considering my
PB for a half on its own is in the 1hr47’s it was quite frankly amazing!
I picked up my Goofy Challenge medal that jangled very nicely with my marathon one and headed off to the race retreat to try and make sense of what had just happened! As it was twice as far as the day before I had a massage for twice as long, and from the fact there was no real hobbling for the next couple of days I think it was money well spent. It was also time to catch up with the friend who had been running the Goofy too and trade some stories while having a hearty breakfast!
All in all a good result, I have had a few days to recover and hope to go out on my bike at the weekend as a sort of recovery ride.
I also intend to write a post with a few conclusions about the whole affair, once I have actually formed those conclusions.