January 15, 2014

Dopey! I was doing the Dopey challenge! I had to stop for this photo!!

Dopey Challenge Report

Before anything else, I want to thank the thousands and thousands of volunteers that made the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend so magical! I don’t if any of you will see this report, but I really appreciate your time, energy, support and help!

These races are genuine Disney magic. You feel like a kid again being in the parks, but I get to combine that with my passion of running and the joy of finishing the races. My times for these races are horrible, but the goal was to finish within the permitted times, and I did that very comfortably. Some people take these races very seriously, but many like me enjoy them as leisurely fun runs, and even be GOOFY wearing home-made costumes and stopping for photos with the various Disney characters along the courses.

Yes, running in costume:

Princesses running the 5k
Princesses running the 5k

Pac-Man getting ready to run the half-marathon
Pac-Man getting ready to run the half-marathon

Even mermaids can run... somehow...
Even mermaids can run… somehow…

This is the third year in a row I’ve done the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend events, and the biggest reason I keep coming back is the spectacular organization. runDisney, the race directors, and all the organizers do a VERY good job! This event has tens of thousands of runners, thousands of volunteers, hundreds of buses, dozens of performers and 50-ish miles of running! It’s enormous and it runs like a well-oiled machine. And they’re adaptive! For example, there was a huge line-up getting wristbands after the 5k race. By the next morning, they had sorted it out and re-arranged it to make it flow better!

RunDisney is also very good at communicating. The website is very, very detailed. They also send out lots of e-mails, including advice and strategy for the races. Their race guide which was available in print and online has everything you could possibly want to know about the race. There are no excuses for not knowing how things work for these Disney races.

I’ve written at length about my training. You can read all about it on blog posts tagged with the ‘Dopey Training‘ tag.

The Dopey Challenge is a new set of races by runDisney. During the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, there is a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full-marathon and kids races. The 10k is new. If you register to do the half and full-marathons back-to-back, you are considered to be doing the Goofy Challenge! This year with the addition of the 10k, RunDisney introduced a new challenge called the Dopey Challenge which involves running the 5k, 10k, half-marathon.

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time
2014/01/09 Walt Disney World 5k Complete 38:32
2014/01/10 Walt Disney World 10k Complete 1:15:47
2014/01/11 Walt Disney World Half-Marathon Complete 3:05:11
2014/01/12 Walt Disney World Marathon Complete 6:53:58

Someone asked me why I bother doing all the races rather than trying really hard at just one. I didn’t come to Disney for any personal records: I wanted to have a good time. This is my idea of a great vacation!!

 

Apparently I wasn't the only one worried it was too warm...
Apparently I wasn’t the only one worried it was too warm…

I will mention that the extra-cold temperatures leading up to these races really challenged me: I adjusted to -20 degree temperatures back home, which meant the +30 humidex in Orlando was pretty uncomfortable. The frigid weather seems to have given me a cold. What a lousy time to get sick!

The weather also played havoc on getting to DisneyWorld. The day before our flight, Toronto’s airport shut down because they said it was too cold. The disruption delayed our flight by 5 hours. I was really worried I was going to miss the expo. Fortunately, Mark Young, a friend of a friend was on an earlier flight and was gracious enough to pick up our kits for us! He even delivered them to our hotel! Thank you so much!!

Mark, me and Bob with our Dopey Challenge bibs the night before the first run
Mark, me and Bob with our Dopey Challenge bibs the night before the first run

The race kit included six shirts: five tech-material shirts and a cotton shirt for the 5k. It’s like a wardrobe for the whole week! It also included two different bibs: One for the 5k and 10k, and the other for the half-marathon and full marathon.

We got to the hotel, the Caribbean Beach Resort around 7:30pm Wednesday night. Mark’s luggage got delayed and I was pretty worried our would be too. I had some gear for the first race in my handcarry. Fortunately  the luggage arrived around 11pm. I didn’t really unpack that night, just dropped into bed because I had to be up really early for the first race.

I traveled to the race with my mom, aunt and uncle. Another runner, Bob, and his wife traveled with us. Only Bob and I are running.

On a general note, 4 consecutive races required a lot of gear. I turned several drawers of my hotel room’s wardrobe into a satellite running gear armoury.

My home-away-from-home running gear armoury
My home-away-from-home running gear armoury

 

Walt Disney World Family Fun 5k

I woke up before 4am on Thursday to dress and prepare for the first race. I put on my first outfit, but my mom/coach said it didn’t match so I changed into this all-blue number.

Before the Walt Disney World 5k
Before the Walt Disney World 5k

Technically, first 3 are night races. But early morning: not late!! Glad I had my light up Mickey Ears originally from the 2012 Dopey Challenge!

My mom and aunt went with Bob and I to the 5k race. There was a bus stop close to our rooms at 4:30am. Our hotel was evidently really close to the race because we could hear start line announcer chatter from the bus stop.

The buses were organized, and they marshaled us quite comfortably to the starting area. We didn’t have a lot of time to spare when we got there. My mom and aunt got comfortable in a grandstand and Bob and I headed to the corrals. We met Mark in the Corral, and Ed, another Canadian we originally met on the flight over. The race started at 6:15 with fireworks, naturally.

Just as we were about to cross the starting line, my Garmin lost its satellite connection! I was frantically trying to re-establish the connection for the first 500 meters.

I was very comfortable with the course because I did it in 2012 and 2013. Mark, Bob and I run more or less together. I had to encourage Bob to slow down a lot. I enjoyed the music they played while we were in the park. We were done the race before 7am.

Bob was a little disappointed that the ‘medal’ was actually plastic. After the race, there was a huge line-up to get 5k wristbands. This was a new feature. They say you needed to collect a wristband after every race to prove you did all the races in the Dopey Challenge. I wish I had started collecting them on my left wrist because I had to keep them on for the rest of the weekend.

Expo!
Expo!

 

I was back in our hotel room and showered before 8am. After breakfast, Bob and I decided to go to the Expo to look around. It was a well-stocked expo. I bought a Vinylmation figure to match the one I got the year before. I wanted to meet Runner’s World Editor-at-large Mark Remy, but the timing didn’t work out well. We met up with the rest of our party around noon and spent the afternoon in Epcot.

New Vinylmation figure (left) with the 2013 figure
New Vinylmation figure (left) with the 2013 figure

Inaugural Walt Disney World 10k

This was the first year of the 10k. It was essentially a repeat of the 5k setup with a little extra distance added. It had the same starting area, corrals, finish chute, and even the same announcers. The announcers even lampshade that they may use the same jokes as yesterday. A noticeable difference was that this race started earlier at 5:30am!

I had a particularly patriotic outfit planned: Canada Bondi band, STWM 5k t-shirt, and red shorts.

Before the Walt Disney World 10k
Before the Walt Disney World 10k

Bob and I met and boarded a bus around 3:30am because they said the last buses will be at 4:00am. We had a little time to kill, so we looked around starting area for a while. We met Mark and Eric again in the sea of people. The announcers said there were about 10,000 runners, so finding those two again was a pleasant surprise.

For both the 5 and 10, I noticed a disproportionate number of people were Dopey Challenge Runners. Apparently 7000 of the 10,000 runners each day were doing the Dopey. I almost felt bad for those doing ‘JUST’ the 5 or 10k.

My highlight of the morning was in the corrals before the race. Bob, Mark and I stayed at the back of the corral. I saw someone with a Runner’s World singlet who looked kinda familiar. So I asked him why he looked so familiar. He introduced himself as Mark Remy! Yes, the Runner’s World Editor-at-large and writer of Remy’s World who I missed at the expo! And I freaked out!! I totally fanboyed!

With Mark Remy! I posted this picture on Facebook and he commented "It IS a small world after all"
With Mark Remy! I posted this picture on Facebook and he commented “It IS a small world after all”

I asked to get a picture with Mark Remy, and his friend guffawed. He muttered something about this inflating Mark’s ego. But Mark Remy was so nice! We chatted a bit and then when the race started he and his friend went their own merry way. That chance meeting made my day. I shared that photo on Facebook and got a lot of likes and comments.

The 10k itself felt very similar to the 5k. There was about 2 miles of highway added to the beginning, then we did the around the world part of Epcot again. A new mile was added near the end going around the boardwalk area hotels. I recognize that boardwalk part from the full-marathon route.

I found the air to be very sticky and humid. There was a nice little breeze sometimes but there wasn’t enough of it. Bob and I did 10-and-1’s to try to conserve ourselves.

The finish was familiar. As I mentioned before, I was glad the wristband thing had been re-organized.

I was fighting my cold pretty bad after that. I couldn’t hide my coughing anymore. It was rough. I was coughing, sneezing and my eyes burned. I was keeping myself together with Cepacol, Tylenol… lots of “-ol’s” but not alcohol!

With Rafiki!!
With Rafiki!!

 

We spent the day at the Animal Kingdom, which I quite like. My favourite spots were the Finding Nemo musical and ‘Safari’ with real animals!

At Disney's Animal Kingdom after the 10k
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom after the 10k

 

Walt Disney World Half-Marathon

Saturday morning was another early morning. I wore some of my favourite gear, including my INKnBURN Steam Punk shirt.

The mousegear background was too appropriate for this shirt!
The mousegear background was too appropriate for this shirt!

The start for the half-marathon is like the full, but different from the 5 and 10k. I heard about 26,000 people were doing the half, so the Dopey’s were outnumbered by the Goofy Challenge runners and those only doing the half-marathon.

Fireworks at the start of the race, naturally...
Fireworks at the start of the race, naturally…

I’m not going to sugar-coat this: The half-marathon sucked! It felt over 27ºC with the humidex by 7am. We had a tailwind the first 6 miles, which meant there was no cooling breeze. I was feeling really warm. I thought I was going to pass out during the race. I felt miserable. I considered lying down several times.

Not long after the 6 mile sign I stopped at aid station and put ice in my headband. Bob said it was like having special jewels in my crown.

Even though I felt lousy, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it and take fun photos:

At Magic Kingdom during Walt Disney World Half-Marathon
At Magic Kingdom during Walt Disney World Half-Marathon
With Lili & Stitch! I love Stitch in his interSTITCHals, like this one
With Lili & Stitch! I love Stitch in his interSTITCHals, like this one

The race was a drag, it may have given me the adjustment in temp I needed to feel okay the next day.

Regrettably, my light-up Mickey ears broke by the end of the half-marathon. They served their purpose during the night races. I saved the pieces to bring home to add to the trophy collection.

Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness probably hasn’t had post-race massage. $20 for 20 mins SO worth it! IT, calves and feet felt repaired. Thanks Stacey from Everest college!

I also soaked in the hotel pool after the race to bring my body temperature down and work out some soreness from the first 3 days of racing. Then spent a few hours back at the Magic Kingdom wearing my medal!

 

Walt Disney World Marathon

Finally the biggest race. Every other race was a puny distance compared to the full-marathon. This would be my first full-marathon in a year. But, I psyched myself up appropriately, and decided that I would finish!

Thankfully, it was much, much cooler than it was during the half-marathon. It was about 14ºC with no humidity! Thank goodness!!

Several runners from the Square One Running Room before the Walt Disney World Marathon
Several runners from the Square One Running Room before the Walt Disney World Marathon

I met up with Bob at 3:30am again. We took the bus to the start line and joined Lucy, Anil, Kim, Carmen, Christian, Tina and Sean who are from the same Running Room as us.

I tried to talk strategy with the group before the race, but they weren’t really interested. As the race went along, we would spread out, and eventually someone in the front would pull to the side and we’d collect up again. At first I was a little annoyed we were stopping so much and going so slowly, but I was later very grateful.

During the full-marathon, my throat and chest hurt. I understand why my throat hurt: my lymph nodes were probably overloaded and hurting from fighting a cold while I WAS RUNNING a MARATHON! I’m not sure why my chest muscles hurt… maybe from coughing so much over the last few days.

More fireworks!
More fireworks!
Entering the Magic Kingdom
Entering the Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom during Walt Disney World Marathon
Magic Kingdom during Walt Disney World Marathon

 

Here’s a video I took in the Magic Kingdom:

When we ran through the Animal Kingdom around 13 miles, we passed by the Everest Roller coaster. There was no line! I understand that some runners went on the ride during the race! I regret that I didn’t. I should have. Maybe next time… 😉

Not long after the Animal Kingdom the group kinda fell apart. We stopped meeting up periodically. I didn’t mind running alone. I put on my headphones and listed to a playlist of uptempo Disney songs.

At that point in the race, my biggest worry was tan lines around my sunglasses.

 

Hooah!
Hooah!
Roar!
Roar!
Dopey! I was doing the Dopey challenge! I had to stop for this photo!!
Dopey! I was doing the Dopey challenge! I had to stop for this photo!!

When I got to 20 miles (32km) I finally felt like I was gonna make it! All the strategy and advice I had been reading said to save it for the last 10k. I got a bit emotional when I realized I was going to make it!

There’s an out and back where 17 miles meets 20 miles. That’s where I saw the sweepers and freaked out! No time for dilly-dally, need to finish this race before the sweepers close the course!

I passed hundreds of people in the last 10k. I had so much strength and energy saved from going slowly that I had lots of pep left in my step. 

At the end of last year’s Disney Marathon, I saw someone finishing the race with a beer in his hands. For 12 months I’ve said I wanted to do that.

When the race took us into Epcot, slightly before the 25 mile mark, I saw the UK pavilion. I ran just off the course and joined a line to a food stand in the park. A couple people in the line saw me and asked why I was stopping. I said I wanted a beer! They all parted and let me go ahead of them. I fished some money out of my race belt and got some sort of ale. By the time I got my beer and back to the course, word got into the restaurant and patio area and a bunch of people came out cheering “Go Paul!”

Who says you need to finish the race before you start drinking!?
Who says you need to finish the race before you start drinking!?

I walked the next Mile through Epcot sipping the beer. I got lots of laughs and lots of cheers from people in the park who saw me. Several said “this guy’s got the right idea”.

Cheers! This is how I want to finish my race!!
Cheers! This is how I want to finish my race!!

I actually caught up with most of the group at the 26 mile sign. They said they all wanted to finish together but a couple were still well-behind. I waited with them for about 20 minutes, but realized I was meeting family after the race, so I finished alone without them.

Apparently I should have waited another 5 minutes because that’s when the last couple came. And my bus back to the hotel broke down. Bob, who finished with the others got back before me!

This food disappeared SO quickly...
This food disappeared SO quickly…

 

I DID IT!!
I DID IT!!

 

Overall Impressions

There were many countries well-represented. The announcers said all 50 States and over 20 countries. The Brazilians were the most visible and vocal. There were Canadians too, but not as garishly patriotic. Maybe I should put Canadian flags on the back of my shirts for these international races.

Medal collection!
Medal collection!

I saw a lot of people in Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs gear. I should have worn my shirts for those organizations since I’m a member of each.

I feel a like the Dopey Challenge took away from the Goofy Challenge. The half and full marathons back-to-back are very hard. The extra 5 and 10k are just a grind. But, I’m always up for a challenge and usually go for the highest challenge.

Would I do it again? Yes! This is my kinda vacation!! Would I do it next year? I’m hesitant to answer that while my IT bands are still sore. Some family trips are already scheduled for 2015, so maybe not again until 2016.

I can eat what I want after a marathon!
I can eat what I want after a marathon!

There’s the DisneyLand Half-Marathon weekend at the end of August. They have the Dumbo double dare which is a 10k then half-marathon. And I’d get the “coast-to”coast” medal. I’ll think about it. Anyone else interested in it?


Comments closed


11 Comments »

  1. Ali Mc says:

    This was a great read!!! Sounds like a blast if I can both a) afford this and b) run I will come with you next year 🙂

    My favorite parts – 5 TECH TEES!!!! mouse ears, that Ariel costume, the fact that even though you were there for fun you spent the first 500 meters of your 5k playing with the Garmin 😉 10k addition , dopey photo op. ….and that you drank a beer during a marathon!!!!!!! Awesome

    • The Garmin is serious business for pace. But I must have seemed like a dolt fighting with it in the first 500 meters.

      Not next year, I’m afraid Ali, but perhaps 2016.

  2. jygsawpuzzle says:

    Good job Paul! Thanks for all the photos too! Looks like you had a blast!

  3. Sam says:

    LMAO that you drank a beer during your marathon!! I bet it tasted so good. Good for you having so much energy to finish so strong that final race! Great read and congratulations again!! Sounds like a fun time!

  4. Mark Young says:

    Hmm, the Dumbo Double Dare?

  5. macnic says:

    I will be doing this one day for sure. When we were flying home on Saturday (Jan 18), we saw quite a few people with the marathon shirts at Orlando Airport. Congrats, Paul!

  6. […] Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge was right at the start of 2014, and it was quite a great highlight. In particular, I liked walking […]

  7. […] years ago. And, it also wasn’t a “destination race vacation” like so many of my other […]