Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Shamrock Shuffle 8k Race Recap

Don't worry, we'll get to Part III of my Walt Disney Marathon in a day or two. But in the meantime, I wanted to talk about my most recent race.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to try the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago. Touted, the “world’s largest timed 8k,” the race certainly was my firs t experience in what I’m calling a “real race.” Mind you, I’ve run big races at Disney and the Hot Chocolate series, but the Shamrock had a veritable “who’s who” in today’s running. Names like Delilah DiCrescenzo and 2012 Olympian, Abdi Abdirahman would lead the pack and look for a victory after traversing the Chicago city streets in glorious running weather. The other races I had run were big, but not really big name. Plus the Elite Corral was jam packed with sub 25:00 runners, so you know this race was serious.

This was to be my third race of the season, but first major one.

First, let’s start back at the Expo. My wife and I went on Saturday to pick up our packets. I was glad to have submitted a qualifying time to move me up since there would be 40,000 runners in this monster. However,  I could only muster up a Corral B, which was kinda sad, since this was the first race in a long time I wasn’t seeded in Corral A, but as of late, an old stress fracture injury started to rear its ugly head, so I planned to take it easy anyway.

Overall, the Expo was well done and easy to navigate. Packet pickup was a breeze, as were the lines to get our shirts (seriously, red shirts for the Shamrock Shuffle? Very much a fail (even if they do look kinda cool)). Afterwards, we decided to check out all the goodies being offered at the Expo (I love running expos!). It was the usual same ole “I run for beer” bumper stickers, GU gels and apparel. But, there were a few highlights. First, the Motorola Motoactv running watch which is really cool. It remembers the songs that are playing when you show a jump in performance, effectively learning what works for you (beats all the Excel spreadsheets I do manually). I wasn’t really looking for myself, since I use a Garmin 610 & Nike + (more on that later), but more for my wife who recently asked about getting an iPod shuffle to use Nike + (she is currently using a Garmin 210).  We played with it for awhile and felt it’s a really neat device, and may pick up once one of our devices craps out.

The other neat booth was the Newton running shoe booth. I had heard about Newtons before, but didn’t know much until after reading about them in the April Runner’s World. I was curious to check them out since my stress fracture was due to my running style and Newtons had strategic rubber placements to help combat these issues. I tried out the Newton Distance which were really comfy and light! Because of the extra layer of rubber on the midsole of the shoe it would definitely take some getting used to, but a very cool feeling shoe. Since I already have about 4 pairs of running shoes in rotation (and a few still sitting in boxes), I couldn’t really justify the cost just yet (but, they are on the horizon).

Race Day
It was a slightly cool, breezy Sunday, perfect for running. My wife and I got to the race about 7:30 for an 8:30 start. I always like it when races are slated to have wave starts, even more when organizers police the corrals guaranteeing the correct runners are in the correct places. Both my wife and I were in Wave 1 which was helpful (since Wave 2 wouldn’t start for 45 minutes until after Wave 1). Bag check was a breeze, so after checking my bag I wished my wife good luck and headed over to the B Corral. According to the official guide, Corral B was to have about 3,000 runners but it felt more like 1,000 meaning space was abundant. Since I got there early I had plenty of room to stretch and prepare. Once warm, I threw in my ear buds and visualized the course in my head knowing there were 8 turns from Start to Finish.

Once the National Anthem was complete (sung by the incomparable Wayne Messmer), the horn blew and we were off. My game plan was to manage a safe 8:00 pace for the first 2 miles and then turn up the last 3. Well, that plan was shot the minute I crossed the Start line. Getting caught up in the excitement (I know better); Mile 1 rang out on my Garmin at 7:23, Mile 2: 6:49. Holy crap! I had to slow down! I was risk of either dying out early, aggravating my injury, or both!

Lemme just take a minute here and note how much I love my Garmin 610. It stayed true even after running under a bridge at Mile 1 to which the Nike + on my iPhone completely scrambled itself (It said I ran a 1:43 mile and did a 5k in 19:00 – I blame AT&T for its crappy service in the city). Suddenly, that MotoActv started to look pretty good.

Okay, we’re back
Anyways, filing past Mile 2, I was way under pace and I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage that time consistently for the length of the race. Problem was, I couldn’t slow down. Every time I tried to cut back to a 7:55/8:00 I felt like my body was working harder. So, I did the only damage control I could think of, I stopped. At Mile 2.whatever, I moved to the right, put my hand up, and stopped running.  I walked for about 30 seconds and managed to get control of myself and started back up. I felt much better at my planned 8:00 pace, but the damage was already done, I was pretty winded so any chance of speeding up in the last mile was all but lost.

The final stretch was pretty wide and flat (after just running over a somewhat sizeable hill). I gave it all my might and finished at a respectable 39:06, about 20 seconds short of a PR. My wife rocked her race and set a new PR for the 8k, so there was cause for celebration on her accomplishment.

The Course
I really enjoyed the set up. It was somewhat similar to last year’s Hot Chocolate race, taking us north to Grand, than pretty far west, south on Michigan Ave, and then finishing on Columbus (same as the Chicago Marathon Finish line). Since the roads were closed, everyone had the chance to make a notch for themselves and get into a rhythm without having to bunch up. I really enjoyed running over the bridges and looking down at the water. The other thing I enjoyed was just the sheer amount of people all along the route (especially, the perplexed tourists trying to get out of their hotels). There were also some great signs along the course such as “Do epic shit!” & “Worst. Parade. Ever!” I love this city.

Overall, this was a great race. It was well organized and a terrific route through the heart of the city. I’m really looking forward to next year, where I WILL get in Corral A.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Part 2

The alarm came fast and early Saturday morning as the day belonged to my wife, Devin who was running her first Donald half marathon and 2nd half overall. She was still fighting a nasty chest cold and had been up most of the night (as was I ) with coughing fits. I planned to meet up with her folks and my mom (who were not staying on property) later in the morning, so I wished my wife luck as she sped out the door and slept in about an hour. At around 4:30 I got up, texted Devin to see if she made it to the race okay and got about my day. The lobby of the Wilderness Lodge is impressive even at its busiest points, but at 5am it’s incredible and quite cavernous. There weren’t many stirring about so I stopped and just enjoyed the tranquility of the lobby for a moment. As I walked outside, I realized a very serious problem staying where we did, there wasn’t any spectator transportation. I had planned to meet everyone at the TTC, so I started walking in the pitch blackness. If you’ve ever been to the Wilderness Lodge, it prides itself on being tranquil and not exactly on the “Diney grid.” Therefore, there was no walkway, only road. I tried to stay on the grass, but it was wet and cold, so I hugged the road. About 3 minutes into my walk a pickup truck pulled up behind me, it was a Disney security guard. “You aren’t allowed to walk on the road,” he said, “it’s dark and you might get hit. Where are you going?” I told him my situation and I was only going to the TTC. His response, “Well, you can’t walk.” Mind you, I was almost there. “Well,” I said, “you wanna give me a ride?” He then just drove off.  From what I’ve learned from my beyond extensive experience with WDW is if you ever meet with any castmember resistance, just explain common sense to them and they tend leave you alone.

I made it to the TTC no problem and met up with my mom. It was about the 6 mile mark and it was empty. It was also about 38 degrees out, yowza! My in-laws parked at Epcot and took the monorail over to meet up. We proceeded to wait until we started seeing the wheelchair racers come through and then the “elites.” I saw a few friends of mine, a couple of ROTE hats & shirts, and after a little bit saw Devin.  She looked good was happy to see us. After the fanfare, we hopped a monorail to the Magic Kingdom to see her again. I have to applaud Disney for opening up the MK early for folks to cheer on the runners, and seeing that castle in the morning had me pretty excited for my race on the following day.

 Unfortunately, for us, Devin was a little faster than I had expected and she had already passed by the time we got there. But, on the monorail trip to Epcot, I was able to pick her out on World Drive (having that pale, Chicago winter tan certainly helped). We caught up with her a few more times at Epcot and then it was all over. Devin had a blast and knocked 20 minutes off her previous half time!!!! The only hassle was trying to get out of the parking lot, it took over an hour. We all went back to Wilderness Lodge and had lunch and then all headed back to our respective hotels to take much deserved naps. 

Great job, Hon!

I had done my job as a husband, cheered on my wife and had a blast seeing her run. Now it was time to focus on my task at hand. I had to change gears and start mentally preparing for the monster that was less than 24 hours away. My focus was on a Finish Line, but 26.2 miles were in my way and they had something to say about it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Part 1

Here we are in mid-March and I still haven’t gotten my 2012 Disney Marathon recap posted. I was kind of hoping I would forget about this, but Jenn over at Eat, Sleep, Run Disney just posted hers, so I guess I better get mine out on the ole Interwebs. I may break this up into multiple posts since there is a lot to talk about.

So, before we get to the “big race,” let’s take a few steps back to Christmas. My wife and I decided to visit my brother and his family in San Francisco over the holiday break. We had an amazing trip and left with many souvenirs, the biggest of which was from my nephew, a chest cold. So, my wife and I were about 10 days out from the biggest races of our lives and couldn’t breathe more than 5 minutes without going into deep coughing fits. My wife took it much rougher as she was coughing frantically up to (and right through) her Donald Half Marathon. She was in such rough shape, she even skipped the 3 Caballeros 5k at Epcot (she’s still apologizing for keeping me up with her coughing fits). I had my own problems, specifically IT Band issues. In November, I ran a 10 miler and destroyed my previous 10 mile time, but in the process jacked my legs. This prohibited me from any serious mileage over the holiday break (my longest run was 13.1 miles), so I was thinking “I am literally going to die. I’m literally going to either poop myself or die.” This was going to be fun.

                         Disney 3 Caballeros 5k at Epcot
The day we got in, we decided to stay with my Mom in a nearby town and visit a bit. The next morning, I got up early and checked in on my wife, who for all intents & purposes was out of the 5k lineup due to her chest cold (yep, she was coughing all night!). So, I hopped in the car and headed the back roads to Epcot. I had driven this way well over a million times, but it was so dark and foggy I thought I was going to get into an accident. Worse still, it was about 28 degrees out, 10 degrees COLDER than Chicago! Luckily, I got there fine and hung out in my car to stay warm until race start. I had run “fun runs” at Epcot before so I knew what to expect – cheesy DJ, lots of folks who look like they run once a year, folks in costumes, and the “hardcore, serious runners.” It was all in good fun, but I had a reason to get out there, I had to see how my legs were feeling since not running for over a week. This time the setup a little different, Disney had wave starts to organize the runners, by pace to maximize the overall experience. I lined up in Wave 1 hoping to keep a steady 8:00 mile and since this was honor system, everyone else lined up in this corral, I spent the first 5 minutes dodging walkers (C’mon walkers, back of the line!!!!!)

Off I went and quite frankly, felt great! I love running through Epcot, it’s so wide you can really get into a groove and stay there. I knew I’d have some stamina issues, which I petered out at around mile 2.98. So, I walked for about 15 seconds and then pushed a kick to the finish. All in all a good race and I was pretty happy with my performance.The medallion, as per usual, a dinky, rubber keychain, certainly not worthy of the cost of admission.

I crossed the Start Line at about :15 into the race

After the race, I went back to my mom’s and picked up my wife. We headed over to the Wilderness Lodge & checked in (God, I love that resort) My wife was running the Donald the next day, so she wanted to rest up.

I think this is a good place to stop for now (I have a St. Patty’s 5k in 8 hours and need to get some sleep.)

Next post: Devin’s Donald

Robert Sherman

I'm sure most of you Disney folk have heard the news about Robert Sherman, one half of the Sherman Brothers, who were responsible for most of the Disney tunes you hum today (It's A Small World After All, A Spoonful of Sugar, and many more) passed away earlier this month (been meaning to write this for awhile).

I have taken this especially hard as I have a deep fascination with Disney Parks music and, to me, is the best part of any of the parks. Especially, the entrance ways when you first enter the park (I have some experience with this when I worked in the recording studio for Universal Orlando and had the pleasure of developing the mixes for each of the "lands.")

What I love so much is the music you hear paints only part of the picture. It outlines the image, but allows your imagination and perception of the music to fill in the colors, and the Sherman Brothers were masters at this (to see, or rather, listen to what I mean, go check out the hauntingly beautiful score to "Magic Journeys" (not the single, but the actual underscore of the music).

What I really liked about Robert Sherman is the signature to his music. He had a percussive, march-like style that really stuck in your head in good ways (Miracles from Molecules, One Little Spark, Meet the World), and some, well, other ways (It's A Small World).

At any rate, we lost a musical legend this year. I'm sure he and Buddy Baker are making beautiful music in heaven. Luckily, we still have Richard and great composers like Bruce Broughton to follow in the steps of the great Shermans.

Rest in Peace, Robert. Your inspiration is certainly a reason of who I am today, and I just want to say thank you.

              Robert B. Sherman 1925 - 2012