Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge

After training for almost a year the 2016 Dopey Challenge has come and gone way to quickly.  When you are focusing on a goal for so long in terms of training, talking, and planning, when it passes you are left a little hollow, so I am already hard at work coming up with my next goal for the remainder of this year.

The Dopey Challenge itself was an incredible event and an incredible challenge, on may levels, only one of which was actually running.  Staying on property at a Disney resort that support the Disney Run event is a must in my opinion.  Getting up early all those mornings in a row to catch the bus was probably one of the hardest parts of the races, but I can't imagine having to worry about driving myself to the event from a different hotel.  Many of the Disney hotels support the race from value through deluxe offering a wide range of prices and locations to the runners.

While I have stayed at many of the Disney resorts over the years, for this particular visit we chose to stay at the Beach Club resort within the Boardwalk area.  This is one of our favorites for many reasons including the room size, restaurants and proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios (walking distance).  And of course, it supports the Run Disney event.

Florida weather in the traditional winter months can be a challenge and this past week was no exception.  I was closely monitoring the weather up until the trip and the harsh, hot, humid temperatures were dropping just in time for the race.  I was ecstatic, so I packed short sleeve shirts and shorts for the various runs.  I brought shorts and short sleeve shirts for my "days off" as well even though I knew I wouldn't spend a lot of time in the parks.

Of course, the temperature kept dropping and proved to me once again that I never bring the right clothes to Florida.  Thankfully the running shirts were long sleeves, but I was cold each morning waiting for the races to start.  So, if you attend a winter race in Florida please take a variety of warmer and cooler climate clothes just in case.

Expo and Packet Pickup (Wednesday, January 6th, 2016)

The Race Expo runs from Wednesday through Saturday  the week of the event.  Runners must attend the race expo in order to pick up their race packets including their bib(s).  If you are over 18 you must have a photo ID with you, they will not hand out your race packet otherwise.  I saw a few people turned away who left their wallets in their hotel rooms.  For the Dopey runner you must attend the Expo on Wednesday since your first race is Thursday AM.  The other runners must attend prior to their first event.

In general this event is a hot mess.  It is crowded and the lines can be long.  With over 70,000 runners participating in the 4 events, this is to be expected.  To help cope with this various "stations" are spread out across various buildings and walkways.  While this does help, you find yourself needing to visit various booths in order to gather everything you might need depending on the various events for which you signed up.

You start at the HP Field House which houses the main Expo area.  On the lower floor you will find various stations for picking up your race bib, and the Dopey Challengers obtained their race photo and their shirts on this same level.  The race photo is required for all Dopey/Goofy challengers in order to receive their Goofy and/or Dopey challenge medals.  The upper level contained official race merchandise for the event.  Fortunately we arrived early enough that the initial crowds had not formed yet when we first arrived.

After getting my bibs, I moved to the Dopey Challenge shirt line (along the black curtain in the back of the photo below).  By the time I got my bibs and had my photo taken the shirt pickup line was a mess so instead of lining up by size (with most runners in the Medium line), they allowed us to get into any line to speed the process along.  This was a great call by all the amazing volunteers.

View of HP Field House Floor (Packet Pickup)

If you aren't running the Dopey, once you have your bibs, you make your way over to the Jostens Center to pick up your gEAR bag and shirts.  All the official vendors are also located in this building so you can pickup items you may have forgotten, get a commemorative item, or get the coveted New Balance limited edition shoes.

Champions Stadium is the location for all other items.  This includes the 5K race, kids races, Race Retreat, ChEAR Squad, or runner tracking.  They also have stations here for spectators to make signs along the route.

While we did walk around the expo hall floor and look through the vendors, I have to admit that we got in and out of there as fast as possible.  The longer we stayed the more crowded it got.  While there are some really nice items there for purchase, the prices aren't great in general.  However, some of the commemorative shops were offering discounts if you purchased during the expo, so keep that in mind if you have plans on purchasing something like a shadow box.

5K Event (Thursday, January 7th, 2016)

The 5K starts the latest of all the other races, so this is your last chance to sleep in for several days.  The race starts at Epcot (as do all the races) at 6AM.  The first bus was schedule to leave our hotel at 4AM, so I went downstairs to the bus depot at 3:45 and found a bus waiting and boarded.  We left promptly at 4.  I found out later that the next bus wasn't able to pick runners up until 4:45 or so as each bus was being filled before reaching the Beach Club.  The route they were taking was Swan, Dolphin, Yacht then Beach.  This seemed like a rather inexcusable problem given the number of races Disney has run.  Either they should have more data on how many runners are at each hotel or they should start with shot gun (golf term) buses at each hotel to get started.  Turns out that after the 5k they did just that.  Each hotel had 2 buses to start with, then they could do the normal route without filling up.  So, kudos for recognizing the issue, hearing the runners and getting it addressed.

The 5K isn't a large event by Disney standards so getting around the starting area, finding a bathroom, and finding a place to sit in the main large white tent was easy.  This large tent was to be used for Massage stations for the Half and Full Marathon's but for the 5K and 10K it was simply open and a place for people to wait it out.

The 5K is divided into 7 corrals (A through G).   Your corral placement is based on your qualifying time.  If you don't submit a qualifying time then you will be slotted near the end, but it isn't clear to me if that is simply in the order of registration or other factors like age/gender are also considered.

As a Dopey participant I have two bibs, one for the 5K and the 10K and one for the Half and Full Marathon.  For the 5K and 10K I was in corral A.  The 5K is only chip timed for the Dopey participants.  I was the only person in my family running the 5K so I warmed up in corral A until it started to get crowded.  I was able to get about a half a mile in, which felt great, but after waiting an additional 30 to 40 minutes for the race to start I cooled down anyway.

Just before the start of the race they opened up our corral and we started the walk to the start line.  They did the standard national anthem, let the wheel chair runners go and exactly on time they released us.  I was cold and I had to go to the bathroom, so I bolted.  I ran the 5K way to fast knowing I had 3 other races to complete, but I couldn't help it.  I finished the 5K as I heard them release the F coral and finished with a time of 24:12.  Not a PR, but way too fast regardless.  The course is a simple loop around the worlds of Epcot (counter clockwise starting at Mexico), down through the center of Epcot past the Geodesic Sphere and out into the finish line in the parking lot.

While there were several character stops for such a short race I did't stop to take advantage of any of them, but most runners were certainly taking advantage of them.  Since this race wasn't too crowded having runners jump out and back into the race wasn't really an issue.  And of course these are the kinds of perks that make the Disney runs fun for so many people.

WDW 5K Strava Map
As I made my way through the finishers chute, I grabbed some water, Powerade, a snack box and my medallion (the 5K isn't metal but plastic).  I quickly worked my way over to the bus pickup area and suddenly realized that the 5K course was using the escape route for the busses, so we couldn't leave until the last runner was clear.  So, we just talked amongst ourselves for the next 30 to 40 minutes until we were able to head back to the room.  Everyone was still asleep so I crawled back in bed to warm up and grabbed a quick nap knowing we would be hitting the parks later in the day. My wife informed me my skin felt like ice. I hadn't realized I was that chilled.

10K Event (Friday, January 8th, 2016)

The 10K race starts at 5:30AM so the first bus was scheduled to leave at 3:30AM.  I was going to run this event with my wife, so we got up, got ready and headed down just in time to catch the first bus before it left.  Like the 5K the crowds for this event were not bad.  Getting through security was quick, using the port-a-potties was easy and we found a place in the large white tent to wait it out.  Of course it decided to rain for this event.  And by rain I mean, it decided to pour.  It was more like a 10K swim.

I waited in corral "G" with my wife this time around.  There was 10 minutes between each corral so we didn't get to approach the start line until about 6:20am and started around 6:30am.  I didn't grab a mylar blanked after the 5K so I was freezing in the cold rain until we were able to start running.  (mental note: always grab a mylar blanket; you may need it the next day).

10K Starting Line

Once we started I went off at my normal pace.  At times my knees will start to hurt due to tight IT bands so I find that a nice steady pace keeps that at bay.  I tried to slow it down from the 5K pace since the rain made some of the areas really slick, and I knew I had the Half Marathon the following day.

WDW Strava 10K Map

At the start instead of heading to the right around the Epcot parking lot you start off to the left down the entrance to Epcot and around Epcot Center drive.  At that point you start running a similar path around the worlds as the 5K.  However, to get the distance in you make counter clockwise lap around the boardwalk area.  I was concerned that this would be slippery but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fine.  What was slippery was the painted concrete areas in Epcot that pass under the Inventions West building as you head back to the fountain from the Land/Sea area.

Rainy Shot with Epcot Geosphere in Background

This race seemed to have a lot more participants than the 5K.  I quickly started running into slower participants and had to work my way around them to maintain my steady pace.  Since it was raining I was careful stepping into the grass on the sides of the roads, but so many of the areas prior to entering Epcot were very narrow.  While I did see some good etiquette for the most part this race felt like there were a lot of beginners or runners who simple didn't care.  Lots of folks walking and/or running 4 or more across, walking on both sides, not moving when hearing "on your left" or "on your right".  Made for a few frustrating sections.

10k Minnie Mouse Finishers Medal
As with the 5K, the finish chute had water, Powerade, snack boxes and your medal waiting.  By the time I finished the rain had stopped for the most part, but I waited in the tent for my wife to finish.  Since this race is longer, waiting for the buses to start taking runners back to the hotel wasn't an issue.  All the runners had passed the bussing area.  While the bus lines would grow fairly long, they did a great job of bringing in two or three buses at a time to get folks back.  I did better at pace management for this event and came in with a chip time of 56:39.

Half Marathon Event (Saturday, January 9th, 2016)

The Half Marathon by far seemed to be the largest running event of the weekend.  This was to be expected based on the distance.  I talked with a lot of first time half marathoners.  This is a great event for that given the course is almost perfectly flat and has a ton of energy given the sheer size and all the characters throughout the course.

My son and wife both ran the half marathon event as well, so we waited in the highest letter corral together which was my son in corral "L".  He didn't have a qualifying time and ended up in "L".  Again not sure why he wasn't in the last corral which was "O", but I was fine with that.

This race also starts at 5:30am, but since Disney knows the crowds are larger the first bus was available at 3am instead of 3:30.  The three of us caught a bus around 3:15am and made our way to the Epcot parking lot.  We were there early enough that the walk from the bus to the security checkpoint was quick, security didn't take any time at all, and we were in the waiting area.  At this point they were starting to setup the large white tent, so we couldn't use that to hang out.  Instead we waited on some metal benches they had setup in front of the tent.  My son was running for the Sophie and Madigan's Playground charity so we did a quick group picture with them at 4:30am, hit the port-o-potties, checked my bag and off to the corrals we went.

It was cool again on this morning so I actually wore a jacket and jeans over my running clothes.  Right before we headed off to the corrals I took those clothes off, added them to my check bag and left them for my return.  I had one of the race long sleeves shirts waiting for me as well to change into in case I cooled down waiting for my wife and son to complete the race.

For the 5K and 10K the starting corrals are adjacent to the waiting areas.  For the Half Marathon and Marathon it is about a half mile walk to the starting corrals.  Of course that varies depending on exactly which corral you are slotted into.  Once you leave the waiting area, there are banks of port-o-potties near the corrals, but it is a very common site to see men and women using the woods along the starting be prepared.

The first corral started right on time after the national anthem and wheelchairs were sent on their way.  After that the next two corrals were released at 3 minute intervals, and then the intervals were expanded to 5 or 6 minutes each.  According to Strava I started at exactly 6:11am which isn't bad for being in corral "L".

Like all the Disney races each corral is sent off with a fireworks show.  Each race gets more and more elaborate.  Once you get to the Half Marathon the show is really great and gets everyone pumped up.  It is really great that they do this for every corral and not just the first one.  It makes each runner feel important regardless of when they start.

The Half Marathon course is almost completely flat.  According to Strava the total elevation gain was exactly 0ft.  There are under passes and ramps that you have to navigate which certainly have elevation gain/loss, but either the sea level location of Disney throws off the elevation calculation or they are truly smaller than some of them feel.

The course is basically an out and back starting on Epcot Center Drive, going to Magic Kingdom and returning to the finish line in the Epcot parking lot.  The water stops for all the races are plentiful and always have water and Powerade.  They are spaced out approximately every mile and a half.  Starting with the Half Marathon you get a PowerGel fuel station around mile 8 or 9.

Running up World Center drive to Magic Kingdom is somewhat drab, but the character stops in the median coupled with the horn blasts from the Monorail running parallel to us help keep the energy levels high.  As you approach the main entrance gate where cars pay for parking you hear the familiar "Caution runners...speed bumps ahead".  This automated message along with "Caution runners...course narrows ahead" are staples across all 4 runs.

Once you pass through the parking lot you make your way around to the right, run under the water causeway and proceed past the Contemporary Resort.  After passing the bus drop off location you make your way into the Magic Kingdom beside Tony's restaurant and then run up main street.  The sheer number of spectators in this area was amazing.  The energy level really peaked here.  If you ever run this event, make sure you start paying attention to runners around you as you make your way towards the castle.  Folks really start to stop abruptly here for selfies in front of the castle.  While it is understandable and part of the Disney Magic it is also somewhat annoying (trying not to be a fun sucker here).

You turn right at the castle and head into Tomorrow Land. The great thing about being in the parks is that most of the bathrooms are actually open and so runners can dart in and out quickly.  You pass by the Speedway, around the teapots, past Snow White and through the center of the castle.  This part again really slowed down do to selfies in the back of the castle and posing for all the race photographers just on the outside of the castle.  For reference your best bet is to stay to the left as you exit the castle for your best photo opportunity.

WDW Half Marathon Castle

After leaving the castle area you turn to the right past the Hall of Presidents and past Splash Mountain and out of the park.  There were some great photos being taken as you cross over the railroad tracks.  They had the Disney Train sitting there and runners were laying on the tracks getting pictures with the horrified conductor who had apparently just struck them.

After leaving the park you are on the narrow Floridian Way road past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian hotels.  There was pretty good runner support along this road from friends and families of the runners.  I really liked looking over to the right at the Magnolia Golf Course.  Once you pass the golf course the road opens back up as you make your way back down World Drive towards Epcot.

The first true "hill" you encounter is the ramp from World Drive back onto Epcot Center Drive.  Of course you have the green army men there to help keep you moving up the hill acting like drill sergeants.  I don't know about most runners, but I didn't want to get yelled at, so I kept moving up the hill.  The second hill is after a quick 180 on Epcot Center Drive and up the ramp into the Epcot park.

After passing through the parking lot of Epcot you enter the park from the side along the bathrooms near the camera shop and come out next to the Geodesic Sphere (Spaceship Earth) and the Art of Disney store.  The course then takes you past the fountain and into the entrance of the World Showcase where you quickly turn around, head back past Spaceship Earth and out of the part into the parking lot to the finish line.

WDW Half Marathon Looking into World Showcase

Crossing the WDW Half Marathon Finish Line

As with the other races, the finish chute had water, Powerade, snack boxes and your medal waiting.  It was after this race that I also noticed the self care area to the right that was staffed by medics in red jackets.  They may have been there for the 5K and 10K as well, but I didn't notice them.  This time, however, my knees were sore so I stopped and grabbed a Tylenol and put on some Biofreeze lotion.  I tried to keep it slower today than my normal half marathon pace knowing I had the full to do the next day.  In the end I came in a about 30 minutes slower than my Half PR at a chip time of 2:14:32.

WDW Half Marathon Donald Duck Finishers Medal

Working my way through the finishers chute

Once I was done I headed back over to the white tent where we were waiting for the race to start for my son and wife to finish.  They had another medic area setup there as well, so I got a bag of ice to ice down my knees as well and ate a few of the items from the snack box.  Once we were all reunited getting the bus back to the hotel was a non-issue.  The process was quick and smooth.

Marathon Event (Sunday, January 10th, 2016)

While the consecutive runs are a challenge, I trained for that.  I was doing an average of 40 miles a week, running 6 days a week with a mix of long and short runs.  In late Summer of 2015 I ran a practice Dopey, and I ran my first Marathon race in October in Baltimore.  But what I didn't "practice" was getting up at 2:30am four mornings in a row and falling asleep close to 11pm the night before.  Getting up in the morning and feeling energized was really starting to get difficult.

As with the Half Marathon, busing for the Marathon starts at 3am, so I boarded around 3:15am and made my way to the starting area.  For this last even I was treated to the Race Retreat by my wife as a X-mas present.  I was really looking forward to this.  The previous mornings had been really cool and I was really looking forward to being in a climate controlled tent, have some coffee, eat a bite and use the private port-o-potties.

WDW Marathon Race Retreat Tent
The tent had plenty of tables and chairs, bananas, oranges and bagels to eat, along with water, soda, juice and coffee to drink.  In the back of the tent there were doors leading to separate men and women changing areas and port-o-potties.  This was a great place to relax and talk with some of the other runners before heading out to the corrals.  I was sitting with two runners who had done the Dopey challenge before and got some great tips on the Marathon course from them.  We also had a first time marathon runner at our table and so we all shared tips on how to get through that distance.

Around 5am I started the half mile walk to corral "C" to get ready to set off on the final race.  Funny, after three events I still wasn't half way through the distance.  I would be a couple of miles into the marathon before that happened.  I had a nice conversation with a fellow Dopey Challenge runner on the way to my corral and she traded tips along the way.

The runners march to the staring corrals

At this point you can see runners making a last ditch effort (literally) to use the bathroom before reaching their final destination.  This is the only race that didn't start on time.  By the time we did the national anthem and the wheel chair participants were sent on their way we were about 6 minutes behind schedule.  I started in corral "C" at 5:42am.  I was careful to go out of the gate at a reasonable pace and not get all caught up in the energy being created by the other runners and fireworks that launched us.  I settled in just over 9 minutes a mile to start with and that this was a great way to begin.

Fireworks sendoff for the Marathon runners
Until you work your way through Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom the race route is the same as the Half Marathon.  In fact, they had the same character stops along the way as well.  I actually found this helpful and it seemed to make this part of the run go faster, but I could also see that this might really annoy runners who just did the Half the day before.

WDW Strava Full Marathon Map

After passing through the castle, the path out of Magic Kingdom is almost the same as the Half except we were routed by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before exiting the park.  I was surprised to see such a large crowd of people on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.  Since I started in corral "C" for this race I reached that location a lot earlier than I had for the Half Marathon.

Main Street at Magic Kingdom

After passing the Polynesian and Floridian Resorts and the golf course we turned right onto Bear Island Road to make our way to Animal Kingdom.  This was exciting since this was all new territory to run.  The runners had thinned out at this point, so the roads/routes weren't crowded at all.  I did stop on this road for a quick picture with Captain Jack Sparrow.  The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are my daughter's favorite.

Pirates of the Caribbean

You enter Animal Kingdom from the "rear" so to speak so you get to see a lot of the behind the scenes locations including the white rhino house and the elephant housing (called Tembo House) which was totally impressive in scale and size.   You come into the park near the Harambe Market and then turn left into Asia passed Yak and Yeti restaurant, the monkeys and Expedition Everest.

Animal Kingdom near Expedition Everest

I had heard that runners will stop off and ride Expedition Everest during the Marathon.  Some actually got fast passes but apparently cast members will allow runners on first.  While I was debating this myself, it turns out that when I passed by the ride was still closed.  Probably just as well, wasn't sure how all the water/Powerade/Gu I was eating was going to do on that ride.

After running past the main theater and the dinosaur area, we head out of the park near the Primeval Whirl ride.  As you exit the part on East Savannah Circle you reach mile marker 13.1 and the half way point.  There was a volunteer yelling "your half way".  As I went by I simply said, "one more lap!".  He laughed and yelled that he was going to steal my phrase.

Prior to the run my wife and I discussed her trying to see me at Animal Kingdom but we weren't sure how the transportation for her would work, even though we had gotten her the ChEAR Squad Platinum package so we bailed on the idea.  Of course as we went around the parking lot and passed the front entrance to the park I couldn't help but search for her.  As I was heading to the bus area I thought I heard my name and to my surprise there she was waving and video taping me with her cell phone.  That was a nice surprise and a much needed boost of energy.

At this point in the race I realized I wasn't eating enough.  I had forgotten my small water bottle that had two extra gels in it so I had been rationing up until this point.  Right before entering Animal Kingdom around mile 10.5 there was a banana stop.  While I did take one I was already starting to feel tired.  I knew there would be at least one other food stop on the course so I was determined to stop rationing food and try to eat more often.

After leaving the park area we made our way onto Osceola Parkway towards the Disney Sports Complex where we attended the Race Expo.  I was starting to feel tired so I starting walking a little off and on at this point and while there wasn't a lot to look at on this portion of the course I tried to keep myself motivated.  We were on this road for about 2.5 miles before we go to the entrance to the sports complex.

While waiting in the Race Retreat tent the other runners had complained that they hated the portion of the course in the sports complex.  That is was a long section and boring running around the various fields, the track, and the baseball diamond.  I actually found this enjoyable as there was a lot to look at.  The venue is totally impressive in size and quality.  I even took the time to stop again and get a picture with Mickey.

Mickey Mouse and I

You spend a total of 4 miles weaving around the sports complex.  While there was a gel stop on the long section of Osceola Parkway, there was another banana stop in the sports complex.  I really needed this to build back some energy.  After the shot with Mickey we did a lap around the track then made our way to the baseball diamond for a lap around packed dirt/crushed gravel warning section.  The stadium had a lot of runner support cheering and they had us all on the large video screen which was cool to see as we did our lap.

Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

After leaving the ESPN Sports Complex we were on Osceola Parkway for a short time before taking a climbing exit onto World Drive.  As you might expect, the green army men were there making sure folks were actually running up the hill and not walking.  I managed to get by them with a reasonable pace before stopping for a short walk near the top of the hill.  By this time I was really starting to feel the fatigue.  My knees weren't really hurting or anything which was really surprising, but I was starting to get exhausted.  Pretty sure I had another gel and just tried to keep pushing.

After a very short run on World Drive we took another climbing exit onto East Buena Vista Drive and then quickly turned right into Hollywood Studios.  We came in behind Tower of Terror (my daughter's favorite ride just behind Pirates of the Caribbean) and I was surprised how amazing it still looked from that viewpoint.  It is a shame you can't actually stay in that building as a hotel, I think that would be amazing.  As we turned in behind the Rock 'n' Roller coaster there was a Dove Chocolate stop.  This was a great treat and a nice change of pace from gels.

At this point we started to share the roadway used by the behind the scenes tour and worked our way past some of the artifacts on display like airplanes, Star Wars items and then through the art department tunnel that they had setup like a disco with flashing lights and loud music.  We came around the back corning of the Lights, Camera, Action show, past Honey I Shrunk the Kids and then up through the Streets of America.  There wasn't a lot of race support here from spectators but I could hear them.

Streets of America in Hollywood Studios

Sure enough as we turned the corner past the ABC Commissary and down Hollywood Blvd there were crowds everywhere cheering us on.  Before getting to the Crossroads of the Worlds at the center of the entrance to the park we took a left past the bathrooms and out of the park.  We then headed around to the right past the bus drop off and got on the walkway to the boardwalk area.  We were on the home stretch!

There were some crowds along this walkway area towards the boardwalk which was great.  After passing behind Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall you make a right over the bridge towards the Yacht Club resort.  I took a moment to walk at the crest of the bridge and found myself getting dizzy and the bridge was bouncing significantly with all the runner on it.  Needless to say I got off that as fast as possible and started running again past the Yacht Club Resort and then Beach Club Resort.  A part of me was hoping to see the kids in front of Beach Club, but as expected they weren't there.  In fact, they were already at the Animal Kingdom park.

Before entering Epcot from the back world showcase entrance we turned left and took the back way in as we had on the 5K and 10K runs and came out into World Showcase at England, turned right towards France and made our way around the world showcase.

World Showcase at Epcot heading towards France

After getting around the worlds we head out into Future World and past Spaceship Earth out to the parking lot and the much anticipated finish line.  At that point it finally hit me that I had done it.  That the goal I set early in 2015 to do the Dopey Challenge had been completed and I had accomplished my goal.  It wasn't about setting new best times, but about getting through the distance.  About dealing with the sleep deprivation and pushing forward.

Exiting Epcot towards the finish line

The crowds in the stands and standing around near the finish line were really inspiring.  It really helped push hard those last few tenths of a mile and crossing the finish like I actually had some energy left.  While I hit the 13.1 marker with a faster time than the previous day's run, I slowed down over the last half.  In the end I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:33:34.

After passing through the finisher chute I grabbed some water and Powerade, got my finishers medal, went to the Dopey tent for the Goofy and Dopey medals and then headed over to the medical area for some Tylenol and Biofreeze.  While I wasn't feeling too bad at the end, I knew it would catch up to me and I wanted to get ahead of it.  After that I went back to the Race Retreat tent and met up with my wife who grabbed me some much needed food and some fluids and I took a quick break before heading back to the buses and back to the hotel.

Overall this was an amazing event and I learned a lot about running in a consecutive series like this if I choose to do this one, or a similar one, in the future.  First and foremost, the training I did on the milage and running consecutive days really paid off.  Yes I was tired.  Yes I got sore, but overall my body reacted well to the challenge.  What I did learn was that I didn't eat enough.  Not only did I not fuel well for the marathon, I actually wasn't eating enough at all through the race days.  It was apparent I was loosing weight and I think this really played into my energy levels dropping rapidly after mile 13 on the marathon day.

The staff and volunteers did an amazing job on this event overall.  Of course there were some issues, and there are areas where improvements can probably be made.  I even heard people complain, but let's be realistic.  There were over 70,000 runners across 4 days of events.  There were tons of contracted busses to help shuttle runners back and forth.  There were 100s of volunteers at water and food stops through the days in the cold and the rain.  All I can say is thank you and well done everyone!

Of course you have to have a photo with all the medals in front of the castle right?  The "money shot" I like to call it.

The "money shot"

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