Thursday, February 14, 2008
What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is this?
It’s not often that one seeks redemption at DisneyWorld, but then, it's not often someone decides to do something called the Goofy Challenge, which consists of doing a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday, both of which snake through all the various Disney parks. On 2 consecutive days. After the debacle of the Goofy 2 years ago (aka “the Bataan Death March), I decided it was time to revisit this race, with the goal of finishing and being able to walk afterwards. I know, crazy talk.
We arrive in wonderfully steamy Florida, and after attempting to check in at the hotel and being told by Griselda the scary check-in lady that the mouseketeers are still readying our room, we decide to head to the Expo. After meeting up with Max and Kostya, we get our numbers only to discover that we’ve all been put in the distant P corral, also known as the TIT (Team in Training) Corral, with all the Purple Menace People Walking in Packs and Oblivious to Everyone Else. I think that’s the official name. The only one overly concerned about this is Deanna, who’s been training like a fiend and hopes to actually rack up a decent time in this thing. She goes off to speak to The Man, while Max, Kostya and I wander around the expo trying out the free samples. Hey, is that a funnel cake stand I spy over there?
Having checked in, there’s not much to do other than laze about. Max and Kostya have for some inexplicable reason come down to FL with their mother. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, of course, except for the fact that she wants to sightsee. Check out the parks. Do a lot of walking around. Ouch. I decide to ask the concierge if there's something like a "business center" nearby where I can check email, but our exchange does not bode well:
Me, after hearing about the $25/10 minute charge to use computers at one of the Disney resorts that have them tucked away somewhere: "Is there, say, a Kinko's or something around here?"
Her, with a very alarmed look on her face: "Kink....kink-what? I don't know what that is."
Sigh. I decide to go relax by the pool, while Deanna hangs out in the hotel room, laying out her race nutrition, calculating her pace, calling her coach for last-minute advice, even though her race isn’t until Sunday. Say, are they selling margaritas by the pool? Sweet!
After setting the alarm for 2:30AM, since I have to catch the shuttle bus to the race start by the ungodly hour of 4AM, we go to bed. This, after an entire day of seeing other racers everywhere and being asked “Are you doing the Goofy?” – and this being the only place where one is saddened in having to answer “No, just the marathon.” Poor Deanna.
Can’t sleep. Sigh.
What fool thought coming here to do this race in this stupid state where a person can’t get a decent night’s sleep was a good idea anyway?
Still haven’t slept, why even bother trying anymore? (doze off finally...)
AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! There’s nothing quite like being awoken by the not-so-gentle sounds of tinny voices blaring “be our GUEST, be our GUEST...” as your wake-up call. Great, now I have a pounding headache – just what I need as I embark on a day starting so early that the main part of it will be over before most people are even awake.
Hanging out at the race start, waiting. Max and Kostya are bickering like two little old ladies. Max spies one of the Purple Menace people and mutters something in Russian, and I catch the words “gulag” and “cockroaches”. I’m not quite sure what he has against them – after all, how bad can they be?
And, we’re off! What the........5 minutes into the race, and I’ve already got Purple People walking in front of me. At least move to the side a bit, okay?
It’s insanely muggy this morning, so my plan is to just get this done and go back to the hotel for a powernap, some pool lounging, some carb-loading. It’s amazing how quickly my Ironman focus comes into play – nothing can distract me, slow me down, keep me from......hey, Winnie the Pooh! Oh, okay, I’ll stop for just this one picture.
Several hours later
I wander over to find Deanna, Max and Kostya who’re hanging out at the tents in the post-race area.
Me, happily: “Hey, I got all these neat pictures with different characters! The best was Mary Poppins – she was practically perfect in every way, just like me. How about you guys, how many times did you stop?”
Kostya: “We took pictures as we were running. Does that count?”
Me, aghast: “You didn’t stop, not even once? Not even for one of the Mickey Mouses?”
Kostya: “We didn’t want to wait in line!”
Thus thoroughly disgusted with my compatriots, I head back to the hotel with them, clutching my disposable camera like the prize that it is. The three of us have our Donald medals already for doing the half, while Deanna looks on longingly, medal-less. Max and Kostya go off on an interactive walking tour of the Everglades with their mother, Deanna begins the arduous task of programming her Garmin to beep at every Clif-blok-ingesting interval, while I set out in a search for healthy food in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Ah, here we go: Mickey waffles! Food of the gods. Lounging by the pool, I notice that the callous on the bottom of my left little toe seems to have a splinter in it. Hmm. I attempt to get it out. 10 minutes later, I have a very painful toe, bleeding, and belatedly realize that wasn’t a splinter, just part of the callous. Oops.
Later that afternoon
I return to the hotel room, limping, sucking on a Mickey lollipop, to find Deanna working out muscle tension using some kind of roller thingie. Tired of telling people that she’s only doing the lowly marathon, she’s apparently hunkered down for the duration.
Me: “Well, I think Max and Kostya and I are going to go get some mega-double-cheeseburgers or something. Wanna come with?”
Deanna, as she adds heaping spoonfuls of oat bran to her oatmeal: “No thanks, I don’t want to throw off the delicate balance of my carb-loading schedule. I need to eat exactly 57 carbs within the next 2 hours, then 34 for the next 3 hours after that.”
Me, sucking on lollipop: “Owbjkasd. Shee yoihu lahtaahhh.”
Deanna: “Could you please not jostle my Oxygenating Mechanism when you leave the room? Thanks!”
I return to hotel; Deanna is already asleep.
So am I.
Sunday morning, or rather, middle of the night
Deanna leaps out of bed at 2:30AM and starts her multifarious pre-race rituals. I hear the sound of water being heated, oatmeal being made, berries being eaten. Yawn. Didn’t I leave a Twinkie around here somewhere?
It’s like déjà vu all over again. Except I think it’s even more hot and muggy this morning, and there are more of the Teeming Masses in Purple. Lots more. Deanna takes off to Corral C, while us hoi polloi take our place somewhere in Outer Mongolia. Eventually, the gun goes off, fireworks, and we’re off. Kind of. Walking along. It takes 15 minutes to cross the start line, and it’s already a sauna. I’m having bad flashbacks to the Chicago marathon. And lo, what’s this? Mile 2.5, our first aid station....and they’re out of Powerade, low on water. Hmm. Maybe I can strip one of the sixteen flasks of liquid off a TIT person – they all seem to be well-stocked. I’m sure I can outrun them?
I'm also a little bummed that they're not offering slices of wedding cake at the aid station, like they did at the Vegas 1/2 in December. What, like that's too much to ask for? Better than GU any day, that's for sure.
We’re running through Epcot in total darkness, I’m enjoying how pretty it all is with everything lit up, when Things Start To Go Wrong. Yes, kids, at mile 3.5. So much for redemption! Note to self: the day before a race is not the best time to start messing with one’s feet. So I’m running along, fine and dandy, when without warning, a blister I didn’t even know I had on my left little toe suddenly erupts in an exquisite little sunburst of pain, the kind that stops you in your tracks. Stopped me, at least. I gingerly step down – okay, I can still run on it, though hell, 23.whatever miles sure seems like a lot. I hope I’m not about to enter the Land of Stupid again......
Here we go again – the have-to-pee-constantly problem. At least this time I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m only drinking water, not the Gatorade I’m used to at races. That’s probably not good, given how damn hot it is. Isn’t there a water ride or something at one of these parks?
WTF is with these damn TIT people? Not only are they everywhere, but they glom together in packs, making it impossible to get past them. They’re kind of running, then they’re all walking, or they’re beeping constantly, or something. And somehow they’ve all found out about my own secret weapon, that I had planned to pull out much later in the race: my iPod. Ssshhhhh.
If a TIT person is “accidentally” knocked into the swamp and there’s no one around to hear them scream, do I still get applauded for it? I’m just wondering.
So far I’ve been pretty good about not stopping to have my picture taken every 10 minutes......well, kind of. As if I could resist Piglet! But, no more, I’m all business now. Yes sirree.
And I will say one thing about Disney - they go all out to make sure what seems like every single employee ("cast member") is out on the course somewhere, cheering on runners. At one point, they even have the maintenance men out there, who've put together a makeshift band using various tools and 5-gallon buckets. They sound pretty damn good, actually.
As we’re going towards Animal Kingdom or Safari Kingdom or something like that, there are suddenly a lot of turkey vultures circling overhead. This prompts some of us to start moving along a bit faster.......umm, after I stop to take pictures, of course.
A little later, I’m running down an overpass, dodging TIT people and other walkers as I do so, when suddenly an old man who decides it’s a good time to stretch his pterodactyl-esque arms flings one out, effectively clotheslining me. Ack! Okay, I’m ready for this to be over now.
These sick, sadistic Disney bastards toy with us by having signs proclaiming “candy ahead!” – when we all know that there’s only ever enough for the 3hr marathon people, who won’t even appreciate it. Grr. Why do we always get cheated? Robbed, verily. I’m going to write a scath........lo, what’s this? Candy?? Have I mentioned lately how much I looove the Disney people?
We’re going through the Disney MGM Park, and while I’m amused by all the characters and music and so on, I’m booking along at this point, and I’m not stopping for anything. Laser focus, that’s what’s gotten me to where I am today. That Ironman will, what it takes, the ability to not be distrac...........hey, it’s the MONSTERS INC. guys!!! Obviously I have to wait in line to get my picture taken with them – who can resist the big fuzzy blue guy Mike and ol’ one-eyed Sully? What, am I made of stone?
About 15 feet before the Mile 24 marker
You know how sometimes it seems as if things are going along just swimmingly, that there are no more obstacles in your path, that life is okay.....and then it all goes to hell in a handbasket in one crystalline moment? Well, mile 24 was that moment. As I’m running up a slight hill, I get that excruciating sunburst of pain again as another blister I didn’t know I had went out on me. I stop. Shit, that hurts. Great, so now I’m 2 miles from the end, and I can’t run. Houston, we have a problem here. Okay, so I have plenty of time – which is good, because it’s going to take me 45 minutes to hobble these last couple of miles. Sigh.
Hobble hobble hobble.
Hobble hobble hobble.
I discover that it actually hurts less to run for some reason, since I can put my foot more flatly on the ground, so off I go again.
The best thing on this course is the amazing gospel choir singing their hearts out right before the final turn into the home stretch. Hallelujah, sisters, amen!
I finish, collect my medals, and, clanking along, go to find Deanna, Max, and Kostya. I don’t even ask if they bothered to take pictures. Sigh, what to do with them? Deanna finished in 5:15 and is pleased, but is now looking longingly at our collection of bling; in a fit of dehydration, I give her my Goofy medal to wear so that she too can clink for a while. Now I feel like a loser for having done “just” a marathon.
That evening and the next morning
We can easily recognize our fellow crazy people as they’re all shuffling along in one fashion or another. The Goofy people are wearing their Goofy race shirts, and we smile and congratulate each other. The marathon people look a little disgruntled for some reason. As we’re leaving the hotel, I hobble back into the lobby (damn blisters!) and see a cute guy sitting on a couch, with crutches at his side. We grin knowingly at each other, acknowledging without saying a word that we’re both complete idiots. It’s a wonderful world.
We’ve made our way to the airport, have had our final Chick-Fil-A meal, and are killing time before going to the gate. I decide to go to the Disney store to see if I can add more Disney wear to my collection, and Deanna joins me there. Of course, by now the people working at the store have gotten into the spirit of asking all of us crippled folks about the race, so Deanna and I wind up chatting with a kindly older gentleman who sees our race shirts.
KOG: “Ah, so you girls did the race this weekend. Did you do the Goofy?”
Tasha: “I did.”
Deanna: “I did the marathon.”
The kindly older gentleman gets a sympathetic, understanding look on his face as he looks at Deanna. The Deanna who spent many many hours training for the marathon, in all kinds of weather, putting Max and Kostya and I to shame. The Deanna who’s faithfully used her Garmin to optimize all her workouts, while the rest of us just slogged our way through whatever miles struck our fancy on any particular day. The Deanna who.....oh, you get the picture.
KOG, patting Deanna on the shoulder: “That’s okay dear. Maybe if you train a bit harder next year, then you too can do the Goofy.”
To my credit, I did not immediately burst into paroxysms of laughter. No, I managed to sputter out something like “oh, Deanna’s just not as crazy as the rest of us,” and THEN bent over laughing, as poor Deanna just stood there with an incredulous look on her face. I hustled her out of there quick before she picked up a Mickey Mouse umbrella and started beating the poor man with it. I’d like to say that I was not laughing hysterically for the next 10 minutes or so......but then I’d be lying, and who needs that?