08 January, 2012

Florida Connection - Let the Running Commence

And the insanity begins.  Greg ran three races in three days.  And I had to get up and moving before the butt-crack of dawn for those three days - a minor miracle, in and of itself.  He started with a 5k - the Family Fun Run - on Friday morning.  It was a good test, since we knew we'd have to leave even earlier and deal with more traffic for the other races.  (As it is, I almost took an off-ramp that I shouldn't have - thanks  and *waves* to the folks creeping along behind that let me back in the lane.  In my defense, it was labelled "runner drop off" and it sure as HELL isn't me running these races.  And it was early.  And I hadn't had much caffeine.  I don't do well in these kinds of situations.)  Ahem.
Friday afternoon, we hooked up with Mike and Marci (they came up to Orlando from Naples to spend the weekend with us and cheer for Greg), and Dayna (aka Lethal Lavender, one of my all-time favorite roller derby girls - yay!!).  Dayna is the one that planted the seed in Greg's demented brain for running all these races.  It's super-cool to meet her in person, since I've admired her from afar for quite some time (I may have just a bit of star-worship going on here, but it's not stalker-ish...  I promise...).  We've been "Facebook friends" for a while, but never actually interacted in person until now.  She's down-to-earth and friendly.  She's funny, and totally human.  (I suppose that's true of other celebrities too, but this is my first brush with such a luminary.)

Early to bed, early to rise...  Both are rather difficult for me.  To accommodate, I had to shower the night before, so I could get out of bed, get dressed, and get going. (We also made sure to stock the fridge with Rockstars.  I think I barely remembered to brush my teeth.)  Still, try as I might, I didn't get to bed until almost midnight, which made the 3:30am wakeup rather painful.  Ah, well.  It's for a good cause.  (That's what I kept telling myself, as I was dragging around, working extra hard not to be too grouchy.  Mornings in general are not my thing.  Mornings that start at 3am are especially torturous.)
Once we were moving, everything seemed to go relatively well.  Disney is incredibly organized.  They'd have to be, to host an event of this scale.  Apparently more than 26,000 runners registered for the half-marathon, almost 17,000 for the marathon, and there were about 6,498 people just as bat-shit crazy as Greg and Dayna to run the Goofy.  Who knew there were that many deranged runners in this world?  Anyhow.  To support such a gathering, there were more than 6,000 volunteers, in addition to the Disney staff.  And it seemed to run smooth-as-pie good.  Which is to say: phenomenal.
From the spectator side, everything was done well.  (For a bit of the runner's perspective, Dayna has a blog and posted here, here, here, and here.)  We had free transportation from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom (and back), and routes were well marked.  Aside from the staff and volunteers every few feet, I could just follow the hordes of people - we were all heading the same way.  (Yes.  I was a sheeple. But it worked.  I didn't get lost and was at the finish for both races.)  For the half, I went directly from dropping Greg off to the railway to get to Magic Kingdom.  Unfortunately, they didn't open the park for spectators until 5:30am.  So I rode it back and forth for a bit, until I could get in.  I walked up to the castle, which was beautiful in its pre-dawn splendor, to wait.  Then I started to get nervous about fighting the  hordes of people to get back to Epcot to watch the finish, so I turned around and went back.  Turns out, I probably would have been just fine, but I didn't know it at the time and opted to watch the finish over a mid-way point.  I only had one chance to get a picture, because action shots on my camera require me to push the shutter half way down and wait for my subject(s) to enter the frame.  So when Greg and Dayna kicked it to the finish, I just missed the shot where they were side-by-side (literally by a second).  Instead you get the shot above, where I had to circle Dayna's head so you'd see she was actually there.

It took them a little over 3 hours to finish the race.  They weren't super-fast, but in no danger of the sweepers either, and they finished.  (Disney has a time limit, and if you're not going fast enough the sweepers will pick you off from the back of the pack, so you won't get to finish.  Rather like nefarious vampires (aren't all vampires nefarious?), only everyone lives and there's no blood - unless it's a popped blister or some other race-related injury.)  It brings to mind a t-shirt we saw at the runner's Expo: The slowest runner is faster than the guy sitting on the couch.  Ain't that the truth!  Way to go, Greg and Dayna!!
I didn't get after-the-half pictures because Dayna had to take off (for some reason she thought it'd be a good idea to schedule a massage after the race...).  So Mike, Marci, Greg and I headed into Epcot to spend the afternoon wandering the park.  We started in the countries, and determined we were going to eat and drink our way around the world.  It was a heroic endeavor, and I'm proud to say we completed the task (although it was just prior to closing and the fireworks, but we did it).  We took a break half-way 'round so we could go to the other side for some rides and entertainment.  We didn't get to do Soarin' because the wait-time was too long, but we caught Captain Eo (the old, OLD 3D skit with Michael Jackson).  I also had to take a picture of Greg at the Norwegian troll.  Brought back memories of the last time we were here, years ago.  (There's a similar picture in this post.)
Sunday was exactly the same... only different.  This time, I napped in the car for almost two hours before I headed to the Magic Kingdom.  (As I was heading to the railway, I could hear the announcers heralding the first finishers crossing the line.  Damn!  Those dudes are fast!!)  I have to say, the text updates were super-helpful.  I had some idea of where they were at, so wasn't panicking that I'd missed them as I was standing at the castle, watching the runners go by.  On the way back to Epcot, there was some kind of issue with the railway, so we had to take a ferry across the lake (I'd hooked up with Mike and Marci by that time), then wait in an enormously long line at the central station to get back to Epcot.  I must say, Disney is the King of Queues.  We were almost constantly moving.  Down the lane, 180 degree turn and walk back the way we came (only a foot or two closer), wind down a ways, then back and forth again.  Just when I thought we were on the homestretch, I'd see that there was another labyrinthine twist to the line.  But because we were moving constantly, it felt like we were making progress so no one got overly grouchy or upset because of the glitch.  Almost like magic.
It was fun to stand in the crowd, watching the runners.  Constant amazement that these people have just run 26.2 miles and are still upright.  And the other crowd members were incredibly supportive.  A few were even runners that had already finished and were hanging out for a while to cheer on and support everyone else.  I got smart this time, and instead of trying to get a single picture, I set my camera to video.  This is only the second video ever that I've posted - might even be the second video ever that I've taken.  (The first is here, and it still makes me laugh every time I watch it.  Thanks, Greg, for being such a good sport!)
The rest of the day was spent in recuperation-mode, and saying goodbye.  Sunday was one of the only times I can remember where I could walk faster than Greg.  I felt bad for the obvious discomfort they both were feeling, but it made me giggle to be able to "run get the car" while he hobbled out of the restaurant.  Is that bad?  I think it probably is, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Besides, by Monday he was hearty and hale again (and I was trailing behind in our dashes from various planes to new ones as we headed home).  I'm so proud of Greg for doing this (but not surprised).  Once he determined this was what he wanted to do, he made it happen.  He's just like that.
Way to go, Dayna and Greg!!


LethalLavender said...

Love the post! It was great to meet you and I LOVE your writing!

Penny said...

Thanks, Dayna!! I really enjoyed meeting you and having a chance to get to know you a little. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity again sometime in the future! (See, that wasn't too stalker-ish, was it?!?) =)