Thursday, March 3, 2011

Running Disney: 18 and Life

I'm running out of time. That's just the reality. I can talk about my knee all I want, and it won't matter. On March 20 at 8:00, the gun will go off and I'll have 26.2 miles that I can either run or not, and all the excuses about my knee hurting or work taking up too much time or having bronchitis won't mean a thing.

My knee was quite sore after my Inner Harbor Wind Advisory Adventure run two weeks ago, but it held up ok, and I've been determined to catch myself up as much as possible with more frequent runs to re-build my stamina. This meant taking the running gear to Florida and trying to sneak some miles in during the early morning hours.

We stayed at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, and it allegedly had a jogging trail. Perfect! Not quite, but not entirely worthless, either. The jogging trail was one mile long and it ran from the All-Star Sports Resort, past the All-Star Music Resort, and terminated at the All-Star Movies Resort (all three are virtually identical, they just feature the differing themes). This would make for a very boring run indeed.

However, on my first run on Saturday morning, I found that going in the other direction the sidewalk crossed under the highway (which may have just been an access road to the parks) and continued past Disney's Blizzard Beach water park (closed for refurbishment) to the Coronado Springs Resort, another one of the lesser-known Disney properties.

This turned out to be very fortunate for me, as the Southwestern-themed Coronado Springs proved to be a great place to run, with a roughly one-mile loop around its central lake and several other paths weaving through its buildings and around the edge of the resort.

Starting at our hotel and running toward "Movies", around the Movies resort, and then to and around the Coronado Spring, back to Movies and then back to Sports, I was able to get to 10 miles in 1:39.

Running in Florida is markedly different from running in Manchester, PA. At the beginning, before the sun came up it was pleasantly cool, but extremely humid. When the sun came up, it burned some humidity off, but felt oppressively hot. Each day turned out to be warm, but not unpleasantly so for visiting the parks, but it felt extremely hot to someone who had been training in PA. The best thing about this course was its flatness -- there was nary a hill to be found between the resorts, and my IT Band certainly appreciated it.

This weekend was scheduled to be the last real long run before a two-week "taper", in which long runs were shortened to rest for the marathon. Since I hadn't been able to get the distances I needed in, I decided to try to get a real long run in on Monday morning, the last day of our trip, rather than just another 10 or so miles.

I left our room before 5:30, wanting to give myself plenty of time.

(I was the only idiot up at this hour)
I varied the course a bit this time. I headed down toward All-Star Movies and ran around that resort a bit longer this time, encountering everyone's favorite giant toy spaceman.

(To infinity and beyond! Or at least down to the next resort.)
I then added some boring miles on the access road between the Music and Sports Resorts, and headed back to Buena Vista Drive toward Blizzard Beach, where I circled the empty parking lot to add more distance. It was still very dark out at this point, as I turned back down the sidewalk path it did occur to me that the swamps just to the right of the path were probably loaded with alligators. Friendly, singing, animatronic gators, but gators nonetheless.

I had about 7 miles in the bag by the time I got to Coronado Springs this time, and ran enough laps around its two lakes and the outside of the resort to be at about 13 by the time I left. It really is a beautiful place to run.

There was a convention or sales meeting at the resort, and so as the sun came up there was increasing foot traffic on the paths, along with little golf-cart buses that were picking people up who didn't want to walk to breakfast or to their meetings. It seemed to be a convention for people who wanted to stand in the paths and smoke, so that was somewhat inconvenient, but I shouldn't complain since I was the intruder in this situation.

I headed back to the All-Star resorts and realized I'd made a slight miscalculation. By omitting the Blizzard Beach parking lot and a Disney employee parking lot I'd ran through on the way out, I got to Sports resort at 15 miles. I wanted to do more than that, so I pushed myself down the path toward the Music resort, up the access road that ran between Music and Sports, and then back to the jogging path for Movies.

I was moving v e r y s l o w l y at this point, but I dragged myself back to the entrance to Sports as my Garmin showed 18 miles: my longest ever by half a mile and my longest by over 3 miles since my knee injury.

I was exhausted, and my legs felt like they could hardly go another step, but I was absolutely encouraged by the lack of knee pain.

Was it enough? I hope so. The lack of hills was probably a good simulation of the Shamrock Marathon course. The temperature was probably a little cooler at the start and a little warmer at the end, and with a lot higher humidity than the I'll likely see in Virgina Beach in March. It'll probably be painful, and it certainly won't be fast or fun, but right now I think I can grind out those last 8 miles.

I won't have another chance to find out till the Marathon: my trainer for my marathon training group and my orthopedist have both suggested I start tapering, which means 12-15 miles on Saturday and 10 the following Saturday, and since they're all in agreement I'm not going to argue.

It's going to be a challenge, but hope is not yet extinct.

(T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney,
where we had a great lunch before heading back to the airport)

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