Adventures In Running

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You should read this – Unbroken

Last Saturday I was glued to the couch half of the day reading "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. This is the true story of Louis Zamperini – an Olympic runner that had the potential to be the first person to break the 4 minute mile barrier but was called off to serve in World War II as a bombardier. Life takes a drastic change for Louis Zamperini after his plane crashes and he survives 40+ days at sea near death in a life raft and then years of torture in Japanese POW camps.

Without giving away the story, I will say that I was touched, cried, and felt like an absolute wuss for complaining about being hungry, tired, overworked, etc.

As a teenager I read every book I could find about survival in Vietnamese POW camps and this brought back all those memories and made me realize the potential we have within ourselves that usually remains untapped and the ability for God to help us every day in our lives. I was also left with renewed gratitude to the many men and women who are willing to serve in the Armed Forces throughout the world and the sacrifices they and their families make.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Various Images of Disney Fun

These are some images of the neat Toy Story characters around our hotel at Disney World:


Mickey going down in strawberry syrup:

These are various topiary plants in Epcot center. I passed them in both races, so was glad to be able to go back on the Monday after the race and actually take some pictures of them.




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas part 2 in Georgia

On January 5th, I flew from Salt Lake City to Savannah, Georgia to spend some time with my daughter, Jennifer Merkley, and her family. Since my grandchildren, Elise and Brad, had spend Christmas in North Carolina with their mother, the decision had been made to hold the holidays when I flew in to visit them.

After three flights and lots of hours, I finally arrived in Savannah. Jeremy and the kids met me at the airport and took me by Jenn's work so that I could visit with her during her lunch break. I also picked her up at 11 that night and we did some final shopping.

'Christmas' morning was fun. It is kind of boring when I am alone or with my grown son. Let's face it – children and teens make Christmas a lot more interesting. Anyway, we all enjoyed our stockings and opening presents together. I think everyone was really happy with what they got. Elise had asked for my old guitar and so I toted that out here and bought Brad a multi-tool that he has been dragging out for any possible purposes. It was a lot of fun to spend the day with them (although Jennifer ended up working that afternoon and evening).

I made my favorite spaghetti sauce for Christmas dinner and it was a big hit.

Some new presents I received were:

  • A 'peacock feather' ornament to go with the peacock stained glass window I bought on my last trip
  • An Amazon gift card to buy more kindle books
  • 1000 places to see before you die desk calendar
  • The book – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (set in Savannah)
  • The Last Dragon DVD

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

On Sunday, we went over to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is about all we saw because we were both wiped from racing.

This was our first glimpse of the castle. We both got all squealy upon seeing this.
Jennifer waiting in line to go in to the castle for it's ride.
Hogwarts Express:
This is just inside the entrance to the Harry Potter section of the park. Wish we could have taken a real ride on it.
Sorting Hat:
The sorting hat was talking at various points as you approached it.
Tracking House Points:
Sure glad I had flash on my camera. The inside of the castle was appropriately dark and you missed a lot of details without seeing it from the flash of a camera.
Dumbledore's Office:
Reflection Bowl:
Gallery Photos:
I tried to take photos of some of the talking pictures - but the flash just wiped them out. So got some gallery photos instead. A lot of the pictures were talking to each other.
Gryffindor Fireplace:
Stairway to Harry's Room:
Harry's Closet:
Potion's Classroom Door:
The Mirror:
Other Castle Images:
Hagrid's House
Flying Car: Photobucket
Cauldron Shop:
Quidditch Ball Set:
I couldn't capture it in a photograph, but the snitch is flying around in the back of the store.

This was well worth the $80 we spent for only being there 3 or so hours. The rides were fun. There are only 3 of them - 4 if you count going on the Dragon Challenge twice - which you really need to do to find which dragon ride you like best.

I could have gone through the castle several times taking in the sites - but was a bit tired. It is fascinating. Watch out for the spiders spitting at you on this ride. :)

Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley were also awesomely done and gave a good sense of the books. I did spend quite a bit of money and got the following loot:
- Hermione Granger Wand
- Gryffindor patch (I am going to make my own cape - I couldn't see spending $100 for a black cape, but will sew on the patch to make the outfit complete)
- 2 Gryffindor mufflers (one for my son)
- A chocolate frog
- A chocolate wand (already consumed)
- Triwizard cup

Now I have to follow through on the urge and reread all of the Harry Potter books as soon as I get back to Utah. I can practice spells with my wand while doing so.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Disney World Marathon 2011 + Goofy Challenge

Sunday, January 9, 2011 was part two of the Goofy Challenge, the Disney World Marathon.

The prep work for this actually started the day before. As soon as we got back to the hotel, I downed some recovery drink and started getting protein and carbs into my system in order to be ready for the longer race the next day. Usually I don't sleep well the night after a race and rarely nap, but was lucky enough to be able to nap for about 90 minutes that afternoon. I also did a cold water soak in the tub before going to bed at night.

Once again, my alarms both failed to go off in the morning. I've never had that happen before. Luckily, Jennifer has set a backup alarm that got me up and moving. I didn't get up as early this morning because I knew that I had more than enough time to get to the race without being cold as long. I did not bother with a drop bag because it was pretty useless the day before and the weather was supposed to be good (just a bit cooler than the day before). In addition to my regular race gear, I was wearing a second pair of throw away gloves, my arm sleeves, a pair of yoga pants that Jenn said I could throw away. After I got to the race venue, I asked a custodial person for a garbage bag and used that to keep the upper body warm until the race started.

Only about 18000 people in this race meant that the waves started every 4 minutes instead of every 7 minutes, so I was able to get across the start line before 6 a.m. (the first wave started at 5:35 a.m.).

A bit worrisome when my ankles were hurting the first couple of miles, but once I warmed up, the pain went away. I decided that the first 10 miles I would run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute. My plans were to basically run the marathon like an ultra – walking any uphills (not that there are many on the course) and not pushing myself too hard. A lot of the first half of the course was very familiar from the half marathon, but more winding around and back through Epcot before heading off to the Magic Kingdom. A lot of people doing the Goofy Challenge were struggling a lot more than I was – I'm not sure what it says about me that I was happy about that.


Laurie Pope had recommended I take some pain meds during the full to help the legs deal with pain. After 2 hours I took a leftover lortab from my kidney stone and my legs felt a lot better for a while and I had about 9 miles of easier and pain free running.

They had some neat 'Sharpie' education signs after you left the Magic Kingdom that gave some nice reading. I was really glad I had bought a new running belt at the expo to hold all my gus and gels because at the two aid stations that were supposed to have some available, the first had totally run out and the second only had mocha available.

The second half of the marathon does a lot more running on the main roads and also heads through the Animal Kingdom. Not too bad – except for the running by the waste water treatment facility. They had lots of lovely educational signs about recycling and water treatment, but not anything we enjoyed – especially since the area was pretty smelly.

The legs were pretty tired by the time I headed into the last two park runs. It was just a matter of hanging on. We were all doing a lot more walking – I couldn't believe how bad some people looked. Hunched over and really sad. I was hurting – but not that bad.

Crossed the finish line at 5:49:25. My goal had been to try and do sub 3 hours on the half and sub 6 on the whole, do with a cumulative time of 8 hours 53 minutes 56 seconds for the Goofy Challenge, I met that goal.


After getting my aluminum foil blanket and Donald Duck Medal, I headed over to the Goofy Challenge tent and received my Goofy Medal.


Met Jennifer and headed back to the hotel. Since our plans were to head over to Universal Studios, I took an ice bath while she fetched lunch.

I went to Disney World in 2011 and all I got was three races shirts and three race medals.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Disney World Half Marathon and packet pickup

On Friday, January 7, 2011, Jennifer and I headed down to Orlando, Florida from Richmond Hill, Georgia. It was about a 4 ½ drive to where we were staying at Disney World. Jennifer had arranged for us to get military pricing at the Disney All Stars Resort and she was thrilled that we were in the 'Toy Story' complex. I'll have to admit it was pretty cute – the stairs were encased in "Buckets of Soldiers" and there were some big Toy Story characters in the courtyard. Plus, there were Toy Story posters on the walls and bedspread. Disney knows how to do things right. Jenn was alternating between being thrilled to be at Disney World and terrified at the idea of her first race (a half marathon no less) the next morning. I was just thrilled to be at Disney World and excited to be at the race (and hoping I had some lungs and legs after being sick most of December).

We caught a bus over to the ESPN/Wide World of Sports park to go to the packet pickup and expo. The race is so large that the packet pickup is in one building and the race expo is in another building. Jenn got in the half marathon line to get her bib. I got shuttled around from line to line until someone told me I need to go upstairs to the Goofy Challenge section. The race weekend is geared around several races. There is a 5K and diaper dash on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday. If you sign up to do the half marathon + full marathon, it is called the Goofy Challenge.

Once we made it through the lines, we headed over to the expo. Jenn picked up her goody bag with her race shirt and I picked up my goody bag with my three race shirts. There were nice long-sleeved tech shirts for the half and whole marathons (Donald Duck on the half, Mickey Mouse on the full) plus a dark blue 'Goofy' shirt for the race and a half challenge. We then wandered the expo and picked up some neat gear. I bought a few rolls of KT tape, a headband, another pair of compression socks. Jenn bought a couple of headbands and a new running bra that was pretty awesome since it does a good job of controlling 'bounce'.

We laid out all our gear and ate an early dinner and then tried to get some sleep. We knew we had to be up at 3:00 a.m. in order to get on the race buses over to the half marathon start at Epcot Center.

Saturday, January 8th started way too early. I had forgotten to actually turn on my alarms, so it was a good thing Jennifer's went off. We got dressed and walked next door to catch our bus to the race start. They had plenty of buses available, so we instantly got on one without waiting in the cold. Disney World has this whole race thing down, but it was different from many other marathons that I have done, so I was glad to have Friday as a trial run for Saturday.

Once we got off the bus, we had to walk a ways to get to what we thought was the start of the race. Nope. After a POP stop, we sat on the ground for a while and then realized we had to go through tents to drop our 'drop bags' and then walk some more. My tent took forever! This seemed kind of silly to me, because if you had to put your warm clothes in the drop bag that early – what was the point of a drop bag? Luckily we had some throwaway gloves on and sleeves to help keep us warm.

Once we dropped our bags, it was about a 30 minute stroll to the corrals. We were in corral F (H was the final corral) based upon Jenn's projected speed. Our goal was to aim for 3 hours for the half marathon. Jenn thought she could maintain the speed for this, and it wouldn't push me too hard so that I would be too tired for the marathon the next day. Lots of runners had dressed in costumes for the race and they had some huge screens available to watch some of the goings on. It was kind of emotional for us both when they showed one woman who had arranged with her husband's duty station in Afghanistan to run a corresponding half at the same time and have each of them run the same pace.

After the national anthem, the race started. Sort of. There are actually 8 starts to the race. The wheelchair start, then each wave start of the seven waves. It was pretty cool that they had fireworks going off with the first waves and lots of excitement in the air.
PhotobucketJenn was fairly buzzing with excitement as they moved our corral up to the starting line.
Photobucket I hit my Garmin start as we crossed the line and we set off on our great adventure together.

Only… to have it end pretty soon. After about a quarter of a mile, the foot injury Jenn had been experiencing started to flare up and she was forced to walk. And then walk with a limp. My heart was breaking. I know what it is like to DNF and I didn't want this to happen to her. I was praying as hard as I could that a miracle would happen and that after a few miles her foot would loosen up and the pain would end. Nearing the three mile mark, Jennifer forced me to move on. She knew she was going to have to drop and didn't want to ruin my race. We were both crying as I hugged her and set off. I didn't think she was going to make it very far and expected she would drop at the next medical tent.

Mile 1: 15:06 Mile 2: 16:03 Mile 3: 15:12

You really don't need to run with music on this course. They have bands all over the place or else piped in music. People watching was also a great thing to do. So many runners and so many people around cheering you on.

After a couple more miles, we entered the Magic Kingdom and started working our way around the park. This is not a race to try and PR in. Too many runners and walkers. I got a lot of practice shooting gaps and avoiding collisions, but at places the course narrows down so much that you cannot even run because racers are blocking the path. Plus lots of turns within the parks themselves. And people pulling over to get their picture taken with Disney characters or taking pictures of various sites. It was pretty neat to see Cinderella's castle up ahead and then they looped you around the park and back through the castle before winding your way out of the park and back onto the main roads.

About mile 8 I was so happy to get a text from Jenn. She had made it to the halfway mark before dropping out. She was determined to get through the castle, but also wanted to DNF before getting caught by the sweepers that were pulling people off the course. I was so proud of her for gutsing it out that far because I know how much she was hurting.

Mile 4: 13:33 Mile 5: 13:10 Mile 6: 15:17 (winding around the park) Mile 7: 13:16 Mile 8: 13:09

I was maintaining the pace I wanted – between 12.5-13.5 minute miles –in order to have some legs and lungs for the next day. I could tell that I was still not recovered from being sick, but could also tell that I had enough miles in the bank to be able to push myself through both races.

It was a little scary right before mile 10 when an ambulance went racing down the wrong side of the road and at the mile 10 aid station, we were all pushed into one lane to keep us away from the emergency. The EMT's were doing chest compressions on a runner – so it looked bad. Still haven't heard if the runner pulled through. After that, we looped up onto an overpass to head back towards Epcot.

Mile 9: 14:45 (just resting and bathroom break) Mile 10: 12:53 Mile 11: 12:54

The final run through Epcot was fun. They circled us around and through a lot of areas, so speed slowed down. I also kept myself from pushing because I knew I had to go into immediate recovery mode for the marathon. I was trying to encourage some other runners around me that were struggling and help them to the finish line.

Mile 12: 12:44 Mile 13: 13:12

I high-fived Donald Duck and Goofy before crossing the line.

Final time: 3:04:31

Once I finished, I received my Donald Duck medal (first half medal) and then contacted Jenn. She had just got to the finish line before me, so was waiting after I picked up my drop-bag. She had had her good cries and talked to Jeremy and was better able to handle her disappointment at this time. They had given her a half medal as a souvenir – but I think she was happiest with the warm fluffy blanket they had put on her in the medical tent to stop her from shaking from the cold.

We took the bus back to the hotel and got cleaned up and ate a late breakfast. It felt kind of weird to be over with racing for the day by 9 a.m.

We took another trip over to the Wide World of Sports to get a few more items we wanted and to have Jenn's foot taped by the KT tape people. That seemed to help her not limp as much. Wish we had tried it the day before – but it was a little too late to think about that.

Napped for a couple of hours – then took another bus over to Disney Downtown where we wandered around and did some shopping and just relaxed and had fun.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Potential exists in 2011

I'm not sure if these count as New Year's Resolutions, but I do have several fitness goals in 2011. I plan to do a follow-up quarterly to see if I stick to my plans.

Overall Health:

  • I'm ashamed to admit it – but I allowed myself to get overweight again. I started off today at 160 pounds. I plan to make it down to 135 pounds before the end of the year. I think that will be an ideal weight for racing and also set me up for the weight I should be maintaining as I work on middle age.
  • Weight training – get back in the habit of weight training and do a minimum of one upper body workout per week, one lower body workout per week, and core workouts at least twice a week.
  • Break my addiction to sugar.
  • Eat Clean. For the first half of the year I will allow myself two cheat days per week, then get down to one cheat day per week the second half of the year.
  • Cook a minimum of one new recipe per meal time per week. (One breakfast, one lunch, one dinner).


  • The nice thing about turning 50 last November is that I am in a new age group category. So – I intend to set a new 50-55 PR in every race distance I run this year.
  • Run 2011 miles in 2011. In order to do this – I have to train sensibly and stay healthy.
  • Take a year off of marathoning after running the DisneyWorld Marathon on January 9, 2011.
  • Complete The Goofy Challenge – DisneyWorld Half Marathon on January 8, 2011 and DisneyWorld Marathon on January 9, 2011
  • Run a half marathon with my daughter
  • Build up my base speed on training runs (not including warm-ups and cooldowns) to 10 minute miles or better. Currently I average about 11.5 minute miles, so have a lot of pushing ahead of me.
  • Break 2 hours 5 minutes in a half marathon (9.5 minute mile average – current PR is 2 hours 28 minutes)
  • Break one hour in a 10K (9.67 minute mile average – current PR is 1:05:21), THEN
  • Break 55 minutes in a 10K (8.87 minute mile average)
  • Break 26.35 minutes in a 5K (current PR is 27:54), THEN
  • Break 25 minutes in a 5K