Orlando, Florida March 30th 2003 Inaugural Disney Marathon
The course was 13 miles of a perfect mix of straight-aways on roads and twist and turns through Epcot and MGM theme parks. The registration for the event was filled in the first week of March. The original believed cut off was set at 1500 but rumors were that it went up to 1600 skaters which would make it the second largest race in the country. Many more would have liked to attend but you gotta sign-up early and numbers were held at this amount for safety reasons. Safety was made a very high priority both for skaters and for the parks. We were very limited to what we could wear during the race for water/sport drinks. Even hydration packs were not allowed. This was my first race that I ever actually utilized a single water stop. And with cups being used I did manage to soak my legs once really well. Also there were timing mats along the route to keep racers progress current. For those of you that don’t skate, I am referring to rubber mats that cover wires that run across a track underneath them that are activated by the mobile timing chips skaters wear on their boots or ankles.
Two nights before the race a Friday night skate was held in the Celebration neighborhood. The roads were nice for the most part but we ran into some wet roads and drizzle. My only good clean pair of bearings (mini's at that) got ruined. Cleaning them right afterwards was not good enough. I was ruined for the race but wait, much to my fortune a Chicago friend had a spare set of Swiss that had only been used indoors so I was saved!!
Race day, we were warned to be at the start by 5 AM!!! even though the race was not due to start till 6:30 AM. Roads were being closed off for the race by 5:30. Traffic was backed up for a few miles and very slow. Disney did not offer and kind of shuttle service for skaters, even ones staying at resort hotels so it was a madhouse. Next year instead of getting up at 3:45 I am aiming for 3:15... if I go to sleep at all. To some of you this may sound just terrible but there is an upside to this. The less time your body is laying down the less time your muscles have to tighten up. I stretched as much as I could prior focusing on my lower back because I, like many skaters, know what it is like to race in such pain and 20 more miles to go so I have made sure to all but cure that problem. Daylight hits and we head over to the staging area. I see a few people I know but my teammates Deb and Jodi are not yet in sight. A few minutes later we are free to skate over to the start area and I move up as far forward as I can. I don't like starting in the back of the pack and it is not a helpful place to be unless you are worlds greatest sprinter and feel up to spending the first 3 miles chasing down the lead pack. By this time I have spotted my teammates, old friends from MN, friends from TX and best of all we are all packed together. Cool. I am surrounded by people who know how to skate and best of all we know how to start.
Relax, chat a bit, then the gun goes off and away goes the advance pack. I took off looking for stable skaters and lines to hop into. None exist yet. It is still a melée of hyped up and over reckless skaters. One guy in a Hawaiian shirt way ahead of his league (not good) is down less that 100 yards into the race. We come up to a few WIDE and large spaced turns and people in front of me are dragging their wheels to slow down. All I can think is you have got to be kidding me, and I don't want to skate with this group of people. I drop off the girls that I was trying to form a line with and start looking for smarter skaters. Yep they are way up ahead flying along. To my left I see Deb and Jodi in the starts of a small line and that's my cue. I drop in and away we skate. Anther turn to the right and all of a sudden my skates are slipping like they are on water even though there is none to be seen. I thank the yoga for the balance that kept me up. Skaters are going down all over. I counted at least 4 that included a girl in the middle of the road holding her leg that is showing through her shredded speed suit and screaming her head off. I am sure she is in pain but again the first thing to enter my mind is get up and get going... at least get out of the way, there is time to hurt later. Any fallen skater will tell you usually the adrenalin keeps the pain away till later. Looking back I hope she is ok but during a race unless something is broke you get up and move your butt. A few seconds later Paul of team Bodyglide out of MN skates past me. I remember seeing him on the ground. Turns out after avoiding screaming girl he stepped on a water bottle and went down. Ouch! But like a great skater he got right up and took off after the lead Advance pack. Go Paul! Go!
The miles quickly pass and we hit the MGM park, here is where the fun twist and turns start. I try to keep us in a line and everyone calm and stable. Better to stay relaxed and on your feet that panic and wind up on your tushie. Somewhere up ahead a wooden boardwalk is waiting for us. Along with potholes, surface changes and all kinds of directional changes. Cool! Deb is leading and we see Paul up ahead. He 'blew a lung' chasing the lead pack and is pooped. Deb calls to him to tell him we are coming to get him. We pull alongside and I yell at him to get in the back and get a rest in the draft. Take his time. Lots of racing left to go. I was proud he tried to catch the pack that is not too far in front of us but at race speeds at little distance is a long way. He hopped in and so now we have together a strong pack of Deb, Jodi, Paul, and myself. A few skaters dropped off a while back and as we head in to Epcot (I think. It was all a blur.) we see the pro men taking a HARD right turn and heading up a hill right at us. We are separated by cones. Is always a awesome sight to see them. For those of you who don't know, these guys can hit 30+ MPH speeds under their own power and do it in perfect harmony/synch one right behind the other in lines 20-30 skaters long.
We free ourselves from the parks and are back on main roads heading for the start line 13 miles later. In my head I remember being told “go to the right if you are a half marathoner, stay to the left if you are doing the full”. There is a guy ahead of us that earlier I overhead say he is doing the half. He knows these girls now in with us that have been helped by 2 older men. We have been pushing ourselves and like heck I am going to let babied skaters beat us. So I tell Jodi who is now ahead of me that the guy who is up ahead of us is only doing the half and if he sprints for it not to chase him. We still have over 13 more miles to go and now is not the time to be played. We come to the right-left intersection which is much different than I pictured and there is no sign of indication if this is the spilt point. Only people yelling out directions. Well when you are cruising at about 18 MPH and tired and trying to stay focused they can yell all they want but it is worthless. We all turn wrong. In fact poor Deb and Jodi are so confused they start to turn around. Since I was at this point farther ahead I can't because there is a huge median with flowers and trees in my way. I wait for the next opening thinking I need to turn around and I will never catch up, then learning I am still going the right way, sort of. I just need to be on the other side. So I swerve left and hop a line of cones. I keep going at a steady pace and the path makes sense once again. Back over the starting line/mats and away I go.
Round 2 starts and I am all alone. I have no doubt Deb and Jodi and everyone else will catch back up so I keep going at a reasonable pace. Ah here comes Deb. Time to start racing again. Back down the long straight roads, up a ramp and heading over to the parks. We acquire a whole new set of skaters in our pack and then all of a sudden when I am leading I hear a voice behind me say “Hey. Need some water?” It is Rainbo skater Rob. He had been in a pack that caught up with us and the water offer was music to my ears since I had none on me and was at the mercy of the water stations. Leads rotate around on and off but I try to stay as close to the front as possible. Not always easy but it is safest and the farther up the more control you have. I often rarely know who is behind me and how many because of this. I stay focused on the front which *knock on wood* keeps me upright in a race.
We are getting closer and closer to the finish. Once again on the rough back service road of Epcot and our pace slows as I drop us in line behind a lone skater up ahead. He is pretty strong but has a terrible habit of kicking back with his feet instead of pushing out. I get nailed in the shins several times but it does not brake either of our strides. Leaving the park you can tell people are getting antsy. Those with energy left or from resting in the now huge draft are too hyper. Our once small pack of 10 miles ago is now huge with skaters I have not seen before. Our road width becomes tighter and tighter and there are now many slower skaters either doing the half marathon or still on their first lap for us to pass. With about a mile to go we have one road lane of space, way too many skaters packed together, and the rec skaters still on our right. I try to stay far to the left for room, to pass, and to be ready for that final sprint. In the process I kick 3 large orange cones in a row. They are keeping us from using the middle of 3 lanes. WHY??? I am sure the skater behind me is nearly wetting himself in fear we are going down. Lets just say this is something I have practiced many times over and the key is to just let the leg whip back and absorb the hit. Relax and your leg will come back to you.
We turn right and finally there are 2 lanes for the last sprint. We have such a short distance to go. Maybe a 1/4 mile and people start to take off. So many skaters. I stay to the left which in the end is my undoing. Rob takes off just ahead of me and I think there is my opening. I can't follow him (he is the fastest sprinter I have ever seen) so I hang back in his wake. Bad idea. Out of the woodwork I am surrounded by big guys trying to take off after him. I am trapped. I want to go. I have the energy! I see the girl who I worked with and talked to later on to keep her up in with me, she has a clear path to my right. Arrrghhh! There goes Deb right behind her. I can't get over! Move you big ape! And the final heartbreak was some girl I had never seen in the race take the same clear path. BUT much to my luck not a one of them was in my age group so I go on to cross the finish line first in my age 30-34 and my second best marathon time ever 1:28:24 8th overall for women in Advanced. There had been 3 females that survived farther ahead in the pack of Advanced skaters. Talking with JD who was ahead commented on how one of the girls was very strong, even leading at points. And by her time it is obvious. At least 5 minutes faster than our group. Wow! I must keep training! Our finishing pack was so sizable that over 20 skaters crossed the line in under 4 seconds. With only 2 lanes of road space that is very considerable.
The awards ceremony came and the rain held out just long enough for the Pro and Advanced skaters to receive their awards. I was fortunate enough to visit with many wonderful fellow skaters that I see on rare occasions, like only at races. Lots of skaters made it down from MN and even some from WI as well. Over all Disney did a great job with their first ever marathon race and with some tweaking and a longer route you bet they will fill their registration for next year as well.