18 January 2017

This isn't fun anymore

That time I went to a runDisney meet-up
Ok runDisney... it's time we had some words. My sense of disappointment in these events has been growing year after year as prices continued to rise and yet no additional offerings were being included. You moved my favorite race from a nighttime spectacular to a morning race, in my opinion, only to garner more money for the weekend. You continue to add races to the calendar, but stack them on top of one another instead of spreading them throughout the year. You don't address the numerous people who come to an expo and hoard up on merchandise only to be posted on eBay and sold at an outrageous mark-up. You did away with the social media events in lieu of inviting only certain social media gurus and keeping those of us who only infrequently blog off "the list." I made a decision to quit you because of these things.

But I came back for marathon weekend this year. I came back because a dear friend wanted to attempt her first marathon, and wanted me to be there with her. I came back because it was my first marathon and I remember those 26.2 miles and the friendships that were made and the change that was made in my life because I became a marathoner that day. Those were 26.2 grueling miles, but they were also 26.2 FUN miles. Fun because I had my peeps with me. Fun because of the on-course entertainment. And fun because as a Disney fanatic, I was getting to experience parts of the park that most people never see. I was the nerd who thought it was uber cool to run through the environmental services area between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and learn about all the green initiatives taking place behind the scenes at the parks.

But you know what? The weekend just wasn't what I had hoped it would be. Sure, runDisney did AN AMAZING job handling the situation on Saturday. The weather was no condition for anyone to be out - from the volunteers who would have showed up around midnight, in the thick of the storm, to the runners and on-course personnel that would be there in the early morning hours while it was still raining and occasionally lightning. And then to offer the opportunity to be compensated for the cancellation - UNHEARD OF! We all signed waivers agreeing that there was no compensation in the event of cancellation due to weather. But instead we were given the option to transfer to a future event, get park tickets (for those only registered for the half), or a gift card in the amount of registration to use in the parks. Things were handled really well on Saturday. I was really impressed with runDisney as I walked out the expo and mentally focused on the marathon ahead on Sunday.

Around late afternoon Saturday we started to get the alerts from runDisney that it was going to be much colder than expected and to plan on layering as much as possible. Looking at the forecast, I was starting to get more worried not about the temperatures but about the wind. In another race setting, those conditions may have warranted a delayed start, but runDisney doesn't have that option because of the logistics of road closings and navigating through the parks after opening. And yet no consideration was made on how the weather could impact pace. And this is where my real beef with the weekend (really just Sunday) lies.

Seeing rare characters during my first half marathon
Sure the website says we're all supposed to train to maintain a 15:00-16:00 pace per mile. But we all know about the balloon ladies. They're supposed to be the LAST people to cross the start line, at the back of the last corral, and maintain that 16mm pace to essentially show where the cut-off line is. As I mentioned, it was COLD Sunday morning, and the winds were around 11mph out of the north. That meant as we were coming down World Dr., we were running into a head wind. And yet our average pace according the runDisney through the first 5 miles was 16:33. A little off the suggested 16:00mm pace, but we still should have been WELL ahead of the balloon ladies at mile 5. And yet at mile 5.5  when we stopped for a restroom break, we were suddenly being told that the balloon ladies had passed us and we were behind pace.

Ok, wait a minute. At 16:33 average for the first 5 miles, we were only 2:30 off pace over finish time. There was no WAY they started only 2:30 minutes behind us!!! But we caught up to them as we were coming out of Magic Kingdom, and managed to stay ahead of them as we passed the second pick up, and turned onto Bear Lake Road. It was here at this point that we heard one of the balloon ladies tell another runner that she was running a 15:40mm pace at that time.

Ok, wait a minute. Aren't they supposed to be maintaining a 16:00mm and pulling up the "rear?" Also, shouldn't they be next to each other, matching each other's steps? What we heard one of them explain (because the other was already ahead of us again) was that if they were ahead of pace at the mile marker, they would wait, and then start going again. And yet, still not paying attention to the 16:00mm pace as they made their way between mile markers...

So on Bear Lake, as we curved around environmental services, the balloon ladies managed to get ahead of us again, still well within sight, and the bicycles were riding around us telling us we needed to pick up the pace. As we passed mile marker 10, we were told we had until the next mile to catch up to the balloon ladies or we would be swept. They were still within sight, and we knew we could catch them before mile 11. (oh yeah, I forgot to mention after we passed the second pick up, one of them mentioned we would have until the half marker before the next sweep point) And yet, as we came up to Western Way, around the 10.5 mile marker, busses pulled into view just as the balloon ladies crossed the street, and we were unceremoniously forced onto the bus.

Everybody castle jump and #holdontoyourmedal
My GPS watch had us at a 16:21mm average pace. Yes, still behind the recommended pace, but we still should have been ahead of the balloon ladies that started at the end of the corral behind us. Our "official" time had us at 16:41 at the 10 mile mark, which still should only put us a little over 5 minutes behind the recommended finish time pace. And with over 25 miles still to go, we should have been able to make that up. Not to mention the number of people I saw with official finish times over 7 hours, and well past the 16:00mm pace - they just happened to get the benefit of starting in an earlier corral...

How was it that the balloon ladies had caught up to us so early, and had passed us?? The math just didn't seem to add up. Reaching out we heard that they had started only 5 minutes behind us according to official times. Ok, wait a minute. How much time is supposed to elapse between corral starts? We started very near the front of our corral, O, which was the second-to-last corral. They should have started at the end of P. Also, are the times between corrals between the end of one and the start of another, or just between the start of each. But still if the corral behind us started 5 minutes after ours started, and they were at the back of the group, how were they still only 5 minutes behind us?

Putting all that aside, we were told we had until mile 11 to catch up to them, and yet at the moment we were picked up - somewhere between 10 and 11 - they were probably only 10-20 seconds ahead of us. A time that definitely could have been made up before the mile marker. And why scoop people up before Animal Kingdom anyway? We were about 100 feet away from clearing the road - a road that is not a main thoroughfare by any means - and entering the backstage areas of Animal Kingdom. The park was already set up to manage park guests and runners, so why not allow us to run through the park, and then do the sweep after if we were still behind pace? It's not as if it would be difficult to do a sweep as runners exited the park.

Cha-Cha finish at 2013 Marathon
The thing is, the whole point in my mind of a Disney race is to have fun! Before I ever attempted my first marathon, I thought the only thing that could ever motivate me to go 26.2 miles was Mickey Mouse. I was inspired to run this marathon after watching contestants on the Biggest Loser compete. Many people attempt their first distance race - whether half marathon or full marathon - here at Walt Disney World. People of all fitness levels come to Disney to achieve goals and to show others that they have what it takes to be a distance racer. Many people come to Disney with the full intention of walking the 26.2 distance. So why be so strict about a 16mm pace? Especially on a day like we had Sunday. And then to hear stories from my friends at Disneyland today doing the Star Wars 5K - a race that isn't even supposed to be timed - being told that the sweep vehicles are coming and it's time to stop standing in line for a beloved character stop. Where's the fun in that?? A lot of us participate in these races for the chance to see rare characters on course and take the time to get our picture with them. We participate in these races to see Disney like most people never see the parks - early in the morning before sunrise or late at night after dark. We revel in the opportunity to go backstage and see the behind the scenes parts of the parks. Back when I signed up for my very first runDisney race - my first half marathon - it was for the fun of participating in a festival weekend and getting to earn my goodies! I loved the chance to see Russell and Dug on course, and finish with Mickey and Minnie at the finish line. For my first marathon, I loved the chance to see Darkwing Duck and cha-cha across the finish line with Minnie! My friends that I finished that marathon with always joked, "we may not have the best time, but we had the BEST time!" We had fun together on that course, despite the pain of 26.2 miles (for some 39.3 miles) and the blistering sun that day.
Castle-jumping to celebrate the fun

But after my experience on Sunday, I can say, it's just not fun anymore. Sure we know that some concessions have to be made especially on the marathon, because of the enormity of conducting a race within the confines of the park. Race starts can't be delayed, and roads have to open at some point to accommodate other guests. But almost every other person we were on that sweep bus with had the same thought - why now? We didn't feel like we were ready to give up, to have that chance to become a marathoner - whether for the first time or the tenth time - taken away from us. We still had more to give to the race.

And to top it all off, we were told we could not receive our Goofy medals because we had not completed the marathon. I know this is a whole other post in and of itself, but my friend was devastated by this whole outcome. Why would we get the marathon medals for not finishing (and the half medals for not even running at all) but have the Goofy medal withheld? Since when did Disney medals become finisher medals - but only in certain instances?

Ok, wait a minute. So, after being told at the cancellation of the half marathon that we had the options listed above, we're suddenly being told that transfer isn't an option any more?! We have tweets from runDisney specifically stating that we could choose to transfer when the decision was made to cancel the half. Granted, we know they didn't have to do anything to compensate us for that. But at the time, they said these were our options, and now that we're following up with them - liked they requested - we're being told no? And a friend who was at the Light Side Challenge this past weekend - the race we'd like to defer to - said there were very few character stops during the race. runDisney just seems to be charging more and more for these events and offering participants fewer and fewer perks. Why am I agreeing to spend $185 on a half marathon when I could use that money for at least 2 races that are a better value for my money? At least when there were rare and even regular character stops on the course, and I got the chance to run through parts of the parks regular guests rarely see, it was worth the extra money.

Nope, I just don't see the fun in it anymore... so maybe if you tell me again my option is gift card or park tickets, I'll simply take the gift card and enjoy Disney some other time. Because I can never be mad at the Mouse... just the people that are taking the magic out of it all.


24 September 2015

Day 5 – Amesbury to Boston

It was quite a chilly over night evening, so when it was time to get up in the morning, it was really hard to convince myself to climb out of my sleeping bag! Not to mention the reality of bike shorts that I had washed that did NOT end up drying over night… but it was the last day and I was determined to get in some serious riding today.

So I pulled myself out of bed and got (mostly) dressed and went down to breakfast. It was time for Blake’s last talk through the route. I also needed to get Evan to give my bike one last look to make sure it was good to go for the final 65 miles to Boston. I loaded up my water bottles and my snacks, and was on the bike.

As I mentioned, it was pretty brisk this morning, so I had all the layers on – my Boston compression socks, plus my Thorlos on top; my damp bike shorts that warmed up pretty well after I got them on; my jersey, my long sleeve jersey, and my windbreaker; my armsleeves; and even an extra pair of gloves. Oh yeah, and a warm headband to cover my ears. And toe covers on my shoes! Man, it was COLD!! The good thing about a fully supported ride is that along the way you can shed layers and then pick them up once you make it to the end of the ride. So as the day went on and I warmed up – and the day got warmer – I was able to pull off most of my extra layers, so that riding into Boston I was all matchy-matchy with the other riders.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our first stop of the morning was a fun little farm with cinnamon sugar donuts! It was the perfect fuel, along with another cup of coffee, to keep me warm and ready to keep pedaling. On this last day, the timetable is pretty strict, because the plan is to all ride the final few miles together. I didn’t spend too much time at this stop before jumping back on the bike and heading out. The first section of the ride was a lot of rolling hills before the final downhill into Boston, but it wasn’t too bad. I was actually feeling pretty good. I was riding with a fun pack of riders – back again with my pal Ellen – and we were about to chug up another hill when I felt the gears acting up. I jumped right off the bike because I wasn’t about to fall again. Another rider – this amazing older gentleman Al who rocked all 390 miles of the ride, stopped to try to help. The chain was acting up again and luckily Evan was by shortly in the van to make some adjustments and take it for a spin. I was back on the bike shortly – all my pals had already moved on without me – but I made it to the next water stop for a quick refill and a little extra lube on my chain before jumping back on the road again to get to lunch.
My goal was to be there by 11:30.

I’m pretty sure I rolled in around 11:40… pretty close to goal. I managed to get a whole pile of yumminess on my plate and grab a seat at a table in the shade. The food crew really does an amazing job feeding us – and keeping track of food concerns that people have. There are quite a few people on the ride that are vegan, and there were always real options for them. Most of the group was still at lunch, and at one point Patrick gathered us all together and reminded us that we were about to ride along the path that Paul Revere took and that we were standing in the footsteps of previous revolutionists. And that it is our time to be revolutionary – our time to ignite a change and a movement for climate change action. Although I was sort of on the sidelines finishing up my lunch, it was really exciting to see everyone get pumped up over the though of being revolutionaries.

But soon it was time to get back on the bike and make that final push for Boston. Shortly after we were back on the road, it was time to go off-roading on the Minute Man Trail.  This 4+ mile section was all on dirt/gravel trail, and some boardwalk. It was not the most fun for those of us with road bikes, but it was neat to consider the history we were riding past. Just like the other day, when we were finally back on the pavement, I was thankful for the road. Just a little bit further, and we were on another trail – this the commuter trail that leads into the city. It was fun to kick up the speed and cruise past other riders. As one of the locals called it, this is the “thunderdome” of bike riding in Boston, and I definitely participated. Soon enough we were pulling up to the American Legion, where we were all gathering before riding en mass to the Common. We spent a little bit of time hanging out – and Josh and Molly got suited up for one super awesome “Just Married” ride (oh, maybe I didn’t mention them – this couple was legitimately on their honeymoon on this ride! They were married just the Saturday before we started the ride). It was super fun to ride along the Esplanade with them and see people’s expressions.

When we finally came up to Arlington and made the turn onto Boylston, I was getting excited about riding to the Common. I knew exactly where we would be turning in, so as we were turning onto Charles, another rider told me to take the lead of our group of riders and bring us home. It was so fun to see all the supporters gathering just inside the park to welcome us – including some riders that had already finished as well as our amazing support team!

It was such an epic adventure. It didn’t turn out the way I had planned, but I enjoyed every moment of the ride. I do wish I’d been able to meet more of the 120 riders and talk with more of our amazing support staff. There just isn’t enough time to bike 50-80 miles a day, eat and sleep and still have time to be social! I hear the Northwest ride next year might have some “off” days, which sounds amazing. Every time I do one of these rides, I finish wanting to do it all over again. The team at Climate Ride really puts on such an amazing event, and you can’t beat the opportunity to support over 160 beneficiary organizations working on these critical issues.

Fundraising continues until the end of the fiscal year – so far we’ve raised over $424,000 just for the Northeast ride. The goal is to grant more than $1 MILLION to beneficiary organizations this year, and with the Midwest ride gearing up this weekend, we just might hit that goal. But every bit helps get us closer to that goal – and helps us send even more money to our beneficiaries. For me, I’m so glad to have another opportunity to support Interfaith Power & Light and the amazing work they do engaging people of faith in the moral call to action on climate change. Please consider making a donation today to help us surpass our goal.

23 September 2015

Day 4 – Ocean Park to Amesbury

There’s a reason to write these recaps on the day… as a few days pass, it’s hard to remember exactly how things went down. Well, here we are, two days out from the ride, which means four days out from this day, and I’m going to have to rack my brain to come up with the recap. Better get it done before it fades further into the memory black hole.

So, I had a rough night sleeping because one of my bunkmates was up and down all night, not to mention my ribs are still bothering me. Every time I want to turn over, I end up waking up because of the pain. But also the overly loud non-sleeper across the way. When it finally was time to get up – around 6am – it was tough. I made my way out of the top bunk and down to the land of the living, packed up my stuff and headed to breakfast. All morning long my plan was to try to just start off riding. There were 76 miles on the schedule for the day, and I just wanted to attempt as many as possible. We would be crossing into two new states today, finally leaving beautiful Maine behind. I wanted to ride across those state lines on my bike. I wanted to really push myself. But as I headed to breakfast and dropped off all my gear, I was confronted with the reality of just how sore I really was. The smart thing was to shuttle – so I said goodbye to my friends as they headed out of camp, and waited for the van to leave.

At about 8:45 we drove out of camp and followed along behind the riders. There were two other riders in the van with me – one that had a bad crash the day before and one that was having some knee trouble – as well as an awesome mechanic (Evan) and our super support drive Kai. We had some great MJ tunes to pump us up for the day and made our way to the first water stop at the Rachel Carson park. On the way, we made a pit stop at a great coffee house in Kennebunkport and I grabbed a coffee and some more ibuprofen to make it through the next few days. But once we got to the park, I was itching to get on my bike. I had some BioFreeze in my bag that I slathered on and shared with another rider before we hit the road. It was great to once again feel the breeze against my skin and be pedaling my way along the shores.

It was about 15 miles from the water stop to lunch at the Nubble Light and the views were absolutely stunning! I got to ride through Ogunquit with a woman who had grown up there, so she took the lead and told me all about the town when she was growing up there. It was so cool to get that perspective on the ride. We pulled over for a photo stop and I got a glimpse of an absolutely beautiful white sand beach. Then we were riding all along the shore and words just really can’t explain how amazing it was. I seriously was riding around corners and just saying “WOW!” We pulled into lunch and I was ready to just call it a day. Not because I was sore from being on the bike, but because our lunch spot was purely idyllic. On the rocky coast, with classic Cape Cod cottages along the shore… and the lighthouse just over the hill. I wanted to just stay there forever. But alas, there were more miles to ride, so I was back on the bike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far. Still in Maine, only a few miles from the New Hampshire state line, I got a flat tire. I was about to attempt to fix it myself (the only other time I’ve had a flat, I had my dad change the tire), when I realized I didn’t have a spare tube (remember that time my dad changed my tire…). So I called in for help and the sag wagon was along shortly to scoop me up. Instead of trying to fix it on the spot, they picked me up – along with a few other riders already aboard – and ferried us up to the next water stop. After falling less than a mile after getting started, all inhibitions about having to be in the van instead of on the bike on the road go out the proverbial window.

In the last year, a former Climate Rider was killed when she was hit by a car while cycling. Such a tragedy, because she was such a young woman, but it brings home the message of the Pass Them Like You Love Them campaign. There was a memorial for Allison this day just into New Hampshire at a park. About 30 riders stopped for the memorial. Since I didn’t know Allison personally, I didn’t feel a need to stop, and neither did anyone else in the van. It was definitely a moving tribute to see all the riders gathered there. But it meant that we jumped ahead of them as we drove on to the water stop.

The stop was along the beach, and since I was letting the mechanics take care of changing my tire and we were well ahead of most of the riders, we had some time to just take it all in. I even walked down to the beach and put my toes in the water. It was WAY too cold to put much else in! Once the right tube was on the bike, I was ready to hit the road again. I had debated about skipping a few more miles in the day, but having been picked up again, I decided I was going to try to just ride all the way in to camp – as long as the tire held up. I pulled out and enjoyed the New Hampshire beaches before we turned west and headed in land. There was yet another brief stop at this neat farm just before we crossed into Massachusetts that I stopped out and picked up a few goodies. 

I of course had to stop for the obligatory “welcome to a new state” photo as I crossed into Mass… but then realized I couldn’t figure out how to flip the picture so you could actually read it. Oh well! It was just a few more miles to camp, and the weather was absolutely beautiful for these last few hilly miles. I finally pulled into camp and tucked my bike in for the night. I was ready for a hot shower but alas, there wasn’t a lot of time before dinner, so it was just a quick change and then down for food.

Dinner was good, but I scarfed down my food so I could get that shower. This is my favorite night of the ride because it means it’s time for Kip’s slide show. Kip is our resident paparazzi and his photos are always amazing. He includes photos of riders as well as scenery shots and some cool bike shots. I love seeing how he captures the ride from behind the lens. So I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss that.

Temps were starting to drop, so it was great to finally get to pull on some of my warm, post-ride clothing that I had packed. My ride buddy Michele and I hiked down to the gathering spot and listened to the speakers before it was time for the slide show. I remembered that I had signed up for a massage, but I didn’t want to miss the show, so I headed up early to cancel. But when I got there, Kip was still sitting in the dining hall scrambling to finish up the slide show, so I figured, I could use a massage. Just make sure to head out when Kip heads down. The timing worked out perfectly and I was able to really enjoy the show. I can’t wait until the disc arrives!

Afterwards, I was just too tired for much else, so it was time to hike back up to the cabin and tuck in for the night. And man was it important to tuck in… those temps were DIVING over night.

Stay tuned for the recap from the last day of the ride!