The race starts out early...3 am the shuttle leaves for the start line. Waited around for the start with a ton of other people then headed out of the tent to the start line which was about a 20 minute walk.
Race starts at 5:45am with a bang...literally!
The first mile is a mess of dodging people and weaving in and out of other slower runners. Seems like forever but it's a nice smooth 7:45 warmup. Get out of traffic and head off at about a 7:20-7:30 pace in the dark.
The first 4-5 miles are a loop around Epcot in the dark. Then it's a 4-5 mile trek to the Magic Kingdom on the main highway. It's flat, dark and boring but there are bands and cheerleaders out every now and then to keep you moving. The miles seemed to tick off effortlessly at about a 7:10-7:20 pace. I'm feeling good and take a quick potty break about mile 9 and manage to still run a 7:30 with the stop before reaching Space Mountain and running through Cinderella's castle. It's still pretty dark at this time but the miles are going by nice and easy. My HR and breathing is low and under control, I'm passing people left and right now and since mile 3 or 4 haven't been passed by more than 1-2 people yet.
After the brief tour through the Magic Kingdom it's through Frontier Land (with the country bear jamboree in full effect) and then back to the main roads and off towards animal kingdom.
After mile 10 I pick it up a little and proceed to run in the low 7's, with a couple of high 6's in there that felt easy. Hit the 1/2 marathon mark in 1:35 and change and know I'm on my way to a good race. The next few miles tick off easily, it's getting light out now, people are starting to drop and my pace is still in the low 7's and I'm feeling really good.
We hit the animal kingdom around mile 17-18 and it's a little bit of winding through the park and past some of the rides. The staff
here is out in full too with some characters thrown in to cheer us on. Here's a shot running in front of the Expedition Everest ride, which is a kick ass ride by the way.
Things are still good at this point but the left leg/quad is starting to get tight. I had been taking water at every other aid station with power aid every third, but I don't really like the taste of it so I probably was not taking enough electrolytes, which would come back to haunt me later. In addition to the water and power aid I was taking a cliff block every 3-4 miles which seemed to be just right to keep the energy level up.
Hit mile 20 in 2:25 or so and was slowing up a little due to the left leg getting tighter with each step but I was still on pace for a 3:10-3:11 run. Mile 21 was around 7:45 and I knew if I could back off a little and run 8 minute miles I would still break 3:15 and be ok for my Boston qualifying time. Mile 22 was 8 minutes flat but by now the leg was really starting to lock up. At a couple of aid stations and one medical tent I asked if anyone had salt tabs but alas no one did. Mile 23 really hurt and by the end my left leg was full on locked up. Tried to stop and stretch it but it wasn't happening and I struggled to a 10 minute + mile.
Miles 24-26 were more of the same. Trying to run, stopping to stretch and hobbling along as best I could. Struggled into a 3:21:21, which was about 10 minutes slower than I had wanted.
Overall it was still a 20 minute PR for a marathon. The 259 miles ran in December along with the better nutrition from QT2 and Coach John's mentoring let me run 23+ miles in a low 7's pace feeling easy and relaxed for much of the run. Next time I will make sure and drink more sports drink for the race even if I don't like it and have my own salt tabs with me for sure.
The overall race is a definite must do, and the folks doing the Goofy Challenge got some really nice medals (the Marathon and Half Marathon medals are really nice too). There are a couple of boring/flat parts on the course between the parks but the overall atmosphere and crowds more than make up for that. Almost 15,000 people finished the marathon, I was 361st or so.