Sunday, January 26, 2014

Utter humiliation, one year ago.....

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my running (much of it walking) of the 2013 ING Miami Marathon. I had chosen this race because it was billed online as one of the best winter marathons (Disney was on the list too), and I had grown up in the Miami area as a kid. I was determined to break four hours after coming up short in the October 2012 Columbus Marathon by 99 seconds. 

But my training didn't go well. I had difficulty speeding up in cold weather for those tempo runs. I had constant calf cramping issues. A bunch of shoes I had didn't work well. And I had difficulty getting in some quality runs during a 10-day trip to Hong Kong. 

At the 6 a.m. start on that Sunday morning, I struggled to keep up with the 4-hour pacer on the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach. (My Nike Plus GPS said we were going faster than 9-minutes-a-mile, maybe 8:50. I think she went out too fast). By the first water stop after three miles I had lost her. Reluctant to give up my goal, I stubbornly tried to keep up a 9:09 per mile pace. Going north on Ocean Drive, my GPS said I was ahead of pace and I had some hope that the pacer had just gone out too fast. But that quickly changed. But the high humidity and 70 to 75-degree heat that I was not used to took its toll by Miles 8 to 10 as we returned to Miami from Miami Beach on the Venetian Causeway. 

By then I had dramatically slowed my pace. I made a potty stop just past the Mile 11 marker, the only bathroom stop I've ever made in a race. After a 9:37 Mile 13, I started feeling intense razor-like pain in my feet -- after passing the halfway point in downtown Miami. I had chosen the previous day to run in my older worn shoes because they felt more comfortable than the new ones in which I had had calf cramping as recently as the Saturday morning. Horrible mistake! 

After the Mile 14 marker, due to the pain I had to slow to a walk. Pace team after pace team passed me. I would try to jog, only to be greeted with another horrible bout of pain. A teenager repeatedly tried to encourage me to keep running. I felt like a dismal failure. It got hotter. 

At some point, I just gave up on taking energy gels. I stopped to tie my shoes, and contemplated not finishing the race. A high school friend sent me a message saying that she was waiting for me at the finish line. I felt like an idiot for talking a race volunteer at the expo into reluctantly moving me to the sub-four hour corral. But three hours into the race, the notion of me ever breaking four hours seemed impossible. Boston was no where near the radar screen. 

Somewhere after the Mile 17 marker in Coconut Grove, I was able to adjust my gait to minimize the foot pain and was able to lightly start running again at a sub-11 minute pace. I had accelerated to 10 minutes a mile pace on reaching the Rickenbacker Causeway after the Mile 22 marker. But a horrible stomach cramp forced me to slow down again. The last mile on Brickell Avenue was excruciating due to the hilliness of the roads (the course is not as totally flat as advertised). But I rounded the corner toward Bayfront Park and dashed in for a 4:44:21 finish, 43 minutes slower than my then-PR. (My first half split was 2:04:30 and my second half was 2:39:51)

Since that humiliating day where I learned again the perils of going out too fast, I have switched to the Hanson Marathon Method and done more speed workouts, ran a 3:42:27 in the Cleveland in May, despite a mini-bonk at Mile 18, and a 3:19:25 at the Chicago Marathon in October and did the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World earlier this month while posting a decent 3:22:11 for the Disney Marathon.  Everyone's marathon career is going to have days like the ones I had a year ago. Victories are built on a base of humility gleaned from failure.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Restaurant Reviews - The Great 2014 Carboload - Dopey Challenge 2014

Wednesday, Jan. 8
Epcot - Mexico- La Cantina de San Angel (counter service)
Tacos de Carne - grilled beef tacos with corn tortilla chips - $11.95 - Ok. A bit too salty. A step above Taco Bell but it's not Tucson, Arizona.
Hung out at the nearby La Cava del Tequila with AnneMarie Swanson, Andrea Lammers-Pottage, Mr. Pottage, Wendy Bazinga and other folks.

Thursday, Jan. 9
Family Reunion breakfast - $41.54 - Tent near 5K Finish line - Epcot Parking Lot
Buffet - papaya, pineapple, sweet melon, strawberries, grapes, pastries, egg burritos, four cheese quiche with garden peas, sausage links, baked cinnamon French toast sticks, bread rolls
Characters: Monsters, Inc.
No place to wash your hands before you eat. No toilets. Only port-o-potties. There was very few people there. Kind of a dead atmosphere. The best part was being able to talk with Cathy Ski and a Dopey from San Diego. Food was ok to good. Not horrible but not worth the money. And they kick you out promptly at 9 a.m. I wouldn't do this again. Cape May's breakfast buffet costs $5 less with tax and tip and is much better..

Via Napoli - Epcot - Italy
Tortellini in Brodo - $8
Spaghetti e Polpettine - $21
You don't get much soup for your money. Pasta is good and you get a decent amount but whether it's worth $21 is debatable. Atmosphere and service is fine.

Pasta in the Park - Epcot - between UK and Canada - $48.82+$3.18 tax+$3.50 will call fee = $55.50
Basic salad, regular penne, marinara sauce, cheese sauce, bread sticks, steamed chicken on the bone with skin, bananas, Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, cash bar.
Characters: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Dopey
Entertainment: DJ and music; preferred seating for Illumniations
The food was fine. It wasn't horrible. The chicken was great and not greasy.. Plenty of carbs to consume here. Restroom facilities at least. What arguably made it worth it were the character pic opportunities and dining with other Dopies such as AnneMarie Swanson, Cathy Ski, Karen Oakes, Andrea Lammers-Pottage, Mr. Pottage and other folks. And I got to meet a Runner's World editor. It's more about the experience than the food. The music was just right - not too loud.. Staff started kicking me out at 8:40 p.m. I wouldn't pay more than I did. Another problem is the dinner is too late considering the 3 a.m. wakeup call.

Friday, Jan. 10

Cape May - Beach Club - Character dining 
Breakfast buffet - $28.99 + $1.89 tax+$6 tip =$36.88
French Toast, Mickey waffles, wide array of fruit, cheesy grits, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, pastries, oatmeal, potatoes and other food I can't remember and your choice of drinks like juice and hot tea
Characters: Donald, Goofy, Minnie
I really enjoyed Cape May. Great sunny atmosphere. Great food. Awesome characters. I can't remember having anything I didn't like. This one is a hidden gem. My only issue is I felt the server was giving me these looks to try to get me leave as they were trying to wrap up brunch when there were still people eating there.

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano - by Streets of America - Hollywood Studios
Whole Wheat Fettucini -- with zucchini, squash, olives, spinach, garlic with vegetable broth and goat cheese - $5.99
Vegetarian Minestrone - $15.99
With OK white bread rolls

Food was fine. Not great. Not horrible. Better value here than Via Napoli. But nothing distinctive. Very crowded. Decent place to carboload.

Carrabbas - 7890 Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee (Highway 192 West) 10 minute drive from Disney
Roasted Tomato Bruschette - $8.70
Spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce with free bowl of Sicilian chicken soup - $10.50
with slices of white bread
Great value! If I ever do a WDW race again, this is the place to go to carboload (assuming you have a car). Food tastes fine and lots of carboloading options.

Saturday, Jan. 11
Brunch with Megan Smith and Crystal Campbell!!!!!
Big Kahuna - $11.99 - French Toast, pancakes with pineapple sauce and Macadamia nut butter, eggs, home-fried potatoes, ham, bacon and sausage
Tonga Toast - $12.99 (shared)- banana-stuffed sourdough French toast in cinnamon sugar with strawbery compote with ham, bacon or sausage
Great sunny atmosphere, good service and great values, but way too much sugar. The Tonga Toast is legendary, but don't eat this every day. The Big Kahuna was good as well. I highly recommend coming here as long as you don't consume this much sugar on a regular basis. And a chance to brunch with the Fox sisters is a no-brainer! 

Rainforest Cafe - entrance to Animal Kingdom
Portofino Shrimp Pasta - Shrimp, linguini, basil, tomatos, arugla, basil olive oil, mozarella cheese - $23.99
Carribbean Rice - $3.99
Jungle Safari Soup - Zucchini, tomato, sausage, Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, spinach in a broth with pasta and parmesan cheese - $5.99 with entree

Good service. Food was good. Not the best value, but there's enough here for the carboload. I normally want to minimize the fat from olive oil but the other sauces would have been more fattening. The constant storms in the rainforest got annoying. 

Tusker House - Animal Kingdom - Africa
Middle Eastern food buffet - (no characters for dinner)
$32.99 +$2.15 tax +$7 tip = $42.14
several types of couscous, hummus, curry chicken dishes, curried rice salad, roto chicken,  prime rib, pork, corn bread, cookies and other food I can't remember. I don't recall anything here being subpar. Drinks including orange juice and tea. Best buffet I've ever had at Disney. Very calm and peaceful environment. This beats Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom by a mile. All that couscous and a rice is a perfect way to wrap up the carboload.  I will come back!

Sunday, Jan. 12
Katsura Grill (counter service) Epcot Japan
Japanese curry rice - $8.99
Beef Udon soup - $10.99

A bit too salty, but I can't resist a decent Japanese curry dish. Worthy Disney counter service food.

Mara (Counter service) - Animal Kingdom Lodge
African Stew - $7.99 - stew with beef, turkey, ham, carrots, potatoes, peas, chickpeas and raisins over basmati rice - 
Cold couscous - $3.99

Yes, a bit salty, but this was the most awesome Disney counter service food ever. And if it weren't for Amy Shapiro staying at AKL I never would have had it. And it closes at 11:30 p.m. I ate at the Victoria Falls bar while Amy and AnneMarie Swanson had a drink.

Monday, Jan. 13
Pecos Bill - Magic Kingdom - Frontierland
Lunch with Nancy and Kevin Letts!!!! They messaged me and invited me to join them.
1/3 IB Angus Cheeseburger with sweet potato fries - $10.59

It was insanely crowded. This won't win any health awards, but it's a step above Wendy's. I normally don't eat hamburgers or fast food, but I did'nt have any time to search around. Didn't taste horrible.