What: Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge
Where: Lake Buena Vista, FL
When: January 8 – 11, 2015
Distance: 48.6 miles (5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half-marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday)
I had originally planned on following the Hal Higdon Dopey Challenge training plan. However, it took me a little longer to recover from my 50 mile race in October than I anticipated. I had to drastically cut my mileage training for the Dopey Challenge in hopes that a lighter training load and a really tough weekend would reduce my risk of injury compared to trying to jump right back into high intensity training.
That being said, I very loosely aimed to replicate the structure of the training plan with multiple day back-to-backs. My weekly mileage goals were around 20-25 miles with my longest run being 13 miles, all the while listening to my body. I intended to do a 15 mile run as my longest run, but the holidays and a long drive from Minnesota back to Colorado forced me to do my last long run as two 8 mile runs, back-to-back on the Sunday/Monday two weeks out from the challenge. In my opinion, this is crazy low mileage for this sort of endeavor, but my hope was that I would have some strength left over from ultra training to carry me through.
I’m not a personal trainer, a doctor, or an expert, but this is what I decided would work best for me.
Considering the above, I went into the race with goals of surviving, not getting injured, and taking awesome photos. I think this is the first race I have ever gone into with fun being the primary goal.
I ran all the races with my friend Danielle. In terms of strategy, we ran a comfortable, conservative pace for all races. We walked through all of the water stops/aid stations. We took multiple bathroom breaks. We took tons of pictures with characters. If after all of that we still felt bad (really only in the marathon), we took walk breaks – especially up anything resembling a hill. Thanks ultra training!
We opted to rent a condo via VRBO rather than staying at the Walt Disney resorts.
- You obviously miss out on some of the Disney experience if you stay in a condo. We didn’t especially mind this since you run through all of the parks, and we were more interested in spending our days at Harry Potter World.
- You have built in transportation staying at the Disney resorts. The resorts provide buses to the start line for each race.
- It’s wayyyy cheaper. We paid $80 per night in a condo that has two bedrooms. If you have done any research into Walt Disney resorts, you know that they are much more expensive than that.
- It was still close enough to the parks to be convenient.
- We got to sleep in! I heard the above mentioned transportation leaves by 3:45AM for the 5:30AM races. We didn’t leave our condo until 4:20AM to 4:30AM each morning. This was cutting it a little close, but we made it to our corral without a problem each day.
Costumes are a huge part of the Disney races. I’m not a super creative person, so my outfits were relatively simple.
- 10k – Hermione Granger.. I don’t care that Harry Potter World is at Universal, that’s how deep my love runs; bought the skirt here and purchased the tie from a costume store.
- Half-Marathon – Winnie the Pooh.. my most creative outfit; bought the skirt here, purchased the ears from a costume store, and used yellow tape on a red race tee turned inside out.
- Marathon – Dopey.. bought the skirt here.
You must submit a qualifying time for corral placement either during registration or by the October deadline. This is not a flexible deadline. If you do not submit anything, you will be placed in the last corral, which I’ve heard can be very frustrating if you aren’t planning on walking a lot of the race.
TIP: Don’t forget to submit a qualifying time for correct corral placement.
We went to packet pick-up about a half-hour after it opened on Wednesday morning, and it was relatively painless. However, don’t forget to get your picture taken if you are doing the Goofy or Dopey Challenge. Apparently, it’s required to validate that you have done all the required races.
TIP: Don’t skip the picture line at the expo, it is required to validate challenger results!
For doing the Dopey Challenge, you receive 6 shirts, including 5 long sleeve technical shirts (10k, half-marathon, full marathon, Goofy, Dopey) and 1 cotton shirt (5k). I really like the shirts; they are fitted and the sleeves are long enough. I also like the designs. They are all similar, but in different colors with different characters for each race.
5k – It was WICKED cold. I thought going to Florida would be a sunny vacation, but I heard the temperature that morning was in the 20s with wind chill. I intended to wear a running skirt with my tee-shirt, but I had to start out in pants and a long sleeve. We were unaware that our spectators couldn’t come close to the corrals with us. The bag drop was also far away from the corrals. So, either you froze in the corrals or you wore more clothes and were warm/hot later into the race (not really a problem for the 5k, but for every other race).
I think there was about 6-8 minutes between corrals, which means if you are in a further back corral, you need to be prepared to be waiting in your corrals longer than the scheduled race start time.
TIP: Bring throwaway clothes or arrange to drop jackets when you see your spectators early in the race.
During the 5k, you only run through Epcot. There were only a few characters, but we were excited so we stopped for most of them. Epcot was awesome looking in the dark. All the buildings had lights, and it was really pretty.
10k – The 10k was warmer, but it was still cold. The corral and start situation is the same as the 5k, although there seemed to be quite a few more people in our corral for the 10k. You run through Epcot during the 10k again, but it’s a bit livelier. There were more characters, more music playing in the parks, and huge tiki torches lit on fire.
I handed off my jacket to Sam around mile 4, which worked out well for us. You also get to run through Disney’s BoardWalk area, which is adorable. There was also a lot of fan support in this section.
After the 10k, Danielle and I took a 5 minute ice bath. It was awful, but I think it helped.
Half-Marathon – The half-marathon temperature was similar to that of the 10k. I handed off my jacket to Sam again around mile 4.
During the half-marathon, we got to run through Magic Kingdom, which was awesome!!!
We saw the castle from far away and then ran to it and through it. There were many more (and cooler) characters. The characters were different than those in the 5k/10k, so I was pleased about that. There were also other distractions such as DJs playing music, videos of Micky videos, and people on stilts.
We didn’t run much through Epcot, only a little bit going into the end. Sean Astin also participated in the Dopey Challenge, which is so cool. We passed within a FOOT of him during the half-marathon. I wanted to say hi, but I was too shy.
The volunteers were awesome throughout the whole race; they were helpful, friendly, and GREAT cheerers. I feel that the last part doesn’t always happen in a race.
We took an ice bath again after the half-marathon. This time it was much colder, and we stayed in for 10 minutes. It was awful, awful, awful. I hate ice baths, especially after being cold for so much of the day.
Marathon – The marathon day was much warmer. We dropped our jackets again at mile 4 with the boys. I wore a tank top and a skirt, and I was plenty warm. The day never got overwhelmingly warm, thanks to the cloud cover.
The first portion of the race was very similiar to the half-marathon, which was somewhat disappointing. Even some of the characters were the same as the half-marathon.
After about 8 miles or so, we started hitting the new sections of the race.
After Magic Kingdom, we headed to Animal Kingdom. In the beginning of Animal Kingdom, there were a bunch of farm animals with their caretakers, including a pig, sheep (lamb?) and some goats. It was awesome. Normally, I’m not a big fan of zoos, circuses, etc., however, these animals seemed to be treated really well. It looked like they were more like pets to the caretakers. We also saw the Mt. Everest ride, which was pretty cool. We heard that you could have ridden it, but it seemed to not be quite open yet when we went through. That would have been awesome!
Following Animal Kingdom, we headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We ran on a portion of a track (my slowest 400 ever) and we also got to run around the bases at a baseball diamond. It was pretty cool.
From ESPN, we went to Hollywood Studios. We saw the sorcerer hat (which I heard they are taking down!) and the Tower of Terror building. I wish we could have ridden that! It’s my favorite ride from when I went as a kid. We also got candy here, but it was chocolate. That just sounded terrible to me. I was hoping for some straight sugar! Skittles, people! Good thing I snagged some Starbursts from a spectator earlier on.
Then, back to Epcot! These two parks were connected with a river walkway of some sort, because they just blended into each other. It was great, because I was dreading going back on a main road again.
We also got to go through the BoardWalk area again, as well as the section of Epcot that we did during the 5k/10k. This whole part was AWESOME. There was loud PUMP YOU UP music playing and there were tons of people cheering pretty much from mile 24 through the end. It was super cool experience – I loved it. There were some awesome characters (Aladdin/Jasmine, Mulan/Mushu, other princesses) that we skipped near the end because it hurt too much to stop and we just wanted to be done! I wish they would have had these characters earlier and not in the last few miles.
We were able clock out steady miles for almost the entire race. We really only stopped for photo-ops, bathroom breaks (there were 4 of them!), or walking through the aid stations. We walked a few of the ‘hills’ at the end, which were really the upslope of bridges, and then a few other times for a minute or two when we needed a little extra time to gather ourselves. The strategy worked out awesome for us.
Overall, I had a great time. I didn’t push myself too hard on any of the races, I just really enjoyed the experience. I’m a little bit sore now, a day after the marathon, but it’s really not too bad. I’m so grateful for how the whole experience turned out.
[Danielle’s Point of View] I was grateful for our wonderful spectators. Sam and Danielle B’s boyfriend made signs with our faces on them with nerdy math jokes. They were awesome.
[Sam’s Point of View]
–Great volunteers: Volunteers were very helpful in providing directions and getting you where you needed to go.
–Great transportation options for the half and full marathon: No need for a car as the monorail and Disney buses could get you to all the free spectating areas.
– The ChEAR squad: (Review from someone who was actually a member here). First of all, hats off to Walt Disney for the marketing job they did with their ChEAR zone packages. BUT PAYING TO SPECTATE?! COME ON! For an event that relies on hundreds of volunteers to operate, it puts a sour taste in my mouth when you appear more concerned with making money off of spectators rather than providing them with a great experience.
– Limited spectating areas: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios required you to have a ticket to the park in order to cheer on runners from inside the park. If you are going to go to the park on that day anyway, this might not be an issue. Otherwise you’re looking at a pretty steep fee to see your runner. The resorts the course passed through also required you to be staying at the resort in order to spectate/cheer on your runner. This left very few options – Magic Kingdom, ESPN, and the start/finish area.
TIP: Get to Epcot before they shut down traffic at 5 am and use the monorail/bus transportation to get around.
Overall, once you get past the fact that Walt Disney World was charging up to $120 for a spectating package per race (and for me, this is the Nisha call… I can’t get past it), spectating for the marathon and half-marathon was pretty good. I was able to see Danielle three times during the half and four times during the full.
[End Sam’s Point of View]
- We found out during the weekend that I passed the last requirement to get my final actuarial designation. Super exciting! I have spent a lot of my free time studying for the last 7 years, so it’s such a relief!!!
- I’m still waiting on the LT100 lottery results.. I believe I should hear this week. Fingers crossed?
- I have been rocking the new Fitbit Charge HR for the last few weeks, and for the most part, I really like it so far. I may talk about it more in depth in a future post, if there is any interest. Let me know! If you have a Fitbit, find me on the app! Let’s be friends!