The Goofy Challenge!

17 01 2008

Just Call Me Goofy

By F4 Athlete Della Nelson


It all started back at the 2006 Chicago Marathon Expo. Chicago was my first marathon, and I was so excited just to be there at the Expo. Then I saw the Disney Marathon Booth and wondered what kind of race the Happiest Place on Earth would put on. I found out. The Goofy Challenge Race. 2 days. 39.3 miles. 3 medals. And these were not your ordinary medals. They were the Donald Duck medal for the ½ marathon, the Mickey Mouse medal for the full marathon, and, of course, the Goofy medal for doing both. It was a no brainer. Disney vacation and a challenging race. I was told it was limited to 3000 runners and it would sell out within 3-4 weeks. I signed up the first day registration was open.


I completed my second ever marathon in October 2007: Marine Corps. I had a good training season with F4 and PR’d with a time of 4:50. I felt great after that race, not sore or particularly tired either. Then I read as much as I could from message boards about how other people trained for Goofy. I used the best training program I know (F4’s marathon training program, of course) and entered those workouts into my Nov/Dec/Jan Goofy calendar, working backwards with the program, starting with the Jan 12 & 13, 2008 race days. But I modified the F4 training program by making my longest runs on Sunday, and then added a run about ½ that distance, or a little more, on each preceding Saturday. Those back-to-back long runs, like with “brick” training for duathlons and triathlons, proved to be invaluable to prepare me for Goofy.


I took just under a week off from running after Marine Corps, and signed up for F4’s Holiday program to keep myself motivated. I had to ramp up quickly to be able to get some long runs in, so I started using the F4/Goofy program about 2 weeks after Marine Corp. Even with the cold/snowy weather we had this holiday season, each Saturday I would get to Tom Watson Park an hour or more early before the group run, in order to get in my needed extra miles before meeting up with the group. (Many thanks to Bob Packard for joining me on one of those pre-group runs!) I also had some extra motivation by running the St. Jude’s ½ marathon in Memphis on December 1st and PR’d in that race even though I was taking it as an easier training run. (Big shout out to Wendy Drake for tempting me into that race!) My longest run in training ended up being a 12 miler on Saturday Dec. 15, but only an 18 instead of a 20 miler on Sunday Dec. 16 due to the uneven snowy conditions along the Highland Canal Trail. (Carrie Packard, I couldn’t have even finished that distance without you by my side. You rock!) After that, tapering began, and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Orlando.


I knew that the weather was going to be iffy for the race days. 70’s had been the forecast for quite some time. My family and I got to Orlando on Thursday afternoon, and we went to the Expo that evening. Then the consensus of my family for Friday was that it was Hollywood Studio (formerly MGM Studio) day. Tower of Terror, Aerosmith Roller Coaster . . . they were all great! I tried to take it easy, and leaned or sat as much as possible while standing in lines. Then Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” Friday night at Downtown Disney. Simply fabulous. Seeing the early show we got back to the Boardwalk Villas by about 8:30 pm.

I was up at 2:30 am on Saturday to catch the shuttle at about 3:30 am to the ½ marathon race start at Epcot. The race both days started at 6:00 am, and it was suggested that runners get to Epcot by 4:00 am each day. I discovered it really wasn’t too early to be there. It actually worked well so I could get in my F4 dynamic warm-ups and make the 20 minute walk to the actual start of the race. The ½ marathon race was great. We ran through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, even running through Cinderella’s castle. Disney puts your name on your race bib, and in the parks where the crowds were, that was a huge motivator. It probably didn’t hurt that I was dressed like Minnie Mouse either, and got many “Go Minnie” shout-outs. It was about 64 degrees at the start with 88% humidity, reaching about 72 degrees by the time the race was over for me. Not used to the heat and humidity though, having come from running in 0 to 30 degree temperatures here in Boulder. My “plan” was to run a steady 11 minute mile pace in both races, with walk breaks at each beverage aid station. But I felt good on Saturday, and staying in a low Zone 2, I actually ended up around a 10:45 pace with a time of 2:21.


When I got back to the room on Saturday morning, my husband and son were out golfing, and my sister and daughter were supposed to go to Animal Kingdom that day, so I thought they’d be gone too. But no. They were still in the room, and Liz, my daughter said the words that I didn’t want to hear, “Mom, do you want to come to Animal Kingdom with us?” Well, of course I did. I was having intestinal issues, probably from the heat and humidity, so I rationalized that some walking around that park would be good for that. So after “enjoying” the two words that I’ve now grown quite fond of . . . ICE BATH . . . I headed out to Animal Kingdom with them for about 3 hrs. Well, that was a mistake. I wasn’t sore before I left, but I sure was when I returned. I crawled into bed as soon as I returned from the park and didn’t leave the rest of the day. I went to sleep Saturday night wondering whether my stomach or my aches and pains would prevent me from running the marathon the next day.


Well, it turned out neither. Thanks to some rest, Advil, and BioFreeze, I woke up at 2:15 am Sunday morning feeling somewhat human again. However, the weather did not cooperate quite as well. It was a little warmer than the day before, 67 degrees at the start with 97, yes 97% humidity. You could see the mist in the air and you could sweat by just standing still. Still, I was pretty excited, especially with the fireworks race start. I started out fairly well for the first few miles at around my planned 11:00 minute per mile pace. My ultimate goal was to PR the marathon, but by about mile 10 or so, once the sun was out, I knew it wasn’t going to be the day to do that. I still managed to keep a decent pace through 13.1, with a time of 2:25. But then I started to slow down after that. We ran through Epcot, then Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, then back to Epcot to finish, with decent crowds in the parks and plenty to look at there, but almost no one but volunteers on the miles and miles of roadways in between the parks. The enthusiastic volunteers, however, were great, and the aid stations were right up there with the best run aid stations I’ve seen. I made sure to thank the volunteers at each stop. I did get a boost of energy, seeing my family at mile 24, where they were able to snap a couple of pictures of me.




That’s me in the Minnie costume I made for the race. I figured that this race was all about fun, and so if I didn’t run well, I would at least look good. And you’d be surprised just how many Minnie Mouse costumes, as well as other Disney favorites, there were in the race. I finished the marathon in 5:00:22. I missed a sub-5 hr marathon by 23 seconds! (damn that auto-pause on my Garmin!) But I placed 1106 out of 2715 Goofy finishers, which I was pleased with.


I got my 3 fabulous character medals. And yes, I felt just as bad as I looked in this picture afterwards.



I would also like to thank my F4 coaches throughout all of this, Jean and Lea. And my love and thanks to Tom, for his love and support.


If you’re interested in getting a feel for what racing in Disney is like, you can follow this link to VIEW RACE, then to VIDEO to see a few minutes of marathon footage.


Would I sign up for another Goofy? Probably not. But I wouldn’t have missed this one for anything.




4 responses

17 01 2008

Goofy is not the word I would use…But you are my hero! Way to go Della!

18 01 2008

Congrats Della!!

23 01 2008
Brett R

Followed your link from the boards and thought i would add my congrats. It was fun reading your report and seeing the pics. I am funglu on the forums. Way to go!

24 01 2008
auntied rules

i’m sooo proud of you!!! you’re my hero=)

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