Surviving the GOOFY CHALLENGE

There’s the Half Marathon.
Nice distance: 13.1 miles-21.1 kms.
Longest run during training: about 10 miles – 16 km.

There’s the Marathon.
Not-so-nice distance: 26.2 miles-42.2 kms.
Longest run during training: 20 miles- 32 kms.

Then… there’s the Goofy Challenge.
Distance: 13.1 miles + 26.2 miles= brace-yourself-for-39.9 miles-around-WDW-parks.
Longest run during training: 12 miles Saturday + 22 miles Sunday.

The Goofy Challenge has been running at Walt Disney World for over 10 years.  It is held on the second weekend of January every year during the WDW Marathon Weekend. On Saturday you run the Half Marathon over two parks and on Sunday you run the full Marathon around all 4 theme parks, the ESPN complex, and the Speedway.

How can you survive this challenge?

First, you should have the appropriate fitness level. Even though you might see people of all sizes (and costumes), it is recommended that you have at least completed a Marathon before you attempt this challenge. Your knees will suffer, your feet will suffer, your muscles will suffer, your lungs and heart will suffer. Running back-to-back long races takes a toll on your whole body, but if it is used to longer distances already, you’ll be more ready to handle the strain.

Can I walk throughout the course?

Yes. Walking is allowed and the time limits for both races are enough to let you walk a good part of the way. For the HM, the time limit is 3h30m. And for the FM, time limit is 7h00. This would be about a 16.00 min/mile pace, though a good 15.00 min/mile pace is recommended both in training and race day to avoid any last minute complications and being at risk of being taken out of the course.

My recommendations for your training?

-Sign up early. Registration starts in April and spots sell out fast.

-If you haven’t done so, make sure you are building a nice base where you are at least running or walk/run 3 times a week for 45 min before starting your formal training.

-Start training about 20 weeks prior to the Challenge. This would be around mid-end of August.

-For the first 4 weeks focus on building a strong base. You were previously running or walking/running 3 times a week for 45 minutes each. Work for these 4 weeks on reaching running 4 times a week.

Sample: Tuesday: 45 minutes. Thursday: 1 hour. Saturday: 45 min. Sunday: 1h40 minutes.

-For the first 10 weeks, focus on building a good strength base. Lifting weights, using your body weight, at the gym, or at home. Now is the time to start strengthening all those muscles that will take you to the finish line. Aim for 2 times a week of 30 minutes of strength training, focusing on your legs, abs, back, and glutes.

-After the first weeks you should continue increasing your long-run distance (typically Sunday) at a no more than 10% increase per week.

-On alternate weeks, have a semi-long-run on Saturdays before your long run that is half as long as the Sunday one. E.g.: Sat. 8 miles, Sun. 16 miles.

-‘Recovery week’ every 3 weeks. Run 3 days. Example: Tue. 45 min, Thu. 45 min, Sun. 10 miles.

-One day of the week (not the long run), focus on speed training. Intervals or tempo runs are ideal. Not a fan of speed work? Do some hills.

-Cross-training one day of the week, either substituting one of your shorter runs or as an extra workout day. Can’t spare one day a week for cross-training? Go ahead and cross-train on alternate weeks. 5 times a month is better than 4, 4 is better than 2, but 2 is still better than none, right?

Are you going to suffer?  Absolutely.

Are you going to have fun? Absolutely!

My recommendations for Race Weekend.

-Plan on getting your packet before 5 pm on Friday. The Expo is at the ESPN complex. It closes at 7 pm and I have seen runners rushing or not been able to get their packets because the got there at 6.55 or at 7.05.

-‘Carbo load’ on both Friday and Saturday for LUNCH.

-Keep your dinners light and safe: a sandwich is a nice choice. Keep it light, not very fatty. Eat something you know won’t upset your stomach or make you feel super full.

-Get a good night sleep both days. At least 7 hours. Remember that for WDW races you need to wake up super early (maybe as early as 3-3.30 am).

-Wake up early and have a good breakfast both days at least 2-2 1/2 hours before the start time. An example of a good breakfast is a combo of protein+carbo+fruit for minerals. My choice: half a bagel with PB and a banana.

-After the HM on Saturday -and again after the FM on Sunday-, head to the massage tent right after the finish. You can get a massage for $1 a minute. So, carry a few bucks on your race belt.

BETWEEN RACES (Saturday afternoon)

-Walk a bit on Saturday afternoon,but do not stand still for long periods of time.

-Compression socks are a must. Wear them everywhere.

-Drink lots of water until 2 hours before going to bed.

-Refuel very well. Have a nice breakfast post-HM (low on fat and fiber, but packed with protein, carbs, and fruit)= Think eggs, white toast, a couple pieces of turkey bacon, OJ, banana). Then have a full lunch (carbo load)= some protein and pasta, but skip the creamy white sauce and the shrimp, stick with red for today.

Can I stop and take pictures during the races?

Absolutely. There is so much amazing entertainment along the course. Characters, animals, acrobats, music bands, you name it! Just make sure that you trained appropriately so you can still get to the finish line on time.

Can I dress up?

It is almost a MUST! It is very encouraged to dress up for the WDW races. Make sure that you’ll be able to cover your distance in whatever you decide to use and that you don’t carry any props that might harm other fellow runners.

Are there awards for the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge?

No, there are no awards for covering the whole 39.3 miles faster than other runners. Is this a bummer? Absolutely not, this is WDW’s way of telling you to have fun and enjoy the races!

Do I get a special shirt and medal?

Not just one. You get THREE shirts and THREE medals. One for each race and a special one for the Goofy Challenge. And they are all AMAZING.

What is this RUN/WALK method?

The run/walk method was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway, who is WDW’s official coach. Click here to go straight to his training method for the Goofy Challenge. It is a very simple method in which you have walk/running intervals since the beginning of the race, and including in your training. This is a great training program for beginners.

I did use this training method for the first time I ran the Goofy and I think that the training runs during the week are far too short for all the long running that is done during the weekend. But one of these runs could be substituted for a longer tempo run, intervals, or hills. This is, if you’ve already experienced a marathon before.

I hope these lines helped you a bit on getting a feel of this Challenge, and I hope you try it at one point. Enjoy!

Facts about TCM

A couple of days ago, exactly Sunday October 9th, I ran my fifth marathon in Minnesota. The Twin Cities Marathon holds the title for “The most beautiful urban marathon in America.” In a later post I’ll tell you about my personal experience running my fifth marathon, but for now, I want to share some facts about this marathon in case you’re planning on running it someday… and you should!

  1. Great variety of views and buildings throughout the entire marathon

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the variety of architecture and different landscapes along the way. The Participants Guide has a chart with all the landmarks you’ll be seeing in every mile. From bodies of water to parks, churches, and houses. You start off in downtown Minneapolis, right next to the amazing new US Bank Stadium. Off you go through Minneapolis and run by the Basilica of Saint Mary’s (first basilica in America) and the famous Sculpture Garden -which was closed for renovation, but will be open next year-. Then off you go to run along several beautiful lakes and many lakefront neighborhoods. Then you’ll run across the Mississippi river, and enter St. Paul, where you’ll run through many neighborhoods and finally St. Paul’s Cathedral (smile when you hear those bells! You’re close to the end, my friend!). Every couple of miles you’ll be changing scenery, which is very refreshing when you’re running for such a long time.

VARIETY ALONG THE COURSE: 9/10

2. The whole 26.2 miles is a ginormous cheering zone

This is coming from a person who has run in the happiest and most magical place of Earth, aka Walt Disney World, more than a few times, including 4 half-marathons, 3 marathons, and a marathon relay. If there is a marathon with a larger cheering population than at WDW, I would say it is certainly in Minneapolis-St Paul. No matter which precise mile or km or centimeter you were at, at least dozens of people were there cheering for you. Hundreds of children hi-fiving runners along the way, hundreds of posters encouraging strangers to keep on going, hundreds of spectators generously handing out gummies, candy, fruit, and more.

SPECTATORS: 10/10

3. The only incline IS NOT between miles 20-23

The Incline Chart on the Participant Guide showed mostly a declining course with a progressive incline between miles 20-23. The teeny tiny inclines shown on the chart were not so teeny tiny in real life. And they were ALL ALONG THE WAY. I kept listening to some spectator yell ‘just top this little hill and it’s all downhill till the finish’. That I heard about  10 times at least. Make sure your training includes running continuously uphill at least once a week. BIG inclines were never a problem, just the number of climbs here and there all along the course.

elevation
Taken from the TCM 2016 Participant’s Guide

ADVERTISED HILLS: 5/10

4. Beware of the LOW temps

Minnesota is cold most of the year. I was expecting around 48ºF race day, according to previous years and to weather forecasts. But then, after I had already packed, a day before leaving for Minneapolis,  I rechecked the weather and a bit more cold was expected. On race day we sang the National Anthem before start of the race at 36ºF. Talk about COLD -specially for a person who lives in South Florida-. The marathon had WHITE flags throughout the course. I remember they said it would warm up at some point and they would be able to replace those with Green flags. I only remember seeing white flags (at least until mile 18 all white).

Because you run along many lakes and open spaces, there is cold wind blowing and even though it might feel refreshing, it can take a toll on your breathing. The back of my nose and my throat were extremely cold and sensitive. It was very hard for me to breath because of this, and it lasted, along with a tremendous headache, for more than a couple hours after the race had ended.

alert-syst
Taken from the TCM2016 Participant Guide

PERFECT RUNNING TEMPERATURE: 3/10

5. No ‘Runner Funnels’ whatsoever

Every time race officials release your Wave/Corral, it is pretty normal to take a while to pass slower runners, and the courses tend to narrow a lot, so ‘Runner Funnels’ are expected in most races. I can say I did not encounter any on this Marathon. I started almost in the back of Corral 2, and the pacer warned us about possible congestions along the way, specially at the start and on water stops. None of which were a problem. Two thumbs up!

CONGESTION POINTS: 10/10

6. Excellent water-sports drinks stops

-There are water stops about every 2 miles.

-They were not congested at all.

-Volunteers were perfectly spread out on one side of the road.

-Cups perfectly placed on their hands.

-Sport drinks at the front, water at the back.

-Amazing volunteers, a lot of them, all of them super happy and willing.

WATER STOPS: 10/10

VOLUNTEERS: 10/10

7. No Finish, No shirt

I suppose that if you’re certain you’ll be finishing the Marathon this is not a problem for you -except for the fact that you have to go to the Shirt Tent after running 26+ miles-. Now, this is what is really called a bragging right.

I remember I met a guy once who was wearing a NYC Marathon shirt. So, I went up to him hoping to get some tips since I was training for my first HM. Turns out this guy had broken one of his toes -or that’s what he said- and he never even finished training for the marathon, but a friend picked the shirt up for him and he wore it around… Whatcha think about that?

On another note, I LOVED the shirt! Bright yellow with a big 26.2 on the front. By Brooks, so the material is great as well.

SHIRT: 8/10

8. Very complete EXPO

I’ve been to several Expos. This one was similar to some others, I loved the venue, but a few extras:

-Lots of free GUs. These are my go-to energy products for racing, so I was HAPPY!

-Lots of equipment I had not seen on previous Expos, such as ellipticals and others.

-Lots of free COFFEE. One of the big sponsors was Caribou Coffee, so lots of coffee at the Expo, at the Family Events (my daughter ran the Half Mile), here-there-every where.

EXPO: 9/10

9. Free transportation for runners?

The event documents explicitly say that transportation would be free on Sat and Sun for runners if you have your BIB. I don’t know about the METRO, but I rode the bus to the start line and believe me… I paid.

FREE TRANSPO: 0/10 (in my experience)

10. Experienced pacers

I can say I was very happy with the 4.15 pacer. Right before the Start he gave us directions, explained to us that he would be running even splits, that the Start could be a bit difficult, he explained about potty breaks, how to catch up to him, water stops, etc. The Clif pacing team I know has experienced pacers, so I’m glad they ran with us this race.

PACERS: 10/10

11. Super easy SWEAT BAG drop off and pick up

This was amazingly well organized. UPS had trucks with BIB number ranges next to each Corral for runners to drop off their sweat bags. They closed about 15 minutes before the Start of the Marathon and they took all the bags to a spot right next to the finish line. It couldn’t have been more perfect and easy.

SWEAT BAG D.O./P.U: 12/10

12. Entertainment along the way

Even though there’s a big cheering crowd along the way, entertainment I would say was not up-to-par. We had a couple bands, a couple of radio station stalls… I think that was about it. The cheering was amazing, can’t complain. But, I would bring my iPod if I were you.

ENTERTAINMENT: 5/10

13. Immediate Results and Runner Tracking

My family tracked me using the link provided on the TCMevents page and happily reported the tracking was great and that it showed the marathon map and where I was at, along with my time and prediction for the next checkpoints.

As soon as I got to my hotel room, about an hour after finishing, I already had an email showing my results.

RESULTS PROMPTNESS: 10/10

TRACKING: 9/10

 

Over all, an amazing experience. I don’t think I’ll be running TCM soon, mainly because of the climate and wanting to experience running in different cities. But I did love it!!

OVERALL: 8/10

If you’re interested, just go to the Twin Cities Marathon  web page to check out all the info.