Friday, January 13, 2012

A Super Spectator's Goofy Challenge Report: Day Two

The Pilot did a recap of 2011's Goofy Challenge from the spectator's point of view. I posted the 1/2 marathon recap over the weekend and here is the thrilling conclusion of my 39.3 mile journey last year...
[2:15 A.M.] Ugh. The alarm on my phone wakes me up. It's too frakkin early! Nevertheless, I get out of bed. Full zombie mode now. Watch the balance. Don't fall. Clothes on. Coffeeeeeeee. Coffeeeeeeee. I'm out the door of our room. Don't fall down the stairs. Despite the cobwebs, I'm feeling a little more familiar with my surroundings. The giant dog is not quite as scary this time, or is that I'm just so exhausted that I don't care. Once past the giant canine, I find that I'm not alone. Up ahead of me also heading in the general direction of the source of coffee is a woman alone in the dark. I notice her look over her shoulder, then I get the distinct impression that she has increased the pace of her walk and is moving away from me. No doubt in the dark in a black windbreaker and blue jeans, I look like some kind of pervert or monster that's out to get her. Or perhaps a ninja. . . . no. . . I'm definitely a pervert or monster. I could never pull off a ninja at this hour. . . or any hour for that matter. My thoughts are confirmed after I trip over a crack in the sidewalk. No ninja here. Too clumsy. Did I even have my eyes open?

That creepy kid isn't selling coffee to zombies like me this morning. Maybe he finally went over the edge after I left and bit someone. One of those poor stretching men probably had to miss the race and go to the hospital to be tested for rabies. Maybe they had to use the jaws of life to pry that kid off his ankle. I'm lucky I got out alive. A bed in a hospital kind of sounds nice right now though. Instead of the kid, I find a group of older women working the cash registers. It's early, and not at all busy, so they're in their own world talking about something I'm too tired to eavesdrop on. I walk up to one of them and attempt to pay, but she's too wrapped up in whatever it is that they're talking about to notice me. Ah . . . this is is much better, and more like what I'm used to finding in airports. Eventually I'm noticed, but I don't intrude. I quietly pay for my coffee while the conversation continues. There are fewer skinny men stretching in the food court this morning. No doubt the others heard about the ankle biting incident that must have happened the previous morning. "It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all." Ugh. I shudder at the thought.

Back into the darkness, and attempting to find my way back to our building. Up ahead of me, another woman is coming my direction. She's clearly a runner. She has the gear on. She's also clearly not thinking I'm a friendly blue jean clad ninja with a cup of coffee, as I note that she shifts to the next sidewalk over to avoid crossing paths with me. Fine. Be that way. No mistakes finding the room this morning. After yesterday, I'm extra cautious, and check the room number before attempting to enter. Inside, I find Amber struggling to stay awake as she prepares to get going. Out of the trash-can-turned-cooler, I dig out a package of hard boiled eggs I bought in the food court yesterday afternoon. I'm not sure what I should have expected from eggs that came out of a trash can, but they were not very good. Still better than nothing. Amber is concerned and worried about her wounds from the previous day. [2:49 A.M.] I feel like everything she's saying is going in one ear and out the other. So tired. Why isn't the coffee working? We keep each other moving, and eventually move our way out of the room and out into the chilly morning air. It's colder this morning. At the elevator we meet another couple who are on their way to the race. In the elevator, we make small talk. My role of spectator is brought up. The guy in the other couple tells me that I "had the right idea" being a spectator. He goes on to say he had the "wrong idea" as he is doing the marathon. Yaaaay for confidence! [3:23 A.M.]

We soon find ourselves back in the lobby of the Pop Century Resort. Amber goes to use a real restroom for the last time before the race. I'm left alone, and. . . . "I see the bad moon rising.
I see trouble on the way"
. . . . . WHAT? AGAIN??? WHAT THE #$*!??? They're playing Bad Moon Rising again. That is so not cool. I try to console myself in the thought that the music must be on a loop, and we were probably here around the same time yesterday morning. It does little to help the fact that I feel like I'm holding onto my sanity by a thread. I feel like I'm having an out of body experience. It doesn't help to have the lyrics of that song echoing around in my head right now. Amber returns from her last taste of civilization, and we board a bus to take us to the race. While most of the bus passengers are quiet, I am prevented from dozing off by three younger women up in front of us who are excitedly chattering away, using words and phrases such as "Oh my God," "You know", and "like" way too often. Seated next to one of them is a guy who appears to be one of their boyfriends. He looks miserable. I suddenly feel much better about my situation. Off the bus, and walking to the race we can hear the MC encouraging people to walk toward the light . . . but not into it. In my twisted state of mind I find this hilarious. We go to our old haunt from the morning before, the T-Z tent. [4:14 A.M.] There we find Lisa and Mary. They're friends who were kind enough to feed us the night before. The weren't the ones who no-showed yesterday. I'm still not sure who that was supposed to be. Too early in the morning to make sense of it all. We hung out with Lisa and Mary yesterday evening for a small pasta party in a cabin they were staying in with family. Like Amber, they would be doing the Marathon this morning. While the three of them were up and talking, I was standing next to our stuff. A girl walked over placed her trash on one of the concrete filled buckets that was holding the tent down. That location also happened to be home to our belongings at the moment. "HEY!" I called out to her as she walked away, "We don't want your trash! Put it where it belongs." I pointed to a big trash can which was only about ten feet from where she had been standing. She sheepishly came back over and picked up her things and took them away. Not a ninja. I'm definitely a monster. [4:37 A.M.] The ladies decided it's time to head for their corrals, so we split up. Amber was wearing her trashbag, and I walked away hauling the rest of our supplies and gear in a backpack.

Finding a spot along the highway seemed a little easier this time. I hung back a bit further from the start line. Soon I was joined by a couple who stood to my left. After a short conversation, I learned that their 20 something son was doing the marathon. He had done shorter distances before, but this was his first full. Asking who I was here for, I told them about Amber. Somehow the topic of her being a coach for Team in Training came up. I proudly told them all about her role and the organization, and how it raises money for research and treatment for leukemia and lymphoma. I spoke about all the people they would see wearing purple, and how they were the Team In Training people. After I finished my TNT sales pitch . . . they told me that their son had done several events with TNT. Then why did you let me ramble on and on about it if you already knew what it was? Oh well. Still better than being elbowed in the ribs and stepped on by the people who were next to me yesterday. To my right was a guy who was there to see his friend do the marathon. After it became apparent that I was a Disney Marathon veteran after my experience yesterday, he was full of questions about the course and the places where spectators could watch. Amber prepared me well, and we went over all the maps and instructions she had given me days before. It helped to pass the time as we shivered in the cold. Almost an hour after Amber and I split up at the T-Z tent, the marathon started [5:39 A.M.]
The course for the full marathon was different for the half. Yesterday I had to run away to the next spectator location as soon as the race started. For the full marathon the course actually made a big loop for the first four miles, and it came right back around past the start line again, although on the closer side of the highway. As a result, I didn't have to move an inch. While we stood there, my neighbors scanned through the crowd of marathon people on the other side of the highway, trying in vain to spot their people in the darkness. Shortly before the last corral started the marathon, the first of the wheelchair people came zooming by us on our side of the highway. They had already completed the first four miles, and Amber hadn't even started yet. Now it was her turn, twenty four minutes after the first corral began.[6:03 A.M.]
Still shivering. Amber went by somewhere in that crowd, but I don't see her. I stand there and make small talk with my neighbors, and soon racers are coming by us. Clapping and cheering helps to warm us up. On the other side of the highway, workers immediately start tearing down the structures at the start line, and a group of people with bags are picking up old clothing, water bottles, and trash thrown down by the starting marathon crowd. Slowly the people around me start to leave after they see their people go by. Finally the crowd has thinned out enough that I'm standing by myself. The sun is coming up as I stand cheering and clapping for the Team In Training people I see go by. Then in the distance, it's Amber at mile 4. [7:10 A.M.]
We speak briefly as she goes by still wearing a trash bag. I'm a little more relaxed about getting to the next spectator position than I was yesterday. The mile 9 viewing area is the same location that I had to hurry to yesterday, only then it was the 4.2 mile point on the half marathon. I know I have over an hour to get there before Amber does, and since I was there yesterday, I know how long it will take. Leaving the highway, there aren't many spectators left along the fence. On my way over to the monorail station, I pass by the finish line. To my astonishment, the first of the wheelchair competitors is finishing the marathon. I jump up the steps of the grandstands just in time to catch him as he crosses the finish line. [7:23 A.M.]
Continuing on my way, I take my time and look around. By the time I get back to this point, the area will be so filled with people I won't be able to see the things that are visible now. . . like the lip synching gospel choir. It's still early in the marathon, and since only the fastest of the wheel chair competitors are finishing now, it's not a very busy time for them. The music is playing and there is singing, but it's clearly not coming from these people. A handful of them are "performing", but most are standing there, and many of them are talking to each other. Hmpf. I bet that Abraham Lincoln they have giving speeches in one of the parks isn't real either. It's all lies. Lies! Um. Anyway. Keep walking. The giant ball thing at Epcot is pretty in the light of the rising sun.
I hop on the monorail and fly over the race course to the Ticket and Transportation center where I'll be at the nine mile spectator location. Getting off the monorail, my ears are greeted with music coming from a marching band. [7:45 A.M.] Unlike the gospel singers, these musicians are really performing.
Moving away from the Ticket and Transportation center, and upstream against the flow of runners and walkers, I seek out my spot from yesterday. Across from it, people are riding those old bicycles with the giant front wheel, and some of them are doing tricks like taking their feet off the pedals and placing them up on the handlebars. I cringe every time I see this. A fall from that height would hurt.
As I stand there cheering, I notice that I have help on the other side of the race course. A guy is standing with his two kids holding up Team In Training signs and yelling out "Go Team" when purple people go by. My hands are definitely hurting from all the clapping I'm doing, even though I'm wearing gloves. The longer I'm at this location, the more spectators seem to disappear. Soon my help on the other side of the course is gone. They must have seen who they were looking for go by.

[8:21 A.M.] Amber gets to the 9 mile view point, still wearing her trash bag. I run with her briefly, and then she's off into the Magic Kingdom. The next viewing spot for me will be the same one as the 8.1 mile viewpoint from the half marathon, only this time the mileage covered at that point will be about 12.5 miles. As I start to backtrack toward the Ticket and Transportation center, I see a very lively group of TNT supporters trying to rally the troops. This is what that coach I stood next to yesterday should have been doing. Instead he was just standing there.
I walk back through the Polynesian resort, but there are no duck sightings this time. I take my time moving through the resort, checking out the plants, looking at the buildings, and killing some time. Coming out of the other side of the resort, I'm back a the race, and I have a mission to complete. All morning I've been carrying a small bag of pretzels with me. At the 12.5 mile viewing spot I have to find a way to get these pretzels to Amber. Seems like a simple task. The problem is that there is a fence separating spectators from the runners and walkers at that view point. How do I get to the other side of the road? I could see that there were a few spectators on the other side, but how did they get there? Where I had been standing yesterday was a little upstream of where most spectators had congregated. I decided to go down where everyone else was. Here I found a crosswalk that cut across the race course, but the policeman guarding the crosswalk wouldn't let anyone across the road. Frustrated with my first attempt, I worked my way back against the flow of runners and walkers, past where I stood yesterday, and ultimately came to another crosswalk far from the rest of the crowd. Here, the policewoman guarding the spot was a little more laid back, and was joking around with the few spectators in the area. She let me cross when there was a gap in the marathoners. Success!

[9:14 A.M.] Amber sent a text message a little while ago to let me know that she would be here soon, and there she is! I hand her the pretzels as I race walk along side her in the grass. Mission accomplished. She tells me that her knee hurts pretty bad, and she's going to have to stop soon to use a portapotty. Once we get up near where the main group of spectators is, I have to let her go, as there isn't room for me to walk with her anymore. I give her some encouraging words, knowing that this is the last time I'll see her until the finish. Although I'm back at the crosswalk where the mean cop was, I decide not to bother with attempting to cross here. Back along the road I go to the crosswalk with the friendlier cop, and soon I'm back on the opposite side. After I move up the hill a little ways toward the Polynesian resort, I'm sort of at a loss. What do I do now??? It's taken almost four hours to get to this point. Amber still has almost half the marathon to do, and I have all that time before I need to get back to the finish line. I stand there and start to compose a text message to her with some encouraging words, but then decide not to send it, thinking that she won't even see it anytime soon. While I stand there, I start to notice some activity back on the race course. Vehicles. It's the dreaded bus at the end of the marathon. If you can't keep a certain pace, it is assumed that you won't finish. You end up getting picked up by the bus, and your marathon is over. I'm unnerved by how close it is to Amber. I just saw her twelve minutes ago.
Just ahead of the bus are the pace people. Just behind them is a heart breaking sight. A woman trying with all her might to stay away from that bus. She's already fallen behind the pace people, and even though she will probably end up on that bus, she's fighting and not giving up. I feel guilty for standing there watching. She and the bus move off into the distance, and I quietly walk back into the Polynesian resort. I'll go to the finish and wait for Amber there.

[10:19 A.M.] Back near the finish area at Epcot now. I've found a less crowded spot on a small hill that looks down on the last turn on the race course. I sit down and eat a few things I've brought with me, but I'm not really hungry. I keep thinking about a text Amber sent just before I got here. "Mile 16...ok but i hurt might have to slow down" She can't slow down too much. That bus will get her. What if her injuries get the better of her and she doesn't make it? She'll be heart broken and devastated. Oh no. . . what if she doesn't make it? The thoughts keep bouncing around in my head as I sit there for the next couple hours, the stress building. What follows is a series of text messages we exchanged over those two hours.
  • To Amber - 10:37 I'm mentally right there with you. I wish I could physically be there. Push through that pain and slow if you have to, but keep going!
  • From Amber - 11:04 19 sucks
  • To Amber - 11:06 I keep seeing athletes walking around reunited with their families. I want to be reunited with you! I love you! Come to the finish!
  • To Amber - 11:45 Keep coming! Keep coming!
  • From Amber - 11:46 Mile 22...barely gonna make it
  • To Amber - 11:47 But you will do it. Keep coming!
  • To Amber - 12:02 Come on! Push through to the end!
  • From Amber - 12:22 24...ugh
  • To Amber 12:23 DO IT! DO IT NOW!!!
Now that she's getting closer, I decide to start looking for a place to spectate again. As it's getting near the end of the marathon, the grandstands are clearing out enough that I can climb up the steps and find a perch near the top to watch for Amber. While I stand there my nerves are completely shot. How close is she to that bus? How bad is the pain that she's in? Will she make it? I really just wish she'd hurry up! I get my camera out and start taking a few test pictures to see what kind of video and pictures I'll be able to get when Amber crosses.
Wait a second. Did you see what I saw. Lets take a closer look:

That man just did a Marathon . . . 26.2 miles . . . with a giant knee brace and crutches. All the time when I'm with Amber when the topic of marathons or triathlons comes up, it seems that someone always says, "Oh, I couldn't do that." Well, he did it with crutches and a knee brace!!! And he's . . . well . . . old! So really, what's the excuse?

[12:39 P.M.] A text message from Amber: "Mile 25". She's coming. Just over a mile to go. Down below Goofy and Donald Duck are meeting people as they cross the finish line. There are so many Team in Training people crossing right now that it's hard to pick out Amber from the crowd. So many purple shirts. . .

[12:58 P.M.] There she is!!!
After she crossed the finish line, I flew like a monkey down the bleachers and chased her along the fence. About ten minutes later we met back at the T-Z tent, where she sat down and took off her shoes. There are pictures that were taken during this time, as I was still the super spectator, but I am not permitted to show them here, or I may suffer bodily harm as a consequence. After collecting her wits, I assisted Amber slowly over to the buses that would take us back to the hotel. She carefully and slowly climbed the steps, and after we sat down, it was quite obvious from the odor that the majority of the people on the bus had just done a marathon. I might have been the only non stinky person there. Arriving at the hotel, Amber slowly worked her way down the stairs of the bus, finding it easier to go backward down the steps rather than forward like a normal person. We spent the rest of the day taking it easy. We had both been through a lot. Spectating can be hard.


  1. Congrats to Amber for pushing through and getting it done! Great spectators report! I can't tell you how disappointed I am to read about the choir....that was one of my favorite moments in the whole race!! Sorry I missed you. I guess I should have had a better plan to find you. I did look for you whenever I saw the TNT training shirts.

  2. Amber, you rock! Such an inspiration! And kudos to super spectator!