So much has happened in the last few days but I’m going to focus on last night’s race. This was the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 mile race. Several years ago runDisney (or, technically, runDisney’s predecessor) held a Tower of Terror 13K race which disappeared from the calendar despite its popularity. The announcement of the new race was greeted with enthusiasm and the race sold out pretty quickly. There were 10,000 registered runners with 2/3 women and 1/3 men. A very high percentage of runners were starting their first endurance event.
I was toward the front of the pack with bib #2611 and starting in Corral B. My goal was to maintain a training pace – around 13:30 min/mile – and have fun! The race was starting at 10pm but buses to the start were running from 7-8pm. I hopped on an earlier bus and had plenty of time for meet and greets in the starting area. A DJ pumped out tunes. The bag check was quick and easy (interestingly it included a security bag check since the bag pick-up post-race was in a theme park). There were plenty of port-a-potties both in the general waiting area and within the corrals. I enjoyed some socializing before being sent to the corrals at 9pm. As luck would have it, we found a groups of friends to hang out with while we waited. My friend Susan and I planned to run together using run 30 sec/walk 30 sec. Another friend, Sarah, who was running her first endurance event decided to join us. I am usually an early to bed, early to rise person so I worried about a late night race but I felt energized and excited!
Congestion was a major issue at various points in the race, including at the start. Although a runDisney race has a higher percentage of run/walkers, this was still difficult early on. Sarah and Susan and I made a serious effort to not stay three abreast since this creates a road block. According to my Garmin our first mile was around 13:48 but we managed the first 5in with a 13:23 pace per mile. The first 4 miles or so took us along the road to Animal Kingdom and then U-turn back. I was surprised that they used such a boring stretch of roadway for the start and even more surprised that there wasn’t a bit more entertainment at this point. Heat and humidity were a major factor with starting temperatures close to 80F. We were drinking PowerAde at the water stations and then dumping water over our heads.
The water stop after mile 4 was congested and slow and we lost at least a minute or so. Our pace had been around 13:30 and the mile between 4 and 5 was about 14:30. Around mile 5 we took a sharp turn onto to a gravel path. This section was themed very, very well but had 2 problems: 1. the lighting was low and the footing tricky and 2. it was very narrow which led to extreme congestion. I managed to weave myself through the crowds on the run segments but, unfortunately, lost Susan in the process. We made our way through Wide World of Sports, including a really fun run around the warning track of the baseball diamond and a run around the track. Our time for the 2nd 5K was much slower – partly due to the slow water stop, partly due to crowding, and partly due to running on uneven surfaces. We left Wide World of Sports around mile 7.
I was guessing that Sarah was feeling antsy and thought she could go faster and I was feeling good so I offered to pick up the pace. We both agreed and our next mile was in the 12:20 range. The heat was getting me a bit as there was a water stop right after mile 7 and the next (and last) one was almost mile 9. We were able to keep the pace but I was happy to dump some more water on my head! I told Sarah she could run it in at mile 9, although I planned run/walk to the finish. I was feeling the heat and humidity and didn’t want to push. She took off but never got out of my sight. About 1/4 mike later I saw her walking and caught up. I got her to run/walk to the finish although she was quickly losing steam. I finished 2:11:57 (13:12 min/mile) and she was just a bit behind me.
We got our medals and grabbed the post-race food and drink. Neither of us felt the need to take a picture that we wouldn’t buy and we found some seats at one of the counter-service restaurants. We re-hydrated and decompressed before finding our friends. What was alarming to me is how many people required medical care during and after the race. The heat and humidity are no joke and, as a runner, one has to make adjustments for that. Given how many new runners there were, many of whom were likely struggling with the 16min/mile pace limit anyway, it’s not surprising that the challenging conditions wreaked havoc on people. I don’t know that runDisney could have done anything differently. It’s easy to under-estimate the challenge of running 10 miles, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
This race taught me so much about myself and about running. I still think of myself as a new runner but at this event I was the coach helping a truly new runner. There is only one word for that experience: Amazing! Jeff Galloway always talks about the slow-down factor for heat: 30 sec/mile for every 5 degrees over 60F. For this race the slow down was, therefore, 2 min/mile. That approximately means that we ran the equivalent of 11:12 min/mile – which is more or less where I should be able to achieve for a 10 mile race. I’m not saying that I could have run that fast in better conditions but more that I ran at an appropriate pace given the conditions. This may be my slowest pace per mile yet but it may have also been my most successful race ever. Success isn’t always based on finish time.
I’ve always been a start fast and burn out kind of runner. Just look at my Magic Mile splits! But I ran this race with good negative splits and juice left in the tank. I’m no more sore today than is typical after a long run. Certainly not how I feel after a hard race. I’m learning pacing and hope to carry that with me next weekend.
My final thought (for now at least) is how important it is to train, train, train. Endurance events require, well, endurance. And that only comes from sweat. I finished strong because I trained well. Nothing more and nothing less. It proves to me again how critical it is for me to continue on my path. And how successful e-coaching has been for me. And I also remembered how much I love to run races!
Thank you to all the fabulous people who cheer for me! I carry that with me on every run!