Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Recap

Also known as the race that gave me a hangover. But more on that later. Prepare yourself, this is going to be looooooong.

Joe and I left for Orlando on Friday. I had a mini freak out at the airport when I realized that I forgot my Garmin at home. I HATE running races without it. I had Garmin envy when I noticed the woman in front of us while boarding had hers strapped to her bag. Turns out she was heading down for the race too, her first ever 10 miler.

Before we boarded, Joe and I were called up to the JetBlue kiosk because apparently the TVs in front of our seats weren’t working. They asked if we wanted to switch seats. Although I didn’t really care, Joe wanted him some free TV. So they moved us from row 16 to row 3. This was awesome for several reasons:

  1. Three is my lucky number. I took that as a good sign for the race.
  2. It would be faster getting off the plane.
  3. Most importantly, it meant extra leg room. They placed us in the area you usually have to pay more for, so we were thrilled to have the seats for free. Thanks JetBlue!

Why hello extra space

To celebrate our trip, we ordered a couple of beers. I was hoping the beer might knock me out for a quick nap but the flight is only an hour and 45 minutes. We were in Orlando in a heartbeat.

Once there, we met up with Joe’s family. The nine of us (six adults, three kids) stayed in a two bedroom condo at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek, which was fantastic. We had plenty of room and there were a ton of activities, including game rooms, a bunch of pools and miniature golf. Plus we were only about 10 minutes away from where we needed to be for the expo and races.


View from our balcony

Since Joe and I are clearly geniuses, we thought going to a Chinese food buffet 24 hours before our race was a good idea. Turns out Joe and I are not as smart as we think we are. The food was pretty blah and didn’t feel like great fuel for running 10 miles.

On Saturday, we all got up early to head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex so Joe’s niece and nephews could run in the kids’ races Disney sponsors on event weekends. The kids were each running separate events based on their ages (100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters). They seemed to have with it even though it was HOT. (Of course, these kids live in Florida so a little heat is no big deal.) They all got medals and shirts for participating and it was fun to watch how seriously some of the other kids (and parents) took it.

After the kids’ races, we went to the expo to pick up our race packets and shop around a bit. I got a new case that straps to my arm so I can carry my cell phone, keys and fuel.

For the rest of the day we just took it easy. While Joe was at the pool with the kids, I relaxed on the couch and watched the Maryland-Florida State game. That turned out to be a disaster so I started to fall asleep in the third quarter. Once Joe came back up to the room, we took a quick power nap before dinner.

Throughout the day I tried to be cautious about what I ate. I stuck with a banana and white toast with coconut peanut butter (SO good by the way) for breakfast (white bread is better on race days because it’s easier to digest and won’t wreck your stomach as much as wheat bread will on long races), a kid’s Clif bar from the races for a snack, and a couple of hard boiled eggs and another piece of toast with the peanut butter for lunch.

Then I started to cheat a little. Instead of drinking water all day, I snuck a couple of Diet Cokes. Before dinner, I ate some of the potato chips that were sitting around. At dinner, I had some rotisserie chicken (good) and Siopao, a bun stuffed with meat (tasted good, but probably not good for my stomach).

Although our race didn’t start until 10 p.m., we needed to be on a Disney shuttle bus by 8 according to the race information. So we changed (I got to wear my Wonder Woman socks for the first time!) and headed back to Wide World of Sports around 7:15 to park and hop on the shuttle to the race start at Hollywood Studios.


Joe obviously was checking out my socks. He wants a pair of his own.

Unlike some other events I’ve participated in (cough, cough, Tough Mudder), Disney has logistics down to a T. Everything ran smoothly with the shuttling process. I think it took about 15 minutes to go from parking the car, to the bus to the starting area.

Once we were at the starting area, we didn’t quite know what to do to kill time. So we found our corral and hung out there. We drank some water and I ate a granola bar. We just tried to relax and check out some of the costumes until they told us to start loading into the corrals at 9:15.


Another way I killed time: I took pictures of my socks. Yes, I understand they clash with my shoes. I also understand that these make me more awesome than 99.9% of runners. (I have to count the few other runners I saw with these same socks.)

Then we finally started to move! It was a little bit of a walk to the start line. It was then that it really started to sink in how warm it still was. The temperature was about 75 degrees, which isn’t bad, but the humidity must have been in the 80 percent range. And there was NO BREEZE. Friday night had been pleasant because there was a light wind. Race night? None at all. We’ve gotten used to running in pleasant temperatures at home so I knew the humidity was going to be a battle.


You can kinda see the start line up there.

We were in corral D so we didn’t have to wait long once the race officially started. Disney really knows how to pump you up to run 10 miles. They had music and fireworks at the beginning of every wave. A few minutes after 10, we were off. We ran through the entry gate of Hollywood Studios and into this green light show while the Twilight Zone music played in the background. It was pretty awesome. I was still feeling that “this is going to be so much fun!” high.




More fireworks


Kind of looks like a club huh?

A lot of the race was on a parkway that runs between the different Disney parks. Although they had music and some of the Disney villains along the course, it was a little disappointing. It wasn’t long after this when I started to get GRUMPY.

The humidity was getting to me. I like running in humidity about as much as I like having a root canal. High humidity makes you feel like you’re 20 pounds heavier and like you’re running faster than you are. I went out conservatively, keeping an eye on our pace on my Nike+ running ap. (Yes, I carried my phone in my sweaty hand for 10 sweaty miles.) When Joe asked our pace, I told him we were going at about a 10:30 pace. He said we needed to pick it up. I snapped back that he clearly wasn’t paying attention to Jeff Galloway (Google him) who spoke at the beginning of the race and told us all to start slow and go slower than you would normally because the temperature was 15 degrees above ideal running conditions. Although Florida is, duh, a warm weather state, it was clear even the race directors were caught a little off guard by the heat index. We received an email earlier in the day from Disney warning us about higher than expected temperatures and humidity.

Anyway, the humidity turned me into a monster. I’m pretty sure I yelled at Joe to shut up at least a half a dozen times. He tried to remain cheerful and kept making jokes. That just annoyed me more. Eventually I told him to just stop talking.

The course went down to the Animal Kingdom entrance, where Joe had to stop and pee at around mile two. Although I skipped the first water station, I picked up Powerade the nearby water stop and at every station (there were seven total on the course) after that to keep myself hydrated. I’m not graceful when I try to drink and run at the same time so I walked a few steps through the stations to actually get more than two drops of Powerade in my mouth.

I don’t remember much between mile 2 and 5, where we turned onto a gravel road toward the Wide World of Sports complex. This was one of two Disney areas/parks we actually ran through. The change of scenery lifted my spirits and put a little pep in my step. I remember looking down at my phone a few times and seeing a 9:00ish pace. We stopped in this area to take our only Disney character picture on the course with Stitch from Lilo & Stitch. (Anything that reminds Joe of Hawaii makes him happy. There were lines for some of the other characters and I hate stopping in a race so we didn’t take any others.) We ran almost a full lap around the track the kids ran on earlier that day. That surface felt like heaven after running on concrete. Then we ran into and around a baseball field. At the beginning of the race, the emcees told us a game would be going on when we got there. I was wondering how that was going to work but when we got there, we saw that Disney staged the stadium to look like the players and umpires had disappeared, like they had been abducted by aliens or something. A spooky track played in the background with an announcer asking if anyone had seen the pitcher, umpire, etc.


Joe, Stitch and me


Use your imagination and pretend this is a really cool artsy photo of us running on the track


Again, pretend. Inside the spooky baseball stadium.

After exiting the stadium, we were at about mile 7. At the next water stop, I started mentally breaking down. Another 2.5 miles felt like it might as well have been a marathon. I told Joe I was losing it and he tried to reassure me, saying we didn’t have that much further to go. I asked if I could stop to walk for just a few seconds while I ate a couple of energy chews. Every fiber of my body wanted to walk the rest of the way, but I knew how disappointed I would be with myself if I did that. I probably walked for 15 to 30 seconds and then picked it back up again. I kept telling myself that 2.5 miles was nothing and that I do more miles than that all the time.

We wound back around and through the Hollywood Studios entrance again. I don’t remember it all that clearly because I was so focused on finishing, but we ran through the stunt show and “New York City” streets. I don’t think Joe and I spoke to each other once between miles 8 and 9.7. The Nike+ ap was ahead of our actual distance so when my phone said we reached mile 10, I knew I still had .3 miles to go. I cursed under my breath. Why are running aps never accurate?

We finally rounded a corner and I could see the finish line and Tower of Terror. I still wasn’t running very fast but Joe reminded me to pump my arms and told me to pass the girls in front of us. I did and FINALLY crossed the finish line in 1:49:06 (according to Nike+) at just around midnight.

Although I was proud of myself for running the whole way, I was disappointed in my time. My goal was ten minute miles. Every single mile was longer than that. My final time was about 9 minutes slower than the Army Ten Miler last year. I try to remind myself that conditions were perfect for the Ten Miler and less than perfect for this race. According to a chart Jeff Galloway put together, running at temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees can slow your pace by up to 12 percent. I guess I should just accept it and move on. But I FELT like I was running so much faster than I was. I’m downright ashamed of some of these times considering how I had been training. Splits according to Nike+:

1: 10:53

2: 10:34

3: 10:34

4: 10:17

5: 10:32

6: 10:35

7: 10:01

8: 10:52

9: 10:54

10: 10:41

What made me even angrier was when I saw my “official” time from Disney:


Um, no. I know I wasn’t happy with my time but 40 minutes to get to the 5K point? I don’t think so. Clearly they thought I started running with all the elite runners right when the official clock started. Thanks for your confidence in me Disney, but no, I started running at least five minutes after that.

According to them, I placed:

2727 out of 9477 finishers.

249 out of 1181 in my age/gender division

1354 out of 6131 women.

So I checked out Joe’s official time. Since he ran right next to me, our times should be the same.


That seems more like it. If my time was really officially 1:50:06, I would have placed:

190 out of 1181 in my age/gender division

I can’t figure out my other places exactly (they didn’t have full results or just results for all women available) but if my time was right, that would have meant a decent jump in the results.

Oh well, not much I can do about it. I’ll just have to try to be happy with knowing that I placed in the top 20 percent of women my age.

After the race, we got our medals, which glow in the dark, and food. I downed the bottle of Powerade and banana pretty quickly. It was a bit of a walk to the post-race bash. I had to sit as soon as we got there because I felt a little woozy. I couldn’t choke down more than the graham crackers at that point. Nothing tasted good. I’m not normally a big sweater, but I was so sweaty that I kept slipping every time I tried to lean my elbows on my knees. I felt bad because Joe wanted to go on the Tower of Terror but I felt like I would puke red Powerade on everyone if I did. So we started to head to the exit. I felt a little sick again and had to lie down on a bench before we exited the park.


Super cool medal

Luckily there were plenty of buses waiting to take us back to the parking area. The air conditioning felt amazing even though the bus smelled like a locker room. As soon as we got off the bus, a girl near me puked her guts out.

“That could have been you!” Joe said. Little did he know he was foreshadowing.

By the time we got back to our hotel, it was 1 a.m. And by the time we showered and got in bed, it was closer to 2.

Since Joe isn’t human, he was awake and watching TV before dawn. We were sleeping on the foldout couch in the living room and once the kids knew we were awake, they came out, full of energy, ready to play.

I, on the other hand, felt like death. My stomach was churning and I had a headache. I was pretty convinced that those shots of Powerade on the course must have had something mixed in because I felt like I had a hangover. I’m sure it was just dehydration but it felt miserable.

Although I didn’t have much appetite, I tried to choke down a few bites of plain toast. Joe’s niece knew I wasn’t feeling well so she made me a comfy bed out of pillows on my floor. I went to try out my new bed but the second I hit the ground, I felt my mouth watering. I made a break for the bathroom. Vomiting is such a lovely way to start your day.

At least after that I didn’t feel nauseous anymore. I still had a headache, but that started to go away by noon. We checked out of the hotel but spent time by the pool until we had to head to the airport for our 6 p.m. flight home. By the time we got there, I was RAVENOUS. Obviously one slice of pizza wasn’t enough so I had to hit up Burger King for a large fries too. I had some eating to catch up on.

It was quite a whirlwind weekend, and although I’m not THRILLED with how I did, I’m already starting to think about what long race I can do next. I always tell Joe at the end of these long races to say no when I want to sign up for another ten miler/half marathon. And I did this time when I was sprawled out on that bench at Disney. But in retrospect, I know that it wasn’t the distance that did me in but the late start/high humidity.

No rest for the weary though. This weekend I’m off to the Baltimore Running Festival. Thankfully I just signed up for the 5K and not the half, because that would have been suicide. It should be an awesome weekend and I can’t wait to be inspired by all those finishing the half and the full.