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September 3, 2011

Gut Check Time - Running with Mickey

This is "Gut Check Time" for anyone working towards their first race ever at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Now that may sound ominous but I'm just trying to catch the attention of all of you who have started this incredible life-changing journey.

Please treat this as my way of doing a general checking in with all of you to see how you are doing.

So how are you doing?

If you want something similar to a training checklist here are some areas to consider:

- Regardless of the distance you are training for, by now you should have a pretty good idea as to what your race day gear will be and hopefully have trained in your race day outfit. I'm talking about the running shoes, socks, shirts/pants, and top you plan to run in for your race. Also, will you be wearing a hat...water belt...iPOD????

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It's important to feel as comfortable as possible on race day and discovering what makes you the most comfortable is one of the key factors towards insuring your success. Don't wait until the last minute to figure out what shoes, socks, shirts, etc. you'll be wearing. Experiment now and decide as soon as possible. It will be one less thing to worry about and allow you to focus on your training.

So how's your stamina? For those working towards a 5K you should be at least one third there and are working steady towards that 5K distance. My suggestion is to think about setting your goal to be 4 miles instead of 5K (3.1 miles). I say this because I want to encourage you to look beyond January and that 5K distance. It will do a wealth of good for your confidence.

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For you first time half and full marathoners you should be even more in tune with your running gear for your big day. Most of you will be spending two or more hours running on your feet and you want to be as comfortable as possible.

For you half-marathoners I'm hoping that by this time you have been able to cover at least six miles and maybe even have had a chance to run in a 10K race or two to get some race experience. If you are at 6 miles by early September you are in good shape for the Half. You don't have to be able to do 13.1 miles before January but you should aim to do at least one double-digit run before Christmas. This is important for you to understand how you need to pace yourself for an extended run (or walk/run or walk) and again, also for your confidence. Add a quarter mile per week between now and the end of December and you will be fine.

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You first time marathoners are a different breed. For this distance my advice is to have you turn to the advice of any of the many marathon running/training plans out there. A marathon distance requires a very disciplined training plan that is best determined by the individual. That means my words may not work for everyone so my hope is that you all have figured out what plan works best for you.

I do hope that your base weekly miles is up there and that you do at least one long run once a month. As we get into the fall months you should be even more disciplined in your training and try to folly to the T whichever training plan you are following.

FInally, a word about pace. Of course everyone knows the dreaded minimum pace requirement for a Walt Disney World sponsored race is 16 minutes per mile. I have heard from many experienced runners that stamina must precede speed. You need to be in shape before you can turn on the jets. That means that before worrying how fast you can run, focus on how far and how long you can run.

Before you know it your body will begin to surprise you and you will naturally begin to run faster and faster. Why? Well as you improve your stamina you improve the efficiency of your run vehicle...your body. Your cardiovascular system's improvement will have your body working like a well tuned machine.

I would not be concerned with pace until mid to late October. That's about the time where you should be at a confidence level regarding the distance you are training to run. Once you are confident you can cover that distance you can then begin to experiment with how to cover that distance as fast as possible.

But for now....concentrate on how far and how long you can stretch out your workouts.

We'll visit Gut Check Time again in late October.

So here is your homework.

By the end of October you should again understand what your running gear will be for your race day.

You should also have trained to the point of covering 60-75% of your goal distance.

Here's another assignment...for those who plan to listen to music during the race, start planning not only what you will listen to but also what sequence....that's important because music can pick you up when you need it most.

Finally, think about your confidence level now and plan to measure that against your confidence level in late October. If you stay on track and focus I'm sure your confidence level will be at a level you'll like.

See you at the next Gut Check Time!!!

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September 11, 2011

9/11, Tim, and Running With Purpose

Has it been 10 years since that devastating day, September 11, 2001? I’m sure, like me, you remember where you were the exact moment when you first heard about the attacks. I would guess that you also went through a period of denial in which you did not want to believe what was happening.

It all became too real too soon and we were all glued to our televisions and computers, trying to find out more as to what happened and also questioning why and how this could have ever happened.

That day touched the lives of especially those who live and work in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Their lives were touched in a way they could have never imagined. Not only did it touch but also changed their lives…perhaps making them more aware and more cautious every time they walk out the door.

Perhaps that day ensures that before they start their day they remind their loved ones how much they care for them and love them and not take for granted any time they spend with friends and families.

Although that day touched me in a certain way, I had no idea how it would indirectly motivate me towards running long distances for a cause...for a purpose.

I had been running for 35 years but in that time the farthest I had run was maybe seven miles. In 1981 I had suffered a serious knee injury and was strongly urged not to run more than six miles a day no more than three times per week.

Entrenched in my mind was that not only should I keep to that plan but that even if I wanted to go beyond it I couldn’t. So I did just that…until January 2005.

On that day, one of my virtual sons was taken from me. You see, as all jocks, there was a time in my life when I decided to coach…and coach I did…you name the sport and I coached it. All my players…I estimate I coached at least 2500 boys and girls…became my extended family.
However, there is one particular player who will always have a special place in my heart and has played a vital part in my need to run and help others.

His name is Tim Gibson.

Tim first walked into my life in 1988 as a 6-year old blonde haired, blue-eyed little boy who looked like he had just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell masterpiece. Tim was the youngest and smallest player on my Little League team…but he had the biggest heart and a no quit attitude.

My relationship with Tim and his family grew through the years and Tim and I enjoyed several baseball and basketball championships as player and coach. I coached for almost ten years with Tim’s dad Tom.
I last coached Tim just before 2000. He became a star for the high school baseball team and also, using that amazing heart of a lion, became quarterback for the football team, even though he was about 5’ 9” and maybe 140 pounds soaking wet.

It made sense to me when I heard Tim had decided to join the United States Marine Corps in April 2001. He was one of the most courageous athletes I had ever coached. Tim was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Once the events of 9/11 occurred all focus was turned to the Middle East…eventually Tim’s outfit was called to make the trip and that meant he was heading for Iraq. It was on January 26, 2005 that 23-year-old Tim was killed when his CH-53E helicopter crashed near Ar Rutbah, Iraq in a sandstorm.

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Tim touched so many people’s lives with his personality, charm, huge heart, and humor that it was inevitable that his death was to impact so many people in the town that he grew up in.

I often found myself, after Tim’s death, running many times and thinking about his life and how he had touched me. At times I often thought he was coaching me about life and to never, ever quit. He always went above and beyond anything I asked him to do on the playing field and I felt I needed to pay tribute to him.

It was in late February 2005 that I decided to train for the 2006 Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Tim would be with me. Every time I went out to train I would look up and say, “Let’s go Tim!”
I had many fond memories of Tim and always remembered him as someone who never backed down from a challenge. I decided I needed a challenge.

So I trained for 11 months. I lost 45 pounds. Got up every day at 5 a.m. and ran and trained hard for this thing.

In October I traveled to Walt Disney World to run in the Race for the Taste 10K. Two days before the race I went to pick up my race packet and noticed another race was being held. It was the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 5K Race for the Cure. I decided to sign up for that race, it was only a 5K distance and for a good cause. Little did I know that particular race would contribute to my association with Deb Wills and her Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

When January came I was ready. I used a safety pin to attach a photo of Tim to my running shirt. Tim and I would start, run, and finish together.

That was a cold January morning and most of us had layers on. We would peel these layers off as the temperature rose and we heated up. My heart was racing that morning and I found myself running the first five miles at an unexpectedly fast pace.

Something else unexpectedly happened during the race.

Between the Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom guard shack I stepped on a sweatshirt that had a plastic bottle under it. I almost went down but managed to stay up. I immediately thought I had twisted the ankle.

All I remember thinking and saying out loud was, “I'm not going to stop!” My thought was, “Tim would keep going!” and so I continued, with eight miles to go.

After running through The Magic Kingdom and making my way out to Floridian Way, I kept wondering how long I would last and if the pain would do me in.

My 10-minute pace had turned into a 14-minute pace and I felt I was running on one leg...but I continued…Tim would not want me to stop. It was pretty apparent to me by now that extensive damage had been down to my ankle…I knew it had to be a bad sprain…I kept going. Knowing that Tim would not quit in a situation like this, as I took each stride I found myself whispering, “We can do this Tim! We can do this!”
Just after the nine-mile mark, I saw one of the race officials with a bottle labeled “Bio-Freeze” and I asked him to give me a shot. I was thinking I could numb the pain so I could finish strong.

That plan was dashed when he asked me to remove my sneaker. I thought better than to risk not getting it back on and continued to run, albeit very slow, with pain shooting up my left leg…the same leg that had suffered an exploded ACL a few decades back. Was I crazy? Was I stubborn? Perhaps, but Tim never let me down and I was not going to let him down. I knew somewhere he was cheering me on.

As much as I wanted to continue running as fast as I could, I succumbed to the pain at Mile 10 and went into a slow jog/fast walk.
When I caught my first glimpse of Spaceship Earth and EPCOT my pride…or was it Tim’s virtual encouragement…got me running again.
I was happy to see Mile 12 and said in a breath, “Let’s take it home Tim!” Each stride offered me new insight into the world of pain, but my ego was battling the pain and as we hit Epcot and the side of Spaceship Earth my ego was winning that contest.

I ran up to World Showcase Plaza and turned around for the last leg. At one point, I passed a chorale in gold robes and felt inspired from their singing. When I turned the final corner I saw a huge crowd waiting at the finish. I held back from the group I was running with so that maybe, just maybe, I would be running by myself and maybe the PA announcer would mention my name.

He did…but I wanted him to say…”Here comes Tim Gibson and Mike Scopa from Merrimack, New Hampshire.

It was a few days later that, while at home, I decided to see my doctor. Ankle continued to give me enough pain that I found it difficult to sleep. My foot was also discolored.

My visit to the doctor was a revelation. I was told I had suffered a singular fracture of the ankle…oops. I probably should have stopped running…oops.

Why did I continue to run? You could call it stubbornness or you can call it ego or even pride. I have to believe that part of it was that little Norman Rockwell baseball player with the baggy pants who laid down that perfect bunt on a 0-2 count that ended up winning a baseball championship that was slipping away prior to that beautiful bunt.
Tim would not let that game slip away…and he would not let my dream of running my first half marathon slip away either.

So as many of us look back at the events of 9/11/01 and think about how it has touched our lives I look back and see how it has indirectly motivated me to take running to another level, to honor a fallen soldier’s legacy of helping others, and to keep on going until I cannot go any further.

I run for all those battling a horrible disease…I run for those who are yet to be born, in the hope they will not have to face this monster, and I am reminded this month that I run in memory of my “son” Tim, who would do the same…to run with purpose.

God bless all those who were touched by the events of September 11, 2001.

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September 22, 2011

Coast-to-Coast Challenge Report: Part I Before the Race

Within the last several years the relatively new runDisney brand has offered running enthusiasts the opportunity to achieve what is referred to as Coast-to-Coast Challenge status. The Coast-to-Coast Challenge offers runners a chance to earn a special medal depicting the famous Partners statue seen in the Magic Kingdom and in Disneyland. This medal is achieved by completing a runDisney half marathon on each coast within the same calendar year.

In 2011 there were only three combinations from which runners could choose to earn a Coast-to-Coast Challenge medal. Starting in 2012 there will be more races and options offered to runners. In fact there will be a total of eight combinations to choose from which will appeal to all runners and individual schedules.

Walt Disney World runners will have the Walt Disney World Half Marathon as well as the Chip and Dale Marathon Relay. In late February WDW will hold the Princess Half Marathon and in October the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Besides the Disneyland Half Marathon in September, Disneyland will also offer the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in early 2012.

Recently, Team AllEars Co-Captains Michelle Scribner-MacLean and Mike Scopa completed the Coast-to-Coast Challenge. Their combination of races was the 2011 Walt Disney World Half Marathon and the 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon.

So what are the differences regarding running on both coasts? This is the first of a three part series in which they pass along their observations on pre race happenings, race day happenings, and post race happenings. Note that each piece was written without the knowledge of what the other was writing, and it shows how differently runners can feel about races.

Pre-Race: Michelle's Take

The race expo was held in the convention center next to the Disneyland Hotel and right away it was clear that Disney had worked out the fact that there was lot of pedestrian traffic. Cast members directed us to a ramp that led to the bottom of the convention center which was decorated with a rug that looked like a track and silhouettes of the characters on the side wall.



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Mickey's Silhouette

The packet pick up area for the Star Wars Family Fun 5K was very short, but then we turned around and saw the line for those trying for the Coast-to-Coast....yikes! The line was five people across with about 40 people in each line.


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Patient Runners

There were about 30 stations open for those doing the regular half, but only five stations for the 2800 Coast-to-Coasters. Not fun. When we finally got our packets, a volunteer fitted us with plastic bracelets, which distinguished us as CtC-ers. The only thing that was puzzling was the fact that it was Thursday and we were racing on Sunday...that meant three full days with a lovely bracelet (and mine was loose...I was so afraid that it would fall off).

The expo itself was upstairs and, just is the case with everything in Disneyland, it was smaller than the expos at WDW...but also more manageable. The expo area also had a small stage, where audiences got to listen to race info, as well as some tips from runDisney consultant, Jeff Galloway.


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Jeff Galloway Holding Court

Pre-Race: Mike's Take

First off, I liked the idea that I could actually walk from my hotel room at Paradise Pier to the waiting area and corrals. The disneyland Resort area is much smaller than the Walt disney World Resort and being able to walk everywhere was huge. Here's the view of California Adventure from Paradise Pier.

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Paradise Pier from Paradise Pier

Obviously with Disneyland races being on a bit of a smaller scale than those held in WDW, things are handled differently. I found that the DL packet pickup process was less organized than WDW’s edition. I felt as if the race organizers did not take into consideration how many runners were doing the Coast to Coast Challenge and thus there were huge lines for those runners yet virtually no lines for those just doing the half.

I counted 40 volunteers manning the booths for just the Half and only eight manning the booths for the Coast-to-Coast Challenge. Not only that but the Coast-to-Coast Challenge lines were in direct conflict with the line that runners needed to go through to print their forgotten waivers. This led to a gridlock of sorts.

The runner’s expo was as expected, smaller than WDW but still adequate for the number of runners. I think the space was made to good use and the suppliers chosen to attend the expo was well thought out. I felt there were more bargains, be it shoes, socks, running belts, etc. at this expo than I have seen at the WDW expos.

We ran into Joe Taricani who is the host of The Marathon Show podcast and Joe asked us to record the opening of his Disneyland Half marathon show. You can listen to this show here and listen as Joe describes the Disneyland Half Marathon events, including the EXPO and the race itself.

The crowds at the expo indicated to me that the race would be quite interesting since it was obvious that the course would be dealing with a large number of runners.

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Runners are Shoppers

Next up: Race Day!

September 29, 2011

Coast-to-Coast Challenge Report: Part II The Race

Part II of this Coast to Coast Challenge Series contains the observations made by Team AllEars Co-Captains Michelle Scribner-MacLean and Mike Scopa during the 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon.

Pre-Race: Michelle's Take

The race beginning had some of the same features as WDW races -- music, characters, jumbotron, etc., but some of the pomp and circumstance seemed to be missing. For instance, fireworks were not set off as each wave passed the start. However, one nice thing was that the runners didn’t seem to be as frantic at the beginning...it was much more mellow, which was nice.

The race course itself was very pleasant -- I think that Disneyland makes much better use of the park - we were weaving in and out of nearly every land, up Main Street, and through the castle.

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Running Up Main Street, USA
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Fairy Godmothers Riding the Carrousel


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Heading Through the Castle

All in all, we ran about three to four miles through Disneyland before heading out to the streets of Anaheim.

I was anticipating the that stretch between Disneyland and Angels Stadium was going to be boring, but I actually quite liked it. It was nice to get a look at the city and I really enjoyed the many community groups that lined the street to cheer us on. There were many types of bands, cheerleaders, as well as cultural groups -- I slowed down to watch the Mexican dancers and some children doing traditional Hawaiian dances.

I’m a huge baseball fan, so I was thrilled to run towards the giant A that marked Angels Stadium. We ran down quite a steep ramp and then onto the ball field and, again, I slowed down to savor every moment. We ran from right field, around home plate, and by the dugouts before heading back onto the street.

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Running Through Angels Stadium

The last part of the race was through industrial areas and then finally we headed into California Adventure. Because of the construction going on in the park, this part of the race was kind of a let down. Instead of running by attractions, we found ourselves running by those construction walls that Disney puts up to block views.

As we left California Adventure, we headed back to the Disneyland Hotel to the finish line. I ran the race with an Achilles injury, so I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish...I was very pleased to cross!

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The Long Awaited Finish Line

I was even more pleased to receive my medals.

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My Bling

Pre-Race: Mike's Take

The Disneyland resort was not built with the thought that someday it would hold a race or two. That is why anyone running their first runDisney race should keep in mind how difficult it is to achieve a Personal Record (PR) at one of these races.

The Disneyland Half Marathon offered many challenges, the most of which was for the runners to figure out just when they could settle into their comfortable running pace while running through Disneyland and California Adventure. It becomes all too clear that you can't.

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You Cannot Miss The Matterhorn

At the onset the running path is not too narrow but at times early on in the race and especially through the turnstiles, water stops, and general theme park areas, I observed that the majority of my fellow runners needed not to just slow down but in many cases walk through these congested areas. I found In fact the in-park water stops gave me no choice but to walk for about 20 yards because there was no room to run.

Also, running through a theme park means lots of turns and lots of Disney fans cutting in front of you to get to the line to have their picture taken with a character. Hence, speed work does not take place inside a theme park.

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Another Mike

The big difference between the East andWest coast courses is that on the East Coast all the courses are run on Disney property and for the most part 90% of the time you are NOT in the parks and on a straight shot which helps you get into a rhythm. I ran the second half of the course almost nine minutes faster than the first half of the course because I was not running through the theme parks and the running
throng had thinned out. I approach runDisney races as fun events and have come to realize that achieving a PR in one of these races is rare indeed.

This does not take away from the thrill of running through a Disney theme park. Let me restate that. There is nothing more thrilling and emotional for a runner who is also a Disney fan than to run up Main Street, USA for the first time. I will never forget it...and to this day, it still remains a thrill.

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There's Space Mountain

I recollect that the Disneyland Half Marathon had the runners navigate through the parks for almost 20% of the course or almost three miles. One of the things the Half has going for it is that for virtually the entire course runners will find entertainment, cheerleaders, or just race fans cheering you on. Also, it was very unique to run through Angels Stadium.

Unfortunately, I found myself moving a bit more East and West during the race than I should have so when I crossed the Finish Line and looked at my watch I realized I had run not 13.1 miles but 13.29 miles. This probably added about three minutes to my overall time.

Nevertheless, it was nice to wear a well earned medal duo.

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Me and My Bling!

For you Garmin fans, here's a capture of the course.

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2011 Disneyland Half Marathon

Still to come...post race thoughts and other stuff!

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About September 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Team AllEars® Running Blog in September 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2011 is the previous archive.

October 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.