Local Race Recap: Melissa's Race 2022

I ran this local charity race for brain cancer for the third time this April (previous runs were Melissa's Race 2019 and Melissa's Race 2021; I also participated virtually in 2020).

Melissa's Race is put on by Melissa Vosburg, Inc, a charity devoted to supporting brain cancer research through awareness education and fundraising. The race is accompanied by the Brews for Brains fundraising event, which follows the run in Sanford's Fort Mellon Park.

Training & Goals
Since January 1st I've been  working on coming back after a period of no running, managing knee pain, and working on losing some pandemic weight. My knees presented with some new pains the week leading up to race day, so I was mostly walking during the week before this race, with extra stretching and strength work. If my legs were up to it, I did plan to run using relatively new 75/75 intervals from the start and see what my time would be if I really did my best.

Race Day: April 23, 2022
Race day came and my knees felt okay. The new pains disappeared (old pains persisted though!) so I figured I'd do my best and hopefully come in under 40 minutes (ugh) on the familiar flat course. I checked my results from my previous Melissa's Race outings and both were over 40, so my goal ended up being to beat my Melissa's Race record of 40:43 from the 2019 run (I came in at 41:46 last year).

Parking is easy in Sanford and I found a great spot in the predawn darkness close to the race site. I got my packet and team shirt and headed to the restrooms to change. Races at Fort Mellon Park are great because there are real bathrooms on site -- no need to step into an icky portapotty.

I was in the second start wave, which began at 7:10AM. It was a very pleasant 64°F at the start with delightful 77% humidity, mostly clear skies, and a light breeze off the lake.

Mile 1: 12:29
I felt pretty good from the start. The field seemed to open up right away (the four different staggered starting waves really help with that) and I could keep my pace without getting in the way of others or having to weave too much around walking participants. This mile takes runners along Lake Monroe and swings around Fort Mellon Park.

Mile 2: 12:35
For this mile we turn back towards the Lake Monroe waterfront and pass the marina before turning back to run the streets of downtown Sanford. I felt good after warming up and was happy I could keep up with my run/walk intervals as planned.

Mile 3+: 12:36, 1:03
Much of this mile is a repeat of mile one, heading back down 1st Street to loop around Fort Mellon Park to the finish line on the lakefront. Before turning back to the park, the run down 1st Street is in full head-on sun, and that wasn't a lot of fun. I didn't feel hot, but it was hard to see and unpleasant to look up. It made the final shaded stretch down the lakefront feel great for a strong finish.

Recommendation
This is a well-organized local race for a very good cause. On course support was great with volunteers throughout, and the support after is very good as well with treats for runners and several local vendor booths with the usual freebies and giveaways. It was really nice to see this race back to full force after the return to in-person racing last year had an understandably smaller field. Recommended.

Chip time: 38:39
Placement details: 17/61 in Age Group, 306 overall out of 751 finishers
Race Amenities: Nice cotton logo t-shirt, finisher medal for all, drawstring backpack
Cost: $27.95

Branded photos (c) Almost There Photography

Local Race Recap: Bunny Hop 5K 2022

I ran the Second Annual Bunny Hop 5K on multi-use trails here in DeBary Florida on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. Here's my recap.

Training & Goals
Six years ago this month, I finally broke 30 minutes for a 5K distance. Now that I'm starting over, I'm chasing a sub 40 minute 5K and hoped this race would be the day. 

I'm still working on coming back after a period of no running, managing knee pain and working on losing some pandemic weight. My plan for this race was to try out new run/walk intervals of 75/75 for the duration.

Race Day: April 17, 2022
I love when there are races at Gemini Springs, because these are familiar running trails, and I can walk or bike to the start. On race morning, I arrived in plenty of time to get my packet, stow my stuff with my bike, and line up for the race. It was 70°F at the start with uncomfortable 94% humidity and clear skies. 

Mile 1: 12:48
I tried to start off slow, as lately I've been starting with a walking warmup. I felt okay, though humidity always gets me sweating ridiculously.

Mile 2: 12:39

Mile 3+: 12:54, :06
I came in at 38:25, so yay for a sub-40! My Garmin recorded a final distance of 3:01 for the run, which is pretty short, so that bummed me out a little bit. The pace was still good for a sub-40. Next stop, sub-38. LOL

After the Race
There was a very good spread of packaged goodies, water, and bananas at the finish line. During the awards ceremony I went looking for another bottle of water but the coolers were empty. When race staff found out, they jumped into action to refill the ice coolers with more water. Nice.

Recommendation
This was a cute little race on our beautiful trail. Well-supported and fine swag. The Easter Bunny was there, and there were activities for kids, including an egg hunt and free kid's race. I'd recommend for locals.

Chip time: 38:25
Placement details: 9/15 in Age Group; 90/129 overall
Race Amenities: Cute tech shirt, finisher medal for all, video of start/finish 
Cost: $38.53

Local Race Recap: Rotary River Run 5K 2022

I ran the Rotary River Run 5K on multi-use trails here in DeBary Florida on Saturday, April 9, 2022. I first ran this local race in 2016, its inaugural year. I also ran it in 2017. Since then, the charity race, put on by our local Rotary club, has added a 10K distance option. See my previous race reports here:

Local 5K Race Report: Rotary River Run 2016

Local Race Report: Rotary River Run 2017

Over the winter, crews removed several large trees that lined parts of the trail around Gemini Springs park, the location for the start/finish of this race. Before the tree work, some of the asphalt on the trail was already bumpy. The heavy tree-removal equipment seemed to damage the trail in even more spots, making bike riding especially annoying in certain patches, and running a bit tricky. During the two weeks prior to this race, crews were out again, resurfacing the trail. The work was much needed, and much welcomed! The trail looks great now, rides smooth, and runs easy. Even though the trail is extremely familiar to me, I was looking forward to seeing the finished trail for the first time.

Training & Goals
I'm still working on coming back after a period of no running, managing knee pain and working on losing some pandemic weight. My plan for this race was to warm up for the first five minutes, and then run/walk using 60/90 intervals. 

Race Day: April 9, 2022
I love when there are races at Gemini Springs, because these are my default running trails, and I can bike to the start. On race morning I arrived in plenty of time to get my packet, stow my stuff in my bike bag, and line up for the race.  It was 57°F at the start with delightful 55% humidity, and clear blue skies. 

Mile 1: 13:42
It was great running on the newly resurfaced trail for the first time.

Mile 2: 12:59
I tried to jump for a photo mid-course, but I was too close to the photographer. Oops. She captured me running, before the failed jump. Thank you Lily.

Mile 3+: 12:52, :53
Coming in at 40:20, it looks like I'll be able to get a sub 40 soon. It's depressing to me to be so slow, but I'm seeing small improvements over time. Running feels so much harder now, but at least I can see my runs getting incrementally better. My Garmin recorded a final distance of 3:07 for the run.

Recommendation
This is a nice small race with a good atmosphere and fine support and organization by Runner's High Timing and Race Management. I would recommend this race to other locals, and am likely to run it again, as long as I am able.

Chip time: 40:20
Placement details: 5/9 in Age Group; 78/146 overall
Race Amenities: Cotton race shirt, finisher medal, beer and bbq treats after the run
Cost: $29.67

Featured and race branded photos (c) Almost There Photography

runDisney Race Recap: Tower of Terror 10-Miler 2022

The inaugural Springtime Surprise race weekend concluded with the Sunday event: the Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

Training & Goals
My plan for the weekend races was to have fun and finish before the sweepers. I aimed to start towards the front of my corral to have an extra buffer for photo stops and other shenanigans. I planned to follow my run:walk intervals on the road, stop for selfies at the mile markers, and mostly walk while in the theme parks to enjoy the entertainment, characters, and atmosphere.

Costume
There were lots of bellhops running Sunday morning. I dressed as a Star Wars style bellhop: Darth Bellhop. I matched the printed costume shirt with a Tower of Terror bellhop headband, attached to a Headsweats visor, and a Tower of Terror bellhop skirt.

Race Day: April 2, 2022
Arthur and I left home at about 2:35AM, and had the car parked at about 3:35AM. During the drive down on I-4, overhead signs indicated to look out for a reported wrong-way driver! Yikes! That kept us on extra high alert as we sped down the highway.

We got the car parked and headed to the morning's photo ops before I made my way to the corral. 

I tried to make my way toward the front of the corral, but as we started moving forward I must have mis-calculated my tangents, because at the last turn I looked back and there were hardly any runners behind me! I did not want to DLS (Dead Last Start)! 

With the release of each ever-shrinking wave, I tried to improve my position. The second half of corral 4 was released in many very small waves, my guess is due to congestion other runners were experiencing on narrow parts of the course. 

When I got to the front, I was just behind the 2:30 pacers. When I crossed the line with them at 6:10AM it was 64°F with 100% humidity and I was feeling 100% insecure about my position in the race.

Mile 1, 2, 3: 13:55, 13:56, 14:30
I ran with the pacers for a bit, trying out their :15/:30 ratio as we navigated getting out of the parking lot. At this time they were a little ahead of pace, anticipating course congestion later on, and maybe banking a little time for the three overpasses on the course. While the pace was comfortable, the run:walk ratio was not, so I decided to run ahead. One of the pacers loudly announced each interval change, so I figured I would hear them when they caught up to me. In the meantime I'd be able to stop for some photos. 

Shortly after I left the pacers behind, I felt some weird chafing on the underside of my upper right arm. I looked and there was a pale red patch forming. What the heck? I'd been wearing the same brand and size of shirt for all races with no issues. Ugh. I kept my hand on my hip during my walk breaks to keep my arm from rubbing on my shirt. I stopped at the first medical station to get some Vaseline to smear on the area. This helped tremendously and I ended up quickly stopping at every medical tent for the duration of the race to slather on some more Vaseline.

While the elongated corral mini-wave release process was annoying at the start, I experienced zero course congestion around the Boardwalk, and in the narrow path between Boardwalk and Hollywood Studios, which was actually pretty awesome.

Mile 4, 5: 15:09, 15:09
These miles took us through Hollywood Studios, the best part of this 10 mile race. 

We ran past Star Tours, and then through Galaxy's Edge. I felt a little bit emotional in this part, really missing the Star Wars races and thinking this run through this part of the park should have been for Dark Side runners. *sniff*

Next we ran through Toy Story Land before heading down Sunset Boulevard to the star attraction, the Tower of Terror.

Leaving Hollywood Studios, all that was left to run was five and a half highway miles, including three (!) overpasses. Around here the 2:30 pacers passed me, and I was fine with that. I knew I had the cushion of the 2:40 pacers behind me, before the Balloon Ladies would bring up the rear.

Mile 6, 7, 8, 9, 10+*: 15:30, 16:04, 16:11, 16:24, 17:28, 3:28*
There were a few characters on the course for this part of the race. Four from the Adventurer's Club were out, along with a big camel prop.

And some haunted hotel guests in full makeup, including popular Disney host Mark Daniel.

Other characters that I skipped were formal Goofy, Scrooge McDuck, and Bowler Hat Guy.

The final mile was back through Epcot. 

After the Race
I met up with Arthur, had a celebratory beer, and headed to Caribbean Beach for a quick wipe-down and change of clothes before heading to the Magic Kingdom for lunch at Skipper Canteen. I'm so glad I noticed the weird arm chafing early on, and could treat it with Vaseline, thanks to the medical volunteers on the course. It could have been painful!

Recommendation
It was awesome running so much in Hollywood Studios. The second half of the course was kind of a slog, and I wish the course could have been run in reverse (with the boring stuff first). Otherwise it was another fun runDisney race!

*Garmin data: my watch always shows a little bit extra mileage

Chip time: 2:37:40 
Placement details: 392/622 in Age Group, 7317/10819 overall
Race Amenities: Nice tech shirt, awesome Tower of Terror finisher medal, plus challenge medal and shirt
Cost: $474.37 for the challenge

runDisney Race Recap: Race for the Taste 10K 2022

Following the Expedition Everest 5K Thursday night, and a rest day on Friday, Saturday morning found runDisney enthusiasts like me back to toe the line for the Race for the Taste 10K.

Training & Goals
My plan for the weekend races was to have fun and finish before the sweepers. I aimed to start towards the front of my corral to have an extra buffer for photo stops and other shenanigans. I planned to follow my run:walk intervals on the road, stop for selfies at the mile markers, and mostly walk while in Epcot to enjoy the entertainment, characters, and atmosphere.

Costume
In keeping with my Star Wars mash-up theming, for this race I wore a novelty graphic t-shirt for the fictional Ratatooine Academy of Culinary Arts Running Club, along with a bulbous chef's hat and Remy-inspired grey fur print skirt.

Race Day: April 2, 2022
The weather for the weekend continued to look iffy, with predicted rain showers fortunately disappearing shortly before the start time. I left home at 2:34AM and got the car parked at Epcot by 3:26AM. After checking out the pre-race photo ops (there are still no characters out before the races), I headed to my corral to wait for the start. It was about 72°F with 95% humidity when I crossed the start line at 5:41AM. It was overcast and misty, looking like it might rain.

Mile 1, 2, 3: 15:57, 15:19, 15:25
The humidity was a real problem for me. I was already dripping with sweat before the race even started, and the thick air was tough to run through. The air was heavy and I felt worn out very quickly. 

I was part of a Facebook Messenger group of runners who reported on the location of characters on the course as well as the status of the balloon ladies (effectively the last runners before participants are swept from the course). Having this information was super handy and based on intel from the group I felt it was safe for me to stop for Horace and Clarabelle during the first mile. Later, Pluto was also out, but I didn't stop.

Miles 2 and 3 were more highway steps, including one overpass (the only elevation gain on the run). 

Mile 4, 5, 6+: 16:45, 18:58, 17:20, 7:25
Mile 4 brought us briefly through a part of Epcot before we headed to the Yacht, Beach Club, and Boardwalk resorts. There were some characters out, including Joy & Sadness, and Mickey & Minnie.

During mile 5 we finished with the Boardwalk and headed back into Epcot for the most fun parts of the race. Besides Chip and Dale and Goofy, other character stops were Geppetto with Pinocchio, and Emile with Remy in France. The line for the chef rats was so long it extended to Morocco -- whoa! I may have had time for that but I didn't want to risk it. I was truly afraid if the Balloon Ladies came by that I would not be able to keep up. The struggle with the humidity was real!

After the Race
I was totally knackered. My already slow pace fell during the last miles, and not just because I was stopping for a few photos. The humidity was completely defeating. Luckily the rain held off, but I couldn't have been more wet if it did rain -- I was totally sweat-soaked.

Recommendation
Despite running through pea soup, it was a fun morning. 

Chip time: 1:46:19 
Placement details: 459/656 in Age Group, 7022/9571 overall 
Race Amenities: Nice tech shirt, fun retro Epcot themed finisher medal
Cost: $474.37 for the challenge

runDisney Race Recap: Expedition Everest 5K 2022

On Thursday, March 31, 2022, Arthur and I participated in the Expedition Everest 5K, part of the new Springtime Surprise race weekend at Walt Disney World. Here's my recap!

Background
The 2020 Star Wars Rival Run race series was the first runDisney event to succumb to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was fully cancelled, the only runDisney event to be completely wiped off the map. 

Wine & Dine 2020, Marathon Weekend 2021, Princess 2021, and Star Wars 2021 all were offered as virtual-only events (Star Wars was initially offered as in-person before being transitioned to virtual. I am not sure if this was also the case for the other race weekends). Eventually the Wine & Dine 2021 race weekend marked the return to in-person racing at Walt Disney World.

When Star Wars 2021 was transitioned to a virtual event, runDisney announced it would be the last Rival Run event, with the springtime race weekend to be reimagined with new theming. At first, many hoped for a different Star Wars themed weekend. But it was eventually revealed that the spring race event put on by runDisney would be something altogether different: the Springtime Surprise race weekend.

The theming for each race would call back to now-defunct events previously held at Walt Disney World. 

The Expedition Everest scavenger hunt and 5K race would take place on Thursday night at Animal Kingdom. If I heard correctly, this was the first nighttime race at Walt Disney World since 2015.

The Race for the Taste 10K would take place on Saturday morning. This foodie-themed race came before the Wine & Dine weekend we know today.

The Tower of Terror 10-Miler would return as a daytime race, taking place on Sunday morning. This popular race used to take place at night. 

Runners who completed all three races would also earn a challenge medal.

Registration
Arthur and I planned to run the 5K together, while I would run the 10K and 10-Miler as well, to complete the challenge. 

The 5K and challenge quickly sold out when they first went on sale for the general public on December 9, 2021. On that day, Arthur got into the 5K, but I got bounced out of my registration at the final step. I was extremely lucky to snag a challenge bib when registration opened up again very briefly on January 20, 2022.

Training & Goals
Arthur and I came home from a brief European road trip vacation the day before the 5K. I had run a few times during the trip but I'm still struggling with knee issues. We planned to walk much of the race, with some short jogs here and there, and we planned to stay together for the whole race. 

Expo and Race Day: March 31, 2022
We headed to the race expo in the afternoon. We got our bibs & shirts without issue but the one thing I wanted to buy from the official merchandise area (challenge ears magnet) was already sold out.

Costumes
As a tribute to the Star Wars races, I decided to wear mash-up or mixed-theme costumes for each race of the Springtime Surprise weekend. Instead of dressing up as the Yeti from Expedition Everest, I dressed up as another frigid bigfoot character: the Wampa from Hoth. Arthur dressed up as Luke Skywalker in his Hoth outfit. 

Available in my Etsy shop: Wampa shirt, Wampa skirt, Luke on Hoth shirt [WeRunForFun]

As race time (10PM) approached, the weather was looking iffy. Thunderstorms were predicted. It remained dry as we headed to Animal Kingdom after getting dinner off-property. But in the corrals, the race announcers let us know that the course would be shortened, and that the scavenger hunt part of the event would be converted to a virtual experience.

Arthur and I were in the last corral. When we started our race at 10:42PM, it was 72°F with 83% humidity.

The race course that we should have run

The race course we actually ran

Mile 1: 15:21
I had fun hamming it up for the Photopass photographers.

I hadn't been in a race that went through Animal Kingdom for several years so it was pretty fun. The last time was probably the 2018 marathon, and it wasn't dark when I went through. Pandora is neat in the dark so this part was cool. 

Mile 2+: 18:05, 11:05
We didn't stop for any character photos, but we did stop for some selfies, especially by Everest.

The course was shortened to skip a long out and back on the road, after we left Animal Kingdom. My watch gave me 2.67 miles in total.

After the Race
We headed to the car right after we crossed the finish line, and after a very quick change of shoes and wardrobe, we hit the road home. Nearly the entire drive was in a steady rain, with the second half driving through a torrential downpour that had me holding onto the steering wheel with a death grip. The rain helped keep me awake, for sure, since we were both still struggling with jetlag following our overseas trip.

Recommendation
It's too bad the race had to be shortened, but I still had a good time. I don't prefer running at night, but I know a lot of participants were excited for a night race. It was great running through Animal Kingdom, and I had the most fun running with Arthur in our silly costumes.

It's also too bad they deferred the scavenger hunt portion of the race to a virtual experience. We missed the window (it was available through race weekend) so we didn't get to check this out at all.

Race Amenities: Nice tech shirt, cool compass themed finisher medal
Cost: $474.37 for the challenge