Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Expedition Everest - May 5, 2012

Immediately after my first successful 5K race, I was itching to run another one. When our friends Shannon, David, and Kevin mentioned an interest in Disney's Expedition Everest Challenge (an upcoming 5K/Scavenger hunt at Disney's Animal Kingdom), I begged Ray to go.

I trained from February 2012 until late April using the couch to 5k program... and though I couldn't seem to break 15:30 minutes per mile for a training run (and I know people who can walk faster than that!), I felt ready for this race. The timing of the race was awful though.

We had just closed on our first home purchase a week before, we had moved out of our old apartment and into the new house, we had to vacate the new house for 2 days to fumigate for termites, our new house was broken into during this time period, I had a head cold, I was finishing up assignments for the end of a semester at school. All of that combined with a fear of running in our new neighborhood at night had me not training during the week before Expedition Everest, but I still felt ready for this race.

The day of the race was hot and humid.... like in the 90s hot, and South Florida or Dallas-in-June humid. We met up with our friends Shannon, Carra and Scott at Epcot during the day, and perhaps we overdid it a bit. At 4pm, we met up for an early dinner at Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom, then we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the nighttime race.

2 hours before the race was supposed to start, we drove back to Animal Kingdom where we met up with the rest of the group, and I started to get really nervous. There were SO MANY people there, and the irrational part of me kept saying that I couldn't really do this, that I wasn't prepared, that I should just go find a cozy place to sit down and wait for everyone else to finish.

Trying to mellow out before the race.
Ray saw how stressed out I was, and we tried to relax, but being in the 5th wave meant an extended wait at the start, and a longer time for the self doubt to get to me. I turned the volume on my iPod as loud as it would go, and hoped to tune out the negative self-talk.

Finally, after what felt like forever, it was time for our wave to go. And just like that, we were off running. Ray, who normally runs a faster pace than I do, had agreed to run this race with me as part of a 2 person team. I rarely get to run with other people because I am slower than molasses flowing uphill in the winter, so having someone to run with was a nice change.

I had my timer set to run intervals of 3 minutes running/1 minute walking, but about 2 minutes into the running, my eyes caught sight of a girl about 10 yards ahead of me. She was probably about 150 lbs bigger than me, wearing a bright blue and green tie-dyed t-shirt, and chugging along. She was also running intervals.

I had caught up to her significantly in my first running interval, and she was walking by the time my interval ended, but just as my timer beeped, she took off like a bat out of hell and was suddenly 10-15 yards ahead of me again.

I told Ray that I wouldn't be taking a walk interval until I passed this girl in the tie-dye... And so I didn't. And we kept running. And she would sprint for about a minute like her life depended on it, then she would slow to a snails pace of walking, and we would almost pass her, and she would take off again. It drove me crazy that no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get around her.

Don't get me wrong. I was happy to see this girl out there doing something to take control of her life and become more active. I was happy to see myself out there too. But here's the thing: I've never really considered myself a runner, and here was this woman who had about 150 lbs on me who was out there doing it ... and she was going to do it better than me?  I was having none of that. Have I mentioned my really bad competitive side yet?

I spent the first mile, which is around the outside perimeter of the Animal Kingdom parking lot, trying to pass the girl in the tie -dye. Immediately before mile marker 1, we had to jump over some bales of hay, then we ran up toward the front gate. Once inside the park, we ran up and around the big tree, through the park, out an employee entrance. I lost track of the girl in the tie-dye somewhere before mile marker 2, as we ran through a series of tires. I couldn't see the girl with the tie-dyed shirt, but I knew she was right on my heels so I kept running, through the back lot, out to the main parking lot, and just before the first split time at the 5k mark, through a sand crawl.

When we crossed the finish for the running portion, we were handed our first clue, and a marker and sent back into the park. Ray and I were fairly good at the clues, and the first one came easily to us. When we got to the second clue, I began to write the answer down and noticed a red viscous fluid dripping all over the clue cards.

Freaking out that I was having such a serious nosebleed, I frantically started wiping my face. I kept pulling my hands away to find nothing. 

And the fluid kept dripping, this time on the ground all around me. Holy crap! where was all this blood coming from??? I looked at Ray and he wasn't bleeding. That only left one explanation....

I was DYING. I was frantic, barking at Ray to check me for cuts. I was certainly going to die.

After a couple more seconds of panic, I realized that the far better explanation was that our red sharpie was leaking everywhere, and that I wasn't actually hemorrhaging. We had a good laugh, and after ensuring that nobody was in fact going to die, we continued to our next clue checkpoint. 

We had a little trouble with the final clue, but after figuring it out, we sprinted toward the finish line, finishing the event in a total of 1:18:10.

5K: 46:35
Pace: 14:44/mile
Search Time: 21:46
Clock Time: 1:42:19
Chip Time: 1:18:46

Overall, I felt great after this experience. Not only did I finish the 5k portion of this race faster than I finished my first 5k, but I ran the entire thing. I felt great.

And when I saw the race photos online, I felt even better. Included in the race photos was a video of the finish-line and chute, and there (in the back left corner of the video) about 10 yards behind me, was the girl in the tie-dye shirt.  I was happy to have seen her finish, but even happier to see that I finished before her. For awhile there, I wasn't so sure I would.


  1. Awesome! There is always that person who you can't (mentally) let beat you!

  2. It can be hard. I want to be excited for everyone who is out there, yet I find myself playing these mental games sometimes, and they make me feel so guilty.

  3. I have to tell you I enjoy being that guy everyone looks at and thinks "that fat guy isn't beating me"

    1. Seth, I love that you can say that! And someday i hope to get my speed up a bit that i can happily say that this fat girl is beating other people. lol.