And just like that, Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge 2020 is over. After 20 weeks of ups and downs, good runs and bad, weather of all types, road, treadmill, and cross training, I completed the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever faced. But that is another story, and those recaps are coming soon here on the blog, and over on YouTube. You can also listen to Part one and Part two of our podcast recaps. Today though, I want to talk about whether or not I was ready after building my own training plan.
So, why did I train myself in the first place? Way back in August, I talked about my evolution as a runner and coach. As a newly minted coach who had completed almost two Dopey Challenges, I felt I could develop a training plan that would fit my needs based on previous plans and training cycles I’ve used. So I pulled together a 20-week plan, which included running 4 days, 2 Cross Training sessions and 1 rest day each week.
To follow along on my journey through this training cycle, you can check out my month-by-month plan and how that developed along the way:
- Block 1 — the initial plan
- Block 2 — finding a groove
- Block 3 — cutting things out
- Block 4 — a flexible plan
- Block 5 — taper, race, recovery
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
There were three keys to this training plan overall. The first was flexibility — knowing I could move things around, or even change the format along the way helped me go easier on myself. No training plan should feel like it’s set in stone. There is already enough pressure to complete a marathon. Training should feel manageable from week to week. As I went, I moved my long runs, I dropped a couple of simulation weekends, keeping flexibility in mind. 20 weeks is a long time to have a singular focus, so flexibility helps keep things fresh.
The second key was the Heart Rate training — Across the 20 weeks and 539 miles of running, over 72% of my training was in heart rate zones 1 (47.3%) and 2 (24.8%). I went into this training with the goal of running in low heart rate zones by time rather than by distance. There was some speedwork in there, too. Once a week I added tempo miles, intervals, or hills, but only enough to keep from getting bored, and all controlled by heart rate. Zone 3 training — tempo miles for example — accounts for 12.7% of overall training time. Looking at the stats across the training cycle, this is probably the smartest I’ve trained for any event.
The third key was rest and recovery. While Cross training is certainly important, marathon training takes a lot of time. Add to that the commitments over the holidays, plus the commitments to my clients, a lot of stress built up over this training cycle. Stress is stress, whether it comes from the physical stress of running, or the mental stress of time management. I was very much in tune with my body and what it needed. Foam rolling and Yoga were my go-to post run recovery practices, and as the training cycle wore on, I would consistently turn to yoga as cross training rather than strength or swimming.
DID IT WORK?
As I approached race day, I felt tapered, rested, and ready to take on Goofy. Travel always throws a wrench in the works, but during my time at Disney, I felt like I went into the weekend prepared physically and mentally. Coming up in the race recaps, you’ll see how the weather of the weekend was less than ideal. I was not trained for the hot and humid conditions of marathon day, but I was trained to cover the distance. While mine wasn’t an official marathon, having the course cut for safety reasons, I still had the distance in my legs.
The biggest tell as to whether or not I was prepared was how I felt the day after the marathon. Of course, the afternoon of the marathon, moving was tough. My body was tired, sore, dehydrated, and spent. However, going out for dinner and moving a bit before bed helped flush out the system. On Monday, we even hit 3 Disney parks in a single day, spending almost 12 hours non-stop. So when people would ask how I felt, I would say, “I feel like I ran a marathon yesterday, but given that, surprisingly good!”
And this…this is what I was going for. I wanted to come out of marathon weekend with a shorter recovery time. I was slightly undertrained going in, meaning I could have done more — maybe up to 10% more overall before starting down the OVERtraining slide, but that was exactly the objective. That is what I wanted out of this training cycle and the race days.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER
Upon returning to Denver, I immediately went down sick — the sickest I’ve been in 3 years: sweating and chills, all over achy-ness, and a nasty cough put me down for the rest of the week. Why did this happen? Given the incubation period for the common cold, I’m pretty sure I picked up something at Disney (many of my friends reported getting sick right away). With all the trips I’ve taken to the House of Mouse, this is the first time I’ve come back this sick, but when you consider the physically taxing conditions of the marathon, it makes sense that a compromised immune system opened the door for illness.
On the bright side, even though the cold knocked me down hard, I’m glad it happened after the marathon. I wasn’t going to run the first week back anyway. Given that my post-Goofy plan was easy running, some walks and ALL optional, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything important. I took the time to recover from the cold and get back to running when my body tells me to.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I was ready for the distance — for 39.3 miles on the course, plus well-managed park time. I was ready — for an easy half marathon with a group of friends, and a full marathon encouraging others through the day. I don’t have access to training in hot and humid conditions like those in Florida, and weather is the one thing no one can control. So no, I wasn’t prepared for that. But I had the miles in my legs, and the faith in my heart that I would be able to dig deep when I had to.
This training cycle taught me a lot about balance, about less is more. We don’t have to destroy ourselves to reach a goal. We need to run if we are going to reach a running goal, true, but we also need to manage our effort without overdoing it, rest and recover when life gets away from us, and listen to our bodies for what it really needs. In the end, this is a smart plan, and I’m frankly, kinda proud of it. It has enough running to keep me sane, with plenty of flexibility to help me get ready without the stress of having to “get it done.” It got done. It got me ready.
Looking ahead, as we get closer the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, I’ll be rewriting this plan and making it available to you, in addition to other plans for different distances, including the Dopey Challenge. So if you are interested in such plans, please let me know in the comments.
For all of you who followed along on this phase of my journey, thank you. Your support and encouragement mean more to me than you will ever know.