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3.27.2014


 
This is a story about taking a chance on a first year race. 

A little background:
While attending the Space Coast Marathon expo last December, we stopped by the Excalibur 10 Miler table. DisneyBride put our names down on a mailing list that included a drawing for a race entry.  The race concept looked unique, and they had a crown on display. The organizers were going to give finishers crowns, not medals.  

We are on the road driving to Walt Disney World after the Space Coast Marathon and SURPRISE! I get tagged in a Facebook post telling me I won!





I really didn’t think anyone ever won expo sweepstakes. But sure enough, I checked my email and I had received a code for a free race entry.

In the short time we've been running, DisneyBride and I have become increasingly pickier about signing up for races.  The scrutiny only intensifies if travel is required.  

There were two options for registration:  the 10 Miler or a relay, two runners each completing 5 miles.  I registered for the 10 Miler, but shortly afterwards I put the idea of actually attending aside.







The race shirt looked pretty cool...





... but as the date approached,  I started hoping that I would be able to find a friend who was running to pick up my packet for me.
This is where I admit that I have a bias against first year races. I have heard of too many races running out of water, not having on course support, or just being completely disorganized. Even new runDisney races - with all those resources at their disposal - have numerous issues come up with their new events.  Plus, it just didn’t make sense to drive 5 hours each way for a 10 mile race.

The week leading up to the race, DisneyBride tells me we have some local running friends doing this event, and suggests I join them. Splitting travel costs five ways suddenly makes the trip a lot more economical. After a small amount of convincing, I agree to go and it is decided that I will drive.  Unfortunately, I can only fit five adults in my vehicle, and my four travel companions were all registered for the race, while DisneyBride had not signed up.  So she was staying home for the weekend.  

Yes, she gave me a lot of good-natured ribbing about sending me away for the weekend with four women. But, I decided that this perfectly flat course may be the perfect distance to use for my proof of time for runDisney.  I don’t want to be placed in the last corral for the 2015 Dopey Challenge.

Race Weekend, March 1, 2014: 
I wake up Saturday morning and pack the Jeep with the items for my race.  I meet my weekend company at the pre-arranged location and head out for Viera, FL. After a stop for lunch and gas, we arrived in Melbourne in the early afternoon and headed straight to Running Zone to get our packets. We quickly had our shirts and bibs.

Packet pick-up was well organized and the staff was very efficient. The store also had a small area set-up for photos





It was a really nice detail. Running Zone even had Tervis Tumblers with the Excalibur 10 Miler logo patch. I love my Tervis Tumblers, so I purchased one. 
Following the expo, I headed to check-in to my hotel. I was staying across the street from beach, and while it was too cold (for me) to swim, I enjoyed a few moments walking along the shore. 

Race Weekend, March 2, 2014:

I was not staying at the same hotel as the rest of my travel party. So race morning I checked out and headed to their hotel. The host hotel had a shuttle to take runners to the starting area. Yep, that’s right, a 1st year race with shuttles to the start.  This race is already winning me over and it hasn't begun yet. The race volunteers helping to get runners on the bus were decked out in period costumes. Sorry, I was still asleep and didn’t take any pictures of that part.

The shuttle took us to Viera High School. The starting area was full of costumed volunteers, photo op locations, and knights from Medieval Times.  Plus there was plenty of seating for runners. They even had a DJ to get everyone ready for the race.



About 20 minutes before gun time, the organizers started sending people to the start line. This is where the race really started to shine. A few steps from the starting line, in an open field they separated the runners by our allegiances. (Note: when registering, you selected a side to compete with, Maroon or Blue. Kind of like when you choose a knight at Medieval Times.) After we were separated by allegiance and lined up by pace, the entertainment started.
First up was the National Anthem. Far too many sporting events skip this and I think it is a mistake. The gentleman that sang the Anthem did a wonderful job. Then the Knights appeared. 
Following the introduction of our respective Knights, they started to battle. Swinging swords and axes, they battled furiously for their runners. 


It was very entertaining. How many races have you participated in where people start battling to the death before the race even started. With the battle ending in a draw- it was up to us runners to fight (run) for honor and of course, victory. Off to the race course to continue the battle!  CHARGE!!!

 
Both sides charged the center of the field to head for the starting line. The race had pacers with signs to help people align by paces before starting. I was very happy to see that runners were very honest about their paces and lined up accordingly. One note for the organizers: perhaps next year hold runners at the starting line for an extra moment to allow everyone to get set.
I started off by following the 10:00Min/Mile pace group. The pace groups were not Galloway Run/Walk pacers so they just run straight though. I was doing my run/walk intervals, so I spent the first 3-4 miles bouncing from just in front of the group to just behind the group. I found the pacer to be dead-on for the pace. Somewhere between mile 3-4, I decided I better slow down a little if I was going to keep my pace. Remember, I am trying to get a new proof of time for runDisney races.


Within a half mile or so, I could see the 10:30 pacer coming up behind me. I decided to follow her to the finish. Once again, bouncing from just in front to just behind. It was great having a consistent pacer to follow and stuck with the pacer to the finish. My pace ended up being 10:31, and I imagine that her pace was probably dead perfect.  Thanks You pace-leaders! I managed a new PR for a 10 mile race, shaving more than 6 minutes off my last 10 mile race.

About the course:

The course itself was well laid out with plenty of volunteers. The course was divided into 4 lands (Avalon, Nottingham, Wales, and Cadbury), each identified by a flag upon your arrival. 





Perhaps in future years, each of the lands will feature some theming to go along with each of the "lands".  At any location where a runner may even think that the course may change, volunteers (many in costume) were ready to provide direction. The water stops were arranged approximately every 2 miles and were manned by volunteers in medieval costumes.

The Finish:

Approaching Camelot (Finish Line at Viera HS's track), you could hear fans cheering in the stands and faster runners were already out showing off their crowns and motivating people to the finish line. Making the final turn onto the track for the sprint to the finish, you get a glimpse of the 'castle'. An announcer called out and welcomed each runner as they crossed the finish line. Just past the line, eager volunteers placed crowns upon the heads of finishers.
Seconds after being crowned, I was presented a cool wet towel for my head. It was starting to get hot outside and the towel felt great. Water and Gatorade were also easily accessible at the finish line.

Here I am post-race with my four lovely travel companions for the weekend.   They are all runDisney aficionados as well, so we had a lot of fun comparing notes on our other races.




Apparently for the race organizers, a well laid out course, amazing pacers, and cool finisher crowns aren't enough.  This race experience gets even better!

On to "Thy Feast"!

I was completely blown away approaching the festival area.  Costumed characters everywhere, Excalibur in the stone, awaiting removal by a worthy hero.  Thrones worthy of a King or Queen.  Jesters and Maidens to entertain.  And - THE FEAST!

For any of you hoping to organize a new race, here's how to hit a home run!  As I approached the food area, I expected to find some bagels, bananas, and Muscle Milk (saw the van upon my arrival).    Yes they had the usual post-race fare, but much much more: grilled chicken, danish, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, rice and beans, and ICE COLD coke and diet coke.  The food was amazing. 






You may ask yourself, what about those who finished near the end, did they get food?  YES, I was in the festival area until about 3 hours were on the clock and they still had plenty of EVERYTHING. 
Another really nice touch that many people might not have appreciated:  the awards ceremony started late enough that I was able to get some food, eat the food, and then watch.  It's not often that I actually get to see people receive their awards.  I am sure that the speedy runners don't like to wait around, but it was nice to be able to cheer for them. 

This is a race that I hope happens again next year.  It is a race I will not hesitate to run!  I only have one complaint.  Admittedly- it is petty, and shows my post-race laziness.  There was no water in the festival area.  A water fountain was located near the restrooms, but cups weren't available.  

Seriously, this is my biggest complaint of the race- I had to drink more ICE COLD Diet Coke instead of water.  Oh poor DisneyGroom!

Really glad I took a chance on a first year race.  This story had a happy ending after all.  Can't wait to see what the Excalibur 10 Miler organizers come up with next year.  I may need to make the trip and defend my crown. 

- You can call me "King @Disney_Groom"

14 comments :

  1. This looks like so much fun! Love the finisher crown idea! I hope they bring something like this to Texas. I would make a 5 hour drive just for that post-race food. It sounds delicious!

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    1. The crown was a very novel idea. Definitely worth the drive. Perhaps even worth the flight from Texas.

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  2. I'd say you did this race proud by writing such a fabulous race recap! I hope many more people sign up for this race in the future because of reading about it here on your blog! So glad that you mentioned Midevil Times because that was exactly what I was thinking when I started to read it. I agree that maybe some "themeing" to go along with the "lands" might be nice. I like that great castle like finish line. I'm all about having a great finish line to greet people as they run in. I personally think it is much more exciting than just crossing a mat! Glad you had a good time!

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    1. Having an awesome race makes writing a great recap easy- Excalibur should get some of the credit. I imagine that this race will get even better.

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  3. I love this review.....what a fun race. It is surprising to hear such positive comments about a new race, but they certainly hit a home run. I would love to do this one if I lived closer....getting a crown at the finish line was super cool. And a huge congratulations on your new PR.....way to rock the race!

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    1. I may just have to start giving new races a chance. The PR was a great bonus! -DG

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  4. This looks like a fun race! Great recap!

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    1. Thank you! The race was a lot of fun.

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  5. You had me at crown. I wish I lived closer to run this- it sounds AMAZING! I'm such a sucker for themed races. Glad it worked out and congrats again, King DisneyGroom!

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    1. I too am a sucker for themed races! Perhaps you will make the trip to Viera next year. -King DG

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  6. Crowns, kingdoms, sword fights AND pizza? If I didn't live 1,000 miles away, I'd be trying to register for 2015! It looks like they really tried their best to make it a memorable and successful race. I hope they are able to do it again, I love interesting concepts to keep things fresh. Glad you had a fun time and a great run!

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    1. I too hope that this race returns next year. Everything was so well done, perhaps you should think about making the trek. Don't forget it's not that far from Disney- you could always enjoy both. -DG

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  7. Congrats on your new PR!! This is a great review for first time races. If we lived in Florida, my husband and I thought about doing this race. Maybe if they have one near St. Louis we will register for it.

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    1. Getting a PR was a happy surprise. We do get some cool themed races here in FL. You could always dress as a Knight and Fair Maiden for one of your local races. Thanks for reading the blog. -DG

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