I know I’ve already spoiled it — but yay! First Half Marathon, done and dusted! It may have been my last Half, but I’ll touch on that later (is that enough of a hook for you to keep reading this entire novel of a blog post?). Let’s get on with the race itself. I promise that it won’t take you as long to read this as it took me to run it.
So, on Friday, Sudie and I ran the 5K, then we spent about 15 hours on our feet at the Magic Kingdom (arrived at 9 AM, I think we were back to the hotel at 12). Saturday morning, we were up early — I think I was up around 7:15 (thanks, body clock) — and hit both the Animal Kingdom and
MGM Hollywood Studios. All told, I walked about 27 miles those two days. The lack of sleep and the tons of time on my feet probably didn’t help me going into the race, but I have no regrets about enjoying Disney to the fullest.
The night before, we had a reservation at Downtown Disney — Portobello — to carbload and to make sure we ate a real meal. I’m not a huge pasta fan, but I had a delicious mushroom/pepperoni pizza, two glasses of red wine to help me fall asleep, and all the bread! It was delicious, and I’d wholeheartedly rec it to anyone headed to Disney. We made the reservation about 2 months out, but I think on a normal day, you’d be able to get in pretty easily. The four of us were headed back to the hotel around 9, set up our “getting ready” stations the next morning, and lights out was at 10. We had a 2:30 alarm, after all.
I’m used to getting by on little sleep, but the 4.5 hours I had didn’t feel like nearly enough. That alarm came way faster than I wanted it to. We were all up, sparkling ourselves and eating breakfast (midnight pizza for this girl), and we made it to the lobby of the hotel by about 3:15. The wonderful folks at the Art of Animation had coffee set up, and I beelined there before taking our obligatory group photo.
Disney had the transportation on lockdown all weekend, so we were on a bus to the staging ground around 3:45, I think, and we arrived a little before 4 AM. Yes, you read that correctly. The race wasn’t set to start until 5:45, so we definitely had some time to kill.
We found a spot next to the Champagne and Beer tent — foreshadowing: it’s also where we would meet at the end of the race! — and sat down to just take in everything. At that point, I was doublefisting Nuun and a cup of coffee (no such thing as over-hydrated!), and I had half a bagel while we were sitting there. I’m not the best at taking in calories during the run, so I wanted to make sure my tank was as full as possible before we started.
Disney had a ton of stuff set up before the race. Princesses were there to take pictures with, there was a merchandise tent (of course!), there was music — everyone was in a party mood!
We headed to the corrals around 4:45, and people were not exaggerating when they said it was a trek to get there. It’s a little bit over a mile from the staging area to the corrals, which took about 20 minutes. I was placed in Corral K (I think it was arbitrary because I never got my act together to send in a time), and Liz (who should probably be called St. Liz for dealing with me during the race) decided to jump back, so we could walk/run together. Berk and Sudie were up a little ahead of us in I. Liz and I were both going to do a run/walk, so it worked out well. We also had similar goals of not being swept from the course. You know, it’s the little things.
The first corral — holy speedy people, Batman — were off at 5:45, and we lowly folks back in K started at 6:18. As in the 5K, Disney did a great job with making every wave feel special. We were sent off with funny commentary, a touch of pixie dust from Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, and a burst of fireworks.
Almost immediately, I knew we’d have to stop for the bathroom, and I knew we’d be walking more than we intended. The course was so crowded, and like the Peachtree, it seemed like it would never thin out. We stopped to go to the bathroom at around mile 1.5, and that added probably about 10 minutes to our total time. So slow. It wasn’t that there weren’t enough portapottys — there were — and we actually waited until the second stop. Liz and I were consistently plagued with line issues all weekend, and it seemed that wouldn’t end in the race.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the race. I have highlights — getting to the Magic Kingdom! Marveling at the speed of the first corral (they were on mile 9 when we were on mile 2)! — and I have overriding thoughts, so I’m not going to be able to do a mile-by-mile breakdown. I don’t even have my mile splits — I did something to f up my Garmin during the race, so I have no clue.
The first part of the race went really quickly — I think we were high on life and the anticipation of running towards the Magic Kingdom. There were character stops, but all of the lines were really long, so we didn’t stop (I’m sure we would have if we had seen Alice or Merida); there were bands; there was the racetrack that I didn’t know was on Disney property. You hit the gates to the Magic Kingdom around Mile 5, and then from there on, our excitement level was pretty up there. I loved running through the park; I had obsessively read recaps of this race, and I thought people were exaggerating when they talked about how awesome it was running down Main Street USA. Spoiler alert: they weren’t.
That 1.5 miles or so we were in the Magic Kingdom were the highlight of my race. It’s so neat to be there when it’s basically deserted (except for you, the other runners, and the crowds cheering you on), there is so much to look at, and it really is just…magic. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.
Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the wagon for me shortly after we left the Magic Kingdom. Bad sign, since we were barely halfway through the race.
I was really worried about my foot the whole race, and it started giving me real trouble around mile 4. Liz was a champ and stuck it out with me until about Mile 8, then she went on ahead — only to be plagued by weird phone issues and a crazy person named Merida yelling contradictory directions at her when she saw her at the out-and-backs. Sorry, L. You’re the best.
One thing that I didn’t really take into account leading up to the race was how a temperature change would affect me during the course of the day. If you watch the news, you know that DC is having a fairly miserable winter, and the weather in Florida that Sunday was decidedly different. It was sunny and 75 — awesome when you’re drinking around the world in Epcot, not so awesome when none of your training for a half-marathon has been done at temps higher than 35-40 degrees. Between the foot and the heat, I was struggling. Hard.
I never doubted that I would finish, but I knew that I’d have to do it walking. That’s a pretty awful realization to come to with about 5 miles of a race to go. So, at the start of Mile 8, Liz and I split — she was going to keep running intervals, and I was going to walk. Walking doesn’t hurt nearly as badly because it doesn’t jar my foot as badly, and I was able to maintain about a 14 min pace walking, which, honestly was not that much slower than our walk/run intervals because I was going so slowly/the course was so crowded.
Miles 8-12 are a hot, slow, crowded blur. Everyone around me was going my pace, thankfully, and everyone was complaining about the heat. This part of the course is on a service road between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and we were facing the sun on a beautiful, cloudless Florida day. It was really GD hot.
We finally made it into Epcot, and I think that last mile of the race was the longest. People kept being like, you’re almost done! False. I don’t want anyone to tell me that until the finish line is in sight. I will say, it was really amazing to run through Epcot again, even though the park was open and the sun was up. In the last quarter mile, after running past Spaceship Earth, you round a corner to see a Gospel Choir (amazing), and then, it’s the finish! Done!
I finished somewhere around 3:10, which is not the time that I anticipated when I started this whole shebang last July. I’m not going to make excuses because I’m the one who failed to train the way I was supposed to, but I do know that I could do better. I’m really happy that I did this, but this may have been a one-time escapade into this distance — damn you, January Elizabeth, for setting those ambitious 2015 goals!
When I went to the doctor in September, I was told that I didn’t have the feet to be a distance runner — that I’d struggle with consistently running more than 3-4 miles. At that point, I had already paid for a hotel and the race, so I decided that I’d do this one. I also thought that the doc may have been wrong and that my feet would improve. Obviously not. Not only do my feet not want to cooperate, I learned throughout this entire process that I don’t really enjoy running much longer than an hour. I don’t really have the time to do it, nor do I have the motivation (if a Disney race can’t motivate you, what can?). I want to keep this up, and I’d like to focus on becoming a better 10K runner — and I may get back up to the distance, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.
Of course, no race recap would be complete without a somewhat sappy shout-out to my fellow #RPoA. This entire process was amazingly fun, and I know that it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable if I hadn’t had Berk, Liz, and Sudie by my side. I love these girls, and I look forward to cheering them on in everything they do in the future, whether or not running shoes are involved!
Okay. Done. Sorry about that. Tomorrow will be the last Disney recap — I promise — and then it’s on to bigger and better things. Hell, who am I kidding — on to smaller and less exciting things!