Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2013...Part 2...The Race!

2 a.m. ... and I am awake! I shower, squeeze into my compression gear and racing clothes, grab my niece and head out the door. I am so glad we got there by 2:45 because by the time the bus rolled around at 3:20 the line was long. And I mean long. We had to have at least 40 runners waiting behind us. Worst part was our hotel didn't have a dedicated bus for our hotel. It picked up Pop Century first and then us. We were just glad there were a few seats left.
We found seats!
Tip #1 - If staying on property definitely get to the bus by at least 3 a.m..
I found the people on the bus to be way more chatty than Tower of Terror Ten Miler. That bus was downright silent! Maybe everyone was just really pumped up and ready to go this time. I know I was! 

Now for us Floridians, the morning was downright chilly. I was happy for the longish walk to the Race Retreat tent. On the way to the tent the volunteers were grooving out to the d.j.. I caught them on video for you guys. So cute. We also walked on a red carpet through some Mickey Ear arches into the runner's area. Scanned the area and found the tent. Food and a chair were waiting for us! Woohoo!

Happy food = Happy runners!
The Race Retreat was completely worth it! The cocoa was creamy, the bagels fresh, cream cheese was nice and cold, and the variety of carbs and fruit was plentiful. The volunteers were visiting everyone and asking if we needed anything. Tink and her male companion (what was his name?) showed up while we ate. I am not a fairy fan so I didn't hop into that line. I would say we had about 45 minutes to relax, eat, and use the port-o-potties before they started telling everyone to head for their corrals. 

Line for the potty/the corrals path.
That was at 4:30 a.m.. Why do I tell you this? Because we didn't get to our corral until 5:15! Now this part was a little confusing. We went through our assigned entrance and into a sea of people. Seriously! In my opinion the cause of this was in the placement of those potties. We all had to cut through the lines for those things to get past the people. But hey, the crowd kept us warm! At 5 a.m. I began to worry because I wasn't at my corral yet. But then I looked at the thousands of people around me and knew that they would let me in.

Corral G port-o-potties
Light at the end of the
45 minute walk to the corral!
Tip #2 - ignore the lines and wait until you get to your corral to use the port-o-potty. I think what many of those potty people didn't know was that there were more just outside of your corral. Notice the very short lines in the picture.

Once we finally reached Corral G we had a bit of a wait.  We chatted with the people around us. We stretched a bit as we sat on the ground. We pretty much took the opportunity to rest while we could. But soon it was race time!

The video below is simply some highlights from the race. I was too busy concentrating all of my energy into keeping my niece's spirits up and my feet moving towards the end of the race to film everything. Also, some of it is bumpy so if you get motion sick watch with caution! Really , it is not that bad. Take a look.

This is not a constellation.
Fireworks behind us!
Oh how I wish I had gotten some video or even a photo of the official start of the race. The fire works were incredible! Not only were they in front of us but they were in back of us too. It was awesome. First, the wheel racers were off and then the 6 other corrals in front of us were off. Each corral had a unique set of fireworks to get them started. It is at this point that you can really take the opportunity to warm your legs back up if you are creative. From the start of the race until our corral start we had 35 minutes to kill.
Donald loves me...not you. Me, he's looking at me!

Now it was our turn. I knew that we were going to be doing a ton of run/walking so I purposely placed us in the middle of the pack. We were going to run for a minute and then walk a minute...which means a ton of weaving in and out of walkers for the first quarter mile.

Tip #3...if you know you are going to have a slow start or a short sprint before walking please stick to the middle or back of the pack. If you are a straight out walker might I suggest the very back. And preferably stay to the right with no more than two abreast. When a walking group stays in a pack four wide it makes it near impossible to run past them when in a tight space. Which leads to...

Tip #4...most walkers are courteous. Runners - If you need to pass simply yell out "On your ____!" Then as you pass simply say "Thank you!". Walkers - If you hear "On your ____!" please scooch over so they can pass. I am a run/walker or "wogger" -- as I like to call myself-- so I do both. Everyone be courteous and you will have a fun race.

Our starting fireworks!
Back to the race! The countdown ended and we were off! We began with a really good pace. I did have to giggle a bit though. I have never seen so many people start a race and within 100 yards dart into the woods to relieve themselves. So funny! The first mile I had my usual aches and pains in my legs but they always disappear around mile three. Between mile 2 and three they had the first character stop...CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow. 

Lame photo but it's
The Black Pearl!
I love that they played the theme music as we passed. Surprisingly enough it has a fantastic running pace tempo. Yeah, go check it out. We did not stop for that sexy beast of a man because we wanted to make sure our pace was ahead of the sweepers. Onward we ran. Then...it happened. A marching band playing the Rocky theme song! FANTASTIC! High fives all the way down as we passed.

Fellow band nerd passing
along good juju.
Tip #5... want an instant adrenaline rush? Run past the spectator's, volunteers, and roadside entertainment while high five-ing anyone who will high five you back. Not only will it make you smile but it makes them feel like they are there for a good cause. And they are! Thank you stranger high five receivers! I love you all.

Closing in on mile 3
and still smiling!

One man's forest is
another man's litter box.
Mile 3 found us running through the Magic Kingdom parking pass gate.We soon passed the racetrack and closed in on the second water stop. Again, I found myself passing a gang of roadside pee breakers. The port-o-potties were not thirty feet away with short lines. But I guess when you have to go you have to go. Who am I to judge? 

This is where a race turns into a steeple chase for those of us in the back of the pack. People forget to throw their cup to the side of the road. You have to be really careful running through this area. This is the first water stop I have ever had the misfortune of being hit on the head by a carelessly tossed cup. It was funny to me (the cup was empty) and the runner apologized. I have decided that if this happens to me in the future it is merely a good luck gesture from a fellow runner.

Did you know the monorail
has a horn?
As we neared the Contemporary Resort area we were given a surprise cheer. Did you know the monorail has a mac truck horn? I didn't know that but now I do! As it passed by overhead the conductor blasted the horn for us. Almost as good of a moral booster as a high five.

We get to run down
Mile 5 and we were running down Mainstreet U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom! I have to admit this was the beginning of me grinning from ear to ear and unable to stop grinning. I LOVE Disney and this was awesome. We made sure we avoided the trolley track. We ran through Tomorrow Land on our way to the highlight of the run... the castle!

The royal treatment.
Trumpeters on the balcony announcing our arrival!

This is the part where if you haven't watched the video you really need to scroll up and watch the video. Royal trumpeters began to play as we approached the castle. Moments like these are when Disney races become magical. This beat out all of the high fives I had gotten so far in the race. At this point the grin became an almost permanent fixture on my face. They finished just as I began to run through the castle. Of course I had to let out a "WOOOHOOO!". 

 At this point I looked at my watch and realized we had plenty of time to take pictures. My number one fear was getting swept. But we had kept up a really good pace despite shoe mishaps, checking on a runner who fell, and congested paths. 

We love Disney races!
Tip #6...run a pace that will give you time to take photos with your favorite characters. Also, the photo op in front of the castle is a must do. There is more than one photographer. This makes it a quick snap and go. Seriously, if I wasn't so worried about getting swept in my first half marathon I would have stopped for more pictures. I did however tell Caitlin that if I saw Princess Tiana I was going to stop and get the picture taken. Guess what? PRINCESS TIANA!!
Tiana -"Don't touch me slimy runner."
Me - "This is not slime...it is sweat!"
That didn't happen but it looks like
that is what she is thinking.

I said my fond farewells to my favorite princess and we were off again. We quickly ran through Liberty Square and then Frontierland. We were really sad to see that Splash Mountain was undergoing renovations. Little did we know we would be too sore to go ride it anyway, ha-ha!

Once we left the Magic Kingdom things turned not so magical. It was a long congested boring route from mile 6 to ten. I guess this was to be expected though. How do you top running through Magic Kingdom? You can't. 

Around mile 7 was when my niece began to struggle in a more visible way. At first she began cramping in her legs. She tried stretching. It helped a little. Then I suggested she try to just run it off. Up to this point we had been "wogging" with a little more lean towards the walk. This seemed to help a bit. Then she began to quickly tire. At this point I told her if she needed to leave me behind it was okay with me. "Run your race. Do whatever you have to do to finish." Off she sprinted. 

You may be thinking I was a terrible aunt at this point. No worries. Have you ever seen "Friday the 13th"? You know how the victim sprints off and runs for their lives? Yet no matter how fast they are Jason always comes strolling along and catches them. Yup. I was Jason. I always had her in my sights. She would run when I was walking. Then I would run and catch up. Then she would run. It was like a weird game of tag in the middle of a race. At mile 9.75 I finally jogged past her but quickly slowed down so she could catch up.

At that point she said she wanted to stick with me. I could see she was struggling. Mile 10 was the ramp up to an overpass. I told her to stay with me. We would walk up on the flat shoulder and then let gravity help us run down. Meanwhile, my mp3 player began playing "Dig A Little Deeper" from The Princess and the Frog. My goofy aunt side came out and I began singing to her. Then people around me joined in for the chorus. It was fun. At the top we passed by the army guy from "Toy Story". I looked back to say something to her and she was about ten feet behind me. She signaled that she would run down with me and we were off. That is when I lost her.

I slowed my walk and waited. Finally I saw her. She signaled to go on without her. Here's an insight into my niece. If you tell her you love her and how proud you are and that she can do this she will lose all strength and start to cry. If total strangers cheer her on she will put on a burst of speed. So I chose to go on without her knowing she wouldn't give up but afraid she may get swept.

The end is near but
where is Caitlin?
At mile 11 I was able to see her about 100 feet behind me. But  when I reached the last overpass I saw the dreaded sweeper vans. Or so I thought that was what they were. They were about a mile behind the last runners. Before that overpass there was a u-turn of sorts on the course. I passed by Caitlin and asked if she wanted me to wait for her. She shook her head and motioned for me to keep going. So when I saw what I think were the sweepers I got worried.

Mile 12 and I was almost to the finish. As I entered EPCOT I began to look behind me for Caitlin. Did she get swept? Should I slow down? I chose to slow down and only run when I saw a camera. Hey! I wanted "action" shots! Up ahead was another u-turn spot near the entrance to the worlds area. As I ran I saw her coming up the path. WOOHOO! I knew she wouldn't give up and I was so happy she hadn't been swept. I again stopped and asked if she wanted me to wait for her. This time she only had the energy to give me a slight no shake of the head. I ran for about 50 feet to mile 13 and waited. i wanted to finish with my buddy. As I waited (about two full minutes) the cast members began to change the course. I panicked. I thought for sure they were about to pull people from the race.

I knew she wouldn't want me to get swept so I bolted. We had a deal that should one of us get swept the other would carry on. But I felt so bad for her and hoped I was wrong and just paranoid. Onward I jogged. Soon I was passing underneath "Space Ship Earth" (that globe thingy) and passing by my good friend Karen and her family! She had finished hours earlier and had made her family go see me finish the race. Yay! I tried to tell her what was happening with my niece but she just yelled "Run girl!". So I ran.

One of the last surprises Disney had for us near the end of the race was a gospel choir. I couldn't believe I was about to finish my first half marathon with some energy left. I almost shouted Hallelujah at them. On I jogged. I could see the finish line. I began to search the stands for my family but couldn't find them. But at last I crossed the finish line.

I had done it! I had finished my first half marathon and didn't feel like death! I was so happy but worried at the same time. I walked to the volunteer handing out medals and had him place mine around my neck. That's right, no handing me my medal. Place it around my neck where it belongs. I was a half marathoner now!

But where was my family? Where was Caitlin? Did she get swept? I quickly got my finisher photo taken, grabbed my goodie box and water, and headed back towards the finish line. Who should come strolling up but Caitlin with a medal around her neck. She had done it! She wasn't swept and she hadn't given up. 

She really is happy.
Just one worn out 14 year old!

I asked her if she was okay and she said she was good. She had put everything she had into the last 50 feet and sprinted across the finish line. She also said she had high fived Donald Duck at the finish! I was so concentrated on crossing that line and finding my family that I had failed to see Mickey and Donald. 

Tip #7...notice Mickey and Donald at the finish line. You can have your picture taken with them.

So that is my recap of our first half marathon race at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was a blast. I couldn't imagine any other half marathon being as memorable or as fun as this one. I highly recommend this race to anyone with a goal to complete a half marathon. I would race it again in a heart beat. And just in case you were wondering if this would be her last race...Caitlin has decided she wants to run in a full marathon. I believe she can do it.

Click here for my "day before the race" Recap of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo