Yesterday I completed the second of three races I signed up to do this year: the Disneyland Half Marathon. I was nervous about doing it, as I had been sick and injured this past week, but as it turns out I had nothing to worry about. I finished, happy and healthy, with a new personal record (PR) to boot!
I drove up to Anaheim on Saturday morning. An old high school friend lives in the area, and I hadn't seen her since our 20th high school reunion three years ago, so I stopped off and had lunch with her and her family. It was nice to reconnect with her, meet her children for the first time, and relax. All too soon I had to leave, as I needed to check into my hotel and get to the Expo before it closed.
Disney really went all out for this race, and no detail was left out (would you expect anything less from Disney?) They had complimentary shuttle service to and from all of their partnering hotels in the area, which was really nice. I checked in to my hotel, the Hilton, and caught the next shuttle to Downtown Disney, which I then had to walk through to get to the Disneyland Hotel. I got my bib and timing chip then headed downstairs to get my t-shirt, goody bag, and hit the Expo. Once there I connected with my friend who's been helping me train; he was running the race as well. I bought myself a tank top from One More Mile. I love their stuff...their slogans are so funny. The one I got says "Dear God, please let there be someone behind me to read this" on the back. Very cute. After the Expo, I had to hit the shops to buy my kids gifts (a Star Wars Lego set for D, and a stuffed baby Cinderella for A) and then my friend and I ate a carb-loaded dinner at ESPN Zone. All too soon, it was back to the hotel to lay my gear out for the next day and to go to sleep early.
As we were supposed to be in the start area at around 4:30, I set my clock for 3:45. Actually, I set 4 clocks (I was so paranoid I wouldn't get up in time!) As it turns out, I didn't need any. I was wide awake at 3:15, too excited and nervous to go back to sleep. I finally got out of bed, brushed my teeth, got dressed, ate a Clif bar, and headed downstairs. I met another runner, Roxanne, in the elevator, and ended up hanging out with her from the shuttle to the pre-race area and even ran the first mile with her. The pre-race area (actually the Lilo and Stitch parking lot) was crowded with 14,000 racers and was humming with excitement. Soon it was time to go to our assigned corrals (I was in Corral E) and wait for the start. The race started promptly at 6:00--for Corral A. They staggered the start times for Corrals, so by the time I actually got to cross the start line it was almost 6:30! Mickey and Minnie Mouse were at the start line, cheering us on (or should I say, chEARing us on?)
The first few miles were amazing. We headed around the perimeter of the park, then entered California Adventure. It was so fun to be in the theme parks that I didn't even turn on my iPod for the first four miles! They had all the characters out in full force--seemed mostly characters from Pixar movies like Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, etc--and many people stopped to pose for pictures with them. I was tempted--I had brought my camera with me on the run and took many pictures myself--but didn't want to stop and wait in line to pose. I knew it would take too much time off my final time. They had fun music playing from High School Musical, and the rides (like the ferris wheel) were operating, although of course they were empty. After we ran through California Adventure we exited the park and headed across the lot to the Magic Kingdom.
To me, the Magic Kingdom was even MORE fun than California Adventure! I have grown up going to Disneyland, so it was incredible to run up Main Street. The course veered off into Frontier Land, then over through Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land. Of course, the characters were out in full force here too. Lots of Princesses, of course (Princess Tiana posed with Louis the Alligator, and right outside of Sleeping Beauty's Castle was Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) but I also saw the Little Einsteins and Storm Troopers (outside of Star Tours, of course), as well as other characters whose names I don't remember.
A really fun part was running through Sleeping Beauty's Castle...we ran through it while leaving Fantasy Land, on our way to Tomorrow Land. That area was full of villians! On top of the Castle was the witch from Sleeping Beauty, casting spells...to the right was Cruella de Ville...and to the left was the Queen from Snow White. Music played throughout the Magic Kingdom. Princess-y music in some part, and Star Wars music in Tomorrow Land. One advantage to running through Disneyland was the bathrooms! They were all open! I am used to using Porta-Pottys, or something similar, during long runs. I gladly took advantage of the nice bathroom behind the Alice-in-Wonderland ride before I exited Fantasy Land. It's always nice to have proper plumbing and soap and water!
By about mile 3 1/2, we headed behind Toon Town in the back lot. This was interesting, because of course I'd never been behind the scenes before. We then exited the park (I was sad to leave) and we were on the streets of Anaheim. This part of the race was a regular non-descript route. I turned on my iPod and kept running. There were lots of spectators along the way, however, which made it more fun. Lots of school bands, cheerleaders, even clubs and organizations (for example, at one point there was some sort of Hispanic group doing what looked like square dancing off to the side. I know it wasn't square dancing per se, but it was similar, and fun to run by). Boy Scout troops, Brownie troops...they were all out cheering. Our first names were on our bibs, and many people called out my name in particular, which always gave me extra motivation and a big smile on my face. Lots of kids were lining parts of the course with their hands out....I tried to give as many "high fives" as I could. They loved it, and so did I!
Although most of the streets of Anaheim was pretty boring, we did get to run through Angel Stadium. That was amazing! We ran down a tunnel, and were suddenly on the outfield and got to run the perimeter. The stadium had tons of people cheering. I saw my favorite spectator sign of the race: "You Look Hot When You Sweat". Loved it! I gave tons of high-fives along the way to the kids leaning over the sides with their arms outstretched. They had a video camera somewhere on the course that put people on the Jumbotron...however, I looked too late at the screen and missed seeing myself. On the way out I saw my second favorite spectator sign: "Run, Walk, Crawl...Just Finish!".
Finally I got to mile 11, and we were entering the Downtown Disney area again. When I saw the time clock at mile 11 I realized that despite my fears, injury and sickness this past week that I was actually doing well on time, and would PR. I really pushed myself hard then. I was very tired, but told myself I could rest--and cry!--later. I sprinted most of the last 2 miles, with only a few walk breaks. When I finally crossed the finish line, I was glad I did....I set a PR by 7 minutes and 6 seconds! My time was just a little bit over 2 hours 47 minutes. I was so proud of myself! I got my medal, my picture taken, and post-race snack, and went to find my friend (who had finished over an hour before). After a refreshing stop at Jamba Juice, it was back to the hotel to shower, then head on home.
I had been nervous about this race because I hadn't done a long run in 3 weeks...but this just proved to me that I am fit. Even without a long run, I had swam, biked or done the elliptical practically every day since the AFC Half and this kept me strong and ready. Now, onto my first triathlon, which is in less than a month. My next half marathon will be the Carlsbad Half in January. Can't wait!