Settle on in. This post is going to long, so get ready because I’m about to tell you all about my personal worst half marathon I’ve ever run.
Vacation highlights and race expo:
First off, the vacation as a whole was awesome! I’ve never actually been to Disney before so it was super exciting for me. Also, doing Disney as a childless adult is definitely the way to go. We got to be selfish about what we wanted to do and when without having to worry about kids. Parents pushing strollers and dragging kids around all looked kind of miserable.
We flew into San Diego early Wednesday and got there around lunch time. We spent the whole afternoon at the zoo which was incredible. Best zoo I’ve ever been to, and I love the zoo.
After that we did dinner and called it an early night. Our flight flew out at 630am EST and by 8pmWST we were both completely drained. The next day we hit up a couple of the museums out by the zoo. The DC museums are way better. We did the air and space museum and the natural history museum. But it was still nice to see some new things. After that we headed to the Midway which was seriously cool. They have an audio tour, two guided tours, and two different presentations. You could easily spend the entire day there. It was really, really awesome.
We left San Diego about mid afternoon and started our trip up to Anaheim. That evening we did a little shopping then actually went to see Dumb and Dumber, which was fun.
Friday we got up and headed for the race expo. I’m soooooo glad we did the expo the very first day it was open. We grabbed our packets first which was a breeze. They had everything set up by bib number and all the lines were nice and short. We were in and out with our packets really quickly. After that we headed into the actual expo and holy cats, I have never seen a race expo as huge as this. There had to be upwards or 40-50 vendors there. It was incredible. I was able to buy a new SPIbelt and a sparkly red Headsweats visor to complete my costume for Sunday. After perusing a bit we finally figured out we had to get in line for the official merchandise. The line was insane, we waited over and hour to be let into the official RunDisney section of the expo. This is the part I was most happy we made it out there on Friday about, because we did go back Saturday morning and the official gear was almost completely wiped out. There were lots of things that had already sold out, and even when we got in on Friday after the expo had only been going on for a couple of hours, a lot of sizes were already gone. On Saturday when we back we even splurged on the exclusive New Balance RunDisney shoes. Rob got the Goofy ones and I got Cinderella. They’re cute and super comfy.
We did spend Friday and Saturday in the parks too. We got the three day park hopper pass and had so much fun bouncing back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure. We went on loads of rides and really just enjoyed ourselves. Although Friday night we headed up to LA because Rob ended up grabbing us tickets for the Lakers versus the Spurs game. And while neither of us are really fans of either team, it was cool to see the Staples Center and it was a first for both of us to go to an NBA game. I will say, doing two days of running around Disney before the race was not the best idea, but we had fun, so I don’t regret it. I will remember for the future though; race first, vacation second.
Sunday was race day. Afterwards we napped before heading back to LA to check out Universal Studios. We spent a couple of hours there, doing a couple of rides, before leaving to meet up with an old camp friend for dinner. We hadn’t seen Kevin in a few years, so it was awesome to catch up. After dinner we went back to Disney again to do a few rides in the dark and try to catch the fireworks display, which ended up being cancelled because of the wind. Sadness.
Monday we hit up Universal again then went to a live taping of the Conan O’Brien show, which was soooo incedibly awesome and fun, before heading back to San Diego for the night so we could catch our flight the next morning easier. I will say, I wish we did one day at Universal and a fourth day at the Disney parks. It was soooo much fun and we’re already talking about when we can take a trip down to Florida to go to Disney World. It was such a fun vacation and I’m really, really glad we went. We both kind of needed the break and to just spend some time together, so it was so nice.
Race Report – RunDisney Avengers Super Hero Half Marathon:
No matter how many races I do, I will never enjoy getting up so many hours before the sun. Our alarm went off at 315am sharp and I rolled out of bed to pull myself together. Get dressed and costumed up, drink a bit of coffee, load up my fuelbelt and head out. We waited a while outside the hotel for the shuttle. After it was already a few minutes late someone asked the front desk about it. They said the 330am bus never came. The shuttle was supposed to grab us at 430 and it was now after that. The bus did eventually show up and I ended up in a standoff with the bus driver. Rob had scooted back inside for a minute and she claimed we couldn’t wait for him. Um, you’re already wicked late, what’s another minute!? It ended with me standing in the road in front of the bus. I’m so good at making friends sometimes.
I also got to meet one of my Junebug friends. She ended up on the shuttle too so we got to chat a bit and hug. So at least I had one friend, stupid bus service.
I spent most of the bus ride freaking out. My Garmin wouldn’t turn on past the start up screen and I realized my bluetooth dongle that makes my ancient ipod work with my headphones was not in my ipod. I finally hard reset my Garmin out of sheer frustration after four or five soft resets didn’t work. Still not doing anything. It didn’t start up finally until I got off the bus and stood still for a few minutes. Then it flashed me the low battery warning and promptly shut off. Low battery!? It’s been off in my bag the whole time! It must have gotten bumped on and drained, I’ve never had an issue with it’s battery before. So ultimately I ended up running with my ipod on my arm, my headphones slung around my neck, and my Garmin on my wrist, but not a single one of those electronics was functioning. Go figure.
We rolled up to the start after booking it the mile through downtown Disney right as corral A was being sent off. We were in corral C and slipped in just as corral C was being herded up to the starting line. No time to take anything in. We just made it before the gun went off for our wave.
The race starts by running through a back lot behind California Adventure before turning into the park at Cars Land. It was so cool to run through the life sized Radiator Springs with everything all lit up. We weaved our way around the different parts of California Adventure before dipping back out of the park. Through another back lot then back into the park, entering into Disneyland from the back. There were character stops in both parks, but the lines were really long, so we only snapped a few pictures from afar. Neither of us got a picture with any of the characters. As we continued through the park we got through the castle while it was all lit up. So pretty and such and incredible feeling. We headed down Disneyland Main Street before slipping back out of the park and turning onto open road.
At this point we were done with the parks. The course stayed outside of the parks for the rest of the run. We ran down closed off streets through Anaheim. And it wasn’t until we hit those open roads that it became very apparent that this run was going to be insanely difficult. Not only were my legs super fatigued from walking about 20 miles in the two days leading up to the race, but the Santa Ana Winds decided to rear their ugly head. No matter which way we turned it seemed we were always running into the wind. Strong headwinds forced us to slow to a walk too many times. But it felt like we were running in place half the race. It was insane.
The course support was awesome. There were spectators everywhere. All the local school districts had their cheerleading squads out. There had to be upwards of a dozen cheer teams along the route. There were multiple marching bands along the way, and a few stretches were there were about 30 or 40 people dressed in theme doling out high fives. The course support was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
After a few miles on open roads, we ran through a crowd of about 50 people dressed as various Avengers characters right around the 10k point. It was super cool, but it was an omen. We had a fun time running down the line high fiving all the super heros, but once the line of them died off, we turned onto a running trail along a dried out riverbed and were immediately blasted by wind. Brutal, painful wind that was dragging all the sand off the riverbed and pelting us with it. And this terrible horrible stretch was two freaking miles long. It was so awful. I had my hand on my visor the whole time pulling it down to shield my eyes. Rob got sand under his sunglasses. People wearing capes had them pulled over the their faces. We just got hammered with 30mph sand blasts for the whole length of the trail. It was completely miserable.
Finally we turned off the trail, bringing us into the parking lot for the Angels Stadium. This was by far one of the best parts of the run. We ran down inside the stadium and out onto the field. There was a marching band and color guard on the field, the jumbo tron had the RunDisney Avengers logo on it, and we got to run around the outer edge of the field. It was so awesome to run along the field of a major league baseball stadium. Seriously awesome.
After we left the stadium, I grabbed a Clif Shot from an aid station, slurped it down, and settled in for the last four miles. I was starting to falter. My legs were screaming, my muscles were on fire, and I was pretty exhausted and dehydrated. I was in no way what so ever following my usual half marathon fueling plan. The wind was back in our faces and it was all we could do to run for a few minutes, then walk for a few. The wind was just destroying us. Those last couple of miles out on open road were all a blur. I couldn’t even really tell you what was happening other than Rob and I were suffering together. If there was ever a list of what not to do before a race, we had checked off every item. And those decisions were causing us some hurt. Around mile 11 we entered the back lot of the parks again. I was becoming a bit delirious. My brain was trying to shut off and disappear into my pain cave, but my body was fighting it. Around the last few miles of a long course race, I do a great job shutting off my brain and turning on my focus regardless of how I feel. But this time my body was winning and I was so confused.
Around mile 12 Rob stopped to stretch out a cramp. Stopping was making my cramps worse, but I stopped with him. With only a mile left we really tried to buckle down and just bring it to the finish. We rounded the outside edge of the back lot and turned into the Disneyland Hotel parking lot. The finish line was only a few tenth of a mile away. I finally got my mind under control, picked up my pace, and barreled through the finish chute and across the finish line.
After I crossed the finish line, someone put a medal around my neck, another person stopped me to snap my picture, but all I wanted was water. I was so dehydrated and just wanted a drink. I weaved my way through throngs of runners and photographers until I finally found the drink table. I grabbed a water and took a few big chugs. Rob and I wandered more until we found food, but I never got anything down. There was a massage tent set up, but there were no tables or massage therapists under the tent. Had there been I totally would have thrown myself at them. I was hurting something fierce and it took all my effort not to just let my legs give out and sit in the middle of the parking lot. I don’t think I could have gotten back up if I did. We made it as far as about a third of the way through downtown Disney before my legs finally gave up.
My official finish time was 2:47:03. My slowest half marathon ever. In fact, that is ten minutes slower than I ran my half Ironman 13.1, but that’s okay. And to be frank, I’m glad my Garmin didn’t work. As mush as I’m in the camp of if it didn’t record it didn’t happen, by not having it work I never once during the race got upset about my pace or all the walking I did. I’ll never scrutinize my splits and Rob and I were able to just enjoy running together without the added frustration of worrying about our time.
My overall impressions of the race? Awesome! RunDisney puts on an incredible race and I can see why people get hooked on doing them. Even when we were out of the park on open roads they made sure there was on course entertainment at every miles, almost nonstop in fact. There were enough aid stations and the course was well marked and manned. The expo was fun and the swag they give away was great. We’re already talking about doing another one and maybe trying for coast to coast in a year or two. Really the only downside to this race was the horrible wind situation, which was out of anyone’s control, so really no complaints.
We had an awesome vacation, the race was fantastic, and at the end of the day I’m really happy with the whole week. I have only more registered race on my 2014 schedule, so it’s time to get back in the gym and back to running. Bring on the holidays!