Race: Disneyland Half Marathon
Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California
Date: September 1, 2013
If you recall…back in February, I participated in the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which is held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. That being said, I also know that Disney does this fantastic thing where if you run a half marathon at one of their parks and then, within the same calendar year, run another half marathon in the other park, you get a reward for going “Coast To Coast.” In this case…an additional piece of bling.
A dear friend of mine who also ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon was running the Disneyland Half Marathon as well. In fact…we both signed up within minutes of each other. And the planning stages were on for a reunion. But this time…with all four of “THE GIRLS!” It was going to be a trip to remember. Aside from being the first visit to Disneyland for Cathy and I, it would mark the first time the four of us had gotten together since…2011. Needless to say…I was nervous…and excited all at once.
Here’s the deal though…I’m in full-fledged marathon training mode currently. And with that being said, it meant that I had to mess around with the training schedule a little bit to fit into the travel plans. For one thing…rest days were moved…and, keeping in mind where I was going after the California portion of the trip was over (Cathy and I went to Colorado for the last part of the trip), I also wanted a more convenient spot than a city to do my long run. So…the schedule was shifted around a bit and made to fit. It wasn’t perfect…but it was doable.
On Friday, August 30, I was up at 3 a.m. to get in a 7 mile training run, which normally I would have done on…say…Sunday or something. Friday is a usual rest day, but the rest day was coming on Saturday instead. I guess. Because I knew that there would be lots of sightseeing at Disneyland…so a lot of walking…not so much resting. But…at least no running. So, up super early, out the door getting work done. I showered…finished packing (and took a risk by packing my running shoes in my luggage instead of taking them carry-on like I did for Florida…I kept my running outfit in my carry-on, but the shoes went into the suitcase because I figured I could replace the shoes at the expo…but not my costume)…ate breakfast…and headed into work a little early to get that kind of work done. Haha! A co-worker drove us to the airport and dropped us off, negating the need to park our car in the extended stay lot and pay an ungodly amount of money for the pleasure. We arranged with a different co-worker to pick us up late Sunday night when our flight came in. We had it handled. That being said, we checked our bags (LOVE flying Southwest) and headed to our gate. We actually had some time before our plane was due to depart, so we settled in to read…snack on some dark chocolate covered acai berries…and wait.
Before we knew it, the plane was boarding. I was at the tail-end of the A group so when I got on the plane, I found the closest two seats with a window to the front of the plane that I could find. We were making a hop over to Chicago, but not getting off the plane. When the passengers disembarking in Chicago moved off the plane though, Cathy and I moved forward. Then…the never-ending 4 hour flight into Sacramento happened. It was such a long time to be sitting…and my body was not happy with it. I did a lot of reading (at the time, polishing off Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich) and a lot of whining about being uncomfortable. So landing in Sacramento was a relief. I could move and I could find something to eat. Which…for me ended up being this little salad of spinach, tomato, and feta cheese. It was…eh…as it came from one of those stands inside the shops and not a restaurant. It was something though, and that’s what mattered. I made a comment about what was for dessert but I think Cathy thought I was kidding and just laughed it off. Hmm…you’d think she’d know better. Anyway, we were soon on our last flight from Sacramento into Burbank and soon we were meeting up with Jenn (also known as Indy) at the airport, piling luggage into the car, and heading to her house to drop it off. Once that happened, we were back in the car heading out to the train station to pick up Tanya (also known as Tawn), who was coming in from Fresno for the weekend. SO thrilled. The four of us were back together again.
And, despite having been awake at this point for over 24 hours, I didn’t feel the least bit tired. We gathered at Indy’s house, watched The Mighty Boosh, ate a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie (Evan and Indy went out to Whole Foods for gluten-free snacks…because they are that awesome!), and eventually decided that we’d have to be up by 5:30 a.m. in order for all of us to cycle through the shower before heading to Disneyland. And Disneyland was important. So we said goodnight and all went to sleep.
My alarm went off super-early the next morning and I staggered off the air mattress and into the kitchen. Tawn was going to hit up the shower first…and Indy was up and asked if I wanted coffee. OF COURSE!! She made some of the best coffee ever, for the record. I caffeinated myself while Tawn showered…and eventually Cathy staggered out and headed right for the fridge for a Diet Mt. Dew. That’s her caffeine of choice. Soon, I was showering, and we were figuring out breakfast afterwards. We finally just had bananas, I think. It worked. It was something in the stomach to start. And then…we were “Tetris-ing the shit out of the trunk” trying to fit all our luggage in for the journey and two night stay (hey, in our defense, Cathy and I had to pack for 9 days, plus one fancy dinner!). Indy is a rockstar and managed to make it work. And then…the drive to Disneyland!
My first Disneyland experience started in…the parking structure. But soon we were taking the escalator down to the shuttle that would take us to the park entrance. We were starting with California Adventure. Indy and Cathy went to go stand in line for Fast Passes for the Radiator Springs Racers (which I’m glad they did…because they ran out quickly) while Tawn and I went to go start off the Disneyland trip right with some Tower of Terror fun. We met up after that…went and did Soarin’ Over California…walked around Radiator Springs…rode Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree…and then hit up Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. We paused at this point to eat lunch…where we all sort of did our own thing. I was pretty much limited to a salad with a gluten-free roll. But this salad was the size of Godzilla. Seriously. I ate what I could and called it quits. From there…Radiator Springs Racers…then Tawn and I went on California Screamin’…and then we took in a water show that was conducted by Goofy. At that point…we decided it was time to hit up the Fitness Expo. After all, I had a packet to pick up. We wound our way through the resort, heading down to the packet pick-up area, where I headed to the first booth, as my bib number was for Corral A. Lead corral once again! I flashed my ID and turned in my waiver and I was handed my bib and tagged with my Coast To Coast bracelet. Sweet. Then…over to the expo where I would get my swag bag and t-shirt. I really wish I had held up my t-shirt before leaving because this thing is a small…but it is a TENT!! Holy crap! Oh well. It still works and I will still wear it (sometimes…as it is orange and that’s not one of my best colors). Then…shopping!! I ended up buying two additional bottles to hook onto my fuel belt (per my sports nutritionist) for extra hydration and then I bought the Castle To Castle t-shirt from one of the vendors. There was so much more I wanted…but I was just starting vacation and didn’t want to spend all my money in one place. The ONE item that I wanted most though was the official Disneyland Half Marathon pin (I collect pins), but they were sold out and you can’t order them online. I was seriously bummed out and sad for the rest of the day. After listening to Sean Astin talk and finishing up some more shopping, we all departed the expo to head back to the hotel to unwind a bit before dinner. We crashed…munching on some gluten-free crackers with hummus and just…laying about. We all were wiped. A lot of it being from how hot it was outside…and little sleep. For me…VERY little sleep.
After some downtime, we were back at it, heading out to Disneyland. Indy had to head back to the expo to meet up with an old friend of hers, leaving us with Tawn as our guide. We hit some highlights, like the room where Walt Disney stayed when he was in the park…the statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse…Sleeping Beauty’s Castle…and finally the carousel, where Indy found us and was able to join us for the ride. I was having the time of my life. We had been discussing an early return to the hotel so we could get some rest before the race on Sunday morning…but Indy saw the Fast Passes for World of Color and we (meaning she and I) decided we had to do that. And that started at 9 p.m. So, the original plans were scrapped and we were locked in with fast passes for the show. We hit up Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (I sucked!) before heading over to Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port for dinner. Why there? Gluten-free pizza of course. It is my night-before-the-race required meal. It had to happen. Cathy got a slice of regular pizza and some breadsticks. Tawn and Indy each got pasta and split some breadsticks. I waited for about 10 minutes to place my order with the chef…then had to wait another 10 minutes for it to be made. And it took an additional 5 minutes to actually get it. So, by the time I joined my friends at the table, only Tawn was still eating. The other two had finished. The pizza was very much like the one I got on the fly at Disney World…so…not horrible…not fantastic. Just…gluten-free pizza. And that was enough. We then booked it over to World of Color and watched the colorful water show before calling it a night. That took a little while too because I was trying to lay out everything I would need in the morning…costume…hair accessories…shoes…race bib…fuel belt…fuel…etc. Finally climbed into bed to snag a few restless hours of sleep.
The alarm sounded loud and clear way, way, way too early. It was 3 a.m. and I was now getting on my outfit to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Why Belle? Because my niece, Kaytlynn, loves Belle. She is her favorite Disney princess…and I promised her I would run as her. I am an auntie of my word. So into the gold sports bra and sparkle skirt I got…did my hair up with little red rose accessories and red hair extensions. Slipped into my black compression sleeves and got my fuel belt loaded with Sports Beans, GU, and one bottle of water and one of NUUN (for electrolytes). Indy was in the process of getting dolled up as Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and we both opted to step outside to see what the weather was like. The first words out of my mouth where, “It’s gross out here! UGH!” It was gross out there. High humidity and temperatures already in the 70s. BLECH! Cathy quickly made up some signs as Tawn got dressed up as a makeshift Snow White. And…we of course had breakfast. I had brought some of my gluten-free cereal with me from Louisville…so I ate that while I got ready, snagging a banana for 30 minutes before the race. When we were fed, dressed, and prepped…we headed out the door of the hotel for the long trek to the staging area for the race. We wandered through the empty park, making our way to where we needed to be. We even passed the finish line. The race jitters were starting to hit.
We took some pictures at the staging area…then were bombarded by MarathonPhoto people wanting our pictures. I swear we were asked at least 20 times for pictures. And not just of Indy and I…but also of Cathy and Tawn. How epic!! Now they are part of the race memories. But, really, Indy and I were trying to shake off fatigue, stretch, and mentally prepare for the race. I did some walking lunges, some butt kickers and a lot of active stretching to get the muscles loose while I could. I ducked over to the port-o-potties to use the bathroom one more time. Washed my hands. Ate my banana…and had to go get into my corral. I was in Corral A…Indy was in Corral F. So we told each other to have a good race and went our separate ways.
Not as much was happening at the start line as there was at the Disney Princess Half Marathon. The Disneyland Half Marathon, however, is not focused mostly on women, so the corral definitely had more testosterone in it this time. Cathy came over to tell me that she and Tawn found a great spot about 20 feet from the start on the left side, so I moved to the left so they could see me when I left the gate. A marriage proposal happened on stage at one point. They brought up some guests to the stage including The Biggest Loser’s Allison Sweeney (LOVE HER!), Sean Astin, and NSYNC’s Joey Fatone. Now, Tawn had been dying to meet Joey so when he was on stage, I was totally thinking about her. Then the small amount of downtime occured and this is where I found myself literally dozing. I was falling asleep on my feet. I think, combined, I might have gotten 5 hours of sleep in 2 nights. Fatigue had moved to complete exhaustion. Not good when the race hasn’t even started yet. I tried to shake it off…but just couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open. The National Anthem played…and then they sent off the wheelchair racers. My corral was next…so we all moved up. And when the horn sounded, I started my Garmin as I crossed the start line, saw Cathy and Tawn, giving each of them a wave, and hit the roads of Anaheim.
For the first mile I was with a guy dressed up as Woody from Toy Story. He was even carrying a Woody doll with him. People kept saying, “Hey! It’s Buzz!” And he would, in a perfect Tom Hanks voice, reply, “I’m not Buzz! I’m Woody!” It was awesome. But he soon dropped behind and I was now entering California Adventure. It is still dark at this point, and as we run by the Paradise Bay, where World of Color was done, the lights and fountains are on, greeting runners as they go by. The music was even playing. It was very uplifting, actually. Just what I needed. From there, it was out of California Adventure and into Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was lit up and the runners made their way up the street and through the castle. This all happened within the first three and a half miles…so, after that, it was back out onto the roads for the rest of the journey for the most part. It was “blink and you miss it” through the parks, really. But I always get such a rush when I run through the castles at Disney. I was starting to wake up now.
Miles 4-8 were all done on the road. So, not much to look at…until you hit Mile 7. Here you get treated to the most amazing car show. People brought out all their beautiful vintage cars and are displaying them for the runners, taking away the monotony that the highway roads would normally offer. Some honked their horns, all of them were cheering and clapping. I loved that part of the race. If I wasn’t already feeling uplifted, that helped.
Mile 8 led me past The Honda Center, which is where the Anaheim Ducks play hockey. Very cool little stretch of the run there. This lead into the unpaved mile of the run, along the Santa Ana River Trail. Loose gravel. Wasn’t expecting that in Anaheim. But, there it was. In fact, one of the wheelchair racers was struggling with her racing chair in the grooves of the gravel. She managed to regain momentum afterwards though, because she passed quite a few of us up on our way to Angel’s Stadium.
Yep…Angel’s Stadium. Home to the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. I was looking forward to this part of the run. I am not much into sports, but I grew up on baseball. I played softball. I went to baseball games. I love the sport. So, the opportunity to run through the stadium…across home plate even…was thrilling. And the stands were packed with people…and the roar of the cheers was incredible. They even had an announcer there listing off names as you passed over the sensor. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was epic! Just ahead of me, I noticed the wheelchair racer had taken a tumble out of her chair on the corner leading out of the park. She had some volunteers helping her out. She was a little scraped up…but seemed fine and eager to get back into her chair and on the move. Trust me…it didn’t slow her down any.
Three more miles to go after I left the stadium. I kept telling myself…just a 5K left. I knew I wasn’t going to PR…and I hadn’t set out to do that on this race. I made a promise to my sports nutritionist to treat this as a training run, and that was how I ran it. It was horribly humid and hot out…but I was still having a great time. I still felt good. I felt as though I could run more…which is always a good sign. So, I ticked off Mile 11, giggling at the sign that said “$175 for a half marathon…Smile only $37.40 to go!” So clever. So awesome. At around Mile 12, I got passed by a guy running and juggling. RUNNING AND JUGGLING!! AND PASSING PEOPLE! He had to be super human or something. Geeze. I knew I was getting close though. I didn’t once glance at my watch…I just ran…and as the finish line came into view, I couldn’t keep from smiling. My name was called as I slapped hands with Mickey Mouse and crossed over the finish line. Yes…I had to high-five Mickey. I had to!! I was all smiles. And I saw Tawn and Cathy flagging me from the crowd. And the smile got even bigger.
They were going to meet me in the staging area, so I made my way over to receive my Finisher’s medal…then some water…and then to get my Coast To Coast medal as well. From there, I made my way over to where they were handing out goody boxes full of mostly gluten-free options. And soon, I was heading out of the recovery area. And there they were…right at the gate…Tawn and Cathy. Both gave me hugs, not minding that I was slick with sweat. My official time beeped over my phone and Cathy told me. We high fived and I went to get a bag of ice and settle in to eat my banana. Hydrating and keeping to the shade, we decided that we had some time before Indy came in, so we made our way back to the hotel, where I showered, changed, and got ready to head back out to the park to cheer for Indy as she crossed.
It was hot…especially with the sun up now…but we were eagerly anticipating her arrival at the finish line. I had a vague notion of when she would be in thanks to the live updates I was receiving to my cell phone. Two minutes after the last update said she’d make it to the finish…there she was. Apparently she was a mess at the finish line…crying…hurting…and just happy to have it done. Poor thing. We went to go meet her at the designated area (Lilo 14), but I decided to go to the gate she’d have to come out of while Tawn and Cathy waited where we arranged before the start of the race. She finally made it out. I got a sweaty hug. She looked completely out of it. I got to meet her dad. We got the other girls over to where she was and we moved toward a shady spot where she could sit down. She needed to rest.
She slipped into her Disneyland Half Marathon shirt, rearranged her medals, and just let everything roll off. She looked completely spent. Her dad asked if she was ready to do it again and she shook her head and said “NO.” Yeah…I think this one wiped her. But she bounces. She does.
We started back to the hotel, but she said we should just go and enjoy the park. She needed to rest. So, we walked as far as we could with her, and she left to go recover, sleep, and do what she needed to do. The three of us hit up the parks hard…up until we needed to head back to shower and get ready for the most amazing dining experience ever. Seriously.
Anyway, Disney…as always…put on a spectacular race. My official results are that I ran the course in 1:42:39, making this my second fastest half marathon to date. WOOT! I was 288/15,868 finishers overall. I was the 59/10,017 female to cross the finish line. And I was 9/1923 in my division. You cannot believe how thrilled I am with these results. The best part was…I wasn’t even trying. I was just running. And, after hitting that finish line…I still felt good. I still felt like I could keep moving. That’s a good sign that my training and my fueling efforts have been paying off. Disney magic was back again on this one.
It’s hard not to find your happy pace and place at the Disney runs. They are super expensive when you factor in the cost of the race itself, travel, lodging, food, souvenirs, passes for the park, etc…but I keep wanting to go back. And it keeps drawing me back for more. I need to come back to Disneyland again…and soon. Because I already miss it.