…As we last left my race report, I went to bed early (-ish) on Saturday night with a belly full of churros and ice cream and after walking around all day at Disney’s California Adventure. I also forgot to mention that I did a quick (1.6 mile) run on Saturday morning to see if I could wear my new race shirt without fear of chafing. In all, Saturday was a bit of me bucking my normal pre-race trends of rest and relaxation. Another thing I tend not to do is to wake up on the morning of a race and barely leave time to get to the starting line. This was clearly unintentional. Just to give you an idea, under normal circumstances my relatives live two highway exits from Disneyland. On race day, it took me about an hour to get there and park. Madness. I love you, California highways.
At any rate, this race was clearly not designed with locals in mind. If you weren’t staying at a Disney-endorsed hotel, there was no shuttle available and you were forced to pay regular parking rates ($15, WTF) to park in the only one of the park’s parking structures that was open. Total BS. The only plus is that the parking structure was huge and lines moved quickly. By the time I parked, though, the start was 15 minutes and a half mile away. And I had to pee. Dammit. It was a sprint to the starting line and I got there literally just as my corral (the first one) was starting off. At least I had a warm-up.
The first part of the race was spectacular. The first five miles ran through back lots, the California Adventure park, Disneyland proper, and Downtown Disney. Crowd support was awesome. I couldn’t believe how many red hat ladies were out! Of course, because I was trying to PR I had to be conservative about stopping for character photos. Honestly, I figured I would build up a time cushion of a minute or two, and then stop for photos at the end. Makes sense, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that basically all of the character photo opportunities would be in those first few miles of the race, and there was no opportunity to loop back after the finish. I stopped for one and only one photo, with Captain Jack Sparrow. Because he had no line. Which I couldn’t believe, and I told him so. Sure, he’s not really Johnny Depp, but a girl can dream. Anyhow, also on the character photo note, I felt better about not posing for pictures when I saw some that were taken of other racers later on. Race start time was 5:00AM so obviously it was dark out, but some of the pictures I’ve seen (including my own) were quite poorly lit. Disney did do a great job with the race experience otherwise, though: Radiator Springs/Carsland, the Small World Cruise, the Castle, and Paradise Pier were lit up beautifully, and the World of Color fountains in the California Adventure park were extremely cool. I also had no problem with crowding or with the course being narrow. In fact, I was running the race of my life.
At mile 5, we left the Disney Parks to run around Anaheim. Obviously running down residential streets in the dark was less satisfying than being in the park, but once we got into the main streets of Anaheim there was plenty of entertainment. School bands, cheer teams, and spectators were out to see and entertain us. I hope these kids somehow benefitted from the race, since they were up extra early. At mile 8.5 I took a Cliff shot from the station and just kept going. Really, the race becomes a blur at this point. I remember the bands and the signs I saw, but this was unlike any half marathon I’ve ever run before. I felt no strain, no fatigue, I was just go-going at a consistent pace and feeling great. It was hard to even believe my Garmin as it was clicking off 10, 11 miles and I was approaching the parks again.
I definitely got my butt in gear as I was approaching the finish, even though I knew by then I would meet my goal. I had intended to run the first 11.1 miles just as I did in my last long training run and then take walk breaks at the end if I needed to… But I felt so good I just kept going. Elation was the feeling as I approached the finish line and saw Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse and heard my name announced–more than a minute under my goal time of 2:10.
As others have mentioned, the finish area was a little uninspired. I wish there had been some characters, photos, more things to do or at least more places to watch the other runners finish. I did get a nice breakfast pack, though, and a heavenly massage. I was also initially disappointed with the race pics… but they put up a nice finish pic (see left) after all, so no more complaints. In all, I’m very happy to have had the Run Disney experience, and I would totally do it again sometime. Are these races expensive? Yes. But, in the end, there’s nothing to compare it to. And now that I have my 2:08-ish PR, maybe I’ll feel comfortable slowing down and enjoying the next one.
Next up: Lost Dutchman 10K 2013!