Race Report: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – January 11, 2014

I’m back from Florida, and I’m happy to report that I survived!

I was really nervous going into this race, since:
a) I hadn’t ran in a week
b) my last long run was a hike
c) my last actual long run was 10 miles, and it was three weeks ago
d) my weekly mileage wasn’t where it should have been the entire training time because…
e) I had spent most of the training battling an injury
Therefore, I didn’t expect to have the greatest race, but just wanted to have fun. I estimated I would complete it in around 3 hours.

We arrived at MCO on Thursday morning and boarded the Disney Magical Express bus to go to our resort. It’s about a 30 minute bus ride, and they entertain you with park information and classic Mickey cartoons along the way. Soon enough we had arrived at the All Star Music resort. We got off the bus, collected our carry-on luggage, and went to go check-in.

As soon as we got inside, I reached into my pocket to get my cell phone, whose case also doubles as my wallet. It was not in my pocket. Dread overcame me as I frantically searched all my pockets. It was not on me. I knew I had it in the airport, so it had most likely fallen out of my hoodie pocket on the bus, which had already pulled off to drop off more passengers at a different resort. I ran over to the concierge and explained my problem. He got on the phone with the transportation company, while Jonathan tracked my phone via Find My iPhone. We could see that it was still in the park, so it was definitely on the bus. I was ready to jump in a cab and follow the bus around, but the concierge assured me that they would get it back to me. In the meantime, he checked us into our room, which wasn’t ready yet.

The plan had been to go to ESPN Wide World of Sports where the race expo was located, so that I could pick up my bib and shirt. However, the waiver explicitly said you had to have a photo ID with you. Which I didn’t. Because it was with my phone.

We walked around the resort a bit, when it occurred to me that the concierge hadn’t taken down any of our contact information. So Jonathan called the transportation company directly and made sure they knew how to reach us. They told us they had found the phone and were headed back to the airport where they would put it on another bus, and I should have it back that afternoon. We stored our luggage, grabbed a bite to eat, then headed out to Downtown Disney so I could get my mind off of it.

After strolling around the shops downtown, our feet were getting tired (I was still wearing my airport flip flops and they are not made for walking) so we headed back to the resort, even though we hadn’t yet been contacted about our room being ready. It was nearing 3pm by this point, so when we got back, I went and asked them directly. Yes, our room was ready! We went and collapsed from exhaustion. Tracking my iPhone revealed that it was back at the airport, like they had told us.

After some rest, we tried tracking the phone again, but it was still at the airport. We called again, and they said it would be later that evening before it got sent back. So we changed our shoes and headed out to explore a bit.

We bussed over to ESPN anyway, and I asked Race Relations if there was any possible way to get my race stuff without my ID. They said no. I was beginning to panic at this point that I wouldn’t be able to run the half since I couldn’t pick up my stuff. From there, we bussed to the Grand Floridian, and then caught the monorail, so I could show Jonathan where to go on Saturday morning to watch me race, just in case my phone did eventually show up. We ate dinner at the Polynesian (and I had my first Dole Whip!), then headed back to our resort.

Find My iPhone still said my phone was at the airport.

Frustrated, we talked to a Cast Member at the front desk. He double checked that they hadn’t brought it to the hotel, and then offered to give us a complimentary ride to the airport and back the next day if it hadn’t shown up by then. Annoying, since we had plans for the next day, but it was a little comforting to hear.

We went back to the room, and Jonathan got a call from the transportation company that they had “found” my phone at the airport and would be delivering it to the front desk around midnight. I went to bed hopeful.

The next morning, we were awoken by a knock on the door. It was my phone! Yay! I’d be able to race after all!

We visited Animal Kingdom that day and then headed back to ESPN afterwards, where I picked up my race packet and then had a nice pasta dinner before going to bed early.

pre-race penne pasta

Mmmm, penne!

The phone rang at 3:15am with my wake-up call (from someone in “Frozen”, which I haven’t seen, so I don’t remember who it was). I got up and got dressed in my Rapunzel costume, quickly ate a bagel, popped a Pepto-Bismol, and hurried onto the bus that would take us to Epcot for the start of the race. I considered bothering Jonathan to get a photo before I headed out, but decided to let him sleep the extra hour before he had to get up and go to the spectator viewpoint in Magic Kingdom. So I have no “before” shots with my hair looking cute. All you get are sweaty photos. Sorry.

The prep area was crazy. There were SO many people. There was a DJ playing music, food trucks, and a ton of bag check stations. I wandered around looking for water, but finding none (that I didn’t have to pay for), I headed to the runner’s only area. And found water. Thank goodness. After that, it was about a 20 minute walk to the corrals. The excitement in the air was palpable. I settled into Corral J and waited for the race to begin. It was around 5am at this point, so I sat on the ground and played with my phone.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Corral J

The view from Corral J

At around 5:30, the national anthem was played and then the wheelchair start. And then Corral A! They had a big screen projecting what was going on at the front, and, of course, we could see the fireworks go off for every corral. By the time Corral J got up to the start line, it was a little after 6am. Donald Duck counted us down, and we were off!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Donald Duck

Donald Duck sent us on our way!

The corrals were assigned based on pacing from a previous race we had done. The time I had submitted was from the Fourth of July 10k, so I was with the 12 min/mi group. This helped me not start off too fast, I think, though I ran over 0.6 mile before I took my first walk break. I knew I needed to take them liberally in order to make it through this thing, so after that, I tried to keep them to every quarter of a mile. The first mile was good, though maybe a little fast, coming in at 11:52. Did I mention there was 100% humidity? I had sweat pouring off of me by the end of the first mile. Soon we were coming up on the first character stop. It was Jack Sparrow, and there was an insanely long line to get your photo made, so I kept going. I had a few characters in my head that I knew I would stop for no matter the length of the line: Rapunzel (obviously), Maleficient, and Lilo and/or Stitch. However, I didn’t see any of them on the first stretch of the race, so at the 5k split, my time was 39:37 with an average pace of 12:45. This made me pretty happy.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Magic Kingdom gate

Going into Magic Kingdom, somewhere around the 5k point.

We were coming up on Magic Kingdom. We entered from the side and then ran down Main Street, USA. Jonathan was there and snapped a couple shots of me. (Note how sweaty my hair is by this point. Gross.) Running down the crowd-lined street was awesome. We turned through Tomorrowland and then went into Fantasyland. Rapunzel’s music was playing! I look around, excited, hoping she was there to take pictures with. But no. All I saw were Winnie the Pooh characters and Donald and Daisy. But we were about to run through Cinderella’s castle!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Main Street USA

Running down Main Street, USA!

half marathon through cinderella's castle

Running through the castle. One might think I ran the entire race with my hands in the air.

They did a pretty good job of getting everyone who wanted to take pictures in front of the castle off the course, so it didn’t slow anyone down. I didn’t stop, but I kind of wished I would have, since I don’t particularly like any of my running pictures with the castle. C’est la vie.

Then we were headed through Adventureland and out of the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella and Prince Charming were there for pictures, but I still didn’t stop. By the 10k split just outside of the park, I was at 1:21:19, with a pace of 13:06 min/mi. So I had slowed down a bit, but was still right around where I wanted to be.

This is where the tough part of the race comes. After you leave Magic Kingdom, it’s just kind of blah. You still have over half the race left, but the most exciting part is over. Now you just have road to look at. Around 7.5 miles, I came upon Lilo and Stitch, so I stopped for a picture with them. I popped another Pepto-Bismol tablet while I was in line because my stomach wasn’t feeling very happy. The photo stop took about five minutes, but I was soon off again.

lilo and stitch at the half marathon

Yay, Lilo and Stitch!

Right around the 9 mile mark my legs had had enough. My right knee was aching, and I just didn’t know if I could possibly run any more. I had grabbed a Clif Shot at the food stop around mile 8, but it didn’t seem to help much. So I walked quite a bit from miles 9 to 12. Especially on the on-ramps, which are the only “hills” on the course. (I did at least run the downhills; I wasn’t in enough pain to not take advantage of some free speed.) At the 15k split, I had slowed to a 14:07 min/mi pace (of course, that includes my photo stop). About the time we reached mile 12, we were about to head into Epcot. I saw Jonathan again and waved. He said later that he could tell a remarkable difference between me in Magic Kingdom and when he saw me in Epcot. I was so exhausted!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

Running through Epcot and happy to be almost done!

I kept pushing and ran through Epcot. The park had already opened by this time, so there were a ton of people around. Soon I could see the mile 13 marker! I was ready to sprint to the finish, but I had a long line of walkers in front of me in a narrow area, so I was forced to walk until I could get around them. Finally, I started my “sprint” (let’s face it; by this time in the race, a sprint to me was just under a 10 min/mi pace) and finished the 13.1 miles in 3:07:43!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

Crossing the finish line!

finishing a disney half marathon

I felt really emotional and thought I might cry, but I think I was too exhausted. I got my medal, collected a water, a banana, and a box of food, and then sat down in the family reunion area and devoured some Skittles and Craisins. Jonathan came and found me and sweetly brought me a rose.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Finisher

So happy to be NOT running!

I was ready to be out of my soaking wet running clothes and especially out of my running shoes (I was ready to burn those things in a fire, but we made up later), so we headed back to the hotel, where I showered and changed before we headed back to Epcot to enjoy our day in the park. And, of course, I wore my race medal! We had a delicious lunch at Le Cellier in Canada, where I had filet mignon and tried poutine for the first time. It was sooo good.

Poutine from Le Cellier in Canada at Epcot

Delicious poutine!

I won’t bore you with the rest of our trip, but here’s some pictures!

The half marathon was hands-down the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I did it! I wasn’t trained enough and had to walk a lot, but I made it through! And I was even able to spend three days walking through theme parks afterwards. I actually never got too sore afterwards, which I will credit The Stick with helping, since I was routinely using that thing every morning and every night while we were there.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon medal

My Donald Duck medal!

And, finally, here’s my quarter mile splits, which I think shows the ratio of running to walking better than my mile splits. Early on, my walking breaks were usually less than a tenth of a mile, but you can see they became progressively longer, some even being an entire quarter of a mile. It also doesn’t show the three photo stops I made (the first two were short, not with characters), which extended my time by about six minutes total.

quarter mile half marathon splits

Shoes: Pearl Izumi Road N2
Pre-race food: Small bagel with cream cheese
Mid-race food: Third of a vanilla Clif Shot

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It’s time!

I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen (which I’ll explain in my race report), but tomorrow is the big day! My first half marathon. My alarm is set for 3:15am (*yawn*), my belly is full of pasta, and I guess I’m as ready as I can be.

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If you’re interested in keeping up with me and will be awake at 5:30am EST on a Saturday (don’t know why you would be, but hey…), you can receive text or email updates by signing up here and entering my name: http://live.xacte.com/wdw/alerts/

I suspect I will cross the finish line around 9am EST, given that I’m 10 corrals back (so I will probably start closer to 6am) and plan on making many photo stops. (Please let Rapunzel be out there!)

Wish me luck!

WDW Half Marathon: Costume Design!

So I was pretty excited to find out that a lot of people dress up to run in Disney’s marathons and half marathons. I pondered for a few weeks about who I could dress up as. I didn’t want to wear a wig to run in, obviously, so I wanted to go with someone who had naturally brown hair. Preferably pulled back or short. Snow White was obvious, but everyone seems to do Snow White. I considered Belle and Jasmine.

And then one afternoon it occurred to me: Rapunzel, after she (spoiler alert!) has her hair chopped off at the end of the movie is a short haired brunette! And it wouldn’t be a difficult costume to turn into a running outfit.

Here’s my preliminary sketch:
rapunzel half marathon costume

Now I can be on the lookout for running gear that I can modify to turn into Rapunzel! In fact, a preliminary google search for flared, purple running skirts turned up a Rapunzel skirt by SparkleSkirts!

My biggest question mark is around shoes right now. Since she is always barefoot, I’d want something with a barefoot look. Probably flesh colored minimalist shoes, if any exist. Vibrams (the shoes with the five separate toes) would be awesome, but I don’t know if I’m ready to go that minimalist, especially in a half marathon. Should I just go with some matching purple shoes?

I’m officially nuts.

Yesterday I was reading some running blogs and articles, as I normally do. I saw something mentioned about the Walt Disney World marathon, and I thought to myself, “Well, if you were going to run a marathon, seems like that would be a good place to do it.” It involves 26.2 miles of running through all four parks and more on the Disney resort. I looked up the website, out of sheer curiosity, to see if they had the course map.

MarathonWeb01Source: RunDisney

And then I signed up for the half marathon.

I knew I wouldn’t possibly be ready for the full thing, and the 10k was already sold out. The half marathon was 99% full (and two hours after I signed up, it was sold out as well). So I bit the bullet. Apparently I will be running a half in January. (Although 13.1 miles filled with princesses and characters and running through castles can’t be too bad, right?)

I realize that I can barely run a 5k. And a half marathon is over four times as long. But eight months seems like plenty of time to train. The Galloway training plan listed on Disney’s site shows a 19 week training plan, so as soon as I finish my 10k training (I’m on week seven out of fourteen), I’ll get started with that!

Also, it seems a lot of people run in semi-costume. Yes, that’s right. I get to mix cosplay (which I love) and running! But who should I be…? And who’s coming to cheer me on?