Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Disney's Princess Half Marathon: Running It

 Race morning came bright and early! Everyone had to be in their race corrals by 5:00am, and Disney said it was about a 20 minute walk from the entrance to the corrals, so we planned on arriving in the parking by 4:30am. After looking up which roads would be closed off, my husband calculated it would be about 15-20 minutes from our hotel to race parking in front of Epcot, so I set my alarm for 3:15.

We dressed up as Han and Leia. Honestly, the hardest part of the costume was doing my hair. I used 2 sock bun inserts, and about a full can of hairspray. It lasted the whole race, though, and looks pretty good, if I say so myself. You can't see it too much here, but this is us in our corral waiting:

Driving in took us about 20 minutes, and traffic really wasn't bad at all. Parking was very smooth, since there were a lot of traffic attendants out directing everyone. They even gave us a note with our parking section on it, so we would remember at the end of the race. (Note: I recommend taking a picture of your section on your phone or camera; we lost the slip of paper) Walking to the entrance was about 5 minutes from parking, and then everything bottlenecked. There was a red carpet with lovely flags on either side that marked the entrance to the race area, but this was the only way in, so everyone was crowding and pushing. Once inside, there were a few checkin areas, the race retreat tent, and the bag check entrance that led through to the race start. Bag check seemed to be going really smooth, since the entrances were marked by last name. I chose not to check a bag and left all my stuff in the car. Once inside, there were several rows of portajohns, and the lines were moving pretty quickly.

A few thoughts from this part:
First, it was unseasonable warm. Saturday had been over 80, and this morning was in the upper 60s at 5am. It definitely warmed up even more during the race. Gorgeous. I loved it.
Second, everyone has to use the portajohns, and there are a TON of them, everywhere. I just wonder how all those girls in tutus do inside......

It was about a 20 minute walk down backroads to get to the corrals. There were 8 corrals total, split up pretty evenly, and they were easy to find. There were also large television screens showing all the race activities from the main stage, such as interviews with celebrities who were there (Sean Astin!) and inspirational videos. Everyone seemed to be really upbeat for it being so early.

The first wave, which was the wheelchairs, was at 5:35 on the dot. All the waves were about 5 minutes apart, and Disney definitely stuck to this. Every corral start got their own countdown from the Fairy Godmother, and fireworks! Then everyone started pushing forward trying to move. The first mile or so was almost exclusively me and Kevin weaving in and around people trying to keep an eye on each other while moving around walkers.

Dear Disney: Please make an announcement at the start, maybe something like, "Run on the left, walk on the right!" so the weaving in and out and stopping suddenly won't happen so much. That would be great.

After mile 2 we stopped for our first photo op, with all the "heroes"! they seemed pretty excited to see Han Solo. We ended up waiting about 15 minutes in line for this photo.

There was a big mix of walkers and runners pretty much the entire time. Kevin clearly did not train at all for this, so by mile 5 we were down to a run-walk cycle, but still trying to keep about a 12:00 mile or so. Kevin also had to stop a few times to put bodyglide on his feet since his new shoes were rubbing. He got some nice blisters.

Course support for this race was AWESOME! There was some sort of entertainment, be it a photo op, dancer, set piece, or musician, on every mile, which made them go by pretty fast. There were 9 water stations, and 5 med stations, as well as a Clif shot gel station around mile 8.5. Water stations had gatorade first and water second, and the med stations were handing out biofreeze and body lube, as well as having people to help anyone who really needed it.

We entered the Magic Kingdom around mile 5, and hit Cinderella's Castle before mile 6. There were a few bathrooms along the route here, and they were packed! Girls completely took over the men's rooms, according to my husband, which I guess makes sense.

After running through the Castle, which had trumpeteers on top, we stopped for another photo op:


We continued our run-walk cycle for the other half, and kept up less than a 15:00 mile, even though it was still very super crowded. Kevin was worried we weren't going to make the time until we went over a bridge and he realized there really were about half of the people behind us. Since we started in Corral D, 4 of 8, there were at least 10,000 people who started after us. That helped him calm down a bit and enjoy the scenery.

There are two ramps near the end of this course that are slight uphills, which seem cruel after so much flatness! A lot of people slow down, so this is one point I really wish the "pass on the left" rule was more enforced. I was there to have fun, though, and finish with Kevin, so we enjoyed looking at everyone's costumes, and encouraging everyone who looked like they were having a rough time. There were a ton of first time half marathoners!

The last mile was through Epcot, around the giant ball but not through the nations. By the time we got there the first park-goers were already there, and most of them looked pretty confused to see so many people there and blocking their way. Near the end, we found Mulan!


When we saw the 13 mile marker, Kevin decided to just sprint it out, and we raced for the end, crossing the finish line hand in hand. I'm so proud of him for completing his first half marathon with me! Even if he didn't train like I warned him to, forgot his shoes, and wanted to die from the "heat," finishing is a big deal! Her earned his fairy dust:
and finisher's medal:

The finish corral seemed to last forever! We went through, got our medals, passed the med tents, where Kevin picked up some tylenol, picked up a water and gatorade (they had volunteers there to help everyone open their bottles), and then stood in line again to get pictures taken with our finishers medals! They had a ton of backdrops set up, so it went pretty quickly, and we were through and in line, again, for food! We got a banana and a little box with some nuts, trail mix, hummus and crackers, fruit snacks, and another little Luna bar. I still haven't eaten mine, and I wish they just gave out bagels, but I bet this is a lot faster.

After exiting the food line, we were back near the start with the tents for bag check. There were no signs pointing to the entrance, so we turned in a full circle before un-discombobulating ourselves and heading towards the red carpet and flags that we came in through. Unfortunately, there was another, HUGE, bottleneck here again since people were trying to come in while some were trying to leave. Eventually someone pulled apart the corrals that were blocking everyone in and traffic eased up just a little.

As I mentioned, at some point we lost our slip of paper with our parking row on it, but I remembered the general direction, and we headed that way. After finding our car, I drove back to our hotel, where we had about an hour to shower and pack before heading back to the Grand Floridian, where I had made reservations for brunch. Kevin loves cold showers, so at least I didn't feel like it was torturing him to run cold water over his legs to help recover a little faster. He lubed up his feet to help soften the blisters from his new shoes, we packed out bags, and were off. Thank you, Sheraton!

It was a 15 minute drive back to Disney, where we decided to splurge on valet parking. Quite possibly the best $15 Kevin has ever spent in his life. We checked in at 1900 Park Fare for our 11:05 reservation, and waited a bit in the lobby. We got our pictures taken with our medals and t shirts:

One of the cool things about Disney is that all the castmembers congratulate you when you're wearing your race medal! Even with a finish time over 3 hours, I was still proud of us both finishing together, so the extra recognition is nice. I feel like wearing my medal all day after every race, and Disney makes the experience awesome!

We both devoured pretty much everything on the buffet for breakfast, while taking pictures with Mary Poppins, Alice, the Madhatter, and Tigger and Pooh. For some reason, those were quite possibly the best hash browns I've had in a long time! I also love the Mickey waffles. And the perfectly-sized biscuits. During brunch, a friend who had left before texted to say that traffic around Daytona was hell. Great.

We had a mostly uneventful drive back. Kevin passed out as soon as we got in the car, so I drove the first part, and stopped once just to rest a little. We stopped for more food later on, and just took our lazy time getting back. By the time we arrived home, though, we just dragged in our bags, dropped them on the floor, and I hit the rack. I advised Kevin to ice his legs again before going to sleep, but he didn't listen. Boy did he regret that the next morning.

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