Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Disney's Princess Half Marathon: Travel and Race Expo

I don't think I have ever been more excited about a race than I was about the Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Febrary 24, 2013. I signed up months ago, deciding to take the plunge after mising all of the past four races due to random excuses (race sold out, I was in Iraq, y'know, the usual), and committed. I also registered my husband Kevin, determined that we were going to have fun together. Closer to the day of the race, we decided to make this a race weekend, rather than a Disney vacation with a race thrown in. Overall, I don't regret it, but it is hard to be at Disney without being in Disney!

We drove from Augusta to Jacksonville on Friday night after work, then  from Jacksonville to Disney World on Saturday morning. During the drive, we realized Sunday was also the day of the Daytona 500. Note to self: driving back through Daytona might be tricky.

This year the Fit for a Princess Race Expo was at the Coronado Springs Resort. I hear in the past it was at Wide World of Sports, but I can't compare this one to previous ones. To get there, we had to park at Disney Downtown and take a shuttle to the expo site. When we arrived, around noon, there was no line for the shuttle, and we only waited a few minutes for one to show up.

Once we got to the race expo, we went straight to the packet pickup lines, which were on one side of the Coronado Springs expo space. There was space outside to print and sign your voucher, if you don't print one in advance, but I hate lines. We got our bib numbers, a sticker for bag check, and I got a voucher for the charm necklace I ordered in advance, and were directed to booths on the other side of the expo. I picked up my charm at the commemorative items booth, and then we went to stand in line for a few more minutes to pick up our race bags and shirts.

The race bag included a large plastic bag to use for bag check, a pink drawstring backpack with the race logo, a race program, a large race pin, and a few other odds and ends (like a mini Luna bar!). The shirts are Champion technical t shirts in both men's and women's sizes; Kevin initially got a large women's, and had to trade it in for a men's medium. The women's shirts are fitted with a v-neck and raglan short sleeves, while the men's shirts are more traditional crew neck, short sleeve shirts.
Swag bag
After all the official stuff was out of the way, it was time to enjoy the expo! The largest booth was the official race "store," which had a long line. We opted to explore the rest, then come back and check on the line. Booths included a pop-up store by Lady Foot Locker, samples from Luna Bar and Chiquita bananas, and all the usual racing paraphernalia. After exploring about an hour, we headed back to the official race store, and stood in line for about 10 minutes waiting to get in. By the time we got inside, though, most of the t shirts were pretty picked over, and there wasn't much variety. I picked up a car magnet and trading pin, but that's it.

As we headed back out to get in line for the shuttles back to Downtown Disney, we saw some backgrounds set up at one end of the hall outside the expo space. I decided to go get my picture taken with them, and while waiting for Kevin to go to the bathroom, Cinderella and Princess Tiana came out to take photos!! I jumped in line, and Kevin came back just in time for us to get pictures taken, with less than a 5 minute wait! I didn't know the characters were going to be there, so that was exciting!

All in all, we were in the expo and packet pick up area for almost 2 hours. I'd say standing in line for the official race store wasn't worth it, since there wasn't much there. Maybe if they had more Run Disney gear, in more sizes, I would have bought a jacket or something like that. Also, the booths were pretty close together, which was odd, because there was a lot of empty space on one side of the expo room. Walking between them was super crowded, lines were haphazard, and it was just hard to even look at anything.

There was a HUGE line for shuttles back to Downtown Disney, so instead we took a shuttle to the Grand Floridian to see if we could get a time for afternoon tea. Since the next opening was at 4:30, about 2 hours away, we took a shuttle from the Grand Floridian to Downtown Disney, walked around for a little while, then drove our car back and parked at the Grand Floridian.

Afternoon tea was, as usual, delightful! Service was rather slow, and the cast member seemed pretty harried, but we enjoyed ourselves. My tea came with three courses, savory sandwiches, a scone, then trifle or a choice of desserts. Kevin's princely tea came with a nice selection of pates and cheeses, as well as a glass of port. I love the little details that go into everything!

Garden View Tea at the Grand Floridian
Since it was almost 6 by the time we were done, Kevin and I headed out to our hotel to check in and go in search of dinner. I traded in some SPG points for a room at the Sheraton Resort right off Disney, so it was only a short drive there, and a very nice room. For some reason, I really loved how the whole hotel smelled, very fresh and nice. Our room was large, which was nice, since we started laying out our costumes right away and getting ready for the race.

At this point, my dear husband realized he forgot to pack his running shoes. Oops.

Thankfully, there is an outlet mall about 10 minutes from our hotel, so we sped over there to pick up a new pair of the same running shoes he's been wearing for the past year or so. No time to break them in, but at least they weren't completely unfamiliar. We ended up grabbing dinner past 9 at a Carrabba's, then crashing at the hotel. Race morning would come early!

A few things I'd suggest for the day before this race:

- Be prepared to stand in line for shuttles on both ends.
- Alot at least 2 hours or more to the expo, especially if you want to buy something and have to stand in line
- Pre-order any commemorative items you want, like pins or necklace. They're available in the official store, but standing in line just to get into the store doesn't seem worth it.
- Print out your voucher before you go
- Double check your t shirt, just in case you have to exchange it
- Plan for an early dinner. When we were at the shoe store, all the restaurants seemed to have huge lines until about 9. Most of the restaurants at Downtown Disney were also completely booked that night.
- Go to bed early!

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