Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Preparing for the Glass Slipper Challenge 2016

IT'S ALMOST THAT TIME!! TIME for the Glass Slipper Challenge at Walt Disney World! The training is done and all that's left is getting there, and enjoying every moment!

I hope most of you have all your travel and race day plans already in place, but here's some of my tips:

Travel

- Hotels: The past two years that I've done this race, I stayed at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista. The pros of this hotel are many: it's fairly cheap (you can use SPG points if you have them), it's very close to the starting area, and the concierge used to pick up your bib before runDisney changed their pickup policy. They also have some pretty awesome pools, a restaurant and coffee shop, and shuttles to the park during the day. The only downside of this hotel is no race transportation, so you need to have your own wheels, which wasn't an issue in the past. 

  This year, though, I'm flying down, with a baby, so we decided we would try staying on property this year. We didn't book rooms until mid-January, but still got some pretty good deals. For the first night, Friday, we're staying at the Swan, another SPG property on the Boardwalk. I was able to use points here, but they were only available for Friday night. They do have expo and race day transport, but not airport service, so we'll have to get a taxi for that. Also, the Enchanted 10K does run right through the Boardwalk, and the concierge here has assured me my husband can just walk across the bridge to cheer me on, then go straight back to bed. Bonus points. 

  For the next night, we will be staying at the Port Orleans Resort - Riverside, in a royal room. It was a little cheaper than I remember seeing these rooms before, but apparently the main area is under major construction, so that might be why. They will also have race day transport, to the Princess Half start line and back, and I've also heard that it is possible to walk to the start line, though they may have some roads blocked this year. I'll let you guys know how these work out!

- Transportation: Once you're at WDW, transportation is pretty easy. There's free parking at Disney Springs, all of the hotels, and HUGE lots at each of the parks (for $20 a day). From there you can take shuttles to the hotels, if you have dinner reservations there, or to the other parks. Parking during the race is free (I wish DisneyLand did the same). Race shuttles move from pretty much every hotel to the start lines, and to the expo during expo hours. 

  My biggest concern this trip was getting to our hotels, though. Disney's Magic Express is a shuttle for resort guests to and from the Orlando airport, but you can only use it on the days of your actual stay. Since we're staying at the Swan on day 1, we will be booking a car from the airport, one with an infant car seat. 

- Food. This is one of the most important parts to plan. Not only am I starving after a race, but I usually want to take a shower, drink a gallon of gatorade, and fall asleep, all at the same time. My husband mostly just wants to eat everything in sight. We usually compromise on the last reservation of the morning for some buffet breakfast. In the past, we've done the Crystal Palace inside of the Magic Kingdom, and 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. Both were fairly similar in menu, had fun characters, and I would definitely recommend either one. This time, we're going to try 'Ohana at the Polynesian for breakfast on Saturday after the 10K. 

  During the rest of trip, a few important things: 
1) Hydrate! Florida is muggy, and you will sweat 5000 times more than you think you will. I get really cranky when I'm dehydrated, so for the sake of everyone in a 50yard radius, I will be bringing a huge nalgene bottle to refill, and plenty of Nuun to replenish those electrolytes. This is doubly important since I'm still breastfeeding.
2) Don't eat too much sugar! I know, it's everywhere, but you'll just be hungry again soon. Try to think ahead, plan our where and when you're going to eat, and focus on trying to find some veggies and plenty of protein. 
3) Caffeine. Yes, I can only have a little, but there are STARBUCKS inside of the parks now. Glory glory hallelujah. 
4) Pack snacks. I'll be bringing pretzels, picky bars, and probably some other munchies to tide me over between meals. 

- Visiting the parks. I've never really combined a park visit and a race weekend, so this weekend will be the first time I plan on combining it. Granted, it is with a 6 month old baby, so we will definitely be pretty chill. Building on the above advice, I plan on hydrating, pacing some snacks, wearing some comfy shoes, and just focusing on enjoying the day with my family. I may end up walking more than I plan to, but if I have fun, that's OK! 

- Odds and ends. A few more tidbits:    
1) Don't try anything new. This is an obvious race day adage (never run in a tutu for the first time in a half marathon - I hear major chafing is involved), but applies to the rest of the weekend as well! One year I wore a new pair of Sperry's on the plane ride to Orlando, and my heels got so eaten up they were bleeding for a week. Running 19.3 miles on top of that wasn't pretty. No new shoes! 
2) Plan for a VERY EARLY MORNING. Sleep when you can, even if you're too excited!
3) Write down everything you need to do, before, during, and after. I have written packing lists, schedules, and a checklist of stuff to do the night before a race (plug in Garmin, lay out breakfast), and stuff to do the morning of (put Garmin on wrist, eat breakfast, put on clothes). If you write it out, you'll have time to think of anything you're missing. 
4) I don't know anyone who has actually PR'd at a Disney race. Not because they aren't awesome and flat and motivating. Because they were having too much fun to not take time to smell the roses. Even if your idea of fun is getting an OQT, here's a new challenge: run fast but take as many pictures as you can! My last Princess Half Marathon time was 2:19, and I am pretty darn proud of that time, considering I stopped for about 10 pictures along the way! 

Race Day

- Getting there. As I mentioned above, all the resorts have buses to the start line area. They say you have to be on a bus by 4AM to make it to your corral on time (with a 5:30 gun time), but that seems a bit extreme. I probably won't push it though. In the past, I've driven to the parking lot, parked my car at about 5, and still made it to the corrals on time. From the Sheraton, it's actually about a 7 minute drive, and I've never hit traffic. 

- Bag check, portajohn lines, and getting to the corrals. You must use the clear plastic bag given to you, with you bib number sticker on it, at bag check, even if you're just checking your car keys. It's a fairly simple process though, and easy to pick up a bag after the race, so don't worry about checking your entire gym bag if you want. There are about a thousand portajohns by the bag check, for racers only, and about 10000 runners there. I'd recommend walking to the corrals first, and using any of the johns there. 

Speaking of, walking to the corrals. Yes, it is about a 10-15 minute walk. And it is dark. And there are lots of people. You'll be fine. For the 10K, the starting corrals are right there, so less of a worry. If you like to do a little run to warm up before a race, this is where you can do that. If you're in the later corrals, you can probably get here closer to 5:30 and still be fine making it to your corral. 
 
- The running part. The best part. You can study the maps beforehand, but I still have a hard time remembering where I am at each mile marker. Bring your own gels and music, though there will be some sort of fun entertainment every mile or so. I also bring my phone to take pictures, so maybe a case to protect that from all the gel and/or vaseline you'll have on your hands by the end. 

From my hazy memory, here's how the 10K course goes: dark straight out, turn around, back, hit EPCOT, run around the world, hit the Boardwalk, grab some water, darkness, and you're done! No hills or inclines, not many character sightings, but still pretty fun. 

And for the Half: Dark straight ahead, curve down an exit ramp, see the villians and all the princess (a must do photo op), on the road to the Magic Kingdom, turn a corner, run through some cast member areas, and BAM, there's Main Street and the Castle and real bathrooms, and all of the fun characters! This is just about the half way point! You're going to be awesome! Leave the MK, it's starting to get lighter out, there aren't as many characters, when did Disney have so many roads in the middle of nowhere? Why is there even a hill HERE?! Almost to EPCOT...oh, a turn around point, don't fall over! Is that the choir?! I'm almost done! Almost! No, really, it must be almost here! And, done! Give me some glitter!

- Finishing. You'll plaster the best, least-sweat smile on your face for those epic finish line pictures, and bound across the finish line while someone tells you not to stop and hug Mickey, or whatever character is at the finish line. The last year I ran (2014) they handed out drawstring bags after you got your medal(s), which is a great idea, because then you can use it to hoard all the gatorades and water and your little snack box and all the bandaids and ice you need from the first aid tent. At some point you'll have to put all this crap down to take a finisher's photo, so if you're doing the GSC, think about stashing your 10K medal in your bra somewhere. This area is way closer to the bag check exit area than the corrals are, so exiting and meeting up with family is a breeze. I've heard that sometimes there are characters in the finishing area as well, but I'm usually hightailing it back to my room for a shower. Cheers!

This year's theme is Under the Sea, so the medals are Ariel themed!

My Training Recap

Yeah, so, not going to pretend I actually followed my awesome plan, even after I adjusted it. The longest run I've done is 8 miles, on a treadmill, and that felt awesome. I've been doing a lot more strength training lately, so about four days a week I get to the gym for the following: either spin/core (on Tuesdays) or a dynamic warm up/crossfit endurance workout or my sets of squats/chest presses/deadlifts and a 15 minute HIIT workout, followed by a specific treadmill workout (8x1:00 sprints with recovery, 5x1200m with recovery, or a set distance). Since this is all at least an hour, usually more, I think my conditioning for the half will be ok, though I anticipate wilting the last 4 miles. 

My biggest weaknesses going into this race weekend: lack of sleep (I don't think I've gotten more than 6 hours straight since Lilly was born, usually closer to 4 plus another 2 or 3 hours after feeding her), a sore throat (thanks, husband, for getting me sick), and, of course, not actually hitting a 10+ mile training run in the past 8 months. My strengths: lots of speedy miles on the treadmills (I've been able to keep most of those intervals under 8:30), and just wanting to prove to myself I can do it this time. 

I'll see you all out there!

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