Friday, January 24, 2014

Officially half crazy, so now what?

It's been 2 weeks since my Disney race.  I've rather reluctantly re-integrated into the 'normal' routine.  Hey, that's pretty alliterative!

I took a week off of running to recover.  It took that long for my huge toe blister to reabsorb!  I no longer wear my medal or carry it with me to show others.  The high of the accomplishment has subsided. I've printed my finisher certificate and ordered my official race photos.  I will get a shadow box and preserve the memory so there is that little project looming.  I ran almost 5 miles on Monday.  It's been too freaking cold since then to run.  I do plan a 6 mile run tomorrow, the one day it will *maybe* hit a balmy 32 degrees.

So now what do I do?  I worked my ass off to get to this point and actually be able to run 13.1 miles.  Much to my surprise, I miss running having run only once in the past 2 weeks.  It's become not only an essential party of staying fit and healthy, but it's therapy.  Fresh air, quiet time, meditative, running provides an outlet that helps me ultimately be happier and healthier.  Of course when I'm doing it, I don't always think so.

I think I've spent more time than I would have running this week planning races for the upcoming year.  If I register for races, I have a goal and a reason to get my ass out there and run.  So what's a girl to do?  Why plan her next Disney race, of course!  Dammit, I was warned about this.  RunDisney is addictive!  A very fun, very expensive addiction for those of us who don't live near a Disney park or hold an annual pass.  Thus, I'm looking to 2015.  Having done the WDW half, my sights are now set on the Tinkerbell 'trifecta' as I call it.  I desperately want to run the Tinkerbell 10K and half and the Neverland 5K at Disneyland next year.  It's over Mother's Day weekend next year.  Maybe this will be the mother's day I get to do what I want to!  :-)

Of course if I'm going to California to run, it's likely to be a once and done thing.  Which of course means I have to go for the coast to coast medal!  Therein lies the challenge for me.  I don't want to do the WDW half again.  I'd like to experience one of the other Disney races.  The Princess happens before Tink, in February, as does registration. I'm not crazy about running it, though I'd do the glass slipper challenge.  I'd prefer Wine and Dine, which is in November.  I worry that will be harder to get into because it's so popular.  All of these races sell out crazy fast, with DVC members and annual pass holders getting to register early.  Like so fast I'd have to take the day off of work to sit at my computer and wait for the registration to open for each and pray to my angels I get in as some of these have sold out in a matter of hours.  Especially if there are any special 'challenge' races like the glass slipper. Of course these races and the travel to/from them and associated expenses are, well, expensive.  Financing this fantasy is also a mystery at this point in time, but I do believe that will work itself out. Life is too short to not enjoy it while I can.  Perhaps the Fairy Godmother will help me find a way to get some assistance in that department.  The registration dates are in my calendar.  :-)

In order to keep this dream alive, and for the greater benefit of my health and happiness, I need to keep running.  2015 is, well, an entire year away!  Thus, I've plotted my running calendar for the year, roughly. There are races I know I want to do.  Most I've done before and they are really fun or scenic or both. Some I've not done before, but really want to try this year like a local half and the BAA 10K.

Unfortunately, life gets in the way of training.  Soccer for my boys puts a glitch in training and being able to participate in races.  In fact, my biggest challenge to maintaining a half marathon distance is trying to keep up the training.  The time demands are tremendous with my very busy life.  Soccer season is ramping up already and will be crazy through June with the boys essentially having a practice or game every single evening and every weekend day. I work. A lot.  I ballroom dance with my husband.  I have a book to finish writing. I have a business to grow.  Sadly, I can't do it all.  As much as I'd like to keep training at a half marathon distance, I don't think I can maintain it realistically and do everything else on my plate.  There must be compromise.

There is not much between now and March, but that's OK.  I do think my body and my mind need a bit of a break and a ramping down from running and more dancing and writing.  I plain to maintain at least a 10K training distance between now and then.  I have a 5K March 9th that is tons of fun and I'm looking forward to.

April has potentials, including a beach side, somewhat hilly, half, but I don't think I can realistically train for it or run it due to my schedule.  April vacation also gets in the way.  I will keep training though.

May brings a fun 5K I run every year and captain a team in honor of my nephew.  It also brings fantastic running weather and more daylight in which to return to my early am runs.  Yay!

June brings so many opportunities.  A half at the shore which I am seriously considering the 1st of the month. A 5K obstacle run called FoamFest I'm running with the family and friends and the BAA 10K which is the day after that one! Then it will be time for vacation!

July is too hot for racing!  It does bring registration for the Princess 10K, half marathon, and glass slipper challenge for Feb 2015 though!

August brings a fantastic mid-week, evening 10K I will run and the Spartan Sprint which I will photograph for my crazy husband and friends who enjoy this kind of thing.  It also brings registration for the Tinkerbell half and other races in Disneyland!!!

The fall is my favorite time!  So many races, not enough time.  There will be the Diva Dash with a bunch of friends and it's tons of fun.  I'm also contemplating another half toward the end of the month.  There are a few other local 5Ks' that if they fit into my schedule, I'll run.

October brings the Tufts 10K for women (yay!) and a local monster dash 5K.

November brings at Thanksgiving day run called the Gobble Wobble.

December is surprisingly busy!  There is a local Jingle 5K early in the month, a half  'merrython' I'm really interested in by the beach and my favorite 5K ever, the Somerville Jingle Bell Run.

So look at that.  I filled up the year already.

People ask me why I do this.  Why do I run, or more to the point, why do I spend the money and time planning for and going to races when I could just run for free on the local roads?  While it's true, without the goal and the fun and excitement of participating in races, I'd have less to motivate me to get out there.  I don't run fast nor do I want to.  I'm not competitive in that way.  I just want to do it while and because I can.

I'm a physical therapist.  I work with people every day who can't even walk. Some hit with devastating diseases who are younger than me.  They all regret not doing things while they could and always advise never take anything for granted.  Life is too short to not follow your dreams.  I am blessed with good health, two working legs and a cardiovascular system that lets me run.  It certainly gives me physiological and physical limits, but I listen to them and God willing, will be able to do it again tomorrow.

Carpe Diem!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Triumph and Tears

This is a cross post from my running blog at Run, Kimmy, Run!
I did it!  I am officially a half-marathoner!  I ran the 2014 WDW half-marathon last Saturday, January 11th.  The race itself and the days before and after were truly magical in many ways.  To conquer the distance and to do it at Disney made it even more fun than I imagined it would be.  It wasn't just about my journey.  It was about seeing those I traveled with, and even complete strangers, achieve their goals and experience their own personal triumph.  The sheer number of times I was moved to tears by what I saw spoke to the emotional impact of running Disney, not only to me, but to countless others.
The medal
In other news, now that I have drunk the Run Disney Kool-Aid, I am hooked.  What an amazing experience!  I fear I've embarked on an expensive hobby!  Run Disney races really are about the experience, not just the mileage.  They say every mile is magic for a reason!  If you have ever dreamed of running Disney, I highly recommend it!  That said, preparing and planning for it will make your experience all that much more magical.
As I prepared for this race, I scoured the interwebs looking for as much information as I could about what to expect from this WDW Marathon Weekend.  I'm a planner and an information junkie. It was harder than I thought to find the information I wanted to know.  Run Disney  publishes shockingly little detail of it's races and most of it is in the race program available to runners about a month prior to the race.  Even then, it's logistics, and not terribly practical for the new runner.  There are a few videos on youTube and some Facebook groups and blogs out there, with more to come, I'm sure, as the popularity of these races skyrockets.  They were helpful for sure, but I wanted more.  It is part of my inspiration in writing this blog, so that it might help others in their preparation for a Disney race and learn from mine.  It most certainly was a learning experience!
One of my favorite sources of information as I've prepared for this half-marathon has been the Mickey Miles Podcast.  They deserve a huge shout out! I highly recommend it to anyone who plans to run a Disney race.  They have a wealth of information, wonderfully knowledgeable guests, and really helped to answer many of the questions I had and help me prepare for the unique experience of running a Disney race.  I even had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Mickey Miles meet up at the Beach Club the day before the half-marathon and meet the co-hosts and some other Mickey Milers.  It was great to put faces with names and make some new friends!  I even joined their running team to benefit Give Kids the World!  If you don't know what Give Kids the World is, take a moment to visit their Web site.  They often host wish kids and their families for the Make a Wish Foundation and they are amazing!
Here is my recap of the race itself.  I opted to write about the Pasta Dinner, Expo, chEAR squad and spectating, and post race recap as  separate blog posts.
Race Day!
The wake up call came from Mickey Mouse himself at 2:15 am. "Time to wake up, Pal!...."  The reality is, despite trying to be in bed and asleep by 10 pm, none of us slept very long or very well.  We *might* have gotten 3 hours of sleep.  Between the excitement of it finally being race day and the fear of oversleeping, it was almost far too easy to be awake that early in the morning.
Race day was warm and humid.  68 degrees when we woke up and 68% humidity!  We have been training in very cold, dry, weather here in the northeast, so it felt hot to us! It was cloudy until late morning though, which helped keep the temps from skyrocketing until after the race was over. There was a yellow flag warning for moderate heat and a cautionary statement to take it slower than ideal conditions and hydrate well.
We had all laid out everything we needed for the race the night before so it was just a matter of getting dressed and getting out the door.  Here is what we looked like at about 2:50 am.
ready to go for donna foundation
I was also running a virtual half marathon for the Donna Foundation (breast cancer marathon), so I wore that bib on my back.
Let's do this  mel T and Kim
My friend Mel (Cheshire cat), myself (in the middle as Tink), and my sister Theresa (paying homage to "Wishes").
Ready to go
I ended up not wearing the running sleeves, it was too hot and humid! I also had glow in the dark wings on the back of my Raw Threads tank, so no actual fairy wings for this Pixie.
Getting there
The buses started running at 3 am and were dedicated from each resort hotel directly to Epcot.  Disney contracted with coach bus companies to provide race weekend transportation and it was fabulous.  We did not have to wait for the bus at all.  They ran them continuously and our bus was not even full.  There were buses dropping off people at 3:20 am that were full, presumably from the bigger or value resorts.  We were dropped off in the parking lot and walked across the tram way to the staging area.  I noticed that at that time, people driving to Epcot for the race had prime parking, although spaces were limited. If you plan to drive, plan to arrive at 3 am when the lot opens!
We first went through security bag check.  There were several stations set up. At that time (about 3:25 ish) there was no wait and we quickly made our way through. Even running belts had to be checked.  We walked across the parking lot to where the gEAR bag check tents and pre-race staging was set up.  There was a DJ playing LOUD and very upbeat music and even a few folks dancing to warm up.  Water was available for purchase from carts.  There were plenty of porta potties.  There were picture stations set up with the WDW Marathon logo backdrop if you wanted to take a pre (or post) race picture.  There were flags set up (alphabetical) for the family reunion meeting spots post race.  It was a time where teams gathered for their pre-race meet ups and photos, runners sat around and ate, drank, and did their pre-race stretching and warming up.  For those who opted for race retreat, the tent was set up for them as well.  I'm not sure it would be worth the money given how quickly the time passed.  Of course if it were 35 degrees, I might say otherwise!
Cattle call.  Otherwise known as the Corral Crawl.
Soon, they began calling the runners to their corrals.  Although you could check your bag at any time (which needed to be the official Run Disney large clear plastic draw string gEAR bag given to you at the packet pick up), they preferred that you checked it and continued through the bag check tent to the corrals rather than back to the staging area.  The tent was arranged alphabetically.  Bag check was quick and easy on both ends of the race!
Once through bag check we began the long, slow walk to the corrals.  I felt like we were a herd of cattle.  Everyone was walking deliberately slowly.  I'd guess it was close to a mile walk from the bag check tent to the start line and was easily a 15 minute walk.  Corrals were labeled with big colored balls and signs and volunteers directed you to your corral.  Plenty of porta-potties and bins for trash, recycling, and clothes (Disney donates 'warm up' clothing runners leave behind) lined the route to the start.  It was a nice opportunity to chat with others around you and make some new friends.
Porta-potty lines
My corral!
The view behind me in the corral
The view in front of me in my corral
The corral crawl
Race announcers on the jumbotron
Counting down to the start!
start of race
The official Run Disney start photo
My poor quality photo of the start just before our corral was released
When we finally reached our corral, cast members checked our bibs to be sure we were entering the right corral.  I hugged my sister and wished her luck when we parted as she was in a different corral.  I was in the "I" corral.  We were ideally positioned in front of the jumbotron they had set up for us a bit back from the start so we could see and hear the happenings on the stage at the start line.  In between announcements, a DJ keep the energy high.  We warmed up to the 'Cha Cha Slide', 'What the Fox Say' and a rousing sing along of 'Don't Stop Believin'.  In the corrals there was more sitting, stretching, snacking and hydrating.  As the official race start of 5:35 am neared, we began to inch closer to the start.  Then, Donald counted it down, fireworks exploded from the start line, and the wheelchair athletes were off and rolling!
Corrals were sent off every 2 minutes with Donald counting it down and fireworks sending off the runners.  I was shocked at how quickly we shuffled our way to the start. Next thing I knew it was time for our corral.  I gave my friend Mel a high-five, wished her luck (she runs faster than I do), and waved to Donald as the fireworks sounded for our corral and we off and running!  Our long awaited WDW half-marathon was happening.  What a thrilling moment!  My sister later told me she actually saw me start on the jumbotron from her corral behind me.  That was pretty cool!
The cheering spectators across the street on the left rang their cow bells, clapped and cheered.  Cast members  and volunteers clapped and waved Mickey hands as we passed.  As we made our way down World Drive, we could hear the fireworks going off as each corral left behind us.  The road was dark but there were flood lights set up to lend some light.  We were greeted by marching bands, cast members, and various characters along the way.  Around mile 2-3 we saw the wheelchair athletes and the first runners making their way back toward Epcot for the finish.  They were probably around mile 9 or 10!  We cheered for them as we ran!  They were fast!
The on-course entertainment and characters
I had not planned to stop for characters along the course unless I saw one I really wanted to have a picture with.  I tried to take photos of some but my little camera did a poor job in the dark and dim light and my hands were shaky.  I took a few photos but wish I had taken more.  Most were of disappointing quality.  I found the mile markers did not come out well in the dark for me.  I was sad, because I did want to take a photo at each mile.  Because I was using my phone to run Runkeeper, my music and my interval timer, I didn't want to use it for pictures too as I was concerned about battery life or dropping my phone, although it probably would have taken better ones than my little Canon point and shoot!
The mile markers were all movie themed and had a song from that movie playing continuously.  One of our chEAR squad members, the fabulous Wendy, was directly across from the mile 4 marker themed to Beauty and the Beast.  I think if she ever hears 'Be our Guest' again it will be too soon!  The mile markers displayed gun time (official race start) so you had to be tracking your own time to know your pace rather than rely on the signs.  Run Disney also recorded kilometer splits at 5, 10, and 15K which were transmitted to anyone who signed up to track your run. You should send it to yourself so you'll know your splits, if not during the race, you can see them afterwards!
Some of the on course entertainment and photo ops I recall included several marching bands and DJ's, including the best rockin' DJ ever with the giant Mickey Hands just before the Magic Kingdom, the pirate boat and Jack Sparrow (accessible from both sides of World Drive so wait till you are heading back to Epcot, shorter lines!), the Nightmare Before Christmas, a Lamborghini and stock car from the Speedway, Darkwing Duck, Buzz Lightyear (Tomorrow land), Alice and the rabbit (Tomorrow Land), the WDW Steam train, Prince Charming, Cinderella and the mice, the Reedy Creek Fire Truck, Golf Mickey and Donald (by the Grand Floridian), Lilo and Stitch (by the Polynesian), Disney Cruise Lines, the Toy Story Army Guys, Cheerleaders, the amazing gospel choir just before leaving Epcot and, of course, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy at the finish line.  I know I'm forgetting a few and may have missed some as well.  Overall, there were not as many characters as I expected there would be and they were not really evenly spaced throughout the race course.
Had to stop at this one for my husband!
A not so hidden Mickey!
The Magic Kingdom!
This is why so many people run these races.  For the experience of mile 5-6.  The castle! To run through the parks before they open, sometimes in the dark, to see areas you don't normally get to see like 'back stage', and to go through cast entrances is something Disney fans love to experience.  Running through the Magic Kingdom is surely the highlight of the half and full marathon for many runners, especially first time Disney runners.
As I ran under the 7 seas Lagoon and under the bridge where the awesome DJ was spurring us on to Main Street, we emerged in the shadow of Space Mountain. It was beginning to get light out now.  We were directed through a cast traffic security gate and toward the cast entrance to the Magic Kingdom.  We entered through the gates between Tony's Town Square and the shops, directly across from the Emporium.  I distinctly remember getting a bit teary eyed as I approached, largely because I was quite warm, recovering from my earlier blood sugar crash, and from the emotional impact of imagining this moment for the past year, hearing the roar of the crowd on Main street and realizing I was about to do this!
There were a few cast members cheering the runners as we approached the entrance to Main street.  One of them yelled, "You're at the best part! Welcome to the Magic Kingdom princes and princesses, and to Main Street USA!  Now go, run to that castle!"  I high-fived them and ran through the gate, misty-eyed and full of awe and happiness .  It was what entering the Olympic stadium must feel like for those athletes.  Spectators lined the entire length of Main street several deep.  There were cheers, cow bells, clappers, amazing signs, hands out for high-fives, and cast members on the right clapping, cheering, and taking photos of runners if they asked.  It was loud and high energy.  It was amazing.  What a boost of energy it gave!  I was disappointed the castle icicle lights were not on as they were for the full marathon.  I get that the marathon is 'the' event of the week and they get the 'best' of what Run Disney has to offer, but I was looking forward to the castle being all that much more beautiful. Everyone seemed to slow down to savor the experience, some looking for family and friends in the crowd, others stopping for photos.  My sister was looking to see if anyone taking video caught her and found this one.  It captures the spectator experience at the start and Main. St, and at about 1 minute in, they caught me running on Main St. near the circle in front of the castle toward Tomorrow Land!
Poor quality, but this was running down Main st!
We ran toward the castle and into Tomorrow Land, past the tea cups and between the Carousel and Fairy Tale Princess Hall toward 'it'.  Cinderella's castle! Photographers were stationed pre and post castle to capture the runners.  I was fortunate that I was able to slowly jog through the castle.  My sister said when she got there later it was a dead stop and they had to walk through slowly.  Lots of cheering from the runners, hands in the air, as they emerged to the cheers of the spectators and offering a view of Main Street with the runners streaming in toward where you now were.  Another photo I wish I had taken! I knew my family was on this side of the castle and began to scan the crowd for them.  They saw me long before I saw them!  I was directed to my photo op in front of the castle.  This was well-orchestrated. I didn't even have to wait.  They had several photographers and a mark on the pavement where to stand.  Strike your pose and then you were off and running again in no time!  Finally, I saw my family.  I ran over for hugs and a quick picture and then I was off.  Right to Liberty Square and a REAL bathroom!  Turns out I did a really good job hydrating!  Note:  Managing running outfits/costumes that are wet like a wet bathing suit adds time to bathroom stops!  Another advantage of using a park bathroom is the ability to splash water on your face/arms/neck if you are hot or make necessary costume adjustments!
mf before castle thumbs up
Thumbs up!
kim on main st after castle
After exiting the castle, running toward my parents.
photo (1)
Mile 4 at the TTC!
mf running thru castle
Coming out of the castle
mf castle hooray
The Long Road Back to Epcot...
As we ran toward the parade gate to back stage, the WDW railroad train was there, steam engine blowing.  Runners with a sense of humor lay on the tracks in front of it for a photo op.  I feared if I lay down, I wouldn't get up!  Back stage was a parade float with Cinderella, Prince Charming, the mice, and a very long line.  I waved, took a poor photo and kept going.  My sister noticed on the other side were all the logs from Splash Mountain which was being refurbished!  Mile 6 is just outside the Magic Kingdom. There is still half a race to go!
This is the part of the course most runners dread.  The combination of the let down of leaving the Magic Kingdom, the lack of characters, and the limited access for spectators to cheer you on when you need it most can make for a long, lonely stretch, especially if you are running alone.  There are opportunities for spectators at both the Grand Floridian and Polynesian.  There were precious few at the GF and they were all asleep!  No noise!  There were many more folks at the Polynesian, including our great ChEAR squad mama, Wendy, who went back and forth between mile marker 4 at the TTC and the Poly for all 3 of us runners!  She was amazing!  We really needed it and her cheers really helped us along!
Entertainment in the form of characters is sparse in this stretch although there were a few.  There were bands and DJ's and even just a speaker system set up to play the official race songs of "Roar", "Don't stop Believin" and "Let it Go" in a continuous loop at mile 7- ish.  This is where my playlist came in very handy!  I was able to get back into my intervals and find my groove, and I actually ran the second half of the race faster than the first half. First time in my life I actually ran negative splits! Still, I ran significantly slower than training pace.  I didn't care.  I wasn't running for a PR.  I was running Disney!
Hydration, Nutrition and Medical Assistance
There was Power Aide and Water about every mile to mile and a half along the course.  Big long tables on both sides of the course with tons of amazing volunteers handing cups to passing runners.  Power Aide was always first and in blue cups and water was always second and in yellow cups.  The Clif nutrition stop was about mile 8.5 and all they offered were a variety of clif shots.  I thought there would be bananas but there were none.  I carried water in my water belt although I actually never drank it.  I did take water at every stop and at times took a cup and splashed it over my body to cool down.  I also carried clif shots and Snap sport beans in my pockets. Our chEAR-er Wendy handed me my chocolate coconut water at mile 4 and I drank that instead of Power-Aide (lemon-lime was the flavor given at all stops).
There were also medical tents along the way.  They had ample band-aids, bio-freeze and Vaseline along with ice and the ability to assess and treat minor to more severe injures.   When they were not assisting runners, they were cheering.  Ambulances were on stand-by if needed.
The volunteers deserve a huge shout-out and thank you.  They are often up even earlier and out there on the course far longer than the runners are and they work hard to make our experience magical.  I made a point to say thank you all of the  ones I came in contact with or shouted and waved a thank you as I ran by others.  They rock!
Miles 10-12 are the 'heartbreak hill' of the Disney Half-Marathon.  The ramps!  While not a problem for me since I train on hills and these were long, gradual 'hills', the fact that they come at the end of the race is a challenge to many.  It's actually pretty cool, as you can see the runners both ahead and behind you and your destination comes into view.  Spaceship Earth becomes visible!  So close!  At the bottom of the last ramp was a DJ telling us that mile 12 marker was around the corner.  We were almost there!
The approach to the last ramp to Epcot!
The view of the top of the 'hill'
Runners coming up the ramp
The view from the top of the ramp of the approach
As I ran toward the cast entrance to Epcot, there were both spectators and those waiting to enter the park for the day, as it was not yet open.  Some seemed quite put off by the crowds as they had no idea there was a race going on!  It sort of surprised me how many visitors to the park, and even cast members we talked to in the days prior to the race, had no idea it was Marathon Weekend!  You'd think Disney would have at least educated all their staff it was Marathon weekend!  The spectators here were kind of quiet.  No, really quiet.  I know they were probably tired of cheering an hour or two or waiting for their runners, but we were tired!  It was the last mile!  I sure needed that energy boost.  To run by all those people and hear pathetically little in the way of encouragement was almost discouraging!  I yelled to them "let's hear it, we're tired!" and made gestures to encourage them to make some noise, which several did respond to.  I actually ran up to a bunch of strangers and said, "Holy crap!  I'm going to do this!" and they woke up and cheered.  Thank goodness!  Even though they probably thought I was nuts.
Just inside the cast gate was the last water stop.  Cast members and volunteers welcomed us to Epcot and the last mile.  Many cast members ready to start their day were out cheering for the runners.  You could feel the energy pick up again, and runners pick up their pace as they headed for the World Showcase turn around and then, to the finish.
mf epcot 2
Just after entering Epcot
Cast members in front of the Mouse Gear store
Running to and from the World Showcase
gospel choir at epcot
Amazing. Gospel Choir at Epcot.
Just before exiting the park was quite possibly the most unique and best part of this race.  The Gospel choir!  Yes.  A full gospel choir.  They were fantastic!  People stopped to take photos, dance, and sing right along with them!  Then it was out of Epcot and the mile 13 marker!  Then, the finish line!  It didn't even occur to me to take photos!  Spectators lined that last tenth of a mile, cheering and encouraging runners to the finish.  The announcers welcomed finishers and upbeat music played in the background.  I got my pixie dust ready and Donald, Daisy and Goofy were there when I crossed.  I got to high-five Donald and Daisy just before I crossed!  Then I threw my pixie dust into the air in honor of my Meggie and once again became teary eyed.  I did it!  I ran a half-marathon!  Yay me!  Yay everyone that did it!
My daughter, my inspiration. She died at 3 and would have loved this!
The Finisher Chute
It ain't over till it's over!  Crossing the finish line is an accomplishment but you have to keep moving.  There are lots of people right behind you!  It is a well-organized and well-oiled Run Disney machine!  After you finish you proceed in the chute and get your medal.  There are many volunteers on both sides handing out medals so you don't have to go to the first person you see.  Having that medal put around my neck was a dream come true.  The guy who gave it to me was pretty cute, too!  ;-)
Marathon photo Kim finish chute
From medals it's on to get your water and then your snack box and banana.  Along the way the official photographers take your photo.  Then it's your official finisher photo against a Run Disney Finisher backdrop.  I looked a bit spacey for this one.  I wish I had the forethought to strike a more fun pose! From the photo you are back to the same area we began in.  The medical tent is on the right and then a massage tent.  Massages are cash only and I had planned on this so I got an immediate post race massage and it was awesome.  I also got to keep the Run Disney mylar blanket I lay on for the massage, which came in handy because I got chilled.  To my knowledge they were not given out anywhere else but the medical or massage tent for the half.
If you opted out of medical or massage, then you went back through the bag check to retrieve your bag which was quick and easy once again and the bag check staff clapped and cheered for everyone who came through that door.  Then, it was back to the initial staging area to meet your friends/family.  Note:  Plan where you will re-connect with your friends and family before you run.  Much easier that way!  It's crowded, you are tired and post race 'dumb', at least I was, and cell phone batteries might die.  I found my friend Holly and her family here, too!  This is us!
Kim and Holly half photo
Kim and Holly. Friends since high school. We won't discuss how long that's been...
Buses back to the resorts were also accessible from this area.  You could also walk to the finish to see others finish.  We were able to get back to the finish in time to see my sister finish.  I love this photo I took of her just after she crossed the finish line!  I am so proud of her!
T's finish
The DJ was still rockin' it and characters were available for photos.
finish photo with chip and dale
There were vendors, porta potties and meeting tents for groups as well as a place to have your medal engraved.  We hung out for a while, got some photos and had cupcakes from the amazing Wendy who spotted the Yum Yum cupcake truck!  Then we got a bus back to our resort.  All in all, we left our resort about 3 am and returned at about 11 am.  Staff at the resort congratulated us and some applauded.
What an amazing day!
Advice from a Newbie
  1. Don't walk the parks the day before the race, at all!  Maybe even save all of your sightseeing for after you run.  We thought we'd 'take it easy' with 3 hours at Hollywood studios the day before the race but we still logged almost 10 miles of walking that day, as well as the two days prior.  It made for tired legs! We all ran much slower than we had in training runs, this being one of the reasons I am sure.  In retrospect, I would save the parks for after I run next time.  Oh, and my Fitbit said that I logged nearly 20 miles that one day of the race!  Granted, we also went to Epcot for a few hours in the afternoon and for dinner but that's a lot of mileage!
  2. Savor the expo.  We were in and out pretty quick.  I don't like crowds or shopping, but again, in retrospect, I do wish I took the time to really survey what was there, truly experience what the Expo had to offer, wait in line to meet Jeff Galloway, and attend some of the free seminars they offered.  If I do it again, I will plan to spend more time at the Expo and meet Jeff.  He is my running hero!
  3. Remember your training!  I totally got off my intervals from the start.  I ran the entire first mile without walk breaks.  Then I was all messed up with photo stops and not being able to hear through my headphone due to the noise around me so I stopped when I thought it was time to, which had me running longer intervals than I usually do.  I just wasn't mindful until I started to feel tired.
  4. Don't expect to PR or even to keep your training pace.  Enjoy the experience that is running Disney.  I wish I took more photos.  I wish I was more mindful of certain experiences.  I wish I remembered to have my snacks!  I ran slower than I expected (and I had already expected to run slower than my training pace by about 15 minutes) but that's OK.  The weather was humid and I made newbie mistakes. Live and learn.  Most of all, have fun!  For what it costs to travel to and run at Disney, you should savor every moment!
  5. Be mindful of your race nutrition needs!  This one really got me. With all the walking we did at the parks, we forgot to compensate for the extra calories we burned doing that.  Despite eating well, I think I did not eat enough pre-race.  I was so focused on hydrating, I wasn't hungry and didn't think to over-compensate.  I trained with and expected to have clif shots and sport beans at regular intervals during my run to manage my blood sugar.  I got thrown off by the early start, the adrenaline rush of the experience and the excitement of the first 4 miles that by the time I hit mile 4 I was already crashing and it took me a while to figure out why I felt so crappy already.  Yep, low blood sugar makes you dumb.  I had been hydrating well but had forgotten all about my sport beans!  It took me a while to realize I needed my clif shot which I usually take at mile 3.  The lack of sleep, the 10 miles a day of walking for the 3 days prior, and the adrenaline rush of running Disney almost did me in before I even got to Main street!
  6. Don't forget to eat post race.  I carried my snack box and banana for far longer than I should have instead of eating it!  Again, low blood sugar makes you dumb!  I also know I'm just not hungry after I run, so I usually force myself to eat.  I was so distracted by the goings on around me at the finish and the excitement of it all that I totally spaced on eating!  Those cupcakes saved me and they were soooooo yummy!  Have I mentioned Wendy rocks?
  7. Be a spectator for the races you are not running!  Even just for a little while. It's wicked fun and gives you a whole new perspective and appreciation for what it's like to be on the other side of running.  Our chEAR squad was the best!
chEAR squad
My dad, my mom, the amazing Wendy, and my aunt.
8.  Where you medal everywhere!  Where else can you wear your bling for days afterward?  You earned it!
T me and mickey
Our last night! Mel, Wendy, Theresa and myself
Needless to say, the experience was amazing.  You only run your first half-marathon once.  You only run your first Disney race once.  To have two amazing opportunities wrapped up into one was more than I ever imagined.   To do it with my sister and friends, and to have my parents and aunt there to cheer us on made it even more special.  You know what the icing on the cake was?  The heart cloud I saw after the race.  I had seen several that day, but this one was a huge one.  Moved me to tears.  Again.  For those who don't know the story, ever since my daughter died 9 years ago, I see heart clouds at significant times in my life.  I think this one was a big "Way to go, Mommy!" from my own little Tinker Bell.
In fact, I have my sights on the Tinker Bell half in 2015.  Seems appropriate.  :-)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

T-7 days to Racecation, but who's counting?

Happy New Year!
One more week!  I'm going to Disney World to run a half-marathon in T-7 days!  *squee*
It's hard to believe in one week I will be in Florida for the WDW Marathon weekend!  Last year this was a whim.  Now, it's a reality!  The training is complete and I am now in taper mode.  My running costume is complete.  My packing list is made and pre-packing has begun!  The weather forecast looks fantastic for Marathon Weekend.  A bit warm for the half and the full from a runner's perspective, but hopefully dry and certainly not cold and snowy.  The fleece is out and the shorts and T-shirts are in!
I am nursing both an injury and a cold (and two sick children!) but am confident all will be resolved by the day of the race.   I should run 3 mi today but am taking it off to recover from both and let my body rest and heal.  I will instead do lots of stretching and some yoga.  I know I will finish this race and finish it well. Besides, I have pixie dust!   I will fly!  ;-)
tink costume
My Tinker Bell running attire.
I am very much looking forward to this challenge but I am also looking forward to a mini-vacation with the girls.  Our race-cation is mostly before the race.  It's a whole different experience doing Disney without kids.  I'm sure even more so doing it on Marathon weekend!  The energy of the parks must be so different with the vast majority of people there running or supporting a runner in one (or all) of the 4 races and/or the kids races.  The cast members must enjoy it as well.  The perks of running through the parks are exciting to a Disney fan, especially before they open to the public.  Running backstage, coming in cast entrances, running down the road through the entrance gate to the Magic Kingdom, running down main street, in the dark, to hundreds of cheering supporters and of course, running through Cinderella's castle and stopping for the obligatory photo op!  Running those magic miles as the sun rises, seeing characters along the way, and then running through Future World, fueled by memories of family trips where we walked down that same route 'belly-um-ing' (long story) in a line like silly folks for that last amazing mile and then crossing that finish line and receiving a medal for a HALF MARATHON!
The fact that I am also running for the Make-a-Wish Foundation with the WDW Radio running team and running to finish breast cancer with the Donna Foundation as a virtual runner makes it all that much more meaningful and special for me.  And of course, there is my own little pixie/princess who will be flying right along with me with her sparkly Heavenly wings.  She is the inspiration for my Tink costume for she loved Tink! When I hit the wall, it's all of these things that will get me right on over and through it.  I am blessed.
My daughter Meggie on her 2nd birthday in her Tink costume. She always wanted to 'fly in the sky'.
Then there is the fact we are vacationing and can leisurely enjoy the parks, seeing what WE want to see.  We can be fun and be silly.  We have a fantastic resort hotel in the Beach Club.  We can relax at the pool and play in stormalong bay or go for that last easy run.  We can park-hop with ease and whenever we want.  We already have our fast passes and can manage rope drop without having to get anyone else ready but ourselves!!  This will get us an extra hour of sleep easily!  We can drink and have cupcakes around the world, search for hidden Mickeys, and get OUR pictures taken with characters! We have ADR's at the Kona Cafe (carb loading with tonga toast!), Via Napoli (post race celebratory dinner) and Be Our Guest as well as the Pasta Party Run Disney puts on.  We have meet ups to go to and friends to meet and greet.  We can watch the fireworks and not have to carry anyone out of the park because they fell asleep.  Doesn't that sound glorious?
Racecation, here we come!  You only run your first half-marathon once.  I can't think of a better or more magical place to do it than at Disney and with friends and family!