Saturday, March 22, 2014

13.1 miles of magic ....

About a month ago, I was at Disney with my family as I prepared to run the 2014 Disney Princess Half marathon.  I was excited about this run since I registered for it back in July. At that point I had only been running for two months so registering for this race was a leap of faith. My family was easily convinced to tag along on this journey. Disney in February during one of the coldest winters. Yes, please. This race certainly didn't disappoint from the expo to the finish.

We left on a Wednesday on an evening flight and arrived in Orlando right before midnight. By the time we arrived at our hotel, it was 1:30 am. The kids were in very good spirits despite the long day. They were at Disney and excitement filled the hotel room when we walked in. The alarm was set for shortly after 7 so we could hit the race expo.  We were all moving slowly since we didn't get a lot of sleep but we made it out of the room, ate breakfast and were on the first bus to the expo.

The expo was big and what you would expect from Disney. Bib pickup was in one building and the expo itself was in another building.  As you approached the expo you were welcomed in style. I couldn't resist getting a picture with one of these guys.

I enjoyed walking around the expo and seeing all the fun things for runners. I was able to meet Jeff Galloway while at the expo as well which was a neat experience. I found some fun merchandise and ended up getting my Cinderella shoes from New Balance.  The next hardest decision I had to make was which running outfit to wear: the yellow sparkle skirt to represent Belle or the turquoise skirt and blue shirt to represent my new favorite princess Elsa.  I decided on Elsa but only after texting several people to get opinions on my outfits.

The day of the half marathon, my day  started at 2:45 am. I got myself ready to go and headed to the bus at the front of the hotel. It didn't take long for us to arrive at the race entrance. The amount of cars headed into Epcot at 3:15 am was unreal. My kids and hubby took one of the later busses to the race so they could get a little extra sleep.  I had purchased entry into the race retreat so I could relax and eat something before the race. It was a splurge but it was worth it to me as I avoided the crowds on race morning. I had a chance to meet Alice and crew before I made the long trek to the start line. I also sat in the kiddie corner with some other ladies watching Cinderella as we killed some time before the race.  When they tell you it is a 20 minute walk from where the bus drops you off to the start corrals they are not lying. It was a slow walk to the corrals but I wasn't worried about the time because I knew I wouldn't be starting at 5:30 am. 

Djs playing music to get the crowd going before the race

The start line

I was in corral J so we didn't take off until about 35 minutes after the start of the race. Fireworks were sent up in the air as they released each corral. My husband and kids were watching the live feed from the tent and I was texting my husband as I was waiting to start. It was nice to receive encouraging messages before I started the race. At about 6:05 am we were off and running. Well sort of running. It was thick with people so it was slow going. I think the first mile ended up being at about a 16 minute pace. I was at Disney and knew this one wasn't for time so I wasn't too upset. I was still optimistic I could beat my last time.

Shortly after mile 2, I could see the lead runner on the opposite side of the road headed back in. I was in awe at that kind of speed.

Before I knew it we were headed into the gate of Magic Kingdom. I was confused because I didn't think we hit Magic Kingdom for a few more miles. Then I remembered it was quite a trek from that point to the actual park. I kept pushing on.

I hit mile 3 and could hear music from the movie Cars as we were near the speedway. Who knew there was a speedway? Not this girl. It was fast paced and I felt like I was cruising along a little better now that there was a little more space to move. I had to get the picture by the mile 3 marker since Cars is my son's favorite movie. The sun still wasn't up for the day and it was neat to run through in the dark.

Soon I was nearing the Transportation and Ticket Center and knew my family would be there. All of a sudden I hear someone calling my name and I turn and look and there is my oldest. She figured calling mom probably wouldn't get my attention like calling my first name. I was so excited to see them.  I think the look on my face in the photos my husband took certainly show my surprise even though I knew they would be in this area. 

I made good time between this point and the Magic Kingdom. I was making up some of the time I lost in the beginning. We went on some service roads and before I knew it was was turning onto Main Street. Cinderella's castle was in sight. My husband told me that the almost didn't make it in time to see me run down Main Street. I am glad they made it though.

This was probably my favorite part of the race. There were a lot of spectators cheering us on and being in the Magic Kingdom was pretty amazing. I stopped to get a photo with the castle in the background.  I knew we would be running through the castle soon and that was the moment I couldn't wait for (ok that and crossing the finish line).  My family was there to cheer me on and I was again excited to see them. I just love how excited they are when they see me in a race. My youngest is very loud too and wants to make sure I hear her as I go by.

There were trumpeters as you approached the castle and it was pure magic. 

From here we went through the rest of the park and headed back out to the open roads. At about mile 7, the DJs were blasting "Let it go" and that really got the crowd going. There were lots of ladies singing and some were even dancing to the song. Hey, I guess you have to have fun when you are running at Disney right? I stopped for another photo because this is my daughter's favorite song and she sings it multiple times a day. Yes, she really does. 

It was pretty uneventful after this. There were a few groups there to cheer runners on as we went through the last part of the race. At about mile 9 I was getting tired. It isn't surprising because it was about 65 or 70 at that point and the humidity was almost 100%. I texted my husband when I hit the 15k point to let him know where I was. He sent me messages back encouraging me through the last few miles. I was starting to have some pain in my achillies and I was slowing down. The race course took us onto the highways going between the parks and we ended up running up the on ramp and onto the overpass. I called these the death ramps. They were long and brutal. Shortly after the ramps, I hit a medical tent and got some biofreeze and a tylenol. I was hurting with each step and quick stretches weren't helping.  I was hoping I could make it. At this point I started walking and no longer cared about my time. I just wanted to finish. In retrospect, I wore my Newton running shoes instead of my Brooks. The Newtons put a lot of extra pressure on my calf muscles and this was a big contributor to my pain.  They are great for shorter distances but anything over 6 miles, I need a different type of shoe. 

I saw the mile 12 marker and I was ecstatic. I didn't have too much farther to go and I would be running through EPCOT soon. I started to run again because the pain was subsiding and there was no way I wasn't going to run across the finish line. We came into EPCOT through a service entrance and started to make our way to the front of the park. There was the 20k sign, it wasn't too much further now.   I was giving myself pep talks in my head.  We ran out of EPCOT and shortly after that there was the gospel choir. I had heard about this group and I was so excited because I knew there were right before the 13 mile marker. I was getting emotional because it was a tough race for me and the timing of the choir made me a little teary eyed. 

Yay, the 13 mile marker was there. I was almost there. My new favorite princesses were on that mile marker. I am glad my hubby got a photo of the sign since I had put my camera away at that point. 

I rounded the corner and was about to finish!  I thought it would be less emotional the second time around but I was wrong. There is a great feeling in crossing the finish line no matter how many times you have done it.

My family quickly found me and had a rose for me. The best feeling after running a race (besides the medal) is hugging my hubby and kids. I am so incredibly blessed they are so supportive and excited for my accomplishments.  Even though the race got tough at the end, it was still an incredible experience. The support for the runners was exceptional and Disney really does these races right. 

As I loaded the pictures from our camera onto the computer I found the below beauty. When it flashed across the screen, I could help but tear up. My husband knew I would load the pictures onto the computer and wanted to surprise me with this. Well, I was certainly surprised and is one of my favorite photos. I just love the fact that it looks like they are the only ones in the park and the haziness by the castle. 

Will I run another race at Disney?  Hell yeah! Registration for the Walt Disney World Marathon opens next month. This girl is signing up for the full marathon! I am scared and overwhelmed at the thought of running 26.2 but not that long ago 13.1 scared me too! If you have an opportunity to run at Disney I highly recommend it. I cannot stop smiling as I think about the race.