They're not lying when they say every mile is magical. Disney really does do it right. What a great weekend. I flew into Orlando Thursday evening and had about an hour to kill before the next member of the group arrived. So, I just sat in the terminal and people watched for a bit. It was very entertaining. There was a very snooty older couple there with their little toy poodle in a purse (that the man was holding). The woman was using her laptop on one of the charging stations and complaining about the Wi-Fi bandwidth and how she couldn't send or receive any emails. It was hilarious and made the time go by fast.
Chris got in a little early and we went to dinner while we waited for Kristen and Jason to get in. They were on the same flight and scheduled to arrive about 3 hours after us. There was really no point leaving since we'd have to pay for parking when we came back so we just hung out in the macaroni grill until they closed up then made our way to the side of the terminal that Kristen and Jay were flying in to. Finally the gang was all there and we got the rental car and headed to the condo. I was exhausted and as excited as I was to be in Florida and on another marathon adventure with friends I just wanted to get to sleep as oon as possible. I knew I wouldn't sleep much before the half and especially before the full so I tried to get a good night sleep the first night we were there since we really had no agenda on Friday aside from going to the expo to get our bib numbers.
Friday morning we took our time getting up and moving. Ate breakfast at the condo, showered and got dressed and headed to the expo. Disney's Wide World of Sports complex hosts the expo and it was packed, cars and buses lined the road leading into the complex. We eventually found a parking space and started walking. The excitement in the air was like static electricity on sweater you pull out of the dryer on a dry winter day. There were little kids running around with medals on from the family races and adults with medals from the 5K race.
We got our bib numbers and headed into the expo. It's always so overwhelming, so much to look at and no clue where to begin. We all split up in 4 different directions. Thank God for cellphones and texting. Otherwise we'd never find each other again. I walked around up and down the isles and talked to a few vendors and amazingly only spent $15. I got myself a little 70.3 pendant to add to my necklace. It now hangs right behind my Boston Marathon pendant. After a few hours of expo exploring we all agreed it was time to eat. We went to Uno's on the way back to the condo and then stopped at the grocery store to stock up for the weekend.
Before we knew it the day had gone by and we were sifting through the goodies in the bags we got at the expo and laying out our clothes for the race the next day. Speaking of expo goodies, in the RunDisney flyer for all the 2012 races that Disney does, on the page for the Disneyland Half marathon there's a little photo of a Tinkerbell running through Anaheim Stadium that bares striking resemblance to a certain running addict/blogger, oh yeah it's me! We made dinner, pasta and chicken with garlic bread. Talked about our various strategies for the races ahead. Out of the 4 of us, I was the most prepared, but also the slowest runner in the group. So, it would be interesting to see where we all stacked up once we crossed the finish line.
We woke up bright and early, well early at least, maybe not so bright. It was 3:30am and we needed to leave the condo by 4:30 in order to be on the start corrals by 5:00am. We got ready, ate a little breakfast, had some coffee or tea and a little water and hit the restroom one last time before it was port o potties or palm trees as the only option. And off we went to the start. Chris was the quietest he had been since we arrived. It was his first half marathon and the nerves had set in. We all assured him he would do awesome and told him to enjoy the experience. The weather was perfect - in the low 50s maybe even high 40s. My costume looked amazing and I couldn't wait to get a ton of photos with all the Disney characters.
We lined up in the corrals and watched the giant TV screens showing the announcer and the stage near the start line as we inched our way closer and closer. The Wheelchair start was first and then there were 8 waves after that. Kristen was in the first wave, then Jason in wave 2 and Chris and I were in wave 4. For each wave there were fireworks and a countdown of Donald Duck saying "Ready, Set, GO!" And we were off and running.
The half is so much fun because you just go from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and back. You run through Cinderella's castle at about mile 6 and then you head back to Epcot. There are characters all along the way and all kinds of surprises and every mile really is magical. There isn't as much access road running as the full marathon and you're typically done before the sun even comes up completely so you finish just in time to get breakfast and enjoy the rest of the day. Here are a few of the photos I took along the way:
I had such a blast running the half then it was time to get serious and prepare for the full. We took a few more photos at the finish area and then went back to the condo for our ritual ice baths and hot showers before heading to Downtown Disney for lunch and a little shopping. The day went by surprisingly fast. Before we knew it we were back at the condo preparing dinner and getting ready for the next day of racing. Jason and I were doing the Goofy, Kristen and Chris would be on the sidelines cheering for us the whole way. We made pizzas for dinner and tried to get to bed early.
Again we got up super early in order to get in the start corrals on time. We left the condo at 4:30 and got to the start area right on time. No costume this time, this was all business, time to run! I felt a little nervous and a little excited, but more nervous than excited. I got into my corral and worked my way up to the front so that when we started I didn't have to weave in and out and around people. I was right at the rope when we approached the line. A little countdown and Mickey announced, "On your Marks, Get set, GO!!!!" fireworks went off and I was running my ninth marathon.
I felt great. Right away I got into a good rhythm and settled into a nice easy pace. First three miles flew by and then I had to use the restroom. I was so worried about getting dehydrated I overhydrated. So, my first 5 mile split was a little slower than I wanted, but it was ok because I made up for it in the next 5 miles. I had a pace bracelet on and I was right on track for a 4:30 finish maybe even a little under 4:30. Then just as we made it to the Magic Kingdom and through Cinderella's Castle, this time at mile 11 (not 6 like the day before) I had to pee AGAIN! I stopped on the way out of the Magic Kingdom and lost about 4 minutes, but figured I could make it up like I did before. I wasn't worried, I was having fun and feeling pretty good.
Animal Kingdom was next and the miles were flying by. I was already at mile 16 and still only about 4 minutes off pace for a 4:30 finish. Up next was the toughest part of the course, a long section of highway between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I ended up chatting with some guy for most of it and made it to Hollywood Studios and only had about 4 miles to go! I was slowing up a little, but still maintaining a solid 10:15-10:20 pace so I wasn't going to make up the time I lost, but I wasn't losing any more time. 4:35 would still be pretty awesome considering I did the half the day before. I'd take it.
Just about done, leaving Hollywood Studios, only the Boardwalk and Epcot left and a little over 3 miles. The end was so close I could taste it. Then my biggest fear going into the race caught up with me, dehydration. I started shivering and noticed my skin was dry and crusty. I grabbed a sponge and started soaking myself with water at each water stop, but it didn't help much I was already past the point of no return. So close though, I just kept running. One more mile I thought, I can do one more mile, then I'll go to the med tent. Last water stop and then just about a mile through Epcot to the finish. I grabbed a cup of water and took a sip and it instantly came right back up. I was in bad shape.
I pushed through and picked up the pace to get across the line and finished in 4:38 (4:37 according to my garmin), not too far off of my goal of 4:30. As soon as I crossed the line I was put in a wheel chair and brought into the med tent, triaged into the "yellow" section, whatever that meant, I'm not sure. There were 3 or 4 people attending to me right away taking my vitals and covering me with heated blankets. They brought me a cup of water with a straw but I just about choked on it because I was so thirsty and my body wouldn't absorb anything. After a few minutes of warming up I was finally able to keep some water down. I drank 3 or 4 cups of water and got a change of clothes before they would let me leave.
Once I was cleared to go from the med tent I collected my medals and got my bag from the bag check and met up with the gang at the finish festival. We took a few more photos and headed back to the condo for showers and fresh clothes. Back to Downtown Disney for lunch and more shopping and then a little pool time and much needed naps before we went to dinner to celebrate a weekend full of amazing accomplishments. Chris finished his first half marathon, Kristen beat us all in the half with little to no training at all, Jason beat me in the full by 4 minutes and he didn't train at all either! Totally not fair because he ran with his phone and was tracking me the entire time, picking it up a little everytime he noticed I was ahead of him. And I finished my 9th marathon and 2nd Goofy Challenge. Cheers!
Now I need to decide what's next???? Marathon number 10 and maybe a few other challenges and checking off some items from my list. Stay tuned, I'm sure 2012 is going to be epic.