RACE RECAP: 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon

Rapunzel-tangled-34260942-1008-755Okay, WOW!!  Just WOW!  I have never seen so many princesses in one place before in my life!!  I definitely needed a tutu or a sparkle skirt or a tiara or something.  Oh well, next year.

I signed up for this race on the day registration opened last year on June 11th.  2 days later it was sold out.  Over 25,000 people showed up this weekend to run this race – AMAZING!!

I am certainly no race circuit veteran, but this was the biggest event I have ever participated in by a factor of 10!!

After I registered, I talked my step-daughter, Nicki, into registering too, so it was kind of a family affair!

About 6 weeks from the event, I started looking into logistics and it became clear that we needed to spend Saturday night before the race on Disney property so we could make use of Disney transportation, rather than driving from home and HOPING to get where we needed to be when we needed to be there.  Staying at one of the host resorts (we stayed at All-Star Movies) took a lot of stress out of the equation – and I’m all for that!!

Then I started reading blog posts from previous years races and found a lot of mixed reviews.  Many ladies were just excited to be able to dress up and run and stop along the course and get their pictures taken with Disney characters.  But there were some that griped and grumbled and panned the race from start to finish – I’m not quite sure what they were wanting…

Nearly EVERYONE mentioned that this was NOT the race to seek a PR in, because there were just so many people and you couldn’t really RUN.

So, I really didn’t know WHAT to expect going in.

What I DID know was that, regardless of the the outcome, as long as I finished it WOULD be a PR for me, because I had never run a half marathon before.

First stop when we got to Orlando on Saturday afternoon was the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where the “Fit for a Princess Expo” was being held so we could pick up our race bibs and such.2014-02-22 001 2014-02-21 008

2014-02-23 001 2014-02-23 003Disney is considered a MASTER MARKETING company for a reason – they have this shit DOWN!  You pick up your race bib in one building – very smooth, not much in the way of lines, I was able to pick up Nicki’s bib without hassle – and then you have to go to another building (where the actual Expo is being held) to get your t-shirt (and let’s face it – the PR is cool and all, but we all race for the freaking t-shirt and the finisher’s medal, right? 🙂 ) and you have to walk all the way through the expo to get to the t-shirt distribution place, and then that area dumps you right into the runDisney merchandise booth so you can then BUY t-shirts, pins, jackets, magnets, bumper stickers, and all manner of other stuff.

2014-02-23 002 2014-02-23 001Well played Disney, well played!!

We walked around the expo and Deb bought me the one thing I wanted as a souvenir of this race – a medal rack.  And the one I found was PERFECT for me – it exemplifies everything I think about fitness goals.  You just have to BELIEVE!!!

As we were leaving the Expo area we passed a large pink and purple wall that lots of people were taking pictures of.  As I looked closed, I realized that the name of each person who was registered for the race was listed on that wall – how cool.  So in an ego-filled moment, I had to snap a picture of my name.

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One of the highlights was walking past an area where a guy was talking about race strategy and nutrition and realizing that it was JEFF GALLOWAY!!  So yes, I had to get my picture taken “with” Jeff Galloway! 🙂

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Race day started WAY before 0-dark-thirty!  I woke up at 2:28 a.m. (2 minutes before my alarm was to sound), had my Spark, imagineered, downed a shake, and generally just got pumped up for the morning.

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I am so amped up in this picture!!!

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Nicki? Not so much…

Nicki and I walked down to the bus loading area at 3:10 and walked right onto a bus.  We were at Epcot by 3:45.

There is quite a bit of walking involved once you are dropped off by the buses.  We walked from the parking lot, through bag check (which was incredibly fast and efficient) to the Family Reunion/gEAR check/Party Zone area,  and each ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  Then we went through the check point to a holding area where we just hung out until about 5am.  It was super humid and foggy, but warm.  I had brought an old sweatshirt to wear while we were waiting that I could just throw away when it was time to run, but I really didn’t need it.  At 4:45-ish, we were herded – yes, I think “herded” is an appropriate term – through another parking lot and down another road to the starting corrals (HA!  Another cattle reference).

There were 16 start corrals,  I was in Corral E (I submitted my pitifully slow 10K time from the Beat the Heat Triathlon back in November) and Nicki was in Corral M.  The start was staggered by corral in 3 minute waves.  It was timed like clockwork – so well done.  There was a stage and big screens that were projecting the announcers, there was great music, and a really energized atmosphere!  And princesses EVERYWHERE!!!  There were also lots of PRINCES!  I felt mightily under-dressed in my purple Under Armour running shirt and running shorts, but just couldn’t stomach the idea of running in a tutu and a tiara – maybe next year…

My goal for the run was to finish in under 2 hours.  I knew if I just RAN I would likely run out of gas somewhere along the way.  So my plan was to run 3:30 and then walk 30 seconds, and to do that over and over and over again until I crossed the finish line.  I figured if I did that, I could maintain close to a 9:00/mile pace.  So, that’s what I did.

The route was mostly in the dark.  And maybe it was because I had the good fortune to be in one of the early start corrals, but there were only a handful of times when I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to go.  There were 5 times that I can remember in the first half where the course narrowed so much that we were all pressed together pretty tightly and we all slowed to more of a trot for a bit, but those were short lived.

Nicki said the crowding was a lot worse further back and she had to walk more than she wanted to because there was such a mass of people at times!

I promise to buy all my race pics as soon as they are all uploaded - this is just a placeholder - I PROMISE!!

I promise to buy all my race pics as soon as they are all uploaded – this is just a placeholder – I PROMISE!!

Just as we were entering the Magic Kingdom I saw a familiar face – a man – and quickly realized it was JEFF GALLOWAY!!!  So I shouted, “Hey Jeff Galloway!  You’re my hero!!”  And he stopped, smiled, said “Hey!  Thank you very much!!”, gave me a hug and I was on my way – PASSING Jeff Galloway! 😉  That was so cool!!!

Running through Cinderella’s Castle was really cool.  I’m posting this picture, and I realize it’s not mine to share yet, but I will replace it with when the photographer finishes uploading all the pics and I can buy the downloads.  I really was still running with a smile at this point!

Before I knew it, I was turning back onto Epcot property.  I had 10 minutes to go to run 1.4 miles – it was just barely doable on fresh legs for me.  My legs and feet were aching, but I decided to go for it.  As I rounded Spaceship Earth I was running faster and faster, but I was running out of gas fast!

Where was the damned Finish Line!  Then I realized that there was a turnaround and I had to run back to Spaceship Earth and THEN to the Finish Line!  OH MAN!!!

The 2 hour mark passed as I hit the turn, but I wasn’t all that disappointed – I was still going to finish my first half marathon with a decent time.

As I crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer call my name, which was cool!

I got my medal – which is really nice and HEAVY!

I made my way to the Family Reunion area to the place where Deb and I had planned to meet and found her and Josh right away.  I was soooo relieved to be finished.

An hour or so later, Nicki crossed the finish line.  Considering she really procrastinated training until about 3 weeks ago, I am damned proud of how she did!!

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We have decided to come back next year and run the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K on Saturday/Half Marathon on Sunday).

Race Advice:

  1. If you want to register for this race, find out when registration opens and register that day!  Don’t wait or it will sell out.  This is an Aim-Fire-Ready thing.  You’ll get ready along the way, I promise!!
  2. If you have a previous 10K or half marathon time, do yourself a favor and submit it to runDisney so you can get in one of the earlier corrals.  My race and Nicki’s race were entirely different experiences because of our corral placements.
  3. Dress up and have FUN!  I will dress up to some degree next year.  I mean seriously, why not?
  4. Disney was awesome and prepared well for everything.  There were ample port-o-potties (although finding one to use after the race that didn’t look like a someone EXPLODED inside it was a trick – sorry TMI), so the call of nature is not a big concern.
  5. There were water/Powerade stops every mile or so and a Clif product stop between miles 8 and 9.  I stuck with what I had been eating/drinking in training, but there was plenty there for those who weren’t carrying their own nutrition.
  6. The volunteers were AMAZING!!!  THANK YOU to any of them who happen to read this! 😉

Either Disney has learned a lot in the past few years or some of the harsher race reports I read were written by divas or folks with incredibly inflated expectations, but I really have nothing negative to say about the event – AT ALL!

My Results

All-in-all, I am very pleased with my results in this event.  I stuck to my plan and feel like I did my best, although I probably did go out a bit too fast.

Here are the numbers:

resultsMy time was 2:03:20.
I came in 891/20,751 overall (top 4.2%)
I was 733/19,282 females (top 3.8%)
I was 36/1,582 in the 45-49 Age Group (top 2.2%)
Not too shabby for an old chick!! 🙂

DPHM14_Results

Race Recap: Beat the Heat Triathlon

2013-11-10 001 2013-11-10 001I wanted to post a race recap of the 2013 Beat the Heat Triathlon for those who have an interest in such things.  The event itself was really amazing – especially for a 1st annual event!  The race organizers and volunteers really made sure it was a first-class event from start to finish.  There were some curveballs thrown by Mother Nature for sure, but the human element was top notch!!

Let me backtrack for a moment because we did have some interesting stuff in the last couple of weeks of training.  We found out the race would be wetsuit legal – and in November, the ocean is starting to get a bit chilly, so we were fortunate to be able to borrow a couple of wetsuits from a triathlete friend for Deb to wear.  She went out with a training group the week before the race for an ocean swim and LOVED the wetsuit.  It also helped protect her from the swarms of jellyfish that were in the water with her.  She said she palmed a jellyfish with each stroke and that her training buddies were kicking them up in their wake ahead of her!  CRAZY!!

Cathy crashed her bike the week before the race.  Someone turned a corner right in front of her and she went down hard.  But man, what a trooper – nothing was going to keep her from this race!

BTH2013 2013-11-09 001My ankle is finally better it seems!  I was able to resume cautious training runs 2 weeks ago and it felt good with each run.  My pace is solidly around 9:00-9:30/mile.  My goal for the half marathon in February is to finish in under 2 hours, which is an average 9:06 min/mile, so I  have some work to do.

Okay, RACE RECAP… Race morning was gorgeous – around 65 degrees with a north to south wind of about 12 mph.  We arrived at the Daytona Beach Bandshell at 5:30am – it was nice being just the swimmer and the runner – so much less gear to lug around!  Cathy met up with us at 5:45 and we got our body markings and our timing chip and figured out the transition area and where we were supposed to pass the chip and such.

BTH2013 2013-11-09 008The sunrise was glorious – you just know it’s going to be a good day with a sunrise like this!  Deb ate her breakfast of peanut butter and banana on homemade whole wheat bread and a bottle of Performance and we met up with my coach who was all smiles and excitement at such an early hour – love her!  Deb tugged on her wetsuit and we took everything down to the corral for safe keeping.  After a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and a fourship flyover (so cool), it was onto the beach for the swim.BTH2013 2013-11-09 016

The ocean didn’t look too crazy from the boardwalk, but from the beach it was a different story – it was really rough!  The sprint wave men lined up and the horn blew and into the water they went.  I didn’t take any time to see this was going to be a TOUGH swim.  The guys were getting nowhere fast.  Many of them gave it a good effort and then gave up.  The rescue jetski was pulling people out of the pounding surf.  The horn blew and in went the ladies.  Same scenario only it happened quicker.  After maybe 5 minutes, the race director and rescue officials called the swim.  Anyone who had made it to the first buoy could continue, but everyone else (most people) were brought back to the beach.  One of our friends – a strong swimmer – was 30 feet from the buoy and was ordered to grab the sled on the jetski, rather than continue.  Sadly, the folks who did not make the turn DNF’d.  But the awesome thing about triathletes is that even though you get a DNF, you keep going – I think everyone got on their bikes and pressed on.BTH2013 2013-11-09 021

For the Olympic Distance racers, the swim was replaced with a run.  The race director said it was a 2 mile run, but there’s no way – maybe 1 mile.  Since Deb doesn’t run due to a medical condition, I was up.  Unprepared, unfueled – I thought I had another 2 hours to eat – I put on my race belt and lined up at the start.  There weren’t that many female racers and most were half my age.  But that’s one of the things I love – doing things most people my age would consider insane or unthinkable.

I ran the mile and crossed the pad, entered transition and Deb ripped off the timing chip, put it on Cathy and away she went for the 25 mile bike.  While she was gone we hung out and talked and listened to people in the corral talking about the swim.  The sprint wave came in and headed off on the run.  Then the olympic men started coming back.  Then some of the collegiate women,  We figure 90 minutes for Cathy on the bike, but she finished quicker than that I think. All of a sudden there she was.  I ran through the corral and met her, got the timing chip and headed out.  WOW!  What a difference in just running versus swimming and biking first.

It was hot!  I ran down the boardwalk, and hit the sand, under the pier and then south.  I just ran the first 11-ish minutes, but I could hear Pam’s voice in my head – run your race, stick to your intervals, there’s a lot of work to do, mind your ankle…. So, I calmed down and started running my intervals and it felt much better,  2 minutes running, 30 seconds walking, over and over again.

BTH2013 2013-11-09 026-2As I type, the official results are not posted, so I don’t know exactly what the times were.  The unofficial time for our team was 2:39:43, which sounds not so bad for a 1st time olympic distance triathlon until you account for the fact that the 1 mile swim (which likely would have taken Deb 35-50 minutes to complete) was replaced with a 1 mile run, which took me 9 minutes.  But it matters not, it was FUN!!

Our team placed 1st in the Female Relay Division (for all I know we were the ONLY female relay team), so that was a cool bonus.

I will definitely race this triathlon again next year – solo next time!