Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Main Event

Running a half marathon was far more exhilarating and enjoyable than I ever would have imagined. There were 14,000 people registered for the race and just participating in something with that many people was quite the experience.

All of the information that we received at the Expo said that we should plan to arrive at the race at 4:30 am and be in our starting corral no later than 5:15 am. So we were on the shuttle by 4 am which means we woke up around 3:30 am. This may seem crazy early but I wasn't able to sleep anyway. I rarely have trouble sleeping but that night I did. As I was lying sleepless, I thought to myself that I should have stayed for the 10:30 pm World of Color show because I wasn't getting any sleep anyway. Oh well, on to the race.

When we originally signed up for the race Crystal & I weren't sure how long it would take us to finish so we just said that we'd finish in 3 hours. This landed us in Corral E (out of G). In order to get to Corral E we had to walk at about 1/3 of a mile beyond the starting line. At 6 am there was a singing of the National Anthem and Mickey kicked off the race but we couldn't see much of that from our location. Around 6:20 we began walking and crossed the starting line at 6:30 (officially 30 minutes after the start). Luckily, we had sensors on our shoes so our time didn't start until we crossed.
Waiting for the Race to Begin

The first 3.5 miles were around the perimeter of Disneyland and through the parks. There were so many people and the walkways get narrow through the park so we were continuously maneuvering through the crowd. There were several characters out in the parks to cheer us on. I learned that I could be a much bigger Disney "nerd" as there were many people stopping to get pictures and autographs with the characters. I was focused on running and didn't stop to see any of the characters but enjoyed running through the parks. It reminded me of my trips to Disney as a youth when my sister and I ran through the parks from major attraction to major attraction (this was before Fastpass).
Running down Main Street

The race course opened up once we got outside of the parks so we picked up our pace a little. The big take away from the middle section of the race was that there are some pretty dull and rundown areas right around Disneyland. A local told us that this wasn't representative of Anaheim but really the only place that they could shut down roads without horrible implications to traffic. The excitement picked up and there were large crowds to cheer us on as on as we ran through Angel stadium. Our race bibs included our first name (Disney has always been about first names) so it allowed the spectators to cheer for us by name which was inspiring. The home stretch running back to Disneyland was exciting because we knew that we were running farther than we ever had before. But the last mile or two seemed long and I think it was because the crowd kept saying we were almost there but until I saw the finish line I didn't want to hear that I was almost there.
Finish Line

I am still amazed that I ran 13.1 miles and am so glad to have shared the experience with Crystal! Crystal did awesome especially considering that she really only had 6 weeks to train after she got over her virus. She has said that she wouldn't recommend the 6 week program but was quite proud of the accomplishment. We finished in just under 2.5 hours which was in the top half.
Results - Provided in an email from Disney

A couple of random takeaways from my first half marathon:
  • I was surprised at the number of people walking even during the first couple of miles. I guess I always just assumed that people ran the entire distance.
  • I am proud to say that we ran the whole distance and never really felt winded. Training in the altitude is for real!
  • I wasn't able to visualize how crowded 14,000 people would be so I was surprised at how difficult it was to maneuver throughout the whole race. And it didn't seem that walkers followed any sort of unwritten etiquette like moving to the right. Some people even STOPPED right in the middle of the course at the castle to see the characters.
  • With all of the excitement, I didn't listen to my IPod at all.
  • Crystal was amazed that I was able to eat my Mickey shaped rice krispie treat after the race without puking but I can't think of a better way to refuel after a long run.
  • In honor of my accomplishment I wore the finisher medal for the rest of the day except for a few minutes for Elias to try it on. I'm sure I looked a little silly at the Rockies game but I was proud of myself.
  • As the day wore on the soreness set in for both Crystal and I. It wasn't really muscle soreness but more like joint pain. A different kind of soreness than I have ever experienced. We learned that we probably would have been better off staying at Disney and walking around instead of getting in the car and driving to San Diego. Or a massage would have been wonderful. Guess we can call this a rookie mistake.
  • This definitely will not be my last Disney race. Anyone up for the 2012 Princess Half or Disneyland Half? Aaron thinks 2011 should be a Disney free year for the Bells. I don't think any year should be Disney free but life is full of compromises.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pre Race

It has now been a full week since I ran the Disneyland half marathon and if I don't get these blog posts up now I fear that I never will. The purpose of this post is to document the two days of excitement leading up to the main event of the Disneyland Half Marathon.

Flight/Arrival in California

We departed Denver early Friday morning. The flight with an almost 2 year old "lap child" (as his ticket said) went remarkably well. He was entertained by Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and drinking apple juice.

We arrived at the Orange County airport and everything seemed to be going well until I turned on my cell phone. It is a Nokia Nuron. Also known as a cheap version of a touch screen based smart phone. I turned on the phone only to realize that the touch screen would not work at all which makes it very difficult to do anything including take pictures, send text messages, or even make calls. So we spent a good portion of the day on Friday figuring out how we could get me a useable phone for the rest of the trip. I was disappointed because I planned to use the phone to take pictures during the race as it is much smaller than a camera. So without my trusty phone I took fewer pictures and posted fewer Facebook updates than I was anticipating.

Luckily, the rental car had GPS so we were still able to find an In-n-Out for lunch on Friday without my phone. No trip to California is complete without a stop at In-n-Out.

Health & Fitness Expo

After getting settled at the hotel and Elias down for an afternoon nap, Crystal & I headed to the Health & Fitness Expo at the Disneyland Hotel. This is where we received our bibs, shoe tracker, shirt, and goody bags. We spent some time looking around at the expo but were hoping for more freebies. And a note for anyone considering a Disney race in the future the shirts run very large. And we were not able to exchange them for a smaller size. Luckily, I don't mind my workout attire a little baggy.

Goofy's Kitchen

We took a break from the race activities and had dinner at Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. I was surprised at how easy it was to get reservations considering the hotel was swamped with people for the expo. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip and we learned that Elias LOVES the characters! He was not shy at all about approaching the characters and giving them hugs. The food was pretty good and it was a very fun end to our travel day.

Elias thrilled to see Goofy!

The Beach

We planned Saturday morning as our beach time. Turned out not to be a very good day at the beach. It was chilly & cloudy despite there being plenty of sun when we departed Anaheim. So Elias did not get a chance to swim in the ocean but did have fun playing at a playground.

Pasta in the Park Party

I am going to preface this section by saying that I have participated in several of Disney's offerings with a fee beyond theme park admission including backstage tours and preferred seating for shows. I have never been disappointed or regretted paying the somewhat exorbitant fee so I didn't hesitate to buy tickets for the Pasta in the Park Party. Here is the description of the event that was sent to race participants:

This will be your official pre-race party to get you geared up for 13.1 miles of pure celebration! Eat and spend time with your favorite Disney Characters inside Disney's California Adventure Park the night before the big race. Reserved World of Color Preferred Viewing included with ticket!

It sounded like a fun way to spend the night before the race. However, the event was not at all what I was expecting. We showed up about 15 minutes after the event started because we were enjoying our time at California Adventure and I was expecting a casual come and go buffet with characters roaming. The event was more like a formal awards banquet with a long line to see 1 Disney character (either Mickey or Minnie). We struggled to find somewhere where all four of us could sit together. We ended up at a table with staff from Disney running and Jeff Galloway. I didn't really know what to say to them and was more concerned about my two year old not eating and throwing food in a formal setting. Not exactly what I had in mind and definitely not worth the money. The food was pretty good but we could have had just as good of pasta somewhere outside of the park much cheaper.

At least we got a pre-race picture with jogging Mickey (the line was too long to see Minnie too)

In addition, the World of Color preferred viewing was for the 10:15 PM show. Not exactly ideal when you have to be on the shuttle for the race at 4 AM. So we obviously didn't stay for the show. Very disappointing considering the World of Color viewing was one of the primary reasons that I purchased the tickets to the dinner.

I think Disney should do a better job of advertising this as a pre-race banquet for the staff and sponsors and not a fun event for race participants. As a side note I did eventually get the courage to ask Jeff Galloway for advice for first time half marathoners. His advice was to add in some walk breaks around mile 5. Since our only goal for the race was to run the whole thing without walking we decided not to take his advice. I guess I know going forward that for future Disney races I don't need to attend the pre-race banquet or party or whatever they call it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Short Update

So I had the best intentions of updating my blog while in Anaheim. But it turns out that a trip to Disneyland with a 2 year old saves very little time for blogging. After running the half marathon, I too participated in afternoon naps on the rest of the trip which is when I was planning to blog.

Short description....the race was AWESOME! Crystal and I ran the whole race together and I am proud to have accomplished it and shared the experience with her. More detailed updates will follow later this week.