Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disney Half Marathon Race Report!

Last weekend, I made it down to FL to run the Disney Half Marathon! Last year after I ran the full marathon down there, Alison and I decided to go for the half this year, and I must admit it was much easier to train for this one!

So last year on the same weekend, it was in the 80s and sunny. This year, not so much. The forecast called for low-30s and sleet/snow. So we woke up at 3am so that we could be on the bus to the start by 3:45 (you have to be on your way by 4am as they close the roads down). We put on every article of clothing that we had with so that we could at least stay warm before heading through gear check. While waiting for the race, I had on:

Short sleeve running shirt
Long sleeve running shirt
Hooded running jacket
Hooded sweatshirt
Running shorts
Running pants

And I was actually pretty warm...or at least not frozen. Then it was time to head through gear check and walk the 1/2 mile to the starting line. While it was starting to snow a little, I checked the sweatshirt, hat, and gloves but added a plastic garbage bag to help keep in the warmth. (BTW, these totally work! Some may doubt it, but not after they tried it!!) The gear check line was super-long, but in traditional Disney fashion it moved along really quickly. I also decided to run this race without music, which I've been doing more of lately and really liking it. And as I had some pockets in my running shirt, I threw in a disposable camera that came in my race bag (which is where most of these pictures are coming from).

The walk out to the start was long, but since it started in the same place as the marathon did, I knew the route this time. We made it to the start corrals with about 20 minutes to spare and stood under a bridge to try to stay out of the wind. Yes, you can try to picture all of the garbage bag clad runners huddling under the bridge for warmth :) With about 10 minutes to go, we split into our respective corrals and got ready to go!

As usual, the race started with some fireworks and wave 1 was off. I was starting in wave 2, and now that I had my garbage bag off was counting down the minutes. Ten minutes later, we were on our way with some more fireworks!

I started off with a good pace of about 9:30, which I was hoping to keep up for the whole race if I could. The weather for the first few miles wasn't so bad. It was cold and a bit windy, but the snow had stopped. I ran past the first water stop at mile 2 and turned onto the road to the Magic Kingdom. As we approached the parking lot, there was a little change to the course this year and we were able to run right through the toll booths which was definitely fun!

From there, we ran around the lake to the East and under the water tunnel by the Contemporary. I remember the uphill after this tunnel being harder last year for the marathon, but my legs were still feeling great at this point as I came up the other side, still at about a 9:30 pace.

The course then made its way into the Magic Kingdom through a side entrance by Main Street. They still had the Christmas Tree up and we ran around that and towards the castle. At the end of Main Street, we turned toward Tomorrowland and ran back to Dumbo and then through the castle and back around to Splash Mountain where we went out a back exit of the park. There was a train parked there and he blew the horn as everyone walked by, scaring quite a few people! As we exited the park, we ran past some floats from the Halloween parade I had seen a few months ago which got the Boo To You song stuck in my head for the next 6 miles. (Maybe I should have run with music!).

At this point, it was Mile 7, and it started to sleet. A super cold, wet sleet that totally soaked my running jacket and added several pounds to the arms I had to move with every step. And it kept sleeting for the next 6 miles. I knew I was slowing down, and knew I was taking longer at the water stops. But there wasn't much I could do about it. I just couldn't keep up the pace I had set before while being soaking wet and running in heavier winds and sleet.

As I made my way to Mile 10, I saw that the course designers were not being nice to us. Between miles 10 and 12, there were two big bridges. Running up the first, which was a 1/2 mile long exit ramp, I could not wait to reach the top. It felt like it was going up and up forever. But then I made it up and realized that running uphill was probably better than the crazy winds that were blowing up there! But I continued on. The bridge just before Mile 12 was a bit steeper and I sort of walk-ran up it as I was just getting exhausted from running in my soaking-wet clothes.

Mile 12 was a fun run through Epcot (except for the giant puddles everywhere!). But I made it around and through the exit chute to the finish just a few minutes short of my original goal. I finished with a time of 2:16:00. When I started, I was hoping for 2:13:00 or less, so given the conditions, it wasn't that bad. And I feel like I can totally break my 2:06:29 record at Sonoma this spring!

It was still sleeting a bit after the race, which made it super cold while getting food and heading back through gear check. I almost could not move my fingers to put on my gloves as I made my way to the reunite area to wait for Alison. And man, was that the coldest 15 minutes that I can remember! As soon as Alison came, we quickly made our way to the nice warm bus back to the hotel! At least Disney does logistics really well, and there were plenty of buses waiting right next to the finish area.

After some warm showers and sitting next to the heater for a while, we were ready to head to the parks. We donned our warmest winter wear and made our way to the Magic Kingdom. It was certainly a cold afternoon and evening there, but definitely lots of fun! There were almost no lines and we got on everything we wanted to ride at least once (including 3 rides on Space Mountain!). The goal of the day was staying warm, so I got to see a bunch of attractions I usually miss including the Carousel of Progress and the Hall of Presidents (Obama was awesome!!). With some tea and hot chocolate in hand, we took in the fireworks show and then ran off to Pirates where it was warm (it is the Caribbean!).

All in all, a very fun weekend! It was definitely cold, but definitely memorable!