February 28, 2012

Disney Princess Half Marathon Recap

I lay in bed wide awake wondering what time it was.  I told myself to go back to sleep but then I talked myself out of it, wondering if the alarms (we set 3) would go off.  We were waking in the middle of the night, after all; wake up time was 3AM to catch a bus to the starting line at 3:30.  As I lay there tossing in bed thinking about the day ahead, I found myself excited and eager, which were emotions I don't remember from last year's half marathon.  Finally as I looked up to try to read the alarm clock, my Mom (in the other double bed) popped her head up..."I'm so excited" she squealed.  "Me too", I responded!  She jumped out of bed to check the time...alas it was only 2:15, but it was clear that neither of us were going to sleep anymore.  We clicked on the TV for some mindless entertainment while we waited to start getting ready.  I felt at ease.
Mom - excited and ready to head out!
At about 2:50, I finally got out of bed to don my running duds for the day - black compression shorts, a deep purple top, my long-sleeved throw away top and a frilly pink and purple ribbony pony tail thingie (my only Princess-y flair).  We packed a bag for bag check this year knowing that we would be waiting a while until we met the rest of our group (walkers).  I also had my breakfast in another bag - an english muffin with peanut butter, a banana, watermelon sport beans and a bottle of water (1/3 full for obvious bathroom reasons). 
We look tired...go figure!
We left our room at about 3:20 to pick up the rest of our group on the way to the bus.  We stayed at Caribbean Beach resort, a host resort, so our transportation should have been seamless.  Note the use of the words "should have."  We waited about 10 minutes for the bus to arrive and luckily were able to get seats...not everyone fit so some folks had to wait for another bus.  Very quickly my mom and I noticed that we were not headed in the right direction, towards Epcot.  A u-turn later and my mom scooted to the front of the bus to figure out what was going on.  She ultimately ended up sitting in the front row to help the driver to find his way...45 minutes later we were at the Epcot parking lots.  Since we'd done the race last year, we knew that there was a lot of walking to make it to your actual corral...probably 2+ miles.  We made it through bag check, a port-a-potty stop and we were out to our corral, B - same as last year.
We stayed toward the back of our corral knowing that we would be doing a walk-run strategy and figured that was best.  The Fairy Godmother sends you off with a little ditty and some fabulous fireworks - they do this for every corral which is really magical, as cliche as that sounds.  I loved every minute of it.  So at 5:51, we were off and running.  Our strategy was to walk, run every mile and half mile, respectively.  I put the race plan on the reverse of a Clif pace bracelet from the race expo.  We followed it to a t.
Race plan wristband
Miles 0-10 felt pretty great with the exception of mile 7.  My knees started to really bother me at that point and I started to wonder if I would be able to run much longer.  I didn't say a word to Mom, knowing that if I did, my concern would become a reality.  I kept it to myself and tried to push past the pain, mentally speaking.  And it worked...I didn't really notice my knees for the rest of the race.  At mile 10, I finally took my Clif shot, with some water at the water stop.  I felt great and still had a lot of energy so I told my Mom we were going to run the duration.  We started up the on ramp to the road into Epcot and saw the Army man from Toy Story.  An important note is that I vividly remember this spot from last year and really, deeply wondering if I would finish...or survive for that matter...I was semi-dillusional at this point (not a significant exageration) and was babbling on to my mom.  This year I was lucid and gunning it to the finish - what a difference a year makes.

I saw the mile 11 sign - the finish line was really coming...and fast.  My mom double checked that I knew how fast we were running (9 min mile pace) I nodded yes and yelled "let's go" (my ipod shuffle was loud and I didn't bother to hit pause while we talked, so I yelled).  There are 3 overpasses in rapid succession as you head into Epoct for the finish.  We walked up the last overpass to catch our breath and then we sprinted down and into the park to pass the mile 12 marker, the International gateway and the gospel choir as you turn for the finish.  I saw a few girls start walking as they struggled and gave them high 5's and shouted words of encouragement as so many did for me last year.  As we neared the end, I yelled for my mom to stay with me as we entered the chute and we crossed holding hands, arms in the air.  It's silly, but it was really an incredible moment for me.  I conquered all those demons that plagued me the last 365 days since the last race...my health issues, my life issues and most importantly my confidence in my ability to finish.  We hugged and yelled "we did it" and found the ladies handing out the medals.  I felt a little dazed from excitement and physical exertion.  We definitely negative split the race and I think we finished the last 5k in 27 or 28 minutes...it felt like a dead sprint. 

After we got our medals, I headed to the medical self help area for some ice for my knees and some tylenol.  We meandered through the crowd to get some water and powerade, then headed to the food tent and finally to bag check to retrieve our things.  It was quite chilly once you cooled off, so we went hunting for the mylar blankets to keep warm.  We met up with our friends at our designated meeting point, gave celebratory hugs and headed back to the hotel for a much-needed hot shower.  

The Disney Princess race is totally magical (like, for real) and is an amazing experience with tons of women encouraging each other and reveling in the princess spirit.  While we don't dress up on race day, we gussied up for our post-race park visit, wearing hot pink t-shirts that I designed that read "We love Disney so much we ran through it"...of course they had Minnie ears with a sparkly bedazzled crown.
Our Disney Princess Half Group - Lauren, Judy, Pam, Christine and Kymberlee
Who knows...maybe I'll keep running.  Or maybe not.  After Sunday, I don't have anything to prove anymore and that is incredibly cathartic.

{Christine}