A Tale of Two Races: Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2014

I’m sure you’ve already enjoyed my fun race recap from the Tink 10k (if not check it out here).  It was a ton of fun and I felt great the whole race.  It helps to have the context of that recap which detailed what I spent my weekend doing to really understand what went wrong (spoiler alert) with the half marathon the next day.

The Cliff Notes version:
Sunday-Thursday – Conference in Long Beach for work; training 9-5 each day, worked in my hotel room on some deadline projects from 5pm-midnight or later each night.  Result = not much sleep.
Thursday PM – Arrived in Anaheim, explored Expo, explored Downtown Disney, stayed out too late eating rich food and drinking Sangria.
Friday – Got up early, spent 12 hours exploring the parks at break-neck speed, generally got wiped out but had a lot of fun.
Saturday – Got up at 4am, ran a 10k, had a lot of fun.

OK, now you’re all caught up. 

So, when we last left our intrepid runner (that would be me), I had just finished the 10k and went back to Disneyland in my costume and medal for some great Club 33 photos.  One thing I left out of my 10k recap was that while my contacts were fine during the race, right after I got back to Disneyland that morning, my left one clouded up and was really bugging me all day (Problem #1)

After the Club 33 photo session mission was accomplished, I picked up some Mickey Beignets (um, those were awesome!) and decided to head over to California Adventure to ride some of the rides we missed on Friday.  I got to ride Radiator Springs Racers, and Soarin’ twice and picked up some lunch at a quick service Asian restaurant.  I got brown rice and chicken and veggies, but didn’t want to eat too much because my stomach was hurting after eating on Friday, so I just ate the chicken and some veggies and pretty much ignored the rice (Problem #2).

I realized I wanted to get my shopping for souvenirs done (ok, ok, I was paranoid that something would happen during the half that would prevent me from getting back to the parks) so I browsed the shops in California Adventure, but then I remembered that the shirts I wanted to get for Erik were back at Disneyland.  So, I hiked back over to Disneyland to pick up these awesome shirts (Problem #3).

I shopped a little more while I was there for some gifts for Alex and Eli and then headed back to the hotel.  Except, I made a detour into the Expo.  I was hoping they might still be taking reservations for the New Balance runDisney Cinderella shoes, but alas, they were not.  I wandered around, looked at all the merchandise and listened to the original figure model for Tinkerbell who was peppy and funny and a great storyteller.

I got some water and generally stayed on my feet way more than I should have (Problem #3 continued).

I finally headed back to my hotel around 6pm.  So much for staying off my feet and resting.  I went to the diner next door and had a light dinner of salmon and veggies (no carbs at all – Problem #2 continued) and then showered, changed into jammies and started laying out my things for the Half.  I set three alarms for 2:30am because I had a meetup with the other Pixies for a group photo at 3:55am and I knew I needed a little more time for my costume because I hadn’t really pulled it together in a practice run. 

For this race, I dressed as Fawn, the woodland/animal loving fairy.

I made a long braid out of some really soft, light-weight yarn that I tied to a ponytail holder and braided.  I took some autumn leaves off a silk/plastic floral arrangement and stuck them in my hair with bobby pins.  I decided not to put any eye makeup on because my eyes were still bothering me, although I managed to get my contacts in (Problem #1).

I headed to the staging area with arm sleeves and a throw-away jacket on because it was COLD (Problem #4)!  I really hate standing around in the cold, but that’s what was required.  I should have worn gloves (more on this later as Problem #4) but I forgot them.  And I really didn’t realize how much colder it was than the prior days until I was out there.  I met up with the pixies and we got a great photo.

I headed off to the corrals and froze my hiney off.  I chatted with a couple of other runners and tried to get my energy up.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Now, this isn’t unusual for me, I wrote a whole post about it recently.  So, I tried to stay positive and hope for the best.

We got started and the first mile felt ok.  I had planned to do some walking intervals for this race because I knew my legs were shot from the 10k and all the theme park walking (Problem #3).  I felt ok on the boring road and it was kind of fun to run by the high school bands.  It was amazing they were willing to get up that early and play in the freezing weather.

We went back into the parks pretty quickly.  There were all the gorgeous sights from the 10k and some fun new characters.  The first stop was in Cars Land where I found the Cast Member who was immortalized in Patty’s 10k post (relive his previous brush with blog fame here). 

Cars Land was gorgeous all lit up at night.  Disney did an awesome job with this addition and they NEED to add it to Hollywood Studios ASAP!


Mater is one of Eli’s favorite characters, so even though there was a big line, I had to make sure to get a picture with him.  

We then wound around to the World of Color area (wow, I need to find my Disneyland map to get a better idea of the layout of these parks!) and it was lit up and beautiful!

We finished up our California Adventure and headed out towards Disneyland.  During this whole time, I was mostly running between photo stops.  I got hot and peeled my arm sleeves down but my hands were still cold.

Once in Disneyland, we did the Main Street run which was beautiful with the miniature castle all lit up. 

They had the horses out in the backstage area and this one was so sweet!

In Toontown, we saw these characters; Marie is one of my favorites so I knew I’d have to stop and get a picture with her:

And just like that, our time in the parks was done.  And apparently I was done too.  Here’s my course map from my Garmin:

 You can see that we started at the green balloon thing and had lots and lots of fun in the two parks.  And then we headed out into Anaheim and there were lots and lots of streets.  And houses.  There were some great spectators and normally that would have been enough to keep my spirits up.  Honestly, at Space Coast last month, we didn’t even have many spectators and I was fine.

But, sometime after we left the park, I started noticing that I felt bad.  My head felt kind of fuzzy.  And my hands got really swollen.  I thought they were numb because of the cold, but then my fingers turned into little (big) sausages and started kind of hurting a bit.  Yikes!

I think I freaked myself out a little a lot because I’m terrified of passing out and/or dying at a race.  It’s one of the reasons I tend to push myself harder on training runs than I do in a race (most of my PRs are actually in training runs not races). 

Somewhere between mile 8 and mile 9 I decided that I shouldn’t be running any more.  My swollen hands, my tired little legs and my strange fogginess in the head all combined to make me think I might be having some sort of medical situation.  Did I stop at a medical tent to get checked out?  Of course not.  Why?  Because I also mostly thought I was just having a reaction to the cold and overdoing it the previous week.  But I wasn’t sure and so I decided to just walk.

And I walked the last 4 miles of the race.  And I felt awful while I was walking.  It was not fun.  It was a long, hard, boring slog.  The spectators stopped being amusing.  The bands just irritated me. The only thing that perked me up a little was the huge (seemed like hundreds) of red hat ladies who were along the tail end of the course cheering.  I’d heard about them, but had no idea there were so many!  It was pretty inspiring.  I got this photo, but it doesn’t do them justice. 

Not too long after that, we were getting closer to the finish line.  I’ve never been more grateful to see the end of a race.  I decided to run the last quarter mile or so and was shocked that it felt pretty good.  I suspect if I’d at least kept running intervals in the whole race that I would have had a much better experience.

And then I was done and I got my medal and went straight back to the hotel.  As soon as I got in a warm shower, my hands went straight back to normal.  I crawled into bed and crashed.  When I woke up it was noon, and I grabbed a quick bite at the diner next door which was delicious.

I found a day spa nearby that had a 4pm massage available and that was delightfully refreshing.  And then I headed back to LAX to fly home.  My plane left around midnight and I fell asleep the minute I got buckled in and didn’t wake up (even through takeoff!) for several hours.  When I got home around 10 am, I enjoyed time with my family, ate lunch and then slept another five hours.  I was beat.  I had no trouble going to sleep at 9pm that night either!

So.  Here’s where I figure out why the Tink Half was such a horrible race for me.  It was my third half marathon in three months and the first two were awesome!  They were fun and, if not easy, certainly not the soul-draining, miles of misery that Tink was for me.  Here’s what I think contributed (and has some good lessons for what NOT to do!).

  1. Being sick:  When I mentioned earlier that my contacts were giving me trouble, it was a hint I should have taken and put together with some other clues.  As soon as I got back to work, I went to the nurse and discovered I had a serious sinus infection.  I got a head cold in early December and I think it had settled deep in my sinuses.  Although I could breathe fine through my nose, the deep sinuses were very infected and putting a lot of pressure on both my face and my ears (my eardrums were bulging apparently).  That was very likely what caused my head to feel kind of off during the race, to make my contacts not fit right and have some bizarre film on them, and for me to just be really really tired.
  2. Not fueling:  I did the opposite of carb loading the day before the race.  The only carb I ate all day was the Mickey Beignets right after the 10k.  And I was pretty light on carbs the whole week before.  I don’t usually go crazy with the carb loading, but I think the combination of a lack of carbs (and really, a lack of calories in total that day) plus a ton of walking and a 10k left me with very little energy stores for the half the next day.
  3. Doing too much:  I didn’t sleep enough that whole week, I think the longest nights sleep I got was about five hours between the time difference and a lot of work deadlines, I just didn’t sleep.  For an entire week.  And it caught up to me.  And I walked a ton on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I should have respected the Half more and recognized that I needed to just take it much easier after the 10k.  But I didn’t, I was just too excited to be at Disneyland to rest.
  4. Exercise induced cold urticaria:  OK, I’m only self diagnosed on this one, but anytime I run when the temps are below the mid 50’s, my belly skin gets all itchy and breaks out in hives.  A friend has the same symptoms and was diagnosed with the same thing.  It’s like exercising makes your skin get allergic to cold weather.  Apparently this condition can also cause your hands to swell up and go numb.  I know the 40’s isn’t cold to most people, but as a Floridian, it’s cold enough to trigger it for me.  I’m still not 100% sure that’s what caused my fingers to swell, but I know they went down the moment I got into a hot shower.  
  5. Not having a plan:  I knew I needed to do the Half at an easy pace but I didn’t have a plan.  I knew I wanted to do walk intervals for this one, but I didn’t set my watch up to do them.  So, I just kind of did them when I felt like it.  Which meant I didn’t do them enough at the beginning and did them too much at the end.  I should have just accepted the walk intervals (I think my ego was hoping I’d be able to muscle through and just run it) from the start. 
  6. Not training for the back to back races:  I don’t run on consecutive days, the one time I tried to do it, I messed up my achilles.  I SHOULD have done the Galloway plan of walking long one day and running long the next, but life got in the way.  Plus, I really hate just walking, and I knew I’d want to sneak in runs and then I’d get injured.  But I think skipping that back to back work meant my body wasn’t ready to handle a 10k followed by a Half.  Guess I have to find the time to get those walk sessions in between now and the Glass Slipper Challenge next month!
  7. Freaking out:  This is really what got me.  I know you should listen to your body and not overdo it and safe is better than sorry.  However, I can be kind of a hypochondriac and the idea of an electrolyte imbalance that might kill me just got me all freaked out during the race.  I know I didn’t drink too much water (nuun and powerade mostly) and that my kidneys were fine and I hadn’t taken any anti-inflammatories and it was very very unlikely I had hyponatremia but just the fear of it was enough for me to freak out and walk.  I should have just stopped at a medical tent to have them evaluate my hand swelling, but I was worried they’d pull me from the race even though I was fine, just in an overabundance of caution.  I’ve never stopped in a medical tent before, so I wasn’t sure what their approach is.  

Yes, it was a difficult race and has me a little freaked out as the Glass Slipper Challenge (the 10k and Half at Princess) approaches.  I’m going on my first run since the race later today (when it warms up!) and I really hope to have a better experience.  My sinuses are starting to feel a little better, I’m on three medicines and am trying to push fluids too.

I’m still glad I did it.  The 10k was a great experience and one day I’ll head back to redeem myself at the Tink Half.  I’m going to take my lessons learned with me to the Glass Slipper Challenge and re-evaluate the idea of back-to-back racing challenges after that.  It’s possible that they just aren’t for me right now.

The positive outcomes are that I did learn some things not to do and I did not get swept (or even get any warnings or see the balloon ladies) and I got my medal(s)!

Have you ever had a terrible race experience?  How did you get your mojo back?


A Tale of Two Races: Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2014 — 14 Comments

  1. That sounds like a horrible experience! At least you’re starting to feel better, and you understand what went wrong so you can hopefully prevent it next time!

  2. I’m sorry to hear it was such a hard race for you, it sounds like being sick was probably the biggest factor! I’m surprised you did so well with back to back AND being sick along with tired, having too few carbs, etc. I get in my head too but then sometimes I push through and injure myself. I have no clue how to decide if I’m in my head or not at this point. LOL. I’ll be there for ya at the PHM…or rather you can be there for me and that will distract you! 😉

  3. I’m sorry it was rough for you. The LA Marathon in 2012 was my worst. I was doing it for my 40th birthday. At the time I was fully enveloped in CrossFit madness, and followed their training advice over standard marathon training that had worked for me in the past. The bottom line was that I didn’t run enough in training, or eat enough carbs to do an endurance event. It was also super cold and windy. I’ve never been so miserable during an event in my life. I had stomach cramps, my hip and IT band were killing me and I could not warm up.
    I get where you’re coming from. You made it through and you can move on now, and you know what NOT to do again.

    • Oh no, a Marathon and your birthday! What a terrible combination for a bad race to happen at. And yes, I just reaffirmed that I actually have to follow the pre-race rules, even if I’m in California and don’t want to! 😉

  4. A great learning lesson for sure! I laughed to see that you have a picture of me in your night time cars land picture! That’s me! Bib number 5329! Here’s to next year!

  5. Sending you the biggest hugs! It really stinks when a race goes wrong. It especially stinks when it’s a runDisney race that you’ve built up to be so much prior to. I hope that you’re feeling better now and gearing up (both physically and mentally) for the Princess. I haven’t raced back to back days yet but I plan to be at the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare and I’m going to REALLY force myself to take it easy. It’s hard because, like you said, IT’S DISNEY!!! You want to do things! But I’m really going to try to respect my legs and feet.

    • Thanks, I had a hard time not doing too much from FOMO (fear of missing out) which was in super high gear for me because I’d never been to Disneyland before. The rules are there for a reason, and the stay off your feet rule served me well at Wine & Dine, I guess I got cocky and thought I’d be able to handle the half marathon even on tired legs (All those Dopey runners must have gotten to me!). Good luck at DDD, those medals are gorgeous!

  6. You really started to scare me! I’m glad you are ok and didn’t pass out on the course! I had a problem once with my contact while on a run and it made me wonder, Do they have saline solution at the medical tents (at the Disney races)?

    • It was pretty scary! And it has me a little skittish about Princess. I think I may do a 5/1 run/walk ratio that weekend. I think I might ask around and see what the medical tents are like at runDisney races. That way I won’t be so freaked out if I need to stop by one.

  7. Hi April! I’m so sorry this race didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. The good news is your costume is SWEET! Now you have me thinking I might want to be Fawn for a future race. And every finish is still a major feat. You were struggling but you pulled through. Be proud 🙂

    My first 10-miler I spent the entire race pulling up leggings that had gotten misshaped in the wash, wound up with the worst chafing on my inner thighs, got clipped by a car, and by mile 8 I started to think I might be hallucinating and that that mile would never ever end. To pull through I texted a good friend who told me that a bunch of people had dogs at the finish line where they were spectating and being animal lover (hence the draw to Fawn now!) that gave me my final kick. 🙂 Cheerleaders and puppies, you can’t lose!

    • Thanks, it was pretty easy to run in that outfit. The leggings were a little weird and way too tight (I may have over estimated my weight loss when I bought them, I was hoping to lose 20lbs by Tink but ended up gaining 10!).

      Thanks for sharing about your rough race! Glad to know I’m not alone!