Sunday morning, I had my alarm set for 2:15am. The buses to the race started running at 3am and I wanted to be on the first one. I’d read horror stories about bus drivers getting lost and traffic jams and I didn’t want that stress. I woke up at 12:48am and thought the clock said 2:48 and that I’d missed my alarms. I only freaked out for about 15 seconds, but it was enough to have me be awake for the day.
I ended up getting out of bed around 1:30 and getting ready. I wanted to do something interesting with my hair but with the heat (over 70 degrees before dawn) and humidity (94% at race start) I just threw it up in a lame pony tail. I wish I had put it up in a high pony tail, but I was worried about the tiara fitting. I skipped the mascara too.
Despite my breakfast plans, I just couldn’t eat before the race. I got some water and double checked my list and headed off for the bus stop. It was a 10 minute walk from my cabin and I worried that at 2:45am it would be a little spooky, but as soon as I reached the end of my row of cabins, a group of princesses in multi-colored tutus appeared. It was nice to have some other people around for that dark walk to the bus stop.
The bus was there waiting. I was surprised at how full it was for being so early. I got into an empty seat and sat there, nervous and nauseous and supremely cranky. Other racers were laughing and joking and I just wanted to be alone and quiet. Maybe if I’d had a friend with me it would have been better, but I was in a foul mood.
The bus ride there was kind of long due to the road closings but our driver was on top of things and got us there without any craziness. I got off in the parking lot and looked around at the already crazy staging area.
I went into the race retreat, hit the private port-a-potties, had a little hot tea and water and one bite of a banana. I was happy to have a padded indoor area to stretch in and a private bag check area. It seemed like I was only there for a few minutes (although it was probably closer to an hour) when they announced that it was time to head to the corrals.
I don’t know if it wasn’t marked well or if I was just in a confused state, but I had to wander around a bit before I found which way the corrals were. It was a pretty long walk but not too crazy or crowded. I made one more port-a-potty stop on the way (not the first batch of potties, there are more all along the way).
I made my way into my well-earned Corral B (they were checking bibs but I was all official):
And, my sour mood persisted. I felt nauseous. My lower back hurt from lugging my two year old around the parks for two days. My right hip has had a nagging injury for months that I was afraid would flare up. It was hot and humid. My period was being obnoxious. Yeah, it was one of those moments. I sat on the side of the road gently stretching around the middle of the corral. There were some ladies dancing and laughing. I figure they were veterans of half marathons. For me, this was a big deal. And I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body. I’d gotten up to 12.5 miles in training, but not in this heat and not surrounded by 22 thousand people. Deep breaths, deep breaths.
I was on the side of the corral next to the woods. It was super funny to watch princesses hop the fence to hustle into the woods to relieve themselves. As a Florida native, I know the woods are full of spiders, snakes and other icky things. I would not go into them in the dark unless it was a true emergency. I could have used one more potty trip but decided to wait until I got to the ticket and transportation center (TTC) where the first real bathrooms on the course were.
There was a big charter bus next to the front of the corral where I think the VIPs were waiting, but I’m still not totally sure what that was all about. Time seemed to crawl to a halt. I was annoyed with the princesses who were partying in the corral (totally unjustified, I was just so nervous I wanted to puke). Eventually the wheelchair athletes started, then the elite women and then the big fireworks for Corral A. We all shuffled forward and within minutes we got our big sendoff.
It was a slow walk, gradually increasing to a slow jog by the time we crossed the start line. I was glad to be moving but still feeling pretty rough. My stomach gets ickky when I wake up too early (5am is ok, 1am is not ok) and the nerves on top of it weren’t helping. But I said, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. My Garmin Forerunner 10 gives me my pace and beeps for my 5 minute run/1 minute walk intervals, so I don’t have to think much. I kept an eye on my running pace, trying to keep it between 11 and 12 minutes per mile and just switched between walking and running whenever it beeped at me.
It was pretty crowded in the first few miles, and I had to stay aware of my surroundings to be sure I wasn’t going to get in someone’s way or trip over someone making an erratic move although that didn’t happen too often, thankfully.
There were some great photo ops, but I knew that I should wait to do them on the way back because the lines will be shorter and the sun will be up. Great advice, although I think I was much more photogenic on the way out!
I made it to the TTC and found the bathroom line. It was pretty long, but I’m glad I decided to take the time. I was lucky enough to get the handicapped stall with a sink inside. Normally in these circumstances I’d rush in and out, but I took a minute extra (maybe less) to splash a little water on my face and gather myself together. Three miles done, ten left, I could do it.
I don’t know if it was the potty break, the water or the sun coming up, but as soon as I left that bathroom and started running, I felt like a new person. Maybe the running had burnt some of the adrenaline off, who knows? But I felt great. I settled into my walk/run routine and I knew I could do it.
Before I knew it, I was in the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom and then we were there!! It was beautiful.
I got a little teary at all the families cheering their supporters on. With a sick teenager and a tempermental toddler in the cabin, I told my family just to sleep in and go to the parks. My sweet husband insisted he wanted to be at the finish line, so my mom took the boys. So I knew no one was directly cheering for me, but complete strangers did call my name (it’s on my bib) and cheered me on. It was beyond awesome.
Running through the castle was amazing. I read afterwards that it got very crowded through there later in the race, but when I went through it was fine and everyone was running, no problem. I did the veer left thing after running through, but the photo people there were only using their cameras and they were sitting on the ground shooting up. Um, that is not a very flattering angle for most people. And my castle shot did turn out awful. Oh well, I really wasn’t doing it for the photos but for the medal and the accomplishment.
Running through the rest of the park was a blur. I was feeling so great that I didn’t want to stop for pictures. So my pictures are a blur too (ha ha).
Back out on the straight road, which I had heard was rough for some runners, but it let me get into a good groove. I tend to zone out for large parts of long runs and for my type-A personality, it is very relaxing to kind of let go during a run.
I got to the half way point where they were playing This Girl Is on Fire which was a very contentious pick, but I thought it was fine. I was running with one earbud in, so it really didn’t matter to me that much. There were lots of interesting entertainment and characters along this stretch too. I decided to stop for a few character photos that had super short (2-4 people) lines. Here they are:
I train in a tank top, so I wanted to run in one, but I think the photos would have been kinder if I’d worn a short sleeved tech shirt instead. Lesson learned!
These were fun, I never do character photos in the parks (I assumed they were for kids only for some reason, before I got Disney internet obsessed). It was hot, I stopped at most of the water stops and I had a small handheld water bottle too. I used Honey Stinger Organic Gummies (Orange Blossom Flavor) during the race and ate one or two every mile. I was pretty drenched in sweat, but I was feeling good. My lower back twinges were gone and my hip felt fine. Yay!
After this section, we got to the overpasses. They weren’t totally terrible, but at the end of a long hot humid race, they were challenging. I stuck to my run/walk intervals and felt pretty good. Around this time, there were two girls dressed as Snow White who I kept passing and being passed by. No problem there, except I heard them making snarky comments about fellow runners and their speed and appearance. It just wasn’t very nice. I decided then and there that this 39 year old overweight mom of two was going to beat them. No, not very nice or mature of me but having a nemesis or two in a race seems to help my performance. I’m not proud of it, but I’ll own it!
Then I saw the Epcot ball. Yay, I was almost there! I got to Epcot, passed the two snarky Snow Whites, rounded the corner, passed the gospel choir and I was almost there! Feeling pretty great:
In no time at all I was at the finish line and saw my husband cheering me on which was great!
And then it was over. I was so proud of myself. One year ago, I weighed 35 pounds more and couldn’t run at all. It took a full year of training, but I did it. My official time was 2:42 and although I was hoping for under 2:30, I’m very proud of my time (including one bathroom break and 4 photo stops).
I got my medal and hugged my husband and skittered into the race retreat to get my swag (flip flops, a mini-towel and some H2O travel sized spa moisturizers) and to pick up my checked bag. I grabbed a water but the breakfast food made me feel sick so I skipped it and the mimosa. If my husband had been able to join me inside or if I was alone, I would have hung out a little while, but I didn’t want to leave him standing out there for a long time alone.
I was a bit stiff whenever I sat too long that day, but I think walking around the parks helped. I took a nap with the toddler in the afternoon and that was hard to get up from, but once I got moving again I felt fine. We had early dinner reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern, but the toddler’s bad restaurant behavior that weekend made me cancel it because I just didn’t want to deal with it. We decided to eat at Pecos Bill’s and I got a double cheeseburger and it was beyond awesome.
I’m so glad I did it. It was great to have my family there, but it was hard to balance all the race activities with the family vacation. For Wine & Dine, we’ve already decided it will be a no-kids trip. And I might be doing Tink next year all alone which will be interesting.
If you’re on the fence about signing up, all I can say is to believe in yourself and take the plunge. I’m so glad I’m not the same person I was last year and I hope to see changes as dramatic this time next year. Having a giant challenging goal on the calendar kept me focused and kept me training and eating right.
Planning for 2014? This post should give you all the info you need to know!