Where to even begin?!
Clearly, I had a great race but let’s start from the beginning…
Let me preface by saying I don’t have a whole lot of pictures since my phone stays safely inside my running belt for the entire race but hopefully my supremely rich and vivid descriptions will paint a perfect mental picture for you *wink*.
The Challenge of a 10 pm Race
I don’t know about anyone else, but I find night races to be really challenging for the sheer fact that you have to figure out what and what not to do and eat for an entire day. True, you don’t have to wake up at 3 am to get to the race, so I guess life’s just full of trade offs.
As always, I wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible. Charles and I had a few errands we needed to run but other than that, the plan was to stay home and just relax. I didn’t get a great night’s sleep the night before so I thought a nap might be in the cards. This is my third night race and, just like the other two, I never did seem to sneak that nap in! I guess it’s equivalent to not sleeping well the night before a morning race – you’re just too excited to get to sleep! In general though, I stayed pretty relaxed which probably gave me a lot of the same restful benefits.
Now, for the big conundrum of what to eat! This is always tough, especially for night races. It seems like the rule of thumb is eat carbs but don’t eat massive quantities of everything because it will make you feel more sluggish. Stay away from any foods that are difficult to digest or are high in fiber – the last thing you want during the race is any digestive system challenges! Here’s what my day looked like:
- Breakfast. Around 11 am. I warmed up a sliced bagel and melted a slice of the Sargento Ultra Thin provolone on each side. I don’t know what it is about this but it’s a total comfort food for me.
- Lunch. This probably was not a great idea but I ended up running out of time for a real lunch! My mom had brought over a “take and bake” sourdough loaf that she picked up at the store and we ended up cooking that up in the early afternoon. It was actually really good! It was an interesting product – no need to refrigerate and I guess it’s mostly cooked because it only took 8-10 minutes in the toaster oven to prepare it to eat. Between Charles and I, we finished off the small loaf (I guess we were both carboloading for the race!).
- Dinner. We got home from errands just in time for my last food before the race (I think it ended up being around 4 or 4:30 pm). I made my typical pre-race meal of pasta with a little bit of olive oil, a bit of provolone (or more frequently mozzarella) and a little bit of dried basil and salt for flavor. Although it’s hard to resist gobbling up lots of pasta, I tried to keep my last meal fairly light.
Other Race Preparation
Since I have discovered the glory of compression sleeves (I have a pair of hot pink Zensah sleeves), they are definitely a part of my pre-race routine. In addition to sleeping in them the night before, I wore them most of the day of the race. I can’t say for sure if there’s really a benefit in wearing them pre-race but it certainly can’t hurt! Even if there is a placebo effect – I’ll take it!
During the time I was not out running errands, I tried to stay as relaxed and at ease as possible. This included watching old episodes of Dance Moms that I have gotten shamefully behind on (I have no problem admitting that I love this show – hometown pride!), blog writing, and website surfing. Life gets so busy that I feel like I have so little time to just chill at home so this was a welcome opportunity. Of course my house has been a disaster area ever since we hosted a little Halloween shindig so I couldn’t help but doing a little bit of cleaning (the one completely irritating task I took on that day – you’ll come to learn that I absolutely hate cleaning and would probably live in a pile of my own clutter if it was socially acceptable).
Dress for Success
As I discussed in my post on Saturday, I had my outfit all figured out in advance. Since I am a firm believer that being strong and beautiful is the best possible combination, I try to keep my running attire as feminine as I can (hence, why I think the running skirt was one of the greatest inventions in the sport). The idea to jazz my outfit up with some ribbons in my hair popped into my head and Jo Ann Fabric was quickly added to the list of errands for the day. They had the perfect spool of wide ribbon with a snow leopard pattern and my 60% off coupon I clipped from the Sunday paper really made it a steal.
My amazing mother (who is an incredible support and has been to every single one of my half marathon’s except the Disneyland Half in 2010) once again decided to come and cheer me on. We decided it would be easiest to head to the race in one car so I told her she should get here around 7 pm. I run habitually late so I figured this would leave enough buffer time to get me to the bus by 8 pm as specified in all of the pre-race communications. I was throwing on my clothes just as she arrived and was already running behind! I do think everything came together quite nicely if I do say so myself:
Time quickly slipped by and before I knew it, we were reaching critical timing to get there on time. Thankfully, it takes exactly 13 minutes to get from my house to most places on property so even “drop dead I’m going into panic mode” time still had some buffer built in. I hurriedly gathered my other gear so we could head out the door. Here’s everything I wore and had with me for this race:
- Purple Tank – purchased from Marshall’s at some point.
- Neon Green Sports Bra – another Marshall’s purchase – I love this style. The removable liners make the bra comfortable and…ahem…modest.
- Purple Nike Pro Capris – picked up from the Nike outlet at some point. These are some of my favs because they look and feel great.
- RunningSkirts brand Snow Leopard print skirt – see my previous post for more on this purchase.
- Adidas Running Socks – picked these up at an outlet store a few months ago. They are actually really nice!
- Nike LunarEclipse+ 2 in hot pink – I absolutely love these shoes! This is the last race for this pair (which just passed 5oo miles) but I have two pairs waiting in the wings that I stocked up on when they were on sale for a great price at Road Runner Sports.
- Leopard Print Sweaty Band – love these and this is one of my favorite prints.
- Bobby Pins
- Nike+ GPS Sports Watch – I had a rough start with this watch but now I absolutely love it. The online interface is great and I think I would be hesitant to drop this watch to try a Garmin now.
- Road ID Band – I have a bunch of antibiotic allergies so I always feel safer working out with this information on me. I never run, race, or go to the gym without it.
- iFitness Belt – perfect for holding my cell phone during the race.
- iPod Shuffle – I love my little pink friend. I think it’s the perfect way to listen to music while running. Messing with my phone was just too annoying.
- Yurbuds Inspire for Women – I bought these about a week before the race after being frustrated that my new Earpod headphones that came with my iPhone 5 kept working its way out of my right ear. This was just my second run with these headphones.
- Clif Shot Blocks in Orange – I always pop a couple of these around mile 9 where the food stop is. I’m so picky so I need something that I know I like.
- Flip flops – I usually like to shed shoes and socks when the race is over
- G2 Bottle – I like to switch to G2 once the race is over so it’s always nice to have this waiting.
- Bagel – I don’t especially love the snack boxes that runDisney now gives out at the finish (where did the bagels go?!). I frequently feel funny if I don’t eat something after a hard effort so I like to have a plan if I start feeling off.
Phew, I think that’s it? I should keep this post printed as an exhaustive checklist for the future!
Off to the Starting Line
Charles played chauffeur for the night so we loaded up and headed out. I seem to always get nervous on the drive over to the race. First of all, we are usually running behind schedule which is a stress in itself. Secondly, it’s one step closer to the race and the uncertainty of how it’s going to go and feel.
I can’t even tell you how quick and easy the drive is from Celebration to race parking – just a straight shot down World Drive. Luckily, traffic heading into Epcot to park was light and we were able to find a spot without much extra stress. Since the race ended at Epcot but started at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney has runners park and the finish and bus to the start. I think this makes a lot of sense and has the added benefit of building in more magical buffer time! I have literally almost missed the start of Corral A at races that start at Epcot not because I was running super late but because of the way that starting line area is set up. Particularly when it’s not 4 am, I would rather have the time to kill that the bus transportation inevitably builds in.
We parked at Epcot almost exactly at our target time of 8pm and got in the enormous line for the busses. Since race start was still a whole 2 hours away, I stopped stressing about timing at that point. My mom and Charles kept me company while we waited in the line and hugged me goodbye and gave final “good luck” wishes when I reached the front of the line. The air was chilly and I hesitantly shed the jacket I was bundled up in for the wait and gave it to them since I wanted to avoid checking a bag. Although I was a bit chilly waiting for the start, this was a good decision – on less thing to worry about!
I happened to get sorted into a line going onto a Disney Cruise Line bus which made me way too happy – my only wish is that it would have headed to the cruise ship instead! But alas, off to the starting line we went. A runDisney race is a pretty darn good alternative anyway!
Arriving at the Starting Line
As I sat on the bus, I nervously instagrammed some photos and checked twitter to pass the time. The bus ride seemed to go by quickly and before I knew it, we were pouring out of the bus and into the masses that filled the waiting area for the starting line.
Most people had to first stop and bag check and it appeared to be a fairly long line their. My first stop, however, was to get in line for the port-a-potties since those lines are notoriously forever long and can make you tight for the start. I figured by the time I got to the front, I might actually need to use it.
My lovely friend Janie, who came up from South Florida for the race, was also waiting and we finally found each other with the magic of text messaging. We chatted to pass the time in line and it was amazing to have a chance to catch up. We both agreed that, despite all the pre-race preparation, it almost didn’t feel like we were about to run a half marathon. It’s funny how some races just don’t feel real till you’re actually in the middle of them. Time flew by and by the time we got to the end of the line, the Disney team was letting runners into the corrals to wait out the last 45 minutes or so. My only regret is that we didn’t grab a photo before we headed off to our respective corrals!
Into the Corrals!
I headed towards the giant illuminated balloon with a great big A on it and started weaving up through the crowd. Many people were sitting on the curbs to relax and pass the time and there was quite a lot of space to move up in the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to be anywhere near the elite, super-speedy people but I certainly didn’t want several minutes to pass before the start and my turn to cross the line either. I found a perfect spot somewhere in the middle-front and started to jam out (in my head anyway) to the high energy music.
The event “hosts” shared some fun fact like the fact that I was just one of about 14,000 runners out there. There were some birthdays in the crowd, lots of people in training for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, and plenty of people with lots of runDisney events under their belts. Some musical highlights were “Gangnam Style” which, although it’s on its way out, is still amusing to me, and “Teach Me How To Dougie.” I wanted to break out the Dougie (in honor of my work friends) but resisted the urge for fear of weirding out the strangers around me.
As we approached just minutes till the race start, everyone started moving up in the corral to get closer together and closer to the start. I snapped this quick (and very dark) picture just before we got ready to run:
As fireworks shot into the air, we were off! There is nothing more amazing than embarking on a 13.1 mile journey under a twinkling blanket of pyrotechnics. It always brings a little tear to my eye. This is why I runDisney!
From the start, I felt super relaxed and settled into my planned pace of 9:30 (at least according to my watch). Although I had great music in my wonderful new Yurbuds, I went into this “zen” sort of place where I just felt completely in control, in the zone, and at ease. Little did I know at the time but this would continue for the rest of the race:
Here’s a brief overview of the experience (it was all a blur really but here are some of the highlights that stick out in my memory):
- Mile 1 – totally uneventful as we headed down victory way and around the corner onto Osceola Parkway. Just felt good.
- Mile 2-3 – the big Osceola Parkway stretch on the way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’m not sure why but for some reason there appeared to be no clock at the 2 miles marker. Did anyone else experience this? Continued to cruise and hit a few of the “big hills” (by Florida standards anyway) with control and strength. I continued to maintain my pace, even over changes in terrain. We passed the Fantasia Hippos & Ostriches (who made me giggle with their silly antics) just as we headed into the Animal Kingdom parking lot and shortly there after, some Main Street Electrical parade floats and through the Animal Kingdom gates. I loved the colorful lighted inflatable “spikes” that guided us through the beginning of the park.
- Mile 4-5 – continue through Africa, past Everest, through Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama and out the gate into backstage Animal Kingdom. I just love running through Animal Kingdom!
- Mile 6 – into the Animal Kingdom parking lot and on our way back to Osceola Parkway. I remember just really rocking it out to my music here and really starting to notice that I was picking up time as I passed the clocks.
- Miles 7-8 – back down Osceola Parkway and back over those nice hills again. Continued to maintain pace no matter the incline and kept feeling strong. I started to wonder if I could maintain the pace but I felt great and continued repeating a mantra my dad shared with me in my head “plan your run and run your plan.” I tried as much as possible to stick to the 9:30 goal but found myself trying to run a little faster at times.
- Miles 9-11 – looped over the Hollywood Studios entry marquee, down onto world drive briefly en route to Hollywood Studios. I popped 2 Clif Shot Blocks into my mouth as I passed the food on course and chased it with a few sips of water. We entered the park near the Fastpass area at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, headed down Hollywood Boulevard, past the Sorcerer’s Hat, through the Hollywood Studios arch, and down Pixar Place. After running backstage for a big and through the costuming viewing windows that are part of the Backlot Tour attraction, we headed back onstage near Lights, Motors, Action! This was one of my favorite parts of the race – THE OSBORNE FAMILY SPECTACLE OF DANCING LIGHTS! I cannot describe how beautiful this part of the course was. The whole street was absolutely glowing and I looked around in awe at the incredible beauty as I ran through.
- Miles 11-12 – as we exited the front entrance of Hollywood Studios, we headed towards Epcot on the path that runs behind the Boardwalk Resort. Miles 11 and 12 are just a portion of a fun group run that I do just about every week so this part of the course felt like home! Not only did I have a really good understanding of the effort required to get to Epcot and finish the race but I still felt really good and knew that I was close enough to really start to push the pace. It was also at the 11 mile marker that I realized that I had a chance to get pretty darn close to a 2 hour finish! I started to really get excited and motivated to push it to the finish.
- Mile 13 – This was really the home stretch! After a little time backstage at Epcot, we entered the park just next to the Imagination Pavilion. We ran past cheering spectators (talk about some motivation to help you push to the finish) as we ran through the Innoventions breezeway, past the fountain, and towards Spaceship Earth. Since I knew the race had the same finish area as Princess for the first time this year, I knew exactly how close to the finish I was and really started to push the pace hard! As we neared the 13 mile marker, they did one of the coolest lighting effects I’ve ever seen – fog and lasers made you feel like you were in Tron, or a night club, or something like that.
- The .1!!! – I gave the finish line ascent my all and had some kick left to pass a bunch of people as I approached the line. Nothing makes me happier at the end of the race than seeing Minnie and Mickey jumping up and down. I saw the clock which said 2:01 something but I knew there was a minute-or-so buffer between the clock and when I crossed the start. I crossed the line and immediately stopped and checked my watch to see a read out of…drum roll please… 2:00:30!
Here are my splits according to my Nike+ watch:
I had my moment of glory as a kind volunteer placed my medal around my neck. Although I have established quite a bling collection by now, this moment never gets old. I pulled out my phone to check out my splits and official time and saw that my official time was even a couple seconds better – 2:00:27.
Next step was to call my mom and reconnect with my people! She answered the phone “Hi Dolly!” to which I replied “I massive PR’ed!!!!” We quickly found each other and exchanged hugs. Charles gave me a kiss and said “I’m proud of you!” which is a reward better than any medal could be. I just wish I had gotten a picture with my Mama too!
Well, there really isn’t any. I changed into flip flops at the finish line area and we pretty quickly headed to the car – it was past my bedtime! I had such a heavy sound sleep that night but for some reason woke up at 6 am the next day! What’s with that?! After watching a little TV and relaxing for a while, I was able to not off for a few more hours. I felt like I needed a good stretch the next day but no real pain. My right knee felt a little funny (IT-band sort of symptoms) but that seems to have gone away. I headed back to the gym tonight and I am ready to get back at it! I have a 5k just a few weeks away that I want to rock and the Tinker Bell Half is on the horizon. I guess I need to pick a new goal for that since I hit a goal at this race that I never expected to! I am sure I will have some more reflections in the next few days but I need to head off to sleep – I’m hoping to get in a few easy miles before work in the morning (if I can drag my butt out of bed anyway).
I hope reading my race recap was almost as fun as I had running it!
Fellow Wine & Dine runners – How was your race? What were the highlights for you?