At long last…welcome to my recap of the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon!
My Pre-Race Thoughts
I’m sure this has been pretty well documented in prior blog posts but I was not quite sure what to expect from this race. While I always want to PR going into any race, I had such a great PR at the 2012 Wine and Dine Half Marathon that I was not quite sure if it was possible. I ran 2:00:30 at that race to an obvious goal was to break the sub-2:00 barrier. That became a mantra in my mind in the weeks leading up to the race “run sub-2, run sub-2, run sub-2.” My long training runs were faster than ever before leading up to the race so I felt pretty good about things.
They always say since it’s tough to sleep well the night before the race that the days leading up to the race are really important for setting yourself up for success. Well, from pretty much our departure from Orlando the sleep deprivation began. As is usual for me in preparation for any vacation, I was down to the wire getting packed and stayed up till midnight or 1 am the night before. We had to get up at 3:30 am to head to the airport so needless to say, I was sleep walking to the airport. While we got a bit of rest as we traveled, our change of planes and those oh-so-spacious (you can sense the sarcasm) airplane seats left little time to catch up on sleep. We landed around 11 am local time and headed straight into several days of hardcore Disneyland park time. What my family dubbed the “Dumbo or Die Plan” when we were growing up, this means park open to park close, running attraction to attraction to attraction without stopping. This really long explanation basically just serves to illustrate how tired I was leading up to race day. This alone did not set lofty expectations leading into the race.
The Health & Fitness Expo
On Friday, the expo began and I wanted to get there early since official merchandise (in my size anyway) can sometimes sell out fast. Although I have been trying to blow less money at these things – which arises out of necessity when you’re doing 4 or more events a year – I like to keep my options open.
We arrived at the lovely Disneyland hotel and the set up was quite similar to what I experienced when I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2010. When we arrived, they directed us to line up to enter an underground event space where packet pick up took place. I get quite excited now about having a low bib number (since it signifies my increasing speediness) so I was excited to find that my 1050 number had me at one of the first bib pickup windows.
This process was fairly simple as usual and required ID verification, waiver turn-in, and a quick sign off. I walked away with my pretty green bib in hand, ready to head upstairs into the expo to grab my goody bag and explore the always-exciting myriad of vendors.
I indulged my shopping urges in the Disney-branded merchandise section this time. Two things caught my attention. I picked up the beautiful white zip up jacket with a Tink Half 2013 logo that you see in the photo above. What really got me was the Disneyland Resort logo down the sleeve. I love the Disneyland font and find it difficult to resist making the purchase when an item features it. I also was excited to find that, for the first time, Disney offered a custom event Sweaty Band. They offered two different designs but the blue “Eat My Pixie Dust” band stole my heart. It was an easy decision to incorporate this into my race-day look.
The expo vendors represented the usual suspects. I stopped by my favorites like Sweaty Bands and Running Skirts. After my strong endorsement of my iFitness, a couple of my friends commissioned me to pick up belts for them ahead of Princess so I paid them a visit as well.
Probably the most difficult-to-resist potential purchase of these:
Oh my goodness…A PINK LEOPARD PRINT SHOE at the Lady Foot Locker booth. If you read my blog regularly, you know of my established love of all things leopard (as you will see reflected in my race day outfit). While I would have died for these, they were around $100 and I’ll be honest with myself – I rarely wear tennis shoes when I’m not running and the Nike Frees aren’t optimized for this over pronator. *Sigh* I had to pass.
We browsed for a while and Charles (who has continued running at least once a week) got sucked into The Stick booth. While I have had one since I made the purchase at the Disneyland Half in 2010, he had never really had the need to use it before. All the walking in the parks left him with some shin splints and a demo at the booth was enough to sell him on the idea. He decided to get his own to keep in his gym bag.
We wrapped up at the Expo (although I couldn’t resist a quick second stop by the expo the next day) and headed back to the parks. The only thing left to do was to wait for the race to begin.
I actually got a surprisingly good night’s sleep the night before the race. We watched World of Color from our bed (how crazy it is that this was even possible – can I say again that we loved our room?) as we drifted off to sleep and probably got to sleep around 9:30 pm or so. I made sure to put on my compression socks for maximum muscle freshness in the morning.
I laid out everything the night before so I would be ready to go bright and early in the morning. Since the race had a 5 am start (most runDisney races start around 5:30 and, at that hour, 30 minutes is substantially different), I needed all the help I could get. Luckily the time change works in our favor for a West Coast race so waking up was not a huge struggle.
Although I tried to allow ample time to get ready, I started to run late (as is pretty usual for me) and the stress started to mount. The other thing that was weighing heavy on my mind is that my pre-race prep was far from ideal in the days leading up to this race. Although I kept hoping and telling myself that I could run a sub two, my confidence started to fade away when I though of all the miles we walked through the parks for the last few days, the poor food choices I had made the day before, the sleep we had lost during travel and our open-to-close park days, and everything else I could think of. Another bring wrench thrown in my race morning was my breakfast. I planned ahead and grabbed a Luna Protein bar from the house while I was packing and figured I was set. This is my usual race day breakfast and has yet to fail me. Well, as I started to eat it, something definitely seemed off. The inside looked dark and tasted gritty. It wasn’t horrible but certainly wasn’t normal and did not taste good. I got almost half way through choking down the bar when I checked the expiration date…
MAY 2012…oh my goodness, this bar is about to celebrate another birthday! Gross!
Even if I could have gotten past the taste, the idea just grossed me out. If I wasn’t feeling unprepared enough, my insufficient breakfast made things even worse. I had thrown some Snackwells brand vanilla cookies with vanilla icing into our bag incase we needed to snack on our trip and I used to eat those as a pre-run snack all the time so I figured that wouldn’t be a terrible choice. I’m sure the sugar content was higher than ideal, but I knew it wouldn’t irritate my stomach and, well, I really didn’t have any other options anyway. 4:30 am was the “drop dead” time for being in your corral according to all of the printed materials and it was close to 4:30 by the time we made it out of the room. I made Charles grab a quick pic before we left our room. I started thinking “if I reach my goal in this race, it will certainly be against all odds.”
I was getting more and more panicked as we walked to the start. I knew the start was really close to the front of our hotel but I was not quite sure of what the set up would be and didn’t know how long it would take to get to Corral A. I was relieved to see other runners en route to the start as we walked but I couldn’t help but still feel nervous. This was my 8th half marathon and the butterflies have evolved over time with a focus shifting from finishing to not walking to meeting somewhat aggressive goals that I set for myself. I think the combination of that lofty sub-2 goal and my concern over my race preparation was just too much. I will openly admit that, as we neared the spot where the runners and spectators had to split up, I stated nervously crying. I have never done this before a race but the nervousness just boiled over. Charles tried to reassure me, told me I would be great, and gave me a hug goodbye before I headed towards my corral.
I continued to cry quietly on and off as I hurriedly moved towards Corral A. This continued as I found my place in my corral. I gave my parents a quick call on my cell phone. Although I love Charles, my parents have 22+ more years of experience in calming me down than he does so hearing their voices and their words of reassurance finally did the trick. I started to calm down and take in the excitement of the start. Fireworks accompanies the national anthem and we inched up to the starting line.
A digital Tinker Bell took to the screen to sprinkle some pixie dust on all of us before we began our 13.1 mile “flight”. With a great big “GOOOOO!” we were…
Off to Neverland!
We started running and, much like Wine and Dine just a few months before, I tried to focus on running relaxed. Thanks to my dad’s advice, this has consistently become my mantra. Running relaxed allows you to take all that energy and stress that could be focused on other parts of your body and channels it for top performance. At this point, I had sort of let go of my goal and figured, “I’m going to just run the race I can run today.” While I peeked at my watch occasionally, I decided I wasn’t going to be a slave to my watch (especially since the instant pace is about :30 seconds off for some inexplicable reason) and would just listen to my body and run what I felt. As I had seen from observation and previewing the course on google maps, I knew we were starting on an uphill and quickly going over an overpass that I remember was challenging at the Disneyland Half. I tried to stay strong as we ran uphill and allowed gravity do to the work on the downhills rather than wasting energy holding myself back. I felt ok but not amazing at first and just let myself surrender to the momentum of race.
Well what a race it was…
Mile 1 – 9:14 average pace – Felt good. Just stayed relaxed and focused on staying strong on the uphills and speeding down any downhills. As we reached the end of the first mile and the first water stop, I had a terrible realization. I took a cup of Power Ade and luckily took a peek in the cup before I even attempted taking a sip…and it was blue! Some back story on me – I am super picky when it comes to flavors and will not touch anything but lemon lime or orange Power Ade/Gatorade. Say what you want but I swear, I would have probably sickened myself with the taste if I had chugged that cup down. I really started to worry – how was I going to do well in this race without electrolytes? I always change with G2 and my body is used to getting a sports drink throughout my long runs. Oh no…Well, water it is I guess.
Mile 2 & 3 – 8:29 average pace – Headed into Disney California Adventure Park. After winding through backstage, we ran in the shadow of the Tower of Terror, headed down the street through Hollywood Land, made our way to Radiator Springs and ran right down the breathtaking main street of Cars Land, ran past the foot of the beautiful Cadillac Mountain Range and headed backstage again. After a brief time back there, we came back into the park in the Paradise Pier area. The beautiful World of Color fountains were dancing and music was playing as we wrapped around this boardwalk-themed area. This was particularly beautiful because it was still pitch dark (I will say, a 5 am start does keep things dark and cool for almost the entire race). We wrapped through a bit of the Grizzly Peak area (which was almost dangerously dark) and condor flats on our way to the main gate.
Mile 3, 4 & 5 – 8:59, 8:53, 9:01 average pace – We crossed the esplanade and entered the incredible Disneyland Park! Since this is one of the most magical places on earth in my eyes, I get really excited being in this iconic park and consciously encourage myself to take it easy. I think this probably explains my slightly slower pace on these miles. We headed down Main Street U.S.A. and had an incredible view of the pretty pink castle as we went. Tinker Bell was sitting atop a float waving as we reached the end of the street. I mean, what would the Tinker Bell Half Marathon be without Tinker Bell anyway? We wrapped through Tomorrowland and headed into Fantasyland. We ran by it’s a small world holiday which was twinkling in beautiful, colorful lights. We headed through a gate near it’s a small world and found ourselves backstage. After a bit of nondescript running there, we eventually emerged in the park to run back through Fantasyland and towards the back of the castle. Then, my favorite part, running through the beautiful castle and across the draw bridge! Into Frontierland and New Orleans Square (where we saw some scurvy pirates and more) and headed out of the park again. At this point, I knew the fun part of the race was over and it was time to stay focused and rock and roll through the rest of the race.
Mile 6 – 8:34 average pace – This mile was psychologically the toughest in the race and yet, I rocked it pace wise. This mile was a straightaway down a residential street. Not only did the dark street seem downright dull compared with the excitement of the park we had just left, but this road was a steady uphill for the whole mile. I just kept strong and kept chugging along. I knew the mile couldn’t last forever.
Mile 7, 8, and 9 – 8:26, 8:44, 8:51 average pace – I continued pressing along. I picked things up even more in mile 7 and kept a steady effort through 8 and 9. These miles were not particularly memorable and we weaved through the streets of Anaheim. I was still worrying about my lack of electrolytes but knew I could eat some Clif Shot Blocks before my usual mile 9 spot if I felt like I needed a boost. Since I kept feeling strong, I waited till we got to the Clif Arch distribution area to eat 3 Shot Blocks. I knew the end was in sight at this point and knew I was running well. I just didn’t know how well at this point.
Mile 10 and 11 – 8:35, 8:09 average pace – Since I knew the end was near, I kept cruising and knew I could start to push the pace home. Mile 10 was great and Mile 11 was really rocking! Again, I had no idea what paces I was running up to this point but realized just how well I was doing when I hit the 10 mile marker. I knew at this point that I would reach my goal. Based on my time at that point, I could have run 10 minute miles the rest of the race and still run a sub 2 half! I started to really get excited just in time to head into the backstage area of Disney California Adventure again. While my body was starting to get a bit tired, I felt like I was on fire!
Mile 12 and 13 – 8:21 and 7:24 average pace – I kept cruising through mile 12 and mile 13 was obviously just out of control fast. The pace according to my watch is faster than my 5k race pace (what!). Now, I will give one disclaimer, my final watch readout was a distance of 13.2 so the mile and pace times might not line up 100% but still, I was seriously speeding along and felt great. As I existed the back of Disney California Adventure and crossed the road toward the Paradise Pier Hotel (where the finish line was located) and I could see the finish. Although we did have to run a bit of a loop through the parking lot to get there, the end was near. I just kept pushing and pushing and knew at this point I had just simply crushed my goal. I crossed the line at 1:53:30 and had improved my time by exactly 7 minutes since the last race. Wow. I amazed even myself.
Here are the details on my split times:
I also found myself featured on the runDisney Facebook in a photo taken at the finish line:
Post Race Glory
After getting my medal engraved (I had to – it was a milestone race after all), we headed back to the room to change clothes. Charles insisted on hitting the gym quickly to get his work out for the day in before we went back to the park so I tried to be patient and wait but I knew I had one of those incredible Cinnamon Rolls with my name on it waiting for me at Jolly Holiday! It was worth the wait though…
This has been one of the happiest days in my running career thus far. It’s one of the biggest milestones I have accomplished up to this point but I am determined that it won’t be the last. I can’t wait for the next race already…
Hungry for more Tink Half fun? Check out my friend Krissy’s fabulous race recaps. She has not just one but TWO amazing blogs about running and running DISNEY.
Have you written a Tink Half Race Recap? I would love to share it here! Post a link in the comments and I would be happy to link out to it in my next post.