2013 Disney’s Princess Half Marathon – Race Recap!

Where to begin?  I am still having serious runDisney withdrawal after this weekend!  Although it wasn’t to be a PR weekend, it was still very magical.  Because the Tinker Bell Half Marathon set the bar so high, tough expectations were set.  This was, however, still my second fastest half and only my second sub-2 race.  Hopefully, this is a sign that sub-2 is now the norm so that’s not too shabby!

Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo

For the first time (at least at any Florida Disney race I have participated in) the race’s expo was located at a resort instead of at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  The consensus from reading twitter and such is that transportation to the expo (which required a bus ride either from Downtown Disney or a host resort) was a bit of an inconvenience for most people.  I was most shocked by how busy and crazy the expo seemed this year!  While the space looked as big (or bigger) than the Jostens Center, it just seemed so full of people!  To be stereotypical, I’m sure 26,000 female runners will have a greater appetite for shopping than the same number of runners with a gender split.  Maybe that has something to do with it?  In any case, although the crowds made everything feel a bit claustrophobic, it did not dampen my expo excitement!  I also had two of my best friends with me – Nan was preparing for her very first half marathon and Brittanie was running the 5k this weekend so it was super exciting to have these amazing companions as they each embarked on their very first runDisney event!

Probably the biggest highlight of the packet pick-up experience for me was getting my bib.  For the first time ever, I was in the very first window for bib pick up corresponding with the first 500 numbers in the race.  Ok, so maybe this is silly but as I mentioned in my Tink Half recap, this is symbolic for me.  As my times get faster, I get lower and lower bib numbers.  My bib in this race (429) is my lowest ever.  So, exciting times to walk all the way down the long row of bib pick up numbers to my destination.

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Oh!  I also can’t forget one other very special item that I picked up here…MY COAST TO COAST WRISTBAND.  I practically forgot I was going to get this very special extra bling at the finish line!

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It was then over to grab our tee-shirts and goodie bags.  We were at the expo first thing on the first day so our line wasn’t bad at all but I hear that other people had quite a wait in this line.  The shirts were cute and a pretty, vibrant purple (you’ll see a picture later in this post) so it’s definitely an item I will enjoy wearing in the future.

The Official Merchandise area was RIGHT NEXT to the tee-shirt pick up area which, in hind sight, was probably a bit cause of the merchandise bottle neck that seemed to continue throughout the expo.  There wasn’t much room to move around but, thanks to my “arrive at the expo early” strategy, I was able to have my pick from all the available merchandise in every size.  When we went back to the expo for a little bit on Saturday afternoon, most of the items we saw the day before were completely sold out!  Crazy shopping princesses!  I made off with an adorable Princess Half Marathon tank (I was excited to see something other than a tee for a change) and two Princess sweaty bands.  All of these items will be making an appearance in pictures from my next few runs, I can pretty much promise that.  I can’t possible wait more than a second to wear anything new that I buy.  It’s a disease.

I didn’t have virtually any must-buy items at the expo (and I get in trouble with Charles for my running-related spending sprees) so I kept myself under control this year.  I did pick up 2 vials of Nuun Hydration which I have been dying to try.  This stuff is great!  I think I still like the heavier flavor of G2 for during a long run or immediately after my work outs (even though Nuun is totally acceptable for these uses) but I feel like it really hydrates me well as a drink throughout the day.  I tried the orange and lemon-lime and, while I liked both, lemon lime quickly became my favorite.  I have about a zillion tubes on the way to my house already.

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Hydrating like a mad woman during my last work day before the race.

I suggested that Nan get some Cliff Shot Bloks for the race since I think they’re much more appealing and easier to eat than the gels.  Plus, she had tried them before and knew they wouldn’t be a shock to the system.  We made our purchases and then took some obligatory pictures without bibs.

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Pre-Race Activities

Unless I just so happen to be at Disneyland for a race, I take the day before the race nice and easy.  I had a few to-do’s for Saturday relating to the race (like do a hair practice session, make a couple last minute additions to my costume) but otherwise, it was chill.  As I mentioned, I popped back over to the expo for a bit.

I ate carbs and some lean protein (I had my usual pre-race pasta concoction for dinner) and tried to finish eating by 6 or so.  My parents came over to our house for a little bit to hang out which was a nice, relaxing way to spend the evening.  I had set 8:30 as my “sleepy time” goal so we were upstairs and in bed by 8:15.  By the time I had set out all my race day stuff and wound down, It was probably closer to 9 when I seriously tried to sleep and I was probably asleep before 9:30.  I was so excited to finally get a really good night’s sleep before a race!  I usually have trouble sleeping even on a normal night so this was a pleasant surprise.  Oh yeah, and I wore my race shirt to bed per my normal race ritual (let the speed osmosis begin?):

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I set a 3 am alarm with several back up alarms…I have nightmares about sleeping through races *shiver*

It’s Race Time!

I popped out of bed when my alarm went off and felt surprisingly well rested.  Unlike past years, I didn’t feel like I was waking up in the middle of the night.  While it was dark out, my body felt awake and fresh.

I did my hair, put on my costume (call me Princess Aurora for the day), and got made up – complete with false eyelashes (hey, go big or go home).

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Charles and I hopped in the car around 3:50 and, thanks to our close proximity to World Drive, we waited through a little bit of traffic and made it to the family reunion area by about 4:25 or so.  Charles bought a cup of coffee and I hit the port-a-pottie just in case.

I ran into Nan and her friend Rachel just before I planned to head to the start (just before 5 am) and we snapped a couple pictures.  Nan pulled off an amazing Pocahontas costume and Rachel was a lovely Belle.

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Waiting for the start when you run alone is always terrible so I was so excited to have Nan and Rachel join me for the walk to the start.  We chatted as we walked down the long road to the starting line.  After almost missing the start of A last year due to congestion in this area(I think I got in the corral about 3 minutes before I started), I was glad to see that things were moving along nicely.  Since Nan and Rachel were each running their first half without a qualifying time, they were in corral H.  As we neared the start, they split A, B, & C off from the remaining corrals and we said our good lucks and good byes.  A nice runner complimented my costume and we started chatting about our past race experiences as we walked.  Again, it was nice to have someone to pass the time with and keep pre-race jitters to a minimum.  We split as we approached the corrals since she was in B and I headed all the way up to A.  There was only about 10 minutes left to the start at this point so, although my nerves tempted me to try and use the port-a-potties one more time, I resisted because I did not want to stress in a line and miss the start of A.

I won’t even post my starting line photo because it was just horrible (maybe worse than normal) but runDisney posted this great photo on their Facebook:

As I crossed that starting line I though, “here we go again” with the utmost excitement.

The Race

Let me start by saying, this was probably the worst conditions I have ever had for a half marathon.  The Tower of Terror 10 Miler was probably worse, but that was a terrible race for me.  So needless to say, I was nervous about the heat and threat of thunderstorms.

The temperature was just below 70 at the start and it felt hot.  I wasn’t the least bit chilly (or even cool) for that matter in nothing but a sports bra, skirt, and capris.  Bad news.  The humidity was just under 100% so yet another challenge there.

I felt good at the beginning but I knew it was going to be hot when I was heated up within the first mile.

Here are my splits:

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Mile 1 – 9:10 average pace.  Stayed nice and relaxed.  Even in Corral A, I was weaving around slower runners for pretty much all of the first mile.  I always try and resist the urge to speed up this early in the race and did so successfully.  As I said, it was clear it was going to be hot but I was relieved that my costume seemed to be working well and staying intact.

Miles 2, 3, &4 – 8:56, 8:36, & 8:44 average pace.  I was feeling good and evidently my pace started to pick up accordingly.  My fashion tape holding my necklace against my chest came loose right just before the 2 mile marker.  Luckily, I was able to press it down and it basically stayed in place the rest of the race.  We ran down World Drive past a giant inflatable of the Princesses, a pirate ship, and all of the princes gathered together.  Funny enough, I barely paid attention to the entertainment this year.  I had to think long and hard about what I even saw.  I guess I was really focused on the running this time?  I think that’s a great sign of my increasing competence as a runner.

Mile 5 – 8:29 average pace.  There’s a steep hill in this mile so it’s interesting that it was my fastest mile of the whole race.  There was a nice downhill that I really took advantage of before we pressed our way on up so maybe that helped.  I could already tell that I was feeling rough at this point in the race compared with the previous times I have run this course.  I knew at this point this was not going to be a PR day.

Miles 6 & 7 – 8:45 & 8:58 average pace.  All of mile six and the beginning of mile 7 were through the Magic Kingdom.  Running down Main Street towards that castle and then running through the castle with trumpets heralding your arrival will simply never get old.  I was so excited to see Charles and my parents with “Dolly Go!” signs (an inside joke from Princess in past years when my mom made a sign that said “Dolly Go” instead of “Go Dolly” so she will never be allowed to live that down).  These things made it easy to breeze through this mile.  I exited the park at the beginning of mile 7 and it was time to focus on staying strong and making it through the rest of the race.

Miles 8 & 9 – 9:15 & 9:28 average pace.  This was where I really started to drag.  In hindsight, I though I was going even slower (like closer to 10 minute pace) based on how I felt.  I tried to just stay steady and enjoy the race as much as possible.  It was a hard effort and took a ton of mental strength but I was still staying with a pace that I could handle physically.  I ate my shot blocks just after the 9 mile marker.

Miles 10 & 11 – 9:31 & 9:07 average pace.  I continued to drag through most of mile 10 until my friend Kristen just so happened to see me up ahead and caught up with me.  It was so nice to see her and hear that she was having similar feelings – my own feelings that this was a tough race were suddenly affirmed when she said she was not feeling great either.  We had both hoped to run closer to 1:50 but knew it would be great if we could make it under 2 hours.  She helped to renew my drive and we stayed together till probably half way through mile 11.  This definitely helped me to renew my motivation to push myself.  Kristen was feeling a bit better than I was and I started to have a bit of trouble holding her pace and let her go ahead.  I couldn’t afford to push myself too hard and then blow up in the last couple miles before the finish line.  Mile 11 marks the start of the 3 really challenging hills at the end of this course.  Just after the 10 mile marker is a steep on-ramp that leads to a moderately steep bridge.  A quick downhill and then into another hill right before the 11 mile marker.  I managed to keep my faster pace.

Mile 12 – 9:16 average pace.  Although my pace slipped just a little, I continued to stay strong despite the hills.  After I crested the hill at the start of this mile, I knew there was one more big hill to come.  We reached the turn point that marks the road to Epcot and I continued to push.  I powered through the hill and knew there was not much longer to go.  I tried to take advantage of the downhill and press on as we approached the entrance to backstage Epcot.

Mile 13 – 8:43 average pace.  Although I felt really weak at the time, I was back to the pace I had held earlier in the race.  I was so close to the finish that I could almost taste it and tried to stay strong.  We ran up to the showcase by the entrance to World Showcase and started the final stretch towards the finish.  I kept pressing – it wouldn’t be long now.  We ducked into past stage, past the gospel choir (I always love that part) and I saw the 13 mile marker.  It wouldn’t be long now.  As the finish line came into view, I could see the clock was right around 2 hours.  Since I had surmised that my chip and clock times would differ by at least a minute, I knew I would be sub 2 as long as I crossed the line before it hit 2:01…and I did.  I crossed that line just a hair under 2 hours – 1:59:33.

Blurry action shot of the finish line approach.

Blurry action shot of the finish line approach.

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Final Thoughts

Although it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, I was so proud of myself after this race.  It was the toughest mental effort I have had to put into a half in a while (maybe ever) and given the conditions, I ran a strong race.  The conditions were just tough and I feel like I probably would have been capable of a faster race on a different day.  Unfortunately, the weather is not something we can control and we should definitely allow ourselves to change our expectations when heat and humidity become a major factor.

I still had a ton of fun with the overall experience (even though I was very ready to be done as I approached the finish line – hey, not every race can be fun and effortless like Tink was).  I loved dressing up and I am very pleased to report that my costume did not really annoy me or interfere with my running at all.  Expect to see some wild outfits and costumes in the future.  The tiara may as well have been surgically attached to my head – it didn’t move a bit.  Other than the necklace coming loose and having to re-tie my hair ribbon a couple times before I just double knotted the end around mile 9, everything else worked perfectly!

I cannot wait to run Princess again in year 6!  I cannot see myself missing this race for almost anything in the year to come!  I am also getting seriously focused on my next half – the Nike Women’s Half Marathon DC.  I have about 2 months to prepare so I think I can make major gains if I really work hard.  I am so excited to dive into some intense preparation for this race and I am gunning to hit 1:50 or less!  I can’t wait to share this journey with all of you.  Tower 10 Miler and Wine and Dine are on the horizon for the fall but I have plenty of times to readjust my goals by then.

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What has your toughest race been?  Was it also psychologically your toughest race?

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