Then....I was supposed to head back to the hotel with my oldest son to "relax"...but he wanted one last monorail ride, and who was I to deny that? Once we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, I remembered it was the Magic Kingdoms 40th anniversary, so we HAD to go in. I coveted the special 40th anniversary buttons I saw TONS of people wearing, so I asked a cast member (code for Disney employee) where I could get one. His response? "Ma'am, they are probably all on ebay by now". Ha! So Rowen and I took a few pictures, watched an epic battle between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, and headed back to the hotel. We arrived at 4 pm.
For the record, I do NOT recommend this as your pre-race day. Perhaps some lounging by the pool would be a better idea (with sunscreen and hydration!)
I tried to relax but that's nearly impossible with two preschoolers in a hotel room and pre race excitement/anxiety. Raced transportation started at 7 pm, so by 6:30 I was preparing my gear and race outfit. Sorry to throw this into the middle of a race recap, but it's my blog, so, confession time: at some point in here I had a hormone induced self confidence freak out. Since the birth of my second son (and a pregnancy that included 70 lbs of weight gain and subsequent loss) I was left with a ton of extra stomach skin that I am ridiculously self conscious about. And right then, in the fluorescent lights of the hotel bathroom, the idea of donning a sports bra and only a sports bra in front of 14,000 fellow runners, camera, and lights TERRIFIED me. I felt fat and ugly. I am 5'7" & 126 lbs. I work out nearly every day. I AM NOT FAT! I cried to then men folk in the room, to which I received eyeball rolls and/or blank stares.
So I yelled at myself. I said "self: you see women twice your size rocking sports bras and do you judge them? NO! You think 'you rock girl!' Further, you have birthed two LARGE babies, and never use being a mother as an excuse for anything. So go on with your bad mermaid self and rock your Ariel outfit".
And so I did.
Down to the bus I headed, where we were quickly whisked away to a big field at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex. I remember looking at the clock on my phone thinking, "WOW I have to wait around for 3 hours? Ugggghhh! " Luckily, time went by fast. Because as soon as I arrived, I saw two massive lines. At any other race, this would probably signal "porta potty". But at a Disney race, long lines usually mean "character photo ops". I was right, one line for Mickey and one for Minnie. I was feeling girly in my Little Mermaid outfit, so I chose Minnie.
Shortly after, I was told it was time to check our bags if we had any. I hardly EVER bring bags to check, but after a week of 90+ degrees in Disney, it was suddenly dipping down to the 60's. Sweatshirt: check.
After I dropped my bag, I ran into one of my running mom friends, Christine. God bless the internet and social networking. No matter where you go, you have a friend! It's like Cheers!, where everybody knows your name. I was so glad to have someone to talk to and pass the time. Around 8:45 it was time to meet up with the marathon maniacs/half fanatics for a group picture. It was then that I ran into a few more facebook friends, Dave and Della, and we spent the rest of the waiting time taking pictures and dancing, haha.
Finally, they started allowing people into corrals. I made one last stop to the porta potty line, and as I was there I couldn't stop yawning. It was probably 9:40 pm and I was EXHAUSTED. Like, I could have laid down in the field right there and gone to sleep with all of the noise and people around me. But alas, I still had a HALF MARATHON to run, haha.
I entered my corral with about 14,000 other runners, and watched the traditional spectacle that is the start of a Disney race. A countdown and a send off with fireworks. And not just for the first corral, but every wave following. I love that!
I had no time expectations for this race, my only goal was to simply have fun. Oh, and to keep flounder on my shoulder. I can't tell you how many people asked me how he was going to stay put while I ran, and while I'm sure they were looking for a technical answer (which was, safety pins) I always replied "your guess is as good as mine!". I hadn't "test run" flounder, but lucky for me, he stayed put.
Oh yeah, and my Garmin died. Before the start of the race. Que sera sera, right?
First character stop: Sleeping Beauty's fairy godmothers.
I also made the runDisney race recap video at this stop. Watch for me at minute 3:01
The first three miles were highway running towards Animal Kingdom. I will go ahead and tell you now, that this was Disney race #6 for me, and by far, my absolute favorite. Frankly, there is no way around the highway running when it comes to a Disney event. If you want to get from one park to another, you have to run the long, empty, boring roads. However, since it was dark out, it took a lot of the "boring" factor out of it. Maybe it was all mental because you couldn't see how much more empty road was ahead of you, I'm not sure. Disney did a great job with having characters, lights, and music along those empty roads to keep you moving forward.
One of my FAVORITE memories from childhood and Disney are watching the electric water pageant from the Polynesian Village resort. I was about 5 years old then, but every time I would hear the parade soundtrack (on my sounds of Disney tape my little sister and I played until it fell apart) it made me happy. So imagine my surprise when we rounded the corner to enter the Animal Kingdom parking lots and saw this guy
Just like in the 5k...there was a bit of a bottleneck (almost to a standstill at one point) as we entered Animal Kingdom. The big lit up Mickey pumpkins from the 5k earlier were gone and instead the path was lit with these amazing, colorful lamps that looked like elephant tusks (T Rex teeth?)
My favorite part of running through Animal Kingdom was the music. As you ran through the different countries, tribal music was playing. Somewhere in Asia I passed Jeff Galloway (and did a double take, I mean really, how often do you pass Olympians!) And headed towards mount Everest. It was lit up with the most amazing colors with really cool Tibetan music/chants playing. It gave me chills...as I half expected a yeti to jump out at us!
Next we ran down through Dino-land and back out of the park again. A few more miles down the road and into Hollywood studios. This was by far my favorite part of the race. We ran in and through the park, back out, looped around, and back through the rest of the park.
There was so much to see, and I was surprised at how beautiful this park was at night. I got a lot of compliments and "Go Ariel!"'s from cast members that were out cheering us on. (And even one "I love the bird on your shoulder" comment. HA!) My FAVORITE part during this part of the run: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, complete with Perry Como's "It's Beginning to Look A Lot like Christmas". I beamed from ear to ear, and wished my mom was with me at that moment (though, I'm pretty sure she would laugh hysterically at the thought of running 13.1 miles at 11:30 at night)
As we looped back through the front of the park and entered the boardwalk area near the Dolphin and Swan hotel, I could not BELIEVE how close we were to being finished. My nutrition and hydration were spot on (half a Clif shot blok every mile, the running buffet always works for me! And for those wondering, there were water/powerade stops just about every mile), and I wasn't racing hard at all. There were a lot of people out on this stretch cheering, despite the fact that it was past midnight, and that was really fun and motivating. I'll be honest, I have no idea where the finish line was. It was in Epcot that's for sure, but it being night and me being exhausted, my navigating skills weren't up to par. All I know is that the finish line was really bright and arrived sooner than expected. I was given a killer medal
And then found my way to the baggage claim. I had heard nasty stories about the bag pick up for the year before, but I seriously walked right up, got my bag, and walked away. No problems what so ever. Sweatshirt on (it was kinda chilly), obligatory stranger taking my finishers photo...
... and I was ushered into another finishers chute. This one, they took the drink ticket off of your bib before you were allowed in. Then it was your choice of Bud, Bud light, Coke, Diet Coke , or Sprite. I felt that considering the circumstances, I should grab a bud light. I never did open it however, as that was the LAST thing on my mind. We were corralled straight through the gates of Epcot past TONS of friends and family until we spilled out somewhere well past Spaceship Earth. It was then that I decided, what the heck, I'm here, I should use my $10 gift card on a Wine & Food Festival Margarita. To Mexico we go!
This certainly was not even CLOSE to a PR for me (I think I clocked in at around 2:18) but it was certainly the most FUN race I have ever run. I'm not sure exactly what it was...the fact that it was a night race? That there was a lot of lights and music? That while still Disney, it was certainly geared towards an older/adult crowd? I really can't pinpoint it...but I will tell you that I WILL be back to run this one in 2012! Kudos runDisney for another stellar race!