Preface: This is not short. And I didn't stop running to take pictures; I just took a few while I kept going.
I made it on the bus at around 6:50 PM. I later heard from someone in my corral that she had been at a resort bus stop at 7:20 and hadn't boarded a bus until 8:30 and arrived at WWOS at 9:00. I would have had a panic attack I do believe.
Once I said goodbye to mom and Tim, who were going to watch the Bama Gator game for a while, and got on the bus, I knew it was go time. On the bus there was a movie playing about etiquette, racing tips, and steps to follow from start to finish. It was exciting to hear a little Disney video actually about running.
The bus pulled into WWOS at around 7:30 PM, and I immediately jumped in a line to get my picture taken at one of the entrance signs. I had two and a half hours to kill until the start time, so I knew it didn't matter how long the line was.
I carried a small point and shoot camera, my Garmin, my iphone, headphones, two GU, and two packs of shot blocks with me on the run. I brought a pack of fruit snacks, a bagel, some PB, and a banana to snack on before-hand in case of low blood sugar. I ended up eating about half the little thing of peanut butter and 1/3 of the bagel. I ate the fruit snacks as I was entering my corral at about 9:30.
While we waited in a HUGE field, there was a dj leading people in dances and activities, but most people just sat in the grass either stretching or talking with people if they came in a group. I was actually surprised and happy to see that there were a lot of individual runners who didn't know others; I thought I would be one of the only ones.
I used the porta potties 4 times in those two hours, and I'm not even kidding. There were no lines the first two times, the third time it wasn't bad, but the fourth time I was in line when they opened the corrals. I was worried that I would end up at the back of my corral and would end up getting stuck behind people. Luckily, I was told where some shorter lines were (there were at least 300 portapotties), and I ended up getting to my corral by the time they were supposed to open (they opened them about 10 minutes early).
Once I got into my corral, it seemed that people were as afraid as I was the day before to push to the front. People were lining the sides, and I ended up standing with almost no one around me about 2/3 of the way back. I saw a guy with my Garmin, and I asked him how he saw it in the dark. I'm apparently a dummy, because you just push the power button quickly and it turns on the backlight. Thank goodness he showed me. I literally wouldn't have done as well as I did without being able to watch my pace.
I also started talking to another girl about my age who it was also her first half marathon (she even offered to take the picture). Her reach goal was to go under 2:00.00, and mine was to go under 2:10.00. Eventually they made an announcement that we needed to push up to fill the corral. So, we started walking closer and closer. I have no idea how I ended up so close to the starting line at a Disney Race. But, I'm glad I did.
After the National Anthem, they started the wheelchair corral at 9:58 with a small set of fireworks, and my corral was off at 10:00 with a big set. From here on out, the pictures are pretty blurry (honestly, I stopped taking them on the run because I didn't think they were even coming out this well...), but I'm going to post them anyways. I didn't stop running a single time for any reason, so I wasn't going to stop to take pictures either.
There was alternating running and walking to the starting line, and then I crossed the timing line, pressed my Garmin, started my music, and started running.
Here's the route again:
The first mile was pretty clogged up, and it was pretty much a fight to get some free space to run. My pace stayed fairly slow, which was where I wanted. My goal was to be at 10:00 mile pace for the first handful of miles before gauging my ability to run faster. I was around 10:00 for the first mile, but it would occasionally slip a little bit if I got stuck behind someone and couldn't get around.
The worst part about this race was the water stop at mile one. I don't know why it's there, as I didn't need or want water yet, and it bottle-necked so badly I slowed quite a bit trying really maneuver around people who decided to full on stop at that stop. It was frustrating, but it was the only frustrating part about the race.
I saw bippity, boppity, and boo on the side around 1.5 or 2, and I was surprised at how early people were stopping for character pictures. I had already told myself I would wait until later in the race to decide if I was going to stop for character pictures. I crossed the d-tag timing line at the first 5k, and found that my pace for the first 3.1 had been 9:50. I was happy, and I felt really good. That long stretch on Osceola Parkway was long and boring, yes, but it was also a good place to maintain a pace and be happy with it.
The only part about that long stretch that wasn't great was the hills over the overpasses. Those were a pain; I just remember thinking to myself that if I was going up, I had to go down at some point...and I always did.
At some point I passed these really tall people with lights on and decided to take a photo of them, just for fun.
I have no idea what/who they were, but I high fived one of them around mile 7 when I needed a boost.
As we entered Animal Kingdom, it started stinking a little bit, but the smell quickly faded. I took a gatorade and a water at that water stop, and I was set to run the long way around that huge parking long. That was intimidating, but the time in Animal Kingdom flew by. I took out my headphones to listen as I passed Expedition Everest, because I wanted to hear the yetti inside. It was fun to think of running in an empty park and having it all to myself (plus the 8,000+ other people that were running with me).
We seemed to be out of that park as quickly as we were in, which was exciting to see two miles go by so fast. I hit the 10k mark really feeling like I hadn't been working that hard. At that point I had brought my average time per mile down to 9:45.
It was also fun because I knew Tim, my mom and dad, and my sister were getting text updates every 5k along the course (plus twitter and facebook). I was excited to show them that I was right on track to finish under my goal time.
At about mile 7, I remember thinking, wow, I've got a lot left. I'm barely halfway done. I had continued taking a gatorade and water at every water stop, and I ate a couple of shotblocks before that point. They had done a good job keeping me energized.
Around mile 8 I decided to take my first GU. I knew it would take a few minutes to kick in, and by mile 9.5 I was really waiting for it quite desperately. I had read a lot about a wall that happened around mile 10, so I was nervous about what would happen at that point. But right before mile 10, that GU kicked in. It kicked in so much that when I would see photographers on course I would fix my shirt, wipe off my mouth, and smile, wave, and give thumbs up. I can't wait to see those pictures. I have no idea when they'll be up, but I promise I'll post them on here, not matter how crazy I look.
By the 15k, I was holding 9:40 per mile. And I was happy.
We entered Disney's Hollywood Studios, and I have to say that it wasn't that exciting. I've never loved that one that much, and we ran a lot of back roads and backlots. While it might be fun to see during the day, I wanted to see rides and characters at night. More curvy roads were not what I wanted at that point. It was harder to keep up the pace I wanted.
Eventually we saw some of the Osborne Lights. I don't think there were as many as there were from recaps as I saw last year, but it was still fun, so I snapped a picture.
Glad you didn't miss that one?
By mile 11.5 I just wanted it to be over. My high had only lasted a mile. I just kept repeating phrases to myself that I had seen Christine post about last week. I chose "leave it all on the road" and from Forest Gump, "I decided to go out for a little run", and somehow, those kept me going.
I later found out that Tim and mom were screaming around mile 12, but that wasn't predetermined, so I wasn't looking for them and missed them completely. I loved running on the boardwalk because it was bit softer than the pavement, people had come out from the boardwalk hotels to cheer, and I knew the race was almost over.
At 12.8, people had signs saying "time to party", "you just burned over 1,300 calories", "you did it", "you're going to finish", etc. I took out my headphones, and "we are the champions", and several other really exciting songs were playing. I saw a sign that said "only 400 yards to go" and somehow was thinking that meant it was right around the corner. No. Right around the corner and down the road a bit was the 13 mile marker. I just started sprinting. I looked down at one point and was under a 9:00 mile. I just wanted to be done.
I crossed the finish line, turned off my Garmin, and then remembered that I could stop running. It's confusing to your body to just stop running after you run without stopping for 13.1 miles.
And there you have it. I beat my goal time by 3 minutes and 15 seconds, and I was thrilled!
I kept walking, picked up my medal, my water, powerade, clif bars, and bag with fruit and a bagel. I got everything, even though I didn't want anything. I learned very quickly that when Disney offers you something free, you should take it (I even took two Clif Shots along the course that I didn't take since I'd never had them before...I decided this wasn't a good time to try something new).
Then, my legs started tightening up. I had a long way to walk to get into Epcot to meet up with mom and Tim. I missed the free beer, which was okay because I don't think I could have drank it at the time. I eventually found them, and they asked me what I wanted to do. I said, "we just need to keep walking".
And walk we did. We walked around the Finish Line Party in Epcot's food and wine festival for two and a half hours. We rode rides, I ate food, and I felt sick to my stomach the whole time. But, there's no way that I'll pay that much for a race and other people's tickets and not enjoy the hell out of every minute of it. So enjoy I did. I ate chicken on a stick from China, sushi from Japan, ravioli from Italy, and had a frozen lemonade from some drink stand in between. And I took no pictures.
Not even one of me with my medal. I am going to post the official one of me with my medal (that they took after we had crossed the finish line) before I post a picture of just the medal. It's huge, and I love it.
I distinctly remember wondering for that whole night why I had already signed up for a second, but now for the life of me I can't remember how badly I felt; I don't remember not loving every second of it, and I have no doubt in my mind that this will be the first of many half marathons (and marathons?). Hm.
So, Disney, I'll hand it to you. You can make anything magical. Those 13.1 miles and the feeling I've still got from it were insane. I loved every single terrible minute of it. And I'll be back for more, even at a $140 price tag. It was worth it.
The best moments:
-The amazing volunteers along the whole course. They cheered. They laughed. They cried. And I didn't miss a single powerade or water cup that I reached for.
-The fanfare that Disney puts on for their events.
-Realizing that I was so close to the starting line at a Disney race.
-Holding my own pace for the first 4 miles when others were passing me.
-Passing some of them back when they realized they had started too fast.
-Realizing around mile 11 that I was really going to go under 2:10 unless I tripped and fell and couldn't get back up.
-Seeing the 13 mile marker.
-In under 2:10.
The less than good moments (there are hardly any):
-The bottle-neck water stop at mile 1.
-The backlots of MGM.
-The hills on the course that I wasn't aware of before I was actually running on them. Oops.
So there you have it. I'll post my official pictures once they're posted. I can't wait to see them, especially the ones that I posed for while running. I think that's what the running high does to you. I probably look like I'm running from the funny farm.
And I can't wait for you to see my medal around my neck. Because I didn't take it off for two days (except to shower and sleep).
If you're still with me, thanks. You have no idea how much it means that you care or are interested.