Monday, September 10, 2012

Disneyland Half Marathon Race Report

Are you one of those people who have high expectations of themselves and get a little bogged down when they don’t meet those self-imposed goals?

Yeah, me either.

Or at least, I learned how not to be that person during the course of this race.

As I’ve already laid out, I missed half the training leading up to the Disneyland Half Marathon.  Not ideal.  Not what I wanted, but it happened.

This was Lesson One in getting over myself:  Training is not always Perfect.

Lesson Two.  Lesson Two was the Half Marathon.

Because even though I had missed half my training, I still wanted to see if I could meet that arbitrary and aggressive goal of bettering my time from the Princess by 20 minutes.  I had finished the Princess with gas in the tank, so, obviously that means set an insane goal, right?

After all, my Toronto Women’s 10K time made it seem like finishing around 2:45 - 2:47 wouldn’t be impossible.

And never mind that my calves were pretty tight the whole week after the Women’s 10K.  

Never.  Mind.

Race morning started at 3:35AM.  We had laid out our gear the night before, so all that was left was to use the 1-cup coffee maker in the room to make instant oatmeal in these handy little cups.
I had the Pistachio-Cherry version, which I probably wouldn't do again.  I really wanted plain.


Overall, they were good, if not a little meagre.  I'm a bit of a bottomless pit, pre-race.  I get a little panicky if I think I'm not going to start getting hungry, so I try to get 'comfortably full'.  I like to avoid the weak, shaky feeling I get when I don't eat properly.

I wanted some protein, so we also had some greek yogurt.  I don't know what made me reach for Chobani flavoured, instead of a plain Fage, Nothing like adding new food the day of a race...

As we headed out the door, we added a half a banana, a cup of coffee, a bottle of water and had a bagel with peanut butter on hand, just in case.

So there's my overly detailed section on breakfast.

We were staying at the Sheraton Park, which is a 20 minute walk from Disneyland, but we opted to take the shuttle this morning since we weren't sure how the crowds would be for bag check and getting into corrals.  We had experienced a pretty clogged walk to corrals at the Princess, so we were preparing for the worst.

The bus dropped us outside the Disneyland/California Adventure park drop-off, and we started the march through Downtown Disney to the race area over near the Disneyland Hotel.  Some people opted to use this time to do some light warm-up jogs.

We used the restroom on the way, and then joined the first bottleneck area at the Disneyland Hotel.  Since the road was blocked off (it was going to become the finish-line) we all had to squeeze in along the sidewalk.

Shuffle-shuffle-STOP.  Shuffle-shuffle-STOP!

Things eased up near the bag check, which was a breeze.  There must not have been a lot of "W" people, because I had NO line-up, and I was waiting by the #14 lamp-post that Greg and I had set as our meet-up landmark.

One more restroom stop, and then on to the corrals.


They had the roadway to the corrals broken into two chutes - A-E, and the F-G.  I looked longingly at the A-E chute, until I realized how far back the E group had to shuffle to get to their corral.  That's a lot of shuffling.

We were sorely tempted to climb the fence and tuck into our F corral, rather than walk all the way to the back, but we opted not to risk injury, or dirty looks, and instead shuffled all the way to the back, and then shuffled our way towards the front of our corral.

It was a zoo.

But I was ready to go.

Disregard the bags under my eyes.  Five hours of sleep is plenty.
Before we knew it, the Elite runners were off, followed every 5 minutes or so by each consecutive corral.  It seemed to take a LONG time for each corral to move up, and some were still walking up after their corral 'started, but things moved along at a reasonable pace, and before long, it was our turn to move up.

We shuffled up behind a plastic fence held up by volunteers, and somehow Greg and I were right at the front, which means we got a great view of these cheery goofballs.

3... 2... 1... (beeping Garmins) GOOOOOO!!

We set out at a pretty quick pace, assisted by the downhill slope.  As before, I found myself talking myself down.
Easy... easy... let them pass... slow down... don't burn out in the first mile...

It was exciting, but I calmed myself down, and we settled into our 2/1 intervals.  Our FAST (for me) 2/1 intervals.

Before we even knew it, we were at Mile 1, twenty seconds ahead of our 2:45 Clif Pace Bands split time.
Mile 1: 12:28

Mile 2 was a little slower, thanks to a quick restroom stop in California Adventure - we had passed by some portolets with long lines outside the park, and knew from the Princess that if we could hold off until we were in the park, we'd probably face no lines.  Sure enough, we were right, but I think we started something, because as soon as we were exiting the restrooms, suddenly there was a line.
As we ran through Cars Land, I spotted a gentleman with a bloody face getting medical attention - he looked pretty dazed, so I'm guessing he tripped and face-planted.  I started focussing on the path ahead of me, and the runners around me even more.  Tripping did not look like fun.
Mile 2: 15:40

Looks like we stayed on pace with Tweedle-dee for the first two miles...
Mile 3 was great.  Somewhere in the last couple of miles there had been a hydration stop, which was great, because my mouth had been parched less than a mile in, which I found troubling.  We'd tried to keep on top of rehydrating the day before, but it was SO hot, and I do not do well in heat.
Mile 3: 13:05

Mile 4.  Disaster.  My calves had been feeling tight all week, and the left one chose the pathway to Tomorrow Land to seize up.  Imagine your worst charley horse, then drive a nail through it.  That was me.  I pulled off to the side and tried stretching on a curb, but no dice.  That cramp was in it for the long haul.
I apologized to Greg, and said we'd have to walk.  Maybe for the rest of the race.  He suggested we find the nearest medical tent, but I was not having it.  I did not want to be pulled from the course.  Instead, I got mad at myself, and we started walking, pausing occasionally to stretch.
I blamed myself for losing a shot at a PR.
I blamed myself for running a 10K the week before (even though that was my scheduled long run).
I blamed myself for missing so much training.
I blamed myself for doing so much walking in the heat the day before.
I blamed myself for not hydrating properly.
I blamed myself for not taking an Endurolyte capsule before we started.
I kept apologizing to Greg and I suggested he run on ahead to try and set his own PR.  He's so much faster than me on a good day, and I doubted I was good company at this point.  He said "nope, we're doing this together", and popped an earbud in to listen to music as we walked.
And walked.
And walked.
Mile 4: 18:49

Mile 5.  As we left the parks behind us, I knew that the next 9 miles were going to be a real bummer if I didn't get over myself.  Walking didn't hurt so badly.  So at some point during that mile, I picked up my pace.  I told Greg that if I could aim to keep my pace under 15 minutes per mile, we'd still get pretty close to our Princess Half pace.  And there was no way I was going to accept being out there for three and a half hours.  So that became my next goal.  Walk faster.  I also started drinking 3-4 cups of water and 1-2 cups of PowerAde at each aid station, took my Endurolyte capsules, and a couple of Tylenol.
Mile 5:  16:58

Mile 6.  Another restroom stop.  Holy smokes.  We didn't stop once on the Princess Half, so this was new.  We took some Clif Shots with caffeine, and then Greg spied the First Aid tent.  We'd breezed by those during the Princess, too, but this time around he dragged me over towards the Bio-Freeze.  I barely had enough time to tell him to "PUT ON A GLOVE!!" before he grabbed a handful and started peeling back my Zoot calf sleeve.
He slathered me up, rubbed the knots as best he could and then used the leftovers on his knee.
It felt good.
We kept walking.  That extra time was well worth it.
Mile 6:  19:59

Mile 7.  Things started turning around.  My Garmin was still beeping and booping at me at every 2 and 1 minute interval.  Reminding me that I was under pace.  Thanks Garmin.
But I jogged a tentative few steps.  My leg didn't want to collapse under me anymore.  That's a good start.  I suggested to Greg that we try doing light jogs using the intervals in reverse.  Like, run 1, walk 2.  Here we go.
Mile 7: 13:39

Mile 8. Still plugging along at the 1/2 intervals, I started to think I might have a chance at returning to my 2/1 intervals.  There were loads of antique cars lining the course, and it was almost a shame to speed past them.  Almost.  We also took Stanley Cup Drive up to the Honda Centre, home of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.  To someone from Toronto - that one hurt.
Mile 8:  13:38

Mile 9.  This mile took us alongside a 'river bed'.  Now, I may be a crazy naturalist, but it seemed more paved than most riverbeds.  But then, we're near Hollywood, and nothing is natural there.  It also took us up an incline towards Angel Field.  We started back on our 2/1 intervals, and I felt cautiously optimistic. 
Mile 9:  14:09

Mile 10.  At the start of this mile, we grabbed some Clif Shots, lots of water, and made another restroom stop.
Oh boy.  How FUN is this mile?  Even if you've never dreamed of being an athlete, I'm pretty sure you've probably still wondered how it would feel to have people in a stadium cheering you on.  This was a perfectly placed adrenaline and morale booster.  The pathway to the stadium and the stadium itself was full of boy and girl scouts and their families cheering, applauding and high-fiving.  I slapped some palms, and thanked people for waking up early and cheering us on.  It felt amazing interacting with strangers.
We left the stadium energized and full-on optimistic.  Caution be damned!
Mile 10:  12:06

Mile 11.  I honestly couldn't believe how quickly the miles seemed to click by this time around.  I was consistently surprised by how fast the mile markers seemed to pop up, even as we were walking.  All I knew was that I was grateful to be close to finishing, because it was getting HOT.
Mile 11: 13:01

Mile 12.  Hot.  So hot.  But I'm honestly ecstatic.  I have no idea what time it is, how long we've been running, or what time we'll finish, but my calf is holding up, and my achilles tendinitis didn't even make a peep this whole run.  Little did I know, this was our fastest mile since Mile 1, and according to Greg's Nike+, our actual fastest mile.
Mile 12:  12:32

Mile 13.  Melting.  But I keep pushing.  We're back in the park, back on Property.  Back to dodging around people who stop on a dime, and having people dash right in front of us, barely leaving room for a stride.  Thanks.
Mile 13:  12:56

Mile 13.1.  When we ran the Princess Half, I was so focussed on getting to the finish line that I didn't take in my surroundings.  This time, I made sure to look around.  I didn't exactly stop and smell any roses, but I watched as people crossed ahead of me, arms thrown to the sky in victory.  I saw Mickey & Minnie, Chip & Dale flanking the finish line and waving their cartoony arms.  I saw people's friends and family members with their signs, cheering their brains out for their athletes.
This time around, I took it all in.
And I let the lesson sink in.  I had a setback, and while I took some time to pout, I didn't give up.  There is, perhaps, a time when I might have.  I might have just said "It's too hard.  It hurts.  I'm done".  But somehow, over the last year, I've learned that I'm made of tougher stuff than that.
It finally dawned on me that just because I didn't meet a goal did not mean I had failed.  And having learned that lesson, I considered this race to be my own personal victory.
Mile 13.1: 3:11

We did it.

Greg and Me.

What were my impressions/favorite parts/would I run this race again?
Stay tuned...


  1. Great job. I'm sorry you had leg issues but I'm glad you got to finish and experience the race!!!

  2. Thanks - I just read your race report, too. Inspiring! Congratulations on your PR, despite what sounded like a LOT of pain.