Thursday, January 21, 2010

WDW Half Marathon Pre-Race Report

Our road to marathon weekend was extra bumpy this year, and we honestly weren't sure that we'd get to the starting corral, let alone the finish line. But we were determined to do our best, whatever that meant.

Friday morning we went to expo to pick up our bibs and race swag. I thought that, since it was a weekday, it wouldn't be too crowded first thing in the morning. Nope. I was wrong. Packet pickup was relatively efficient -- they had a separate pickup area for Goofy runners, arranged by marathon bib number. My line only had a few people in it, but Wil's had several. So we got in our lines and waited. The volunteers had to tell us a lot of special information, so things went extra slowly.

First they opened our packets and showed us our two bibs -- each a different color, but clearly marked which day was for which. They were also different from the standard half and full bibs -- they were roughly shaped like a 5, in honor of the fifth anniversary of Goofy's Race and a half Challenge. We also had some fun little things in the packets -- temporary tattoos, orange shoelaces with the race name printed on them, orange party beads -- and a lot of information sheets.

The volunteers put a glittery silver wristband on our wrists and told us that we had to wear that band through the end of the half marathon. When we finished that race, we would have to go to the Goofy Challenge tent, where the volunteers would check our time, cut the silver band off, and then put a blue wristband on. We would then have to wear the blue band through the end of the full, go to the Goofy Challenge tent, have our times checked, and THEN we would receive the coveted Goofy medal. If we made it that far.

While this was being explained to us, we heard the clang of a cowbell, and all the volunteers whooped. That's because someone in the line of volunteers was helping someone who was Perfectly Goofy -- they had completed the previous 4 challenges and registered for the fifth. It was a nice touch -- there are only about 100 people who have accomplished this, so Disney went out of their way to celebrate them. In addition to the standard race swag, they received special bibs and what can only be described as princess sashes -- orange "satin", with the words "Perfectly Goofy" printed on them in blue. Fantastic! In the days following the race, we saw two people wearing their sashes and it was like glimpsing a rock star. Seriously.

Packets collected, we then went over to the other building to get the swag bags. It was already getting packed, even though expo had only been open for 30 minutes or so. This year Disney did a better job with the bags -- since they were the bags you had to use if you wanted to check a bag on race day, and since the Goofy challengers need to use the bag for two days, they had a lot of complaints about just being given a cheap plastic drawstring bag. So this year we got inexpensive but much more durable drawstring mesh backpacks. Each has a zippered pocket printed with the marathon weekend logo -- or at least MOST of them did. The first ones we were given were missing the printing, so we had to go back and ask for different ones. Wil's pretty sure that the volunteer had noticed and was just trying to get rid of the blank ones, but they swapped them out with no issue.

Then we went to the Disney merch area -- which was rammed with people. It was difficult to move, and Wil and I got separated at one point. But I found a basket and methodically moved through. This year's Goofy training top was glittery. What's with the glitter, gang? The warm clothing was already starting to disappear. I got a black long-sleeved tech top with a running Mickey and a pink stripe down the arm, but, yes, I also picked up the glittery blue Goofy top. Sigh. Wil got a running Mickey sweatshirt -- largely because the Goofy sweatshirt was powder blue. Really, who decides this? We also picked up Goofy pint glasses to add to our marathon glasses collection, but decided against also getting the full and half marathon glasses. (We figured we didn't need 6 new glasses...) A few other cool items -- pins that look like the medals, a magnet, keychains, and, best of all, Vinylmation marathon toys. They had 3" toys for both the half and the full race, and an 8" toy for the Goofy challenge. Simple but cute design -- they had "bibs" where you could write in your race number on the front, and your time on the back. Nice work.

So we got out of that shop, spending way too much money, and moved more quickly through the rest of expo. ASI (the race photographers) were giving out scrapbook paper -- nice touch as it meant that I visited their booth. We also got new little race belts that hold a few things *and* your race number -- which we knew would come in handy on cold race day morning. We also stopped by the Sharpie booth and made a sign for our window at Pop Century.

Then back to the hotel, where we dumped out the swag bags, got all of our stuff laid out for the race. Satisfied that we hadn't forgotten any essentials, we then went to Disney's Hollywood Studios for a little walk around, and a late lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive In. (Very cute place -- you sit in these convertible 50's cars and eat while watching a loop of sci-fi movie clips and old refreshment stand adverts. Decent food, too.) We tried to stay off our feet as much as possible, but went on a few rides, poked around a few shops, but then headed back to the hotel pretty early.

As usual, I tried to sleep early -- but wasn't very successful. I think I was awake between midnight and 2am. But when the alarm went off at 3, I was asleep, so I must have gotten a little rest. Got up, slicked my skin with Body Glide, and started putting the layers on: running tights, jog bra, short-sleeved tech top, long-sleeved tech top, "disposable" fleece trousers, "disposable" fleece jacket, rain shell, ear warmers, hat, gloves... I also put some cheese on a bagel, stuffed my down jacket into my bag, along with a bottle of Boost.

A short walk through the resort, with a stop to fill up our bottles with Powerade from the dispenser. The food court was surprisingly crowded -- but I think people were just delaying the cold as long as possible. We, however, just went out and got on a bus for the ride to the start. Funny to drive again in the dark towards Epcot, and realize how close it is to our hotel... and knowing that we'd be running on those roads later that day.

Got off the buses -- again, well organized -- and were welcomed by a man in a Donald Duck hat to "Disney Alaska". It was bitterly cold, 29 degrees, and there was a strong breeze. We found a place out of the wind to sit and get off our feet. Amidst the high-energy music and lots of jittery nerves, we just sat quietly. We weren't feeling very confident, but all we could do was do our best, right?

Around 4:45 we were asked to move to the starting corrals. The same long walk down a back road, but this time they had huge lights along the path so it wasn't quite so spooky. At some time around this point we decided to don our garbage bags for wind protection. We weren't alone -- lots of people had either garbage bags or those cheap ponchos on. Others were gathering around the lights, which were giving off plenty of heat. But we trudged on and out to the starting corrals.

Disney collects discarded clothing along the route, washes it, and gives it to local charities including Habitat for Humanity. They put big cardboard boxes marked "CLOTHING" out to make collection easier. As we headed out to the corrals, we saw the boxes -- all lined with garbage bags -- sitting under an overpass. I don't know if it was the wind or what, but the boxes weren't next to the corrals. Suddenly, it started to snow -- little wet ice-chippy, sleety snow. So I suggested we just wait under the overpass, next to the boxes. Standing there was strange -- people who hadn't dressed for the weather suddenly got the idea that they should take the garbage bags out of the clothing boxes. And then there was a bit of a frenzy. Wil and I, semi snug in our black garbage bags and layers of fleece, watching people in shorts and tank tops desperately searching for an unclaimed bag. Kinda creepy. We stood there until 15 minutes before the start, but then we had to get into our corral.

We were in Corral D, which was going in the second wave. The half only has one route -- as opposed to the full, which has a red and a blue start to cut down on congestion. But they start the half in large waves... so we were a little farther back from the front than I expected us to be. Still, we got in our corral, listened to some music, and did a little grim dancing. A few speeches -- including one from the head of sponsor CIGNA, who was actually running the Goofy Challenge for the first time. Then Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald came out, gave us a pep talk, and with a flash of fireworks the wheelchair racers started off.

A few minutes later the first wave -- corrals A and B, plus the elites -- headed out to their own fireworks. Then it was time for C and D to move up to the starting line. Some more fireworks and... we were off...

No comments: