Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Disneyland Half Marathon Race Report

Undertrained? Who cares! We were going back to the Disneyland to run the 5th annual Disneyland Half Marathon! We left work early on Friday to catch a 4:30 flight, landing in the small but perfectly formed Santa Ana/Orange County/John Wayne/SNA airport a little past seven. We rushed out to see the Disneyland Express bus pulling out, but jumped in a taxi because we needed to get to the expo before 8.

We told the cabby "Disneyland Hotel" (the site of the expo) and were asked "Do you know the name or address of the hotel?". This was our first clue that things might not go so well. Thank heavens for smartphones and GPS -- we were able to play the role of navigator and arrive safely... and in time... even if it took a Very Long Time to pay the young man... long enough that Disneyland Hotel staff came out and asked us to move along. Oops.

Then into the lower level to pick up our race packets, and were directed to a special "Coast to Coast Challenge" area. I'll admit it -- the main reason we were running this race again was the Coast to Coast medal. I mean, if I'm going to run a half and a full back to back to get a bonus medal, you can be darn sure I'm going to run another half to get another bonus medal. We got our numbers and our wristbands with instructions not to remove them until after the race on Sunday. Easy peasy.

special treatment


Up the ramp (on that glorious "track" carpet that makes me smile when I see it) and into the expo hall, which was much less crowded. We walked up to the shirt pickup -- no line at all -- and got this year's shirts. Well, let's just say I won't be wearing it again... but I bet some people were thrilled it was bright bright blue.

By this point it was almost 8:00, so we didn't linger in the expo but made a beeline for the official merch. There wasn't as much glitter this year, thank heavens, but in exchange many pieces had silvery foil on them. I was easily able to resist all the clothing again, but Wil picked up a race tank... complete with silvery foil "confetti" on it. Sparkly! And of course we got our souvenir glasses... and at the checkout they had another pin. Was pleased to keep the craziness in check a little.

Then we hurried through Downtown Disney, across the plaza (accompanied by a castmember for security purposes who didn't live up to her title as "runner" -- she couldn't breathe as we walked quickly across), and over to our lovely little hotel. We checked into our favorite room, dropped off our things, and then went back over to the park.

That night and the next day we wandered around the parks, lounged by the pool, and smiled and laughed a lot. I had forgotten how much I love the parks. Saturday night we tried and failed to go to bed early, and both of us slept freakishly badly. I don't think I've ever slept so badly the night before a race. Weird! So it was something of a relief to get up at 5am on Sunday.

On race day we were out the door by 5:20, nibbling bread and cheese or peanut butter, gradually joining other runners making the same trek to the start. We saw a cute, nervous couple with their bibs pinned on their backs. They stood next to us at a crosswalk, looked at us, and the woman said, "See, they've got them on the front... I TOLD you." By the time the light changed, they had the numbers off and were getting ready to re-pin them on their fronts.

The organizers had obviously told people to move into the corrals... which meant that there was no one in the queues for the portaloos. Eerie. It was about 5:45 at this point. So we made a last pit stop and then tried to find our corral. This year we had been placed in corral D... but it really wasn't clear how one was supposed to get to it. We milled around for a few minutes, saw no organization at all, so just nipped in to corral C through a break in the fence. Very, very strange. The corral was pretty roomy, and the sky was just starting to change.

gorgeous morning


They decided to reduce crowding through the parks by allowing 5 minutes between corral waves. This must have worked; there was no point when I thought things were too crowded. The wheelchair athletes were first; they got a countdown and then... weird green "fireworks" -- that were really just electric lights. Some grumbling in the corral that that wasn't very sporting, not having proper fireworks for the wheelers, etc.; so imagine our surprise when the elites went and also just got green flashes. More than one person around us said how weird it was not to start with fireworks. One interesting change: rather than a start banner, they had a massive led screen that switched from "start" to "corral A" to an animated "celebration" pattern at each start.

wouldn't fireworks be nicer?


We were really only in the corral for 10 minutes before the start (or 20 minutes before our wave started), so there wasn't a lot of time to chatter. But of course we took the requisite pre-race photo.

pre-race photo


Then, suddenly, we were off. Quick glimpse of Mickey, Minnie, and... was that Jeff Galloway? I was running my first event with a Half Fanatics shirt on (yes, I'm a dork...) and he called it out as we ran past.

mice and men at the start


Loved the changes to the course this year -- we ran around the outside of the park first, and then turned in "backstage" at California Adventure. Was excited when I realized that the World of Color fountains were on -- not as impressive as the actual show, of course, but really pretty!

Wil at World of Color


We ran all around the lagoon and then out of DCA, crossing the big plaza that was lined with people. Weirdly, most people were silent, just watching for their own runners. C'mon fans, it's not gonna hurt you to cheer for other people. I shouted, "Hey, it's pretty quiet out here -- let's make some noise" and everyone started whooping. Weird.

Then into Disneyland... and up Main Street USA. Glorious! Loved that -- I had really been disappointed that we didn't get to run up the street last year, so it was a great improvement. Then a twisty route through a lot of the rest of the park: through Frontierland, past the Rivers of America into Fantasyland, through the castle (where we all booed at Maleficent, standing on the balcony), and a loop through Tomorrowland, around the Matterhorn, past It's a Small World, and then backstage. Weird to see the train just standing next to a building backstage -- makes you realize that it's not full-sized at all.

booing Maleficent


blurry backstage "action shot"


All too quickly, of course, we were out of the parks and into bleak Anaheim. Not much else to report other than that we didn't have to loop around the parking lot at the Pond (or whatever it's called now...), that the "river" was just as dusty and dry as last year (and the bikers were just as sad to find the trail blocked...), that this year the Angels ballgirls stood at home plate and cheered everyone on in the stadium, that the tunnel near the end was deafeningly full of shrieking cheerleaders, that we no longer ran through the tiny archway before mile 12, that we didn't go back into DCA at the end, and that Jeff Galloway was at the finish line, too.

Angel Stadium


We got a shout out from Galloway as we came down the finish chute, crossing the finish line holding hands. We collected our race medal (which, sigh, looks like a 5K medal at a glance....) and our Coast to Coast medal, got "Chill" towels again (heaven!), got snacks and drinks, and then stretched for a bit in the pen. All in all, a nice event, but it's probably our last time doing it. Who knows... never say never, right?

Lovely things I remember: the "big hill" (the overpass) was brightened by a lovely woman in a Buzz Lightyear costume, earning her race karma by calling out runners' names to urge them up the slope. Got love from a half fanatic supporter twice along the course -- love wearing the "team" shirt! Also ran with/passed a couple of other fanatics. Nice to have that camaraderie. Some kids had made "snack cups" with a handful of mini pretzels and 4 Red Vines each and were handing them out somewhere around mile 11. Fantastic! On our way back to our hotel, medals clanking, we had to cross the route, but earned some race karma for ourselves by standing there for a while, cheering the runners on. It was great to see people perk up when we could tell them, totally truthfully, that the 12-mile mark was just across the street, through the arch, and around the corner.

We showered off the salt, had a little nap, and then a great lunch with Gretchen and Rick -- yay!

fit at the finish!


Because I like to save these sort of things, this is the 2010 Disneyland Half Marathon course map.

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