Saturday, November 30, 2013

Races… why can't I quit you?

Having decided to cut down on actual races in 2014 and shift my focus more to consistency than events   (more on that later), I found myself at a bit of a loss when talking to my brother on Thanksgiving. I mean, other than the Tinker Bell 10K and Half Marathon in January, the only other race I actually had on my calendar was Rock 'n' Roll Seattle. Which, well, just didn't seem right.

See, I LOVE running events. I'm crazy about 'em. I love lining up with my fellow runners -- even the annoying ones! -- and having someone else do the planning and logistics. And, of course, I love the medals at the end.

But… but… I shouldn't need the bling to validate my run, right?


December 28, 2013
So I'm jonesing for races…. so much so that yesterday morning, before we left for Portland, I decided
to sign Team Wil-Sun up for the Seattle Locks Fat Ass Half Marathon -- it gets me a December race, will earn me half marathon #15 for 2013 (woot!), and it's free (with a donation…). Perfect!

I also added some proposed races to my 2014 race calendar -- perhaps I'll finally run the million inches?

And, finally, I think I might need to run the 12Ks of Christmas (finally). I mean, that pretty much guarantees it will get snowed out, but… it's the last of the classic Seattle-area fun runs that I haven't done. So it's probably time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wine and Dine Half Marathon race report

It's hard to believe that nearly two weeks have gone by since this race -- but that's what happens when you are busily enjoying the delights of Walt Disney World!

Wil and I flew down to Orlando on a Friday -- something we couldn't usually do for a Saturday race, given that we would worry about flight delays meaning we wouldn't be able to pick up our packets. But since the race was on Saturday night, and we could visit the expo on Saturday morning if we ran into trouble en route, it all worked out well.

Almost too well -- our flight landed nearly an hour early (WHAT?!? Early???); so early that even needing to pick up checked bags, our rental car had only just become available. Wow. (Hooray for Alaska Airlines, and for Dollar Rent a Car for having our car ready early!)

Then on to expo, which was still pretty crowded, given that we got there as most people were getting off work. We picked up our bibs in -- of course -- the longest line imaginable... usually that honor goes solo to Wil, but since our numbers were so close, I had to "suffer" with him. In our packets we had our bibs:

Our party wristbands:

And our $10 "taste" gift cards:

We also picked up our pre-ordered pins and my pre-ordered necklace, which were both nicer than expected.
2013 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon souvenir necklace
souvenir necklace (destined to be added to my charm bracelet)
Then to the small merch area, where Wil spotted pint glasses, and I spotted both the tiny Vinylmation "medals" and the runDisney Sweaty Bands. Rather than risk it, we quickly snapped them up before heading over to the main expo and shirt pickup.
RubDisney Vinylmation medal
teeny tiny medals
Our 2013 RunDisney Vinylmation figures
lots of little medals on our 2013 Vinylmation figures!
Being seasoned veterans, we then went straight to the main runDisney merch area... Wil spotted the medal pins (result!) but there really wasn't anything else we couldn't live without. I will also say that the selection already looked pretty picked over. It's odd for us not to go a little over the top on the Disney merch; not sure where the restraint came in!!!

Or maybe I do -- as we were walking up to the expo, peeking in other runners' "goody bags", one thing was relatively consistent: there was a black shirt. A black shirt!!! It's the holy grail of tech tees: a black long sleeve!!! And, sure enough -- the half marathon shirt was black... and we had cleverly ordered the correct size (a "unisex" medium). Fantastic!!!
shirt, wristband, gift card, pins, necklace, brochure, and bib

We didn't linger long at the expo -- we did traipse up and down a couple of aisles and had a sneak peek at the Tinker Bell 10K and Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals for next year -- and soon headed out to pick up some groceries and get settled into the hotel.

Because everything had gone so smoothly, we decided to take advantage of the relatively late night at Epcot and checked out the surprisingly awesome Food and Wine festival. I'm super glad we did -- the menus were diverse and there was a LOT to try out. In fact, other than a lunch in the Magic Kingdom on Saturday and a couple of quick "home-made" breakfasts in the hotel, we ate all ot our food at Epcot until the festival wrapped up on Monday night.

Saturday I had made reservations for Tony's Town Square in the Magic Kingdom for a late lunch -- which seemed logical given that we wanted pasta (old habits die hard!) and had themed our costumes as Lady and the Tramp. The best part of the meal was the table -- on the sunny front porch -- but the vegetarian option was surprisingly unappetizing and the theming wasn't particularly obvious. Not sure what I expected... roving accordionists? Checkered tablecloths and chianti bottles with generations of candle wax drips? Still, it was lunch...

As far as the rest of our pre-race prep went, we went back to the hotel, laid out all of our gear, and tried to nap for a couple of hours. Then up at 7:15, I slathered a bagel with cheese (for me) and peanut butter (for Wil), and we headed down to the shuttle at almost exactly the right time -- that is, just before the line got super long.

It felt super weird to go through the hotel in our race gear while there were lots of people out and about. Normally the runners all slip through the sleeping resort and you feel a sense of camaraderie, of a shared secret. But this time we were dodging familes who were coming back from the parks, crankily arguing about dinner, and staring slack-jawed at all the runners.

(I am always amused by how few people outside those running have any idea that something is going on.)
on the bus!

Then onto the buses for the super short ride to Wide World of Sports... a place we could have easily walked to, if there were sidewalks or crosswalks or paths of any sort.

We dropped off our bag right away -- it had jackets and gloves and the Tinker Bell string bags that would be easier to carry, post-race. Then we just sat down to relax before we were called to the corrals. There were long, winding lines for photos with characters; crowds in front of the porta potties; and a DJ spinning dance tunes of every description while teaching the steps. I was happy to see all the costumes -- I think I haven't seen so many before! A couple of Poohs, Tiggers, and a Piglet; lots and lots of fairies; a million Minnies and a few Mickeys; a flock of Donalds; a Kermit and a Miss Piggy; several "chefs", some with mouse ears in their toques, some with Remys; a few Snow Whites, Cinderellas, Auroras, Rapunzels, and even a Merida; some Buzzes, Woodys, and Jessies; and even a sparkly Jessica Rabbit (inspired!!!). Oh, and of course, "Richard Simmons" -- whom I adore.

And us? Well, yeah, Lady and the Tramp, of course!

After a while they called the runners to the corrals -- which were super close to the waiting area, so no half-mile walk through the woods in the dark to the start of this race! We arrived at Corral E and made our way in just as they asked people to move up. Again, perfect.

Speaking of perfect, I like the way the corrals were spaced for this race. The faster corrals up front were smaller, and started at shorter intervals. I think our corral had only 500 people in it, which meant we weren't bumping into each other at all. The slower corrals toward the back were progressively larger, so I don't know how those runners felt. I did notice a surprising number of walkers -- not run-walkers, pure walkers -- in the early corrals, which is always puzzling to me. How do they get there? Are they injured and can't run as usual? Or did they just not know their own pace? But the walkers I saw at the beginning were super well behaved, walking single file for the most part, and off to one side of the road. So I can't complain at all.

I like that WDW still starts with fireworks for every corral. None of this green swirls on a LED screen. Proper big-bang fireworks, which gives everyone a sense of occasion. The corral was so uncrowded that we actually started running BEFORE the start line; almost unheard of in a big race!

every corral gets their own countdown and firework celebration start -- that's classy

We ran down Victory Way and out of the WWoS complex, turning left on Osceola Parkway to head over to the Animal Kingdom. Even though we had probably run on all of those roads at some point, it felt very novel because we had never run this particular course. I also had the strangely happy sensation of already feeling loose and warm -- so even the first mile felt comfortable... not the usual "oh, no, I don't have it today" feeling I get most of the time.

The combination of the new course, happy legs, and decent weather meant that I felt like the miles were passing by at a decent clip. We ran into, around, and out of Animal Kingdom before I really noticed it. I wish they had had more entertainment there -- but maybe it bothers the animals? As we came back out of the parking lot, a giant Tigger puppet and a giant Sebastian puppet were by the side of the road, and they were alternating Little Mermaid and Tigger songs. Tigger had a line of runners waiting for pictures. Sebastian, sadly, had none.

We eventually made our way back to the Parkway (like a delayed out and back), and the runners were still coming, though some of them looked like they might already be flagging. Right around the point where the front runner passed us on their way back, we noticed the bikes starting to circle around the stragglers. I had never seen it before, and it was both impressive and sad -- first bikes, then a little ways back, a small squadron of vans, and then behind them a herd of street sweepers and service trucks. It was clearly only a matter of time before some of them were going to get picked up.

A little while longer and we were headed into Hollywood Studios, where we went on a surprisingly long backstage route. Here, at least, there were lots and lots of characters and photo ops. I wondered if this was because by this point, you didn't have to block any roads anymore, so they didn't mind if you were a little slow though here. One big highlight: running through the costume shop tunnel, they had set it up with disco music, cool mist machines, lights, and disco balls. Nice!

Of course, the real highlight was getting to run through the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights -- amazing! The Streets of Americal section of the studios is completely wrapped -- nay, coated -- with millions of Christmas lights. We had run through the area during the January races, but by that time they are starting to take the lights down and they aren't lit anymore. So it was so beautiful to run down this street filled with colorful lights. We had to stop and marvel and take a few pictures at this point -- it was just too fantastic to hurry through.

I look semi giddy here...

Eventually we left Hollywood Studios and headed on the riverside path to the Boardwalk area -- not much to say about this stretch, other than that this time we weren't running in 85 degree heat and didn't feel dizzy on the wooden slats! Not too many folks were out watching or cheering at this point; I'm guessing that most people were waiting inside Epcot.

We went into Epcot via a different route -- not entering the World Showcase at all, but running backstage until somewhere near the Land pavilion. Suddenly there were a lot of people along the route, including a strange section where we crossed the central plaza through a large group of people. Then past Spaceship Earth and backstage, where I totally expected a gospel choir. (Nope.)

I felt like they had somehow shifted where the finish was -- or maybe it was just unrecognizable in the dark? -- but we both felt weirdly lost, even though we knew we were almost at the finish. We saw the 13 mile marker, shouted "God save the Queen!", and then held hands for the sprint to the finish line... high-fiving Mickey along the way, of course!
I love this pic -- I always turn to look at Wil when we cross a finish line!

now, about those "drink tickets" on the bibs...
Once across the line we made our way through the finish gauntlet, picking up medals, powerade, chocolate milk, snackboxes, and -- wonder of wonders -- BEER. We weren't sure what to expect here... someone handed Wil an extra drink ticket, but in the end we didn't need it. We walked slightly to one side toward men standing next to large garbage cans full of ice. One held sodas, so I asked for a Diet Coke. One held cans of Yuengling lager, and the man was quickly handing them out. Wil tried to hand him the drink ticket, but the man just smiled and waved him on. Easy. I did wish, later, that I had also picked up one of the funny "cans of wine that are shaped like glasses" (if you know what I mean) -- just so I could have looked at it more closely. But I didn't want to take more than my share... even if I had taken a soda and a beer.

On we shuffled, making our way to the post-race party. By this point it was about 12:30 and the crowds were starting to move. I was a little surprised that we had to walk to the regular entrance gate rather than somehow emerging inside the park... especially when we reached the point where the course crossed the central plaza. We spent about 15 minutes pressed against hungry, grumpy runners as we waited to be allowed to cross. I was surprised that no one other than me and Wil -- while standing NEXT TO THE COURSE, having just run the race -- cheered for the remaining runners. C'mon folks, give those folks some love!!

Disney had set up a temporary pelican crossing -- moving pedestrians from the far right to a central area while the runners ran down the left channel, then shifting the runners to the right channel and moving the pedestrians across that left channel. It was slow work, finishers were getting frustrated, and there was a bit of pushing. And, again, no one but me and Wil cheered, which made me sad.

That said, once we were across (did I mention that during that time I drank a can of beer, a can of Diet Coke, and a bottle of chocolate milk, having already drunk a bottle of Powerade?) things totally opened up and we were able to wander around the Food and Wine festival freely. We ate, we drank, we listened to music, and -- probably best of all -- we just kept slowly walking around. As a result, my legs never hurt. Fantastic!
very dark attempt at a "spaghetti" shot

Epcot was open until 4am, and we actually stuck it out until 2:45 or so before deciding to head back to the hotel. Other than the crush at the crossing, which could only be solved by allowing finishers to enter the park in a different spot, the festival wasn't crowded, lines for food and drink weren't long, and people seemed really good natured.

Oh, one small exception. We were waiting for something delicious from the Ireland booth, when one of the cast members said to a woman in front of us, "How was your race?" The woman -- who was wearing a medal -- said, "They didn't let me finish." The cast member, confused, asked why, and the woman said, "Because apparently you have to keep up a 16-minute per mile pace, not a 17-minute per mile pace." The poor CM said, "Oh... um... sorry..." as the woman grabbed her Guinness and hurried off.

Now, I can't say that I wouldn't also be bitter if I got swept. And I do feel sorry for her. But the rules state that you can't fall behind pace at any point during the race. And... well... she still got her medal, the party, and the experience. I just hope that she decides to try another race someday. I've read accounts by other people who have been swept that say that Disney is very kind and gentle (if quite firm). I hope she still has some nice memories of her Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

Speaking of nice memories: seeing all the costumes; running at night; running on warm legs!; the disco tunnel; the Osborne lights; the "I love the gender role reversal!" cast member; the cast members with flashlights at the speed bumps near the parking booths; the lights in front of Animal Kingdom; the cannons firing on the Black Pearl (or was it the Flying Dutchman??); drinking lager from a can...
This is probably our last WDW race for a while, which makes both of us a little sad. I still aim to run Tinker Bell every year, but next year's big trip to Machu Picchu is definitely going to cut into our Disney time (ha!)

2013 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon medal

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Motivation x2

#1: Tatyana McFadden, who won the women's wheelchair division of the New York marathon on Sunday... Having also won the Chicago, Boston, and London marathons this year. Total badass!
Tatyana McFadden

#2: Nowhere near the same level, but... Check out the 2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon medal!
2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon medal