Sunday, November 30, 2014

Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon race report (finally!)

Race morning was dry ... a little warm ... and Very, Very Windy. How windy? This windy:

I've raced in some pretty awful weather -- torrential rain, freezing cold, even wind strong enough to make me feel like I was running in place. But I've never raced against the Santa Ana winds... or the duststorm those winds can cause... or had to jump out of the way of a police barrier picked up and tossed by a wind gust.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself here...

We flew down to Disneyland early on the Friday morning, arriving at the Expo about an hour after it opened. We snorted a little derisively at the big line in the packet pickup area. (Team Wil-Sun: "What's the line for?" Volunteer A: "Can't you guess?" Team Wil-Sun: "Is it a line for photos with a characters?" Volunteer A: "No... it's the line for purses." Volunteer B: "You mean, it's the line for ebay sellers!") We got our bibs, our pins, and my necklace, before heading up to the merch area.

Wil and I both had the genius idea that we should go and pick up our pins and pint glasses in the official merch first -- before getting our shirts -- the rationale being that they're not going to run out of shirts.

We were a little confused by the long line of people -- ahh, they must be waiting for a character photo? A helpful castmember said, "This is the line for official merchandise. The end is out in the lobby." We were both a little stunned. Wil asked how long the wait was, and the castmember said, "About 2 hours at this point."


I actually had a moment when I thought, well, okay, we'll wait. Wil was adamant that we were NOT doing that. Which, when I cleared visions of medal pins from my head, I saw was TOTALLY LOGICAL.

Wil reminded me that we've never been to the expo so early before, that we've always gotten the couple of items we want, and that, in a worst-case scenario, we could resort to ebay for the pins we wanted. Even at grossly inflated prices, if we had to wait for 2 hours to buy them, well, it's still possibly worth it.

So we went and picked up our very nice shirts -- black long sleeves AGAIN?!? Dear, sweet runDisney -- THANK YOU for making tech shirts I will be delighted to wear!!!!

We then headed back out of the expo and to our car, which we drove to our hotel, checked in, and started our day for reals.

(We did go back over to the expo a couple of hours later -- the walked right in to the merchandise area, which had been pretty picked over, but were still able to get the medal pins and pint class we buy at every race. And, since we had bought our new annual passes in the meantime, we also got a discount. Nice.)

Race morning, verrrry early, we set out in our gear, nibbling on bagels as we made our way across Downtown Disney. I probably say it in every Disneyland race report, but I LOVE this quiet walk. I always love listening to the chatter, spotting the first-timers (bibs on the back of their shirts is a dead giveaway), and looking at the costumes.

Unsurprisingly, there were some pretty awesome costumes for this race -- people LOVE a super hero theme! Oh, and us? This is us after the race:

Darn it, getting ahead of myself again.

We got in our corral (D) pretty quickly -- they were already calling runners to the corrals when we arrived in the start village. I was intrigued by how they were setting things up -- smaller corrals at the front, larger corrals at the back. We could hear but not really see the announcers, so we decided to just move over to the side and sit down.

the view from Corral D

obligatory pre-race photo
The announcers were chatting about heroes and such, there *may* have been an appearance by a character or two (maybe?), and then the countdown started. May I note here that we have gotten Very Good at timing our mornings for Disneyland races???

the race start
We were told to move up as A and B were both starting together... and because C and D would be starting together.

Tangent: I find the science / art of corrals super interesting -- and I can see that even by having these smaller corrals starting together, they're still (semi-)effectively breaking up the crowds by time. But it made a lot of people chatter in the corrals.

The wheelers left and promptly disappeared (so fast!), then went A & B. The announcers clearly enjoyed calling out all of the costumes... notably "representatives from Stark Industries".

Another tangent: There was a lot of chatter on the social channels complaining about why Iron Man wasn't included in the race imagery -- "because he's the most popular one". Anyone who races knows (or should know?) that "Ironman" as relates to swimming, biking, and running competition is trademarked by the World Triathlon Corporation. Disney may own Marvel now, but they also honored the previous deals.

We had stationed ourselves toward the back of the D corral, so this is how it looked from the start of our wave -- still pretty far back.

the start for corrals C and D

Once we had started -- waving at the announcers and getting a shout-out as we passed -- we ran out along Disneyland Drive for a brief stretch before going backstage at California Adventure and then bang right into the park. 

Full disclosure here: I managed to take ZERO photos while running this race. Between the wind gusts and the dust and MY RIDICULOUS WIG, I just didn't do it. Luckily, costumes definitely make you a target for the Marathonfoto photographers, so we ended up with a ton of photos from this race. 

My favorite stretch in Disneyland used to be Main Street USA... but now my favorite paths are in Cars Land -- especially "Route 66" at night, when all the neon is lit up. 

 We then ran towards Paradise Pier, but turned to run behind Grizzly River Rapids -- the loveliest, quietest stretch of the park. 

Things get pretty fuzzy here. We ran out of California Adventure near Soarin', crossed the plaza, and entered Disneyland somewhere backstage. Then we ran around behind and I *think* we came onstage in Critter Country, following the river around past the Haunted Mansion, and then around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (quite possibly the quietest and loveliest stretch of Disneyland) into Fantasyland.

We ran past King Arthur's Carousel -- which wasn't spinning, but had all 7 dwarves and Snow White sitting on horses and waving. (Those poor characters assigned to the carousel ... I'm glad they don't just keep 'em spinning the whole time!)

The highlight of pretty much every Disneyland race is the chance to run through Cinderella Castle. Sometimes you get lucky and get a good "castle pic"... sometimes not. This time, DEFINITELY!

That picture made us very, very happy. Then, a couple of days after the race, I was riding the bus to work and I noticed that Disney had posted the race video. I always love watching the race videos, remembering the race, always kind-of hoping that we'd get a glimpse of ourselves...

Then, bam.

50-some seconds in, there we were, running through the castle. I let out a little whoop on the bus. Best. Castle. Pic. Ever.

But back to the race... And, no, I have NO IDEA where these next pictures were taken. I mean, that really looks like the Matterhorn, but ?? Staring at the image, it's probably taken on Main Street USA (aren't those trolley tracks?)... but Wil isn't wearing sunglasses... Still, look how happy we are!

Then, as usual, we were out of the parks all too quickly. I *think* we ran through the little tunnel under the main bus entrance before popping out onto Harbor Boulevard just before mile 3. 

Not much to report out here, other than crazy wind, even crazier wind gusts, and most of the mile markers getting blown over. 

By the time we reached the Crystal Cathedral, my wig -- attached to my forehead with spirit gum -- had blown off (though I quickly retrieved it and jammed it in my race belt), we had dodged a police barrier that had been picked up by the wind, and we may have been stopped in our tracks -- along with all the runners around us -- by a particularly violent gust. Pretty crazy. 

I suddenly realized that the sodden waterstop volunteers (voluntEARS?) who were standing in puddles of water were soaked because some of the tables had been blown over. Tables weighed down by hundreds of water cups. Poor little bears. I'm always very grateful (and noisily so) to the volunteers, thanking each group multiple times as I move through the water zones. But I felt so bad for them during this race! 

A couple of miles later and we joined the Santa Ana River Trail. Now, I love the idea of running along the river trail, especially about halfway through the race, when the pack will have strung out quite a bit. Sure, it's not a river, river, but it's a beautifully paved trail. There was a lot of whining after the race from people saying how dumb it was to run along the trail in a windstorm. Sorry, Disney can do a lot of magic, but they actually don't control the weather...

Also, a group of cosplay enthusiasts had stationed themselves along the trail, so it was a really great distraction to see their amazing costumes, get shout outs for being dressed as Ms. Marvel, and high-fiving tons of superheroes. Despite the crazy, dusty, gritty wind, I felt totally energized during this stretch (even if I kept apologizing for taking my wig off!). 

We turned off the river trail and into Angel Stadium right around the mile 8 marker... well, what was left of the marker. A short stretch across the parking lot:

I look as if I've taken someone's scalp...
... and then we headed into the stadium, which was, as always, marvelous. 

Please note that Wil managed to make his "Hulk Face" at almost every photo op.

Once out of the stadium there was a really lovely stretch where we ran past a group of WW2 reenactors in full uniform, complete with some lovingly restored Jeeps and other vehicles. Lots of high fives here as well -- looked amazing!

Things were pretty quiet -- other than the wind gusts -- for the rest of the race. At some point I did get to take candy from strangers ... possibly twice? Hey, getting to eat a few Red Vines is a highlight of any race, okay?

We ran through what I like to think of as "my" underpass, sadly sans cheerleaders this race, and then parallel to I-5 and past the HoJo. (I love the HoJo.) Then back onto park property, through the tunnel, and backstage behind Cars Land again -- the same way we ran at the start, but in the other direction. 

Was a little surprised at how sparse the area was through the parking lot behind the Paradise Pier Hotel -- but I guess that's often a staging area or a finish area? There were several cheer squads and drill teams -- possibly relocated to this spot, given the winds.

The stretch to the finish seemed impossibly narrow -- and the course was a little winding, so it was difficult to see where we would be going. Was absolutely THRILLED to see the finish -- it had been pretty rough out there. But in preparation -- and because I'm vain, I guess -- I decided to put the wig back on while we were still backstage... which, I think you'll agree, was Worth It. 

home stretch!!!

finish line!!!

I love that we got a nice, clean finish line photo (AND that the finish line didn't blow down!!!). But these two photos, because they have a very "paparazzi" look to them:

Phew! Mission accomplished. We smashed the half!

Things we loved about this race: 
- an interesting new course
- the cosplay group and WW2 reenactors along the course
- the valiant volunteers trying to save the mile markers when they were blowing over
- great shirts... and handsome medals

Room for improvement:
- well, if Disney could control the weather (ha ha)...
- more characters (as usual)

I'm not sure we'd necessarily make this race a must-run event... though it is scheduled for our anniversary weekend again in 2015. :)

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon medal

2014 Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Map


  1. So very windy. I liked this route much better than Tink. I hope that Star Wars will follow this route.

  2. Not sure if you're referring to the weather on race day or my long-winded post. Ha ha ha ha ha...

    Yeah, the weird whining about the river trail still amuses me. I mean, yes, it was dusty... but I've run along that trail before on a nice day and it makes a nice difference from the tile supply shops of Anaheim!

    I keep thinking about a course that would start in the same direction as Tink, run 90% around the park at the start (to give folks room to spread out), then turn in to backstage California Adventure (again on the wide path) before going onstage.

    Then running down Route 66, out and around Paradise Pier, back behind Grizzly Peak, and then out across the plaza into Disneyland. OR stay in DCA all the way back to Hollywood Boulevard before popping out in the backlot, then crossing the plaza into Disneyland.

    Then a long way round -- maybe starting backstage, running through Tomorrowland, around back to Fantasyland, through the Castle and down Main Street, then getting back outside. (Though I now can't imagine how you wouldn't cross over the route... )