WIAW #62

This week’s WIAW features my usual weekend eats when I’m spending a summer weekend at my parents’ house in Connecticut, as I did this past weekend. It’s typically an apple and peanut butter, an apple and homemade muffin, or apple and Larabar before my Saturday long run. Usually in the summer I will eat a lighter snack because the heat makes it harder for me to digest before getting out there, but as I get into marathon training I’m trying to figure out the right balance of fueling well without it feeling like too much. This time it was half an apple and two Apple Cinnamon Flax Muffin Bites with peanut butter.

 

 

Apple Cinnamon Flax Muffin Bites

 

 

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Racing For Fun

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about running and racing for fun. As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, when I first started running, I made a promise to myself that I would not ever let it become just another competitive activity. I took every activity I tried very seriously when I was a kid, and running was going to be something I did just for me, to have fun, get outside in the fresh air, and get away from the craziness of life in law school. And then, about six months after I started running, I entered my first 10K race.

 

 

NYC Half Marathon Three Years

 

 

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Running A Disney Half Marathon in Florida or California

Wrapping up my recap of the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, where I ran the 10k and half marathon races, I figured today is the perfect time to talk about the differences between running a Disney half marathon in Florida or California. I’ve now run two half marathons in Florida and one in California, and a 10k in each. By no means am I an expert – there are many runners who make it their mission to run all the Disney races, and I have no intention of doing that, because my wallet can’t take it! But having run at the marquee race weekend at each location in the past year, there are a lot of things I can share that any runner debating between the two should think about.

 

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2015

 

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2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

As promised in yesterday’s 10K race recap, today is all about my second stab at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I ran this race last year as my second half marathon ever, and my first distance race after coming back from a hip injury that kept me from running for three months during the prior summer. I was nervous and excited as I approached the starting line of this race in 2015. While I experienced both of those emotions this year in some measure, my general feeling was far away from where it had been. What a difference a year can make.

 

Cinderella Castle

 

 

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Running Disney: Half Marathon Race Recap

The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is a bona fide bonanza. There is no other way to describe it. While I’m used to races with a few thousand runners for a regular charity 4- or 5-miler in Central Park, and my inaugural half marathon had more than 20,000 participants, the sheer number of runners who show up to participate in the four races over the course of this marathon weekend was astounding. The Pluto 5k on Thursday, Minnie Mouse 10k on Friday, Donald Duck Half Marathon on Saturday, and Mickey Mouse Marathon on Sunday are just the tip of the iceberg. Some runners take on the Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, running both the half and full marathons, and the truly hardcore go for the Dopey Challenge, which includes all 48.6 miles across all four races. I’m just happy I can run a half marathon!

Ushering in the parade

Ushering in the parade

 

Since my main event was the half marathon, I was able to visit the theme parks with my family on Friday. Friday evening we got to see the Main Street Electrical Parade in the Magic Kingdom, which I’ve always loved, and the Wishes fireworks. Fireworks are my favorite!

 

 

 

 

After the fireworks, we got on the bus back to our hotel, near Disney’s Boardwalk and Epcot. I found myself sitting next to and across from several fellow runners, who had all caught the nighttime festivities and were heading back to try and get a couple of hours of sleep. They had all run the race before, and two of them were running the Dopey Challenge – all of them warned me that the alarm clock’s early bell would be tolling long before I was ready! This turned out to be true. I was up at 3:30am to be on a bus to the start at 4am, and I don’t think I got more than two hours of sleep. There was too much excitement coursing through my veins, both nerves and adrenaline keeping me awake. It didn’t matter much – when we got to the staging area, there was music playing and characters were milling around, and all the other runners were very friendly and ready to keep each other alert and ready to race! I stopped by the Team JDRF tent to say hello to a few other runners who were running and fundraising, and then began to make my way to the starting corrals.

The starting line around 4:45am

The starting line around 4:45am

It got a little nerve-wracking about 4:30am, as I walked to Corral D. There were 16 corrals in addition to the elites at the front, and the walk up to near the front where D was located was almost 2 miles from the drop-off point. When I got there, I realized I was a little too early – very few of my fellow runners were there yet! I had submitted a half marathon proof of time from last year of 2:10, and a target time of 2:00, so even though this was my first Disney half marathon, I was in an upper corral, whereas most of the other first-timers were farther back. Apparently, all the other half marathoners in the upper corrals knew the drill with Disney races and planned to get there closer to the starting time of 5:30am. Everything worked out okay, although the temperatures were quite cold for Central Florida and I had to work hard to keep warm, stretching and doing some light jogging. I was glad I had worn a long-sleeved fleece and leggings over my shorts and tank top – I threw the leggings into the donation pile prior to starting as planned, but I ended up keeping the fleece with me the whole race, as the temperature hovered around 45 degrees the entire time. Finally, it was time to start. They let each corral begin and walked the next corral right up to the start, then held the runners so that corrals were released at precise 2-minute intervals. This was a little frustrating as we waited, but it was worth it when the fireworks went off for each and every corral!

Miles 1-3 were relatively uneventful. I started off a bit faster than planned because of the cold. I usually try to keep the first few miles slow and steady, but I ended up running a 9:32 pace for a 29:37 5k split (I know this because I signed up for runDisney tracking alerts, and they texted me the times so I could see after the race – my Fitbit Zip is so not that fancy!) Around mile 2, a bright spot in the darkness on the side of World Drive turned out to be the pirate ship float from the previous evening’s Electrical Parade, with music blasting. It was that kind of fun Disney touch that made this race special. Although the highway running up to the Magic Kingdom is relatively barren, there were all sorts of entertainment setups alongside the course to keep things interesting, and thousands of Disney cast members cheering the runners on.

Cinderella Castle lights up the sky

Cinderella Castle lights up the sky

Mile 4 brought us to the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom sign. Here is where my energy finally revved up and I shook off the major shivers! There were some characters here for photo ops, but I had decided before the race that I was only going to stop in the Magic Kingdom and afterwards so as not to lose momentum too early, and also to only pause for photos if there were no/short lines, because waiting around in the cold would probably have hurt! So I kept on running, went down a small slope under a tunnel and when I came up we were right outside Space Mountain and rounding a corner, heading through the turnstiles and charging up Main Street, U.S.A! This was probably one of the most exhilarating running moments I’ve ever had. Throngs of family, friends, and other onlookers stood on the sidewalks cheering all the runners on, and Cinderella Castle glittered up ahead, lighting the path through the darkness.

 

 

After a hard right into Tomorrowland, I took a left back through Fantasyland and went through the castle. At the base, I took a beat, pausing for a photo. Just couldn’t resist that sparkling backdrop! Afterwards, the course continued through Frontierland and Adventureland, and Mile 6 marked the exit from the Magic Kingdom. My pace grew to 10:16 for a 10k split of 1:03:47, reflecting the stops I made on Main Street and at the castle. They were worth every minute.

Just Dick van Dyke and a couple of Poppins Penguins

Just Dick van Dyke and a couple of Poppins Penguins

 

The sun began to rise during Mile 7, and by Mile 8 the sky was fairly bright. The Grand Floridian was beautiful in the dawn’s early light, and while I was starting to feel the cold a bit more and my knee was a little sore, I found a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the rest of the run.

 

 

 

 

Miles 9 and 10 felt a bit slow, although my pace of 10:19 and 15k split of 1:36:07 was not far off my usual steady jog on a long run. It was probably because the scenery on this part of the route is the least entertaining, although Disney does try hard to make the highway exciting. There were characters at the golf course, Mickey and Goofy in golf clothes looking adorable, as well as Aladdin and Genie and a few others along the way, but the lines were at least a dozen people long. Mile 11 was the most difficult, as there was a slow and steady climb up and around an overpass. This course was very flat with the exception of a few underpasses and overpasses, so even though I’m used to running much steeper hills at home, to have one come in after miles of flat terrain was tough. In addition, the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel pyramid was in sight starting at Mile 9, but I knew it was roughly four miles away sitting next to Epcot, so the view (while gorgeous) felt like a bit of a trick!

By Mile 12, I was heading into the Epcot parking lot, just a few hundred yards from where we had started. I headed into the park and charged past Spaceship Earth, my pace picking up considerably for the final push. Instead of heading into the World Showcase, the course looped around  and brought runners back toward the exit from Future World into the parking lot, where the finish line was located. I crossed the finish line just before 8am, clocking in at 2:14:33 with an overall pace of 10:16. I placed 4,654/22,081 finishers and 1,581/12,379 women. I was elated and exhausted all at once. During my celebratory brunch at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club resort, and spending time in the parks afterwards, I felt like a princess when cast members and fellow runners alike shouted congratulations. It was an incredible race.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios after the race

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios after the race

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Running Disney: Kicking off the weekend at the Expo

Well, I have returned from sunny Florida to the cold and snowy trails of Connecticut. But I did not come back empty-handed. Wonderful memories and some snazzy race swag will stay with me for many runs to come!

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

 

There’s so much to share about this weekend, so I’ll be dedicating a few posts to the event. First off, the race expo, which felt like an event in and of itself. Next, my main event, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon! And finally, the dazzling details of eating gluten-free at Disney, and my general musings on all the shenanigans.

 

Tech shirt, bib, and medal

Tech shirt, bib, and medal

I arrived in Orlando on Thursday and the first stop was the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo. I have to say, this felt like an event in and of itself. I’m used to picking up my race bibs at New York Road Runners headquarters, which is a townhouse in Carnegie Hill located several blocks in each direction from any form of public transport. The expo for the New York City Half Marathon last year was absolute chaos in Chelsea, but I figured that was an exception to the rule. I was half right.

 

 

 

Donald Duck is the main man for the Half, but I needed a photo with the grand master of the weekend, Mickey!

Donald Duck is the main man for the Half, but I needed a photo with the grand master of the weekend, Mickey!

While the runDisney Expo was even more crowded, Disney has the details down to a science. Bib and tech shirt pickup was extremely well organized, with cast members directing runners and their friends and family all around the Wide World of Sports, where the Expo took place. The location was great. If you were staying at a Disney resort, which I and most of the other out-of-town runners seemed to be, there were buses to and from the Expo to prevent a traffic logjam. And because the Wide World of Sports has several large buildings, a human logjam was also avoidable (so long as you didn’t want to snag a pair of the New Balance limited edition sneakers, in which case I heard there was a mad dash to snag some before they sold out!) I picked up my bib and tech shirt, and my mom snapped a few photos. There were so many places to do the photo thing as well, another organizational plus; Disney’s crowd control expertise was consistently in evidence!

 

 

 

 

In addition to all the commemorative runDisney merchandise, there were vendors for every sort of running and running-adjacent product under the sun. I’m usually a little jaded about this sort of thing – I started running with just some sneakers and a regular watch, and while I’ve upgraded to a Fitbit that is mostly semi-accurate and embraced the necessity of moisture-wicking socks and my comfy cloud sneakers, I don’t need a GPS that tracks every one-thousandth of a mile or a tech shirt that’s priced according to all of its extra zippers and pockets. And I usually just drink water even on long runs and avoid Powerade and Gatorade and shots and gels and bars, because I’m allergic to most of it anyway and it’s all what I consider “fake food.” However, while the expo had its fair share of such items, there were also booths for basic good quality running shoes that offered substantial discounts, and a Chiquita banana stand handing out free bananas and apple slices for playing a banana ring-toss game that was a refreshing port in the storm for a high-tech food Luddite like myself. So while I didn’t purchase any extras beyond an extra pair of socks, I’d personally praise the expo for sheer variety. I left feeling energized and ready to race!

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© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.