Saturday, February 6, 2016

Disneyland Recap: Star Wars Half Marathon

View Disneyland Recap from Saturday

It took me a while to get to sleep the night before, since there were fireworks and people walking outside my hotel room. I had a great air conditioning unit that ran at all times, but that white noise wasn't enough. I ended up going onto YouTube and finding a 10-hour box fan video, which I put on both my phone by my head and on my computer by the door. Only after that did I fall asleep.

I set my alarm for later than the day before, since I knew that I didn't have to be there right at 4. I ended up waking up on Sunday at 3:45.

I skipped the staging area and headed straight for the corrals. This time, for some unknown reason, I was placed into Corral D, which was a benefit to me. Instead of starting out in the middle of a bunch of slow walkers, I would be starting in a group of slow runners instead.

I also headed straight for the corrals so that I would start in the front of the pack, instead of the middle. I wouldn't have to swerve around hundreds of people to start the race, either, and establish a pace early into the run.

I took my Mylar blanket with me from the 10K, and I was grateful that I had. I was wearing Goodwill pants and an old zip-up sweatshirt, but the blanket kept out the chill of the morning.

Since I was near the front of Corral D (near the entrance to the Grand Californian), I could hear the audio from the Start line while waiting, which made things move a bit faster. I even heard the start of the wheelchair racers!

I was near a few girls who were starting up a conversation with some strangers nearby. I didn't hear the very beginning of their conversation, but they were talking about the 16-minute roundup, and how in a previous race someone was giving out incorrect pacing and they were picking up people who were still under the 16-minute pace. It kind of freaked me out! But then I realized that these girls were walkers - they walked the whole thing, so they just made sure they stayed in front of the pace balloon and didn't get picked up. Why they were in Corral D was beyond me, but their conversation was enough to scare me.

Finally, my corral started moving forward. I shed my Mylar blanket off to the side and started getting mentally ready. This was going to be a long one - my last long run showed me it would take around 3 hours for me to do 13.1 miles, depending on the conditions, my fellow runners, and my own endurance. But I wasn't feeling any side effects from all my running and walking over the past few days, so I knew I was ready to go.

I was right up at the starting line when Rudy got us going, and that really was great. There were not a lot of people in front of me, and an even larger empty space for the front runners in Corral D. In no time, I was at the pacing I wanted to be, and didn't feel impatient or crowded.

The first four miles were in the parks, and the route was only slightly different from the 10K of the previous day. The character meet-ups were the same, and the music was the same. The sunrise was hidden by translucent clouds, but I was glad that I had remembered to keep my sunglasses on my head for the start of the race. (Actually, I had totally forgotten they were there - I'm amazed they stayed right where they were considering all of the movement I was doing!)

After Mile 4, we headed out of the backstage area of California Adventure and back into the real world. They had shut down several roads around Anaheim, and the main road for much of the race was Harbor Boulevard (where my hotel was located). Over 3 miles of the course was on Harbor Blvd, and it was actually split so that the southbound runners were on the left side, and the northbound runners (i.e. people almost done and on mile 11 and 12) were on our right. They would be turning left to get back into the resort, and this prevented any crossing over.

As I was getting onto Harbor Blvd, I was surprised to see people coming back the other way. Seeing how few of them there were - and how well they were running - I knew that I was looking at people from Corrals A and B. Many of them were in it for the run, but I did notice two gentlemen completely dressed in the Slave Leia outfit...and they were running a great pace!

Meanwhile, us slow-goers were moseying down the road. There were plenty of water stations to be found, even though it wasn't hot at all. (I tend to warm up for the first third of the race, and then the sweat causes the wind to go right through me and make me cold.) The Powerade was first (in Powerade cups) followed by white cups with water. Sometimes I took it, and sometimes I didn't. There weren't that many bathrooms set up outside Disneyland, but I did use the bathroom once in Adventureland, and another time where there were some porta-potties and a very little line. I'd heard horror stories about the lines for bathrooms being longer than character lines, but I didn't find that to be true in this instance.

Eventually we passed Mile 6, which meant I was now at the point in the race where I had finished yesterday...but I still had 7 miles to go. Seven. Miles. I pushed on.

We came upon several areas where cheerleaders and bands from some high schools in the area were performing. That was a great boost, because they were very cheerful and very enthusiastic. Some of the bands did Star Wars music (I heard "The Imperial March" and the song from the Cantina), and some just did their normal repertoire.

There were lots of people just cheering on the side of the road, too, mostly friends or family of runners in the race. Most of them cheered for everyone, which was nice. I saw some fun signs, too, like "Worst Parade Ever" and "You're Beginning to Regret The Decision You Made 6 Months Ago."

There were two areas that had cosplayers and official members of some of the Star Wars costume groups, like the 501st Legion, the Mandalorian Mercs, and the Rebel Legion. I could have gotten pictures, but I was focused on my time. Some other Star Wars fans were out with some awesome custom-made vehicles. I saw a car tricked out like an X-Wing, and another to look like R2-D2. There was even a DeLorean!

Around Mile 8 I started to notice something: my feet were really starting to hurt. This was my first indication the whole weekend that I had done a lot of walking and running over the past three days. And that was with five miles left! Fortunately, that was my only source of pain for the whole race. I pushed on.

At Mile 8 we also got a Clif Bar product. I was sure it was going to be one of those dense bars that you can buy for hikes, but I was pleased to see it was a Clif Gel. I took the first one I saw, which ended up being vanilla flavored, and it was delicious! I had brought two gels of my own to use on the course, but this was better than anything I'd brought. It honestly tasted like vanilla pudding! I really regret that I only took one; I really could have consumed two or three more of those.

There were some spots where spectators had food for the runners, but since this wasn't official stuff, and I wasn't sure what they'd put in the food, I steered clear. I did run past a cheering section that I had heard of before, and they were giving away Red Vines. I didn't take those, but not because I was wary - it's because I hate Red Vines. (#Twizzlers)

We went into the town of Garden Grove, and actually ran on their Main Street, which should have been cute, if not for the brick on we were running. Thanks to that, Main Street was the most terrifying stretch of land we raced on outside of Disneyland!

There was one lonely Bible-thumping lady that we passed at one of the intersections. I'm not sure if she was chiding all of us since we were running a race on a Sunday morning, or just some of us that she deemed sinners, but she was telling us that we shouldn't be running the race straight to hell. I didn't catch the rest of her speech, but I did hear a guy close by shout, "JESUS SUCKS!" Definitely not my favorite part of the race. It did make a good analogy to my students later that week, however. They were just as shocked at the shout as I was.

Near Mile 10, we suddenly got a dose of fog that rolled in. It wasn't terribly thick, but it was surprising. I really hadn't been expecting fog or overcast conditions, and it did make it chillier than I would have liked.

At long last, we made it back to the northbound side of Harbor Boulevard! It was a welcome sight. They'd actually reopened the other side of the road, which showed us we were probably going a bit slower. I didn't worry, though; I knew I had less than three miles left!

We had two major turns after Harbor: Katella Avenue (by the Anaheim Convention Center) and West Street. Katella was beautiful, and lined with palm trees. This was the point in the day where the fog lifted, and revealed a beautiful blue sky. I couldn't have timed it better if I'd tried!

Once we got on West, I was getting excited and nervous. What if I tripped and fell with less than a mile left? What if I accidentally stepped on someone's shoe or leg and twisted something? I was so close! I was more cautious in the final mile than I had been in the first 12, because I wasn't going to let anything - or anyone - blow my chance at finishing.

The spectator crowds thickened, and my anticipation grew. I passed a camera crew with a guy wearing a Star Trek (?!) crew shirt interviewing runners, though I didn't stay long enough to find out where they were from or why he was in a Trek shirt in a Wars race.

We finished the race in the same spot as the 10K, but got there via the street instead of through Downtown Disney. And this time, that area was loaded with people. Clearly this was the premier race of the weekend, and it brought a lot of local runners and spectators to the scene. I made sure to finish with my arms up in triumph, a "Woo!" coming from my lips as I stepped over the timer. It felt so good. And my time was 3 hours, 3 minutes.

Look familiar? It's supposed to look like the medals that
Luke, Han, and Chewie (yes, Chewie!) got at the end of
A New Hope
(I checked later - I finished around 700th place out of 1300 finishers - I was surprised I was right in the middle of the pack. Better yet - two podcasters I listen to also did the race, and I looked up their times. I ran 20-25 minutes faster than both of them!)

The end of the race was almost identical to the 10K, with one major difference: after I received the gold Half Marathon medal, I was directed to a side exit, where a lady with a computer plugged in my bib number to confirm I'd finished the 10K the day before. When she gave me the okay, I went past her to receive my third medal: the Rebel Challenge medal. They put that silver medal around my neck, and immediately grabbed it to look closer. To my delight, the center icon spun! (That was actually the first thing I said after the race: "It spins!")

I felt like a high school athlete again, with my medals clanking against my chest. (They were heavy! Much heavier than the medals I got in high school for track.) I held them down for the most part, because I didn't want to seem like a giant jerk announcing to the world that I had two medals. (I let the visual proof of the two medals do the talking for me.)

I got my water, my Mylar blanket (which I kept), my banana, and my snackbox, and retreated to the Friends and Family Reunion area, which was much more crowded this time along. They actually had a live band on the stage for a little bit, before going back to a DJ for a while. Because it was so crowded, and I was so exhausted, I didn't stay in that area for long. My final destination was my hotel room, and I was so looking forward to getting back.

But first...breakfast! My hotel's breakfast lasted till 10:30, and I got back with plenty of time. I got some congratulations by some other hotel guests as I sat and ate my eggs and potatoes, and that was a great feeling. Then I took two large donuts back to my room, because I had deserved them.

I didn't fall asleep immediately, instead deciding to soak my feet. I turned on the NFL playoff game in the bedroom, wheeled the ergonomic desk chair into the bathroom, brought my Chromebook in there as well, and wrote this article as my feet received some well-deserved treatment. (I also ate those donuts - they were some of the best donuts I'd ever tasted.)

I wasn't going to make the parks a huge priority until later in the day, so after I freshened up, I shut off all the lights and went to bed.

It felt wonderful.

Click here to view my Sunday touring!

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